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Thread: GPS Education

  1. #1
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    GPS Education

    Hello All...

    I'm fairly ignorant when it comes to GPS, so I can really use the forums help !!

    I'm looking for something to provide basic directions on trails in the San Gabriel range, in Southern California. I'm planning on doing rides between 20 - 40 miles and I want to be sure I'm on the correct trails.

    Any input / education you all can provide will truly be a appreciated !!

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by SCHerzig View Post
    Hello All...

    I'm fairly ignorant when it comes to GPS, so I can really use the forums help !!

    I'm looking for something to provide basic directions on trails in the San Gabriel range, in Southern California. I'm planning on doing rides between 20 - 40 miles and I want to be sure I'm on the correct trails.

    Any input / education you all can provide will truly be a appreciated !!
    What do you mean by "basic directions"? How do you want the device to direct you?

    Fitness GPSes like this can provide directions in a couple of different ways, which will most likely differ from the navigation you receive in the car from Waze or Google Maps or whatever.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the quick input !

    I think I'm looking for a way to confirm that I am on the coorrect trail

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    You can have difficulties using a GPS for certain types of “trails”, as not every trail that are used for mt. biking are mapped currently. EDIT:, when I say “mapped currently, I mean somebody rode that trail while tracking the route on a GPS and then uploaded that route - and the trail, to a mapping data base like TrailForks, for future use by others wanting to follow that GPS track of the trail.

    You can see this when you use Google maps. For a lot of areas where you would want to ride, the trails might not be shown.

    A typical GPS cycling computer used for navigation on roads will have in its database pretty much all the roads in a given area. It needs to. As you generate a course or route to follow, the device can determine your position and will know when you are on or off the desired route, as it knows which road to follow and knows which roads to not follow.

    Unfortunately there’s currently no similar data base of every potential trail that you might want to follow, thus while you can generate a route on a website such as TrailForks, there will almost certainly be trails missing from the data base TF uses. Thus when you get to an intersection, it can be hit or miss as to whether that trail “exists” in the database and if it doesn’t, the devise isn’t going to know to tell you “go right”, etc...

    As a start and before investing $250 or so on a device, maybe download the TrailForks app onto a smartphone and try using it a bit. Then give at look at the TF website and see if the trails you want follow are shown.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catmandoo View Post
    You can have difficulties using a GPS for certain types of “trails”, as not every trail that are used for mt. biking are mapped currently. You can see this when you use Google maps. For a lot of areas where you would want to ride, the trails might not be shown.

    A typical GPS cycling computer used for navigation on roads will have in its database pretty much all the roads in a given area. It needs to. As you generate a course or route to follow, the device can determine your position and will know when you are on or off the desired route, as it knows which road to follow and knows which road to not follow.

    Unfortunately there’s no similar data base of every potential trail that you might want to follow, thus while you can generate a route on a website such as TrailForks, there will almost certainly be trails missing from the data base TF uses. Thus when you get to an intersection, it can be hit or miss as to whether that trail “exists” in the database and if it doesn’t, the devise isn’t going to know to tell you “go right”, etc...

    As a start and before investing $250 or so on a device, maybe download the TrailForks app onto a smartphone and try using it a bit.
    This is the big rub. Your GPS needs to have the relevant data on it. Which means it's going to take a good bit of study to figure out if there are any gaps in the data, and if so, where they are in the trail network you plan to ride. Also, to figure out how to handle gaps in your map data.

    Using a GPS or even a cell phone app for navigation isn't idiot-proof (even though some will make it out like it is), and it all requires some planning and map studying before you head out. The more remote the place you're going, the more you should study maps and plan your route before you go.

    I'm lucky in some ways. There's both very good quality paper trail maps as well as good quality digital trail maps for the hundreds of miles of trails within an hour of my house. I tend to gravitate towards the good paper maps. I've studied them enough that for most of the trails I ride, I generally don't need to reference them on the trails anymore. There are social trails scattered throughout the trail network that don't appear on any map. There are a few spots where I need to do quick trail checks in my most ridden trails. Trail navigation apps work well for that, since they show trail names on the map better than my Garmin Edge 520 does, so I can relate trail signs to the map data. I do have to be vigilant for incorrect map data on the digital maps, too. I have corrected some very terrible mapping errors for my area on MTBProject, for example.

    I pull the paper maps out when I'm on trails I haven't ridden often (or ever) and need to see a bigger picture than I can get from a screen. I also pull paper maps out when I encounter other people who need some nav help. Plus, I've always got a paper map in my pack in case my digital stuff isn't working. The GPS comes in real handy anytime I need a little extra help pinpointing my current location on the map, or when I need to know where I've been - say, if I need to backtrack, or I need to know when I've looped back around to a trail I've already ridden or something.

    You need to be confident enough in your navigation skills to be able to identify errors like that and deal with them in the field. I remember riding in the Las Vegas area 3yrs ago, and the map data was absolutely terrible for a local trail system there. I was given an extremely poor quality photocopied paper map by a local shop. And the digital maps did not match up with the trail name signs on the ground. It got rather confusing, and I spent quite a bit of time figuring out the discrepancies and switching to a far more basic form of navigation (reading the terrain around the trails) to figure out which trails to ride to get where I wanted to go. I eventually met up with a couple other riders going roughly the same direction I was going, and decided to f* it and just follow them.

  6. #6
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    Trailforks combined with paper trail maps (if available) for the trail system(s) you plan to ride on.

    The paper maps have the official routes. You can use Trailforks to see YOUR position on the screen to which you can compare your dot to the paper.

    Otherwise, what Harold said.
    Trailforks and MTB Project are two good app resources for trails.

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    In areas in the Northeast that I've ridden the vast majority of rideable trails, and the trails I liked, were not in Tralforks or MTBProject. All of them were on current OSM maps. There's an OSM app (OSM And) for phones that will download area maps to the phone so no cell service is needed. Of course, as discussed, phones are large, fragile, and have relatively short battery life for something to mount on the bars, but you can always pull it out of your pack if needed. Also, though the trails are on the map, there is no description or anything about whether they're open to public mtbing or not. For planning rides, my usual mode of operation was to look around on OSM to find trails and trail networks, then google the named areas to get more info.

    Lately I'm using a Garmin Edge 820. It has a small screen but runs OSM maps so I can usually figure out where I am and where I need to go on it...though not always as the screen size and resolution is pretty small. I've used it many many times for prompted nav on roads, but on twisty trails with many intersections I haven't found that to work well in most instances and just look at the map.
    What, me worry?

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    Trailforks has a very extensive set of trails for the 12 or so parks and trail systems on Long Island, where I live.

    It's certainly possible to download a TF route to follow, but the bottom line is even with as extensive a set of GPS tracks as we have, not every trail is in the data base. The result is the TF route will have moments where it isn't navigating as it isn't aware of that crossing trail you just rolled up to.

    At that point you need some common sense to understand what the GPS map is showing you, where you are and that you need to ignore that "other" trail that isn't on your electronic (or paper) map.

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    You could use something like a Garmin Etrex20 and download topo maps for your region. That should get you down to the trail level in most places.

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    I am in same boat - I ride alone a lot and was looking for that gold standard. But, paper maps if you can get them are the most reliable especially some of the places I like to ride. When it comes to GPS units (Garmin, Wahoo) I am clueless. I use my phone with Trail Forks and MTB Project and still sometimes cannot figure out up from down. Then I just say f*ck it and ride. In a perfect world it would be nice to have something that occasional made a noise/beep that let you know all is well and you are on the route - and a bad beep to let you know you took a wrong turn.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbguy123 View Post
    You could use something like a Garmin Etrex20 and download topo maps for your region. That should get you down to the trail level in most places.
    Topo maps are likely to be significantly more outdated than the online resources like TrailForks. The TF trails are typically generated by local riders who upload the track to the database, thus it’s updated a lot more often than a USGS Topo.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by trapperK2 View Post
    I am in same boat - I ride alone a lot and was looking for that gold standard. But, paper maps if you can get them are the most reliable especially some of the places I like to ride. When it comes to GPS units (Garmin, Wahoo) I am clueless. I use my phone with Trail Forks and MTB Project and still sometimes cannot figure out up from down. Then I just say f*ck it and ride. In a perfect world it would be nice to have something that occasional made a noise/beep that let you know all is well and you are on the route - and a bad beep to let you know you took a wrong turn.
    See posts 4 & 11. The TrailForks trails are likely the most recently used and tracked.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catmandoo View Post
    Topo maps are likely to be significantly more outdated than the online resources like TrailForks. The TF trails are typically generated by local riders who upload the track to the database, thus it’s updated a lot more often than a USGS Topo.
    Where I live, the paper maps are better and more up-to-date and relevant. And produced by a local rider.

    Sent from my VS995 using Tapatalk

  14. #14
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    If/when I resort to paper, it's maps I've researched, downloaded and printed out. Sometimes I get a map displaying on the monitor, ctrl-PrtScn, and then crop, scale and print it using Paint or something similar.
    What, me worry?

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    Where I live, the paper maps are better and more up-to-date and relevant. And produced by a local rider.

    Sent from my VS995 using Tapatalk
    Yes, I should have made the distinction between a locally produced trail map and a USGS Topo map. In my area (Long Island) there’s no question that for the dozen or so official mt. bike trail systems, the Trail Forks GPS tracks are much more up to date than any USGS and are actually more recent than the maps the local mt. bike club has created. So much so that the club is actually looking for a volunteer to work with the TF maps to keep them accurate, labeled, etc...

    The USGS topo maps are ancient and have pretty much no useful information as to the hundreds of miles of trails built in the past 20 years.

    But hot and miss as to the region, though I think you will see a huge increase in the useful data base of TF over the coming years.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catmandoo View Post
    Yes, I should have made the distinction between a locally produced trail map and a USGS Topo map. In my area (Long Island) there’s no question that for the dozen or so official mt. bike trail systems, the Trail Forks GPS tracks are much more up to date than any USGS and are actually more recent than the maps the local mt. bike club has created. So much so that the club is actually looking for a volunteer to work with the TF maps to keep them accurate, labeled, etc...

    The USGS topo maps are ancient and have pretty much no useful information as to the hundreds of miles of trails built in the past 20 years.

    But hot and miss as to the region, though I think you will see a huge increase in the useful data base of TF over the coming years.
    Also depends on which USGS topos you're using. Yes, you can still get your hands on the old ones. But new ones have been getting made for awhile now.

    https://www.usgs.gov/core-science-sy...m/national-map

    https://www.usgs.gov/core-science-sy...ge_related_con

    Trails will still be less recent than locally-produced or crowdsourced maps, but far more recent than the 1950's or 1960's (when the last edition of topo maps were largely produced, and maybe revised in the 1970's).

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