Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Garmin GPS feedback

Old 04-05-05, 03:24 PM
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I'm looking at a few of the Garmin GPS's... I want to get one that supports mapping, so we can use it in the car, etc as well as while cycling.

Anyone have any good feedback on the following models, and how they might compare?

Garmin eTrex - Legend Color (~$239 after rebate)
Garmin GPSMAP 60C Color (~$329 after rebate)

Any others?
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Old 04-05-05, 03:35 PM
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im using a garmin etrex legend vista but with no color... it has a barebones map in there but a detailed map can be uploaded into it. ive been told that color on a small screen degrades perceived resolution ... or something to that effect. i havent used many others for comparison, but the vista gets a 7/10 on controls ... not the most intuitive but you get used to it after a while. if you have the battery life of other models, for comparison, the vista runs about 3.5 hrs for me on nimh
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Old 04-05-05, 03:45 PM
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I have the GPSMAP 60CS and it's very nice. I use it in my car and carry it on the bike. The eTrex Legend is much siimpler and the display is smaller. OTOH, it's lighter and more compact.

The problem with apping on a handheld GPS is that the maps are hard to read if they are detailed, until you zoom in to a small area. Try them out in the store to see how much you gain with more resolution.
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Old 04-05-05, 04:51 PM
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Yea... the problem I've seen with the Etrex is that I believe they are not NMEA compatible, so you can't use other software with it if you ever want to. Also, they have much less memory, so maps must be smaller if you upload them.

I'm just not sure what other issues there are between the various units. I DO KNOW that I want USB connectivity for data downloads, etc.
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Old 04-05-05, 04:56 PM
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I'm about a week (and about four rides) into GPSMAP 60C ownership . . . and it's totally cool!

I bought the City Select mapping software, too. It was a major extravagance, but being able to upload and log my rides, then to view the actual elevation profiles (allowing calculation of % grade on the climbs) is pretty cool.

The unit and the software also allow selecting 'bicycle' as your preferred mode of transportation. From what I can see so far, that bypasses the kind of roads we'd prefer to bypass (highways, interstates, etc.). As I test it, entering start and end points that I know, it does an excellent job of picking bike-friendly routes.

It was a bunch of $ (I paid more than you're talking about @ REI . . . like an idiot. Costco has 'em, too), but it's a cool addition to the fleet of neat gadgets.
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Old 04-05-05, 05:51 PM
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it's probably more expensive than the other models you have listed, but I use a Garmin GPS V in the car and on the bike for directions and mapping. It's fantastic.
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Old 04-05-05, 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by MikeN
Yea... the problem I've seen with the Etrex is that I believe they are not NMEA compatible, so you can't use other software with it if you ever want to. Also, they have much less memory, so maps must be smaller if you upload them.

I'm just not sure what other issues there are between the various units. I DO KNOW that I want USB connectivity for data downloads, etc.
eTrex are NMEA compatible. You have to choose the setting- NMEA or Garmin in the setup menu before hooking up to your source (PC or other). I have used my etrex for three years- on the bike, in the car, and on the water. Great tool. What others say about mapping is correct.
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Old 04-05-05, 06:11 PM
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I have the 60C and love it. It's much nicer using the color screen than a greyscale screen.
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Old 04-05-05, 06:13 PM
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I've thought about the Garmin 60cs using a bike mount either from RAM or wait until a a decent handlebar mount comes out. It has a nice screen and beeps when you come up to a turn, not that it matters much on a bike, but could be handy riding in a new city.

Currently, I'm using the Garmin Forerunner 301, GPS with a HRM. It is sweet and allows you to log your rides on motionbased.com, where you can view a complete profile (distance, speed, elevation, weather, wind, heart rate) along your entire route. It has little use as a navigation device, however, but it's light and can be used for running and swimming (tucked under a swim cap) as well.
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Old 04-05-05, 06:35 PM
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I have an etrex legend bw. I love it. It helped at night on the brevet I just rode as it is hard to see the road signs but the GPS knows just where to turn you and turns the backlight on for you just before you get there. Still learning cool things it can do. I use delorm Topo USA to load my routes and it works great.
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Old 04-06-05, 07:36 AM
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I have had the Etrex Vista C for about a month. It's almost the same as the Vista but has an altimeter. I got the City Select software, too. I use it all the time. The only problem I've had with it is that when I download a route into it, and there's a detour or road closure, it re-calculates the route automatically. One time it kept trying to put me on the freeway. I just kept riding on a parallel road and it finally got the idea. The unit has 24 megs of memory (the old ones have eight), so I can get most of southern California on my unit.
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Old 04-06-05, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by lsits
I have had the Etrex Vista C for about a month. It's almost the same as the Vista but has an altimeter. I got the City Select software, too. I use it all the time. The only problem I've had with it is that when I download a route into it, and there's a detour or road closure, it re-calculates the route automatically. One time it kept trying to put me on the freeway. I just kept riding on a parallel road and it finally got the idea. The unit has 24 megs of memory (the old ones have eight), so I can get most of southern California on my unit.
Assuming yours is at all like mine . . .

Under "Routing Setup" >> "Follow Road Options," does yours have a configuration option called "Calculate Routes For?" On my 60C, the pulldown list includes
- car/motorcycle
- truck
- bus
- emergency
- taxi
- delivery
- pedestrian
- bicycle

I can't find anything definitive in the literature (and mine's only a bit over a week old), but I'm fairly sure it changes the routing, automatically keeping you off of higher-mph streets, etc.
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Old 04-06-05, 01:44 PM
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what a bunch of gadget geeks! road biking is about you and the least junk in the trunk possible! save the money for better bike stuff and use a map.
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Old 04-06-05, 03:15 PM
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A map??

How gauche.

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Old 04-06-05, 10:49 PM
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Anyone have any good feedback on the following models, and how they might compare?

Garmin eTrex - Legend Color (~$239 after rebate)
Garmin GPSMAP 60C Color (~$329 after rebate)
You can find loads of information about GPS units in the "GPS Units and Software" forum here.

I've got an eTrex Vista (not the VistaC) and a GPSMAP 60CS, and I've used both extensively. A buddy of mine just bought an eTrex LegendC, which I had some opportunity to play with, and the family also has a 76CS.

Between the two you mentioned, I much prefer the eTrex form factor for handlebar use; I tried the 60CS with the Garmin mount on my old hybrid bike, and it just didn't feel right. The 60CS is huge compared to the other stuff on the bars, and the mount for it doesn't feel particularly durable: the tongue which engages the bottom of the unit seems a bit tenuous, like it may pop out if one takes a hard bump. The eTrex, while large compared to a bike computer, fits much more naturally on both my hybrid and my roadie.

I've also found that, with the backlight off in the daytime, the Vista's grayscale display is easier to read across a variety of lighting angles. While the 60CS color display does a great (even better?) job in the sunlight if you angle it right, having it fixed on the bars keeps you from effectively doing so.

A third issue is that the antenna types differ; my 60CS prefers to be vertical for optimal reception, while the Vista prefers to be horizonal. Without going into external antenna territory, the Vista seemed to hold the satellite signal notably better when riding on my bars, since I angle the displays closer to horizontal.

So, for now, the Vista rides on my handlebars when I'm mapping out a new route, or climbing. The grade values and vertical speeds it reports seem a bit coarse, but overall it gets the job done. (See attachment.)

In totality, I vastly prefer the 60CS: its faster processor is much more responsive when panning maps, it holds more map data, it does autorouting, the batteries last longer, and the display is nicer. The VistaC and LegendC share these advantages, apart from the "more map data". For in-car use, the 60CS can be hooked to a ~$30 external antenna which vastly boosts reception, and together with a (cheap) car power cable, it does a fair job at car navigation. I bought my accessories from GPS Geek. One of my few gripes about the 60CS is that, due to the curved, hard backing, the 60CS doesn't sit nicely on a flat surface; it tends to rock and slide all over the place.

For cycling, however, I prefer my old Vista due to the size and antenna. This works out well, since my 60CS seems to have taken up residence in my girlfriend's purse... I'd take a LegendC or a VistaC over the old Vista, though.

A few closing notes: currently, the firmware (latest, v3.70) for the 60C/CS and 76C/CS units is buggy and will crash if you do certain operations, and previous versions would crash at particular map points. For a unit that's been out around a year, I think that flat out sucks, and I'm disappointed with Garmin on that score. It's pretty sad. Whichever unit you get, plan to update the firmware at least once while the Garmin software guys get their act together.

Finally, I highly recommend using rechargeable batteries. GPS handhelds will eat through batteries quickly if you leave them on for hours to collect trip statistics. Rechargeables work quite well; in my own testing, my Vista ran for almost exactly 15 straight hours on two 2100mAh Energizer NiMH cells (receiver mode "normal", contrast 25%, backlight off, magnetic compass off, sitting still with a sat fix). My 60CS ran for 23h17m on the same type of cells, with a similar configuration. Switching to "battery saver" mode boosted runtime by about 30% when the units were kept still. The compass draws a notable amount of power, and the backlight draws a lot (particuarly on the color units, if you turn it up high).

More recent rechargeables have higher capacities, and several companies are now offering systems which recharge their cells in a mere 15 minutes. I personally use the Ray-o-vac model PS5 two-position charger with their 15-minute "IC3" cells for my GPS units, and I couldn't be happier. (See attachment; the charger has no external wall-wart, it plugs straight to AC with a fold-away plug.)

I hope this is helpful!

-JAB

Last edited by jab; 04-06-05 at 10:55 PM.
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Old 04-06-05, 11:23 PM
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Anyone have any good feedback on the following models, and how they might compare?
Oh, I neglected to mention the differences between models re: the compass and altimeter.

Most of Garmin's handhelds are available with a magnetic compass and altimeter, or without:
eTrex VistaC == eTrex LegendC + compass + altimeter
GPSMAP 60CS == GPSMAP 60C + compass + altimeter
eTrex Vista == eTrex Legend + compass + altimeter + 16MiB more RAM
GPSMAP 76CS == GPSMAP 76C + compass + altimeter
(etc. for eTrex Summit vs. basic eTrex, GPSMAP 76S vs 76, ...)

The compass is a magnetic sensor that lets the GPS unit determine the direction it's facing when the unit is sitting still and is level. Without this, a stationary unit has no way of knowing which way it's pointing; it can only tell its location. However, as soon as the unit starts to move even slowly, the satellites provide direction info.

You must re-calibrate the electronic compass before use, every time the batteries are removed.

The altimeter is a barometric pressure sensor which detects small changes in air pressure. This allows the unit to detect small changes in altitude, such as when climbing. The GPS satellites provide altitude information, but it's substantially less accurate than their horizontal position info, while we are much more sensitive to changes in elevation, particularly if they're uphill. There are two main causes for these air pressure changes: changes in altitude, and pressure cycles inherent in weather patterns. Combining the detailed pressure change info from the barometric sensor with the coarse altitude info from the satellites, the GPS unit can correct for changes in weather patterns, leaving behind (hopefully) only the pressure changes resulting from altitude changes.

You should re-calibrate the altimeter before use, every time the unit is powered-on, because ambient pressures have changed while the unit was sleeping.

Personally, I leave the compasses on my units disabled, because the compass draws substantial power, and I don't care which way the unit is facing when I'm stopped. Usually the unit isn't facing forward then anyway, because on a bike I've got the handlebars angled to the side while waiting for a light, or in a car the unit is sitting in some random orientation. The altimeter is always enabled, but as far as I know it uses very little power. For driving and general use, I don't pay any attention to the altimeter, but I do use it when cycling: I like to know how steep hills are, how fast I'm climbing, and things like that.

-JAB

[edit: the altimeter uses little power, not pressure. whoops.]

Last edited by jab; 04-07-05 at 09:58 AM.
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Old 04-07-05, 03:47 AM
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Excellent posts, Jab. Many thanks for the details.
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Old 04-07-05, 07:04 AM
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really drives home my point
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Old 04-07-05, 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by bikerski
really drives home my point
Luddite.

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Old 04-07-05, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by bikerski
what a bunch of gadget geeks! road biking is about you and the least junk in the trunk possible! save the money for better bike stuff and use a map.
So, bikerski- you ride a single speed or fixie? Use the technology you find compelling. BTW- I'm a former surveyor, and know well how to use maps- did for years, as a matter of fact.

I have a Garmin legend and have been very satisfied. We live out here in the west, and have used it to verify location on tricky hikes, and I've used it on my (various) bikes. I also use it to clock dog walks, and commutes. A fun tool. Can I live without it? Of course.
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Old 04-07-05, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by neil0502
Assuming yours is at all like mine . . .

Under "Routing Setup" >> "Follow Road Options," does yours have a configuration option called "Calculate Routes For?" On my 60C, the pulldown list includes
- car/motorcycle
- truck
- bus
- emergency
- taxi
- delivery
- pedestrian
- bicycle

I can't find anything definitive in the literature (and mine's only a bit over a week old), but I'm fairly sure it changes the routing, automatically keeping you off of higher-mph streets, etc.
Thanks for the info. I guess I'll have to break down and read the manual.
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Old 04-08-05, 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by slooney
So, bikerski- you ride a single speed or fixie? Use the technology you find compelling. BTW- I'm a former surveyor, and know well how to use maps- did for years, as a matter of fact.

I have a Garmin legend and have been very satisfied. We live out here in the west, and have used it to verify location on tricky hikes, and I've used it on my (various) bikes. I also use it to clock dog walks, and commutes. A fun tool. Can I live without it? Of course.
point was spend money on the bike, so no single speed for me. Hikes=no roads so GPS OK. Also OK for my boat trips on large, tricky canada lakes. Not OK to junk up the sleek, fast road bike that is so freeing if you leave the baggage home.
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Old 04-08-05, 09:51 AM
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For those of you with the GPSMap 60.... What handlebar mount are you using? I have oversized bars, and dont think their 1" bar mount will work for me.
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Old 04-08-05, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by MikeN
For those of you with the GPSMap 60.... What handlebar mount are you using? I have oversized bars, and dont think their 1" bar mount will work for me.
I throw the thing in my Camelback. Fits well and seems to have survived my last mtb endo unscathed.

It's not that there wouldn't be advantages to a bar-mount. It's more that I'm afraid bikerski will see me on the road
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Old 04-08-05, 10:09 AM
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I just bought a Garmin Fortrex 201 and have used it twice. I generally like it, but find it quirky in two areas.

1. Trees seem to block the satellites....so if I am descending a hill at 25 mph (my bike computer)....the Garmin may show my speed at 15 mph and the altimeter may not change at all. It does catch up on the elevation at the bottom of the hill, but it may take a minute or two.

2. What is bugging me, but without a clear understanding, is total ride average.
I compared the Garmin to two other cycle computers, each on a different bike. These cycle computers have been compared to other bicycle as well. All the cycle computers fall within the same overall ride averages, adjusting for riders who ride faster and wait, etc.

The Garmin seems to register .3 mph slower ride average than the slowest computer. I understand the the unit may need a few moments to re calculate, if it lost the satellites, but I would have expected it to be closer to the cycle computers than it is.

Unfortunately, I do not know if there is a better solution.
================
I do need to keep my bicycle computer on, as well, to get speeds when under trees. If I am leading a ride, I need to keep within a speed range for the group.
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