Solid construction and TomTom’s excellent mapping and routing software combine with competitive pricing to make the Rider a serious contender and worthy challenger to Garmin’s dominance in the motorcycle GPS niche. The mini sun visor gives the device good visibility in sunlight and there are a number of different mounting options available. Released in mid 2013, the V5 is the most recent version of this popular motorcycle GPS and like its immediate predecessor, the V4, features a larger 4.3” screen. Overall, the build quality is of a high standard, as befitting a prominent manufacturer such as TomTom, and rugged enough to handle the harsher conditions imposed by use on a motorcycle.
Unlike Garmin which has several different motorcycle navigators to choose from, TomTom has just the one but has, nevertheless, managed to produce a competitively priced, and what is, for the most part, a solidly performing device with some useful motorcycle specific features.
Overall Design and Build Quality
The TomTom Rider has similar dimensions to the Garmin Zumo series of motorcycle GPS navigators but is larger and heavier overall. This bulkiness could make it a slightly less attractive option for sports bike riders in particular when compared to some rival devices but is unlikely to be a deal breaker. The unit also features a built-in sun shade – an aid to viewing the display under sunlit conditions – which has the additional benefit of helping to keep the screen dry. The Rider also gives users the option to adjust screen brightness, and a powerful backlight combined with a variety of map color schemes further enhances screen readability.
Like it’s main competitor, the Garmin zumo series of navigators, the TomTom Rider comes well equipped to deal with these environmental and operational hazards and demands. The device is approved for all weather use (tested to meet the IPX7 waterproofing standard) and can even survive a prolonged dunking in water up to 1 meter deep. It also features a glove friendly display and a scuff-resistant, matt-black finish.
The TomTom Rider has an easy to use interface with a relatively simple and intuitive menu structure. Unlike some devices, you won’t get lost in an endless and confusing hierarchy of screen layers, and access to key functions is never more than a few clicks away. The keyboard has optional over-sized keys which helps when operating the device with gloves, although this alone does not make for a glove friendly display and it is let down by the awkward positioning of various other buttons and menu items.
Navigation and Other Features
The Rider V5 is also an emphasis on route planning and sharing, these generally being of greater concern to motorcyclists as opposed to motorists. Custom routes can be drawn up using the third-party route planning software, “Tyre”, which is freely available on the internet, and then uploaded to your device and/or shared with others. Tyre can also be used in conjunction with Garmin devices, offering an alternative to their highly regarded Basecamp software.
TomTom Rider maps contain a huge and customizable database of POI including gas stations, restaurants, and motels, and by subscribing to the relevant service, the device can also keep you up to date on speed camera locations (availability limited to Europe, Australia, and South Africa) . “Advanced Lane Guidance” functions in a similar manner to Garmin’s “Lane Assist”, directing you to the correct lane at busy junctions and intersections. Another feature, and one that, to some extent at least, makes up for its lack of live traffic services, (although these are available when paired to a cell phone with a data connection using the subscription based services available through TomTom Plus) is “IQ Routes” This cleverly takes into account average traveling times on roads at different times of the day and chooses the best route accordingly. Trip Recording is a useful feature allowing you to conveniently record your most enjoyable rides for future recall and to share with your friends.
Using Bluetooth, you can connect your TomTom Rider to a compatible cell phone for hands-free calling. To take advantage of this feature and to hear spoken directions, you will, of course, require a Bluetooth headset or helmet. However, no headset is included in the box and must be purchased separately. The inclusion of free lifetime map updates brings the device into line with the Garmin Zumo series of motorcycle navigators, which all currently produced models, except the Garmin Zumo 220, have.
Of course, any comprehensive product review would be incomplete without also mentioning those features lacking in the product in question. Most notable in this regard is the absence of internal speakers. When used as a dedicated motorcycle GPS this does not present much of a problem as bluetooth is the preferred, and most often, only practicable way to hear spoken directions while riding anyway. However, this means it doesn’t have the same degree of versatility as some other devices in terms of pulling double duty as a car navigator. The lack of an SD card slot is another, and somewhat surprising omission. Although the almost 1.5 GB of internal storage is more than adequate, users miss out on the convenience of an SD card slot for transferring and sharing routes.
The TomTom Rider is relatively easy to install with the included vibration proof RAM mounting hardware designed to fit most bikes and giving you the flexibility to mount the device in a variety of positions. Also included is the bike dock onto which the device attaches by means of a simple self-locking mechanism and from which it can be quickly and easily removed. Power cable installed, the device charges automatically when in position on the dock and powers up and down with your bike’s ignition. In fact, with up to 6 hours of battery life, many casual riders might consider the power cable redundant and choose to forego its installation.
The Rider isn’t particularly feature rich when compared to GPS navigators generally. However, within the motorcycle GPS niche it compares quite favorably with the competition and is about what you could reasonably expect given the relatively low purchase price. Moreover, what features it does have are heavily weighted in favor of motorcyclists, a prime example being “Winding Routes”. This allows riders to choose routes based on how winding they are and is the equivalent of Garmin’s “Curvy Routes” feature, which is, however, only available on the high-end 390LM and 590LM models.