Test: TomTom Bandit and RIDER

IMG_5599Time to go more in-depth with the products from TomTom I’ve been hanging onto for some time now. We are talking about the TomTom Bandit action camera and the TomTom RIDER 400, their new motorcycle specific navigator. I brought them both on the amazing trip to Grisslehamn this weekend to see how they stood up against the Garmin Montana and GoPro…

Let’s start with the TomTom Bandit action camera. Or let’s not. Thing is I feel I still can’t give it enough of a fair judgement as a viable option for the motorcyclist looking for a way to record and store those epic moments. Why? Because of the really lousy mount.

I have been using the adapter for the GoPro-camera this entire time and let’s face it. When doing that, the vibration of the bike is enough to send the camera facing downwards which means coming home with two hours of filming your gauges rather than the surroundings. Tighten the locking bolt a bit more then, you say. Well, I’ve broken two of these already so tightening isn’t the problem.

Once I managed to get it right but then the camera rotated along its own axis which is bound to happen since the mount is built around a concept with rings around the lens and the battery. This makes it possible to adjust the angle, a great feature had it not been a bit too loose.

Anyways, I post this video to give you an example of the quality. This is 720p/60 FPS but iMovie sent it to YouTube as 30 FPS. No real complaints there although I do find the color processing to be a bit off with a little bit to much cyan in the blues and some magenta in the blacks.

I do find the battery life too short and I still don’t like the way the camera connects to the smartphone. Bluetooth would have been much better, I believe. Either that or a physical push button for immediate wi-fi setup.  As it is now, the camera is not easy to operate with gloves on as the buttons are small and hard to feel through the leather.

To be fair, I’ll decorate my helmet with a Bandit specific mount to see how it performs then. Stay tuned for more on the Bandit and over to the RIDER 400 navigator.

The navigator is pretty simple but I do recommend reading the manual as I found myself searching for certain functions where logic dictates they should be, like the settings for attributes to avoid when calculating the route. It is glove friendly which I tested with both thinner summer gloves and thick leather gloves. As with all pressure sensitive screens it’s not very smooth though and sometimes you have to really press the screen to get it to do what you want.

The European map included in the bundle I was sent is not as detailed nor graphically stylish as the one my friend has in his Garmin Montana, but I guess there are other options in the TomTom Store. Anyways, it worked just fine both in Stockholm and in the more rural areas.

I was sent the Tyre Pro-program for route and track planning and handling but it is only for PCs and I have a Mac… Due to this I had to rely on using the TomTom RIDER 400 on the fly which is pretty easy. Compared to my friends Garmin Montana, the TomTom finds everything easily. There were some occasions where he got no hits when searching on addresses while I easily found stores, streets and whatnot. Big plus there.

The feature I was most curious to try was the “Plan a thrilling ride”-feature. Set the level of turns in three different levels, the desired height differences in three levels and go. Sounds easy, right? It is and it works great. My friend set up his Montana in the same way (without the neat function) and most of the times, they showed the same route. At times, when they deferred from each other, I found the TomTom to be a little bit more reliable. When we went his way the TomTom was fast to recalculate and included offroad segments of the route as well without me having to do anything. Very good.

The screen is easy to read even in direct sunlight as you can see in the video and the speakers works as expected although it is impossible to hear anything on a bike (off the bike is another story). One thing that I found peculiar was the recorded top speed. It did not match the actual top speed recorded by the Garmin Montana and confirmed via the speedometer.

Another feature I used was to record the entire trip (22+ hours and almost 350 kilometers). TomTom RIDER 400 requires a memory card (micro-SD) to be inserted and it disappears into the unit completely. To get it out wasn’t easy as there is no ejector button. I believe this is to limit this handling, instead relaying on doing this via USB-connection.

I don’t know if I did anything wrong but when I came back, expecting to extrapolate all the interesting data like average speed in different segments and so on, I was shocked to see that it had logged everything as waypoints. Like 33 000 waypoints, each around 10-15 meters logging only average speed in that particular interval. I managed to convert it to a route for next time, but I would have liked it to be stored as a route directly.

By all means, I am no expert when it comes to navigators and how they function but I doubt most people are and I do believe TomTom has something to work on there. An app or program where you can manage your routes and tracks on any system and a good recording feature making it possible to replay the route afterwards would have been nice.

For now I am pretty satisfied with the navigator. Rumor has it that the Garmin Montana 600 is much better offroad but when doing the type of riding I do most, the TomTom RIDER 400 has enough features. It takes me from A to B and the thrilling ride-feature works really well as do the speed limit warnings which is pretty much all I need. Battery time seems to be pretty good too although I did not test it properly, having it attached to the power supplying mount. Would I recommend it to a friend? Definitely. Maybe not the gadget nerd who has a black belt in GPS technology but for the common rider who wants to avoid getting lost it’s a easy-to-use contender in the race!