For ordinary drivers and navigators cruising within their enclosed four-wheeled SUVs or sports cars, the smartphone has come a long way in replacing the standard GPS navigation system. Thanks in part to Google Maps and Apple Maps, getting to a newfound destination is much easier and convenient than it was, say, five years ago. Especially with voice-commands and step-by-step instructions to pair with the map, some drivers no longer even need to worry about purchasing a GPS device for their vehicles.
This is not the case with motorcyclists. For even the thought of looking at a smartphone while riding is enough to unexpectedly lay it down. Needless to say, on-phone navigation systems are a no-go in this regard, and therefore, the need for motorcycle-specific GPS devices is much higher for those who tend to take their rides on roads less traveled. This is the point after all of owning a motorcycle. The weekend travels, exploration, wandering, and even camping in remote areas typically requires some assistance in getting there. It’s here where the small but valuable motorcycle GPS market comes into play. And where we decided to provide some insight into those devices that “make the cut” in this realm.
Why You Need A Motorcycle GPS
One thing you’ll notice when hitting this abridged GPS market is the price point. It’s considerably higher than your standard GPS device. Why? Because unlike those tech items that live comfortably within the confines of your vehicle, motorcycle-specific GPS devices must be able to stand up to the elements and remain rider-friendly.
Now, to start, the exterior of these GPS devices needs to host a very rugged exterior given the high levels of vibration and overall harsher conditions they’ll be exposed to. This is a much-needed (practically mandatory) element of a motorcycle GPS — especially for dual-sport riders taking to the backcountry. Along this vein, a weatherproof design is also a mandatory feature seeing how rain, wind, sleet, snow, and dirt are ever-present possibilities when riding in year-round conditions. Ideally, look for iX7 standard or greater waterproofing for these devices.
Another key feature set we looked for here was motorcycle-customized internal components. For instance, a customized display built for motorcycle gloves is a must-have. Also, some manufacturers have worked to design the screens to remain bright and functional in direct sunlight — reducing glare in the process. Some manufacturers also offer motorcycle-specific riding modes and routes in their GPS systems. Meaning, if you’re looking for a fun winding coastal road to enjoy the trip or a route less traveled to avoid big rigs and traffic, the right motorcycle GPS device will offer just that.
Garmin Zumo 396LMT-S Navigator
Similar to the larger GPS market, Garmin plays a pivotal role in this space. And with the affordable Zumo 396LMT-S Navigator, you get the features you deserve without breaking the bank. It hosts a rugged case that’s resistant to fuel vapors, UV rays, rain, and other harsh weather conditions while providing a slew of ideal internal functionality for riders. This includes a built-in trip computer complete with a digital fuel gauge, a compass display, speed limit indicator, and free live traffic and weather. Alerts are also included to keep you abreast of upcoming speed changes, tight curves, school zones, and railroad crossings. You can also adjust your route based on local features and how adventurous you’d like to get, and the device syncs with a compatible smartphone and Bluetooth headset to make and receive phone calls on the go.
Magellan eXplorist TRX7 Off-Road GPS Navigator
A GPS unit for the off-road adventure enthusiast. The aptly-named Magellan eXplorist is built for rough and rugged exploration atop a reliable adventure bike. Here, key features include the likes of turn-by-turn and street navigation modes for both the dirt and the asphalt, a high-res 2D Topo and 3D Basemap of the USA and Canada, and preloaded software with over 160,000 4WD, ATV, motorcycle, and snowmobile trails. Additionally, the device features a rugged IP67 casing making it drop and shock resistant, a 7-inch touchscreen display, off-road waypoints, and a backtrack function to help you get back to the track’s starting point.
Garmin Montana 650t
Preloaded with over 100k maps, and hosting a rugged outdoor-centric design, the Montana 650t is the perfect pick for those dual-sport riders out there. It’s all thanks to an intensely rugged design that’s purposed for ATVs and boats in addition to motorcycles. And technically speaking, the Montana 650t hosts at high-sensitivity WAAS-enabled GPS receiver at its core along with a HotFix satellite prediction for precise navigation through deep canyons and heavy cloud cover. Additionally, feel free to share your waypoints, routes, and tracks with other Garmin GPS users via Garmin’s wireless compatibility. Not a bad way to navigate the road less traveled.
BMW Motorrad Navigator V
In addition to that mean Motorrad machine, the BMW Motorrad Navigator V is a fine GPS device that’s both reliable and positioned to stand up to even the nastiest of weather conditions. Why? Because this sleek device comes complete with a bright 5-inch TFT display and hosts a watertight/petrol-resistant construction, a pre-installed map the for Europe and North America, 8 GB of internal flash memory, a winding roads route option for more scenic riders, lane assist, and new trip technology for more details tours. Additionally, the device’s advanced TTS voice navigation advancement offers an easy and road-friendly companion experience.
Garmin Zumo 595LM
Adventure-ready and highly compatible, the Zumo 595LM is a dedicated upgrade from the 396LMT. Here, enjoy a glove-friendly and sunlight-readable 5-inch dual-orientation touchscreen and IPX7 rugged constitution, embedded rider alerts, Bluetooth compatibility for hands-free calling, and the freedom to control music streaming to boot. And for those adrenaline seekers, Garmin’s Adventurous Routing works to find curvy or hilly roads while limiting major highways for a more scenic yet heat-pumping ride. Nothing like a little white knuckle routing to get the endorphins flowing.
Simply The Best Motorcycle Gear For Every Rider
No matter what type of rider you are, there’s quality gear out there for you to choose from. Our suggestion is to start here with this roundup up the best motorcycle gear for every rider. We’re sure you’ll find something worthwhile.