TomTom Rider review: TomTom Rider

TomTom Rider

Morty Okin

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6 min read


TomTom Rider


The Good

The TomTom Rider provides text- and voice-guided directions to motorcyclists and comes with an easy-to-install mounting kit. All maps are preloaded on an included SD card, and the unit has integrated Bluetooth for hands-free calling.

The Bad

The TomTom Rider's POI database is outdated and occasionally gave us wrong street names or no street at all for some side streets. Also, the included Bluetooth headset has poor sound quality and we wish the screen were slightly bigger.

The Bottom Line

Despite some performance glitches, the TomTom Rider is a solid navigation system for motorcyclists, with good Bluetooth integration, but we recommend swapping out the included Bluetooth headset for a higher-quality one.

Portable navigation systems aren't just for cars. Motorcyclists need help getting around, too, and the TomTom Rider aims to do just that. Designed for those who ride on two wheels, the Rider provides you with a simple plug-and-go solution with all the navigation basics, such as text- and voice-guided turn-by-turn directions, automatic route recalculation, and a substantial points-of-interest (POI) database. The unit also has integrated Bluetooth and comes with a wireless headset so that you can get voice prompts channeled to your helmet and make hands-free calls. That said, we recommend you use your own headset or invest in one, as the included accessory has poor sound quality. Also, we found some of the POI entries to be outdated, and directions weren't always the most efficient. Still, overall, we think the Rider is a solid navigation solution for motorcyclists, albeit a bit pricey at $899. And it'll definitely face some stiff competition when the Garmin Zumo is released later this year. Fit to ride up front, the TomTom Rider measures 4.5 by 3.6 by 2.2 inches, weighs 10.9 ounces, and is water resistant, which is important since the device isn't protected from the elements of nature on a bike. The Rider also has a sturdy construction and looks like it could withstand a fall. TomTom includes a mounting kit that should fit most motorcycles and scooters. It has four pieces, and you can install the cradle on your handlebar, on a mirror, or on a flat surface with an adhesive mount. We chose to put the cradle on the left handlebar, which was the safest option for our 1997 Honda Magna VF750, and it was a breeze to install and remove with the provided tools (screws and Allen wrench). We're also happy to report that the mount held the unit in securely place even as we drove over potholes and bumps in the road. One additional note about the bike mount: there's an option of attaching a 12-volt power cable to the cradle and then to your bike's battery for constant charging, but this may require professional assistance.

The Rider has a 3.5-inch TFT touch screen with a 320x240-pixel resolution. Entering addresses and hitting the menu icons were easy tasks on the responsive touch screen, but we suspect there would be some problems if you had really thick gloves on, as ours were of medium thickness. Thanks to a built-in visor, we were still able to read the display even in direct sunlight, but we do wish the screen and visor were a tad larger. The power button is on the right side, and you have to push it hard to power on and off. Though this requires a bit of extra effort, we think it's a good thing since it prevents any accidental shutdown. Finally, there's an expansion slot on the bottom of the unit where you can insert the included SD card preloaded with maps of North America and some software. The only thing on our wish list is built-in speakers.

TomTom includes a wired headset as well as a Bluetooth headset, but the latter has poor sound quality.

TomTom packages the Rider with a healthy set of accessories. Aside from the aforementioned mounting kit, a 12-volt power cable, and an SD card, you get an AC adapter, a USB cable, a nice carrying pouch, a screen wipe cloth, a wired headset, a Bluetooth headset, and reference material. Powered by a 20-channel, SiRFStarIII GPS receiver and a 380MHz processor, the TomTom Rider is simple to operate--just turn it on and go. The menus are easy to navigate, but we recommend you take some time to familiarize yourself with the icons and options before you start a ride. The first menu page includes six icons: Navigate To, Find Alternative Route, TomTom Traffic, Mobile Phone, Change Preferences, and Next Menu. To get directions to a destination, select the Navigate To icon, which brings you to a second menu; from there, you can navigate from your home, favorite, address, recent destination, or POI. The Rider can calculate directions based on the quickest or shortest route; you can also instruct it to avoid toll roads. If you're not happy with the prescribed route or happen to run into a roadblock, just hit Find Alternative Route for other options. We should note that full access to menus is available only when the motorcycle is not moving, which is a fantastic safety feature.

The Rider comes with an SD card loaded with maps of the United States and Canada.

The TomTom Rider provides text- and voice-guided directions. You get 2D and 3D map views; the map screen shows the street you are on at the top of the screen, and the next destination street or exit at the bottom of the screen, which we found very useful. We also had other pertinent information displayed onscreen, such as speed, time, next instruction (arrows and yards to go), battery life, remaining trip time, remaining distance, and arrival time.

Voice prompts are channeled through the included headset (wired or wireless), but we found the included Bluetooth headset to be atrocious. The wires that hang everywhere blow in your face when you're on the highway. Plus the volume, even cranked up, is just way too soft if you have a loud bike or aftermarket pipes like our bike does. We swapped it out for the Cardo Scala Rider Bluetooth headset, and it made a huge difference. The integrated Bluetooth also provides for hands-free calling (you can check for a list of compatible phones here. Again for safety reasons, the Rider will not allow you to make outgoing calls when the bike is moving; however, you can accept incoming calls. If a number is listed for a POI, provided you're stopped, you can dial it directly from the Rider. We paired the Rider with our Palm Treo 650 and had no problem accepting or making calls.

Speaking of POI, the unit has a comprehensive database of attractions, with entries for stores, movie theaters, campgrounds, rest stops, gas stations, community centers, and other locations--impressive. Unfortunately, we found some of the listings to be out of date, which can be a big problem if you're in dire need of gas and don't find a service station where one is indicated on the map. Finally, you can get real-time traffic information on the Rider, but you'll need to subscribe to TomTom's Plus services to do so. We tested the TomTom Rider in San Francisco on a 1997 Honda Magna VF750. From a cold start, the unit took up to two minutes to lock onto a satellite fix; subsequent starts took anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. The Rider accurately pinpointed our location, and it was very cool to watch the cursor track our moves. That said, we thought the maps were just OK. On a number of occasions, the Rider did not have the correct street names for secondary streets and alleyways (the unit correctly identified major roadways), if at all, and sometimes calculated some insane routes to our destination. On the upside, the automatic route recalculation was lightning fast. If we missed an exit or turned the wrong way, it immediately refreshed with an alternate route.

The TomTom Rider is rated for five hours of battery life, and we got exactly that on a single charge. We also gave it a full charge and let it sit for a week without powering up, and it still had a half-charge left the next time we turned it on.


TomTom Rider


Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7


See full specs Recommended Use motorcycleFeatures 2D / 3D map perspective, preinstalled POIs