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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 10-16-17, 09:44 AM   #1
pdlamb
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Need a new GPS for randonneuring?

I browsed across the randon mailing list this weekend, and the Electronics forum here. Lots of griping about Garmin 800/1000 software stability got me remembering and thinking.


I bought my 800 shortly after the 810 came out, largely because it was cheaper and I didn't see the need for smartphone integration in the 810. The "Buy a Wahoo" contingent places a great deal of emphasis on how you don't need a computer to download a RWGPS route, you can do it from your phone.


My (retrogrouch) response to that is, "So what?" I have yet to drive a couple of hours, and possibly stay overnight in a motel, only to decide suddenly, "I'm going to ride this brevet" at 4:00-7:00 in the morning.


I can foresee a need to upgrade if an LBA decides to use group tracking from Strava or the like to monitor progress of the randonneurs, but I haven't heard of that happening yet. So far I've dealt successfully with the foibles of "Goofy, the Garmin." Is there something I'm missing just because I'm not sufficiently addicted to my smartphone? Or is somebody trying to sell new Wahoos or buy used Garmins cheap?
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Old 10-16-17, 10:56 AM   #2
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I'm still using a garmin 500 and it seems like the thing can't reliably follow a breadcrumb trail from a tcx file. It drops cues, the line disappears from the screen for long periods of time, turns are skipped off the cue sheet. The main reason I bought a GPS was to use it to follow tcx routes and apparently garmin half-assed this feature on the 500. I'd rather give another company a try than buy another garmin. The wahoo bolt apparently does really well following a course and with the basic monochrome maps included it should help with funny intersections.

Seems like all the smartphone features like wifi uploading and route syncing are just icing on the cake for a unit that I can actually use to follow a course. I can also charge the wahoo bolt while I'm using it, the garmin 500 needs a special cable apparently. The charging issue was a pain on my first 1200 this year, I had to use my phone to record while the garmin charged, then I had to stitch all the rides back together.
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Old 10-16-17, 01:14 PM   #3
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I use a Garmin eTrek 20. It was a relatively cheap solution as I bought it refurbished. Granted my highest distance has been 200K but it got the job done for me. It uses 2 AA batteries and I can get several long rides out of it before needing to change batteries. It has also gone flying off my handlebars 3 times (I've since made a leash for it), and survived. Can't say that for other electronics I've owned.
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Old 10-16-17, 01:47 PM   #4
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The etrex 20 is still the best randonneuring GPS IMO. It just works. One set of batteries will easily last 400k, then you just pop in a fresh set and you're good for another 400k. Throw in the price and you've got yourself a no-brainer.
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Old 10-16-17, 09:31 PM   #5
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the 800 is horrible at the most important thing for rando: navigation. Mine lost its mind twice on this past weekend's 600k. This is why randos are excited about the Wahoo, it actually works. I feel like Garmin could have shut down the new wave of GPS devices if they would ever finish their software


The Wahoo has some features that would be nice for other types of users. I agree about loading rides from your phone -- randos don't need that very often. However, I have forgotten to load the files ahead of time. Last friday, I had a lapse in memory and put the courses into "courses" instead of into "new files" Fortunately, I checked to make sure they were loaded before I departed for the ride. That would have been a pain, even though the device failed twice.
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Old 10-20-17, 07:40 AM   #6
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I'm still using a garmin 500 and it seems like the thing can't reliably follow a breadcrumb trail from a tcx file. It drops cues, the line disappears from the screen for long periods of time, turns are skipped off the cue sheet. The main reason I bought a GPS was to use it to follow tcx routes and apparently garmin half-assed this feature on the 500. I'd rather give another company a try than buy another garmin. The wahoo bolt apparently does really well following a course and with the basic monochrome maps included it should help with funny intersections.

Seems like all the smartphone features like wifi uploading and route syncing are just icing on the cake for a unit that I can actually use to follow a course. I can also charge the wahoo bolt while I'm using it, the garmin 500 needs a special cable apparently. The charging issue was a pain on my first 1200 this year, I had to use my phone to record while the garmin charged, then I had to stitch all the rides back together.
My Edge 500 has been reliable-enough and I've learned enough tricks to make almost all of the weird hiccups manageable mid-ride. I try to be meticulous in route-creation and add custom cues for myself on RWGPS, I have the special Gomadic charger, I actually carry two 500s just in case one locks up (I can continue navigating using the other one because I will have to stitch the files together anyway)..... It's gotten me through two series and a 1200k so far.

But it's funny you mention it dropping cues, actually, given your location. My 500 has never done that to me here in PA over the 4 years I've owned it, but when I went up to ON for Granite Anvil in August, it kept doing a thing where it would lose signal for a split second, and then once it 'found itself', it would skip ahead one cue on the cue sheet, even though the map was still correct. It even lost itself twice and then skipped ahead two cues! It got really frustrating, but that was the only time it's ever happened to me.
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Old 10-20-17, 09:20 AM   #7
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I feel like the problem with dropping cues is actually in the source data. I don't use anything other than ride with gps, so with other mapping sites ymmv. If you use ride with gps, the best thing to do is go in and delete as many control points as you can. If a control point is moved to an intersection, there will be no cue. There is also the problem with side trips down a road/u turn/return to course that happens fairly often on long courses with lots of control points. If a route is provided, it's best to copy to your account and then go in and delete control points until there is no more than one per turn.

Note that RWGPS (or google, not sure) will move a control point to an intersection without your assistance. This can be really annoying. You don't actually need one per turn, so if that happens a lot with a particular control point, deleting it will probably work.

Ok, just to note that this doesn't apply in seajaye's case, no idea with losing cues when the signal is lost. That would be frustrating.
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Old 10-20-17, 09:31 AM   #8
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I don't have any of these issues with the etrex. Just load the track and follow the pink line.
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Old 10-20-17, 09:32 AM   #9
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I have a Lezyne Super Enhanced GPS and a Wahoo Bolt. The Wahoo is the better of the two for navigating. The downside is that road names are not displayed on the map page like a Garmin eTrex device. Wahoo claims the larger Elemnt has a 17 hour life vs 15 for the smaller Bolt.

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Old 10-20-17, 10:51 AM   #10
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There is also the problem with side trips down a road/u turn/return to course that happens fairly often on long courses with lots of control points.
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I don't have any of these issues with the etrex. Just load the track and follow the pink line.
I have an etrex 20 and used it for a year or so. The problem with it is if you use route navigation and get off course it will recalculate the route. The is then something it came up with and most likely not the correct route. As unterhausen said this happens fairly often.

I now use a GPSMAP 64s it has the same benefits as the etrex and uses the same mount. The big benefit of it in my mind is you can set it to not recalculate the route. I find route navigation nicer to use then track navigation. One thing I realty like with using a route is I can display distance to the next turn.
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Old 10-20-17, 11:05 AM   #11
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I have never used navigation on my etrex so I just use the track which works fine for me. I knew that was a limitation when I bought it. The GPSMAP64 is a good unit too, but for me it's not worth the increased size to just get the navigation which I can easily get by without. The etrex displays the distance to the next turn, but it also shows the high and low point of each segment which is both useless and irritating.
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Old 10-20-17, 01:28 PM   #12
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I don't have any of these issues with the etrex. Just load the track and follow the pink line.
really, if that's all you are going to do, the 800 or its descendants are great. Watch yourself progress on a map, even has the turns drawn on the map for you as a big arrow. However, the things they do that are better than that are somewhat unreliable over long distances.
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Old 10-20-17, 01:39 PM   #13
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really, if that's all you are going to do, the 800 or its descendants are great. Watch yourself progress on a map, even has the turns drawn on the map for you as a big arrow. However, the things they do that are better than that are somewhat unreliable over long distances.
I don't use a handlebar bag so recharging one of the cycling GPS units would be a PITA IMO. I like being able to just replace the batteries on the etrex @ 400k.

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Old 10-20-17, 03:13 PM   #14
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I have never used navigation on my etrex so I just use the track which works fine for me. I knew that was a limitation when I bought it. The GPSMAP64 is a good unit too, but for me it's not worth the increased size to just get the navigation which I can easily get by without. The etrex displays the distance to the next turn, but it also shows the high and low point of each segment which is both useless and irritating.
If you are not using navigation I agree the etrex is the way to go. It is smaller and has longer battery life. I use navigation and carry the cue sheet as a backup. For me using route navigation makes it worth a little larger size and shorter battery life. When my wife is with me we ride our tandem and she has the etrex on her bars as a backup.

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I don't use a handlebar bag so recharging one of the cycling GPS units would be a PTIA IMO. I like being able to just replace the batteries on the etrex @ 400k.
+1. I carry spare rechargeable batteries so I can switch them at a control. There is also always the option of buying batteries. IMO a lot less bother than trying to keep the GPS charged.
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Old 10-20-17, 05:11 PM   #15
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I browsed across the randon mailing list this weekend, and the Electronics forum here. Lots of griping about Garmin 800/1000 software stability got me remembering and thinking.
The 800 works when you break long courses/rides up into shorter (under 100 miles) segments (you can join them afterwards with fittools.com ), don't power cycle it in the middle of a recording, and maybe record to the SD card.

I power mine off my dynohub via a B&M USB-Werk which keeps it fully charged unless I leave the power cord connected when I shut it off because it turns back on when the cache battery runs out, fails to auto-shutoff because gps noise makes it think it's moving, and runs out the battery.

Unlike the Wahoo ELEMNT, it
- Emits turn-by-turn directions even when there's an incorrect or missing cue sheet entry from rwgps which likes to drop them or turn you left when there's a slight wiggle leading up to a right turn.
- Will switch from data (elapsed time, speed, power, heart rate, distance to next turn, next turn, lots is useful) screen to map 0.1 miles before a turn with a white arrow showing the correct path, then back
- Has street names on maps
- Allows panning zoomed-in maps
- Has a programmable odometer separate from lap/ride distance
- Has routing on the device to points of interest like water sources

I tried an ELEMNT because the Garmin software stinks. I returned it because it didn't accurately record data and Edge 500 level turn-by-turn was months late. It's a shame, because the hardware is great with a much more readable screen than the color Garmins.

I tried an 810, although it crashed on short rides and lost data in the first week I owned it.

Then I got a refurbished 800 which would have gone back for stability issues if I couldn't work around them. I was NOT happy when it lost its mind, crashed after 140 miles, wouldn't come back on to navigate me back on course until I used the hard reset sequence, and had me headed in random directions until I realized it wouldn't point back to the nearest point of the course until I hit "start" which it wasn't prompting me to do in spite of being configured to prompt on movement.

Wahoo choosing phone+ Strava integration as their key market differentiator looks like the correct business decision due to larger market and lower development costs, although I'd love to see them do what Garmin does except without the bugs.

Other GPS bike computers are missing significant functionality for following courses, like maps (I got lost with my 500 when I detoured to get food/water, or multiple streets came together in the same spot with poor signage), turn-by-turn navigation, cue sheet entries (some don't add that to their breadcrumb trails), etc.

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Old 10-20-17, 06:36 PM   #16
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what does the wahoo do to warn you of an impending turn? I like what the 800 does, except it doesn't always do it. And sometimes it keeps the arrow up longer than it should,and you don't get much warning of a second turn
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Old 10-20-17, 07:19 PM   #17
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The o_synce Navi2coach has been working great for me for randonneuring and other long rides.

I had a Garmin 500 before but sold it after losing two 300+ km recordings in as many months. If there's one thing I want from a GPS unit it's the ability to reliably record my rides. That's one of the most basic features to get right.

I'd heard enough user reports about Garmin 8xx troubles that I decided not to go there. Garmin should concentrate on making their products work reliably rather than trying to add new features.

Unlike the Garmin 500 the N2C can be recharged while recording using a standard micro USB cable, so no need to get a special cable or break up the recording into multiple portions by shutting down to swap batteries.

I use breadcrumb trail navigation from GPX files. That works very well with the N2C. For more complex navigation (i.e. outside a brevet) I use my phone.
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Old 10-20-17, 09:04 PM   #18
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I feel like the problem with dropping cues is actually in the source data. I don't use anything other than ride with gps, so with other mapping sites ymmv. If you use ride with gps, the best thing to do is go in and delete as many control points as you can. If a control point is moved to an intersection, there will be no cue. There is also the problem with side trips down a road/u turn/return to course that happens fairly often on long courses with lots of control points. If a route is provided, it's best to copy to your account and then go in and delete control points until there is no more than one per turn.

Note that RWGPS (or google, not sure) will move a control point to an intersection without your assistance. This can be really annoying. You don't actually need one per turn, so if that happens a lot with a particular control point, deleting it will probably work.
"Cues"??? That ambiguous term can either refer to "course points" or "turn guidance". These two things are independent and work differently.

* Ridewithgps writes its cuesheet items as "course points" (Garmin's term) to the tcx file. RWGPS shows these cuesheet items as mustard-colored flags on the webpage. If you don't see a mustard-colored flag on the webage, you won't see the course point on the Garmin.

* "Course points" are (basically) waypoints that "popup" on the GPS screen when you arrive at them. If there's no course point, it can't pop-up.

* The RWGPS "control points" (the white circles on the RWGPS website) don't get written to the tcx/gps file. The Garmin knows absolutely nothing about them. RWPGPS sometimes will place them at intersections. This can, sometimes, keep RWGPS from creating a cuesheet item (the mustard-colored flag) at the turn. If you don't see a mustard-colored flag at the intersection, you won't get a "course point" pop-up. This is the case whether or not you have a control point at an intersection or no control points at all. Just deleting them doesn't do anything at all.

* The big white arrows are what Garmin calls "turn guidance". These have nothing at-all whatsoever with "control points" or "course points". Absolutely nothing.

* "Turn guidance" (the big white arrows) are generated (calculated) by the Garmin by matching the track in them loaded file to the roads on the installed map. This works better if the map you use to plan the route is matches the map you have installed on the GPS. Usually, people use the Google map on RWGPS, which isn't the map installed on the unit (which is either Garmin's CN maps or maps based on OSM).

Last edited by njkayaker; 10-20-17 at 09:36 PM.
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Old 10-20-17, 09:10 PM   #19
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The 800 works when you break long courses/rides up into shorter (under 100 miles) segments (you can join them afterwards with fittools.com ), don't power cycle it in the middle of a recording, and maybe record to the SD card.
This (mostly).

There are two separate things: 1- the course you are following, and 2- the ride you are recording.

The ancient 800 appears to have a fuzzy limit of around 180 miles for recording rides.

Following courses is a separate thing but breaking really-long courses up makes sense.

1- really long courses can be a problem when the unit calculates "turn guidance" (the big white arrows).

2- if you have an issue with turn-guidance not working, it's much faster to restart the course if it's shorter.

Neither of these things is that hard to deal with.

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

Not to say that these things are perfect. Sometimes, they don't announce turns. (Paper cuesheets have lots of problems that people just ignore.)

If you routinely scan the map, you often know about turns before they are announced.

And, if you miss the "off course" warning, scanning the map will show that you are off course fairly quickly.

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Old 10-20-17, 09:11 PM   #20
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I use an eTrex 20x, breadcrumb mode. My one attempt to use it's navigation led to me being *confused* for an hour or so in Denmark due to rerouting.

Formerly I used an even more basic Garmin Edge 20 in breadcrumb mode. It worked for what it was.

I have a Lyzene Macro GPS for in-town commuting and tried it for rando with poor results.

I always carry a cue sheet for backup, or even for double-checking during the ride. Which begs the question, why bother with the electronics crap?

Some rando friends are loving the Wahoo Element.
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Old 10-20-17, 09:40 PM   #21
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I always carry a cue sheet for backup, or even for double-checking during the ride. Which begs the question, why bother with the electronics crap?
If you know how they work and how to use them, it's more reliable and faster than using cuesheets (which have all of problems).
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Old 10-21-17, 07:08 PM   #22
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what does the wahoo do to warn you of an impending turn? I like what the 800 does, except it doesn't always do it. And sometimes it keeps the arrow up longer than it should,and you don't get much warning of a second turn
It beeps and gives you a pop up of the turn direction and street name about 750 ft before turning. I use mine on the map page all the time (added speed and total mileage to that page) so I can see the route and straighten out any errors the route maker created ( like clicking an intersecting road or something). You can even add “distance to next cue” as an full time displayed item, but it flashes briefly after making a turn. That works well enough for me.
FWIW I used my Bolt on a 200km (125 mile) multi surface ride today. I was out 8.5 hrs and the unit showed 51% battery remaining when I put the bike away. It might last for 400k, but I’d probably bring a small lipstick shaped charging pack to be sure.
If I continue to build my mileage I may get the chance to try it for that far.

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Old 10-24-17, 01:23 AM   #23
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I always carry a cue sheet for backup, or even for double-checking during the ride. Which begs the question, why bother with the electronics crap?
Your paper cue sheet won't tell you where you are on the map, especially after you have taken a wrong turn. Nor will it light up at night so you can actually read it. I've seen too many fellow randonneurs earn bonus mileage by missing a turn, or taking the wrong turn while I was simply following my breadcrumb trail.

Once you've picked a reliable device and have taken care of battery life, following a GPS trail is by far the most stress-free way of navigating, short of drafting another cyclists who knows the way :-) This is especially true in rural areas with few road signs.

I also carry a paper cue sheet, but I rarely consult it (mostly I use it to confirm that names of the convenience stores that serve as PCs).
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Old 10-24-17, 01:33 AM   #24
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I've never used a GPS or seen one used so I'm trying to imagine the things you're talking about - my old Polar bike computer is showing signs of coming to the end of its life and I might have to buy something else.
Is a 'breadcrumb trail' just a route with warnings of turns but without a map to show you where you are in the world? If so, can switch backwards and forwards between the map and the breadcrumb?
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Old 10-24-17, 09:30 AM   #25
njkayaker
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Originally Posted by europa View Post
Is a 'breadcrumb trail' just a route with warnings of turns but without a map to show you where you are in the world? If so, can switch backwards and forwards between the map and the breadcrumb?
The GPS displays your location, the path you want to follow (the "breadcrumb trail"), and, optionally, a map. All at the same time.

Some devices don't have maps. The ones that do will display the path over the map.

You can navigate by keeping your location on the path. Some units will give you a warning if you stray too far from the path.

"Warnings of turns" is an extra thing. Basically, this is done by marking locations (like waypoints) along the path that are "turns". When you get close to one of these points, it's announced as a "turn instruction".

Sometimes, these locations are embedded in the file you load to the unit. In other cases, the unit determines them by following the path and noting turns by changes in angle or seeing what roads the path appears to be following.
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