Rewind a decade ago and the concept of sat-navs, especially for motorcycles, remained an expensive novelty, but today it’s hard to think of anyone, rider or driver, going on a long trip without some kind of navigation device.
Garmin and TomTom have emerged as the market leaders in the world of bespoke satellite navigation equipment, with several dedication motorcycle products, while several high end touring motorcycles are starting to integrate navigation devices with their TFT instrument panels.
But with dedicated sat navs costing upwards of £300, for many of us using cheap or even free apps for our Android or iPhone smart phones provides everything we need. A number of clamps and mounting devices are available to allow the phone to be attached to the handlebars on most bikes, while the emergence of Bluetooth technology means that the phone can be wirelessly connected to many intercoms and in ear speakers.
So what is out there for us motorcyclists? Insidebikes looked at five of the best apps for you to try out on your next tour. Download them from Google Play or the App Store.
Waze claims over 100 million users and the app is able to take information from users with the app open at any given time to monitor traffic conditions and give real time updates.
The cool thing about Waze is that it has functionality especially for motorcyclists. Riders can use Motorcycle Mode to work out the best routes for bikes and to adjust the ETAs to recognise the shorter journey times generally achieved on a bike.
Waze is hugely popular for a reason. It’s easy to use and accurate too.
TomTom are one of the big two in sat-nav land (the other being Garmin) and TomTom GO is their mobile app.
It’s got all the stuff you expect from TomTom, including live traffic and speed camera alerts, regular updates and maps from 150 countries. The app recognises your regular routes, working out any delays that may be en route and suggesting alternatives, while it’s also possible to download offline maps.
It’s not strictly free, but you do get 50 miles of navigation each month before you have to pay, with a one year subscription costing £14.99.
Another one that’s not really free, but with a fully functioning seven day trial available, it’s one to consider if you’re heading off for a weekend away on the bike.
There’s no specific motorcycle mode but CoPilot looks good and is easy to use. Maps can be displayed in 2D or 3D and there’s plenty of essential info that you’d expect from a dedicated sat-nav, such as lane indicators, speed limits, locations of petrol stations and restaurants.
CoPilot also gives you a choice of three routes, rather than just presenting you with what it considers to be the fastest route. There’s also the option to download off-line maps, which is great if you just want to see where you are or don’t want to burn data when you’re on the road.
Twelve months’ subscription from £9.99 per month.
One for the iPhone users only. Maps is not the most function laden app but it’s usually preloaded onto an iPhone and great for emergency or occasional use.
As a sat nav it’s basic but ok. Stuff like traffic jam information and route timings are generally not as accurate as the others here, but the Find My Car feature is handy for remembering where you parked up when you’re in a strange city, while it can work with the Find My Friends app too, should you get separated from fellow iPhone using buddies.
It ain’t bad, considering it’s free, and it’s compatible with Apple’s CarPlay, which will no doubt appear more and more on high end motorcycles in coming years.
Everyone knows Google Maps, and the smartphone app makes for a pretty useful navigation device.
It’s the world’s most popular navigation app, apparently, with more than half of smartphone users having used it at least once since it was introduced in 2008.
Few apps can match Google for coverage, there’s even a map of North Korea. It features live traffic updates, walking and cycling modes, although surprisingly there’s no dedicated motorcycle mode in the UK. Motorcycle insurance specialists Carole Nash have been lobbying Google to include a motorbike feature to take into account the shorter travel times achieved on bikes and scooters. You can add your name to the debate by signing the petition here.