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RIDE Adventures Blog

The Best Motorcycle GPS: 4 Options Tested, Only 1 Survived

Posted by Eric Lange on January 8, 2018
Eric Lange
Since riding his KTM 950 Adventure down to South America in 2008 and launching RIDE Adventures in 2010, Eric now resides in Oregon for most of each year. Riding is still a regular part of his work though, in that guiding tours is a passion he'll always have, and researching new routes and regions allows RIDE Adventures to continue growing and providing reliable travel services to adventure minded riders and travelers from around the world.

Editor's Note: This article about the best motorcycle gps options was originally posted in 2013, but our readers and riders still get a tremendous amount of value from it, as it's the most visited article on our site. Review the options below and use it as a stepping stone for further research. Also, we have a 2017 Update Article Linked Below.

*Please note: This is not an advertisement paid for by Garmin, and none of the reviews on www.rideadv.com are paid for by the manufacturers we recommend!

best gps for motorcycles

The Best Motorcycle GPS: 4 Options Tested [Only 1 Survived]

In the past couple of years, I've tested 3 dedicated units and 1 iPhone trying to figure which works best as my motorcycle GPS. Below you'll find mainly the negatives for each unit, boiling it all down to the best motorcycle GPS unit for my situation.

garmin montana 2017

Will my GPS choice be the best for you as well? You decide. I'm a motorcycle tour guide with dual sport riding & routing needs. Sometimes I'm following previously recorded routes & tracks, and sometimes out prospecting new motorcycle trips through the woods in regions seldom-traveled, recording what might serve as great options for our customers. If your situation is even close to mine, this article will make your next GPS purchase decision easy.

1) The iPhone (as a motorcycle GPS unit)

iPhone GPS for MotorcycleIndeed, I tried simply relying on my iPhone a GPS device, mounted to the motorcycle. (See old blog article here.)  It was okay for a while, but I didn't continue using it because:

  • The iPhone was overheating in direct sunlight on hot days (so it would auto-shutdown)
  • The screen wasn't bright enough to see in typical daylight riding situations
  • Touch screen is only an advantage when the motorcycle gloves are off, and having to constantly take your gloves off is a nuisance
  • The combination of charging cables & protection from the elements would make my iPhone susceptible to damage, dust, water, etc.
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Since my trial with the iPhone, far better protective cases have made their way into the market, and the charging/protective issues have probably been taken care of. Still, those first 3 bullet points were annoying enough that I moved on to the next one:

2) Garmin 62s

Garmin 62s BMW AdventureI loved the Garmin 62s for its lightweight & compact structure, but being so small only contributed to this list of negatives:

  • The screen was too small to see well while riding, especially while the unit was vibrating with the motorcycle (Note: I have perfect eyesight, so that's not the issue.)
  • Any hard plastic, non-touch-type screen also catches a tremendous amount of glare from lights and the sun. So in this case, the 62s is hard to see for reasons of being too small and for glare. 
  • Navigation by a directional pad and a few buttons is incredibly slow and cumbersome, especially as we're all accustomed to the touch-screen navigation of smart phones
  • While it might have been great for following tracks & trails, it struggled to work with City Navigator for street navigation
  • The best cradle for the 62S was a bit of a nuisance to mount/dismount the unit from, and the little charging cable had to be connected separately each time (vs. built-in electrical charging contacts.)
So in summary, the Garmin 62 S had me seeking change again, but as luck would have it, BMW was running a promo last year that meant when I bought my new 2012 R1200GS Adventure, I got a new BMW Motorrad Navigator IV for free!
 

3) BMW Motorrad Navigator IV


BMW Motorrad Navigator IVUpon first trying the Navigator IV, I knew that touch-screen was the only way to go with motorcycle GPS. With factors like gloves, roadside changes of plan, and new searches, a big, beautiful screen and the ability to touch and click just can't be beat.  There were however a couple of negatives:
  • This unit doesn't cater well to "non-street" routing and navigation. So anytime I was trying to record routes through the woods or follow existing tracks from other files, it was essentially useless 
  • At a retail value of $800-900 USD, it's a bit uncomfortable to mount a unit that expensive on the bike, knowing what the replacement cost is. 
As much of our focus with www.rideadv.com is non-paved riding and finding the most unique, un-mapped routes for our customers, the first negative about the Navigator was enough for me to move on to:
 

4) The Winner: Garmin Montana 650t

 
Garmin Montana for BMW MotorcycleFinally, a motorcycle GPS unit that has none of the "negatives" listed above, and does everything I want it to! The Garmin Montana is durably built, has a big & bright touch-screen built in, and is easily & securely mounted to the Garmin Rugged Mount specifically designed for this GPS unit. (The Rugged mount even charges it automatically when mounted.)  The Montana 650t is in that mid-priced range at around $600 USD currently, but it's like having the off-road capability of the 62s and the pavement routing ability of the Navigator IV built into one unit.  In summary: A great value, and I love the Garmin Montana. One slight negative though:
  • After about 10 months, I did have some technical issues with the Montana, where the screen was freezing and rotating on it's own and the unit was shutting down without reason. I sent it back to Garmin, and they quickly replaced it for me at no charge (still under 1-year warranty.) That being said, be careful with buying one that doesn't have warranty coverage.
You can even find a more basic version of the Montana for under $500 right now.  The Montana 600 basically has all the same features of the 650t, but doesn't have the camera or the built-in topographical map. (Over a year with it now, and I haven't used either the camera or the topo map on my 650t.)
 
So I hope this helps, as quite a bit of testing has gone into each of these GPS's. Indeed, this can still seem like a bunch of money to spend, but given the wide range of abilities the Garmin Montana has, I bet you'll find it well worth the investment.  As one more side note: Spend the extra $100 (approx) and buy Garmin's City Navigator Map for your home country/region, and you'll be glad.  

 Garmin_Montana_RAM_Mount

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