Atrophy's Tomtom Rider

Currently under construction
Start date 15th May 2006    End date 21th January 2008
Trophy rider's view
FJR rider's view
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Normally when driving my car, my wife does the navigating. She has excellent map-reading abilities, and a very good sense of direction. I can read a map, but not when driving, and my sense of direction is not as good.

As my wife has more sense than to ride pillion with me, when I motorcycle to places unknown I have to do a lot of pre-planning. I have to make myself a list in large print to put in the tank-bag's map window. Experience shows I usually have to stop periodically and consult my map.

The abilitities of a GPS navigation system were brought home to me when my son was taking my wife and me to Heathrow airport. We were going down the M1, and came across the fire at the Buncefield fuel depot near Hemel Hempstead (see here for that story). The police closed the motorway, so we had to find our way around all the roads closed off by the fire. The car's satnav was invaluable, and we arrived well within the extra hour we'd allowed for contingencies. We would have really struggled with a map.

I'd seen the Tomtom Rider at the NEC Motorcycle Show, and was quite impressed, but it was very expensive.

A couple of times I've been to Pidcock's with my wife, and I jokingly pointed to a Tomtom Rider box and said to her "I want one of these".

Imagine my surprise when she told me to go get myself one as an early birthday present so I can have it on my Shetland tour later this year. So, I got one. And the price had come down by £200!


First fitting

Back of facia (RHS)
Fitting using handlebar adaptor (RHS)

Mounting Tomtom on the Trophy wasn't as easy as it would have been for some bikes. Tomtom provide a range of fitting bits and pieces, none would fit easily. The Trophy doesn't have conventional handlebars for the handlebar mount, nor is there anywhere convenient to fit the other brackets. I could have used the handlebar adaptor on the clutch or brake mounting, but this would have put the Tomtom too close, and would interfere with my tank bag.

I eventually decided to use the handlebar adapter, which has a bar for the handlebar mount. I bolted this adapter to the plastic facia above the instruments. This has advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that the handlebar mount has an arm that can rotate about the adapter and it includes a ball and socket adjustment. This allows for a good position, not too far from the line of sight and allowing visibility of the bike's instruments. The main disadvantages are the need to drill holes in the facia, and a not really rigid enough mounting.

I originally made the mistake of mounting it on the right side, this made it much more difficult to use its touch screen when on the move, so I re-mounted it on the left side.

I drilled two 5.5mm holes, suitable spaced for the adapter, on a line between the facia's mounting screws, and where the plasitic moulding was fairly flat.

I took the front fairing off, this was necessary to get access behind the facia, and to do the wiring. I used a flat piece of metal, suitable drilled, as a backing, and used 6mm bolts, washers and nuts. I tightened these from the back; I thought about doing it from the front, more convenient if they work loose, but would need washers under the bolt heads; there wasn't really room to do this nicely.

The biggest problem was that when the handlebars were fully turned, the top of the hydraulic reservoir would easily hit the bottom of the Tomtom, so adjustment needed to be carefully done. I found that I needed to take a file to the socket of the ball-and-socket joint to allow the Tomtom to be angled down sufficiently with the handlebar mount as upright as possible. This gives a reasonable position, facing a little below line of sight to reduce sky reflections, but not quite touched by the reservoir.

Unfortunately, this mounting proved inadequate. After my Shetlands tour, the handlebar mount had moved on the handlebar adaptor, and I realised it would be very difficult to stop this movement.


Second fitting

Screws from behind facia
Screws through facia
Bracket and Holder
Bracket and Holder
Detail of mount spacing washers
Detail showing mount spacing

My second attempt used the same holes in the (left hand) facia. This time I mounted the screws from behind the facia, using the same strip of metal to provide rigidity and load spreading. Spring washers behind the screw heads reduce the possibility of their moving, and I used washers and nuts on the facia front to hold them in place.

I made my own bracket from a sheet of hard aluminium (duraluminium?), 1/16" (16 gauge, 1.6mm) thick that I had lying around.

I cut a piece sufficiently wide for the mounting screws of the Tomtom Holder and for my facia mounting screws. It was long enough to hold the Tomtom above the facia line, and bent along a diagonal to straighten the Tomtom's position.

The Holder is spaced from my bracket by a couple of washers under each of the Tomtom's mounting screws to allow space for the connector.

Two holes drilled in the bracket allow it to be placed over the facia screws, and washers and nuts on these hold it in place. I found I had to space the bracket out a bit on these screws so that the bracket cleared the fairing at the top of the facia.


Trophy Wiring

Side view of mount and wiring
Back wiring

The supplied cable plugs into the bottom of the mount. I turned the wire up to follow the handlebar mount with tie-wraps round the handlebar mount (this has the secondary function of holding the mount together if the bolt fails). The wire is fed between the inner end of the facia panel and the instrument mount, there is a convenient gap there. It is also almost invisible.

The wire joins into the wiring I put in for my heated grips. Tomtom don't give the current draw, but my guess is below 2 amps.

This supply is switched by the ignition switch, this has the very real advantage that the Tomtom Rider will turn on when the ignition is turned on, and will turn off after the ignition is turned off. The battery is charged from the bike's supply when on. Tontom's side ON/OFF switch can be used at any time to turn the unit on or off (obviously using its internal battery if the ignition is off).



FJR rider's view
General view of bracket
Edge view of bracket
(note wire under bracket)
General view of bracket

Having changed my bike to an FJR1300AS, I fitted the Tomtom to the new bike. Once I'd decided not to fix it to bits of plastic fairing but to the steering head, it was much simpler mechanically.

I made a bracket to mount between the two screws holding the cover plates that hide the adjustment for the hand grips, carefully forming it from a sheet of aluminium alloy, then bending it down so that the Tomtom's screen was directly facing my head. This has the very real advantage of preventing reflections from clouds etc, making the screen much more easily visible in bright daylight.


FJR1300AS Wiring

Wire by steering head
(centre of picture)
Wire tye-wrapped to loom
Wire tye-wrapped to loom
View of wire and connector
in glove box

The supplied cable plugs into the bottom of the mount. I turned the wire up to follow the bracket, down to the gap between steering head nut and handlebar, then down beside the loom going from left hand switches. The loom curves round and comes up to the left side, I removed the inner plastic panel and routed the wire beside then up through a hole I made in the drain grommet in the bottom of the "glove box".

I then used a plug to fit into the auxiliary power socket within the box (this is a 3 amp fused, ignition switched outlet, so is ideal). I left the excess wire bundled up in the glovebox for the time being, I intend tidying it later. The plug I am using is quite large and blocks the glovebox from normal use. I will find a shorter plug (this one has an internal fuse which adds to the length, and is unnecessary here because the supply is adequately fused.



Tomtom supply a Bluetooth headset module and two headsets.

The headset module has two sockets and three switches. One socket, normally plugged with a captive rubber bung, is used to recharge its battery. The other socket is for a headset.

The larger switch is used to turn on or off the module. It takes a firm press, and you have to wait a few seconds for it to operate. If you are listening on a headset, you can hear characteristic tones when it turns on or off. There are also two lights visible through a small window, a blue flash indicates it is on (repeated periodically), a red that it has been turned off.

The other two switches, one marked with a '+', the other a '-', make a small beep in the headset, but don't apear to actually do anything (I would have expected them to alter the volume setting).

One headset consists of a conventional "hook it in your ear" earpiece and a microphone in its lead, the other is designed to be fastened inside the helmet against the ear.

The "in the ear" one seems to work quite well, and although it protrudes outside the ear, it can be worn with the helmet on (at least with mine).

The helmet one was something of a disappointment. It is supposed to be stuck to the inside of the helmet with a piece of self-adhesive Velcro. Unfortunately, the glue was totally inadequate (at least in my helmet), it barely held the earpice in place, and there was no way it could hold against the Velcro when I tried to adjust its position

And, even when held in place, the voice wasn't clear enough through it with the wind noise I get behind my Trophy's fairing, whereas the "in the ear" sound was OK.

In the end I found that the hearing side when on the Trophy is inadequate at anything above town speeds. This is not too much of a problem, the display shows how far to any deviation from the present road, and gives a reasonable pictorial description of what the next instruction is. So I wear the "in the ear" earpiece, hung in my ear, with my usual earplugs underneath, and the Tomtom's volume control set to maximum. Maybe I should look into one of these bespoke moulded earpieces, but they are quite expensive, and as I find my present arrangement adequate, I probably won't.

Having fitted Tomtom to the FJR, I have yet to do listening tests ...



The (on CD) documentation gives quite a comprehensive guide to using the Rider. I do have some issues, but nothing that makes me want to change it for a different satnav unit. Having said that, I haven't tried any others apart from the one in my son's car, and he would object if I tried to pinch his.

There is one feature I really would like it to have, that is for it to remember a route, probably by putting "breadcrumbs" on its map, or by creating a route "itineray".



The UK map seems pretty comprehensive and reasonably up to date. There are a few problems, such as house numbers not being in the correct place on one road I know, and on my normal commuting route, it tells me to be in the incorrect lane when approaching a split in the road. Aside from such details, the map seems pretty accurate over all the roads I been on with it.



You are only allowed to set up a route whilst stationary (along with some other settings). While this is a safety feature, it does mean that if you have the unit with a passenger in a car (or indeed with a pillion passeger), he/she can't set up a new route or whatever. Setting up a route is reasonably straightforward, whether from your present position or from another starting point. Routes can be remembered in an "itineray" memory, with typed in names.

Finding locations is easy, Rider accepts post codes and street names. The reality is it needs a city (all towns and villages are "cities") to find a road name, you can't ask it to list all roads with a given name and choose one.

Be warned, though, Tomtom is incredably stupid. I asked to go to a particular "city", in this case Ashbourne. It then asked what road; I didn't know what road so I accepted its second option, the A50. (No, it doesn't go through Ashbourne, but I wasn't thinking.) It then asked what crossing, fair enough. But again, I didn't know, so I accepted the "Anywhere" option. I then chose the "Shortest route" option, this sometimes give nice little country lanes through sleepy villages.

Off we went, me enjoying the ride, following Tomtom's instructions. Finally it said "You have reached your destination". Coming out of my stupor, I looked around to find I was about 10 miles from where I wanted to be. Moral: always check the destination on the map (very easy to do).

Once on the move, instructions are given (in a choice of voices) clearly, but perhaps not as often as I would like. It can also be a little late in the voice message, "Turn right in 100 yards." seems to start about 50 yards away, and, particularly on roundabouts, the final turn instruction comes as you are at the turn rather than 10 yards before. This is not as bad as I've made it sound, you get used to it and make allowances.

It also gives a greater advance warning when you are travelling more quickly.



The display is a reasonable size and good resolution, acually a "quarter VGA", 320×240 pixels. Under any lghting but bright sunshine, it is very legible, it's only in direct sunshine or reflection from bright clouds that it tends to wash out. On my second mount (the FJR), I ensured the screen was angled straight to my head. This has two advantages, one is you are at the best viewing angle, two is that there are almost no visible relflections.

During the day I run it at full brightness which helps a bit (the default is 85%).

The information content is good. The maps show roads and your route, highlighting where istructions are given.

The option of a "3−D" map display is sometimes very good, since you can see more of where Tomtom is taking you.

The map is always turned in the direction of travel (some male chauvinists refer to this as "girly mode"). A compass pointer can be set to point to north or towards the destination.

The map sizes itself automatically, the faster you are going the more is displayed. There is provision for zooming in or out with '+' and '-' touch buttons. these are a bit small for use with gloved fingers. Having zoomed, after a period of a few seconds, the map will zoom back to its own setting. I sometimes find the map current zoom inconvenient particularly when deciding which lane to be in.

Tomtom has the option of using a diagram display instead of a map. You can set this to come on instead of the map above a selectable speed or always. This can be useful in a number of circumstances, for instance in high ambient light when the simple diagram is easier to see, also in simple road systems where some of the more curious English road layouts don't exist.



The battery inside the Tomtom unit itself lasts for about 5 hours, and recharges in about 3/4 hours. This is a little irrelevant, since whilst navigating Tomtom is receiving power from the bike's electrical supply, and keeps its battery fully charged. It's only when off the bike that the life is important, and then only when the mains charger is not available. This would only be when setting the unit up prior to a trip, which won't take several hours!

The Bluetooth headset unit also has a battery. This one is not charged by the bike's supply, so its life is much more important. I have found it to last for many hours, I don't know how many but it is well in excess of 20 hours, and possibly longer. Before my Shetlands trip I fully charged it. After the 6 hours or so of the journey up, I put it on its charger; its charge light blinked on, then off, as if it was still fully charged. I then used it on the similar journey home, and have been using it for several hours since, it is still working happily; I am waiting for it to stop working before I charge it again just to get some sort of idea on its life. I do understand, however, it gives no warning of low battery state.

21/Jan/2008 - I have done a check on the battery life of the headset. I left the headset on, its volume set to 100%, with the Tomtom giving it periodic speech from a route demo. It remained good for 5 full days. Overnight it turned off. I turned it on again, it continued for a further day, then I needed it for a trip, so took it off test. I conclude it would last for a couple of weeks at least in touring use between charges.

Personalised "Splash" screen