TomTom Rider 550 review: a great standalone sat nav

If you’re in the market for a dedicated, standalone bike sat nav, the TomTom Rider 550 is a great option

Tom Tom Rider 550 in use on a motorbike

by Jim Blackstock |

Building a sat nav for a bike is a little different from one for a car, for a couple of obvious reasons. Firstly, it needs to be able to resist whatever the elements can throw at it; cold and wet being two of the obvious ones.

It also needs to be vibration resistant because, as we know, handlebar vibrations can cause all sorts of issues, from numb fingers to dead smartphonesunless you have the right mounting.

TomTom Rider 550 Sat-Nav

There aren’t that many motorcycle-specific standalone dedicated sat navs around; in fact, there are largely two and one of those is from sat-nav giant TomTom. It has been making car sat navs for decades and its technology was adopted by Renault for its early OEM systems, so the company knows a thing or two about getting you where you need to be.

What comes in the box?

TomTom Rider 550 box contents
©Photo: TomTom

The Rider series is built for motorcycles and the Rider 550 comes with pretty much everything you need right out of the box. It has regional maps pre-installed (you will probably need to update them before use though) but worldwide maps are available free of charge.

That means that, unlike using say a smartphone for navigation, you don’t need a data connection for the mapping as all the relevant information is on the device.

The maps include detailed routes and points of interest as well as safety camera locations and of course, it will use your phone’s data connection to pick up traffic information that it uses intelligently to select a way around snarl-ups rather than just tell you it’s going to take longer.

How the route planner works

Planning a route with the TomTom Rider 550
©Photo: Bauer Media

That’s using it as a direct, get-me-there-as-quickly-as-possible sat nav. If time is on your side, then set it to choose a ‘winding route’ with varying degrees of winding and it will choose a more enjoyable series of roads and avoid the most direct routes.

However, you need to be a little careful what you wish for; depending on how winding you want, you could find a journey that takes a couple of hours on a motorway could take the rest of the day on smaller single-carriageways. But if that isn’t an issue, then go with the flow and the route will likely be a great run.

There’s also a ‘Plan a thrill’ option where you set a round trip and let the Rider 550 determine the roads you take, for a ride-out without the planning from your end. Another handy addition that you can’t necessarily do with say a smartphone is pre-planning.

Related: RAM Mount Tough Charge review

Load-up the app on a computer and develop a route before downloading it to your device. You can save or share rides and download routes from other riders too, through the MyDrive app. You can also easily import GPX files, a universal form of route file that can be shared by other riders.

The verdict

TomTom Rider 550 winding route plan
©Photo: Bauer Media

As a sat nav, it is dead easy to operate; the touchscreen’s sensitivity can be adjusted depending on how thick your gloves are and works with every pair I tried. The screen is big enough to make destination input simple and once you’re rolling, it is clear and delivers instructions in plenty of time.

The connection with your intercom for spoken instructions is easy and it pairs with your phone for traffic and even message alerts and call answering while on the move.

There is still a lot to be said for a dedicated sat nav, particularly with the problems various people have been suffering by mounting their phones to handlebars to use them as sat navs.

TomTom Rider 550 spec

Battery: Rechargeable Lithium Ion

Screen size: 11 cm (4.3") touchscreen

Internal memory: 16 GB

SD slot: MicroSD

Waterproofing: (IPX7) - protects against any wet-weather conditions

And while there are numerous apps available to add functionality to a smartphone sat-nav app, these tend to need paying for and if you’re going to be paying for a sat nav, you might as well as pay for a proper one.

The Rider 550 comes with everything you need in the box; leads, a RAM mount, charging head and a USB lead to charge it off the bike. You fire it up, connect it to a wi-fi connection to update and away you go.

It is clear, responds to your touch easily with gloves on (which isn’t always the case with phones), is resilient and offers you a huge range of options when it comes to getting where you want to go. The display is clear and shows not only the road ahead (which can be useful if you are on unfamiliar roads) but also progress and can show points of interest such as petrol stations.

Related: Best motorcycle sat nav options

It’s a proper bit of kit and if you are going on a big ride or a multi-day tour and want to plan ahead and then, know that your route and planning are ready for you, then it is a great option. That’s not to say it isn’t a brilliant navigator for day-to-day riding – it is but that sells it short – it has so much more to it than simply getting you from Peterborough to Penzance as quickly as possible.

If you want a dedicated sat nav for your bike, the Rider 550 won’t disappoint.

TomTom Rider 550 Sat-Nav

Pros:

Huge range of routing options

Built for the job at hand

Vast map coverage

Cons:

Less flexible than a smartphone

Other sat nav options

Garmin Zumo XT
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