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  1. #1
    nimble biker
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    Does a GPS really save you guys from getting lost?

    Does a GPS really save you guys from getting lost?

    Is it worth using GPS on a bike?

  2. #2
    Workin for the weekend!
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    Depends if you know how to use it...

  3. #3
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    Does a GPS really save you guys from getting lost?

    It lets me know where I've been so at minimum I can backtrack.

    It reduces my "where am I" moments.

    But yes, you do have to know how to use it. Also, how much help it is can be very model dependent

  4. #4
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    No. Believe that old school (map & compass skills) is still king, yet a GPS does help establish a relative position.

    From crashes & bushwhacking, I cannot even keep a simple cyclometer working, so I carry a phone in my pack.
    Once locked-on, use "airplane mode" to save battery, and improve GPS accuracy. (This eliminates cell-tower triangulation, hunting, and a hybrid signal.) Seems that My Tracks and Maprika will function without a data / 3G signal, while most other apps will crash.
    The best is the one you want to ride most often..

  5. #5
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    Does a GPS really save you guys from getting lost?

    Gps actually establishes a precise location. Accuracy of that location may vary.

    I can establish my relative position with 3 organs: my two eyes and my brain

  6. #6
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    It depends on where you ride. If it's marked trails you don't really need a GPS but for some unmarked ones or if you want to ride some particular route GPS is helpful. Personally I found GPS useful when I plan my route on the computer and upload gpx file to GPS. This way I know where I'm going and I don't take wrong turns wondering where's my trail went : )
    Last edited by scanny; 05-13-2013 at 05:59 AM.

  7. #7
    Give it a crank
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    When it's working properly, it tells you where you are. That will only affirm whether you are or aren't lost. A GPS receiver should never replace your own knowledge and senses.

  8. #8
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    I use GPS on every ride, mostly to record where I went, how far I rode, and how much climbing I did, etc. If I'm riding in an unfamiliar area, I'll always take a printed map, and a phone. Sometimes, I will create a waypoint at a critical location when I'm biking a new trail, so I don't miss a turn. Most GPS units designed for biking won't let you upload much of a basemap, so the old-fashioned paper analog maps are likely to remain your best option for a few more years.
    Justin
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  9. #9
    I'm your density
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    It lets me know where I've been so at minimum I can backtrack.
    +1. I used the recording track my GPS to distinguish the trail I had come in on from the trail roughly parallel to it, on my way back to the car. This was in a wooded area where I had never been before and there were not many unique features to make it obvious.

    On that same ride, I used a waypoint to find my way to the start of a single track that was a hundred yards off the fire road -- bushwhacking through trees and debris left over from fire break cutting.

    Hiking the PCT a couple weeks ago, we came on a trail junction with ambiguous signage. In that event it was pretty obvious which way to go by just orienting the GPS map and observing elevation contours. But I had created an overlay map of the trail to "lay on top of" the topo map (looks like a track but not using stored track points). That made it more obvious which way to go

    I could have done all of that with a paper map & compass, sure. Having the GPS is so much quicker and convenient. That said, I do carry paper maps to unfamiliar areas, and occasionally will hand write direction and mileage notes on the back.
    "Two wrongs don't make a right, but three rights make a left."
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  10. #10
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    I use my GPS every ride. I will not claim it prevents me from getting lost, but it sure helps. With a mapping GPS, you see see where you came from, then simply follow the line back the way you came. As others have noted, a compass and general navigational skill-set is ideal. If there is a ride I want to do that is long, in a potentially dangerous area I am unfamiliar with, I always download the GPX data from others whom have ridden it, and I will follow their tracks. Another thing is I always stay on the trail. People tend to get lost most when they venture off-trail, not good for a variety of reasons. Lastly, I always tell others where I am riding, usually another rider like my brother or friend, since I ride alone often.

  11. #11
    Workin for the weekend!
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    Getting lost is underrated.... How else are you gonna learn how to get found?

  12. #12
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    Like everyone has said, it depends on a lot of things.

    The only time I've been seriously lost in recent memory, I was in totally unfamiliar territory, completely exhausted (to the point pulling off the side of the trail and taking a nap seemed like a good idea), in a place where some trails were marked and on the map I had, others not... I managed to use the breadcrumb trail feature on my [non-mapping] forerunner to figure out how far and in what direction my car was.

    Not sure how much trouble I would have been in otherwise, but I'm really glad I had GPS that time.
    Even without a basemap, knowing where you've been/came from relative to where you are, and the digital compass (or gps-based heading), can be very useful in getting un-lost.

  13. #13
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    Providing one has adequate satellite coverage, a GPS device can certainly be reliable enough to orient oneself. However, obstructions (like trees and mountains) can be a big hindrance to the devices, as can electrical fields from things like powerlines.

    Occasionally satellites send out bogus data. If one's GPS is only connected to a small number of satellites and one of them is malfunctioning, the GPS may not be able to correctly resolve one's location. I'm in Geomatics Engineering (specifically, I'm the senior cartographer in a legal land survey firm), and we've had to deal with very significant errors as a result of malfunctioning satellites (and we work with a number of base stations on each survey).

    Can you trust your life to a GPS device? No. You can't. You must be able to use a map and compass.
    Know your limitations, and then defy them.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by neacail View Post
    Providing one has adequate satellite coverage, a GPS device can certainly be reliable enough to orient oneself. However, obstructions (like trees and mountains) can be a big hindrance to the devices, as can electrical fields from things like powerlines.

    Occasionally satellites send out bogus data. If one's GPS is only connected to a small number of satellites and one of them is malfunctioning, the GPS may not be able to correctly resolve one's location. I'm in Geomatics Engineering (specifically, I'm the senior cartographer in a legal land survey firm), and we've had to deal with very significant errors as a result of malfunctioning satellites (and we work with a number of base stations on each survey).

    Can you trust your life to a GPS device? No. You can't. You must be able to use a map and compass.
    If my life depended on centimeters or less, then yeah, your story would be solid evidence supporting your conclusion.

    If being within 20-50ft of the stated location is good enough, then consumer GPS equipment can get that close on a bad day and save your bacon if necessary.

    There has only been one occasion where my mind was not functioning well enough to use any method, and I DID stop and take a nap. Every other time, my GPS is not my only tool available. Good luck with that compass in the vicinity of local magnetic anomalies. Those can be fun and compensating for that is tricky.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    If being within 20-50ft of the stated location is good enough, then consumer GPS equipment can get that close on a bad day and save your bacon if necessary.
    With good satellite coverage, properly functioning consumer GPS devices are perfectly suitable for navigation. They'll easily get one close enough to landmarks to identify them.

    However, those are two significant caveats: good satellite coverage and properly functioning. I own several consumer GPS devices (I've been using them for two decades) and I've had only ever had an issue once: instead of Banff, Alberta, it put me in Brazil (presumably due to anomalous satellite data and poor coverage).

    I stand by my claim 100% (and you'd be very hard pressed to find anyone in my industry who wouldn't) that a GPS device (consumer or otherwise) is no substitute for map and compass navigation skills. And, I would place equal importance on both parts of that equation: map and compass. The combined skillset, with a quality larger scale topographic map can't be beat for reliability.

    Is a GPS a great tool? Heck yes. I love 'em. They're fun. They're easy. They have an amazing variety of useful applications. I've got one our boat, in our RV, on our quads, in our trucks, on my bike, and I just bought my husband a Garmin bike computer tonight. The things are like crack to me. I make my living off of them. Despite how much I think I would die without them . . . I would never trust my life to any of them.
    Know your limitations, and then defy them.

  16. #16
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    my point is that they're all tools with potential for fallibility. I don't put a map and compass on a pedestal above a gps or any other navigational method. they all have limitations and they can all get you in trouble if you rely too heavily on them. and most importantly, if you're not thinking straight, NONE of them are any good.

    I understand the limitations of my gear, and operating within those limitations, I would trust the gear I choose to carry with my life. with the caveat that I'm also using my brain at the same time to decide which tools are the best, and when they are leading me astray.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flyin_W View Post

    Once locked-on, use "airplane mode" to save battery, and improve GPS accuracy. (This eliminates cell-tower triangulation, hunting, and a hybrid signal.) Seems that My Tracks and Maprika will function without a data / 3G signal, while most other apps will crash.
    Airplane mode will disable the GPS on Apple iOS devices.

    iOS: Understanding airplane mode
    Riding Fat and still just as fast as I never was.

  18. #18
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    Re: Does a GPS really save you guys from getting lost?

    ^ Thanks for the 411.
    I use an Android.

    (by phone)
    The best is the one you want to ride most often..

  19. #19
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    Map an compas skills, are just that -- a skill. It needs to be learned. Someone need to tech you, or you must put in the effort to learn it from a book. It's something your need to practice. The skill is not something you can walk into a store and buy.

    The average rider isn't going to put in the time and effort to learn map and compas skills. (Old foegy allert.) At least the newer riders brought up on immediate gratification, and get your quick answer from Google, won't do it.

    By working with Topos on a GPS, people are getting some map skills. The ability to orient themselves to the landscape.

    In a lot of cases, the paper map people get is a "not to scale" trail map provided by the local park service, in guide book, or from the local trail building society. Compass skills are of no use in those cases.

    Frankly, map and compass skills are a lost art. Sort of like hand writing. Pleople used to be taught penmanship, and wrote beautiful script. (Mine's always be chicken scratch.)

    The well prepared rider is going to have done their research, and have a good overview of the area they're riding. They'll pack a map, a multi-tool, a spare tube or patch kit, matches, emergency blanket, first aid kit, lights, etc.

    The reality is that a lot of people don't carry all the stuff they should. Very few people are going to invest in a compass, when they have a GPS. And most people can't read a map.

    Sure there's lots of caveats. Potential breakdown, system failue, dead batteries, sattellite reception, the owner knowing how to use the unit, etc. Same can be said for driving a car.

    The OP's original question - does a GPS keep you from getting lost? Answer: It may not keep you from getting lost. A "record your track" GPS won't cut it (eg Garmin 500). A unit with freely available maps, will give you a heck of a lot better chance of finding your way back to civilization, than if you're traveling without one. And yea, you should probably have a paper map too.

  20. #20
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    just devils advocate here, to all the semi-ludites that seem to be claiming that an old, slow, difficult way of doing something is always better than something new...

    there are limitations to maps and compasses too. Most notably you need to be able to spot landmarks that are shown on your map. Without that you aren't finding your location. Where I ride, there generally aren't peaks or structures that are visible from the woods, so the common landmarks are trail intersections. So if I'm really lost, I'd better hope my map is detailed and current enough to have everything I might believe is a trail (because a lot of deer paths looks like manmade trails).

    Yes, GPS has limitations. Yes, a lot of you are overstating them and understating the limitations of maps and compass navigation.

    If I was going deep into wilderness, where getting lost could be life threatening, I'd consider it irresponsible not to take both. In a situation where I have a pretty good idea where I am (like a park that has obvious boundaries that I'm not going to cross without knowing it), GPS is a great tool by itself.

  21. #21
    nimble biker
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    Is the Garmin 810 suitable for mountain biking?

  22. #22
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    It will get the job done.

    The Garmin Bike specific models are packed with Roadie training features. Lightens the wallet to the tune of $420. More if you want the HRM. If you need/want the roadie & training features then go for it. It has a built in battery. If you're out in the woods & it's out of power -- It's Out of Power.

    If your primary task is trail riding, I think the more ruggedized hand-helds are the way to go. I roll with an Oregon 450 at $199. I think NateHawk does too. It uses AA rechargables. They are easily field replaceable with spares from your pack. I asked for, and got the HRM and temperature sensors for Christmas which are nice little add-ons.

    The new Oregon 600 is priced at a little above the 810. More modern user interface etc. It's only been shipping for a couple of months so no discounts and sales on it yet. Still in the "got to have the latest and greatest & willing to pay a premium price" mode. (I've been told that afer Black Friday the price will come down.)

    What ever you get, don't get sucked into buying maps, until you find out if the free ones will work for you.

    This is one of those decisions where you need to look at your planned usage, figure out your budget, compare feature sets, and make your choice.

  23. #23
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    Does a GPS really save you guys from getting lost?

    Yup, i ride with an Oregon 450, too. Not all the time though. It comes along when I go places I might get lost. New trails, more remote locations, etc. I carry a good map for those kinds of places, too. Not too many places to use a compass for sighting distant landmarks in my part of the country so about all it's good for is orienting the map and helping to follow a heading which we generally don't do biking. So orienting the map it is.

    On trail systems I know, especially in the city, i ride with a Forerunner 310xt. I also run so i got it for that. But it's a good multisport watch. Has a basic track view that shows where I am in relation to where I've been and that is good enough for familiar places.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Picard View Post
    Does a GPS really save you guys from getting lost?

    Is it worth using GPS on a bike?
    Yes of course - it's like asking Does having money allows u to buy a new bike? yes, of course.

  25. #25
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    I just rode today with the Garmin 62 - i had joined 2 trails together and abandon the ride halfway because the trails were getting too muddy - it's winter now. And i was able to GPS my way to the nearest trail that joins the trail that would take me back to the car. I love technology!

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