or many motorcyclists, a cell phone’s navigation system and a motorcycle mount will suffice in helping them get from A to B. But this won’t cover you in every situation. I’ve had to find shade when my phone overheated in the mountains and hide under trees during sudden downpours. If you’re the adventurous type, like me, you might need a motorcycle GPS unit. Whether you’re tackling a fire road or riding so high the air is becoming thin, a motorcycle GPS will keep you informed of the path ahead. Most of these devices are built to take a beating, so you don’t have to worry about where your next adventure takes you. You can also find models that’ll act as an emergency locators and be small enough to fit in your jacket pocket.
To choose the best motorcycle GPS on the market, I employed The Drive’s comprehensive research methodology and evaluated dozens of GPS units before choosing the top contenders. Although I haven’t personally tested these products, my selection is informed by consumer testimonials, expert reviews, discussions on relevant online forums, and my institutional knowledge of the motorcycle industry.
Best Motorcycle GPS Reviews & Recommendations
- Best Overall: Garmin Zumo XT2
- Best Value: Garmin Zumo 396 LTM-S
- Honorable Mention: TomTom Rider 550 Motorcycle GPS
- Best Emergency GPS: Garmin inReach Mini 2
- Best Off-Road GPS: Garmin Montana 750i
The Garmin XT2 recently launched and builds on the success of its predecessor in almost every way. It features a 6-inch ultra-bright, glove-friendly HD screen, which gives you .5-inches more real estate. Handlebar vibrations and downpours won’t phase this model, thanks to its IPX7 rating. If you pair this unit to the Tread app, you can start a group ride and see the positions of other riders on the screen. There’s also a subscription-free feature that enables you to check out popular routes preferred by other riders.
It comes pre-loaded with on-road maps of North America, topographic maps, and satellite imagery. And you can choose the route that best suits your mood with Garmin’s Adventurous Routing feature. As you’d expect, there’s real-time traffic, weather, and smart notifications when you pair the XT2 with the Treat app. You can review the stats of every ride, including speed, acceleration, deceleration, and elevation. You can also pair this model with a compatible inReach satellite communicator (sold separately) and use two-way messaging, location sharing, and SOS features. It’s packed with features, so it should come as no surprise that it’s one of the most expensive GPS units on the market.
- 6-inch ultra-bright HD touchscreen
- IPX7 rated
- Group Ride feature
- Pre-loaded North American maps
- Battery life up to six hours
- One of the priciest GPS units
The Garmin Zumo 396 LMT-S doesn’t have as many features as other units on this list, but it fulfills the fundamentals of a motorcycle GPS device for a relatively low price. It has a glove-friendly 4.3-inch screen that’s easily readable in sunlight and resistant to harsh weather conditions and fuel vapors. If you want to turn a boring trip into a fun one, you can use Garmin’s Adventurous Routing feature, which finds curvy roads and limits time spent on highways. Using an app and your smartphone, you can share live status updates and good routes you’ve discovered with friends and other riders.
The unit will alert you to hazards and driving laws, such as sharp curves ahead and changes in helmet laws as you cross state lines. This isn’t the option for riders who want to discover new off-road adventures, as the device doesn’t have any preloaded trails. Another thing to be aware of is this GPS unit doesn’t have a long battery life, but you can hardwire it to your bike.
If you keep your tires firmly planted on asphalt, this should give you all the features you need.
- Good value for money
- Customizable on-road routes
- Glove-friendly 4.3-inch screen
- Garmin’s Adventurous Routing feature
As long as you like staying on asphalt, the TomTom Rider 550 Motorcycle GPS should give you all you need. The GPS device gets maps and software updates via Wi-Fi, so you’ll never be out of the loop. It’s compatible with Siri and Google voice controls and syncs with your smartphone so, if you have a headset, you can use it to control this unit. You won’t have a problem seeing the 4.3-inch touchscreen while riding as it’s sunlight-readable, and you can adjust its sensitivity to make it work better with thick or thin gloves. This model doesn’t offer a birds-eye view which, combined with the lack of pre-loaded off-road routes, means it misses out on being my top pick.
You can personalize trips to find more twisty roads and avoid highways, and then share your adventures with friends via social media, email, or a GPX file. The Rider 550’s robust design and IPX7 rating mean it’ll handle any weather conditions with ease. One of the downsides to this model is that it’s not very intuitive when you’re first getting to grips with it, so give yourself a few practice runs before tackling any major trips. The unit works with a specialized RAM mount and switches smoothly between portrait and landscape mode.
- Sunlight-readable 4.3-inch touchscreen
- Siri and Google voice controls
- Works with a specialized RAM mount
- IPX7 rated
- Customizable routes based on your preferences
The Garmin inReach Mini 2 serves more as an emergency SOS beacon than a conventional GPS unit. This device works with an Iridium network to provide 100 percent global satellite coverage and features two-way messaging and a two-way global SOS feature (active satellite subscription required). As well as GPS, the inReach Mini 2 also uses GALILEO, QZSS, and Beidou satellites for tracking. It uses the same battery as its predecessor, but thanks to an improved processor, it lasts for up to 30 days when tracking your position every 30 minutes. The Mini 2 now features a USB-C port and charges much faster when compared to the previous model.
Here’s what managing editor Jonathon Klein has to say about the inReach Mini 2. “Garmin’s inReach Mini 2 is something I don’t leave home without. Not because I’m in any danger, but because when I do leave home, it’s usually for the backcountry and there’s no cell service out there. It’s given me and my wife such peace of mind with its ability to navigate the woods, send messages, and hit an SOS if needed. I, honestly, don’t know why I didn’t get one sooner. And Garmin’s smartphone app makes it that much better, as the two devices work in tandem to provide exceptional versatility. Get one if you do a lot of backcountry riding.
- Emergency SOS beacon
- GPS and Iridium network
- Uses GALILEO, QZSS, and Beidou satellites
- Up to 30-day battery life
- Small display
- Subscription required
- Doesn’t show directions like a conventional GPS
The Garmin Montana 750i ticks almost all the boxes for adventure enthusiasts. If it wasn’t for its high price and non-motorcycle-specific design, it’d be a contender for the best overall pick. For some people, particularly off-roaders, its price is justified. The sturdy 5-inch device is built to last and meets MIL-STD 810 for thermal, shock, water, and vibration resistance. So it’ll be more than capable of tackling its preloaded topographical routes of the U.S. and Canada. You can seamlessly transition from dirt to the asphalt with its City Navigator street mapping feature.
While on your adventures, you’ll be connected to the 100 percent global Iridium satellite network (inReach subscription required), so you can send messages, your location, and have an SOS beacon. A stand-out feature of this model is its 8-megapixel camera and geotagging capabilities, meaning you can capture any special areas you find and revisit them. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery can last up to 18 hours in GPS mode and 330 hours in expedition mode. The downsides of this device are that it’s heavy, costs more than any other model on the list, and it’s not specifically for motorcycles. So it lacks some of the route-specific features that are nice for riders who like finding the twistiest road between A and B.
- Pre-loaded topographical U.S. and Canadian maps
- City Navigator street mapping
- Global Iridium Satellite network
- 8 megapixel camera and geotagging
- Good battery life
- Subscription required for satellite network
Our Verdict on the Best Motorcycle GPS Units
The Garmin Zumo XT2 passes all the durability tests you could hope for, has a fantastic screen, and offers motorcycle-specific routes, so you’ll be covered wherever your next adventure takes you. If you’re on a tight budget, then check out the Garmin Zumo 396 LMT-S, which is well-suited to motorcyclists that only intend to ride on asphalt.
When we start shopping for tools and products, we never overlook the secondhand market. In fact, it’s usually the first place I look. Whether you’re scrolling through Amazon’s Renewed section, eBay for car parts or tools, or flipping through the pages of Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, you have hundreds of thousands of used tools, parts, and gear ready to be shipped to your doorstep. Refurbished to like-new status, they’ll be willing to give you many more years of faithful service all while saving you money.
- If you plan to run the device off its battery, you’ll need to test it for a while to ensure that the battery is in good condition.
- Use every area of the touchscreen with your gloves to ensure that it’s working properly. Check that the device has been updated with the latest software and maps.
What to Consider When a Buying Motorcycle GPS
Most motorcycle GPS units have glove-friendly touchscreens, meaning you can change settings on the move, but some work better than others. Look out for models that have a sensitivity control feature, which allows you to make the screen’s sensitivity better suited to thick or thin gloves. Bigger isn’t always better, but when it comes to using a GPS on the move with thick gloves, it certainly helps to have a large screen. Lastly, you’ll want to make sure you get a screen that’s bright and clear enough to be seen in direct sunlight.
Since your GPS needs to endure whatever your bike does, it needs to be durable. Look for models that have an IPX7 water rating, so you won’t need to worry about them if the heavens open up. Another rating to look out for is the MIL-STD 810, which is the military standard test for thermal, shock, water, and vibration resistance. The MIL-STD 810 rating is essentially a must for anyone who intends on using their GPS off-road.
Preloaded Maps and Moto-Specific Routes
Most GPS units on the market come with preloaded road maps for the United States, Canada, and sometimes Mexico. If you’re planning on going further afield, you might need to download extra maps. Some units will come with preloaded off-road trails and give you a bird’s-eye view of the topography, making them better suited for adventure riders. A good motorcycle-specific GPS will let you enter your preferences in terms of routes, meaning you can skip the highways and hit all the twisties or have a healthy dose of both.
Some GPS units double as safety beacons, sending live updates to your friends while you’re on the move. If you regularly ride in areas where you don’t get any cell reception, one of these devices could be a lifesaver. Normally, these units work via a satellite and require a subscription to use all their features. Many models will also warn you when you’re approaching hazards like a sharp turn or railroad crossing. Some units also give you live weather and traffic updates.
You can get a basic motorcycle GPS unit that’ll serve as a good on-road companion for less than $300 but probably won’t have many off-road maps or features. For between $300 to $500, you’ll find models that’ll allow you to customize your trip, meaning you can ride the types of roads and trails you want. If you spend more than $500, you’ll get a unit that works equally as well on an off-road trail as it does through a city and will usually have an SOS beacon feature.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q: How does a motorcycle GPS work?
Q: Can I use my smartphone instead of a motorcycle GPS?
A: Yes, but there are some caveats. Unless your smartphone is weatherproof and has a 100 percent waterproof case, it could get damaged by the elements. Also, if it falls at a high speed, it’ll cost you. You need a signal from a cell tower for your phone’s navigation system to work, which is the main advantage GPS units have over mounted smartphones.
Q: Does a motorcycle GPS charge while I’m riding?
Best Motorcycle GPS Reviews & Recommendations
- Honorable Mention: TomTom Rider 550 Motorcycle GPS