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GPS for dummies

Old 12-23-05, 11:12 PM
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I am a tech dinosaur ,like I am still on OS 8.. I know little about GPS units but I have noticed the GPS units have gotten increasing smaller, I am wondering have they come down to the size that they will fit on a handlbar like a traditional bike computer? Do they have similar featues such as speed, avg speed, ride time etc?
I would like the idea of not having wheel magnets and wires to fiddle with anymore.

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Old 12-23-05, 11:40 PM
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I know they have wrist ones that are fairly small, but not as small as a normal bike computer. The models with mid level functions have all the stuff you are looking for and can fit on a handle bar (maybe about the size of led bike light). Look at the etrex legend, it's a great combination of everything.
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Old 12-24-05, 04:53 AM
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GPS doesn't work well in city canyons with lots of tall buildings. It also doesn't work well in heavily forested areas where there is a canopy of trees above you, because it needs a direct line of sight to at least three birds.
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Old 12-24-05, 09:04 PM
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Originally Posted by velonomad
I am a tech dinosaur ,like I am still on OS 8.. I know little about GPS units but I have noticed the GPS units have gotten increasing smaller, I am wondering have they come down to the size that they will fit on a handlbar like a traditional bike computer? Do they have similar featues such as speed, avg speed, ride time etc?
I would like the idea of not having wheel magnets and wires to fiddle with anymore.
The GPS does not use magnets or wires. All it needs is a decent veiw of the sky and a good set of batteries.

And the GPS works just fine in the city, I have used it many times. Not sure about canyons. Trees should not present a problem as I frequently get a good fix in my upstairs home office. But it does depend on the GPS. My 76C and GPS 18 both get fixes in my office while my GPS 12 and GPSMap176 do not get a fix. But the later two are both older models.

The GPS can interfere with the computer. I had to rearrange my computer and GPS to avoid interference.

I have the Garmin GPSMap 76C that fits on my handlebars. The bracket and detailed maps are extra.


GPSMap76C $360
Maps $ 90-$110
Bracket $14

Technically the GPSMap76C is a marine GPS but it will work fine for the road. You might also look at the Garmin GpsMap 60C.

The map includes all of the US and covers some pretty minor roads. It does not cover bike trails but a topo map is avaliable that covers most trails. Maps are avaliable for Europe too. A non routing version for all of Europe will cost about $100. The routing version is much more expensive for Europe.


The maps are well worth the extra $$$ IMHO. I have a lot of experience with navigation and I still find it a pain to transfer GPS coordinates to a map (assuming you are lucky enough to have a map with GPS coordinates). I love just going out for rides and exploring new roads. I can use the GPS to help me find my way back, usually using a different route other than the one that got me to my destination.

The software will auto route for you both on the PC and right on the GPS. You can setup the software for bicycle so you can avoid interstates and such. You can also avoid roads that you mark though I have only used this feature on the PC.

The GPS provides all kinds of trip information. Heading (direction in which you are traveling), time traveled, time stopped, current speed, max speed average speed to name just a few. You can customize a screen with the data that you want to show.

One thing you should consider when selecting a new GPS and that is the power source that it uses. Many newer models use a battery pack which is a huge mistake for an outdoor device IMHO. If my 76C batteries run out and I don't have spare batteries, all I need to do is stop at the next 7-11 and I'm back in business. You would be out of luck with a dead battery pack until the next night at a hotel or unless you had a dynamo.

Dashboard


Data Screen



Map Screen

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Old 12-25-05, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by velonomad
I am a tech dinosaur ,like I am still on OS 8.. I know little about GPS units but I have noticed the GPS units have gotten increasing smaller, I am wondering have they come down to the size that they will fit on a handlbar like a traditional bike computer? Do they have similar featues such as speed, avg speed, ride time etc?
I would like the idea of not having wheel magnets and wires to fiddle with anymore.

If all you need is something that will only measure your speed, average, mph etc, keep the computer because it's more accurate. The GPS loses reception too many times during a ride to be reliable. The computer does this function slightly better.

But, if you want to trave 75 miles without a map, a GPS is the only way to go.
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Old 12-25-05, 06:15 PM
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I have a Garmin Vista. I'd rather use a map.
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Old 12-25-05, 06:58 PM
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The Vista is the way to go to save the money but I would still much rather have my GPSMap76C. To be fair, I bought it out of need in my software business but I would probably still buy one for use I the bike. I use a map in addition to the GPS. The paper map is a great way to get the big picture.
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Old 12-25-05, 07:26 PM
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My Vista has been trouble-prone. The click-stick stopped working, I sent it in for warranty repair. Got it back, the display developed this wierd venetian blind effect which would come and go.

Sent it back to Garmin, they said they replaced the display. When it came back, the display was crooked.

Now about a year later, the click stick is hosed again and the venetian blind effect is back on the now crooked display.

The mapquest software is terrible and overpriced.

If I want to get my Vista fixed again off warranty, they have a $125 flat rate for repairing it.

I think I'll just throw it in the trash. This is the third Garmin product I have owned, and they will never get another dime outa me.
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Old 12-25-05, 07:29 PM
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Thanks for the feedback, I didn't realize the GPS base maps could be both land and marine. that makes it even more useful since I mess about in boats also.
Am I correct in assuming that the mapping software is proprietary to each manufacturer? for instance my TopoUSA V5 will not work in a Garmin, will it?
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Old 12-25-05, 08:13 PM
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Originally Posted by velonomad
Thanks for the feedback, I didn't realize the GPS base maps could be both land and marine. that makes it even more useful since I mess about in boats also.
Am I correct in assuming that the mapping software is proprietary to each manufacturer? for instance my TopoUSA V5 will not work in a Garmin, will it?
Actually it is not the basemap. It is some of the functionality. The marine GPS devices have waypoint symbols for marine use (buoys, lights etc.) where the other GPS devices have those symbols reserved for something else.

All the Garmin GPS devices have the same basemap in the US. Except for major roads the map is pretty much worthless. You will need to buy a product like City Select to get any detail. I also own Blue Chart for the Chesapeake Bay. I use this on my 176. It is not as portable as the 76C but has a larger screen. The marine charts can be very expensive. The Chesapeake Bay cost over $100 alone.


Yes maps are proprietary by GPS manufacturer. With possible exception of the IQue (which turns a palm computer into a GPS). I believe this model will use ENC charts . ENC charts are available from the government for free but are for marine use only. The government does provide free digital road maps but they can't directly be used by any GPS including the IQue.

There is 3rd party software that allows you to make your own maps but this can be very tedious and those maps are not supported by Garmin. In theory, you could use this software to convert the free government road maps. You "might" also be able to convert your topo map with this software but it would not be easy.

Garmin and other manufacturers use these free maps and charts to create their own maps and charts to sell to you.
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Old 12-25-05, 08:20 PM
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Since you mess around in boats, I'll assume it is Lake Ontario? The Blue Chart is available for the Great Lakes but you need to buy one Blue Chart for each lake. That can get very expensive. Blue Chart is not useful for any smaller bodies of water. There is a Fishing Hotspot CD but that really only gives you waypoints and maybe slightly better map details on lakes and rivers. But it would not be used for navigation. Garmin will tell you that Blue Chart should not be used for navigation but it can be used safely as long as you are aware of alternate methods of navigation in event of failure.
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Old 12-25-05, 08:38 PM
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Sorry I said the Vista is the way to go to save money and that is not true. The no frills GPS is the Etrex and Geko. The vista is a form of the etrex with mapping and is a waste of money if you don't use the maps. I don't think the Vista maps can use City Select type maps and the basemap is pretty much worthless except for major roads.

If you want a small no no nonsense GPS then check out the Geko line.

The Edge is also a very interesting GPS built specific for cycling but it does not have maps.Click here for Garmin Website
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Old 12-25-05, 09:17 PM
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If I ever buy another GPS, it will be from someone other than Garmin. I strongly recommend staying away from their products. I'd take a look at the stuff from Meridian.
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Old 12-25-05, 09:52 PM
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Originally Posted by michaelnel
If I ever buy another GPS, it will be from someone other than Garmin. I strongly recommend staying away from their products. I'd take a look at the stuff from Meridian.
You are one person with one bad GPS. Garmin has millions of satisfied customers including me. I own 4 of their models and have had zero problems with any of them, with possible exception of a USB cable that was probably my fault in breaking it.
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Old 12-25-05, 10:42 PM
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Originally Posted by michaelnel
If I ever buy another GPS, it will be from someone other than Garmin. I strongly recommend staying away from their products. I'd take a look at the stuff from Meridian.
WOW..

You had a bad unit and got ripped off. Sorry to hear about it because my experience has been totally opposite. The stick works just as good as new on my Legend including the software. Last summer, the GPS was not locked to the handlebar and fell off!! I was sure it would have been broken but the device works just as good as new. In fact, I dropped it twice and the mirror does not have a scratch! I was thinking of buying a GPS from another company but not anymore. Those drops were hard but the unit survived so I'm sold.

The only gripe I have with Garmin cannot be resolved because they get all their data for their maps from the same two sources everyone else does. This information contains many errors and you'll discover it sooner or later. There are millions of points and much of is not updated. I've found the same errors in software from Microsoft Streets and Trips.

I've heard the Megellen makes good units so buy from them.
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Old 12-25-05, 10:57 PM
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My GPS has also fallen off a couple of times. Once it went skidding across the road. I have the dings to prove it. I finally wised up and make sure it's secure before getting under way.

My gripes are the same. Updates (if ever available) can be very expensive and aren't very frequent. This can really be a problem with marine charts. At the prices that are charged for the initial maps, updates really should be free if downloaded from their website.


There is a PC mapping software application that allows you to print sections of charts at a specific scale. This is a great feature for repairing or updating paper charts. I wish MapSource had this feature.

And all of these companies get the U.S. road maps from the US Government. Since the updates come from the government, the companies are pretty much limited. But a track to map feature built into the software would really help. You could ride a trail or road, record the track and use that to update the map.

What is the other source?

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Old 12-26-05, 12:08 AM
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1) I've had good experiences with the Garmin including my Legend flying off my bike at over 20mph with only a few chips on it. Sorry to hear someone who had a bad experience with one. Some geocachers have reported problems with the joysticks on the Garmin units but most owners are happy with the units.

2) The technology is there to make the screens smaller, the real restriction is the size of the antenna which they can not make much smaller.

3) About the baseline maps. I compared my Garmin vs a Lowrance H20 vs Magellan and found the base maps to be very identical. I couldn't find any differences in my local areas except for the resolution of the screen, both had the exact same roads for the basemap. I found the basemaps to be fine when I toured but not a total replacement for paper maps as I found out when I got to Lake Charles, LA and discovered there was no directly way to enter Texas legally on a bike.

4) I would recommend a GPS that can upload and download from your computer. The Geko 100, Explorist 100,200,300 (the 210 can upload), and Lowrance GO's can not do this I believe. The Geko 200 and Yellow Etrex can but you'll have to buy the cable seperately. The Legend, Vista and more expensive Garmin units usually come with the transfer cable.

5) If you are in really deep forest or in a narrow canyon, you can lose reception. I've found in big cities like Baltimore and Houston, you can usually keep track of enough satelittes to keep a fix.

6) You can use your GPS for a lot more than bike riding. Use it in your car, geocaching, boating etc.

I tend to use both a cylcometer and a GPS.
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Old 12-26-05, 05:08 AM
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Ooops I meant Magellan, not Meridian.
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Old 12-26-05, 09:14 AM
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I have a Garmin Quest which is small enough to fit on the bike. The mapping software is compatible with my other GPS (Garmin GPSMap 276C). No problems with it so far - even in the trees and around tall buildings it seems to work very well…

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Old 12-26-05, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by michaelnel
Ooops I meant Magellan, not Meridian.
Actually you did get the model right but I thought there was a Meridian GPS at one time. Magellan is a decent product but Garmin seems to have a wider selection and Garim seems to have a bit more support by other software companies.
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Old 12-26-05, 10:22 AM
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Thanks again, I am going out this afternoon and see what I can find . Someone else PM'ed and said they were using a Pocket PC with a GPS card in it. I'll check that out too
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Old 12-26-05, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Wil Davis
I have a Garmin Quest which is small enough to fit on the bike. The mapping software is compatible with my other GPS (Garmin GPSMap 276C). No problems with it so far - even in the trees and around tall buildings it seems to work very well…

- Wil
I like the Quest also but I would be afraid it's shape would take up a lot of handlebar real estate.
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Old 12-26-05, 11:38 AM
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Very informative thread. Are there any Eastern Canadians who have used a GPS for their tours on the back roads. I'm thinking of going from Montreal to Quebec City and then thru NB to Prince Edward Island and finally to Nova Scotia using less travelled highways. I prefer to stay off of Number 1. Would a GPS be useful?
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Old 12-26-05, 11:47 AM
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Montreal, Quebec City and the other major cites are covered pretty well by City Select. If you give me a city then a road, I would be happy to see if I can find it on City Select.

The North of CA is not covered very well but then I'm not sure if there are many roads that far North anyway.
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Old 12-26-05, 12:31 PM
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Can you try Fredericton and Moncton, please? Both in New Brunswick. Or highway 105 and 112 , also in New Brunswick. Thanks
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