Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
TomTom RIDER (2nd Edition)
- Rugged and durable design, clear LCD display, improved audio, Cardo scala-rider Bluetooth headset
- Interface ill-suited to thick riding gloves, power button occasionally unresponsive
The RIDER 2nd edition offers several significant improvements over its pioneering predecessor, including a superior headset and bike mount. While a few flaws remain, it has managed to avoid most of the key obstacles that hamper other units.
Price$ 999.00 (AUD)
On paper, the concept of a 'motorcycle GPS' seems fairly straightforward and simple -- after all, it's just identical technology applied to a pair of handlebars, right? ...Wrong. In reality, a bike-flavoured navigation device is a much tougher nut to crack. From traffic whizzing noisily around your ears to the effects of wind and rainfall, there are many additional factors which need to be considered. The TomTom RIDER is a brave attempt at delivering a GPS unit specifically for bikers. Durable and waterproof, it will certainly look the business on your two-wheeler of choice, but a few flaws within the interface have bogged down the overall product. Nevertheless, it remains one of the best units of its type currently available (provided you have dexterous fingers, that is).
When the RIDER originally hit storefronts in 2006, it was the only GPS of its type on the market. Since then, most major vendors have released similar offerings of their own, which has no doubt prompted this extensive upgrade. For its second iteration of the RIDER, TomTom has incorporated some notable changes, including a revised handlebar mounting kit specifically designed by RAM Mounting Systems. The new mount requires you to attach a bracket to your handlebar, which the RIDER then snaps onto. The fool-proof instruction manual makes the process quick and easy, even for those who have never seen the inside of a toolbox. Once mounted, the RIDER will remain nice and secure on almost any bike.
Being an outdoors GPS, the RIDER has been designed with durability in mind. In addition to its hard plastic casing and protective rubber trim, no ports or connections have been left exposed to the elements. The USB port, power socket and SD slot are all positioned at the bottom of the device and can only be accessed by flipping open a protective panel. Meanwhile, the Power switch has been incorporated into the waterproof rubber trim. We had problems using this button with the previous iteration of the RIDER, and despite TomTom's promises of an improvement, it still feels unresponsive.
The screen on the RIDER 2 remains unchanged from the previous edition. Thankfully, this gorgeous 3.5in TFT LCD is still one of the best we've seen on a GPS unit. Even in sunny conditions, we found the 320x240 display to be bright and clear. At the other end of the spectrum, the top of the unit is hooded, to protect the screen from rain. (Naturally, the RIDER is completely waterproof; sporting an impressive IPX7 rating.)
Given that you'll be bearing down busy roads in high noise conditions, there's not much point outfitting the RIDER with an external speaker, so how does the unit issue audio instructions? Once again, TomTom has equipped the device with an earphone plug for Bluetooth functionality, though this time around, users are also treated to a Cardo scala-rider headset. This is a vast improvement on the previous version's headset, which suffered from poor volume and a dodgy Velcro lining. By contrast, the scala-rider mounts to the outside of your helmet and comes equipped with proprietary noise cancellation for crisper audio. Handily, the headset also doubles as a mobile handsfree kit, allowing you to make and receive calls with a Bluetooth-paired phone.
Although TomTom has attempted to simplify the RIDER's interface to assist in navigation, we still found the touch screen hard to operate while wearing riding gloves. On numerous occasions we accidentally pressed the wrong icon, while typing in street names proved to be nearly impossible. To be fair though, only people with a serious death-wish would attempt to use the menu while riding their bike -- if you pull over and remove your gloves, it is a lot easier to use.
TomTom promises five hours of battery life with the RIDER. In addition to an AC adapter, a charging cable is also included which hooks directly to the motorcycle's battery. Naturally, whether this option is viable or not will depend on the location of your bike's battery.
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