Tomtom Rider 550 GPS review, after 3 seasons

Last Updated on: April 15, 2024

Tomtom Rider 550 was not a planned GPS purchase. But as many times before I ended up choosing something new, because of circumstances.

Tomtom Rider 550 with motorcycle mounting kit

Tomtom Rider 550 with motorcycle mounting kit

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.

Tomtom Rider 550: mounted on a KTM 1290 Super Adventure S

Tomtom Rider 550 #1: mounted on 2019 KTM 1290 Super Adventure S

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.

Tomtom Rider 550: mounted on my 2023 KTM 890 Adventure

Tomtom Rider 550 #2: mounted on a 2023 KTM 890 Adventure

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.

Riding in a hidden valley in Norway

September 2023: The TomTom knew about this hidden road

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.

Rider 550 screen is clear

The screen of the rider is easy to read

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.

GPS Front and the four screws

Re-torquing the screws on the GPS, front and back.

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).

Update mid-April 2024

Starting to ride one mid-April morning I found condensation on the inside of the glass of the Tomtom rider 550. Not much, and it cleared itself out within a couple of hours of riding in spring sun. Believe it happened as the glass warmed up, directly exposed to sun. Cold night in the garage.

The morning after I took it into the house, from a relatively cold garage. No condensation on the inside of the glass. Which makes me believe it’s the direct exposure of sun/heat that caused condensation to appear.

Tomtom rider 550: the belly or back/underside

The back/underside of GPS, with USB port and speakers.

Think the seal is tight enough now. That the USB port, or the speakers on the underside, has something to do with it. That, because it’s not completely waterproof, the case does breathe.

You could say it’s not a big deal. Doubt any water will come in, unless the GPS is directly exposed to or rather dipped into water. But since it is under warranty I’ll report the findings. Then take it back to where I bought it. We’ll see how that goes.

If there had been condensation this morning as well I’d be more concerned.

2 thoughts on “Tomtom Rider 550 GPS review, after 3 seasons

  1. Been informed the 550 rider is no longer available what is the new model replacement as I’ve the old 450 had a problem updating and was looking at upgrading to a newer model

    • Hi there, that’s strange, since it’s still available online. See: https://www.tomtom.com/en_gb/navigation/motorcycle-gps-sat-nav/.

      So there is no sign of the product having been discontinued as far as I can tell.

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