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Favorite GPS while touring

Old 12-07-19, 10:23 AM
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robow
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Favorite GPS while touring

First let me say that I apologize for repeating an often asked question but I would like to get the most up to date information possible. Mrs. Santa asked me if I would like a bike mounted GPS that would be useful for touring but I'm new to this and when looking at all the models available, my eyes begin to glaze over. What I'm most interested in is the largest screen for my aging eyes along with the greatest rechargeable battery life, which will allow me to do basically two things:
1. Download easily a prepared route from Ride with GPS that will give me audible clues as to when to turn, much like my car's Garmin
2. General mapping of my present location that can offer a suggested route to get to somewhere desired if asked.
3. What other features do you find invaluable when you're touring ?
I really don't care about loading my day's ride onto a computer afterwards nor do I need things like current and average speed, etc that my current Sigma computer offers.
Thank you for your patience and help.
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Old 12-07-19, 11:03 AM
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Originally Posted by robow View Post
First let me say that I apologize for repeating an often asked question but I would like to get the most up to date information possible. Mrs. Santa asked me if I would like a bike mounted GPS that would be useful for touring but I'm new to this and when looking at all the models available, my eyes begin to glaze over. What I'm most interested in is the largest screen for my aging eyes along with the greatest rechargeable battery life, which will allow me to do basically two things:
1. Download easily a prepared route from Ride with GPS that will give me audible clues as to when to turn, much like my car's Garmin
2. General mapping of my present location that can offer a suggested route to get to somewhere desired if asked.
3. What other features do you find invaluable when you're touring ?
I really don't care about loading my day's ride onto a computer afterwards nor do I need things like current and average speed, etc that my current Sigma computer offers.
Thank you for your patience and help.
I went with the Lezyne Mega XL. You can download routes from your phone and it does have annoying alarms for being off your mapped routes. What drew me to it most was the battery life. It says it has a 48 hour life but, in reality, itís more like a 24 to 35 hour battery life. Thatís still enough that I donít have to charge it everyday. It also records very slow speeds...like walking speed...which isnít something the previous GPS computer I owned did. The display is black and white but I donít find that to be a problem.
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Old 12-07-19, 11:50 AM
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I've been using a $100 7 inch LG tablet mounted on my handlebar, running the "Urban Biker" app for 3 years now. It's also useful for other map programs, weather info & radar, playing MP3s, checking email etc. Yes you could probably do all that with a smartphone, but I find the tablet screen is easier read quickly and easier to deal with. It also saves the battery on my phone in case I need to make an emergency call for help.
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Old 12-07-19, 12:33 PM
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I am not going to suggest a specific model because I want a GPS to use AA batteries and work well backpacking, kayaking, etc. I suspect you will be happier with a cycling specific one.

But, I will point out that if you can install free maps that you obtain off the internet onto your GPS, that is a big plus. I use Garmin GPS units, and use these mapping sites. I can put the IMG file onto my Garmin (extra Micro SD card needed for that) and I can choose which map I want to use. If you get a GPS with the ability to load and select different maps, you might find that to be advantageous like I do. The GPS needs to have a memory card slot for that if it does not have a huge internal memory.

On this one, I find my map might not load into GPS if the map is larger than about 1.5 gb on the memory card, so I keep my files below that size. I only use the routable bike option. This is my most used map.
Free worldwide Garmin maps from OpenStreetMap

This one probably not so useful for cycling, I mostly use this one for water sports and wilderness camping/hiking.
https://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/byuser/135/

This one is more road (car) driving oriented.
https://www.openmapchest.org/

If you are going to Europe, another option to have.
Europe - OpenFietsMap

I have used this a few times when cycling in hilly areas, but elevation contours are widely spaced and in metric units so I suspect most people would not find it that useful. I am thinking about a tour in the rockies this summer, I would probably use this one some of the time.
USA OSM Topo Routable | GMapTool

Cycling, 90 percent of the time I am using the first of the above links for the cycle routeable maps, but I like to have the others on my memory card too.

But, not all GPS units can be loaded with free off-the-internet maps, so that complicates things a bit.

My non-cycling GPS in the photo.



You mentioned aging eyes, I find that bifocal reader sunglasses are a big asset, I often use these for cycling.
https://www.readers.com/bridgewater-...l?showid=41954
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Old 12-07-19, 12:42 PM
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One more thing, some GPS units have soft plastic screens, I have started putting a clear piece of 2 inch wide packing tape on the top of my screen when I buy a new GPS, then occasionally replace the plastic tape when it gets scratched. Takes some care to get it on a screen with almost no bubbles under the tape, but it is doable. Tiny bubbles seem to disappear after several weeks.
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Old 12-07-19, 06:30 PM
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Could you get Mrs Santa to get you a new smart phone? (Or buy one that is a couple of generations behind flagship models)

A phone is often the best alternative, if you tend to ride in areas where there is cellular coverage, and in fair weather. Especially since you don't care about stats. The simplest scenario is riding with gmaps. There are also many good navigation applications, free or cheap.

A mounting system such as quadlock and you are all set.

You may want to look at this thread

Last edited by gauvins; 12-07-19 at 06:35 PM.
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Old 12-07-19, 06:46 PM
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
Could you get Mrs Santa to get you a new smart phone? (Or buy one that is a couple of generations behind flagship models)

A phone is often the best alternative, if you tend to ride in areas where there is cellular coverage, and in fair weather. Especially since you don't care about stats. The simplest scenario is riding with gmaps. There are also many good navigation applications, free or cheap.

A mounting system such as quadlock and you are all set.

You may want to look at this thread
As much as I wanted to recommend a Garmin Edge 1030 with the xtra battery pack, which gets you up to 44 hrs. of “rated” life, I think I’ll agree with gauvins idea of a cheap Android or iPhone and some free GPS software. Add battery sticks as needed, maybe a waterproof case, a decent h-bar mount. Tons cheaper, even though the 1030 is a nice unit.
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Old 12-07-19, 07:38 PM
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It may depend on how long are your tours and how often will you have plug in access...kind of unrefined and low end but used an etrex 25 with touch screen and lithium AA batteries for the GDMBR...time to go fondle and view some at your nearest REI.
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Old 12-07-19, 09:25 PM
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On a sunny day I can't see my phone screen at all. Maybe some of the others are brighter, but mine is worthless for outdoor use on a bright day.
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Old 12-07-19, 11:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
On a sunny day I can't see my phone screen at all. Maybe some of the others are brighter, but mine is worthless for outdoor use on a bright day.
+1 and I want to be able to save my phone batteries for more important tasks, such as finding my next ice cream or checking in on Bike Forums Touring section : )
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Old 12-08-19, 05:49 AM
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Last time I checked bike specific GPS models all failed to meet my criteria. A smart phone or sometimes a handheld type GPS depending on the trip works better for me. Most often it is the smartphone. A few random thoughts below:
  • A phone can be used as a wifi only device with the phone function turned off. Turn on wifi only when in use and the battery life becomes pretty good. This can be a second phone or your regular phone.
  • Displays vary some are better than others. Newer ones are pretty good, some of the ones a few generations back weren't too bad. If you shade them from direct sun most are manageable.
  • Older phones (a few models back) had removable batteries. The batteries were cheap if bought from a battery supplier and light to carry. Those phones are not in much demand now and can be had cheaply.
  • Using text and email rather than voice to stay in touch with home extends battery life a lot as does keeping any wireless functions turned off.
  • I have only taken a handheld GPS when I went off road and wanted to use AA or AAA batteries and wanted to have continuous turn by turn directions and detailed terrain mapping. These days I might use my phone for that, but depending on where I was might take paper topos and/or a GPS.
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Old 12-08-19, 06:23 AM
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Originally Posted by robow View Post
..........
2. General mapping of my present location that can offer a suggested route to get to somewhere desired if asked..
In my experience most gps units that can plot a route do so poorly. They simply do not have the capacity to get from A to B in the most suitable way for a bicycle. They go for the direct route. In urban situations that may not be ideal.
in my opinion far better to use your phone for that, then send the route to your unit.

As for what else on a touring unit?
It should be reliable, beating in mind that any unit is only as good as the planned route. Reliable in the sense that it works every time, that it's responsive (not slow in urban areas, for example). For me, with a dynohub, it should be rechargeable on the go.

Ideally, the best thing to do would be to test different models out. Know anyone with any units?
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Old 12-08-19, 07:15 AM
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Originally Posted by HobbesOnTour View Post
In my experience most gps units that can plot a route do so poorly. They simply do not have the capacity to get from A to B in the most suitable way for a bicycle. They go for the direct route. In urban situations that may not be ideal.
In my VERY limited experience using a new Edge Explore, I find this to be true. I have not used it on tour yet, but just on local roads within 25 or so miles of home that I know well. When asked to plot a route, it tends to favor more major roads, and where I live that means traffic. I have preferences set to avoid highways and to use "popularity routing" as I believe it is called, but my known routes are much nicer albeit marginally longer.
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Old 12-08-19, 07:22 AM
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Originally Posted by HobbesOnTour View Post

Ideally, the best thing to do would be to test different models out. Know anyone with any units?
A friend of mine bought the latest greatest Garmin 1030 but feels the battery life is not anywhere near his older 830 and somewhat regrets the purchase (mind you a sample of one)
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Old 12-08-19, 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by robow View Post
A friend of mine bought the latest greatest Garmin 1030 but feels the battery life is not anywhere near his older 830 and somewhat regrets the purchase (mind you a sample of one)
The thing is the units from different companies work in subtly different ways. The best way to figure out the best unit for you is try what is available and test them in situations you foresee needing them.

For what it's worth I use a Wahoo Elemnt bought specifically for touring. As a unit it is just what I want. Simple maps, always works, reasonable battery life, excellent visibility in all weathers.

It won't do on the fly routing - the companion phone app does that (with internet connection). Not great routes though.

The newer Elemnt Roam does it on the unit, but I have no experience of that. My personal belief is that such a small unit cannot be a good gps navigator and a good planner.
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Old 12-08-19, 11:31 AM
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Originally Posted by robow View Post
+1 and I want to be able to save my phone batteries for more important tasks, such as finding my next ice cream or checking in on Bike Forums Touring section : )
There are things you can do wrt the battery issue:

1. instead of investing in, and carrying, a dedicated bike GPS, get a battery bank.
2. the display consumes 70%+ of total energy. If your next turn is miles away, set the display off, and back on whenever you need an update. Battery should last more than a day.
3. some older models had removable batteries (eg. Samsung S5). I have 4 spares and a charger made for them, which avoids inefficient charging a battery to charge a battery. Useful on longer tours.

wrt unreadable displays... true, dedicated units now use reflective displays that are more easily read in direct sunshine. But unless you have very old smartphone, it should generally be easy to read. I recall having to sometimes put my hand over the phone to shade the display, but that would be quite rare. My mounting bracket can be tilted -- a small change in angle is usually enough to make the screen readable.

I don't remember not being able to find a gelati EVER!
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Old 12-08-19, 12:13 PM
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My five week bike tour this past summer, most days i planned out the route using my GPS (Garmin 64) in tour cycling mode to pick the route. If it picked an odd looking route, sometimes I also had it calculate the route in car driving mode to see how it compared. For my phone, I did not have a local sim card with data, thus only had data if I had wifi. When I had wifi, if I was unsure if the GPS calculated route was the best route I would check the route on Komoot Android app (using minimize ascent mode) and maybe also check the route on Maps.Me Android app, On the bike, I only navigated from my GPS, not by phone. But sometimes I would take the route that one of the phone apps picked instead of my GPS recommended route.

But maybe a quarter of the time the route on the paper map looked best, so i would take that instead of any of the electronic routes. The electronic routes would often tell me to bypass bike paths and often had a strong preference for state or county roads over local roads, but many times a local road was a much shorter distance or maybe I chose to ride a bike path instead of roads that day.

Bottom line, all of the electronic routing methods have eccentricities of their own, most are good, but every method I have used I have at times found I wanted to do something other than the electronic method said i should do. Thus, bring a paper map and if the GPS can plot the roads you want to take on the map, do that. In the photo above, there was a reason for the map on the top of my handlebar bag.
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Old 12-08-19, 03:34 PM
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I had recently become a fan of the YT videos put out by the Bicycle Touring Pro, also known as Darren Alff. I might disagree with some choices he makes about gear, clothing (why does he ride in shorts when it's 35 degrees out in northern Norway ?) etc.... but found it fascinating that he can navigate all over the Euro continent using an Android phone stashed in his front bag. He uses a standard good old wired cycling computer for speed, distances, etc.....takes out the phone when he needs route info. His routes are also calculated with the phone mapping app (name escapes me). I do suspect that he finds WiFi to be more reliable in a lot of the places he rides in Europe, which tend to be more populated than say, Utah, thus can use this method. And of course you can always download maps to a phone to use when there's no WiFi or cell data.
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Old 12-08-19, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by kaos joe View Post
In my VERY limited experience using a new Edge Explore, I find this to be true. I have not used it on tour yet, but just on local roads within 25 or so miles of home that I know well. When asked to plot a route, it tends to favor more major roads, and where I live that means traffic. I have preferences set to avoid highways and to use "popularity routing" as I believe it is called, but my known routes are much nicer albeit marginally longer.
I recall reading a few years back how Garmin pays/payed NavTeq - a separate company, to "scout" out appropriate routes for DRIVING instructions, using folks in a car with sophisticated GPS and mapping software, to figure out good ways to get from Point A to Point B thru NYC and NJ, as example.

Issue with the cycling computers is there's no way they can suggest or even develop an algorithm to guide cyclists on appropriate roads. Too many choices for that poor old, and very expensive for what it does, GPS unit. Garmin and Strava use, separately, Popularity Routing and Heat Map, to make recommendations based on what roads other cyclists have ridden on and in theory, the device/app can help with routing. But that says nothing about whether the many, many cyclists biking down assorted roads actually found those roads to be appropriate for cycling.

I did notice today that RWGPS has (so they say) improved the ability of the mobile apps to generate routes. Haven't tried it yet. I'm always assuming the best method for in advance route generation is to use RWGPS to let me choose a route, which I then send to the device. Takes away any spontaneity, but somewhat more reliable in route finding, especially if you also use Google street view and satellite view to check questionable areas.
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Old 12-08-19, 06:12 PM
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On battery and screen brightness, the cell phones that I have used over time needed backlighting to see the screen.

My two newest Garmin GPS units (non-cycling, general recreation grade, models 62S and 64) are quite readable in bright light with zero backlighting. Yup, sunny day or light overcast day, I have the backlight turned off. When the sun is low in morning or evening, then I need some backlighting on my Garmins to see them. The Garmin 64 is the one in the photo in one of my posts above. But I do not know if the cycling versions of Garmin GPS units have the same type of display that is readable without backlighting. Perhaps others that know can comment?.

The only GPS units I have used are Garmin, I have no comments on the screens on other brands.
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Old 12-08-19, 06:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
Issue with the cycling computers is there's no way they can suggest or even develop an algorithm to guide cyclists on appropriate roads.
Also, different cyclists have different road preferences.

Drivers generally are interested in the shortest/fastest routes.

Plus, if a route for driving is a bit longer than optimal or goes up a hill, the driver isn't likely to notice or care.

It's much easier to generate routes for drivers than it is for cyclists.
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Old 12-08-19, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
But I do not know if the cycling versions of Garmin GPS units have the same type of display that is readable without backlighting. Perhaps others that know can comment?
Yes, the cycling unit do have a screen that can be read in sunlight without a backlight.

These are "transreflective" screens.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transf...rystal_display

Smartphones (typically) don't have transreflective screens. The only way they are readable is with a backlight. Given how bright the sun can be, it's hard to have a backlight that's bright enough to compete.

The transreflective screens appear kind of muted/washed-out with a backlight but they are readable without a backlight. It's a compromise but one that is appropriate for the application.
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Old 12-08-19, 06:36 PM
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Originally Posted by HobbesOnTour View Post
The newer Elemnt Roam does it on the unit,...
No, the Roam works just like the other units. It just has color screen. They do have some ability to generate a route back to the start, it appears.

https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/05/...th-review.html

It’s best to start out with what’s new in the unit. For this I’m using the existing BOLT/ELEMNT as the reference point. Both units share the same firmware, with the only differences being the extra LED strip and screen size. So feature-wise, everything from those past units is there, and it retains the LED’s of the larger format ELEMNT (side and top). Thus everything below assumes that as the baseline.

Last edited by njkayaker; 12-08-19 at 07:14 PM.
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Old 12-08-19, 08:37 PM
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I would not rely on a cell phone with a GPS app for touring. Here's why:
1. Rain: Unless your phone is waterproof, it's no good. We get plenty of unexpected rain here in Florida, especially in the summer.
2. Sun: In the brutal summer months here in southern Florida, the sun cooks my cell phone to the point it automatically turns off. If you're touring in brutal sun and heat, don't expect the phone to stay on all day. My Garmin does not overheat in our Florida summer middays.
3. GPS tracking availability: A cell phone has GPS capability that is not as strong (reliable) as dedicated GPS units. I'm not sure how many satellites my Garmin 820 picks up, but my backpacking Garmin picks up far more satellites than my cell phone. I've been hiking when my cell phone has no idea where we are, but my backpacking Garmin has me pinpointed within about five or six feet.

Those are my two cents.
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Old 12-08-19, 09:03 PM
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Steve B.
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Originally Posted by Bassmanbob View Post
I would not rely on a cell phone with a GPS app for touring. Here's why:
1. Rain: Unless your phone is waterproof, it's no good. We get plenty of unexpected rain here in Florida, especially in the summer.
2. Sun: In the brutal summer months here in southern Florida, the sun cooks my cell phone to the point it automatically turns off. If you're touring in brutal sun and heat, don't expect the phone to stay on all day. My Garmin does not overheat in our Florida summer middays.
3. GPS tracking availability: A cell phone has GPS capability that is not as strong (reliable) as dedicated GPS units. I'm not sure how many satellites my Garmin 820 picks up, but my backpacking Garmin picks up far more satellites than my cell phone. I've been hiking when my cell phone has no idea where we are, but my backpacking Garmin has me pinpointed within about five or six feet.

Those are my two cents.
Begs the question of for touring, do you need an on-the-bar navigation device ?. If not and the next turn is in 10 miles then the occasional glance at the screen might suffice. But I agree that to use in the rain you need an expensive waterproof case and the phone is still hard to read in sunlight. My iPhone 8 is impossible to read in sunlight and I’d not want that on my h-bar.
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