GPS for the bike

Discussion in 'Touring and Adventure Cycling' started by stevew, 4 Dec 2007.

  1. stevew

    stevew Well-Known Member

    Some time ago I got myself a Garmin Etrex because i thought it would help me find my way around but all it did was confuse me and I've never really used it in anger.
    Recently i was in a car with a Tom tom and it seemed so easy to use i thought i would revisit the Bike GPS thing, so it's advise I need !
    What can I get to use on the bike that will run for a day, show ALL the roads and bridleways, and be simple to use ? I am reasonably sure I really don't need any particularly advanced features but maybe when I've mastered whatever I buy i might !! Who knows.
    Also my budget is limited so s/h would be OK, and I suppose if i buy a new GPS the Etrex which is almost unused will be for sale if they are worth anything.
    Any ideas ?
  2. Dormouse

    Dormouse New Member

    If you really want to see all the roads on an OS map, Satmap is the only only one that will do the job but it costs £300. I think Garmin are bringing out a similar product soon but I am sure it will be expensive too. There are various options with PDAs and mobile phones but I don't know if they are any good/waterproof/durable enough for bike use. Garmin and Magellan both market GPSs with simplified maps of the UK which started around £200 though they may have come down since I got mine 2 years ago.
  3. redfox

    redfox New Member

    Bourne End, UK
    Which Etrex is it? The basic model isn't a lot of use on a bike, but I would have thought the Legend or Vista would definitely be up to the job as long as you have something capable of uploading map tiles with a reasonable level of detail such as the European City Navigator.

    The quality of the map image might not be up to OS standards, but it is certainly fit for purpose when out and about on the bike.
  4. OP

    stevew Well-Known Member

    I think it is the basic one, how do I tell? There is no model number on it, all I can tell you is that it's got a yellow front and a black back. On the front it says "12 channel GPS" and there is a 2 cm. diameter "world" logo above the screen.
    BTW I only really need the UK but I would like the smaller roads and bridleways.
  5. ColinJ

    ColinJ It's a puzzle ...

    Well I've managed to navigate over 2,000 km of new and complex routes using one during 2007 and I didn't get lost once, so your statement isn't strictly accurate :smile:!

    It is true that the basic Etrex model is no use if you want to have the electronic equivalent of a map, or if you expect to be able to use it to tell you how to get to your destination without pre-planning your route.

    If you are prepared to sit down before a ride and plan your route carefully using mapping software, the bottom-of-the-range Etrex is great for cycling. It's down to personal preference - I like to do the map-reading and route decision making back at home. I bought a version of Memory Map which has seamless OS mapping for the entire UK at 1:50,000 (Landranger) scale for well under £200 which is pretty good value compared to the paper maps. On rides I can just concentrate on the riding and let the GPS do the hard work. On audax rides I don't even have to work out the route because it has already been done for me. Admittedly, I do have to spend 2 or 3 hours entering the details of a typical 200 km audax but it is something that I enjoy doing. I like maps and going through the route before a ride builds anticipation of the pleasures to come.

    One thing you can do if you fancy it is to go out and just explore on your bike, safe in the knowledge that you can always retrace your wheeltracks using the GPS tracklog. Just ride for half the time you want to spend out, then turn round and follow the GPS 'breadcrumb trail' to get home. Doesn't work with one-way streets of course but it isn't difficult to get back on track after a short detour.

    Two things I would criticise about the Etrex -

    (1) Lack of an audible alarm when approaching turns. I've overshot turns a handful of times when talking to other riders. It is very obvious soon afterwards though. One glance at the screen shows me that I've done it. I just forced myself to get into the habit of checking the GPS regularly.

    (2) Lack of a USB connection. It's a bit poor having to use an old-fashioned slow serial connection. You can buy serial-to-USB converters but that's added expense and the speed isn't any better.
  6. redfox

    redfox New Member

    Bourne End, UK
    I'm not entirely sure but, if it doest say, I would guess it is the basic model. The other models all seem to have their full product name on them somewhere.

    The European City Navigator software will cover the UK to street name level, but wont contain bridleways.

    Fair enough :smile:, my intention was to highlight the fact that the basic model's display does not meed the requirements of the OP.
  7. OP

    stevew Well-Known Member

    It seems that I have to spend 300 quid on the Satmap plus the maps to get what I want. Ends up costing nearly 500 quid.
    So it looks like its back to the map holder and soggy OS maps ! Unless anyone has any other ideas.
  8. ColinJ

    ColinJ It's a puzzle ...

    I wasn't sure if it was that the OP Steve's GPS didn't meet his requirements or that he just hadn't got enough experience of using it - "I've never really used it in anger." It does take a while to get to grips with how to use the Etrex properly. I found this article very useful when I was learning how to use mine.

    In fairness, I should add that the original model of the basic Etrex was pretty useless for cycling because its memory capacity was very limited so it was hard to plot enough waypoints for a decent length ride. The OP might have bought that one. I'm not sure when the Etrex specification was upgraded but it was certainly over 2 years ago.

    My Etrex can store 20 routes with upto 128 waypoints per route, subject to a maximum of 500 waypoints shared between those routes. I find that I use about 125 waypoints per 100 km so I split 200 km audax rides into 2 routes (out and back). Simple routes with fewer turns use fewer waypoints. I could therefore store a 400 km audax route split into 4 parts. I'm never likely to do more than 400 km in one ride so that will do me.
  9. ColinJ

    ColinJ It's a puzzle ...

    This is the mapping software I bought. Currently going for £154.99 for the entire UK at 1:50,000. It's cheaper to bite the bullet and buy the whole country in one go rather than one or two regions at a time. It also means that there are no 'joins' between the regions to work round. For off-road (bridleways), 1:25,000 would be more useful but that is a lot more expensive.
  10. davidwalton

    davidwalton New Member

    Is it not possible to have SatNav like cars do, or even Motor Cyclists, but for cyclists, and where the battery lasts the day?

    All this mapping software, uploading, etc, is great if you plan ahead for a ride. But for getting from a to b on a cycle, then changing your mind half way to b, and wanting to go to b via c and d, your stuffed it seems. Something you can do with SatNavs for cars and Motor Cycles though.
  11. ccj

    ccj New Member

    It depends what one means by "last the day". For example, I use a PNA (~ PDA, N is Navigation) that has "Navman" built in, similar to Tom Tom, covering all of Europe.

    I use "Memory Map" like ColinJ, for selected regions, at 1:25k, for when I go off tarmaced roads, tapping the screen when I want to see some details. That cuts power consumption & I can use the PNA for about 8 hours before a recharge is necessary. Is 8 hours enough?

    I've looked at a Garmin device briefly, & it has a big advantage using AA cells, but it seems a bit primitive compared with this PNA. This particular PNA does have an easily replaced Li-on battery, so one could carry a spare.

    It became inadvertently submerged for about 50 seconds a few weeks ago, but it's pretty much recovered now :-)

    When I return home, I can upload the route I've ridden along to a computer ( I use a mac with VPC, as Memory Map is a windows program) giving me mileage, speeds, etc.

    As the PNA uses a mini SD card (I use a 4Gig') I can have several such cards with lots of maps, music, e-books, even videos :-) - handy for an unscheduled stop during a torrential downpour :-)
  12. ColinJ

    ColinJ It's a puzzle ...

    Hmm, I like the sound of that PNA but unfortunately I can't afford one at the moment! Does Navman feature every road in the UK or just the main ones? I like to go down little lanes and avoid A-roads where possible.

    I'm not denying that the basic Etrex is pretty primitive, but it is possible to navigate reliably using one. I paid about £70 for mine but they are available for under £60 now. One thing I didn't mention is that it makes a pretty good bike computer! Current speed, maximum speed, average speed moving, average speed overall, trip distance, odometer, ETA, altitude, sunrise & sunset times, OS Grid Ref... A detailed review of the Tracklog at home is quite interesting.

    I use the Etrex without the backlight, but also without power-saving turned on because that makes it less accurate. The consumption in that mode is about 100 mA so a pair of freshly charged 2500 mAH NiMH AA batteries last about a day. If I ever did a 400 km audax I'd expect to do the ride on one pair of batteries, although I always carry a pack of Duracells for backup (also handy for lights).
  13. ccj

    ccj New Member


    It's not too horrifically priced:

    but can't match your £70 :smile:

    Navman hasn't (unintentionally) sent us into a barn yet :blush: The maps on the supplied DVD are about a year old though, so not ALL roads will be there. I imagine TT is updated frequently? We borrowed a friend's TT, but slightly prefer the Navman approach to suggesting turning around, for example, & a few other features appeal to us.

    Like you, I much prefer little lanes to A - roads, especially on the bike. The last few weeks I've actually only used Memory Map, not Navman.

    TT can actually be loaded on this PNA, but a small s/w file needs to be uploaded to it to allow access to the base WinCE OS.

    Thanks for the Garmin details. Battery life sounds great on that. I wouldn't consider a non-replacable battery device, as that could be crucial under certain circumstances.

    With regard to AA's, I've started to use Sanyo "eneloop" as these have far, far longer shelf life compared with standard NiMH AA's. I can now carry my camera, knowing I won't have the dreaded dead battery symbol!
  14. NickM

    NickM Veteran

    That's very handy to know - thanks :smile:

    Stevew, don't give up on your eTrex! As long as it can accomodate 100+ trackpoints at a time (mine seems to hold 124) it's very useful for cycling when used in "compass arrow" mode in conjunction with a track loaded from OS mapping software. Planning a ride on the PC in advance has the great advantage of keeping you away from unpleasantly busy roads and awkward junctions, while still allowing exploration. My yellow eTrex and Tracklogs mapping have been a tremendous aid to cycling pleasure. All the more so since my eyesight is no longer up to reading map detail or a route sheet on a bumpy road.

    I'm so impressed with navigation by GPS that I have upgraded to a more expensive Garmin. It is very nice - it has audible signalling of approaching turns, the onboard mapping is sometimes useful at confusing junctions, its battery life is much better and it holds on to the satellite signal better under trees - but the yellow eTrex is perfectly adequate. Why not try spending a little money on a Tracklogs map of your local area, or of a UK region? This will only cost about twenty quid. If you need help on using the eTrex in conjunction with mapping software (something which the Garmin instruction books do not cover very well), it's not far away :blush:
  15. a garmin vista cx or whatever the initials are now will get you from ato b with on screen directions before any turns but you need to buy the mapping software as well.
    even then it chooses main roads because the software seems to be car based.
    i've got both the above and tracklogs mapping for planning and downloading rides to the gps , it's the only way to choose the roads you want as far as i know.
    if you go from your planned route then the gps can take you back to it, or you can program the gps manually using waypoints to create a route to get to it or anywhere else.
    it does make it easier when you have all the roads on the screen especially when junctions are close together.
    i started with a basic etrex and tracklogs and only made the odd mistake at close together junctions , but i never got lost using it.
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