Tested: TomTom Rider 550 For The Adventurer at Heart

Satellite navigation is only slowly coming into the two wheel market with a comparatively few motorcycles and scooters offering even as an option.

So, the launch of the latest TomTom Rider 550 comes riding to the rescue for bikers serious about knowing not just where they are going but why they want to go there. That’s because the system offers features specially tailored for the adventure seeker that so many who choose to don the biker mantle are at heart.

A quick scan of the system’s specifications give a hint at what sort of journey possibilities are now at the rider’s fingertips. Features like TomTom Road Trips that claims more than 150 bespoke riding routes available to download. These have been created by bikers for bikers to discover the world’s best rides. Owners can also, personalize these routes or create entirely new ones to add to the system so they are always on hand through MyPlaces.

The manufacturer says the Rider 550 boasts a new, faster quad-core processor to deliver increased performance and smoother navigation experience plus the ability to interact with smartphones through Siri and Google Now voice assistants which allow email and text messages to be read aloud through the rider’s own in-helmet headset.

I had the chance to test the pre-production model and quickly got used popping it onto the handlebar mount and set off happy to set any destination on the go. One of the best hardware features is the 4.3-inch screen being easily operated even with bulky winter gloves.

It hooked up easily through Bluetooth to my android BlackBerry and the remote setting of destination through the MyDrive app was a joy especially with the Rider 550 syncing automatically immediately it was switched on.

Battery life is boosted by an electric feed from the bike’s system through to the navigation set via the plugged in mounting plate so, once charged, I’ve not had to recharge since using the device.

One of the best features for a biker is the route option of two levels of winding roads, including fast sweeping bends for fast sportsbike riders or tight switch-backs for owners of big go-anywhere adventure bikes that can handle the sort of part-paved country back roads that the system will find.

Naturally, the TomTom traffic service is a subscription service but you get this as a lifetime service where you get to download four or more full updates of your map every year, including location of speed cameras, for the useful life of the device. This caveat means the period of time that TomTom continues to support the device with either software updates, services, content or accessories. TomTom stipulates that a device will have reached the end of its useful life when one or more is no longer available or if no updates have been downloaded to the device for a period of 36 months or more. Nonetheless, this is a useful add-on which is just as well considering the unit’s fairly steep UK retail price of £399.99 ($503.74).

It’s these over-the-air updates and indefinite upgrades that create the unique selling point of the TomTom Rider 550 versus mucking along with an aftermarket handlebar bag for your smartphone that risks damage and weather ingress to what has become an essential tool for any long distance traveler.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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