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  1. #1
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    GPS recommendations (use case provided)

    I'm trying to get my arms around GPS options without having to spend a ton of money and have a very specific use case (though certainly not very unusual). I would like a unit that allows me to upload a route/cue sheet and spit back instructions on where to turn while showing me my location on a map, preferably with an audible cue (could be a ping, not necessarily "turn right in 100 ft").

    Other requirements:
    Handlebar mountable (either out of the box or with a 3rd party mount)
    Reasonably water resistant so I don't need to baby it.
    Under $300 (or so)
    Rechargeable batteries with a 15 hr+ run time (if possible)

    What I don't need (though it's okay if it's there):
    Track generation and storage
    Speed, cadence, heart rate, etc.
    Automatic navigation

    Used/discontinued is okay but I'm cognizant of map update costs. Primary use will be lightweight, long distance touring and rando type activities. Thanks for your opinions!

  2. #2
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    GPS units designed for hikers tend to be much cheaper and have better battery life than GPS units designed for bicyclists. However, the hiking GPS units are also bulkier and heavier and the handlebar mounts are not great.

  3. #3
    Fat Guy Rolling dcrowell's Avatar
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    I bought a Garmin eTrex Vista Hcx for pretty much the same usage you describe. I love it and would hate to give it up, but it doesn't quite work like I planned.

    If I try to create a "route" (turn by turn directions) it'll often take a different way than what I programmed. I've given up on that, and put in a "track" which is just a line on the map to follow. It won't tell me of impending turns, but as long as I'm paying attention it's a great addition to having a map or cue sheet also.

    I had to buy a map and handlebar mount, so even with a discounted price on the unit, I still have over $300 in it. Oh, it uses 2-AA batteries. I use some rechargeables. Battery life is (probably) less than 15 hrs, but carrying spare AAs is easy.

    Good luck!
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  4. #4
    Member vinced's Avatar
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    I use a GPSMap60cx when I cycle. While I don't have it mounted on my handlebars, it does everything I need when I'm riding.
    Vince D'Elia

  5. #5
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    @dcrowell--I presume that you haven't figured out why the unit would give you different turn by turn directions but do you have any theories? How has the battery life been on long days?

  6. #6
    Fat Guy Rolling dcrowell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by QueueCT View Post
    @dcrowell--I presume that you haven't figured out why the unit would give you different turn by turn directions but do you have any theories? How has the battery life been on long days?
    A route (for turn-by-turn) is stored as a series of points. The unit can decide how to get to those points... Hence the problem. If you are in a remote area with few roads, it'll probably work fine, as there won't be any other options. In town, or on roads that aren't mapped properly all bets are off.

    As far as battery life, if you're not using the backlight it'll last all day on a set of Sanyo Eneloop rechargeables. Bring a spare set for the next day or an emergency. You can also buy alkalines at most stores. The backlight is adjustable brightness. Using it on a low brightness at night doesn't drain the battery too badly.

    It has a mini-usb port for power and data transfer, but it won't charge the batteries from it. Too bad.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member dave5339's Avatar
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    My wife and I are looking real hard at the Garmin 305.

    I've read conflicting information however on downloading routes from Ride with GPS into a 305. Does anyone have straight information on this?

    Semper Fi

  8. #8
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    The Edge 800, expensive, supposedly will handle route downloads from RWGPS without corrupting them. The eTrex will not. I use it with downloaded track files when touring. If I want turn-by-turn thru a city, I plot it within the gps.

    I've recently discovered that with Garmin's Basecamp, displaying CNNA, one can create a snap-to-road route that will not be corrupted by the eTrex. This has only been tested once on a 12 mile local ride with several intersection turns. Seems to be a relatively new update for Basecamp, but may be that it is only new to me.

    The eTrex 20 cost about $200 and is apparently the latest version of this very solid line. Nothing much about it's ability to manage downloaded turn-by-turn routes. Probably won't, least from online mapping services. CNNA detailed street map is another $100.

    I'd order any gps I thought might meet my needs from Amazon. If it didn't measure up, I'd return it for another. Repeat until satisfied. Cost to evaluate would be about $10/return, if Prime eligible.
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  9. #9
    Fat Guy Rolling dcrowell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
    I've recently discovered that with Garmin's Basecamp, displaying CNNA, one can create a snap-to-road route that will not be corrupted by the eTrex. This has only been tested once on a 12 mile local ride with several intersection turns. Seems to be a relatively new update for Basecamp, but may be that it is only new to me.
    Hmmm.... I updated Basecamp a while back, but didn't try anything new. Maybe I'll need to experiment some more. I have the City Navigator map.
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  10. #10
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    @QueueCT--I have been using a Garmin etrex Vista HCx for several years for randonnuering events. It has been discontinued but is still fully supported by Garmin. The Vista meets all/most of your requirements for a GPS unit. It is available on Amazon for under $200. It is waterproof since it was originally intended for marine use although it will not float like the Garmin 76CSx. It comes with a plastic Garmin handlebar mount, but I would recommend using a steel U-bolt type mount available from RAM mounts. The RAM mount is more secure and can be oriented in a variety of positions. The Vista can be powered by two NiMH, lithium, or alkaline AA batteries. Run time is about 16-22 hours depending on battery type, usage of the back light, compass, etc. I have been very satisfied with it's navigating capabilities when I load a route that I have created from a cue sheet. To use the Vista for this purpose, you would need to insert a 2 or 4 gig microSD card into the slot in the Vista to increase the available memory. You would also purchase Garmin's map set DVD "City Navigator North America" which is available on Amazon or direct from Garmin for under $100. You then load "City Navigator" onto Garmin's mapping software, "Mapsource" which is included with the GPS purchase and create your route. Then just transfer the route, waypoints, and map set(s) from your computer to the Vista with the cable that is included with the Vista purchase. I do not have much experience with loading and navigating already created routes from other sources, but I think if the routes are created in or converted to a gpx format the Vista would be able to navigate them.

    @dcrowell--I am curious as to why your Vista won't follow the routes that you have programmed. My Vista is generally spot on in navigating routes that I have created from cue sheets. I have used it successfully on many randonneuring events including 1000 and 1200Ks. I find the rare deviations from the intended route are generally due to errors that I made in programming the route. Perhaps the problem you are encountering with navigation involves the options you chose in the initial configuration of the routing sub-menu.

  11. #11
    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnny99 View Post
    GPS units designed for hikers tend to be much cheaper and have better battery life than GPS units designed for bicyclists. However, the hiking GPS units are also bulkier and heavier and the handlebar mounts are not great.
    Hiker GPS units are certainly going to be bigger than cycling-specific GPS units, simply because a hiker isn't so concerned with aerodynamics. Handlebar mounts for a GPS can be rock solid, as long as you get a decent one.

    Quote Originally Posted by QueueCT View Post
    I'm trying to get my arms around GPS options without having to spend a ton of money and have a very specific use case (though certainly not very unusual). I would like a unit that allows me to upload a route/cue sheet and spit back instructions on where to turn while showing me my location on a map, preferably with an audible cue (could be a ping, not necessarily "turn right in 100 ft").

    Other requirements:
    Handlebar mountable (either out of the box or with a 3rd party mount)
    Reasonably water resistant so I don't need to baby it.
    Under $300 (or so)
    Rechargeable batteries with a 15 hr+ run time (if possible)

    What I don't need (though it's okay if it's there):
    Track generation and storage
    Speed, cadence, heart rate, etc.
    Automatic navigation

    Used/discontinued is okay but I'm cognizant of map update costs. Primary use will be lightweight, long distance touring and rando type activities. Thanks for your opinions!
    A unit that allows you to tell it the precise route is going to be an anomaly - the whole point of the GPS is that it tells you the route. That said what I did a few times was to program a succession of waypoints, chosen such that the route between them was as close as possible to the route I wanted. It's not totally goof proof but it gets close. For longer routes I typically created a track log and uploaded it to the GPS, so although it didn't tell me when to turn I could see the track log of where I'd been and the track log of where I wanted to be. It did mean if I got too into my stride of cycling I could go off the route and then have to figure out for myself how to get back on it, although at times like that I could simply see where the track was, pick a point on it, and let the GPS navigate me back to my chosen course.

    If you buy a cycling specific unit (Garmin Edge series, for example) I'd expect it to have a handlebar mount in the box. A hiking unit won't. I mounted a Garmin GPSMap 60CSx to my handlebars and it worked just fine. The only time it liberated itself from the handlebar mount was when I hit a patch of ice and went down sideways.

    The 60 series is discontinued now (although you can buy them used, and the 60CSx is consistently rated very highly). If you go for the new 62 series it supports cadence and heart rate sensors. Any GPS worth its salt will allow you to create a track log of where you've been.

    I believe any modern hiking unit will be waterproof to IPX7 which, IIRC, means it will withstand submersion at a depth of 1m for 30 minutes. On the geocaching forums there was a story a while back from a guy who lost his Garmin Oregon over the side of a boat, went back with a diving friend to recover it a week later and it still worked fine. When my 60CSx got muddy from trail riding I'd wash it under the tap to get the mud off.

    The 60CSx uses two AA batteries and should run for 15 hours on one set. It's not a big deal to put a spare set in your pocket.

    Something like the new Garmin Montana has a lovely big touch screen, and is really nice to use, but a bit chunky on the handlebars. I mount mine to the handlebars although if you're worried about small aerodynamic issues you're really not going to like how it looks. It has its own battery but also runs on three AA batteries. From my experience you could expect to get 12-15 hours use on its own battery, and according to Garmin a set of AA batteries will last closer to 18 hours. Again, it's not a big deal to stick a few batteries in your pocket.
    "For a list of ways technology has failed to improve quality of life, press three"

  12. #12
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    Thanks for all of your suggestions here, particularly the note about difficulties taking RideWithGPS exports into the eTrex. It sounds like I can accomplish what I would like to with, say, an eTrex 20 and the supplemental CNNA maps which would run $270 or so plus tax and mount. Right around that $300 price point. The ultimate question is whether it's worth the expenditure vs just a set of maps and a cue sheet. I may swing by REI to check out a few units, their prices seem to be in line with other vendors and their return policies are fairly liberal.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FarRider View Post
    I do not have much experience with loading and navigating already created routes from other sources, but I think if the routes are created in or converted to a gpx format the Vista would be able to navigate them.
    One would think. But that's not the way it is. The Vista reinterprets the route to suit itself. Useless. This with online mapping services only. Not using the Garmin products you mentioned, as I recently discovered with Basecamp and CNNA. Maybe there's a trick I, we, don't know about that you could cue us in on.
    Last edited by Cyclebum; 01-05-12 at 08:52 PM.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  14. #14
    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by QueueCT View Post
    Handlebar mountable (either out of the box or with a 3rd party mount)
    Reasonably water resistant so I don't need to baby it.
    Under $300 (or so)
    Rechargeable batteries with a 15 hr+ run time (if possible)

    What I don't need (though it's okay if it's there):
    Track generation and storage
    Speed, cadence, heart rate, etc.
    Automatic navigation
    If you want to download a route and have the unit provide turn by turn instructions prompted with an audible beep, a Garmin 705 or 800 will do that. The 705 has been discontinued so you might find them deeply discounted or available used from people upgrading to the 800. I have a 705 and use it primarily as you describe for navigating downloaded routes, though I also use time, speed, cadence, etc. When rides are completed, you can upload the actual track and data to any number of websites including RWGPS, MMM, GPSies, Garmin Connect, etc.

    A general note. Garming Edge products are somewhat buggy and problematic IMO. Go to the official Garmin user forums to get an idea or post questions to other users. https://forums.garmin.com/forumdisplay.php?f=20

  15. #15
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    The antenna of a hiking unit (or any unit which is going to be carried in unexpected positions or next to the body) is going to be problematic. Thats why, for example, GPS watches have terrible multipath issues. The best kind of antenna for a small GPS unit that will be in different positions that doesn't need geodetic level accuracy is probably the sarantel "geohelix" antenna. Its basically a "quadrifilar" antenna.

    Some hiking GPSs have them. They look like a small barrel with a multileg spiral wrapped around it. Or some of them are encased in plastic like a cellphone antenna, but much wider.

    Patch antennas need to be facing upward to be accurate. No wiggle room there.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Looigi View Post
    ... a Garmin 705 or 800 will do that.

    A general note. Garming Edge products are somewhat buggy and problematic IMO. Go to the official Garmin user forums to get an idea or post questions to other users. https://forums.garmin.com/forumdisplay.php?f=20
    I have the Garmin 800 and would agree with Looooigi. One additional minor gripe that I have is that the contrast on the display could be better - especially in sunlight.

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