We've been using GPS in cars, planes, boats and motorcycles for many years now and the technology has developed to the point where many motorcycle-specific devices exist. After talking to a number of serious motorcycle tourers I realised that two names kept cropping up when discussing motorcycle GPS systems - Garmin and TomTom. Although the two leading devices from TomTom and Garmin are similar in many ways, there are also some key differences.
I'll outline these differences below to give you an idea of what you can expect from each device and hopefully help you narrow down which one will be better suited to you and your specific needs.
Garmin ZUMO 660LM
The ZUMO has a 4.3" touchscreen display that's both glove and direct-sunlight friendly, it has full Bluetooth capabilities and can be synced with your in-helmet system for hands-free control. Perhaps the most significant advantage that the Garmin has over the TomTom is music - the ZUMO 660LM has a built-in MP3 player that can stream over Bluetooth, making it ideal for those who like to listen to music, Podcasts or audiobooks when on long rides.
Once synced with your data-enabled smartphone the ZUMO can also keep you abreast of weather conditions along your route - vital for rides that are going to take you out away from civilisation. Although these extra features are excellent (and possibly vital for some), it does all come at a cost. The Garmin retails for $499.50 whereas the TomTom sells for $298.00, so at the end of the day it really comes down to you choosing which one is going to match your requirements without busting your wallet. Click here to read more about the Garmin ZUMO
The TomTom Rider is a best seller in this field and it's not hard to see why - the 4.3" glove-friendly touchscreen is daylight readable and like the Garmin, it offers lifetime map updates for free. Although it lacks a built-in music player it does have many of the features of the ZUMO, as well as a few features unique to itself - including the ability to specifically choose motorcycle-friendly winding roads or to highlight points of interest along the route in case you'd like to stretch the legs and take a looksee.
When it comes to GPS navigation on roads, TomTom has been the industry leader for a long time now and it doesn't look like that'll change any time soon. The Rider packs almost all the features that most motorcyclists want at their fingertips and its lower price-point has resulted in it becoming the current de facto GPS device for many long distance motorcycle tourers.
Although these are the two leading motorcycle GPS system there are others on the market - even that smartphone on the desk next to you can do a pretty good job of navigating you once you've downloaded Google Maps. As is always the case it's important to thoroughly research any device before you buy it, then RTM (read the manual) once you choose one.
If you have any tips, suggestions or additions for this article, please feel free to chime in in the comments section below, I read all comments and will update this post to include any new and relevant information.