Last Updated on: November 15, 2023
Tomtom Rider 550 was not a planned GPS purchase. But as many times before I ended up choosing something new, because of circumstances.
Before I get started let me just quickly say that this is not a comprehensive, super detailed review of all the functions. If that’s what you’re after, then check out Bennetts Bikesocial review, or this article. My angle is more of a bigger picture or longer term reflection. Which will begin with where I come from.
No GPS to BMW NAV/Garmin
Starting to ride a motorcycle again after 3 odd decades of absence, a GPS wasn’t on the gadget wish list. Quite likely would have taken focus away from the road, traffic and riding. Riding locally or doing day trips, with no particular goal, stationary use of Google Maps was adequate.
Over the course of the following four years I’ve had several BMW motorcycles, and several BMW Navigators. Basically Garmins, with a twist. They all had quirks and issues. Not uncommonly they conked out when you needed navigation the most. I had my share of annoying experiences, especially with Navigator V and VI.
TomTom Rider 550 first impressions
Fast forward to winter 2020. Having “decommissioned” my BMW 1200GSA early summer that year, with a brand new Navigator VI, I decided on a second hand 2019 KTM 1290 Adventure. Without a GPS. A used TomTom Rider 550 with warranty popped up in the classifieds. The price was good, so without much deliberation I bought it.
Read quickly through the manual and got it mounted on the 1290. Map colours ands details were very different from the BMW Navs. Perhaps Tomtom have spent less on maps and map details development. Or maybe it’s a deliberate choice. Felt a bit cheap in the beginning. But easy to read.
There could be practical reasons for the graphics and map design. Related to processing speed and operational temperature. More complex high resolution graphics means more processing power, subsequently more heat.
The user interface and menu system of the TomTom rider Rider 550 is good, and pretty self explanatory. It’s easy to navigate around. You can adjust screen sensitivity to fit your needs, or gloves. In high contrast mode it gives a clear picture. Maps fonts are a little too small for my liking.
I bought a sun shade visor/protection. It improves visibility of the map surface under many types of light conditions. Less glaring. The user interface is perhaps a bit minimalistic compared to a Garmin Zumo XT. Which for some maybe is an upside.
Long term reflections
The third season with TomTom Rider 550 number two ended late October. Such is a motorcycle rider’s life in Norway. Unless you fancy riding in temps below zero/32F and on snow and ice.
Why GPS number two? Well the first was replaced under warranty. Sometime during fall of 2022 condensation/fog began to appear on the underside of the glass. It would normally clear itself during a ride. I think this can be attributed to the temperature differences. Fall in Norway means substantial temperature variations between night time and daytime.
Over the course of months of riding, two seasons and tens of thousands of kilometers, I never saw any sign of condensation. Until fall of 2022. Been wondering if the condensation somehow was connected to moisture stored inside the GPS. That it took cold autumn nights and steady temperature increase morning and daytime for it to show.
A few times, though much fewer than with any of the BMW Navigators, the GPS has shut itself down. Suddenly. Temperature might have been a factor but I don’t think so. At least not for all the cases. It usually happened when I was following a route. So not much different from problems I’ve had with BMW Navs. Though a lot less.
There’s a common word for such. Bugs.
When it came back up the route and navigation was back on. However, was I recording the route well then likely data points would have been lost and recording disrupted. Else I’ve noticed some screen lagging every now and then, but it could also be related to touch sensitivity settings, and gloves.
TomTom Rider 550 sum-up
Overall I am pretty happy with the GPS. I miss having a dedicated offroad mode. Which you find on the Garmin/BMW Navigators. In the beginning I thought it inferior to the BMW Navs and newer Garmins, especially for offroad riding. But updates have led to improvements. It would take a direct comparison to find out if the Rider is as good as a Garmin.
The screen size, 4.3 inch or 10.9 cm diagonally, is a bit on the small side. One could argue this is both a plus and a minus. The plus is that, especially if you have it mounted above the motorcycle instrument display, it doesn’t get in the way. For me that is the ultimate position of a GPS. And I use it pretty actively, to read the road ahead.
But there have been (more than a few) times when I wish it was larger. 7 inch, like the Garmin Zumo XT2, might be a bit too large. But it could also be ideal. Comparing these two is a bit unfair. The Garmin is far more expensive. It has a lot of functions and far superior graphics and map functions.
Is this needed or important? That depends on user preferences.
Mobile not an option
I don’t mount my mobile on motorcycles. Never have. One reason is safety. I simply don’t want a crucial communication device exposed, whether to vibrations or impacts. Or climate. I don’t want to be in a position where suddenly, in a distracted moment, I forget my phone on my motorcycle. In a country, far far away from home.
My phone, well a previous one, survived a serious crash in a pocket. And was working afterwards. Had it been mounted highly likely it would have been smashed to pieces. The impact destroyed the front of the motorcycle. So it’s fair to assume the phone would have met a similar fate.
Of late alternatives have emerged, making a mobile phone more relevant for my type of usage. Several Bluetooth screens are on the market. One such you can read about here. But they’re not without shortcomings. Price wise you’d end up around in the same terrain as with a Rider.
I’ll probably continue in the same fashion. And use my phone/Google Maps, as a backup when needed. However, this is probably just the beginning. And In the years to come I’m sure more companies with challenge TomTom and Garmin.
Last (many) words
For the price I paid for my TomTom Rider 550, with all the extras, some of which I didn’t need, it’s a hard to beat package. Maybe one day I’ll go back to Garmin. Get a Zumo XT2. Or maybe not, instead wait for a better Bluetooth/Apple Car Play option.
October 2023 it happened again though. The new / replacement TomTom Rider 550 also got condensation on the inside of the screen. A disconcerting discovery. Either related to the seal, or perhaps screws on the device needing to be torqued up.
Just keep that in mind. Hopefully it’s an easy fix. That or it’ll go back to the dealer.
TomTom Rider 550 update Nov. 2023
With a tool it was pretty easy to feel that the four screws in front (picture below) and also the four screws holding the rear panel, all were a little loose.
I suspect this, combined with fluctuating temperatures over time, could be the reason why the seal in-between the front and backside of the GPS had let humidity inside.
Re-torqued the screws gently, or without applying too much force. Time will show if it did the trick. I won’t know until maybe spring 2024, or fall (again).