I have been using the same $99 automobile GPS on my Yamaha Venture and my Honda Spirit 1100 since about 2009. That’s when my $500 automobile GPS died en route to Sturgis near Idaho Falls. I found the closest Walmart and picked out the least expensive name-brand GPS they had and continued on my way.
When I got to Main Street, I found a Ram Mounts reseller and paid them more for the GPS mount than I did for the GPS itself. I always carried with me small sandwich baggies to cover the GPS in the rain, which, in South Dakota, that usually meant daily.
If you haven’t kept up with GPS devices for the past 11 years like I haven’t, then I am pleased to report for you that times have changed. The TomTom Rider 550 is a feature-rich rider’s tool with almost all the functionality that I can think of that could be packed into a well-designed waterproof case.
When you buy a TomTom Rider 550, you are also gaining free access to the complimentary TomTom MYDrive smartphone app for iPhone and Android devices, along with MYDrive web-based route planning. Together, these make up a fantastic tool chest for navigating, navigation planning, and exploration.
Some current car commercials have the new owner taking a fun, long way to somewhere close to their home, just to enjoy the drive in their new car. The TomTom Rider 550 just might make you want to do that, too.
I used to spend hours combing over AAA paper maps to find the twistiest roads within my allotted Saturday ‘hall pass’ ride time. The TomTom Rider 550 takes care of the ride planning for you by giving you route options of fastest time, a little twisty, medium twisty, or the most twisty route available.
Additionally, you can tell it to have Least, Medium, or Most elevation change on your ride. Speaking of which, the TomTom Rider 550 doesn’t provide an elevation readout. I don’t know why it isn’t there, but it isn’t. If you have to know if the elevation sign at the top of Beartooth Highway is accurate, then you will just have to use one of the many free smartphone apps that utilize the GPS signal that most smartphones interpret, even with No Service displayed.
When you choose a road style of other than fastest time, the unit, the app, or the MYDrive website will automatically design your return ride with the same parameters on a different route. It seems that it knows you are out for a fun experience.
If you go to the same destination often, it will learn your habits and be predictive. If you design a route on your smartphone MYDrive app or on the MyDrive website, you simply click the Send Destination button and the route transfers via built-in WiFi or Bluetooth to your TomTom Rider 550 for immediate or future use.
The route change display happens in real-time, so if you have your TomTom Rider 550 attached to your smartphone via Bluetooth or WiFi hotspot and headed to the market, someone with your credentials—hopefully, someone you trust—could reroute you to pick up dinner or the dry cleaning. I think I just came up with a cool group ride game.
Picture musical chairs for motorcycles. Everyone starts out toward the same destination, knowing that at any moment, the target might be changed for everyone using this immediate-update feature. Do you ride slower or faster because the next objective could be farther in front or behind or to the side? Have three destination changes that everyone would receive at the same time. The first one to the final location wins, just like sitting on the last chair.
The TomTom Rider 550 can connect to the Internet, so you don’t have to tether to your laptop to get your free lifetime world maps updates, your free lifetime live traffic info, or your lifetime speed camera updates. The world maps include points of interest (POI) such as gas stations, hotels, restaurants, rest stops, parking lots, National Parks, and even the Little A’le’Inn restaurant near Area 51 off the Extraterrestrial Highway in Nevada. Yes, that is a real place. I went way out of my way on a ride to Sturgis one year just to check out The Black Mailbox (spoiler alert: it’s not black).
TomTom makes its own worldwide maps using proprietary data points and information from opted-in TomTom users around the world. I use TripAdvisor.com for POI suggestions when I travel, and TomTom uses them for the POI you access from both MyDrive and the unit. You can upload your own Points of Interest using the industry-standard OV2 format with just a few clicks.f
For a small one-time fee, you can change the announcement voice from the standard male or female, to a comedian, celebrity, or cartoon character. Think about Yosemite Sam giving you turn by turn directions, or Billy Conolly telling you to turn around—and not just your body, but the whole car!
You could pick up a TomTom Rider 550 for $400 MSRP, open the box, eyeball the quick start guide, install the included full Ram Mount, use either the wire to the battery or the Micro USB cable, turn it on and intuitively figure out how to get from point A to point B. However, you would be missing the whole point of this awesome piece of rider technology.
The TomTom Rider 550 manual is a 200-page PDF that you download from the TomTom. It is an easy read with lots of illustrations and active links to YouTube video guides.
I recommend you get to know the unit in your living room. You want to be comfortable with where all the features are located and on which screens before taking it out in traffic. You will have several fewer ride distractions when you set up the TomTom Rider 550 to read your text messages and call up Siri or Google Assistant to make or receive calls and access the functionality of your smartphone.
Of course, I didn’t take my own suggestion. Instead, I just skimmed the basics before installing the TomTom Rider 550 in place of my very antiquated portable automobile GPS. I did set the screen touch sensitivity to light gloves, as it has menu settings for no gloves, light gloves, or thick gloves.
As we took off down my driveway, I was already receiving turn directions, both the upcoming and the next. It’s nice to have that next turn in mind, especially if the turns come in rapid succession. I knew enough to utilize the most advertised and coolest feature; the “most twisty” route planner button took us on some fun roads I didn’t realize were that close to my home.
Our direction was generally East, and the sun was shining directly on the screen, yet I had no problem reading it. Interestingly, coming home, riding into the sun, my hi-vis yellow motorcycle jacket was being reflected in the screen, making it very difficult to read. I twisted the screen slightly to the right, and I could again see the route clearly. I opened my hi-vis outer shell to expose my black mesh jacket and turned the screen back toward me. The black didn’t reflect as much so I could read the screen much better.
The Ram Mount will allow you to hold the unit either in Landscape or Portrait orientation. Landscape allows you to see the screen, even when looking at it from a sharp angle. In Portrait, you lose what is on the screen when it is just slightly angled. However, Portrait orientation shows you a lot more of your route.
Every turn, turn-off, off-ramp, and roundabout were easy to see and clearly explained verbally in my headset. At 65 mph, I was given plenty of warning to move to the appropriate lane to exit the highway both verbally and graphically. The vocal information presented is so easy to understand that you really don’t have to look at the unit to navigate quick succession or complicated intersections.
Before leaving, I turned on “gas stations” as a visible POI so I could see where the next one was through the entire ride. I like that feature, as over the year I have ridden where gas stations are very far apart.
At my destination, I planned a “fastest” way home using the MyDrive app on my iPhone. No sooner did I press “send destination” on my phone, that a little voice in my helmet told me I had a new destination, and what time I would arrive based upon current traffic conditions along the route.
I already knew the fastest way home, so I took the opportunity to see how many ways the TomTom Rider 550 will let me customize the route on the fly. The options: find alternative route; more twisty route; avoid a blocked road; avoid road types like dirt; interstates or toll; avoid part of the route; add a stop. You can even change to a setting that is a bicycle or walking route.
There are many ways to customize your route on the fly while riding or sitting at a table in a diner. When I saw the walking route, I remembered that many city centers block-off roads to vehicle traffic, turning them into promenades. If you happen to want to destinate where you can’t ride to, you can instantly change your route type to walking or bicycling and it will guide you there on the appropriate path. If you are on foot or on a bicycle, you will have a full six hours of battery life on a full charge.
I like seeing the names of the various crossroads as I pass them, so I can remember to go back and check them out on a future ride. The TomTom Rider 550 has a two-touch feature that places a timestamped marker along the route for you to go back and review later—no more trying to remember what you passed hours ago. The convenient little black markers are waiting for your review.
You can plan a route and then pre-run it in a demo mode, which can be helpful. I did have some fun with the pre-run, as it shows you speed as it takes you along your route. If you zoom in quickly, you can make the demo mode “drive” over the speed limit. Hey, I catch my fun where I can find it during these quarantine times, and it did show me a feature that I looked up in the manual. Your current speed is shown in a panel on the bottom of the screen. If you drive up to 3 mph over the speed limit, the panel turns orange. If you run more than 3 mph over the speed limit, the panel turns red. I couldn’t find a way to disable the speeding notification, but it isn’t distracting.
I started out by sharing with you that I feel the TomTom Rider 550 is a tool chest for navigating, navigation planning, and exploration. It will find you the most exciting roads to your destination, and automatically create a different return route if you want to see more new scenery and discover more back roads. Plus, it advises you of traffic and road conditions that could affect your safety. It gives you access to Siri and Google Assistant features on your smartphone.
The TomTom Rider 550 makes available to you for download, predesigned “curated” road trips of the best motorcycle journeys all over the world. It is waterproof (IPX7-rated) with a rugged casing, so you don’t have to carry baggies to cover it. You can keep your phone safely in your pocket or saddlebag.
I truly appreciate all the engineering effort that went into this faster and very robust redesigned TomTom Rider GPS. If you have space on your handlebar for a navigation device, I suggest that you buy the TomTom Rider 550 and get out there and explore.
TomTom Rider 550 Fast Facts
- Dimensions: 5.4 x 3.5 x 1.2 inches
- Weight: 9.9 ounces
- Screen: 4.3-inch touchscreen
- Resolution: 480 x 272 pixels
- RAM: 512 Mb
- Memory: 16 GB
- Micro SD slot
- Connectivity: WiFi and Bluetooth
- Waterproofing: IPX7 (1 meter underwater for 30 minutes)
- TomTom Rider 550 Price: $400 MSRP