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  1. #1
    Junior Member Shponglefan's Avatar
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    Bike computer/GPS: what would be best for me?

    I'm somewhat "new" to cycling, having just ordered a brand new bike (first bike in 10 years).

    One thing I am debating getting is a dedicated bike computer/GPS. Right now my only GPS is a waterproof Garmin 78 which I use for kayaking. I thought about using it for a bike, but it's a bit clunky to use (no touch screen) and the screen size is small. For a kayak, it works perfectly well, but I'm not sure about using it on a bike.

    My primary use would be for navigation. As a result, I'm wondering if all of the dedicated bike computer features would be overkill for what I need. I was looking at hiking GPSs that can also double as car GPSs, and think I might get more bang for my buck with one of those.

    Is there anything specific about bike-oriented GPSs I might miss if I opted for a different kind of GPS?

    Thanks in advance.

    Edited to add: I have no smartphone currently. I want a stand alone GPS.
    Last edited by Shponglefan; 07-03-14 at 07:21 PM.

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    Is there anything specific about bike-oriented GPSs I might miss if I opted for a different kind of GPS?
    Dunno about that. Kinda depends on what specific feature you "might miss".

    Personally, I use a Garmin eTrex 30 (after replacing an eTrex 20 because I wanted to add HRM and cadence sensors/displays). It's not specifically a cycling computer/GPS as it has many hiking/geocaching features also. It's all but waterproof, lightweight, uses AAA batteries and has manageable/upgradable maps. Offline track analysis tools and route planning tools are freely available. You can use Garmin maps or OSM maps, 3rd party topographic overlays and create-your-own maps & overlays (again with freely available tools online).

    I haven't found a feature I wanted that this doesn't have. I have used it as a car GPS but the screen is really too small for that when compared to 4" and larger car-GPS's.

    YMMV

  3. #3
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    The bike-specific GPS computers with Navigation are not cheap. Garmin is an obvious one, but the ones with navigation are pretty pricey.

    Magellan cyclo modes look pretty interesting - also not cheap but probably better value than Garmin.

    If you have a smartphone you could consider using that with a mount as well to see how you like it before investing in a GPS.

  4. #4
    Junior Member Shponglefan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dual650c View Post
    Dunno about that. Kinda depends on what specific feature you "might miss".
    I guess it's hard to know given I have never biked with a bike computer or GPS before. I wouldn't mind having basic distance travelled and speed, but I can get the a basic bike computer for that. A lot of the more advanced features, like uploading and downloading stats, tracking performance, cadence, etc., I have no current interest in.

    Personally, I use a Garmin eTrex 30 (after replacing an eTrex 20 because I wanted to add HRM and cadence sensors/displays). It's not specifically a cycling computer/GPS as it has many hiking/geocaching features also. It's all but waterproof, lightweight, uses AAA batteries and has manageable/upgradable maps. Offline track analysis tools and route planning tools are freely available. You can use Garmin maps or OSM maps, 3rd party topographic overlays and create-your-own maps & overlays (again with freely available tools online).

    I haven't found a feature I wanted that this doesn't have. I have used it as a car GPS but the screen is really too small for that when compared to 4" and larger car-GPS's.
    Screen size is something I had not considered with respect to a car-GPS. The two GPSs I have mainly been looking at are the Garmin Oregon 650 and Montana 650. They have 3 inch and 4 inch screens, respectively.

  5. #5
    Junior Member Shponglefan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mstraus View Post
    The bike-specific GPS computers with Navigation are not cheap. Garmin is an obvious one, but the ones with navigation are pretty pricey.

    Magellan cyclo modes look pretty interesting - also not cheap but probably better value than Garmin.

    If you have a smartphone you could consider using that with a mount as well to see how you like it before investing in a GPS.
    No smartphone at the moment, I'm afraid. I'll look into the Magellan GPSs and see what they offer.

  6. #6
    Senior Member 01 CAt Man Do's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shponglefan View Post
    I'm somewhat "new" to cycling, having just ordered a brand new bike (first bike in 10 years).

    One thing I am debating getting is a dedicated bike computer/GPS....
    Really depends on what kind of bike you bought and what kind of riding you intend to do. If you frequent mountainous areas where a GPS enabled cell phone might not be able to update a map you might be better off with something like a Garmin or Magellan. I should also mention that cell phones can function well for what you want too as long as you have an SD card big enough to store an off-line map ( if needed ). Personally I have a Garmin 705 and a smart phone both which I am using. Right now I mostly use the smart phone ( Android ) with Locus or "Cue sheet" app. and this works for me.

    Not sure there is an app that does everything you want though...bike computer stats plus navigation. You can get one or the other but a decent app that gives you both..?...might be one out there that gives both and if so I'm sure others will chime in. I will say this though that I already know that the iphones have the better set-up for working with bike computer apps ( when linked to wireless cadence/speed monitors ) although I'm sure the newer android based devices will catch up at some point.

    My Garmin 705 does all that I could want. Basic bike computer plus maps plus navigation. While you can usually pick up a used Garmin cheap the better ones still cost. If I were to buy another Garmin I'd likely get an 800 or an 810 but only because they are a little more versatile and since there are newer models, Garmin should of had time to have gotten most of the glitches out of the software ( I would hope ).

    All said, there are more and more options and apps becoming available to the smart phone users who want to use their phones for bike "stats" plus navigation functions. There are better mounting options, better apps, more options for Blue tooth and/or ANT+ wireless applications. At this point hard to say which one might be better but in my opinion either way you go you should get something that works well if you shop wisely.
    Last edited by 01 CAt Man Do; 07-05-14 at 04:48 AM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by 01 CAt Man Do View Post
    If you frequent mountainous areas where a GPS enabled cell phone might not be able to update a map you might be better off with something like a Garmin or Magellan.
    A non-issue: get an app that uses off-line maps. There are many of them. If you are using a phone for navigation, I'd strongly suggest doing this even if your preferred navigation program uses on-line maps (it's cheap insurance).

    Quote Originally Posted by 01 CAt Man Do View Post
    I should also mention that cell phones can function well for what you want too as long as you have an SD card big enough to store an off-line map ( if needed ).
    At this point, any reasonable phone will have 16 GB of memory. That's much more than you need to download maps. You could even do with 8 GB. You don't need an SD card at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by 01 CAt Man Do View Post
    My Garmin 705 does all that I could want. Basic bike computer plus maps plus navigation. While you can usually pick up a used Garmin cheap the better ones still cost. If I were to buy another Garmin I'd likely get an 800 or an 810 but only because they are a little more versatile and since there are newer models, Garmin should of had time to have gotten most of the glitches out of the software ( I would hope ).
    The 705 (and 605) are still quite usable. You aren't going to get much of an enhancement for navigation with a 800/810.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 07-03-14 at 06:04 PM.

  8. #8
    Junior Member Shponglefan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 01 CAt Man Do View Post
    Really depends on what kind of bike you bought and what kind of riding you intend to do.
    Trek 8.5 DS. I'm looking to do a mixture of local trails and bike paths, and some streets.

    If you frequent mountainous areas where a GPS enabled cell phone might not be able to update a map you might be better off with something like a Garmin or Magellan. I should also mention that cell phones can function well for what you want too as long as you have an SD card big enough to store an off-line map ( if needed ).
    I have no smartphone currently, so apps are a non-starter for me. I'll need a stand alone GPS.

  9. #9
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    Screen size is something I had not considered with respect to a car-GPS. The two GPSs I have mainly been looking at are the Garmin Oregon 650 and Montana 650. They have 3 inch and 4 inch screens, respectively.
    There's no question, for me at least, that an eTrex 20/30 is as good as or better than the Oregon/Montana GPSs you mentioned for cycling purposes. The difference between an eTrex 20 and 30 is the ability to use cadence/HRM sensors. I don't record/download that data for later use myself BUT I do like to have it available while riding. (I'm not the type to train, per se, but it's fairly useful data to have/to know when it's hot, when it's a tough ride, when I may be bonking, etc....) Otoh, until I got the 30, I got along without the cadence data and used a separate HRM display (a watch).

    Screen size-wise, I mentioned using it as a car GPS solely for comparison. On-bike, the screen size is more than sufficient for a couple reasons - speed of travel vs distance traveled and I'm closer to the display screen on the bike than when in the car so I can see it better. The amount of detail needed on bike is less for a given period of time/distance traveled than in the car. And I sit farther away from the screen in the car. The Oregon/Montana screens are pretty good screens, both in resolution and size. A 4 inch screen, for me though, would be a bit large on bike. That's just me.

    The big difference between having data available while cycling and not having it is you can't use the data if you don't have it. I've cycled too fast and hard in high heat/humidity when I shouldn't have and knowing my HR was going north of where it should (exceeding max HRM data warning) was instrumental in me not suffering a heat injury (I slowed down and sought shade until my HR dropped some). Knowing my cadence has dropped to below 60 reminds me to shift and not blow out my knees (again). That sort of thing. You don't HAVE to use the data - but it's there if you want to use it. And the difference in price between an eTrex 20 and 30 is minor.

    Again, just my opinion. I started with a simple cycle computer - speed and distance. I could go back to that... I just don't want to.

    YMMV

    Added: Just looked at a feature list/performance review for the Garmin 78 you say you already have (sorry, I was unfamiliar with it til now.) Since you already own it, see if you can find a bike mount for it and use it for a couple months to see what it does and doesn't offer in terms of cycling usability. I mean, if you don't want or need HRM, cadence and cycling-specific data, that's fine. Practically any GPS that can show maps, tracks, routes should work for you - IF the screen is sufficiently readable and can be securely mounted. A couple dollars for a mount and a bit of time. And you're already familiar with that specific unit. What have you got to lose?

    That's how&why I moved from the eTrex 20 to the 30 - I found I preferred to have 2 data fields not available on the 20 displayed on my GPS screen all the time (cadence and HR). Of course, I had to buy&sync the appropriate sensors for the 30, but the additional cost was worth it to me.

    FWIW, The thumb-joystick on the eTrex series is very functional when cycling - whether riding my diamond frame, my recumbent or my Dad's trike.

    Added 2: You might want to check out this comparison page.
    http://gpstracklog.com/compare/garmi...mparison-chart
    Last edited by dual650c; 07-03-14 at 08:36 PM.

  10. #10
    24-Speed Machine Chris516's Avatar
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    I started with the Blackburn Delphi 5.0, upgrading to the Blackburn Delphi 6.0 for its' altimeter. Then I went to the Garmin Edge 200. It was a downgrade from the Blackburn Delphi 6.0. Then I upgraded to the Garmin Edge 500. Which is the best of all the bike computers I have owned.

  11. #11
    Senior Member 01 CAt Man Do's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    A non-issue: get an app that uses off-line maps. There are many of them. If you are using a phone for navigation, I'd strongly suggest doing this even if your preferred navigation program uses on-line maps (it's cheap insurance)....

    At this point, any reasonable phone will have 16 GB of memory. That's much more than you need to download maps. You could even do with 8 GB. You don't need an SD card at all....

    The 705 (and 605) are still quite usable. You aren't going to get much of an enhancement for navigation with a 800/810.
    As I write this I am downloading a map to my phone using the Locus app. Wish I had wifi, it would be much faster. No, you don't need an SD card but it would be a good option if your computer has an SD card reader and you could find a way to download the map to the SC card by using your PC. ( nope I haven't figured that one out yet )

    Good to hear the 705 is comparable to the newer Garmins when navigating. I like the mounting options for the 800-1000 series better though. The 800 ( and up ) series are suppose to be a bit faster at booting and calculating ( so I'm told ). They are also a bit more compact. Personally I'm satisfied with the 705 as I really only need it when I don't have an on-line map. Now if I can find a way to purchase a copy of Opencyclemap of the entire USA preloaded on an SD card for a Motorola Android phone I'll be set. RWGPS will sell you a version of OSM ( pre-loaded SD card ) for a Garmin but I don't know if they will do that for cell phones. Now if these things are interchangeable between devices I really wouldn't know although I'm sure the person more knowledgeable in this area will likely let me know.

    So far I've had no problems using on-line maps but sooner or later there is bound to be a problem once I get out into the boonies. BTW, the Locus app is working great for navigating.
    Last edited by 01 CAt Man Do; 07-04-14 at 06:19 AM.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by 01 CAt Man Do View Post
    As I write this I am downloading a map to my phone using the Locus app. Wish I had wifi, it would be much faster. No, you don't need an SD card but it would be a good option if your computer has an SD card reader and you could find a way to download the map to the SC card by using your PC. ( nope I haven't figured that one out yet )
    Most people have Wifi if they have a computer they can download maps to. If that's the case, then using a SD card reader isn't necessary. (Using wifi rather than the cell-network makes sense. LTE would be fast enough but it would eat too much of your data plan.)

    Quote Originally Posted by 01 CAt Man Do View Post
    Good to hear the 705 is comparable to the newer Garmins when navigating. I like the mounting options for the 800-1000 series better though. The 800 ( and up ) series are suppose to be a bit faster at booting and calculating ( so I'm told ). They are also a bit more compact. Personally I'm satisfied with the 705 as I really only need it when I don't have an on-line map.
    I've ridden a few times on long rides with people using 705 and it appears that they work as well as my 800 does for navigation. I'm not saying the 800 isn't better but it's not significantly so.

    SRAM has a $5 adaptor that converts the 705 mount to the better quarter turn mount (used by the 800 and others). For $20, you can get that adaptor with the "out front" mount (the mount I use).

    Quote Originally Posted by 01 CAt Man Do View Post
    Now if I can find a way to purchase a copy of Opencyclemap of the entire USA preloaded on an SD card for a Motorola Android phone I'll be set. RWGPS will sell you a version of OSM ( pre-loaded SD card ) for a Garmin...
    You (most likely) don't need the entire US. And you really want to be using fairly current versions of the OSM maps anyway.

    I use the following to get maps. I like that you can select the exact region you need.
    Free worldwide Garmin maps from OpenStreetMap

    Quote Originally Posted by 01 CAt Man Do View Post
    ...but I don't know if they will do that for cell phones.
    No, they don't (and probably never will).

    Quote Originally Posted by 01 CAt Man Do View Post
    Now if these things are interchangeable between devices I really wouldn't know although I'm sure the person more knowledgeable in this area will likely let me know.
    The only Android app that I know of that can read the Garmin "img" map format is Maverick (the Garmin maps look horrible there though).

    There isn't any technical reason you can't use the same map files on all/any Android map. It just doesn't seem that it's that convenient yet. There are a few standard formats but it's a fair amount of work to create the maps in those formats.

    Quote Originally Posted by 01 CAt Man Do View Post
    So far I've had no problems using on-line maps but sooner or later there is bound to be a problem once I get out into the boonies.
    I have the 800 but I also like having maps on the phone since it's easier and faster to read/use/review them on the phone. I used the off-line maps when I was in Europe frequently. Since some of the rides I do are long and in fairly rural areas, I expect that not having cell-phone access will be fairly common.

    If I have the gpx route file, I load it to the phone (as well as to the 800).

    Quote Originally Posted by 01 CAt Man Do View Post
    BTW, the Locus app is working great for navigating.
    I haven't used my phone for active (on the bike) navigation. I have no doubt that Locus (and other apps) work very well.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 07-04-14 at 07:36 AM.

  13. #13
    Senior Member 01 CAt Man Do's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    Most people have Wifi if they have a computer they can download maps to. If that's the case, then using a SD card reader isn't necessary. (Using wifi rather than the cell-network makes sense. LTE would be fast enough but it would eat too much of your data plan.) .
    Yeah without Wifi I feel like I'm living in the dark ages. Never felt like I needed it though until I got the smart phone. Maybe I'll get one this week. That last download DID eat some data bites.

    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    ....SRAM has a $5 adaptor that converts the 705 mount to the better quarter turn mount (used by the 800 and others). For $20, you can get that adaptor with the "out front" mount (the mount I use)....
    Wow! Thanks for that tip. A quick search brought up some links. I already own a small extender for the bars that can work with my current 705 mount but the SRAM adapter/mount looks slick and would be nice to have.

    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    ...You (most likely) don't need the entire US. And you really want to be using fairly current versions of the OSM maps anyway.
    True...Actually, I like the OCM ( OpenCyclemap ) rather than OSM. OCM looks to be more geared toward road cycling/mountain biking and includes many known paved and unpaved trails. Like OSM it can be edited if you have the know how ( which I don't ). So far I've downloaded a couple small areas for off-line use using the Locus app which includes the direct link for off-line maps. If there was a version of OCM that worked with Garmin I would love to have one of those for my 705. Hmmm...I just might have to look into that.

    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    I haven't used my phone for active (on the bike) navigation. I have no doubt that Locus (and other apps) work very well.
    As navigation apps go Locus is pretty comprehensive. So far I used it successfully on a number of rides without a hitch. I haven't upgraded to the Pro version yet but I plan to when the season ends. I'd do it now but I don't want to take the chance of screwing something up while I have the current version working so well. When it gets cold again I'll do the upgrade.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 01 CAt Man Do View Post
    Yeah without Wifi I feel like I'm living in the dark ages. Never felt like I needed it though until I got the smart phone. Maybe I'll get one this week. That last download DID eat some data bites.
    You could also get a coffee (or not) at Starbucks (or go to a library).

  15. #15
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shponglefan View Post
    Trek 8.5 DS. I'm looking to do a mixture of local trails and bike paths, and some streets.



    I have no smartphone currently, so apps are a non-starter for me. I'll need a stand alone GPS.
    If it's a matter of price a suitable Android smartphone will be much cheaper than a Garmin Edge.

  16. #16
    New to Cycling Anthony.L's Avatar
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    I'm new to cycling as well and bought my first bike computer/GPS last week. After lots of research and talking with cycling friends I selected the Garmin Edge 510 with performance bundle. So far after half a dozen rides I'm very impressed. Once finished the Edge 510 automatically uploads your ride info to Garmin Connect via Bluetooth with your smartphone. Otherwise just connect to your PC and Garmin Express will upload the ride. I then upload my ride via USB connected to Strava.com.

    With the Edge 510 you can create courses/routes on your PC and then turn by turn directions while riding. However the 510 has no maps, you just see the route on the screen. If you also want maps you need to upgrade to the Edge 810. For my riding that seemed overkill.

    The performance bundle came with a cadence/speed sensor along with a heart rate monitor. Both are working flawlessly. The GPS lock on the Edge 510 is fast and very accurate from my experience.

  17. #17
    Senior Member 01 CAt Man Do's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anthony.L View Post
    I'm new to cycling as well and bought my first bike computer/GPS last week. After lots of research and talking with cycling friends I selected the Garmin Edge 510 with performance bundle. So far after half a dozen rides I'm very impressed. Once finished the Edge 510 automatically uploads your ride info to Garmin Connect via Bluetooth with your smartphone. Otherwise just connect to your PC and Garmin Express will upload the ride. I then upload my ride via USB connected to Strava.com.

    With the Edge 510 you can create courses/routes on your PC and then turn by turn directions while riding. However the 510 has no maps, you just see the route on the screen. If you also want maps you need to upgrade to the Edge 810. For my riding that seemed overkill.

    The performance bundle came with a cadence/speed sensor along with a heart rate monitor. Both are working flawlessly. The GPS lock on the Edge 510 is fast and very accurate from my experience.
    The Edge 510 always seems to get very good reviews. I think if you are only going to use it for the road it can be a workable solution. On the other hand if you want to follow a track off road I think one would be better served getting something with a map screen. Off road trails and bike paths meander through many turns and intersections that have no names. Without a map there is no way to know if you chose the right trail ( At least until you get an off-track warning and thank God for those because going off-track happens even with a
    map. At least with the map you can usually tell where you need to be and that is a great help when you're not quite sure what you did wrong )

  18. #18
    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    With a 500, you can download a TXC track that will display on the screen along with your position along it. Since there is no map, no roads, trails or points of interest will be displayed, just the meandering track. If you're on it, OK. If your not, you can see your relationship to it will need to figure out how to get back on it. If you get some distance from it, the 500 will alert you with a beep and text message that you are off track.

    Another feature of TCX tracks is that the file can contain cues if the website or program used to create enables this. These cues are text messages that pop up near their GPS coordinates and can alert of upcoming turns, the name of the road/train, or anything else.

    Units with maps (800, 810, 1000, Touring) will display roads, intersections, points of interests, etc. Like car GPS units they can create routes between points of interest and provide turn-by-turn instructions for these routes, but you have little control over the route it selects. Usually it's best to lay out a route the way you want on your computer (software or website) and download it to your device. Once downloaded to your device, the device matches it up with roads in its map and then provides turn instructions based on its map data.
    Ride more. Fret less.

  19. #19
    Daily Rider Robert C's Avatar
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    I got an etrex 20, based on recommendations here, a couple of years ago. I am generally happy with t. However, if I were to replace it I would get one of the Garmin touring (probably the plus because I was given a heart rate strap) computers.

    I also have a simple GPS that is similar to the Edge 200. To be frank, it doesn't see much use anymore. Even when I know where I am going, I like the map display while riding.
    As a nation we still continue to enjoy a literally unprecedented prosperity; and it is probable that only reckless speculation and disregard of legitimate business methods on the part of the business world can materially mar this prosperity. Theodore Roosevelt, Sixth Annual Message, December 3, 1906

  20. #20
    Junior Member Shponglefan's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the replies. After reading everything and more research, I decided to buy a very basic bike computer for speed/odometer and take dual650c's advice and try my existing Garmin 78 for navigation. Unfortunately there aren't bike mounts for the Garmin 78 (although it's pretty huge, so I'm not sure it would be ideal on a bike). But I can at least tote it in a pack and use it to track my location and trip when needed.

    I'll see how this goes and the revisit getting a dedicated bike GPS in the future...

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