Using a GPS as a Bike Computer
Update: 8/24/2007 – Garmin Maps – Big Price Increase
Update 4/15/2008 – Garmin Maps – Price Increase Continued
I can’t ride without a bike computer.It drives me crazy if I don’t know how the ride is going. I am also a map person and love to look at maps and visualize rides. But I’ve always been resistant to GPS receivers. I always felt I was good enough with maps that I didn’t need any other help. That was until I started following Adventure Cycling Routes.
Part of the reason I didn’t like GPS Receivers was because the first time I saw one was when I was riding through Newfoundland, the GPS only had base maps. I didn’t find that too useful on a bicycle. But things change and I am now hooked on riding with a GPS. I think it’s because the new Garmin’s are easy to love.
Why I Love My GPS
Ever try following an Adventure Cycling Route through New England. If you have you know how great it would be to have help following the route and not have to look at the map every few minutes.
In a car or on a motorcycle if you miss a turn, it is inconvenient. But on a bicycle a missed turn can be a much bigger deal. You often just don’t have the margin to make up for mistakes without some grief. That grief might mean riding for a few extra hours and arriving to the campsite late or it might mean missing dinner. Or worst of all, no beer that night.
The new GPS guide your way and tell you if you missed your turn. The mapping software lets you layout the best route and the GPS keeps you on the route. And, it also makes a great wireless bicycle computer.
I purchased a Garmin 60cs last summer and now it is the only bicycle computer I use. It has nice big numbers and with no wires is a snap to install and move from bike to bike. Knowing what I know now, I should have bought the 60c. The 60cs is great but you really don’t need the electronic compass and altimeter. The better battery life and lower price make the 60c a better choice.
Things I like about the Garmin 60c GPS:
1. Bright Color display, that is readable in bright sun light and in low light.
2. Display back light for dim to dark conditions.
3. Enough memory to hold the maps you need for most bike tours of 1 to 2 weeks.
4. Mapsource software lets me plan the route I want to follow and the GPS keeps me on the route.
5. A bicycle computer display with really big numbers even I can read or a display with smaller numbers and a lot more information. In fact you can pick which items you want displayed on either the big or the small digit display.
6. The GPS tells you how far or close you are to the nearest Campgrounds, Motel, beer, dinner, or what ever you are looking for. And, then it tells you how to get there.
7. A real time display of how far it is to the next turn and a warning if you miss the turn, The GPS also calculates how to get you back on route.
8. A real time map with street names showing where you are.
9. At the end of the ride you can download the route information to your computer and plot your real route and a route profile that shows how much climbing you did.
10. These units are nicely build and very rugged. They aren’t waterproof but I don’t think riding in the rain will be a problem after looking at the seals.
11. The bike mount is very simple to use and very secure. Mounting and removing the GPS is literally a snap.
I really love the ability to find things around your current location. If you run out of water you can just search for nearby possibilities and at least make an informed decision on what to do.
Of course, now there is an even better choice now, the Garmin 60cx. The 60cx has more map memory (64 MB versus 56 MB for the 60C and 60cs), an improved receiver that works better under tree cover and uses microSD cards. I might have to get one of these before my cross country ride in 2007.
Using GPS with Long Distance Cycling – This is a very nice article on how to use a GPS on your bike. It covers the basics but underestimates the value of knowing where is nearest motel, restaurant, campground or store when touring.
More information: GPS for Bicycle Touring
Note: 4/15/08 – I am so upset about the underhanded and sneaky way that Garmin has forced a price increase for maps on their best customers that I no longer recommend their units. I do not believe this is the way that good companies do business, unannounced price increases are just unacceptable.
I have no experience with other brands so I can not comment on other choices.