Having happily used the TomTom Rider 40 for a few years I decided it was probably time to check out the newer version. The Rider 550 has been available for some time and has received plenty of good reviews. Are these positive reviews justified and should you consider buying one?
With this in mind, I decided to carry out this TomTom Rider 550 review to see if it comes up to scratch.
Before we set off, however, we should probably deal with the elephant in the room…..
TomTom Rider 550 Review
Why Bother Using A Dedicated Sat Nav?
A number of riders have questioned whether you even need a dedicated sat-nav. They argue that a smartphone can perform a similar function. There is an element of truth in this however in my view you just cannot beat a dedicated sat nav for biking.
I’m not sure about everybody else but my experiences of riding with a smartphone have been rather frustrating, to say the least. The screen gets crowded by various notifications from my emails, various WhatsApp group messages, and calendar notifications. All very useful on a daily basis but not ideal when I’m trying to find my way somewhere! I also had to put the phone away when the rain came as I hadn’t purchased an additional weatherproof case.
Most annoying of all, however, was not having a proper glove-friendly screen. Pulling over every time I wanted to change a viewpoint or amend the route was a right pain in the ****!
With a dedicated sat-nav, you can stick it on the bike and forget about it. You also get the following benefits :
- Anti-glare screen
- Long battery life
- Weatherproof device
- Bike-friendly maps
- Fast rerouting
Before anybody comments below I do know that you can get those smartphone mounts for the bike. However, the better ones are pretty expensive and the covers aren’t sufficiently dust and waterproof. This is super important for us riders who live in such wet and rainy countries! Therefore, for hassle-free riding, a dedicated sat-nav gets the thumbs up from me.
The TomTom Rider 550
Why You Might Consider This Sat Nav?
- Dedicated sat nav
- No need for cables – updates via WiFi
- Smartphone & headset connectivity
- Easy to plan your ‘Thrill Rides’
- Glove-friendly device
Why You Might Not Consider This Sat Nav?
- Top of the range products are a bit pricier
- Initial learning curve with using the sat nav
- Mounting space may be tight on some sportier bikes
The big selling point is that you can choose more exciting riding routes. There is a choice of three different levels of hilly and winding roads. The highest level should provide a challenging route for the more experienced riders. Whilst less experienced riders may opt for the less challenging lower level of winding roads. Fantastic for that Sunday afternoon cruise whilst taking in the views.
So without further ado, let’s take a look and see if this is a sat nav that should be considered worthwhile for bikers.
What’s In The Box?
The contents of the box all depends upon which version you have purchased.
There are three versions available. Internally the spec of all the devices is exactly the same, it’s only the accessories and included maps that differentiate them.
Our device was almost fully charged upon coming out of the box. This was useful as it allowed me to familiarize myself with the GPS whilst getting everything set up on the bike.
What’s the difference between the TomTom Rider 500 & 550?
They are identical devices. They have exactly the same internal specifications but have also been tailored to different markets. The Rider 500 comes with all the European maps whilst the Rider 550 comes bundled with Worldwide Maps.
If you are planning to ride anywhere outside of Europe then it’s a no-brainer, and you should only consider purchasing the Rider 550. If you purchase the 500 and subsequently decide to ride outside Europe, it is possible to purchase the Worldwide Maps. However, there is a downside to doing it this way as you won’t have Lifetime Map Updates.
The Rider 550 is also loaded with preinstalled motorcycle points of interest (POIs). This provides a means of searching for different routes, biker-friendly hotels, restaurants, or bars that you may not have previously found.
Mounting the Sat Nav
Within the premium pack, there are three different mounting options available. These include:
- A Motorcycle Mount
- A Car Mount
- An Anti-Theft System Motorcycle Mount
There are a couple of steps required in order to mount the device onto the bike properly. Included in the box is a rubber protector that should be placed inside the gripping part of the mount. This is designed to both protect the handlebars from any scratches and also secure the arm in place. Depending on the finish of your handlebars, it may be advisable to wind some electrical tape around the area where the mount is to be attached. This seemed to work well as it provided some additional grip for the mount but also ensured that the bike remained in pristine condition.
It is easy to use. Just like previous models, it’s attached to the windshield via the suction cup. The sat nav is then slid onto the arm. There were no issues to report with the attachment in the car. It happily stayed firmly in place no matter who was driving 😉
Anti Theft Motorcycle Solution (RAM)
This is an excellent addition for a couple of reasons. Firstly, you can install the anti-theft mount, attach your sat nav and leave it there. The device is secured to the bike and it’s weatherproof.
Secondly, I’m glad that TomTom has decided to leave the manufacture of this mount to the experts. They haven’t tried to reinvent the wheel and come up with their own version. They have stuck to what they do best, which is producing sat navs and left the secure mounts to the experts at RAM. In other words, do what you do best and leave others to do what they do best. All rather admirable and far better for us as customers.
The device itself feels sturdy and robust. It looks like something that should last even if it’s left on your handlebars on a permanent basis. With a rating of IPX7, it’s properly waterproof. If you were so inclined, you could submerge it in water for 30 minutes to a depth of a meter. Not sure why on earth would anybody want to do so? I guess it’s good to know in case you decide to try it out! Let me know below if you test it out?
With a screen size of just under 4.5 inches, it’s large enough to easily read on the bike. At that size, it’s not too large to become all-encompassing on the handlebars. This is comparable in size to the Garmin Zumo XT which is a little larger (by about half an inch!). The display itself is clear and easy to read in all weathers. The real test with these units, however, is to see how they perform with the low afternoon sun on your back. I’m rather pleased to report that this device coped admirably with the sunshine. The anti-glare works and I didn’t need to squint or use my hand to shield the screen.
For those of you who may be interested and according to the manual the specifications of the screen are 480 x 272 WQVGA. These types of specs mean nothing to most people, however, suffice to say that the clarity of the screen is just fine!
Under testing, the touchscreen performed well. We didn’t find ourselves getting frustrated by tapping the screen and nothing happening whilst wearing heavy motorcycling gloves. It is also possible to change the sensitivity of the screen within the settings menu. Useful for when you change from the lighter summer to your winter riding gloves.
Connections & Updates
There’s no need to connect this device to your computer as it can connect to any available WiFi. Once connected it will automatically check for updates and let you know if there are any available and that should be downloaded.
The Rider 550 can connect via Bluetooth to both your smartphone and to your headset. This means that you can listen to music, take calls, and receive your messages as you ride with Google Assistant or Siri.
Personally, I’m not one to bother with notifications as I’m riding. I’m happy to ignore them until I pull over or end the ride. However, I can see that it may be useful to have your notifications appear on the screen of the sat nav. It means that there’s no need to pull your phone out of your pocket to check those messages.
The battery performed admirably during the testing. I didn’t need to use the power bank that I had with me on the off chance that it may be needed. Tomtom claims that it will easily last 6 hours before needing to be charged. Other users have reported that the battery can last up to 8 hours. Presumably, that must depend upon whether or not you use voice assistance whilst riding. Either way, six hours was plenty enough for my current needs.
There is also the option of hardwiring the device to your bike. This would mean that your device would always be charged. Definitely something to consider if you are using the Anti Theft Ram and want to leave everything attached permanently. To date, I haven’t gone down this route as I will probably be trading in the bike in the not so distant future.
You may think that’s simple stuff that any biker friendly sat nav should get right as a matter of course. And indeed, you’d be right. But, how many times have we seen manufacturers get the absolute basics wrong?
A sat-nav can have all the fancy features in the world, but it must be good at its core function – navigation. Getting you from A to B is the primary function of the device. Everything else could be regarded as an added bonus. The 550 comes with Lifetime World Maps and that means you get free updates.
I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy sitting down and planning my routes in detail. My first long haul road trip was planned a number of years back and involved maps and little pieces of paper! It took a number of days to calculate the journey that we took from Cherbourg, which is in the North of France, all the way to Gijón, situated in the North of Spain. An absolute belter of a journey of around 1,400kms each way. It was this trip with all the highlights that gave me the love for bike touring. The scenery and the various detours provided some great memories – eating oysters in La Rochelle harbor was a particular highlight.
Using a sat nav makes planning touring routes much easier. It takes all the hassles away. It can be as simple as inputting your destination and voilà! – you’re good to go. That is the basic function of a sat nav.
TomTom Road trips, however, are designed to take the planning to a whole new level. You get a number of preloaded road trips that you can choose from. The Mosel River route in Germany is one such trip that has caught my eye and has found its way onto my list. This is a fantastic looking 4 hour, 200km ride taking in rivers and forests along a number of curvy and windy roads.
The real value, however, is shown when designing your own routes. There are options for choosing the speed and the difficulty of your ride. Choosing the fastest route will send you along the highways to your destination. It gets you there quicker although probably along a less interesting route.
Increasing the hilliness and the windiness of your route at the planning stage can throw up some exciting rides. There are 3 settings each for the hilliness and windiness (they seem like funny words, but I guess they are self-explanatory!) The higher the setting then, the more challenging the routes. Riding in Northern Italy using the planner was particularly challenging. However, the views were absolutely breathtaking!
TomTom markets this device as having a better processor (apparently a quad-processor no less!) meaning that it calculates routes much faster. This is clearly seen when taking a wrong turn or if you ignore the directions being provided. The route recalculation is, in fairness, much faster than any of my other sat nav models. There’s also no hanging around when you switch the device on – for once you’re good to go in a matter of seconds.
This feature can be a lifesaver for commuters. It provides notifications if there are any issues on the road ahead. It provides you with an option of avoiding the problem and send you on a different route. It managed to save me a whole 4 minutes to the office yesterday by providing an alternative route!
Speed Camera Notifications
When you approach an area with a speed camera, you are provided with a warning. There may be fixed or mobile speed cameras ahead. It is always good to know along with any accident black spots that may lie ahead. These are areas where historically there have been a number of accidents – good to know when to stay safe by slowing right down.
The speed warnings work as follows:
- A symbol comes up on the screen
- An audible warning is provided the closer you get to the camera
- The speed limit is shown along with the location of the camera
If you find yourself in an average speed zone, then the TomTom will calculate your average speed. This is a particularly useful feature as we have found that a number of road tunnels now have average speed zones installed. This feature was useful when I travelled through the Dublin Port Tunnel in the Republic of Ireland. This tunnel is 5 km in length and there are warning signs throughout that there is an average speed zone in operation. So this feature was pretty cool in keeping me under the speed limit.
There’s no doubt that the TomTom Rider 550 is a great device. Mounting the devices on the motorcycle is straightforward, and the device is secure once fixed in place.
- The Anti Theft RAM Mounting System – means you can safely leave the sat nav permanently attached to your bike.
- Faster Quad-Core Processor – TomTom claims that it’s 5 times faster. To be honest, I cannot confirm that it is 5 times faster, however, I did find that it rerouted my route much quicker than some older GPS models.
- Solidly Build & Glove Friendly – the screen was responsive with either summer or winter riding gloves.
- Lifetime TomTom Maps, Traffic & Speed Camera Alerts – are all included.
- Smartphone connectivity – use Google Assistant or Siri to access your phone, messages, and music. A handy option to change your tunes when you cruise the open road!
- Wi-fi Updates – connect to the internet (with no cables required), download and install the latest maps.
- Device Mounting – there may be some difficulty mounting on sport bikes.
- Steep Learning Curve – some users have complained that the device can initially be difficult to learn how to use. However, I would expect that once you have played around with the menu settings and used the device a couple of times that using it becomes very straightforward.
- Huge User Manual – the document runs to a huge 165 pages! In mitigation, however, there is a lot to cover and there is an easy-to-read menu that directs you towards the relevant sections.
- Hardwiring – may be problematic if you haven’t done something similar before.
- Software and map updates can be made via Wi-Fi. This makes it easier to update your device. You won’t have to connect a cable to your computer. Just use any Wi-Fi and it’ll update automatically. You will also receive notifications as to when updates are required.
- IPX7 levels of water resistance. Just stick the GPS on your handlebars and forget about it, no matter the weather. Fantastic for the Great Atlantic Way ride in the west of Ireland (we’ll be doing this route later this year!)
- Dual orientation – the sat nav can be used in portrait or landscape mode. My preference has been for portrait orientation. However, I do appreciate having the option to change, as not every bike is set up the same way.
In summary, this is a proper biker sat nav. It’s a tough device that does exactly what it should and does it well. It has provided some interesting route planning and has left me struggling to find any real faults.
It is a little pricier than other inferior models, however, in this instance, you get what you pay for. A solid device bundled with some great features along with lifetime worldwide maps, live traffic, and speed camera notifications. Throw in the advanced route planner, then they really do make it an excellent choice.
In my view, it’s a winner. At the end of this TomTom Rider 550 review, it certainly gets the double thumbs up!