Reliable Basic Mtn Bike Computer/GPS- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Reliable Basic Mtn Bike Computer/GPS

    Looking for my first bike computer/GPS. For my use, i think navigation is more important than cycling data. I'm not super technical about things. I'm one of these people that may use 10% of what my phone is capable of. Not 100% sure of what I need?
    Have read about some older models such as Etrex 30x, Garmin 520,810 and others but my head is swirling.

    Wish List

    -Simple and reliable is #1
    -Enjoying the scenery is more important than the device.
    -Price point up to $350, but less is preferable. Not opposed to buying second hand or refurb but new is first choice.
    -Color would be nice but not a deal breaker
    -Ability to zoom in or out on maps would be nice
    - Ability to simply download to maps to gps if needed
    -Decent battery life
    - Used primarily in Mountain Trails but a bit of city use as well.
    -Heart rate monitor
    -Elevation/Altimeter
    -Not tied/dependant on cell phone

  2. #2
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    Add another $75 (maybe less) for the hear rate monitor.

    A model to look at is the Garmin Edge Explore, $250.

    1) It's a more basic model, has fewer performance metrics like add-on power meters, etc... designed more for the touring crowd. Color screen, you can set the map to show topo lines, has zoom and pan via the touchscreen. Battery life is 12 hrs. which is typical, some do 15, the Edge 1030 does 20 hrs. ($399).

    2) It will connect an HRM

    3) Speed Sensor, works with the Explore (not every accessory will). This is useful for riding in the deeper woods when a GPS signal can get wonky (everybody's GPS has this issue, its the nature of a weak GPS signal). A Speed Sensor counts wheel rotations, senses the earths magnetic field and provides better distance accuracy. Not crucial but many mt. bikers find it useful. $35

    4) Can use the iQ Trail Forks app (free) so you can find mt. bike trails, create off-line and download routes, has the larger of the Garmin screens so is good for navigating. The iQ apps are a Garmin system of developers who create add-on apps for the devices to improve usefulness. Trail Forks is likely the biggest database of single track currently, they have a great on-line website with a lot of routes and trials that other cyclists have tracked and uploaded the rides to TF. Or you can create your own routes and download to the device. It's down via the BlueTooth Garmin Connect Mobile App, works great.

    5) The Explore can also download routes you or others create in RideWithGPS, also free, that has a huge data base, more road oriented,, used the Google Maps as the base map. Also free.

    6) Elevation is a crap shoot on ALL GPS devices due to the inability of GPS to accurately determine elevation. More expensive units have a built in barometric sensor that helps generate elevation, can be off as well. The Explore does not have a barometric sensor.

  3. #3
    since 4/10/2009
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    You're asking for quite a few features. It definitely puts you into mapping receiver territory. While some of the less expensive handhelds can accept additional sensors (HRM, wheel sensor), I'd suggest that they're a little more difficult to use for day-to-day riding. It's hard to describe succinctly (especially to someone less familiar with what's going on), but what makes them good for hiking and other handheld duties doesn't work as well for FITNESS activities. The user interface of fitness devices works really well for activities that have well-defined starts and ends. Turn it on, wait for it to find the satellites, then press "start" and when you're done, press "stop". Boom. There's usually a couple other button presses to save the activity (or delete it in case of a false start) and then to turn it off again. Handhelds don't quite work like that.

    While I do agree that elevation on these devices is a bit of a crapshoot with regards to accuracy, I do find a barometric altimeter useful when you're riding somewhere with big climbs/descents. If you know your climb tops out at xxx elevation, then the altimeter can give you a nice feel for how much more climbing you've got to do. This isn't so useful in places with more rolling terrain and shorter climbs so it's not a use case I ever really dealt with until I moved somewhere with mountains and climbs that went on for miles and miles.

    Words like "decent" don't really help. What do you consider "decent" for battery life? Are you looking for a device you plan to use bikepacking, or are all your rides less than an hour long? Are you trying to get through a weekend of camping/riding trips on a single charge? What are you after?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    Words like "decent" don't really help. What do you consider "decent" for battery life? Are you looking for a device you plan to use bikepacking, or are all your rides less than an hour long? Are you trying to get through a weekend of camping/riding trips on a single charge? What are you after?
    Not sure. I think most of the time 6 hours or less.

    Thank you for your reply.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by hardtail1416 View Post
    Not sure. I think most of the time 6 hours or less.

    Thank you for your reply.
    The Garmin & Wahoo units tend to have 12-20 hrs of battery time. If you use the unit to navigate a really long day and keep the map screen on, youíll likely see 60-70 % of the states battery time (IME). Itís easy to recharge these units off a USB battery stick or pack and you can even run these units off a stick/pack if you wanted to do a double century, as example.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catmandoo View Post
    A model to look at is the Garmin Edge Explore, $250.
    Review from DC Rainmaker. Very positive!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOvUJ7hoJfc


    Garmin Promo
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=R...re=emb_rel_end

  7. #7
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    The Edge Explore will sometimes be used in rough terrain.
    Suggestions needed for the following:

    1) A high quality mount for the Edge Explore? What position of the gps do you think is most desirable?

    2) A secure tether option.

  8. #8
    since 4/10/2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by hardtail1416 View Post
    The Edge Explore will sometimes be used in rough terrain.
    Suggestions needed for the following:

    1) A high quality mount for the Edge Explore? What position of the gps do you think is most desirable?

    2) A secure tether option.
    You're going to have to figure out the mounting location you like best. I have my preferences, and it varies from one bike to another depending on handlebar layout. I use out-front mounts on my road/gravel bikes. I have an over-the-stem mount on another bike (steerer spacer with a hinge, and the Garmin mount attached to that hinge, so the angle can be adjusted to suit the layout). I don't like that mount on another bike, so I use the basic Garmin rubber-band-to-the-bars mount on another mtb.

    I recommend starting with those basic Garmin mounts and if you don't like the spots where those things allow you to put the computer, then look for something that lets you put the computer where you do like it.

    If the Edge Explore doesn't come with one, one of these is all you need:

    https://www.amazon.com/Garmin-Tether...192938&sr=8-17

    You might be able to find some off-brand ones on ebay or elsewhere for cheaper. Just attach the computer to the bars so your computer stays attached to the bike in case the mount breaks in a crash.

  9. #9
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    For my mt. bike I use something like what Harold uses, in my case a mount that installs under the stem cap (removing a spacer), set over the stem. The angle is adjustable. It keeps the device in as safe a place as possible in place of a crash and as well I always use the tether.

    https://www.amazon.com/Best-Tek-Garm...8213279&sr=8-3

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