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Does anyone use their bike computer off the bike?

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Does anyone use their bike computer off the bike?

Old 01-17-21, 06:55 PM
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JW in AK
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Does anyone use their bike computer off the bike?

I ride, backpack, sea kayak, xc ski, etc. Since I'm starting to develop more interest in my cycling data, I'm looking into getting a bike computer. But, I'd like to have just one device that I can use for navigation, no matter what mode of travel. For years, I've used maps/charts and a compass for navigation. I've dabbled with some phone apps more recently but I'm wondering if anyone uses a GPS-equipped bike computer to serve all of their outdoor nav/mapping needs. Say I were to purchase a Garmin Edge 1030, would this be suitable to toss in my pack for a backcountry hike and, with the appropriate maps loaded, function the same as a dedicated, hand-held GPS unit like the eTrex/Oregon/Montana? Judging by the fact that Garmin shows their topo maps as compatible with the Edge, I would think so. I mean, a GPS is a GPS and a bike computer just adds cycling-specific data on top of that, right? I'll get in touch with Garmin as well but I'm looking forward to hearing your experiences or recommendations regarding multi-tasking with a bike computer.
Thanks
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Old 01-18-21, 12:07 AM
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Sounds like you want a Garmin Fenix
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Old 01-18-21, 06:09 AM
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I think there is a minority of us that use non-cycling specific GPS units, such as the models you cited. I use a Garmin base model 64 which is another non-cycling one. I think the main difference is power supply, the cycle specific GPS units appear to rely on USB charging for an internal Li Ion battery, where the non-cycling ones use AA or other replaceable batteries.

I have never used a cycling specific Garmin, so if it will do something that the other recreational grade ones will not, I do not know what it is. My base model 64 does not do cadence or heart rate, but the more expensive versions of that GPS have ANT+ capability and can communicate with a cadence or heart rate monitor strap.

Photo is from my bike tour in summer 2019, Garmin 64 on right, vintage VDO bike computer in middle and a separate heart rate monitor on left. And yes that is a paper map on top of my handlebar bag. I also carry a magnetic compass, but have not actually used one in years.



In the photo above, there is a black and yellow lanyard that I added to the GPS that is attached to the handlebar. Occasionaly, I do not get the GPS into the handlebar bracket right (user error) and the lanyard keeps the GPS from crashing to the ground. I suggest you do that, at least initially.

I initially was using the old black and white screen Garmin GPS units on a bike before cycling specific GPS units existed. And at that time I also had a conventional bike computer with wheel magnet sensors on some but not all of my bikes. I still use the older computers that I bought over a decade ago, mostly for cadence, and sometimes I leave the GPS at home and only use the computer.

Photo below is from a bike tour over a decade ago. Older GPS I was using at that time.



Personally, for kayaking and canoeing, I prefer the old black and white Garmins over the newer ones. The black and white screens stay on and do not have much battery drain if you have the back light off. The old blue Etrex Legend in the photo above died on a kayak trip in 2018, although rated for waterproofness, it went swimming for several minuntes and water got into it.

On my kayak, I usually set it on top of my spray skirt like in the photo below, that way the screen is angled about right for me to look at it. It was on this trip when the GPS went swimming and died.



My camera does not have enough wide angle to have the GPS in the photo below, my GPS was sitting on the spray skirt. It is days like this when the fog comes in that a GPS on your kayak is really nice to have. I think I had about 50 feet of visibility at the time I took the photo. There was just enough swell that if I took my eyes off the GPS or compass for two minutes I would be about 60 degrees off course.

Every few minutes I check the GPS to make sure I am going in the right direction, then see what my compass reading was with my deck mounted compass, and that way I could keep glancing at my compass a couple times a minute to stay on course. As I meandered between the islands, as my course changed I could keep on course that way. A friend of mine got extremely sea sick on a kayak staring at a compass with his headlamp during a night passage, so I never want to just stare at the compass or GPS.

On this day, when I started out I had a nice blue sky, but the fog came in and there was no place to pull up on shore, but I had my GPS, map and compass so I just kept going to my destination. Paddled a couple hours in fog.



I do not have a photo of it, but I have a foot brace in my Wenona solo canoe, I put a handlebar mount on that brace to hold my GPS.

I use the white Ikea Ladda brand NiMH rechargeable batteries in my GPS. Eneloop rechargeables are my second choice, they are more readily available than the Ikea ones. Bike tours, I can charge the batteries during the trip. Backpacking, canoe and kayak trips, I bring enough batteries to last for the trip.

A couple years ago I picked up a used Garmin 60 CSX, I started using that for backpacking instead of the older black and white screen GPS, it has a color screen but has very good battery life.

The Garmin 64 and some of the other recreational grade GPS units can use a Garmin specific battery pack that can be charged inside the GPS using a USB cable while the GPS is in use. I know a couple randonneurs that use that with a dynohub and USB charger to charge their GPS while riding. I have managed to fool my Garmin 64 into thinking that it has the Garmin battery pack in it when it only had the regular rechargeable NiMH batteries in it, thus on bike trips I charge up my GPS batteries while riding using dynohub power.

I have never been to Alaska, thus never downloaded an Alaska map to use in my Garmins. But this lists an Alaska topo map but i have no clue if it is any good.
https://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/byuser/135/

It looks like the US Pacific map here covers Alaska:
https://garmin.opentopomap.org/#us_pacific

This also lists a US Pacific version, but this map is mostly a road map:
https://www.openmapchest.org/

The Garmin 64 allows me to choose which map I want to use, thus I can have a cycle map, a road map, and a topo map in it and then pick the map I want. I do not know if the other Gamins you are looking allow that or not.

And a scenic photo just because I like it.


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Old 01-19-21, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Elvo View Post
Sounds like you want a Garmin Fenix
Thanks for the suggestion. I'll look at them some more. While a watch would certainly be convenient, I think I'd like to have a bit more screen for navigation, particularly when I'm traveling where there aren't any established trails for many, many miles and I may be route-planning on the fly. Plus, as Tourist described, the idea of having your nav device right in front of you is really helpful when kayaking since, in the time it takes to stop paddling and consult your wrist, wind, current, and/or swell can wreak havoc on your course.
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Old 01-19-21, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by JW in AK View Post
Thanks for the suggestion. I'll look at them some more. While a watch would certainly be convenient, I think I'd like to have a bit more screen for navigation, particularly when I'm traveling where there aren't any established trails for many, many miles and I may be route-planning on the fly. Plus, as Tourist described, the idea of having your nav device right in front of you is really helpful when kayaking since, in the time it takes to stop paddling and consult your wrist, wind, current, and/or swell can wreak havoc on your course.
And canoeing and kayaking, you want one that does not need you to press any buttons since you might be in rough enough water that you want to keep both hands on the paddle. I have thought about trying to fabricate a bracket to hold my GPS at the right angle to look at that I can use the kayak bunges to hold it to the boat for when I am in rough water, but it has not been a priority yet.

After my GPS went swimming and became dysfunctional, I will have a spare GPS on my future kayak trips. I have worked with maps for decades, so I could easily survive with paper maps and a compass but I like the convenience of a GPS.
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Old 01-19-21, 10:06 AM
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Thanks for all the info Tourist. Those map links look like they could be very useful. It looks like you've got your touring cockpit pretty well dialed but I'm trying to eliminate the need for multiple devices and just get one to do exactly what I want (or as close as possible). I've used several iterations of the GPSmap and eTrex (including the legend), inReach, and Trimble hand-helds for work. Some of the appeal of a unit like the Edge 1030 is the really long battery life (20 hours or 24 hours for the Plus), the large display, and the touchscreen. The Edge Explore looks like it checks a lot of the boxes for waaaay less money but has only 50-60% of the claimed battery life of the 1030 and the 1030Plus. I think I might be talking myself into the 1030. I just need to decide whether battery life and the ability to have training workouts on the device is worth the significant bump in price but that's a question for myself, not the forum.

Your shot of the bow of your kayak and nothing but a wall of gray reminds me of paddling down around Sitka or running a skiff out in the Pribilofs. A bit disconcerting when the whole world disappears on you but, as your last photo demonstrates, fog can also make everything look pretty awesome.
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Old 01-19-21, 10:08 AM
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For me, the Garmin handhelds are more all purpose than anything. But I'd never cycle with one. I just don't want to devote that much space on my bars. But that's me as I only care to see a few metrics while riding and mostly want to review my metrics after the ride. As for navigation... I generally know where I want to go, even in places I've never been.

Perhaps one of the many Garmin watches might be for you, Fenix or Forerunner. But mapping and navigation if that's a big deal is non-existent on some models.... I think. Regardless, I wouldn't want to try and see a map on one. And following turn instructions sometimes is iffy too when you don't have a real map to see.

And you certainly don't have to stay with Garmin, there are other options even for handheld devices. But I can say that out of the dozen or so Garmin's I have, the first one I ever got more than 15 years ago still works. And so do even older Garmin's that I have use of.

While initially you might want one to do all, you'll probably find like I and others did that one just won't do it all. You also have to look at what sensors the device can handle and how it will present that data to you in real time. Cycling GPS's tend to do more cycling specific sensors and handle cycling specific features better.

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Old 01-19-21, 11:22 AM
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I use dedicated devices on the bike, currently quite happy with a Garmin130Plus. Outside of that, I'm using Motion-X GPS software on my iPhone for "real GPS" type work, such as hiking on/off trail, navigating in places with no cell coverage (eg Costa Rica). I've extensively used Etrex, Magellan and Delorne. Highly recommend the Motion-X solution.
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Old 01-19-21, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by JW in AK View Post
Thanks for all the info Tourist. Those map links look like they could be very useful. It looks like you've got your touring cockpit pretty well dialed but I'm trying to eliminate the need for multiple devices and just get one to do exactly what I want (or as close as possible). I've used several iterations of the GPSmap and eTrex (including the legend), inReach, and Trimble hand-helds for work. ...

Your shot of the bow of your kayak and nothing but a wall of gray reminds me of paddling down around Sitka or running a skiff out in the Pribilofs. A bit disconcerting when the whole world disappears on you but, as your last photo demonstrates, fog can also make everything look pretty awesome.
If you are using a Trimble for work, you know more about GPS than 95 percent of the people on this forum, but you would likely have the most knowledge of professional grade stuff, not so much the recreational grade units.

On mine I have WAAS and Glonass turned off to reduce battery consumption. If my location is 50 feet off, I really do not care.

If you get a cycling one that recharges battery by USB port, think about how waterproof that is if it goes swimming.

Looking at the photos I posted, it really stands out how much more readable the map is on teh old black and white Garmins. That is why I prefer those for kayaking and canoeing.

Yeah, that fog was pretty cool. The photo was straight ahead, no horizon at all. I was not worried, but I made sure my marine band radio was convenient just in case I heard a big boat getting louder. I knew that a ferry would be coming along pretty soon behind me.

If you get talked into a watch, considering your location I assume you use a dry suit? If so, might need a band big enough for that. Mine has cuffs that cover the wrist gaskets, so if I wore a watch it would need a big band.
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Old 01-19-21, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by blacknbluebikes View Post
I'm using Motion-X GPS software on my iPhone for "real GPS" type work, such as hiking on/off trail, navigating in places with no cell coverage.
Thanks for the suggestion. In your experience, how does the phone battery hold up while using Motion-X?
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Old 01-19-21, 04:41 PM
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Battery. Ah, there's the rub - on all platforms. quick answer: pretty happy, and it's clearly better on later hardware. important: having options to control battery usage, if you do care or have a special situation. perspective: I don't think about battery too much. The late-model iPhone I carry has the best battery I've seen yet, no contest, and I think user experience on battery conservation is always going to favor new hardware. Certain things suck a lot of juice, particularly screens and network. If the maps are being data-called over cellular network while you're touring with the screen on constantly, hmm, your battery is working a lot. An option to pre-load maps on my phone made it possible to navigate a car for weeks in costa rica without internet. (Not turn-by-turn, but I could always see where I was and choose my own route.) In the past, I've toted an external battery unit to keep the phone up - did that on a century ride.
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Old 01-19-21, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by blacknbluebikes View Post
Battery. Ah, there's the rub....
The more I think about it, I could probably get around less than stellar battery life with one of those external batteries and/or one of those small solar chargers (goal zero nomad or similar). I do most of my traveling in summer when there's no shortage of sun light up here so I can probably de-emphasize the importance of battery a bit.
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Old 01-20-21, 12:18 AM
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Originally Posted by JW in AK View Post
Thanks for the suggestion. In your experience, how does the phone battery hold up while using Motion-X?
Motion-X is a bit gimmicky to me. The UI is kind of old-fashioned and downloading maps is kind of awful (it doesn't even seem to work on my phone). (Motion-X was one of the first apps I tried, years ago).

=====================

Even if you use a dedicated device, a good phone app is useful and cheap.

You really want to download maps before hand (you don't want to rely on the cell network).

Most of the apps (ones not tied to a mapping company, like "Here", one example, is) use OSM data for land maps.

I like having contour data.

Some "outdoor" navigation apps (rather than ones targeting automotive use) to consider:​​​​
  • Maps.me (android/ios) - free.
  • Osmand (android/ios) - small cost - contour lines available - slightly confusing UI.
  • Guru maps (android/ios) - fairly expensive - contour lines - features lead on ios - I use this regularly. This has a bearing-to-waypoint feature I like and it's easy to get measurements of distance between two points.
  • Locus maps (android) - small cost - lots of features - learn how to download free maps.
  • Backcountry Navigator - medium cost - seems to have lots of features - I haven't used this.
  • Gaia GPS (android/ios) - I don't know much about this but it seems well-liked.


​​​​​

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Old 01-20-21, 06:58 AM
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further on this, for future thread explorers... big fan of apps by Hunter Research (maybe only iOS), especially Theodolite - best app for 'field work', and Pro Altimeter. Also like Spyglass a lot.
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Old 01-20-21, 08:06 AM
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Originally Posted by JW in AK View Post
.... Some of the appeal of a unit like the Edge 1030 is the really long battery life (20 hours or 24 hours for the Plus), the large display, and the touchscreen. The Edge Explore looks like it checks a lot of the boxes for waaaay less money but has only 50-60% of the claimed battery life of the 1030 and the 1030Plus. I think I might be talking myself into the 1030. I just need to decide whether battery life and the ability to have training workouts on the device is worth the significant bump in price but that's a question for myself, not the forum.
A word of caution -- I have found my Edge Explore is useless for hiking and most of my kayaking.. It stays in pause mode until you reach 6mph, when the navigation starts. Maybe this is a setting you can change, but I haven't found it.
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Old 01-20-21, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by redcon1 View Post
It stays in pause mode until you reach 6mph, when the navigation starts.
Thanks for pointing that out. I hadn't even thought of that. Whether that can be disabled is a question I'll have to add to my list to ask Garmin.
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Old 01-20-21, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post

I like having contour data.

​​​​​
Yeah, I think contours are crucial. Thanks for all the info.
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Old 01-20-21, 10:20 AM
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Originally Posted by redcon1 View Post
A word of caution -- I have found my Edge Explore is useless for hiking and most of my kayaking.. It stays in pause mode until you reach 6mph, when the navigation starts. Maybe this is a setting you can change, but I haven't found it.
I don't know for the Edge Explore, but all the other Edges I know of have several settings you can pick for auto-pause. On mine I can enable or disable auto pause. For hiking I'd think you'd want it disabled. The times I did take my Edge 500 with me on walks I disabled it.

When enabled, you have several option, pause when speed is 0 mph. or custom speed where it can be set to pause when your speed is less than a certain speed. I use when <3 mph when cycling.

So if you are wanting to use your Explore to hike or walk, then check if it has that setting. If the Explore uses profiles, you can possibly set up a profile for walking where the auto-pause isn't enabled.

Although I used to use my Edge 500 quite a bit for walking, I have found that phone apps work just as well for the little bit of info I care to see about my walk. And actually I currently use Specialized's Ride App when I walk, though it is tailored around their Angi crash alert system. It is simple to use and gives me speed and distance with recording of my track which is all I care about for walks.

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Old 01-20-21, 03:21 PM
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If you are thinking of getting a solar power system and a big battery pack (I call that a power bank), some devices do not work well with some power supplies. I have had difficulty with some things on a solar panel, when the clouds go past and drop the input amperage and later good sun again, sometimes things do not work as well as you might like.

Some powerbanks work well as pass through powerbanks, some do not. By pass through, I mean you can put power into them AND take power out of them at the same time. That way you can feed your solar power line into the power bank and then draw power out of that powerbank at the same time to charge other stuff. Thus, you are charging it all at once. And, when the clouds go past, or perhaps you walk past and case a brief shadow on teh solar panel, the power bank keeps a continuous consistent supply into the device(s) you are trying to charge.

Sounds simple, but a lot of power banks do not work that way, they can either be charged or discharged but NOT both at the same time.

Goal Zero used to have powerbanks that work in pass through mode, but I do not know if they do that at this time.

I bought a Voltaic brand powerbank that works great in pass through mode, but those are not cheap. I use that on my touring bike with a dynohub, I feed the power from dynohub into the powerbank and at the same time can take power out of that powerbank to charge up my GPS. If I stop at a stop sign and my dynohub stops putting out power, the powerbank keeps supplying power to the device(s) I am charging.

There probably are others out there. At one time I heard that a brand Zendure has that capability, but I am not familiar with them.

Alternatively, you may already own a powerbank, you could certainly charge that up with solar. And later, charge other devices from the powerbank. I know people that do not use a pass through capability, with a dynohub they charge up their powerbank during the day while they ride and at night they then charge up their other stuff from the power bank in the campsite.

Good luck figuring all this stuff out.

Side note, I think that you are not supposed to charge Li Ion batteries in sub freezing temperatures. Are you planning on using this stuff in winter? If so, look into that in more detail.
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Old 01-20-21, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Alternatively, you may already own a powerbank, you could certainly charge that up with solar. And later, charge other devices from the powerbank.
Yeah, that was kind of what I was thinking as opposed to continuous charging. I probably wouldn't ride, hike or paddle for more than 12 hours and certainly not for 20 hours so getting enough battery life for a day's use isn't much of an issue. It's just that I'm often out and away from outlets for a week or more.
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Old 01-20-21, 05:49 PM
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Tourist in MSN
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Originally Posted by JW in AK View Post
Yeah, that was kind of what I was thinking as opposed to continuous charging. I probably wouldn't ride, hike or paddle for more than 12 hours and certainly not for 20 hours so getting enough battery life for a day's use isn't much of an issue. It's just that I'm often out and away from outlets for a week or more.
I tried solar a few years ago on a 15 day kayak trip, my GPS used AA batteries and my headlamp used AA too. When I got home at the end of the trip, I weighed a few things and figured out that my solar panels and my USB powered NiMH AA charger was equal to the weight of 20 AA batteries. So, have not used solar since, I bought some more AA rechargeable batteries. I figure 1.5 AA batteries per day which always means I have extra charged up batteries at the end of the trip. I rarely am running my GPS more than 7 hours a day. I am not there to log miles, I am there to enjoy myself, thus short days.

Kayaking and canoeing, my marine band radio is almost always off, so I have never exhausted the batteries in that on an entire trip yet, it is mostly for weather reports.

My kayak and canoe trips are far from cell coverage, so that saves a lot of power too, the phone is always off.

Biking, I rely on dynohub, do not bring much in spare batteries. I am generating power while I ride on those trips.
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