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I noticed that some of my fellow riders were using these things and gave them some serious thought before actually buying one. I found on several rides with the guys that I was wishing I knew where we were going. Yea, you can stop and look on the map but while you are doing that the pack leaves you in the dust and then you are even more lost than before. Plus, if you don't know where you are on the map, guess what, you are still lost.


After watching one of my fellow riders nearly run a red light while trying to look at his GPS I became convinced that only one designed for bikes and having a head set for verbal communications would be safe to use.


This pretty much narrowed my choices to the Garmin 450/550

(look under Zumo)


 and the TomTom Rider series.

(look under GPS navigation, motorcycle)

I spent several months researching these two, trying to make a decision between them and finally bought the TomTom Rider 2. I would come to regret my choice as I gained more experience using it.

Fellow rider Jim has a Garmin 550 and during our trip to Birmingham I became painfully aware of the short comings of my TomTom.


The pricing for these two products (around $600-$700 if you shop) is pretty close with the Garmin just slightly more expensive. What finally swayed me to the TomTom was the fact that it came with a Scala wireless Bluetooth headset. Jim's Garmin has a corded headset. He could purchase a wireless headset but would have to pay extra for it. I am very pleased that I do not have to deal with the cord as I know that I would forget and eventually try to walk away from the bike with it still connected. I have dealt with corded headsets for many years in the fire service and had this happen repeatedly. 


That's the good news. From here on it just goes down hill.

First off, one of the advertised features is that you can receive phone calls while moving and make phone calls while stopped. This is a safety feature as dialing while going down the road would probably not be wise. Afterwards I found fine print that stated that not all cell phones are compatible with the TomTom technology. What that really means is that since I have Verizon wireless there are no Verizon compatible phones that will work with the TomTom. This is partly Verizon's fault as they want to lock their customers into their technology. However, TomTom shares some of the blame for not making that more clear in their advertising. Verizon is a pretty big player in the cell phone industry and is therefore a sizable piece of the market to exclude.  They may have covered themselves legally but as far as I'm concerned this was a complete customer service failure. I can't speak for other cell phone carriers now but when my contract with Verizon expires, I will see what I can do with the other carriers.



When my contract expired with Verizon I began looking at alternatives. I found that Verizon did have phones that would pair with the TomTom but that they were only the high end, internet compatible models. What made it even more expensive was that Verizon requires you to take the internet  service in addition to your phone service, this increases the cost considerably if you don't wish to have internet capabilities on your phone. What I found was a left over phone that had the capabilities but did not require the service. This was just a fluke but it solved my problem and now I can make and receive phone calls through my head set while out on the road. I don't use this feature often except for one situation. If, at the end of the day, I find that we are running later than expected (which is usually the case), I can, while stopped at a light, call home (once the call is initiated you can continue on your way) and let the wife know that I'm still alive and will still take her out to dinner or whatever.





Next big shortcoming. They (TomTom) advertise a feature which allows you to plan your trip on the computer and download it into your TomTom when complete.

 First a little explanation. If you just want to get there the most common method would be to use the "navigate to" feature. You use the touch screen to type in an address or intersection and press done. The unit will then calculate a route based on your preferences (use toll roads? shortest route?, etc.) and plot a course. If, however, you wish to take a specific route, (the scenic route, some twisty back roads, etc.) you must use the "plan an itinerary" option. Doing this, setting all the waypoints (such as intersections) that you wish to pass, forcing the program to take the route that you want, not the one it wants, is difficult to do on the small screen, especially given the complexity of this method (Garmin offers a much simpler method). It would be much easier to do on the computer screen simply because of the visibility and clarity of the larger screen. Unfortunately, this program does not work. TomTom knows this, they knew it when they marketed the device, but put it in the stores any way. I have had the unit for several months now and this program still does not work. Calls to "Support" result in half answers, suggestions that do not work, and eventually an acknowledgement that "no it doesn't work" and they are "working on the problem".

Jim's Garmin has a similar program which does work, however, he also has the option of simply "dragging" the course laid out on the screen to what ever route he wishes to take. We found this very handy while out on the road and presented with an interesting side trip or road we wished to take.


Another annoying problem that I have found is that the map programs often recognize a street or road by only one of it's names. For example, I constantly find roads and streets with in areas that I am familiar that have common names and then less common names. A street may be known as Semoran Blvd as well as Highway 436 or SR436 or CR436. If you are trying to plot the name of a road by one of it's common names but the program only recognizes it by one of the more obscure names it tells you the road does not exist. I have yet to get it to recognize the intersection of I-4 and one of the sub roads near where I live. That intersection has existed for 50 years, but still, it does not know that. I am sure there are roads and streets all over America just like that. This isn't a matter of getting a more up to date map program with many new roads and streets (for which TomTom would gladly charge you). It's a matter of their programs not being accurate to begin with. With Jim's Garmin, if all else fails, he simply drags the route (on the screen) where he wants it with out even knowing the name of the road or street.


Another annoying problem with the TomTom is that I cannot "browse map" while in the driving screen. If I zoom out to get a bigger view I lose all the street/road names so don't know where I am or where I want to go. If I go to the "browse map" screen I have the option of dragging the screen around with my finger to look at different areas. This option is very "jerky". In other words it does not move smoothly and in fact sometimes does not move at all. And if I try to zoom out I loose the names of the roads so must zoom back in to figure out where I am. Then I must remember or write down the names of the streets that I did find to transfer them to the "itinerary planning" program. If I am out on the road and want to take a detour the performance of this program is extremely poor.


I have listed several complaints that I have with this product. There are many more as well that I could also offer. However, the level of satisfaction that I have with this product can only be described as poor. This unit, the Rider 2, is one of the most expensive that they offer. One would think that the manufacture would knock themselves out making sure that it was the best they could deliver. If they are this uninterested in making this product a stellar performer one can only wonder just how poorly they have done with their entrance and middle priced products. I can not recommend this product or this company. 


I mounted the GPS on the left side using the bolt hole from the original mirrors. The system comes with a RAM mount however two of the pieces did not work well for me. The bottom piece was a handle bar mount which I had to replace with the bolt mount since I don't have handlebars. The other was the link which was just too long and placed the unit too high. This is the shortest link that I could find. 


The unit comes with a cable to wire it directly to the battery which one would really want to do as the unit battery would run down on a long trip. With it attached to the bike battery it keeps the GPS battery fully charged. One problem that I did encounter was that once the unit is connected to the bike battery or house charger it turns itself on. This would mean that in order to turn it off you would have to remove it from the bike. Therefore, I added a switch so that I could mount it on the bike and it not be powered up all the time. If  I am planning a trip I will often get everything ready to go the day before so that I can just roll the bike out the next morning and leave. The switch allows me to do that. It has been suggested that I could have wired it into the ignition switch and that seems like it would also work. I think I prefer this solution.

There is also a tether which originally mounted to the RAM mount. I relocated it to the clipon.


The mount stays on the bike. Removal of the unit is simply a matter of releasing a latch and the tether. For some, this amount of clutter on the controls would be too annoying. If so, loosening the middle link will allow you to pull every thing but the lower ball. I just leave the mount there and it doesn't bother me.




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