I would like to share my experience using a Pocket PC and GPS to help guide me on a bicycle trip. I live in the United States and was traveling to France for two weeks to ride in the country and follow the Tour de France. We used a company specializing in bicycle touring to book our hotels and plan daily bike routes to ride (60 to 120 miles daily). We were provided with detailed maps of the region and turn-by-turn directions for our bike rides.
Of course, anyone who rides long distances knows, continually worrying about what turn is coming up next and trying to remember the road, look for road signs, etc. can ruin an otherwise wonderful ride. As a result, I decided to buy a Pocket PC, a Bluetooth GPS and some street routing software so I wouldn’t have to worry about the route. My goal was to preprogram the routes, insert an earphone into the PDA, slip the PDA into my back jersey pocket and listen for the audible directions without ever looking at the PDA screen. In short, it worked wonderfully.
The first problem was picking a PDA. I chose the HP iPAQ 4150 because of its small size, integrated Bluetooth (wireless connection to the GPS), and excellent battery life. I wanted a small GPS (size of a ‘D’ battery) with a long battery life and a replaceable battery. Making sure that I didn’t lose the signal while riding is forested areas was also important. I chose the Fortuna Clip-On BT with XTrac v2.0. Lastly, I needed a street routing package that would allow me to preprogram the routes and save them for easy recall. After looking at a few packages I ended up using Mapopolis. I originally purchased Destinator 3, but a few flaws in the package made it unusable for bicycle touring. Most other packages were missing key features to force routes, save and recall routes, or provide complete audio instructions without the need for viewing the screen.
I was concerned about battery life, but this was not an issue. I easily got 8 or more hours from the GPS and never came close to running down the battery in the HP iPAQ. I was using the standard battery in the iPAQ, but even after an 8 hour ride, it showed the battery has still had a charge of 60% or more remaining. Since I was not using the screen at all, the battery life was great!
A key feature of the GPS software is the ability to force the route you want. Mapopolis has a great feature call “Route Through”. This allows you to pick a roads or addresses, and tell the software to route you through these points. It worked great.
I’m very glad that we went with the GPS. If we hadn’t, I think we would still be there trying to find turns on unnamed roads with no road signs. Also, the ability to quickly change our plans due to road closures and exhaustion was also very helpful.
Of course, an added benefit was using the GPS in our rental car. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org