Current Recommendations for Navigation Devices - CycleBlaze

Bicycle Travel Forum

Current Recommendations for Navigation Devices

Graham Smith

I’m planning a cycle tour in my local region which will involve navigating some remote area tracks which will have little, or no telecommunications signal. 

There will only be SatNav/GPS signal which I assume my iPhone will be able to detect via mapping apps. I’ll also take a Garmin InReach Mini which can be used as an emergency beacon / messenger if something major were to go wrong.

The question is, should I add a dedicated GPS navigation device to the packing list? And if so what models are currently the best for cycle touring?  

My initial research seems to point to one of the many Garmin models. I have a 15 year old Etrex which is probably due to be replaced. 

Any suggestions appreciated. Especially about recent tour experiences with small navigation devices other than phones.

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8 months ago
Brent IrvineTo Graham Smith

If the etrex is still working...

My etrex 30 is 10+ years old and it still guides me on all my tours.

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8 months ago
Graham SmithTo Brent Irvine

That’s a good suggestion. I haven’t used it for years, so I’ll test it out.  

I’ve also found my stash of paper 1:100000 topographic maps which are my favourite nav tool. Luckily I have the full set for the area I’m planning to cycle to and through.

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8 months ago
Henry DaltonTo Graham Smith

I'm curious, why don't you want to use your phone for navigation? The GPS will indeed still work when you have no cell signal, so you can see the blue dot that shows where you are on a map that you've downloaded for offline use. I pay a few bucks a month to use RideWithGPS this way, but it's possible to use Google Maps offline as well.

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8 months ago
Graham SmithTo Henry Dalton

Henry yes I’ll have and use my phone; but given the remoteness of the area, I’d like to a have a back up device in case the phone battery charge isn’t adequate, or if there is some other unexpected failure with the phone.

If my old Etrex works, even just to give coordinates, that’d be enough info combined with the paper maps.

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8 months ago
John PescatoreTo Graham Smith

Graham - I was team Garmin for many years, using a hand held Garmin that I used for kayaking and a homemade handlebar mount to navigate a "map-free" (though I did carry paper backup!) tour back in 1997. Then I went to the early Garmin GPS units.

I never liked using my phone as that always meant carrying extra battery/power packs in case I actually needed my phone to make a call.

But, 6 0r 7 years ago a riding partner showed me his Wahoo Elemnt and I'm now Team Wahoo. Not really much difference between them these days, but I'd say Garmin has the edge on rerouting on the fly and the Wahoo's have the edge on ease of use and battery life.

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8 months ago
Graham SmithTo John Pescatore

John it’s well over ten years since I’ve even considered using a navigation device other than phone, map and road signs. My tours haven’t been far from services, and help if needed.

The difference this time is that part of the tour is through the equivalent of USA badlands geography. The backtracks lead into a remarkable area of dissected plateaus, canyons, and trails which can become very confusing. In the 1980s (pre electronic nav devices) I spent several days lost on foot in there due to fog and impassable cliffs. All ended well, but it was a memorable lesson in how easy it is become misplaced in the area.

Thanks for the suggestion of Wahoo. I’ll do some research on it.

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8 months ago
John PescatoreTo Graham Smith

I've only used Wahoo GPS for on road but they claim integration with a number of off road routing tools, and I know there are many popular trails that do show up on my Wahoo. Since all these units are using the same basic map data sources, I doubt much difference there but Garmin may have an edge.

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8 months ago
Rich FrasierTo Graham Smith

Hi Graham - 

We're totally in the Wahoo camp.  We have Elemnt Roam computers.  I do my mapping on RideWithGPS and the computers sync automatically to the routes.  They also sync with Strava in case you prefer to use their mapping tools.

In my experience, the Wahoo units come online quickly, work flawlessly, and never run out of charge, even during fairly long days.  I have no trouble recommending the product.

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8 months ago
Graham SmithTo John Pescatore

John I’ve been so far out of the cycle touring navigation loop, I hadn’t even heard of Wahoo until this forum thread. I’m going to do more research on them. They sound excellent.

Garmin certainly has an Edge model and perhaps an edge. Indeed Garmin produce quite a few Edge models including one they claim is specifically for mountain bikes.

The appeal of that model is that maps, routes etc are downloadable by BlueTooth from a mobile device. No cables nor PC connectivity are required to set them up.

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8 months ago