Fr. Matthew Cashmore

Priest in the Church of England. Trustee SPCK. Father, husband, son. "Small acts of Good change the world."

TomTom Rider Review

I’ve lived with the Rider for a little under six months now. I’ve gone through using it in rain, hail, snow, wind… for short rides, for France, for get out a jail free card when I want to go ‘off route’… and I love it… I’ll say now it has one serious short-coming, but I’ll come to that a little later.

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Preferences Screen

First of all let’s deal with the basics; how much does it cost? You can pick up the Rider for anything from £250 all the way up to £399… if you pay any more than £270 you’re being done, and in a lot of cases you’ll be able to get the Rider and get it installed for between £270 and £290. If you’re confident with electronics then it’s worth installing it for yourself, but if the thought of hooking into a live (switched) feed scares you then pay for it to be done properly – you’ll be very disappointed if you get half way to France and the unit dies because it’s got no power.


Form factor – the unit is heavy, it’s big even in my large hands and it feels very well made, the screen is large and seems to avoid being covered in fingerprints. It’s confidence inspiring, and will amaze you the first time your drop it and discover it still works. I know several people who have had a nasty bump and seen it go sailing 20 feet up the road, only to discover it still turned on and functioning. It’s fully waterproof and I’ve had it out in rain that soaked me to the skin in 30 seconds, for hours, and still no problem. The small ‘hatch’ at the bottom of the unit that protects the SD card slot and the power input is thick and well placed, it has a nice little rubber grommet that protects the sensitive electronics inside.

The only problem with the design of the unit is the power key, situated at the right of the unit it can, at first, be difficult to differentiate between the rubber ‘hose’ surrounding the unit for protection.. there’s no positive feedback as to if you’ve pressed the button and it’s impossible to turn on or off with gloves.

The unit is incredibly easy to use, simple menus, navigation and clear simple buttons that work well even with gloved hands (except the buttons on the sides like the ‘done’ and ‘-‘ and ‘+’). You can easily put in locations using both post codes and street addresses, you can even navigate to the location using the maps browse function. My favourite is the ability to store favourite locations – I’ve got several – including my work and college locations, as well as friends houses – it’s really handy when you’re in some outer part of London and you have to get to your collage class before 7pm!

One of the best things is the ability to define how you want your route ‘mapped’ – you can set ‘fastest’ or ‘shortest’ or ‘walking’ or several other options that will allow you to customise your journey to the n’th degree… if I’m playing I can avoid motorways, or a specific section of my journey – if a road is closed when I get there I can tell it to avoid the road block and it automatically works out an alternative.. and if you use the traffic service (pointless on a bike) it will automatically re-route you around traffic jams.

The Bluetooth integration is great, I have the unit connected to my Starcom1 Advance unit via Bluetooth so spoken instructions are sent straight to my helmet wirelessly, it also connects to my mobile which is uses for data connections (for weather reports and traffic – as well as map downloads and updates) and will allow me to answer my phone, call someone from my address book or even send / read text messages (all whilst stopped – the unit will stop you doing anything other than basic functions whilst on the move).

I have no real grumbles with the unit bar one…the mount it shipped with has, over time, loosened somewhat and does not ‘grab’ the unit as securely as it once did… it now bounces around and frankly I’m concerned that it may jump out whilst I’m doing 70mph down the M1 – several other people have had this issue too – however – a quick call to TomTom customer services has resulted in a new mount being sent out – and if it’s like the new ones sent to my friends it’s of a much more sturdy design. I guess this is one of the issues of buying early – you’re the tester for the next generation – I’ve been very impressed with how TomTom have responded to customer complaints and problems and they genuinely seem to want to incorporate changes into the product.

Another small concern is that you can’t plan your route on your computer before you leave home, you can build an itinerary on the device or download ones other people have created… but when you tour as much as I do I want to be able to plan my route right down to which b road I’m going to take when – and that may not be the way the device wants me to go… as soon as they have that sorted I’ll be a very very happy man (maybe they could also let you see where you’d been too).

My final point is the availability and ease of install of the maps – many available (not cheap) to download from the TomTom site and they work really well – the France one really helped out this summer… I hope the rest of Europe will prove as easy as I plan Journey To Russia! You’ll need to buy a much larger SD card to accommodate them – but they’re so cheap now who cares.

In summary a great device I could no longer live without – worth it’s weight in gold.

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11 Comments

  1. Thanks for such a thorough review, it was extremely informative! Sounds like the Rider is a sure choice for the bikers of the world.

  2. I dn’t suppose you happen to know what the difference is between the original tomtom rider (which you seem to have) and the v2 version?

    Have they fixed the mount problems / crashing / charging issues? I’ve heard a lot of grumbles about pegs on the bottom of the unit wearing off due to vibrations and this causing reset problems etc.

  3. Hi Tom,

    As far as I’m aware the only difference between the two units are that it now ships with a Ram mount rather than the orriginal (good job too!) also it now ships with a 3rd party Bluetooth unit – again a good move.

    The unit itself is exactly the same bar a software update (which is also available for the TTR 1) The updated software has made a big difference and mine hardly crashes these days – unless I’m pushing it a little hard by running 3 or 4 3rd party apps at the same time!

    Hope that helps.

    m

  4. Hi Matt,

    I’ve got a TomTom Rider v1 and am having problems with the mounting bracket.

    I took a trip up to County Durham from Telford in Shropshire and found that the unit kept trying to switch itself off as it wouldn’t sit in the bracket correctly and wasn’t charging properly.

    You say that TomTom replaced the bracket with a better designed one, what information do they need and was it just the support desk that you called?

    Many thanks,
    Emma.

  5. I’ve had my Rider since they were first released, great units apart from the mount issues you have highlighted, namely the power off/on problem caused by the mount. Mine’s been back to TomTom three times now for repair, the last time was 3 weeks ago.

    Each time it comes back with a new set of brass power pads on the back of the unit and a new mount. A few thousand miles later it’s back to playing up again.

    Does anyone know if the V2 is any better ?

  6. Just a note that you made about not being able to plan a route exactly as you would like. If you use the itinery planning feature in conjuction with Google Earth, you can get your rider to take you on the exact route you wish, including B roads, that you want. All you do is hold the curser (Google Earth) over the junction of the road you wish to take. Enter the co-ordinates of the junction into the rider, then another set of co-ordinates at a point along the road, followed by a set of co-ordinates at the next junction you wish to turn onto your next road, and so on for all of your trip. Mark these as “way points”, and your rider will guild you on the ride of your dreams.

  7. graham freestone

    December 16, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    TT rider v2 is great. no problems with mine apart from the fact someone sod stole mine out of the car last week. Scala headset is OK up to 50mph, then it is too quiet with earplugs in. pity they don’t give the option of buyuing the Q2 headdset rather than the basic headset. The only negative of the TT rider v2 is that you can’t record your trail as you go, if that is useful for you. user inteface is otherwise great: clear precise instrcutions and mapping. am currently comparing Garmin Zumo 550 with this, but TT rider v2 is cheaper and better i feel.

  8. If you want to plan routes off line, download Tyre (just google it). It allows you to plan a route on google maps (or earth) and then download it to the tomtom

  9. Hi Nigel – yes Tyre (http://www.janboersma.nl/gett/index.php) is fantastic – I’ve used it since it came out to great success. It wasn’t around when I wrote this review – perhaps it’s time for an update?

    I get the Garmin 660 in a couple of weeks so will be able to do a side-by-side review of both units. I love the Tom Tom – it’s been a constant companion on the bike ever since I got hold of it, and now the mount / bluetooth issues seem to be sorted in V2, and of course with Tyre… I have nothing to complain about 😉

    m

  10. Not sure if you’ve come across “Tripmaster”. You can google it to find the website. It’s a nice bit of free software that has the capability of recording your tracks on the TomTom. With a bit of fiddling you can use the files to get really detailed stats of your journey.

    My recommendation though is to buy a cheap data logger, such as the royaltek rgm-3800. I’ve managed to scribble over most of Europe in Google Maps with my data tracks over the past year using it, and you can also use it with your digital camera to plot where your photos were taken. LOCR.com will even automatically link the location of the photo to Wikipedia and tell you all about the location…

  11. Hi Matt,
    I have TTR 2 & you can record your route under GPS logging, as I use that facility for work.

    great review

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