Despite the rise of smartphone GPS apps, dedicated motorcycle sat-navs are still popular among bikers.
Riding a motorcycle requires control and awareness – fumbling with a smartphone to use as a GPS doesn’t cut it on today’s increasingly busy roads.
A motorcycle sat nav is more compact than the standard car variety and they’re built to withstand extreme weather, dirt and dust. With so much choice out there; it is difficult to determine which one to choose.
This article discusses two motorcycle sat-navs by one of the top names in the industry; TomTom.
The TomTom Rider 550 Premium and the new contender for the throne, the TomTom Rider 500.
You might prefer Garmin. In which case check out our guide on the Garmin 595 vs. 396.
We’ve also attempted to answer the tricky question of “What’s the best motorcycle sat nav?” in this guide.
Table of Contents
What is the 500?
The Rider 500 is new and takes over from the 450, which itself replaced the 420.
How is the 550 different to the 500?
Whereas the TomTom 450 and 420 were different units to the top of the range models, with smaller screens and less functionality, the new 500 is exactly the same unit as the 550.
The main differences are that the 500 ‘only’ comes with European maps whereas the 550 comes with World maps.
If you buy the 500 and decide that you do want World maps (if you’re exploring far-Eastern Europe or northern Africa for example, you’ll need world maps), then you can buy the World maps and use them on the 500 but you won’t have the lifetime map updates.
The other main difference is that the 500 doesn’t come with the pre-loaded motorcycle Points Of Interest. You can still add your own POIs or download community-curated ones, so this isn’t a deal breaker.
What is the Premium Pack?
TomTom currently sells three different set-ups on their website:
The Premium Pack comes with a RAM motorcycle mount, a lockable clasp, an in-car mount and a carry case.
If you’re going for the 550 and you have a car, you’re best off going for the Premium Pack as it works out cheaper than if you bought the Rider 550 and then bought the accessories.
At the moment TomTom don’t offer the Rider 500 with a Premium Pack.
TomTom’s range-topping sat-nav
TomTom’s heavyweight motorcycle GPS is feature-packed, including World maps with lifetime free updates, motorcycle POIs, a RAM mount with lockable clasp and a carry case. With WiFi route uploads, Bluetooth connectivity, live traffic updates, Siri and Google Now compatibility and hands-free calling and the ability to read your messages to you, it’s TomTom’s pièce de résistance.
TomTom Rider 550
£499.99 £319.98 sportsbikeshop.co.uk
With a 4.3” landscape or portrait rotating touchscreen that is dust, drop and waterproof up to 1-metre, the TomTom Rider 550 Premium is a tough cookie that can withstand even the most challenging weather and road conditions.
Its glove-friendly touchscreen can be set to toggle between light and heavy gloves meaning you don’t have to faff around pulling over and removing a glove to re-calibrate your route. The battery life is reported to be around 6 hours, perfect for an all-day trip over long distances.
Say goodbye to connecting to a computer to get the latest maps and software updates; with its fast quad-core processor and built-in Wi-Fi, planning a route has never been so quick. The 550 comes pre-installed with a regional map, but you can download Lifetime World Maps for other countries at ease. Are you always forgetting to check for updates? Don’t worry about that; the 550 will even notify you when maps and software updates are available. Connect the Sat-Nav to your Wi-Fi and instantly download your choices.
Once the Sat-Nav is updated and you’ve downloaded maps for your preferred locations, you can’t wait to get out riding. Unfortunately, now you must spend a significant amount of time route planning. Fear not, the TomTom Rider 550 Premium comes with ample journey planning features that will make it easier and quicker than ever.
Whether you want a cruise around the countryside or an adventurous run with more hilly terrain, this Sat-Nav has it covered. Whatever your mood or level of adventure, you can avoid straights and add more winding or hilly roads with low, mid to high standards. Sit back at let the 550 do all the planning and get on with your trip.
TomTom didn’t stop there, with access to TomTom Road Trips, you can choose from numerous hand-picked routes for the best coastal routes, woodland and forest roads and more. Locations vary from local areas based on your current spot to faraway places like India and Russia. Great if you’re planning a biking holiday.
With such a fantastic range of choice available, you will want to share these experiences with other riders; the MyDrive motorcycle route planning feature allows you to share your planned routes via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. For added personality, why not add your waypoints, over 1000 pre-installed, and a roundtrip option for a different way home?
Once out on the open road, ready to feel the curves or just a ride in an urban location, hitting traffic will be the last thing on your list. If you have a compatible smartphone that can connect to the 550, Lifetime TomTom Traffic is the answer to your prayers. Avoid the traffic with its synced real-time alerts; it will even intelligently plan a new route to save journey time, allowing you to make the most of your day.
The safety conscious riders can also rest easy with the 550, its black spot and tail jam warnings on the screen will provide plenty of notice if you need to slow down or be alert. Not only can you use your smartphone for traffic updates, but you can also control the 550 through a headset and voice control for calls, texts, music and more; Siri and Google Now compatible, this Sat-Nav doesn’t miss a trick.
Riding doesn’t have to be from A to B, and it certainly doesn’t have to be a monotonous ride. The TomTom Sat-Nav Rider 550 Premium saves time and planning before your journey and provides that sense of adventure and escape you’re looking for during your trip; stay connected at every point of your excursion and live life to the full, wherever you are.
What’s in the box?
The TomTom Rider 550 Premium device comes complete with power cable and USB cable and manual.
A motorcycle mount and a rugged RAM mounting kit that can withstand challenging conditions. A RAM anti-theft solution, this impressive piece of equipment comes in two part; the first is a locking system which prevents removing the mount arm from your motorcycle and the second prevents theft of the TomTom Rider from the dock.
Your experience doesn’t have to stop if you’re not on your bike, included in the Premium pack is a car mounting kit, so you can use the device in any vehicle and continue your excursions.
Same unit as the 550 but without World maps
If you’re exploring Europe but you have no plans to go further afield then go for the 500, it’s exactly the same unit as the 550. The only reason you’d go for the 550 is if you wanted the World maps, in-car mount and carry case which makes the 550 Premium Pack the one to go for.
TomTom Rider 500
The cheaper option of the two, the Rider 500 has the same size 4.3” smart touchscreen with sensitivity options for optimum use when wearing light or heavy gloves. Switching between landscape and portrait views gives more warning for the length of road ahead. With the included motorcycle mount, this makes switching between the two views effortless. The 500 is water and drop proof making it just as rugged and able to handle harsh road conditions. The battery life is around 6 hours which, like the 550 Premium, plenty if you’re planning an all-day trip.
Wi-Fi connectivity for updates, maps and software allow you to sync five times faster with its built-in quad-core processor. Just like the 550, it will notify you when new updates are available, and no computer is required.
Planning your route is simple with the 500, access to TomTom Road Trips shows the best routes in your local area or more remote destinations. Scenic routes are just a click away with plenty of points of interests marked throughout the journey to provide rest stops that are both relaxing and awe-inspiring. The choice between terrain is still available with this model, choose if you prefer straights or more hilly, winding roads. Have you got routes in mind? It’s easy to edit the map and create a roundtrip with the MyDrive feature. Add your waypoints for a more exciting ride. Once you’ve selected and perfected your bespoke course, pass on that riding bug to your friends and family by sharing it instantly from the Sat-Nav with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
Download for free Lifetime European Maps for a top experience on your touring holidays. Combined with Lifetime TomTom Traffic (compatible smartphone required) and Lifetime Speed Cameras, stay on the ball and never hit a jam or speed trap again. With your speed displayed on the screen, it provides gentle reminders of the current road restrictions. Just like the TomTom 550, change to a quicker route if traffic is slowing you down and view accident blackspots and jam tail warnings, keeping you safe throughout your journey.
With safety in mind, the Rider 500 can be connected to Siri or Google Play through a compatible smartphone and headset, allowing you to make calls while your smartphone remains in your pocket.
It might not come with all the premium accessories like the 550 Premium Pack, but the Rider 500 is still packed with the functionality of the 550 – designed to put the joy back into planning and riding great routes.
What’s in the box?
The TomTom Motorcycle Sat-Nav Rider 500, manual, USB cable and power cable. A rugged RAM motorcycle mount for use almost anywhere.
500 vs 550 – comparison table
|TomTom Rider 500||TomTom Rider 550|
|Weight||300 grams||300 grams|
|Battery life||6 hours||6 hours|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth; Wi-Fi||Bluetooth; Wi-Fi|
|Traffic alerts||Yes (when connected to a smartphone)||Yes (when connected to a smartphone)|
The 550 and 500 TomTom motorcycle Sat-Navs are incredibly similar. If you have a smaller budget, the TomTom Motorcycle Sat-Nav Rider 500 would be a better choice being the cheaper option of the two.
Weighing up your decision based on features can become more of a headache; the 500’s hardware is identical to the Rider 550 and the specifications are not much different, so you may struggle to find any benefit of paying extra.
The main difference between the two is the maps. The TomTom Rider 550 Premium provides access to Worldwide Maps whereas the TomTom Rider 500 only provides Lifetime European Maps; you pay extra to download Worldwide ones.
You might be thinking, ‘I won’t take my bike outside Europe so there isn’t much point’. One thing to remember is Sat-Navs are portable and therefore compatible with any vehicle. The 550 Premium even comes with a car mounting kit to use with your own or a hire car. The inclusion of a protective case will keep it safe in your luggage if you do consider travelling with it. If you’re likely to head outside of Europe then the 550 Premium is the one for you.
The 550 Premium comes complete with a RAM anti-theft solution, perfect if you’re grabbing a quick bite to eat or parking in an area you don’t know. With these thoughtful accessories and free downloadable Lifetime Worldwide Maps, it could be the best pick for you.
Compared to the earlier 450, the 500’s Wi-Fi update capability, MyDrive access, Siri and Google Now functionality means it goes that extra mile.
For me, the best value is the Rider 550 as even though I have no plans to go outside of Europe you never know. But the real clincher was that I found the 550 at a lower price than the 500.
I don’t need the car mount kit that comes with the 550 Premium, so I don’t see the point in paying extra for that. If you do want to use your sat nav in the car, then you really need the 550 Premium as it works out cheaper than buying the parts separately.
If you go for either the 500 or 550, you’ve got yourself a great sat nav.
Biker Rated is brought to you by motorcycle journalists who have been writing about motorcycles and motorbike gear for over two decades. We have written for Visordown, RiDE and Performance Bikes. Our mission is to provide the most authoritative coverage of motorcycle gear in the world. We are wholly-owned and editorially independent.
We review any motorcycle product regardless of who manufactures or sells it. Our opinions cannot be bought. We maintain our independence through our unique funding model. If you buy a product through our retailer links, we may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. This how we are able to keep providing expert motorcycle gear reviews and top-notch guides. Thank you.
Motorcycle Sat Nav FAQs
Is it legal to use a Sat Nav in France?
It’s perfectly legal to use a dedicated Sat Nav device or a sat nav app on your phone while in France. However French law dictates that motorists cannot use a device which actively deters the effectiveness of speed cameras.
While this rule is fairly ambiguous and was introduced with the main aim of making it illegal to use radar jammers (which stop laser-based mobile speed cameras from working), if your sat nav warns you of an impending speed trap, in theory, the police could hand you a fine.
The reality is unless you’re caught at a silly speed or just plain unlucky, you’ll have no problems.
Is the TomTom 500 and 550 waterproof?
Yes it is IPX7 rated meaning it can withstand immersion is up to 1-metre of water. You’d have to be riding through a pretty deep fjord to get it submerged.
What’s the difference between GPS and Sat Nav?
The two words are intertwined these days but GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is the means by which a device can locate its position as a set of co-ordinates, determined by referencing satellites. Sat Nav stands for Satellite Navigation and it’s the means by which a device can navigate you from one point to another using satellite referencing for guidance.
What’s the best GPS for Adventure riding?
Both the Garmin and TomTom devices have their strengths and weaknesses but if your riding is mainly off designated roads, you’ll not be able to use your device for turn-by-turn navigation.