Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => GPS & Digital Data Discussion => Topic started by: jinay on July 07, 2020, 10:56:42 pm

Title: GPS query
Post by: jinay on July 07, 2020, 10:56:42 pm
I have been looking for a good GPS device for my cycle to assist in treks. I came across Garmin products and they look promising, reliable and worth it. Few of my friends have also recommended it. Online reviews are also good. But I’m still a bit confused. Has anybody here checked it out? (

Help me make a better decision
Definitive reviews are appreciated
Title: Re: GPS query
Post by: John Nettles on July 07, 2020, 11:21:41 pm
Welcome to ACA Forums!

I have had several Garmin products in the past.  Some are good, some are bad. 

The pros:  Garmin is the de facto GPS so a lot of gps data is geared toward their file format.

Middle of the road:  Hit and miss on reliability/durability.  Customer service can also be hit/miss.

Cons.: Expensive.

For me, a major factor is the battery use. Some units (Montana) will go thru three AA batteries per riding day or day and half.  Others (62) can last a few days on two batteries.  Batteries are heavy so even though I use a dynamo hub, I still carry several batteries since I may not always recharge quick enough or will be charging something else like my phone.  If you do not use a dynamo hub, you have to carry lots of batteries as you do not want to buy them at some back-water store where they have been sitting for 6 years and are half dead.  Thus, you have to have a Walmart type store in order to buy new ones and the stores can be a week apart at times, thus 3 batteries a day x 7 days equals a lot of weight.

I currently prefer the Model 62 as it holds a fair number of waypoints and track points in addition to routes and tracks. The screen is not very big compared to the Montana but the battery use is way less. 

The Montana is a battery hog.  It is relegated to my car trips where I plug into the cigarette lighter.  It has a nice large screen and is a touch screen.  It is a smidgen easier to use than the 62 but the buttons have literally melted due to sunscreen lotion getting on them.  It may have been just really crap material but the only thing that could have done it otherwise is the sunscreen.

The Extrex is not bad but the sound for navigation cues is fairly low.

Considerations:  Are you going to ALWAYS have a cell signal?  If so, use your cell phone.  Assuming your cell phone has a GPS built in, it can probably work even without a cell signal in the airplane mode. 

Does your significant other want to track where you are going at all times?  If so, AND you have a cell signal at all times, you can use your phone and with an app that tracks your location.  If you are going where there is no cell signal, then consider Garmin's InReach/GPS combo unit.  I have the stand alone InReach also.  It is very good but a bit pricey for the subscription plans.  However, I sometimes do remote touring (remote forests, Alaska, etc.) where there is no signal and she wants to be able to know where I am in case the bears eat me (doesn't matter that by the time help arrived, I will have probably been eaten, digested, and pooped out).  At least she will recover the bike. It is very very accurate, within 10 feet I would guess.

Finally, do you even need a gps device (only you can decide)?  If you are dealing with lots of turns on say the Atlantic Coast Route, then it really does help.  If you are on the Western Express, probably not as there just aren't very many turns to get lost.  For decades, everyone got by fine with just the maps and odometer (bike computer now) and maybe a compass.  They are nice but usually not needed.

Hope this helps.  Tailwinds, John
Title: Re: GPS query
Post by: John Nelson on July 08, 2020, 01:33:29 am
If you will have regular access to an outlet (i.e., stay overnight indoors), then you can get one of the rechargeable Garmin units. I can get at least 200 miles on a charge. If I carry a power bank, I can recharge it a couple of times, so I can go more than a week between needing an outlet.

As John said, the software is not bug free. Occasionally (not often), it does something weird. And as John also said, they are expensive. On the other hand, the Garmin competitors' software isn't bug free either.

I like a navigation unit separate from my phone, for many reasons.
Title: Re: GPS query
Post by: HobbesOnTour on July 08, 2020, 11:39:44 am
There's a lot of good advice above, but I'll come at this from a different perspective and that is to have a good think about what you want from your gps device - then look at what is on offer.

For example, bike gps units are different to car devices because only some have the ability to plan a route on the fly. In fact, for bike navigation I prefer to think of planning and navigating as two separate tasks.

The kind of things to think about are ;
Where & when will you use the device? Is it only for cycling or for other outdoor pursuits too?
Where will you do your route planning? Only at home or on the road? If on the road online or offline?
Mapping: What detail do you need and will you require turn by turn directions? Also, are maps included on the device or are they extra?
Battery life & charging options.
Ease of use.

Personally, I don't need detailed maps on my gps device - my phone is far superior for that.
I don't need turn by turn directions - a breadcrumb trail is fine.
I do need to be able to plot a new route on the fly so online & offline options are a necessity (through my phone).
I don't trust maps stored on a memory card in the device - I've read of too many cases of corrupted cards.

One feature I do use (which I had never considered before) is Strava or RWGPS connectivity. Each day's ride is recorded, sent to my phone and photos are easily added - a simple, but wonderful, log of each day on tour.

I use a Wahoo Elemnt (now discontinued) and for three years it has been flawless.
The new Roam (with greater mapping & routing options) is probably overpriced but the Bolt does the same job as the Elemnt in a smaller package.

I should add that my battery has recently started to fail and Wahoo have offered a very attractive discount on a new unit.

I've never quite understood Garmin's points on their tracks or routes. I do know I can throw routes of several thousand kms onto my Elemnt and navigation is flawless.

While I'm not a fan of using my phone as a gps while on tour, depending on circumstances they can be a simple and user friendly option.

Good luck!

Title: Re: GPS query
Post by: Pat Lamb on July 08, 2020, 12:36:47 pm
The first response is usually a clarification question.  In this case it is, what do you want to do with a GPS?

If you want to pre-plan your trip, particularly a trip on roads and streets, one of the Garmins is the way to go.  Pick your roads, lay out the route, put it on the Garmin (I started with an 800 and it still works well, but the 830 and 1030+ are improved from that), and follow the route.  The maps are on the GPS.  No need to worry about rain or battery life if you've got a power pack.  As John Nelson noted, you can go a week with a decent auxiliary battery pack; then treat yourself to a night indoors (B&B, motel, etc.), do your laundry, have a hot shower, and oh, yes, recharge everything.

Forest service roads or trails?  I don't know, perhaps the Montana or 62 John Nettles referenced would be better.

I personally like to find places there's no cell phone service.  That usually means traffic is lighter, and the scenery is superior.  It also means if I need some kind of navigational help, you better have downloaded the map and saved it before you left.  The GPS, if you didn't lay out a route, will have roads and road names (usually, depending on the map), and a dot to show where you are.  If you forget to download a map and get into such a zone, your cell phone will have a "You are here" dot on a blank screen.  Not very helpful (BTDT).
Title: Re: GPS query
Post by: jinay on July 09, 2020, 02:03:27 am
Thanks for the real reviews guys. Finally, it feels like I'm talking to a rational on the other side. I think I'll go with the combo suggested by John Nettles
Title: Re: GPS query
Post by: John Nettles on July 09, 2020, 08:26:23 am
Depending on the specific tour, I either use the Recreation or Expedition plan.  If I have relatively lots of cell coverage, I go with the Recreation.  If I am in the areas without cell coverage for days on end (Alaska, parts of Canada) then I go with the Expedition. 

I do not know how the battery management of the combo InReach is but my standalone InReach is very very good, i.e. a set of batteries last at least a week on the 10 minute tracking interval.

Remember that if choosing the "freedom" plans they charge $25 annual/activation fee in addition to the plan and that it is billed in monthly installments so if you tour is 35 days long, you have to pay for two months.  Be sure to cancel when you are done or it just keeps billing too.

Have a great trip, John
Title: Re: GPS query
Post by: Nyimbo on July 10, 2020, 01:22:35 am

The pros:  Garmin is the de facto GPS so a lot of gps data is geared toward their file format.

I think Garmin is the standard still but I just read a post on my Facebook Cycling Group about 30 mins ago and the question is do you use a Garmin or a Wahoo and about 2/3 of the respondents wrote they use the Wahoo and most commonly was the Wahoo Bolt.   I think it is quickly (over the past 5 years) becoming a new favorite. I used mine traveling cross country and tried to charge it every day there was power but could go two days in a pinch.  The Wahoo software is noted to be much less buggy and it just works.  Also, mine is b&w screen and uses less battery than the color screen Garmins do. 

Last if you enjoy research check out (
The link you provided is for the new Garmin wrist watch versions which we haven't really commented on.  Most (not all)of the discussions have been on the bike specific computers.