Garmin Zumo XT review: A purpose-built motorcycle sat nav

There’s more to this sat nav than just inputting a postcode and off you go

Garmin Zumo XT in use on a motorcycle

by Jim Blackstock |

The Zumo XT sat nav from Garmin has been around for a wee while and is one of two major standalone sat navs for motorcycles. While the other sat nav is based on years of use and experience, the Zumo uses similar experience but is more involved and at first sight, nowhere near as intuitive as others.

First things first; it arrives with European road maps pre-loaded, though you may need to connect it to the internet via Wi-Fi to make sure the maps are up to date, as well as the unit itself, for the latest software, for example.

It also comes with a series of off-road, topographic maps, instantly suggesting that there is more to this unit than simply getting from one place to another by the fastest route.

Garmin zūmo XT 1

It will do that and like any decent sat nav will connect to your smartphone and use its data to plot a route that avoids the worst of the traffic, for example. Like the other major motorcycle sat nav, you can set different route parameters, including a direct as-fast-as-possible route or dial-in Garmin’s ‘Adventurous’ routing.

However, this is where things start to get a little complicated. The unit fires up with a large, split keyboard to input your destination and this is frankly infuriating; you have to swipe left and right to get the relevant half of the keyboard display on the screen although you can change the settings and have a single keyboard (albeit with smaller keys) after drilling down into the sub-menus.

Similarly, the search bar doesn’t automatically recognise UK postcodes and again, you have to go looking for the relevant box and change settings to be able to do what is on the top level of other sat navs.

Garmin Zumo XT split keyboard
©Photo: Bauer Media

Once you have chosen your destination, then you choose your route. When I chose an ‘Adventurous’ version of a route I knew well, it avoided the really fun part I had discovered a year or so previously and instead of taking me cross-country on a series of challenging and enjoyable B-roads, simply swapped a dual-carriageway for a lorry-laden single-lane A-road. Hardly adventurous...

Irrespective of its route choice, once on the move, the 5.5in display is clear, accurate and large and the instructions are delivered in plenty of time and with accompanying visual representations of the upcoming junction and which lane to take, for example, when relevant.

Related: The latest motorcycle tech and gadgets you need to know about

But there is much more up the Garmin’s sleeve. Having paired with your smartphone for traffic information, it will also control media on your phone, so you can shuffle music for example and take calls directly from the unit.

You can also pair it with an InReach satellite communicator for comms when you are out of mobile-phone coverage or the company’s Ride Tracker to stay in touch with other riders using Garmin products.

Garmin Zumo XT map view
©Photo: Bauer Media

You can also switch between normal and topographic maps and even use satellite imagery to generate off-road routes if that’s your thing. And you can pre-plan routes using a combination of methods and share them with the wider community (or get routes from other users) using the Garmin app and record your rides for analysis later.

In addition to the maps, the unit can also take you to locations through TripAdvisor and it has access to thousands of points of interest via iOverlander – it’s a very serious bit of kit.

The verdict

The Zumo's serious capability is both its strength and its weakness. It can do so much that you really need to properly study its functionality before you can even begin to scratch the surface of its possibilities.

Garmin zūmo XT 2

If you are a dedicated sat-nav fan and you enjoy the technology as much as you enjoy the riding, then this is definitely for you. If you like planning big trips that cover multiple days and different surfaces, then it is right up your green-lane.

Garmin Zumo XT media and guidance splitscreen
©Photo: Bauer Media

If, however, you just want to chuck it on the bars and get it to take you home as quickly as possible without sitting in traffic, then it’s not really for you.

You would probably be better off with just a smartphone on the bars and a sat nav app – or even something native like Google maps. Just make sure you use a vibration-damping phone mount on your iPhone...

Pros:

Wide range of route and road options

Preloaded with road and off-road maps

Enormous pre-planning options

Cons:

Needs studying to get the most from it

Other motorcycle sat nav options:

TomTom Rider 550
Beeline Moto Metal
Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us