Motorcycle GPS: Why your phone isnt good enough

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By Ryan Adams

Before we get too far into this, let’s face it, smartphones have come a long way and are capable of doing things most don’t understand and some can’t comprehend. Navigation, however, is one of the features people from all walks – and levels of technological literacy – use on a daily basis. A smartphone works quite well for nav among dozens of other things, occasionally at the same time. So are standalone GPS units even worth having around anymore? As phones continue to advance – as well as GPS units – the lines between the two continue to become more blurred. Let’s have a closer look at the pros and cons of both.


Most smartphones have a lot to offer by way of modern conveniences. In fact, convenience is probably the biggest pro that smartphones have going for them. One device to rule them all. You can do so much with modern smartphones in addition to navigation. Having one device to carry around is the ultimate convenience.

On the flip side, I wouldn’t want to mount my smartphone – that I use and rely on for so many other things – on the handlebars of my dirtbike. I think I paid $120 for the first Garmin GPS that I used for navigating off-road. That is significantly less than the Samsung Galaxy S20+ that I keep safely stowed in my pack during rides. Most GPS units built for motorcycling or outdoor use are built to MIL-spec standards that include weatherproofness and impact resistance. Heck, when I was on vacation in Nevada, my GPS unit ended up separated from the motorcycle and down the trail from a hard, fast get-off. Afterward, it worked as though nothing had happened without a scratch on the thing.

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