Author Topic: which GPS for trans Am touring?  (Read 23643 times)

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Offline vanick

which GPS for trans Am touring?
« on: December 17, 2004, 03:43:45 pm »
I've done a lot of cross-country adventure touring on my BMW R80G/S motorcycle, I have a Garmin GPSIII+ mounted on the bike and wired into the 12v electrical system.  I'm addicted, and I'd like to have GPS on my bicycle for next years trans am tour, but I'm wondering about batteries, battery life, and weight.  The GPSIII+ (admittedly old technology) feels like a pig in terms of weight when I stuff it full of batteries, and it will burn through a set in no time if I'm running it continuously on self-contained battery power.  

What are folks using on bicycles these days?  Is there anything out there that will run on solar power?

Nick


Offline George

which GPS for trans Am touring?
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2004, 07:11:37 pm »
I don't think there is anything solar powered, but lots of things run off AA cells, and you can get a solar charger that will recharge AAs.

See http://www.cetsolar.com/solarbatchargers.htm and http://www.realgoods.com/index.cfm among others.




Offline Fred Hiltz

which GPS for trans Am touring?
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2004, 12:17:20 pm »
After five pleasant years with the GPS-III+, I bought the GPSmap60C and have been very happy with it for cycling. Two 2100 maH NiMH AA cells run it for about 11 hours. It holds topo maps for the entire Trans-America route, but only about half the waypoints in the ACA database for that route.

I considered solar charging, then realized that for less weight and much less money I can carry 6 AA cells and a small charger like Maha's C-401FS, needing to find a power socket only every four or five days.

Fred


Offline JayH

which GPS for trans Am touring?
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2004, 02:32:45 pm »
I use a Garmin Vista which is a basic handheld GPS, a little different than the III+ or any of the other mapping GPS. The Vista is mostly a hiking orientated GPS unit and because of that it is fairly lightweight and portable, runs on 2 AA and can run on rechargeables.  

The vista has 24MB of memory and has a basemap of NA roads and stuff and because of that, it is fairly handy for touring. It includes some county and state routes but it's not a mapping GPS though, without the MapSend software.  So it's nothing that you would rely on as a cyclist but it is helpful in some cases with some resourcefulness and without the need to buy anything in addition to the unit itself.  

Jay


Offline BentJay

which GPS for trans Am touring?
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2005, 02:52:37 pm »
My son and I are going to do the Southern Tier next summer.  I recently noticed that AC offers waypoints for this route.  Questions: Which GPS is the current best unit?  (Is the Garmin V Deluxe the one?  I noticed there's a handlebar clip for that one.) Will any unit store all the waypoints for the entire route?  Am I right in assuming a gps should come with maps appropriate to cycling i.e. no interstates, etc?
Thanks for getting this newbie gps'er started!

BentJay

See my tour journal at:  http://aroundthelake.crazyguyonabike.com

Offline Fred Hiltz

which GPS for trans Am touring?
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2005, 02:10:59 pm »
Hi BentJay. Of course there is no one best unit, but you should be able to find the best one for you with a little information.

The first big choice is whether to buy a mapping GPS receiver (GPSR), that is, one that stores maps internally and always shows you where you are on the map. Non-mapping units are much cheaper. They show a course pointer and distance to the next waypoint along the route. The AC waypoints and routes are designed to work with either, but if you want guidance off the route, plan on using paper maps or a mapping GPSR.

In either case, you should plan on taking the good paper maps from AC. The GPS routes complement them, but do not come close to replacing them with all their bike-specific information. And the paper does not require batteries.

The Southern Tier route contains 1989 waypoints, many more than most receivers can hold. 500 - 1000 is typical, and this is a key specification to look for in a mapping or non-mapping unit. Many of the waypoints are placed on bends in the road and soon after turns so that the course pointer will tell the truth about which way to go.

For a non-mapping GPSR, plan to reload the waypoint memory along the way. If you carry a PDA for email access, that could do it. Or you could take a CD with the data and one of the small GPS programs like G7ToWin. Find a computer shop, Internet cafe, library, or fellow cyclist who would let you load the program and transfer the waypoints.

For a mapping GPSR you could delete the course-pointing waypoints, keeping just those at the important turns and points of interest. Modern automatic routing GPSRs will compute your route along the roads between the remaining waypoints. Just be sure to leave enough to guide its little brain on the roads you want, not the nearest Interstate (grin).

As to specific units, I know the Garmin line best. Magellan makes a competitive line, which you should check out as well. The GPS-V is getting old now, and does not have enough memory for the Southern Tier. If I were in your shoes, I would look hard at the Garmin GPSmap 76C with the City Select map product. It will hold street-level detailed maps for the entire route, using 80 MB of its 115 MB map memory, and 1000 waypoints. The unit plus handlebar mount and maps will cost in the neighborhood of $600.

For the smaller budget there are many non-mapping GPSRs. I would browse the Garmin and Magellan sites, and also look at the extensive collection of reviews, comparisons, and tutorial articles at http://gpsinformation.net.

Fred


Offline BentJay

which GPS for trans Am touring?
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2005, 02:53:45 pm »
Fred,

Thanks for the detailed information!  As a novice you've given me a lot to digest.  Since we're not planning to do this until summer, 2006 I'd bet newer units with more memory/lower prices will appear but, since I barely understand the concept at least I've begun this part of the "training" necessary to do this trip.  

Does "non-mapping" imply that the unit will not display a map but will only show waypoint "cues"?  Does "mapping" imply that the unit will show a road map similar to what the AC maps show (but minus the information those maps contain?) One thing I think I get:  If we provide the units with "waypoints" we can "force" it to ignore the roads we don't want to use i.e. interstates.  True?

BentJay
AKA  Jay Singer
See my tour journal at:   http://aroundthelake.crazyguyonabike.com



Offline Fred Hiltz

which GPS for trans Am touring?
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2005, 12:38:21 pm »
Right on all counts, Jay.

Memory chips continue to get smaller, cheaper, and lower power. They are one of the easiest ways for the vendors to compete in the feature wars, so next year's models will certainly have more.

Just for fun to see the point of diminishing returns, today's auto-mount units store detailed street maps with autorouting data for all 50 states in a 2 GB compact flash card. I suppose someone might want that on a bicycle, but it would be a small market. (grin)

You can see some screen shots of the mapping and non-mapping units in the reviews at http://gpsinformation.net/ The non-mapping units show the route as a series of straight lines connecting the waypoints, so you can see a left turn coming, but it is not a map. They also show a compass needle that points to the next waypoint and displays its distance. "The campground is 5.2 miles, a little left of straight ahead." When you pass that campground, the needle points behind you. I wish it would beep and turn red when that happens!

Do buy your unit a couple of months early to check it out on local rides. GPSRs are not hard to use, but do need some practice--more than setting the clock in a VCR and less than using a personal computer.

I rarely ride without mine, even on roads I know well. It is a great entertainment device and occasionally even useful.

Fred


Offline JayH

which GPS for trans Am touring?
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2005, 02:05:00 pm »
Some "non-mapping" GPRs though do have a basemap which includes very limited highways and some county roads. Not terribly useful on the bike (unless you like biking on highways). However, it is sometimes useful in cases to back up the Adv Cycling maps or your own tours.

Some handheld GPSs have also an audible proximity alarm. my Magellan MAP410 had that, but my Garmin Etrex Vista doesn't. It would beep at you if you got within X feet of a waypoint.  

If you have mapping software, you could sort of simulate a mapping GPS by mapping out a track on the software and convert that to a route that you can upload to your GPS.   Of course, that will also assume you'll stick to that route.

Jay


Offline BentJay

which GPS for trans Am touring?
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2005, 12:25:57 pm »
OK, I'm beginning to "get it" though for the reasons you stated, Fred, I'm going to wait for Spring, 2006. I'm leaning towards the Garmin GPSMap 76CS.  It includes sensors for altitude and a compass for a little more money than the 76C.  I understand what you mean about waypoint capacity and deleting unecessary waypoints w/o losing the AC route.  I'm hoping that next year's models will hold 2K waypoints...that would neatly solve that small problem.  Thanks Fred and Jay for your advice.  I feel like I'm on the way.

BentJay


Offline BentJay

which GPS for trans Am touring?
« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2005, 06:55:37 pm »
OK, now I've discovered the Garmin 276C which will hold 3K waypoints. OTOH, it's about $150 more...too bad.  So, my conclusion is that the technology exists but it hasn't filtered down to the less expensive choices yet.  I can wait.  (Anyone else waiting for the new Microsoft OS to replace their current pc?)

BentJay


Offline ptaylor

which GPS for trans Am touring?
« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2005, 09:19:04 pm »
Fred.
Thanks for the info... you saved me a lot of time! I just ordered three items: a Garmin GPSMAP 76C from Dunham's Sports and a handlebar mounting bracket and an Auto Navigation Kit from Garmin International.

The Auto Navigation Kit includes a hookup to make it easier to use in an automobile; it also includes your recommended City Select North America maps.

I looked at the Magellan site, but found it overwhelming. Even the Garmin site makes it difficult to decide what unit a cyclist needs. I was happy to have your opinions.

Paul

Offline Fred Hiltz

which GPS for trans Am touring?
« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2005, 12:03:42 pm »
That's a good choice. I am sure you will have fun with it and never have to ask directions again. (grin) You will soon want some rechargeable AA cells and a good lightweight charger to keep your 76C fed. http://www.imaging-resource.com/ACCS/BATTS/BATTS.HTM
is a good review of both. I bought the Maha MH-C401FS, 19 ounces with its wall-wart transformer.

Keep your head up in traffic. I have hit a pothole or three while looking at my screen.

Fred


Offline stanurycki

which GPS for trans Am touring?
« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2005, 10:11:39 pm »
the lightest and most reliable GPS for bicycle tourist is the one you leave home! Good grief, you're going on a bike ride not to the moon. Enjoy yourself, check out the views, get lost and have some adventure.  Lose the tech stuff!

Offline ptaylor

which GPS for trans Am touring?
« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2005, 03:40:49 am »
I just returned from an 11 day trip on part of the Atlantic Coast Route. This was my first bike trip with a GPS. I have fallen in love with it. As good as the Adventure Cycling maps are, you really have to concentrate on reading the map, road signs, and your cycle computer. But with my trusty GPS, I found I could lollygag all I wanted, and not worry about missing a turn.

I would recommend a GPS to anyone with a flair for gadgets...I'll never tour again without mine.

Paul