Bought a New Motorcycle? Make Sure You Check the App Store

Motorcycle technology isn’t limited to things like anti-lock brakes and fuel injection anymore. Modern motorcycles have picked up things like LED lighting, dual-clutch transmissions, cylinder deactivation, and other car-like features. You can even buy a bike with adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring now. But you might be missing out on some of your brand-new motorcycle’s capabilities if you don’t download its app.

Want to connect your smartphone to your new motorcycle? There’s probably a manufacturer app for that

A 2020 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special motorcycle rider accessessing the Harley-Davidson App on their smartphone
A 2020 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special motorcycle rider accessing the Harley-Davidson App on their smartphone | Harley-Davidson

These days, smartphone apps can do everything from accessing your insurance card to getting collision assistance. And in some cases, you can even change your vehicle’s settings using these apps. But it’s not just cars that’ve gotten more connected and electronics-heavy over the years. Motorcycles have, too, and they’re hit the app store as well.

To be sure, not every brand-new motorcycle is compatible with its respective manufacturer’s app. Even though the necessary electronics have gotten faster, smaller, cheaper, and lighter, motorcycles are often held up as paragons of simplicity. So, depending on a specific bike’s price point and segment, it might not offer any smartphone connectivity.

Case in point, while the touring-focused BMW R 18 Transcontinental can connect with BMW Motorrad’s app, the ‘base’ R 18 can’t. It’s the same with some of Harley-Davidson’s latest motorcycles, like the 2021 Sportster S, and its app. Generally speaking, if your motorcycle has built-in Bluetooth, it can hook up with its maker’s app. Some bikes have it as standard, while others, such as Triumph’s new Tiger Sport 660, offer it as an optional accessory.

Speaking of makers, as of this writing, the following motorcycle companies offer apps for their bikes in the US:

ManufacturerApp name
ApriliaAprilia App
BMWBMW Motorrad Connected
CakeCake Connect
DucatiDucati Link
Harley-DavidsonThe Harley-Davidson App and Ride Planner
IndianIndian Ride Command
KawasakiRideology The App
KTMKTM My Ride
Moto GuzziMoto Guzzi Multimedia Platform
MV AgustaMV Ride
Royal EnfieldRoyal Enfield App
SuzukiSuzuki mySpin
YamahaYamaha myRide
Zero MotorcyclesZero Motorcycles App and Next Gen App

OEM motorcycle apps sometimes offer more than just GPS navigation and music streaming

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While each motorcycle manufacturer’s app works slightly differently, they all have a few common features. The most common is letting your motorcycle use your smartphone’s GPS so you have some form of navigation. That’s how Royal Enfield gave the 2021 Himalayan and Meteor 350 turn-by-turn navigation, for example.

Given how motorcycle vibrations can damage iPhones, having active GPS without taking your phone out is a boon. But it also means manufacturers don’t have to install GPS antennas on their bikes, again, saving weight, money, and development time. That being said, stand-alone motorcycle GPS units offer several benefits over app-based directions, Motorcycle.com says, including durability, privacy, battery life, and no reliance on non-satellite signals.

GPS navigation, though, is only one feature available through motorcycle apps. Because they work through Bluetooth, they let you play music through your helmet headset if you have one. Having a connected headset also means you can take phone calls on your ride if you want.

A screenshot from the Zero Motorcycles Next Gen App showing information on a red SR/F
Zero Motorcycles Next Gen app screenshot | Zero Motorcycles via Google Play

Note, though, that some of these features are products of Bluetooth, rather than your motorcycle’s dedicated app. For example, when I rode the 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America, I could take calls and play music just through Bluetooth. But if I wanted turn-by-turn navigation, I needed to go through the app.

However, some motorcycle companies give their apps additional functionality. For instance, through the Next Gen app, you can change the 2021 Zero SR/F’s ride mode settings, check its location and charging status, access your riding data, and perform diagnostics. And the same goes for the 2022 Zero S, DS, DSR, and FXE. Harley-Davidson’s app also displays information about your battery and security system.

Where do Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come in?

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Those scanning the list of motorcycle OEM apps might notice Honda isn’t up there. But while Honda doesn’t have a dedicated app for its bikes, it arguably doesn’t need one. Both the Gold Wing and the Africa Twin, for example, come standard with Apple CarPlay. And besides built-in GPS, the Gold Wing also offers Android Auto. As such, these bikes don’t need dedicated apps because their infotainment systems make them unnecessary.

The Gold Wing is just one of several motorcycles that offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. But while they make apps unnecessary, that doesn’t mean you can’t still use them. Harley-Davidson’s Boom Box GTS infotainment system supports both, but it’s also compatible with the company’s app. This compatibility means riders can still share riding routes and follow them without using their phones’ data.

In short, getting the app that corresponds to your new motorcycle gives it extra functionality. Though as always, don’t ride distracted.

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