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Old 11-02-11, 01:01 AM   #1
skilsaw
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Your experience with GPS?

I'm thinking of getting a GPS unit that I can use on my bicycle, hiking and canoeing trips. I've narrowed it down to the Garmin Marine (waterproof/floats)GPSMap78s or the Garmin Land (sinks but waterproof) GPSMap62s. The 62s has a bicycle handlebar mount.

I already have a pretty good bike computer with elevation and heartrate. It only gives me totals and averages. I can't plot my rides...but I don't really care to.

What is your experience with GPS? What unit do you use? Is GPS worthwhile for a cyclist, or is it just for techno-weanies?
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Old 11-02-11, 01:23 AM   #2
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FWIW. There was a guy a year or two who had a GPS in his car. He got into Oregon mountains in the winter and GPS led him astray. It was fatal. They don't show snowbanks and washed out roads. Something to consider.
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Old 11-02-11, 04:13 AM   #3
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Just got a Dakota 20, for use in our abandoned cemetery project. Needed the ability to download maps, and wanted touchscreen. This one had the best reviews (that I was able to find). Not enough time on it to make a recommendation though.
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Old 11-02-11, 05:03 AM   #4
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I used to use a GPSMap60CS, but the handlebar mount did not hold up well on the bike. I have used the Garmin Edge 305 on the bike for years and loved it as a bike computer - it had no maps. I recently upgraded to the 800 touch screen model with map display and it is awesome. Very easy to load in routes generated on my computer as well. That said the 62 sounds like an updated model of my 60 and should handle your tasks easily. I don't know if they changed the garmin bike mount for it. The one for the 60 was a plastic cradle that would crack after a while. While I love my new 800, the screen is on the small side compared to my 60. As for marine use I put my 60 in a waterproof case when I take it out in my kayak.
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Old 11-02-11, 07:17 AM   #5
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I have a Garmin Vista HcX. I've used it on two tours. I downloaded the gps information from two Adventure Cycling tours - the Lewis and Clark and the Great Divide. For the Lewis and Clark I bought the DVD with street maps. For the Great Divide I bought the DVD with topo maps.

On the first tour the gps was barely helpful - mostly because I didn't know how to set it up and use the ACD waypoints. You have to create your own routes and import the waypoints you want - ACA gives you every possible waypoint on multiple (alternative) routes. The gps doesn't have any idea where you want to go.

By the time I was preparing for the Great Divide, I had done some more research and had a better idea. It took many hours to import waypoints and create routes for the first 14 days of my tour. I ran out of time. If I had ridden more than 14 days I would have had to rely on maps. That wouldn't have been a bad thing, I guess, because I made at least one mistake in setting things up, and one day my gps was telling me to go straight when everyone with a map was telling me to turn right. We sat and discussed it for awhile, then decided to follow the map. Good thing! Also there are places where the Garmin topo maps don't show the trails or roads that the Great Divide follows. It won't let you "bushwack" - instead it tries to backtrack and go around to get to the next waypoint.

My conclusion for my experience with the Great Divide route was that the gps was very helpful (and really convenient - no stopping to peer at maps, no unfolding and refolding, stuffing and restuffing maps into map pockets) - especially to confirm what those with the maps had said, but the bottom line was that the maps were better.

On my road tour the gps came in handy a few times for things like finding motels and finding restaurants. I also dropped off a rental car somewhere in Portland, Oregon (Alamo's terminal isn't close to the airport - who'd a thunk?) and had to ride to the Amtrak station, which was several miles away. The gps took me right there. It put me on a busy arterial with no shoulder, but it was easy to move a block away and stay on track. (The little gps doesn't say "Recalculating", it just beeps.

The topo maps didn't have any points of interest, so I couldn't use it for finding motels, restaurants, etc. on the Great Divide tour. Luckily one of my mates had an Iphone. He took care of all of that kind of thing.
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Old 11-02-11, 08:21 AM   #6
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The only reason I'd have one is to plot a ride I am attending. And even then it's not like you can't just follow all the other bikes in front of you. Plus (as I always say), you can use a smart phone to do that same thing.
And if you can out-ride your ability to find your way back, you are a better rider than I.

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Old 11-02-11, 08:23 AM   #7
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On my road tour the gps came in handy a few times for things like finding motels and finding restaurants. I also dropped off a rental car somewhere in Portland, Oregon (Alamo's terminal isn't close to the airport - who'd a thunk?) and had to ride to the Amtrak station, which was several miles away. The gps took me right there. It put me on a busy arterial with no shoulder, but it was easy to move a block away and stay on track. (The little gps doesn't say "Recalculating", it just beeps.

The topo maps didn't have any points of interest, so I couldn't use it for finding motels, restaurants, etc. on the Great Divide tour. Luckily one of my mates had an Iphone. He took care of all of that kind of thing.
Easy enough to load both the road maps (with business POIs) and the topo maps into your Garmin GPS and then switch between them as needed. The iPhone is fine in areas that have cellular coverage but not so good elsewhere - and keeping it charged can be a problem.

I've been using a GPS in lieu of a cycle computer for over 12 years now and have found it very useful. The maps and POIs have been great to have on tours (what restaurants are nearby, what's the location/phone number of a motel when the weather turns bad, etc.), and they've also been helpful in local riding when I've been able to check if a certain road goes through or what I can use as a shortcut home if it starts to get late. It has also been handy to keep track of where I've taken pictures. The photos have the exact time recorded on them and that can be combined with the timed tracklog of the GPS to identify the location. I upload my GPS tracklogs and photos to the EveryTrail.com site that automatically shows where each picture was taken.

The 62s model is very versatile for a variety of outdoor activities, but, as mentioned above, the handlebar mount is prone to cracking from road vibration. Adding a rubber band helps to keep the GPS from jiggling in the mount and eventually causing it to crack. For canoeing it's easy to add a floater to the wristband so it won't sink if dropped overboard.

Last edited by prathmann; 11-02-11 at 08:26 AM.
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Old 11-02-11, 08:30 AM   #8
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I have the bottom of the range Garmin Etrex. The simple yellow one, now replaced by the similar Etrex H. It doesn't have any mapping built-in but simply allows me to follow a pre-planned route.

I bought the GPS unit after doing one 200 km audax (randonneuring event) working from a route sheet. I found having to constantly monitor the sheet and my bike computer to work out which turns to take was stressful, error-prone and completely spoiled my enjoyment of the ride. I like to look at the scenery and relax when I'm out on my bike.

Discovering that even many of my very experienced randonneuring pals still took wrong turns on a regular basis convinced me that GPS was the way to go. I bought a copy of Memory Map with a digital map covering the entire UK at 1:50,000 scale and use that to plot all my routes, but there are lots of websites that allow you do that online. When I'm finished, I upload the route data to my GPS and I'm good to go.

I have navigated well over 10,000 miles of organised rides with the Etrex now and the only times I went off course were when I was busy talking and forgot to look at it.

I know many people who use more advanced GPS models with onboard mapping. They are useful if you like to improvise routes out on the road, or if you find your planned route is blocked for some reason. (I got caught out on a 140 mile ride home from a family visit when Snake Pass was closed for resurfacing. Fortunately, I knew an alternative route to bypass that section!)

I highly recommend navigating by GPS, but I'd always suggest that you carry a paper map too, just in case.
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Old 11-02-11, 08:39 AM   #9
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Garmin 305. I liked it. Now for rides where battery life is not an issue, I use the iPhone/Cyclometer combo.

The very best use is when I go on a club ride on an unfamiliar route. If I like the route it's easy to follow on my own. In rural Kentucky, road signs are only optional, so it's kept out of trouble more than once.
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Old 11-02-11, 08:48 AM   #10
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I've also been using a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx for several years. I got it for geocaching, then started hiking and used it for that, then when I started biking I bought a handlebar mount so as to use it on my mountain bike. I installed the OpenCycling map for my area in it, so I now get most of the biking trails shown. I record my bike trips and then put them into a computer program to look at and store the data. I also load in road maps once in a while.

The Vista is waterproof by the IPX7 standard. You could always attach a float or something to the lanyard, I guess. It's an excellent GPSr for the money, IMHO. It's proven itself invaluable several times when I've gotten disoriented out in the boonies. And the LCD display is phenomenal... it can be read in bright direct sunlight as well as darkness. The only drawback is the gasket around the edge needs to be cleaned and re-glued every couple of years.

I aso use a Garmin car unit, and an iPod touch with GPS and 3G add-ons. The iPod touch is nice, because I generally ride solo, and I can set it to send my location at intervals on a map to my Facebook and Twitter accounts (as well as email to friends).

GPS is not a cure-all. It needs to be used with some awareness of the limitations of the technology and, more importantly, the accuracy of the maps being used. But I wouldn't leave home without it. And plenty of spare batteries.

Last edited by jmiked; 11-02-11 at 08:53 AM. Reason: tamned dypos
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Old 11-02-11, 10:25 AM   #11
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no doubt you've already acquired a GPS by now. you did not mention what type phone you use? iPhone 4 here. I use it to track (map) and capture speed/cadence/distance from Garmin SC10 unit. I have been commuting and doing charity rides with it. since a couple generations of hardware and iOS updates back I have never run out of battery. My last metric century was a lot of fun. When it was done I was amazed how much battery I had left more than 75% battery by the way. Granted the new iPhone 4S is a new animal and yes it has a battery problem which appears to be a software fault and related to time zone issues? Surely they will resolve that sooner than later as they have previously with other issues. If you are doing longer rides than centuries get an external battery pack for it if you really think it won't make it that far. Other smartphones will work as well. I like using the iPhone as it's one less thing I have to carry or attach to the bike. If I have any problem the phone is right there. now all I need to do is figure out how to use the iPhone to make me go faster...
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Old 11-02-11, 10:36 AM   #12
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I use a Garmin 76CSX for tours and sunday rides to different places. It was the key to doing the Southern Tier....as I would approach a small town, I always used it to locate motels, etc....Adventure Cycling's maps had some motels, but not all....Originally I bought a Garmin bike mount for it....a plastic waste of money that got shredded by chip seal road riding. Went up onto a motorcycle web site and got one there...bulletproof.
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Old 11-02-11, 02:29 PM   #13
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I used a Garmin 305 and now a Garmn 500. I don't ride in unknown places often, but the ability to upload a track is a good feature. I enjoy the numbers, though I don't get as much use from them as I should. A GPS unit makes for a fun an interesting toy.
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Old 11-02-11, 03:50 PM   #14
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I am another happy Garmin eTrex Vista HCx user. On tours it has helped me to find important points of interest, like the nearest hotel, restaurant, or convenience store. I have used it to get unlost, find ways around detours, and find my location when road names on signs do not match road names on the map.

For routing, I generally set it to use the car/motorcycle option and have it avoid highways. The routing is reasonable, but like others have noted, must be used with care.
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Old 11-02-11, 05:10 PM   #15
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I embrace my Tech-NO-weaniness. I use a Garmin 305 to track miles and convince my wife that I am a stud. I have a BB Bold that I use for map functions.

I am interested in how you would use the GPS with a canoe. I enjoy paddling around, but can't see myself getting lost in the waters here in the SW. Canada is probably more intense with ways to get lost. Fill me in.
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Old 11-02-11, 06:10 PM   #16
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I am interested in how you would use the GPS with a canoe. I enjoy paddling around, but can't see myself getting lost in the waters here in the SW. Canada is probably more intense with ways to get lost. Fill me in.
Can't speak for the OP, but I use my GPS when canoeing and kayaking. One reason is to record the trip and know where pictures were taken. Here's one example of a kayak trip where there was never any doubt of our location, but having the GPS made it easy to show the pictures and route:
http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=1136105

The GPS has also come in handy on some trips where it let me know how far to go to the arranged take-out point and to confirm when we had arrived (bridges can frequently look pretty similar from the river). And when seakayaking out on the bay or ocean it has been very useful when the fog rolled in and hid all the landmarks.
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Old 11-02-11, 08:44 PM   #17
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FWIW. There was a guy a year or two who had a GPS in his car. He got into Oregon mountains in the winter and GPS led him astray. It was fatal. They don't show snowbanks and washed out roads. Something to consider.
Sorry, that's like saying it's bad to use a map because a guy got hit by a car while on a ride, but he didn't see it coming as he was checking his route map.

What on earth does your statement have to do with the OP's question? If you think a GPS should do weather, write to Garmin?
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Old 11-02-11, 09:28 PM   #18
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FWIW. There was a guy a year or two who had a GPS in his car. He got into Oregon mountains in the winter and GPS led him astray. It was fatal. They don't show snowbanks and washed out roads. Something to consider.
Perhaps weather wasn't in the program, but one should always use judgment with computer mapping. For example, I have used DeLorme Street Atlas for many years and it has worked very well. But on two occasions its "fastest" route, as based on its knowledge of distance and its idea of maintainable average speeds, led me astray. Once was simply a route through an urban area in Connecticut where the shortest route had a million stoplights, or maybe two million. The other time was when its idea of a shorter route around a small town in Vermont turned into a steep dirt road. It was actually dangerous because part of a steep section was quite muddy from rain runoff. In both cases I could have concluded what might happen but foolishly didn't.

Some friends once followed a computer's route from Burlington, VT to Alburg by going through the towns on the little islands that populate the northern end of Lake Champlain. If they'd looked at the map the would have seen how the computer somehow missed I-87 that could have shortened their trip by over an hour.
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Old 11-02-11, 10:16 PM   #19
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My wife and I just returned from a 3-month self supported tour through seven European countries. We pretty much rolled our own as far as route planning goes for the first half of the trip. My GPS, a Garmin 60 CSX, was invaluable throughout the trip. I had Garmin Europe Maps loaded on it as well as in our netbook. It saved countless hours navigating through the larger cities, finding alternate routes, finding campgrounds, and finding hotels. It has a very comprehensive listing of campgrounds and hotels in the program. Even when we hit countries with established bike routes, it was still a great tool. A lot of the bike trails are not on the Michelin Maps (which is another great tool), and it helped when alternate routes were needed because of muddy roads or finding an alternate route to a town. The bike routes were designed for touring, and were not necessarily the shortest way to get from point A to B.

It was also fun to see our track through cities, and know what the elevation profile looked like for the day. It helped to explain why it took us 2 hours to get through some relatively small cities. It also confirmed our perception that there is really no such thing as flat. We had several days in Holland where we climbed over 2000'. It is also great for finding your way back to a bus stop or hotel when playing tourist in the larger cities.

If you are an ACA route, there is probably no need for one. But if you want to explore, and make your own routes it is a very useful tool.

P.S I also use it ( in conjunction with maps) as a backcountry ski patroller, and while ski mountaineering and backpacking. Before I retired, I also used it for work.

Last edited by Doug64; 11-02-11 at 10:36 PM.
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Old 11-02-11, 10:36 PM   #20
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FWIW. There was a guy a year or two who had a GPS in his car. He got into Oregon mountains in the winter and GPS led him astray. It was fatal. They don't show snowbanks and washed out roads. Something to consider.
This is 100% speculation of the worst sort, but in OR there are some real quirks to the back roads. Often, Google-based maps will show a road as existing when it doesn't or show a road as not going through that does. If the GPS unit is using maps that are based on Google-maps, then that could have been one factor among many in that tragedy.

I am one of those curmudgeons who hasn't gotten a GPS yet. Well, except for one of the cheapie Spot devices so my wife and/or son can see where I am; it doesn't tell me. I feel like I should already know.
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Old 11-02-11, 10:42 PM   #21
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FWIW. There was a guy a year or two who had a GPS in his car. He got into Oregon mountains in the winter and GPS led him astray. It was fatal. They don't show snowbanks and washed out roads. Something to consider
.

The GPS didn't lead him astray. He was just too inexperienced to know that a car with 1 foot of ground clearance does not do well in 2 feet of snow, and 4 wheel drive is not always the answer. Common sense should have indicated that the road was not a good one to take. A GPS can not tell you how much snow is on a road or know if it is winter or summer.

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Old 11-02-11, 11:36 PM   #22
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I am interested in how you would use the GPS with a canoe. I enjoy paddling around, but can't see myself getting lost in the waters here in the SW. Canada is probably more intense with ways to get lost. Fill me in.
I've chosen a big canoe for 2 of us to take out on the ocean. If you google "Broken Group Islands", and "Desolation Sound" you will see where I want to go on 1 or 2 week trips.
I'll use the GPS for navigation when the visibility gets bad... down to 2 kms, or 1 mile.
When the weather is good, I can navigate with a compass and Chart. That's why I'm wondering, "Do I really need it?"
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Old 11-02-11, 11:48 PM   #23
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I've had the 60CSX Map for about 3 years before I got my 800. I've not had the bike mount problems that others have reported and this was mounted to a non-suspension mtn bike. YMMV. It's a great unit, and the 62 looks even better, especially for all round usage. It's nice to be able to bike and then later take it hiking through Valley of Fire or Brice Canyon. You just can't get the same functionality from the 800.
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Old 11-03-11, 12:21 AM   #24
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By now you must realize GPS is a good tool and that any tool may have a flaw. But GPS does work and when you use the tool the way it was designed it works well.
Just as an example ask anyone that owns a sailboat and cruises for years at a time. If a GPS can get you from Florida to Australia it should be able to get you from one city to another. Even our service men are using GPS to find their way Iraq and Afghanistan where they have never set foot before.
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Old 11-03-11, 06:46 AM   #25
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Easy enough to load both the road maps (with business POIs) and the topo maps into your Garmin GPS and then switch between them as needed.
True. I didn't realize before the tour that the points of interest wouldn't be on the topo maps.

Part of my problem is that I haven't been able to find a good, comprehensive guide for how to use the thing - something like, "Using GPS for Bike Touring for Dummies."
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