TomTom Rider Motorcycle
by Bill C. for webBikeworld
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The TomTom Rider is the first GPS designed for use on motorcycles
and has just been released in the U.S.A. after its European
The TomTom Rider was developed from the successful TomTom
GO line of automobile GPS units. The Rider features a hooded
LCD display with an 89 mm (3.5"), 320 x 240 full color
TFT touch screen and a built-in Bluetooth communication capability.
The Rider is claimed to be water resistant only. Note that
some other GPS units, such as the Garmin 2720, meet IPX-7 waterproof
specifications (protected against water immersion for 30 minutes
at a depth of 1 meter), but apparently TomTom has not tested
the Rider to these specs.
Our GPS experience is limited to the
Garmin i5, which we will use for comparison purposes. The
two units are very similar in form and function. There are two
major differences between the two units. The Garmin i5 has a
built-in speaker which provides turn-by-turn instructions, while
the Rider uses its Bluetooth capability to do the same.
The i5 stores its maps and information on an internal hard
disk, while the Rider comes with a 1GB Secure Digital (SD) flash
memory disk that holds its maps. Both use the NAVTEQ map system
when purchased in North America, although we found that the
units will occasionally provide very different routing instructions,
probably due to the processing software (more on this later).
Exact specifications for the Rider are hard to find on the
TomTom website, in the owner's manual or on the CD-ROM that
is provided with the unit, and these sources also have conflicting
For example, the TomTom website claims that the Rider uses
TeleAtlas maps (in the North American version of the Rider).
However, the "Show Version" selection in the Rider's
preferences section has a copyright indicating that NAVTEQ maps
Also, as of this writing, the TomTom website claims that
the maps are stored on a 2.5GB internal hard disk. The owner's
manual mentions nothing about an internal hard disk, implying
that all of the maps are stored on the SD flash memory. Indeed,
a Windows Explorer file listing of the SD memory card indicates
that it does include all of the North American maps.
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The SD flash memory must be installed in a slot in the bottom
of the unit prior to first use. It is very important to make
sure the door that covers the SD memory (and the USB and charging
connectors) is closed and locked. The Rider will work even if
the door is left open, and although it's unlikely (because the
Rider would normally be mounted in its bracket), there is a
chance that the SD flash memory could come out of the unit or
that moisture could intrude. We're surprised that there isn't
an interlock feature that prevents the unit from operating if
the door is not closed.
The owner's manual that comes with the Rider seems to us
to provide very limited information on the device, which is
disappointing for owners desiring to learn about its technical
details. It's our opinion that the TomTom marketing types probably
want to maintain the "ease of use" image associated
with TomTom products and they deliberately left out any of the
technical details that might confuse a first-time GPS owner.
We think they should have at least provided a more thorough
and detailed manual on the CD-ROM for those who might be interested.
The lack of information means that some important details
about the unit are missing. For example, the unit must be charged
before first use with the supplied converter, but the only instructions
we found regarding this were buried in a section entitled "Battery
Notes" near the end of the manual, which states "We
recommend that you fully charge your TomTom RIDER the first
time that you plug it in. It takes about 2 hours to charge the
The Rider does not have an external battery charging light
that would indicate whether the unit is actually accepting the
charge when connected to 110V power. The Rider has an internal
lithium-ion battery with a claimed 5 hours of life when fully
charged, but a battery life meter is displayed only on the route
summary screen, which is displayed after a route has been calcuated.
There is no battery life indicator displayed while the unit
is in use, which we think is an oversight.
The portable Bluetooth earpiece also has an internal battery
and it also must be charged before first use, but it also does
not have an indication that it is being charged. The instructions
simply state "Before you can use your Bluetooth headset
module with the helmet headset, you must charge the headset
module using the home charger."
If the Rider's battery life is exceeded, the unit will not
activate, but because there is no external indication that the
battery needs charging, and the owner can easily assume that
the unit has failed. We discovered this because the battery
in our unit lasted only about 1.5 hours after the first 3 hour
charge; when we could not activate it again, we thought the
Rider had malfunctioned until we realized that the battery needed
recharging. There is no warning of this in the owner's manual.
While we're complaining, there are two more issues that we
have with the TomTom Rider. The first is the design of the on/off
switch, which on our unit is incredibly frustrating and an unacceptable
design. The switch is located on the right side of the GPS as
part of the rubber grommet or "bumper" that forms
the perimeter of the device.
That's a switch?
The switch does not work like a traditional, sliding, on/off
switch. Apparently, the owner is supposed to press the rubber
with a fingernail to turn it on or off, but ours is extremely
difficult to use; it involves a huge struggle every time we
try it. There seems to be no consistent method of pressure or
location to get it to work. It takes an extraordinary amount
of fingernail pressure, poking and prodding to turn the unit
on or off. Broken fingernails and lots of frustration are the
It can literally take us over 30 seconds of pressing, prodding
and cursing whenever we want to turn the Rider on or off. We
have not been able to turn the unit on or off when wearing motorcycle
gloves, and we tried several different styles of gloves. Since
our unit was one of the first sold in the U.S.A., it's possible
that the problem will be resolved during a later production
run, but until then, we consider this to be a serious flaw.
The other problem is with the touch screen. TomTom claims
that the Rider has a "drive mode tailored for simple touch-screen
operation with gloves on [sic]." Although we found
some of the menu choices are relatively easy to make when wearing
motorcycle gloves (specifically the ones that use large icons),
the more detailed screens, such as the data entry for choosing
a "Navigate to" address, are virtually impossible
because the choices are too close together for accurate selection
when wearing thick motorcycle gloves. Therefore, we recommend
setting up the unit with bare fingers prior to riding and minimizing
the selection of any menu choices during the ride.
What's In the Box
The TomTom Rider is provided
with the following:
A memory card (SD
card) containing the application and maps
Mounting kit: Holder,
Handlebar Mount, Handlebar Adaptor, Mirror Mount, Adhesive
Mount and adhesive pad
Screws and Allen
wrenches for the mounting kit
Home charger, with
international adaptors (See note below)
TomTom RIDER case
CD-ROM with full
manual as well as a tool for backing up the memory card.
module and headset cable
Screen cloth (See
Product code card
Note: The international adaptors and the screen cloth where
missing from our unit, which was purchased anonymously directly
from the TomTom website.
Navigating With the TomTom Rider
will address some of these issues in future revisions. Because
other than those complaints, the unit is about as user friendly
as the Garmin i5, which to our admittedly novice eyes is the
benchmark for GPS ease of use.
Once the finicky switch can finally be coaxed to turn the
unit on, our Rider finds its position and the navigating satellites
very quickly. The unit must have a very powerful antenna; no
external antenna is offered and apparently it doesn't need one
(an external antenna is available for the Garmin i5). It's our
understanding that the Rider is designed to track up to 12 satellites
The Rider has a satellite tracking indicator, again on the
route summary screen that's displayed after a route is developed.
It shows how many satellites are being used. We found that the
Rider will track 5-6 satellites even when it's located in the
center of a house, as far away from the windows as possible,
which is excellent.
The first time the Rider is started when new, it goes through
an initial setup. Then it will start at a map screen showing
its current location during each subsequent startup. The screen
can show a 3D or flat version of the map, with a choice of either
routing or north "up".
A compass rose, distance to next turn (in feet/yards or meters),
time and distance to destination, current time and satellite
tracking indicator are displayed. The map can be zoomed in or
out by tapping the screen in the upper right or left hand corners,
on the "+" or "-" signs. Some of the information
on the display bar can be customized via the preferences.
Tap anywhere on the screen to bring up the various menu choices
||Sub Categories and Descriptions
||Home, Favorite, Address, Recent
Destination, Point of Interest, Zip Code, Point
on Map, Center of Town, GPS Position, POI in City.
||Calculate Alternative, Avoid
Roadblock, Travel Via, Recalculate Original, Avoid
Part of a Route, Minimize Traffic Delays
called TomTom Plus that can be accessed with a Bluetooth
phone to provide weather and alternate route information.
|The TomTom Rider's Bluetooth
capability can be used with a Bluetooth compatible
mobile phone to make or receive calls.
|Day/Night Colors and contrast,
3D display on/off, map display on/off, sound on/off,
volume, favorites, home location, manage maps, manage
POI, change status bar, set clock, connect to headset,
change map colors, change brightness, planning preferences,
toll road preferences, compass preferences, change
voice, switch language, set units, operate right
handed, keyboard preferences, name preferences,
hide tips, disable Bluetooth, show version, docking
preferences, disable ASN, reset factory settings.
|Depart from: Home, Favorite,
Address, Recent Destination, POI, Zip Code, Point
on Map, Center of Town, GPS Position, POI in City.
|Interesting feature that allows
zooming in and out and around on a map; can tap
portion of map and identify address, road, location
or navigate to that point; can display Points of
Interest (e.g., fuel, food, lodging, etc.)
|Can view route by text, images,
browse a map of the route, show a route demo at
up to 500% speed and show the route summary screen.
|Can store information on home
address, other addresses, recent destinations (whether
planned or actual, POI, zip code, point on map,
center of town, GPS position, POI in city.
|Start Navigation, New Itinerary,
Guided Tour (of the Rider), Save Itinerary, Load
Itinerary, Delete Itinerary.
TomTom Weather and TomTom Plus Services
|Another service of the TomTom
Plus feature; requires Bluetooth compatible phone.
||Of the Rider unit.
||Displays a screen showing
current GPS coordinates, speed, compass heading,
graphic with location of satellites in sky, UTC
time and bar graph with satellite strength.
Probably the most frequently used choice will be to navigate
to an address, and in this regard, the TomTom Rider is similar
in ease of use to the Garmin i5.
Select "Navigate To" and select Home, Favorite,
Address, Recent Destination, Point of Interest, Zip Code, Point
on Map, Center of Town, GPS Position or POI in City. Selecting "Address"
brings up a touch screen keyboard, which can be configured to
display either as "ABC" or "QWERTY" in the
The Rider first asks for the destination city. As the destination
is spelled out, suggested cities are displayed, but like the
Garmin i5, they are not displayed in order of the closest city
to the current destination, but in alphabetical order. This
means that the city must either be nearly completely spelled
out, or the scroll feature can be used to scroll down through
numerous cities until the choice is found. I would think that
the software should start with the closest city with a similar
name, rather than bring up every similar-sounding city in North
America for the owner to scroll through.
After the city is identified, the Rider asks for the street
name, again using the touch screen keyboard. Finally, a "House
Number" screen is displayed with a touch screen numerical
entry. The system will recognize if an invalid house number
is entered for the chosen road.
After the house number is entered, the user has a choice
of "Fastest Route, Shortest Route, Avoid Highways, Walking
Route, Bicycle Route or Limited Speed" for the routing
calculation. After "Done" is pressed, the route summary
map is displayed.
There is a choice for "Route" on the route summary
screen, which allows the user to view the route in text format,
or by scrolling through the individual maps showing each turn,
or by running through a route demo at up to 500% speed (which
seems fast but isn't if the route is over about 30 miles or
Most of the screens that are displayed in the route planning
process have a "Back" button, but the screens that
are displayed in the "Change Preferences" selections
do not. This can be frustrating, because if a mistake is made
or the screen is cancelled, the user is brought back to the
original map and the entire selection must be started over,
and there are 6 preferences screens, each with the potential
of multiple sub-selections, which means multiple keystrokes
to get back to your choice.
Once a route is established, it can be saved as a Favorite
and it will also be recorded in the "Recent Destination"
section. Selecting a Favorite or Recent Destination is as easy
as selecting it from the list.
The TomTom Rider does not
have a speaker. The unit can be used without the Bluetooth earpiece,
but the voice instructions are only provided via a Bluetooth
device. The volume can be controlled either by the earpiece
or the preferences screen. The Rider comes with a single Bluetooth
earpiece that is slightly bulkier than a standard MP3 style
earbud. I've found that it's easiest to first put on my full-face
helmet and then slide the earphone up between the helmet and
my head and place it in my ear by poking around with a finger.
The Rider also comes with a thin speaker and microphone kit
that can be installed in a helmet. The Rider is adaptable for
use in an automobile, but I have not been able to locate a Bluetooth
to FM transmitter that could be used to broadcast the directions
through the vehicle's radio, so the Bluetooth earpiece must
be worn to hear the instructions.
Mounting the TomTom Rider on a Motorcycle
comes with four different motorcycle mounting brackets:
a handlebar mount; a mount that can be used under the rear-view
mirror; a special mount that will fit under the bolts of most
handlebar switches; and an adhesive mount. A special bracket
is provided that allows the Rider to attach to any of the mounts.
We assumed that the handlebar mount would be the most successful,
but this did not prove to be the case. The handlebar mount is
a pressed steel clamshell-like device that uses a single screw
and square nut to clamp it on to the handlebar. The nut is very
thin, which means that the entire device is held to the handlebar
with only a couple of threads, which did not feel secure enough
on our Tiger's handlebar.
We were not able to get the handlebar mount tight enough
on the handlebar of the Triumph Tiger test bike. The handlebar
mount includes a rotating plate on a ball socket that is supposed
to be used to mount the Rider on its adaptor bracket, but this
plate has only limited travel and we were not able to tilt it
far enough back for a comfortable view of the screen due to
the cross bar on the Tiger's handlebar.
The rear view mirror mount seems to be the most robust. Once
the mirror is removed, a bracket is placed between the mirror
mounting screw and the mirror's threaded receiver on the handlebar.
This left about 1/4" of threads sticking out the bottom,
which, when used with some thread locker, seems to be enough
to hold both the GPS and the mirror in place. Another bracket
is screwed to the mounting plate and the Rider can be screwed
to this bracket, but there is no capability to tilt the screen.
We did not try the adapter that mounts on the handlebar switch
because it would interfere with the fuel tank on the Tiger.
We also did not try the adhesive mounting plate.
Using the TomTom Rider
Although TomTom claims that
the Rider is designed to be used when wearing motorcycle gloves,
we found it very difficult to use the touch screen when wearing
either summer or winter gloves. Some of the menu choices are
too close together, making them too difficult to select with
The only solution is to completely plan out the route before
putting on the gloves. Once the route is started, the instructions
are provided through the Bluetooth earpiece. Although somewhat
difficult to locate under a full-face helmet, we found the volume
to be satisfactory to follow the instructions.
As mentioned previously, the routing types on the TomTom
Rider can be changed from Fastest Route to Shortest Route, Avoid
Highways, Walking Route, Bicycle Route and Limited Speed. There
are some differences in the way the routes are developed when
comparing the Garmin i5 and the TomTom Rider. The Rider seems
to have a very strong tendency to routing on Interstates, even
when a much shorter route exists on a state highway. This could
possibly be a local idiosyncrasy due to our rural location.
For example, when routing from Mount Airy to Gaithersburg
in Maryland using "Fastest Route", the Rider has a
strong tendency to route first on I-70 to Frederick, Maryland
and then south on I-70 to Gaithersburg. This is about 17 miles
out of the way and disregards the more direct routing on Maryland
state road 27 south directly from Mount Airy to Gaithersburg,
which is both quicker and more direct.
The Rider also has some routing display quirks. It doesn't
always display the next road in the routing sequence, instead
displaying two or three roads ahead, which isn't as useful.
It also has a habit of displaying different street names
at the bottom of the screen for some reason; my assumption is
that it is supposed to display the name of the road that it
being taken, but it seems to display the names of cross roads
or other roads that aren't on the route. It also occasionally
uses non-common names for roads; for example, it calls Maryland
state road 27 "High Corner Street" rather than "27"
or Ridge Road, as it is commonly known.
The TomTom Rider has several quirks
that need to be considered prior to purchase. The fussy switch
is the most serious problem, one that we hope will be addressed
in a future revision.
When comparing the Rider to the Garmin i5, we'd say that
the i5 is easier to use, and although the i5 is missing some
of the more advanced routing features of the TomTom Rider, it
also doesn't really seem to be lacking in comparison.
The Rider provides some level of water resistance, the Bluetooth
voice capability and a selection of mounting devices for the
motorcycle, but it's also more than twice the price, at $1,199.95,
compared to $535.70 for the i5. "If only" Garmin provided
a single speaker output on the i5 and made the unit water resistant,
it would be an strong competitor as a motorcycle GPS.
Our initial hope when we first tried motorcycle GPS was that
it would help us record the routes and roads that we stumbled
upon during our casual touring. Apparently, GPS units are not
designed to do this. I'm not convinced that a GPS on a motorcycle
is anything more than a curiosity. After all, you can buy a
nice tank bag and a whole bunch of paper maps for $1200.00.
Product Review: TomTom
Rider Motorcycle GPS
Gray. Weight: 10.75 oz. (305 g)
||Made In: Taiwan
4.5" x 3.6" x 2.3"
Comments: Easy to use. Switch is problematic.
No external battery charging indicator.
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From "V": "I saw your
story about the TomTom Rider and thought I'd throw this at you.
Having just purchased this GPS last week I noticed right away
that none of the category POI's give any clue as to motorcycle
dealers, motorcycle repair or motorcycle anything!
Nice section to find auto dealers and auto repair though.
Better do your homework on Google Maps before going on a tour.
Since this GPS was designed for use on a motorcycle I am offended
of this careless oversight or whatever it is."
Editor's Reply: Brilliant idea and observation,
now that I think of it -- a definite oversight by TomTom!
Follow-up from "V": "Since
I emailed you I did some research and I hope the following will
help TomTom Rider (and other GPS owners).
First I found Motorcycle points of interest from
Sunday Morning Rides (left top of page). After downloading
the desired file it will have a *.asc extension that must be
converted to *.ov2.
this free POI/Route/Track conversion utility will convert
the *.asc extension to a *.ov2 extension for use in the TomTom
For my own purposes I downloaded a Honda BMP from Google
Images and changed the size to 22x22. Then I named the 2 files
needed as: Motorcycles.ov2 and Motorcycles.bmp
Now I have a Motorcycle Category in my TomTom Rider with
all the motorcycle dealers I needed! (By the way) the
TomTom Rider has POI management that allows working with a Category.
The procedure for adding the 2 files to the TomTom via USB cable
I mentioned is well documented."
From "M.F.": "I'd suggest
looking beyond the TomTom Rider and the Garmin i5, as neither
is a particularly good unit for use on a motorcycle.
Garmin is pretty much the 800-pound gorilla of the field,
and you'll find lots of 2600- and 2700-series owners who are
very happy with them on their bikes. They're very capable units
and have loads of support in the aftermarket. The mid-priced
60 series units aren't bad either if you want one with maps.
For my ST1300, I selected the Lowrance iWay 500c, which is
a full-featured, waterproof unit like the Rider but with a better,
larger display and at about half the price. One of the big reasons
I bought it is the ability to customize the user interface through
the use of "skins." Lowrance makes a number
of skins available, and I've developed one of my own that's
designed specifically for use on motorcycles.
This one has large buttons suitable for use with heavy gloves,
makes it easy to do a lot of the things I use frequently (find
gas, find food, adjust volume on the MP3 player, etc.) and is
designed to be used left-handed so I can pull over and use it
with both feet on the ground and the front brake pulled in.
You'll find a description and some pictures
GPS may seem like a curiosity at first, but once you have
a full understanding of what it can do, it becomes a useful
addition to almost any activity that requires navigation (driving,
motorcycling, snowmobiling, hiking). I can function just fine
without it, but it opens up a number of options that either
don't exist or are much more difficult with paper maps.
As an example, I have a Garmin eTrex (the "plain"
version with no maps that can be had for around $100) that goes
with me on business trips. If I can get latitude and longitude
of the office and hotel, I'll pre-load them onto the unit before
I leave or add them as waypoints when I get there. I like to
go out exploring, and while I'm doing that, I add more waypoints
at good restaurants and other places worth remembering. When
it's time to head to the the hotel, I tell it "go to the
hotel" and it shows me which direction it is from where
I am. I don't get turn-by-turn directions, but you'd be amazed
at how easy it is to get somewhere just by following the arrow
and not worrying about the names of the streets. Sometimes it's
not the most efficient way to get there, but it works reliably
and allows me to see things off the beaten path.
On the motorcycle, it has the same benefit: drop a waypoint
before exploring that side road that's been beckoning, and once
you've got yourself thoroughly lost, you can find your way back.
Most basic units can keep track of where you've been, and that
data can be downloaded and overlaid on a map after you get home.
It's a great planning tool for integrating those little side
trips into your rides.
The bottom line for me is this: Most of my riding is commuting,
and the time I get for recreational riding is limited and therefore
very valuable. Having GPS aboard the bike can be a big help
in getting the most value out of that time: I spend less time
stopped in the middle of the boondocks figuring out where I
might find a gas station and more time converting fuel into
From "G.C.": "OK, so I'm
not the only one that thinks it's an expensive cheap piece of
[expletive deleted!]. I knew it was a warning signal when I
couldn't find out any technical details about it. You know they've
got something to hide.
I returned my unit after a week of hassling with it.
So you say "I'm not convinced that a GPS on a motorcycle
is anything more than a curiosity. After all, you can buy a
nice tank bag and a whole bunch of paper maps for $1200.00."
Well, I have a Garmin eTrex Legend that I bought for about
$170 and it does help a lot. It has the moving map display,
and the only thing is you've got to remember to download the
map for the area you're going to be in. Even if you screw this
up, it's still got a base map for the US with stuff like major
highways, so it's not totally useless.
It doesn't plot routes, but I don't care because I have yet
to see anything that does a decent job of that. Neither MS Streets &
Trips nor TeleAtlas know that I-4 and the Orlando Expressway
are connected, and they do some sort of bizarre wander through
downtown Orlando trying to get from one to the other.
Garmin has a bicycle handlebar mount for it that works just
peachy on my SV-650 and DL-650, as well as my bicycle.
My usual navigation problem is "ok, I've got this map,
but where the hell am I on it? There are either no street signs
or the streets aren't on the map"
There's been times when I've gotten home and none of my maps
had any clue where I'd been, and the trail wanders across a
totally blank map area. In my area of Florida on the east side
of Orlando, NAVTEQ and TeleAtlas are out of date by 6 to 11
years. Pretty damn sad, especially for the $250 for the Garmin
mapping CDs. I got my money back when I bitched bitterly and
listed all the problems that the CDs had.
My best uses have been in Washington DC, on the Blue Ridge
Parkway, and in Daytona during Bike Week. It was useful just
walking around DC, as that's a very packed and confusing place.
You say "Our initial hope when we first tried motorcycle
GPS was that it would help us record the routes and roads that
we stumbled upon during our casual touring."
My Legend does this. It's got a "record trail"
function which does sort of a breadcrumb trail that you can
view on the screen and download to your computer. I wrote code
that extracted this and plotted it on MS Streets & Trips
or Google Maps. I had screen shots of my trip to work on my
website but I got short on space. It was interesting to see
it match the expressway to within the width of a lane, even
on the interchanges and ramps. I think it records up to 4,000
points in as many trails as you want. When it hits the limit,
it starts deleting the oldest points. You can turn it on and
off, creating a new trail each time. You can set it to drop
a point every X seconds or every X meters.
You can also click the thumbstick twice to record where you
are as a named "waypoint" and either quickly accept
a default name to be set later, or toggle in the name. This
is all in a totally waterproof unit about the size of your fist.
The only drawback is the small screen size which makes you need
to constantly zoom in and out, and means you can't read it while
driving. Another good thing is since it doesn't have a color
screen, the Legend can make 2 AA batteries last nearly a week,
if you don't want to bother hooking up to your bike.
Plus when you want to find something, you can do it the old "sorted
alphabetic" way, or scroll through the nearest city/street/point
of interest. The user interface is awesome for something that
just has a couple of buttons and a thumbstick. For what it's
worth, I've dropped it at 65mph on a highway and it's survived
Sorry... I've rambled on, but my point is "yes Virginia,
there are decent GPS units out there, they're just hard to find."
In my opinion, GPS manufacturers have no clue what they're
doing or what their customers want, and their marketing departments
need a severe beating."