TomTom Urban Rider £249
2nd Nov 2010 | 10:11
TomTom's latest motorbike sat nav tested
TomTom Urban Ride: Overview
The TomTom Urban Rider is TomTom's latest addition to its motorbike sat navs. It features a new case, updated software and a simplified menu.
The model we reviewed was the cheaper TomTom Urban Rider Regional which doesn't come with a Bluetooth headset.
This means you'll need to already own one, or a Bluetooth-enabled helmet, buy a separate headset, or opt for the TomTom Urban Rider Pro, which comes with one in the box.
We were sent a Cardo scala rider Solo wireless Bluetooth headset in addition to the Urban Rider Regional. This offers automatic volume control according to your speed and surrounding noise.
Fixing the headset to a helmet takes seconds. Simply snap it onto the underside of the helmet and tighten the two bolts with the Allen key. There's a single earpiece which sticks to the helmet lining with Velcro and a microphone which can be positioned by its bendy stem.
Once attached, you can leave the mounting on the helmet as there is a quick-release mechanism to remove the expensive bit – handy if you like to leave your helmet with your bike when you are parked up.
In the TomTom Urban Rider box, you'll find the sat nav, the bits that make up the mounting unit which come from RAM Mounts, a charger, a USB cable so you can connect to your PC to download new maps, and a (very brief) instruction manual.
The fact that the mounting system comes from a third party probably explains why you'll have a bunch of bolts and other bits left over when you've fitted everything.
TomTom Urban Rider: Fitting
Fitting the mounting to a bike's handlebars is straightforward, although you might want to spend a little time working out the best place to place it before you tighten the nuts. And you'll need an adjustable spanner to get those nuts tightened as there's no spanner in the box.
To fit the mounting, you simply hook a U-shaped piece of metal around the handlebar (thoughtfully, there's a piece of rubber tubing supplied which you can slip over the bracket so as not to scratch your handlebars), slide the closing piece on the other side and tighten the nuts. Plastic covers are supplied to slip onto the end of the bolts which would otherwise be exposed and a bit of a safety worry.
Once the bracket is in place, you can mount the sat nav bracket in place, snap in the sat nav, and adjust the angle of the screen. The sat nav snaps back out easily so you don't have to leave it on your bike.
The instruction manual is brief because the TomTom Urban Rider is very easy to use – and it has to be, given that you'll be prodding at it with (possibly very cold) gloved hands. Switch it on and you're presented with two simple options: 'Navigate to' and 'Browse map'.
You can also get the additional functions you'd expect from a sat nav – click for a nearby petrol station, toggle the screen to night settings, change the voice, and so on. And unlike a car's sat nav, the TomTom Urban Rider is waterproof.
The Urban Rider also offers 2D and 3D views and TomTom's Advanced Lane Guidance to help with difficult junctions.
The only downside at this point (and we can hardly blame TomTom for this) is that the nimble supermoto bike we were testing it with suddenly had an air of pipe-and-slippers BMW about it. After all, shouldn't supermoto riders navigate on instinct and spontaneity?
TomTom Urban Rider: Road test
Once the TomTom was snapped into its bracket and both the sat nav and the headset switched on, we paired the devices via the Options menu. Pairing was successful and we entered a postcode.
The touchscreen responded well to gloved fingers and even when we tapped the postcode button and were faced with a row of rather small letters to press we were able to enter the postcode correctly first time.
We were initially worried about whether the screen would be easily visible in bright sunlight but it was clear enough to punch in addresses and to see on the road. But we didn't really want to be staring down at it while on the move, so the clarity of the audio was as important.
About half a mile from home we realised there was no sound. A quick glance at the sat nav screen showed that the volume had defaulted to mute, so we pulled over, tapped the speaker icon and adjusted the volume so it was audible.
Riding with a sat nav is a little disconcerting as it becomes an added distraction that you really don't want on a bike when you're concentrating on avoiding cars and potholes. Each time we glanced in the wing mirror the screen of the sat nav caught our attention and we had to consciously ignore it rather than be drawn to watching the map.
Fortunately, the audio instructions came through clearly even at speed with the helmet visor cracked open, so you only need to glance at the screen if you're at a confusing junction.
A downside of the TomTom Urban Rider is that it doesn't offer voice control. The Cardo headset has a mic for making and receiving phone calls hands-free, and the TomTom Go Live range of sat navs for cars has voice control – so why not in the Urban Rider?
It can't be because of price as both units are similarly priced, so we can only assume that TomTom felt that the added noise of a motorbike made voice control impractical. Still, we would have liked it as an option, if only to be able to use it when parked up.
It would also be useful to be able to use voice controls to toggle the screen on and off to minimise distraction whilst riding.
TomTom Urban Rider: Verdict
As you'd expect from a TomTom sat nav, it's easy to use and directions are clear. The screen responds well to gloved hands and the audio clarity is very good.
The hardest part is figuring out where to stick the earpiece in the helmet so it's next to your ear.
We'd recommend the Urban Rider if you travel a lot and have a habit of getting lost, but the lack of voice control is a big let-down and we really hope that TomTom addresses this in the next iteration.
Really easy to set up and use, and the TomTom is small enough to fit into a jacket pocket once you've parked up.
We think the lack of voice control is an oversight and we're left wondering why this feature was omitted.
A brilliant sat nav offering 2D and 3D views, but let down by the lack of voice control.