Bicycle Travel > GPS & Digital Data Discussion

What can GPS do for you?

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Glad you guys added forums!!!

I've heard about using GPS on bikes, sometimes in lieu of a
cyclecomputer, and I'm curious but I have some questions.

Can a GPS give me speed, average speed, max speed? Or
is it stricly a navigation tool? Do the batteries run long
enough for all-day use when touring?


Yes, a GPS can give you pretty much the same information as your cyclometer can - present speed, average speed, trip time, maximum speed. (The main reason I bought a GPS was that I wanted the same information I got from my cyclometer for cross-country skiing.)  Some models have an altimeter and can give you minimum/maximum elevation, total descent/ascent, vertical speed, plus plot your elevation on your trip.  Also the GPS will leave "bread crumbs" of your route, so you can see the outline of the course that you've ridden.

The downside of using a GPS is that it tends to lose satellite signals under heavy tree cover.

GPS units use up a lot of batteries, but one set should last for at a day's ride.  Regular alkaline batteries last for at least 10 hours.  Rechargable NiMH batteries last for at least 6 hours.

Sounds good. Raises a couple more questions. (Just
because it's $300 or whatever. If it was $50, it would already
be on my bike.)

Do all of them display current speed?

Do you need to run them all the time, or can you just fire them
up when you want the info?

Are the ones that are good for bike also OK for car? I want to
use it to find my way around on business trips, too.


I think all of them display current speed.

If you want to collect total trip distance information, you need to leave the GPS unit on all the time.  If you only want to know your current speed now and then or just want to see how far you are from a location you set the GPS unit to navigate to, you can turn the unit off until you want the information again.  It does take a few minutes for the unit to "find itself" each time you power back on.

As far as car use, if you just want mapping capability, the GPS you use for the bike would work for the car.  That's the type of GPS unit I see mostly used for bike/car use.  If you want to be able to enter in a street address and then have your GPS unit tell you when to turn left/right, the much more expensive mapping models are used for this purpose.  I don't think the GPS models that are designed for car use have a bicycle mount adapter available, whereas you can buy an adapter to mount your GPS on your bicycle handlebars on the models designed for bike/car use (and they also have adapters to mount the GPS on your car dashboard as well).

My wife and I use a Garmin Vista handheld GPS. It does give you miles-per-hour, average speed, maximum speed, altitude, position and much more. The GPS is extremely accurate and quite rugged, we've had ours for 4-years.  

It has helped us out of a few "I'm lost" episodes. This particular unit allows you to upload local maps from Garmin's map program.

The 2-AA batteries last about 9-hours of continual use. Normally we only use the GPS occasionally throughout the day but we have used it for several hours at a stretch.

I hope I've answered some of your questions but if you have more E-mail me, I'll be glad to help... Ted  


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