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  1. #1
    emteebee
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    New question here. Which GPS to buy? What meets these needs?

    The GPS I want to buy will be used 99% for Mountain-Biking, but that other 1% will be used for MX use when trail-riding.

    Today, I got lost in a trail system I had never rode in before, and if only I had something that tracked me from my starting point, I would have been able to just keep checking the GPS and return the way I came.

    Not having a GPS, being completely lost, with no one around, and low on fuel, was something I never want to experience again.

    Now, on to my hopes for a gps:

    1) Accurate elevation reading
    2) Accurate distance
    3) the ability to load my ride on my mac and check out cool features like avg. speed, ELEVATION GAIN (this is what I really want), and other stuff like distance traveled, time spent moving, etc.

    I have a polar wrist-watch HRM, so I don't think I need anything other than just the GPS unit, although if the price is close (within $30) I guess it would be nice to have it all inclusive.

    As I am typing this, EDGE 205/305 is jumping out at me, but I'm just not sure. Besides the HRM and cadence capability, is there any OTHER benefits to the 305 over the 205? A color screen would be nice, but I'm not picky.

    BUDGET: <$300

    --> Are there any GPS units that would satisfy the above ^^ but ALSO provide turn by turn directions if I wanted to use it in my vehicle?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Arnold
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmktech
    2) Accurate distance
    I don't think it's possible with a GPS, because it doesn't take into account that you're maybe traveling uphill or downhill, and therefore, it just calculates the distance ignoring the elevation and just tracking the length of your path. If you're riding on flat trails, then it will be accurate.

    3) the ability to load my ride on my mac and check out cool features like avg. speed, ELEVATION GAIN (this is what I really want), and other stuff like distance traveled, time spent moving, etc.
    Again, these features are pretty inaccurate, unless you're going constantly fast (the faster the better; hiking is worst). Although, elevation gain is the most accurate of these. You'd be much better off with a $20 trip computer (except that it doesn't measure elevation at all).

    --> Are there any GPS units that would satisfy the above ^^ but ALSO provide turn by turn directions if I wanted to use it in my vehicle?
    You'd need a mapping GPS, and load it with maps that are routable. I have a Garmin 60Cx and that was top of the line before Colorado came out. I'm not sure how other brands work, but I think pretty much the same.

  3. #3
    emteebee
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    So the elevation on MB routes aren't really that accurate? bummer.

  4. #4
    Arnold
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmktech
    So the elevation on MB routes aren't really that accurate? bummer.
    I speak more from a hiking experience, since this is where I look at elevation. When you stand still, the elevation will fluctuate a few feet +/-. This will effectively add to your total elevation gain, thus making it less accurate. With Garmin you can load your track data into computer and through their software (Mapsource) look at your elevation graph, which shows the progress of elevation over distance or time, whichever you like to look at (I can see it on my GPS, too, but on computer monitor it is much easier to look at). I like this feature to see how steep my hike was overall. This is just 2 ways to look at "elevation gain". The other is "total ascent", which gives you a total number of feet gained on ascent. As said before, you can gain elevation just by resting or walking. I just turned on my GPS and in a few minutes it already gained 7 feet of elevation in my apartment My "current elevation" also constantly jumps a few feet at the moment. This is because a GPS can't tell exactly 100% your position/elevation. Although, I must say that the altimeter (at least in my GPS) is very sensitive. Raising the GPS to the ceiling shows around 88 feet of elevation. Putting it down to the floor show around 80 feet.

  5. #5
    NEPMCPMBA President
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmktech
    So the elevation on MB routes aren't really that accurate? bummer.
    If you switch on the MB Gravity option, it's pretty darn close... unless you go over a bridge...

  6. #6
    Slowest Rider
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmktech
    The GPS I want to buy will be used 99% for Mountain-Biking, but that other 1% will be used for MX use when trail-riding.

    Today, I got lost in a trail system I had never rode in before, and if only I had something that tracked me from my starting point, I would have been able to just keep checking the GPS and return the way I came.

    Not having a GPS, being completely lost, with no one around, and low on fuel, was something I never want to experience again.

    Now, on to my hopes for a gps:

    1) Accurate elevation reading
    2) Accurate distance
    3) the ability to load my ride on my mac and check out cool features like avg. speed, ELEVATION GAIN (this is what I really want), and other stuff like distance traveled, time spent moving, etc.

    I have a polar wrist-watch HRM, so I don't think I need anything other than just the GPS unit, although if the price is close (within $30) I guess it would be nice to have it all inclusive.

    As I am typing this, EDGE 205/305 is jumping out at me, but I'm just not sure. Besides the HRM and cadence capability, is there any OTHER benefits to the 305 over the 205? A color screen would be nice, but I'm not picky.

    BUDGET: <$300

    --> Are there any GPS units that would satisfy the above ^^ but ALSO provide turn by turn directions if I wanted to use it in my vehicle?

    Thanks.
    First, you want a barometric altimeter like on the Edge 305 and 705, for any accuracy at all. The satellite altitude error is more than 3 times worse than horizontal error on a GPS (less timing differential if all the satelites are all above you). In practice, I find the satellite altitude like on the Edge 205 is off by +/-150', and can vary every few minutes. In contrast, the barometric altimeter on the Edge305 has 1' accuracy, and typically a smooth drift of 10' per hour from air pressure changes. Pacman once gave me his tracks from an Edge 205 and 305 on the same ride, which I plotted and posted over on NorCal forum. The Edge 205 with satellite altimeter had an extra 1000'/hour of total climb from 100' altitude noise! The Edge 205 is essentially useless for any altitude measure or profile.

    Second, for tracking back, you want a map screen that will show your previous track and allow you to back track. The Edge 305 will show your track fine relative to your current position, but show no reference points like a topo map. The Edge 705 can store Topo maps (available for ~$80 more) on it's memory, and display them nicely on the screen. But for emergency track back, the Edge 305 may be fine. The topo maps on the Edge 705 (or GPSMap 60CSx or Vista HCx) are more useful if you need to leave the trail and go cross country for some crazy reason (like being totally lost), and don't want to go through a lake or mountain top.

    In contrast to the Edge 305, the Edge 705 (and the other GPS below) allows street routing if you buy street maps (another $80). But unlike car systems you just get beeps and a display of instructions, rather than a speaker calling them out.

    You can get everything you want from a small hardy eTrex Vista HCx for $239. Color screen, memory, etc. You just don't get fitness functions.

    Here's my simple recommendations for MTB that I recently wrote up for Wherewolf who wanted mapping. He's getting the Edge 705. You may also be fine with the Edge 305 if you don't want maps or routing. But you can also get the eTrex Vista with mapping capability for a lot less if you don't need the fitness functions.


    Edge 705 with HRM $499 – Favorite ‘bike’ model, more fitness oriented, rechargeable internal Li battery
    eTrex Vista HCx $229 - more general purpose including street and POI, AA batteries, no HRM or Cadence capability
    GPSMap 60CSx $303 – Identical in features to above Vista HCx, but 50% larger screen, large size, larger price

    Prices and links are from Amazon. Geoman on MTBR has good prices and excellent support too. Go to the GPS forum and you’ll see lots of posts by him with links to his store in his signature. I do not recommend the newest Garmin Colorado in spite of its great new features and potential. It has a lot of bugs in software, poor operation, a very dark screen, bad battery life, and water leakage in the new slide-on battery cover, just to name a few problems.

    These three Garmin GPS units are somewhat similar and will all provide you what you need. The Edge is a bit more bike oriented with a stem mount, and many fitness features like a Heart Rate Monitor and Cadence sensor, lap timers, and the ability to race a virtual friend doing the route, even yourself from a previous loop.

    I preferred the eTrex Vista and GPSMap 60CSx for the greater versatility, color screen, ability to use AA batteries, and mapping functions. But the Edge 705 now has color screens and mapping function (at greater cost). So the advantage of the latter two is now primarily price and AA battery capability, if you don’t need the fitness functions. The Vista is smaller and also has a smaller screen and smaller price. The 60CSx has a bigger screen but is therefore a bigger GPS too. I now use the 60 CSx as I like the bigger screen on my handlebars.

    I especially like being able to use rechargeable AA batteries in my GPS units. Many people run out of power on the trail with the Edge. First the real time as used in non-conservation mode is much less than indicated, maybe 8-10 hours. Second, as the batteries age, the life drops down to six hours or less. Some people use cell phone chargers and the USB port to extend the battery life on the trail. I like AAs better as I can swap batteries between GPS, radio, and flashlight as needed. And if you’re in a emergency, you’re a lot likelier to find AAs in your pack somewhere.

    What the above suffixes mean
    ‘H’ – High sensitivity receiver using the new SiRFIII receiver that almost never loses signal. All of the above units now use this newer SiRFIII receiver
    ‘C’ – Color screen. The color screen is very easy to read even in bright sunlight, and adds a lot of visual information. All the above units are color screens
    ‘x’ – Expandable memory with microSD card. This is for storing routes, tracks, and mostly maps. All the above units have this.>>[/
    ‘S’ – Sensors – including barometric altimeter and magnetic compass to see direction when standing still. All the above units have this.

    GPS Terminology
    Waypoints: Location of a specific spot such as a trail head, intersection, or other interesting point. It is given a name.
    Route: A connect-the-dots path between waypoints. I make routes for new rides between waypoints at tricky turns and intersections. A typical route may have 10-20 waypoints.
    Track: A record of where you actually went, including location, time, and altitude, usually a few hundred points on a few hour ride. These tracks are uploaded to places like Motion Based for analysis.
    POI: A Point of Interest, such as a gas station, restaurant, store, ATM, police, etc.. Sort of like a Yahoo Yellow Pages, but oriented to your current location. Garmin even includes the smaller bike stores in their 6 million POI list. You can navigate to the POI, and the address and phone numbers of the POI are also listed so you can call them first to see if they’re open. The POIs come for free along with the street maps, but not the Topo maps.

    What features are good (All the above recommended units have these features.)
    Barometric Altimeter: Resolution to 1’ altitude. The GPS can deduce altitude from the satellite (like on the 205 and 605 without a barometric altimeter). However, the satellite altitude has about a 100’ error that drifts every few minutes. As such, your track will record an extra 1000’/hour of erroneous climb from the altitude noise. In other words, the satellite altimeter is useless.
    Magnetic Compass: If you’re moving, the GPS can tell which way you’re pointed, but not when you’re stopped. If you want to compare a topo map to features around you, having a magnetic compass that moves the two in sync when stopped at a trail head is very nice. The magnetic compass is especially nice for geocaching when you’re looking for a destination while standing still.
    Mapping GPS: This means your GPS can display maps, topo or street, which can be swapped at will. The best map displays are color. Maps can help you identify terrain around you – mountains, lakes, roads, etc, and even show you a way to bail if needed for emergency
    Expandable Memory: Mostly useful for mapping. A Topo map for the entire US is less than 1 GB. The street maps for the entire US is under 2 GB. On my 2 GB microSD card, I store a combined street and topo map for the entire western US.
    AutoRouting: More for streets. If you want to navigate to a POI, it will create a route (like MapQuest) and give you turn by turn directions. A more car oriented unit will speak in English. These smaller units will just give different beeps and show the command on the screen. The small screens make this difficult for real car routing, except maybe with the 60CSx.

    Maps
    You will need to buy maps for the above mapping units, Topo and/or Street. Each map set costs ~$80 for the entire USA. You can swap between the map sets on your computer screen or GPS screen. You can mix and match and download both sets of maps (Topo and Street) to your GPS, and switch between them with a menu item. The Topo maps are best for the trail, and include contour lines every 160’, all lakes and streams, most mountain peaks by name and height, about 75 of the dirt roads and maybe 40% of the trails. I especially like the Topo map for using at home to plan routes. I can see where the trail goes on the Garmin MapSource software, that’s a lot faster and easier to plan with then Google Earth or other features. So don’t buy the maps on the microSD cards, as you can’t get them on your computer, and you can’t generate custom map sets for your memory card. Instead buy the DVD maps which are the same price. Also, I have the older Topo map set without licensing restriction. The newer Topo that just came out has very minor improvements other than licensing. So if you want to load my Topo maps to your computer (3 CDs), you’re welcome to borrow them. (Or I might be able to make a copy.)

    The street maps (current version is City Navigator North America 2008) include streets, autorouting information, and 6 million POIs. The street maps are very nice to have. I find the POIs are a big advantage of a GPS. Being able to look around your current location for an ATM, bike store, or pizza shop, and get directions to it along with the phone number is invaluable. It’s worth the $80.
    It's not slow, it's doing more MTB time.

  7. #7
    Arnold
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    Great post, BigLarry.

    I'd like to add, that when you're lost in the forest or not sure where to go, a magnetic compass is invaluable. I wouldn't want a GPS without it. But you also need Topo maps, or else the compass itself is kind of like driving a car with your eyes closed. Once you get lost, you will understand the value.

    And think of it this way - you can (and should) use it anywhere you go - not just when biking. When you're driving to a new and unfamiliar location, you can easily navigate to it without printing out silly directions from MapQuest or Google Maps. Once you arrive at the spot and need to walk - you take it with you and navigate further. Going travelling? Take it with you on the plane, into your rental car, and go exploring! If you ever go boating/fishing, a GPS is very useful as well. Don't think of it as only a tool for biking - you will use it everywhere if you buy a proper one. For me it's almost like taking my wallet and car keys, whenever I head out.

  8. #8
    GeoMan
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigLarry
    Geoman on MTBR has good prices and excellent support too. Go to the GPS forum and you’ll see lots of posts by him with links to his store in his signature.
    As always, BigLarry provides excellent detail and valuable considerations. Thanks both for the excellent information and the GeoManGear mention, Larry. We appreciate that.

    Ride on!
    GeoMan
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  9. #9
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    It depends what you really want. I don't want another device on my handlebar (hrm and cyclemeter are enough), so I just keep my bluetooth antenna in jersey's pocket and Smartcom gps on my Nokia E51 phone. It makes nice track for later when I'm home, and if I get really lost, I can take phone out and check where on map I am. Nicest of all is, that for map any jpg file (even scanned and then calibrated paper map) does fine.
    So if you have normal phone already, bluetooth antena is around 50eur, and program (smartcom gps) is also around 50eur, so it's way under your budget.

  10. #10
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    First GPS purchase - complete n00b

    Hey. I've been lurking around this forum for a while, trying to read up and decide what GPS to buy. First thing I realized was that I had to upgrade my OS to run the software (ended up with a new PC). I was torn between the Vista HCx and the 60CSx - both have nearly identical features, and differ mainly in size and control layout.

    Based on the input of ppl like BigLarry, I decided to go with the 60CSx - I was willing to deal with a slightly larger unit in exchange for a bigger display and more intuitive/easier to use controls. I also picked up Topo 2008 on DVD (I think this was the right purchase as opposed to Topo 24K, which I think is only major parks and rec areas, but I am still a bit confused).

    Having a new baby at home, I haven't had the chance to fool with it yet, but I am really psyched to spend the upcoming weekend learning how to use it.

    If anyone has any suggestions/helpful hints - I'm all ears.

  11. #11
    GeoMan
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    The 60CSx is a GREAT unit - my favorite overall for a handheld.

    Enjoy!!!

    Ride on!
    GeoMan
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  12. #12
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    For mountaineering, dual-sport riding, and some MTBing, I went with the eTrex Legend Cx (now HCx). I also have an earlier copy of Roads & Recreation, which isn't locked, so it can be used on multiple units. The color screen, mapping, and auto-routing (for moto riding) functions are key. The larger-screen units were heavier than I wanted to carry, and more expensive.

    You should carry a separate compass and paper maps anyway, so I don't mind that the GPS doesn't have one (although it'd be a nice feature when you're stopped). I find the elevation to be accurate enough as a navigation aid, but it doesn't give you total elevation gain/loss.

  13. #13
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    Back to the original posters question,

    Personally I don't think the Edge 205/305/705 is useful for anything but bicycling.

    I do have a 305 that I use on all my rides, and I think it makes an excellent bike computer/heart rate monitor/track logger. The 305 replaced my Polar 725 that I wore on my wrist, Avocet cyclometer mounted on my bar, and GPS that I carried in my backpack to record the ride (but didn't use for mapping). Having all the data (heartrate/speed/altitude/track) in one file, all correlated, is very nice.

    The non-existent mapping on the 205/305 would make it not useful for finding your way out (unless you are willing to backtrack), and the form factor isn't as usable for non-bike use as a "handheld".

    As others have commented, the 60CSx is excellent. I especially like the ability to record tracks directly to the SD card (it lets me record at the greatest accuracy without ever running out of memory, whereas the Edges/non-'x' models can run out after 3-4 hours). The 60CSx is huge compared to the Edge, and I personally wouldn't mount it on my handlebars.

    So, for my regular riding I use an Edge 305 mounted on the stem, and if I want a very accurate track that exceeds 3 hours, I'll also tuck the 60CSx at the top of my pack, turned on and recording. For non-biking applications I use the 60CSx alone.

    If you are buying only one, I'd get the 60CSx or comparable Vista. If you can afford another, get an Edge 305, mount it to your bars, and ditch the Polar and any other cyclometer you're using.

  14. #14
    Arnold
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    Quote Originally Posted by tommyjay
    I also picked up Topo 2008 on DVD (I think this was the right purchase as opposed to Topo 24K, which I think is only major parks and rec areas, but I am still a bit confused).
    Topo 2008 is the right map. The Topo 24K is for US National Parks, which is very nice too, if you frequent them. Basically, they have more trails on them than the regular Topo maps.

    If anyone has any suggestions/helpful hints - I'm all ears.
    Just play with it and experiment. It is the best way to learn. And it's not hard.

  15. #15
    EDR
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    60csx. Turn by turn direction support. User friendly interface compared to Vista (more dedicated function buttons). Larger screen. Excellent reception in the canopy, in the car, in my living room! The external antenna really helps in this aspect. Only drawbacks are relative to what you want....its larger than the Vista, I don't mount mine on my bike but I can throw it in my camelbak and reception is fine.

  16. #16
    The Yard Sale King.
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    Tried out my 60CSx today - LOVE IT

    First off, thanks Geoman and Arnold for the input!

    I messed around with my brandy-spanking new 60CSx last night - calibrated the compass and altimeter, loaded some topo maps, got familiar with the controls.

    So today, I tossed it in my hydration pack and took it along for a ride. Super cool! There are a few unmarked splits where I can never remember which way to turn - not any longer thanks to the tracking functions. And checking out the data after the ride on Mapsource is so cool.

    Thus I have been indoctrinated - I am completely sold on GPS.

  17. #17
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    Based on everything I read in this post, I just purchased the 60CSx with all the extras. 2-day shipping will put it in my hands tomorrow. I can't wait to take it out on my rides.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and opinions!!!!
    Greg
    I may be late to the game and won't finish first, but I'll still be smilin'

  18. #18
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    The 60CSx looks good. I'll look around for the best deals but it would be really useful to have this on all backcountry hikes and rides.

  19. #19
    mtbr member
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    One thinkg to look out for when selecting a GPS is the mapping coordinate options on the unit.

    I had a 305 that I used on everyride in the the US. I took it on my vacation to Europe (France), where you can buy some of the best topo maps in the world (1:25,000 details with topo, trails, landmarks. etc. - check out ign.fr) Problem is that they use a different coordinate system which pretty much rendered my 305 useless for navigating with my maps.

  20. #20
    GeoMan
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    Quote Originally Posted by NEPA_Biker1958
    Based on everything I read in this post, I just purchased the 60CSx with all the extras. 2-day shipping will put it in my hands tomorrow. I can't wait to take it out on my rides.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and opinions!!!!
    Excellent choice!

    Enjoy!

    GeoMan
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  21. #21
    Dude...
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    Vista HCX for me.. I use topofusion and it works quite well. You can set it up to display whatever you want (speed, elevation, max speed, etc.) all on one screen, check out elevation profiles of rides, look at maps, and all sorts of other things. Plus it's half as much as the edge 705.

    Also, spending 80 bucks for maps isn't necessary. Try here:

    http://www.miscjunk.org/mj/mp_cotopo.html

    40 foot topo for colorado and a bunch of other states for free (donations accepted).. Doesn't have any trail data though. All sorts of mines and peaks and stuff like that..

  22. #22
    GeoMan
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jessep
    Vista HCX for me.. I use topofusion and it works quite well. You can set it up to display whatever you want (speed, elevation, max speed, etc.) all on one screen, check out elevation profiles of rides, look at maps, and all sorts of other things. Plus it's half as much as the edge 705.

    Also, spending 80 bucks for maps isn't necessary. Try here:

    http://www.miscjunk.org/mj/mp_cotopo.html

    40 foot topo for colorado and a bunch of other states for free (donations accepted).. Doesn't have any trail data though. All sorts of mines and peaks and stuff like that..
    The Vista HCx is a terrific handheld too. In fact, if you are looking for similar specs in a smaller form factor, the Vista HCx is it. I like this unit almost as much as the 60CSx...
    GeoMan
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  23. #23
    MTB Rider
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    I've had a Legend Cx for 2 years now and use it MTBing, snowmobiling & just got back from a a trip to Dublin VA w/ it. Quite happy w/ its performance & features. As my family will say, I spend way too much time playing w/ the tracks & waypoints using my laptop after a ride or trip (wannabe cartographer).
    2008 Trek Fuel EX 8
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