simple gps for the technology challenged- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    simple gps for the technology challenged

    Hello, sorry I'm a bit technologically challenged. What other devices can I use to track myself using Strava ? I've been using my phone but it wears my battery down to quickly.

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    Honestly, the simplest thing would be to turn on airplane mode, then make sure your location is on. That will minimize your power usage. Or get a new battery for your phone. Or both.

    Bike GPS can do this, but they are fiddly as hell.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwiceHorn View Post
    Bike GPS can do this, but they are fiddly as hell.
    Depends which computer you get, and what you consider fiddly.

    My Garmin Edge 520 took a few minutes to set up initially, which consisted of answering some questions. But at this point, it's pretty simple. Older Garmins I've owned/used were more complicated. Some brands let you set up the computer through a phone app that has a smoother interface. And yeah, others are fiddly as hell.

    OP, there are a lot of options on the market. You're not going to be able to decide if something will work well for you, considering your "technology challenged" comments, unless you put hands on it and experience what it takes to use it.

    I cannot recommend much beyond that, because some models that claim simplicity (like the Garmin Edge 20 and 25, for example) have significantly reduced functionality to achieve that simplicity (and most importantly, price point). Sure, they're simple to use, but I don't think you'd be getting any improvements in battery life or accuracy as compared to using strava on your phone.

  4. #4
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    Thanks guys, My cell phone right now for some reason isnt as accurate as my buddies using Strava (I'm always less distance than him). I use T Mobile not sure if that has anything to do with it but I'm consistently .5-1 mile less than other guys I ride with. I wanted to get a small GPS for this reason, and also so I dont have to kill my cell battery on long rides. If anyone has any thoughts on my cell strava issue please let me know, I've checked every setting I can, I was initially thinking auto pause maybe wasnt kicking back off soon enough but theres no option to adjust this

  5. #5
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    Some GPS chip units are less accurate than others, there is nothing you can do about it.
    But it can also be the settings on your cell phone, some phones, not all, allow you to increase the frequency at which they log your position and thus increasing the accuracy, but this come at the cost of battery life.
    Check your phone location settings on the system settings of your phone and see if you can increase the accuracy of your GPS, other than that there is nothing you can do.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by lpranger467 View Post
    Thanks guys, My cell phone right now for some reason isnt as accurate as my buddies using Strava (I'm always less distance than him). I use T Mobile not sure if that has anything to do with it but I'm consistently .5-1 mile less than other guys I ride with. I wanted to get a small GPS for this reason, and also so I dont have to kill my cell battery on long rides. If anyone has any thoughts on my cell strava issue please let me know, I've checked every setting I can, I was initially thinking auto pause maybe wasnt kicking back off soon enough but theres no option to adjust this
    What are your buddies using? Full disclosure: I don't like strava and don't use it. For one thing, it stops in my pocket. There are many other apps that map and track distance and time. Open GPS Tracker is one. Alltrails. Trailforks. So on and so forth. Many of them will let you change the sampling rate from something like coarse to fine to increase the accuracy. That is done at the software level, though, not at the chip/phone level.

    Also, if your buddies are using a computer of some type with a wheel sensor, their measurements are always going to be more accurate than an all-GPS distance/speed measurement because GPS measures between sampled locations in straight lines and MTBers rarely travel in straight lines.

    You said you are technically challenged but it doesn't actually sound like you are or too badly, in which case a bike GPS computer unit may work for you. But as Harold said, they're all different and all idiosyncratic in their own way. One may fit you better than another, but it's really hard for us to tell you which one.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aglo View Post
    Some GPS chip units are less accurate than others, there is nothing you can do about it.
    I think with phones, the primary hardware culprit is less the GPS chip itself than the antenna the manufacturer attached to it. It amounts to the same thing, though. Worse, it is something that never appears in any product specs, so you never know if you're buying a phone that'll have really good gps accuracy, or one with really poor gps accuracy.

    I recommend going to a store that carries a variety of different gps computers to put hands on them, first. You'll probably have to open some boxes (if they let you do that - hopefully they will) because the display units are probably going to be dummies. If you go to a bike shop that carries some, you might even encounter some of the employees who use some of those. And maybe they rode in to work and would let you see the computers in action, as they work when installed. Then, talk to other riders you meet on the trails about their bike computers. Show up to a group ride and you'll probably see a few models.

    It's a bit more leg work to do it this way, but if you don't want to play the game of chance with ordering something where you're not sure whether it will work for you or not, this is how you'll need to do it. Most of us, though, have had to work through the learning curve of using them. Some more than others. As for me, I had to learn on VERY early Garmins (Garmin GPS IV, iirc) with steep learning curves, before I knew much of anything about navigation or even really anything about small handheld electronics. I've also taken courses on how to use $10,000 survey-grade GPS computers. I can figure out how to use ANY consumer GPS at this point. Whether I like it or not is a different story. For example, I found the Bryton Rider 310 to be fiddly as hell, with options buried under menus that didn't make sense, and too many button presses to reach certain important functions. That's the computer that prompted me to buy the Garmin Edge 520 (with a wheel sensor for every bike I ride, heart rate monitor, and cadence sensor for the road bike), and it's the best GPS bike computer I've ever owned.

    I even bought one for my wife when she expressed an interest in tracking her rides. She's not technologically challenged inasmuch as she doesn't have the patience for fiddly as hell. The Edge 520 works well for her, too.

    We have both of ours set up to upload directly to our Garmin Connect accounts, but only when we specifically tell it to. Leaving bluetooth on all the time will drain the battery a little faster, so I leave that feature off unless I want it. Not a whole lot of point of leaving the phone connected to the computer where I live, anyway. The only places you get cell reception tend to be on the mountain tops and at a few trailheads.

    An additional setup step is to link your Garmin Connect and Strava accounts, if you want that. Once set up, it takes seconds for rides to appear on Strava. Most of the time, I just plug the devices into my desktop computer to charge and transfer files at the same time. Garmin Express handles upload duties there no problem.

    Most of the higher-numbered Garmins have a similar user interface, and only differ with number of features. I don't have direct experience with the Edge 130, but it looks like a decent simpler model that doesn't strip too many features.

    One relevant question to ask is whether you want to use the computer for navigation at all. Putting good trail maps onto these GPS cycling computers is going to be a bit more involved than just using them for tracking. And for the technologically challenged, the Edge 520 may not be the ideal model to use for navigation since just putting maps on it takes a bit more work. Other models are easier to do that with.

  8. #8
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    As far as distance goes I use a wheel sensor on my MTB just because GPS loses accuracy in the woods. I recently rode my local trail and the battery on my wheel sensor died so I just relied on GPS for everything and the distance came up just over a mile shorter on a 11.5 mile ride.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4mula1 View Post
    GPS loses accuracy in the woods.
    no it doesn't. correlation is not causation. The reason your GPS shorts distance on mtb trails in the woods is because of the way GPS records distance by measuring straight lines between individual recorded positions, and not the curve of the trail. The curvier the trail, the shorter the measurement. A wheel sensor measures the actual path that the wheel travels.

    This same phenomenon occurs on twisty cyclocross courses in open fields, too.

  10. #10
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    Thanks very much guys, I really appreciate the feedback. On the topic of my cell I did check the location setting and it is set to the highest so I'm not sure what the issue is. There are settings for GPS/CELL or GPS only and the highest setting is the gps-cell. It's frustrating as that I know it shorts me every ride, sometimes by a half mile and sometimes upwards of 2 compared to friends.

    As to GPS's, I've heard the Garmin 130 may be up my alley, I'm going to watch a few videos when I come home then ask my local group if anyone uses that model.

    Thanks again for the help

  11. #11
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    Just as a matter of clarification, cell phones tend to use two modes of GPS, one that is just classic GPS where GPS satellite signals are used for location and "high accuracy or GPS+wifi" that supplements the GPS signals with data from nearby wifi signals. While the latter can be useful for mapping in urban situations with Google Maps, it is less useful in rural situations or for mountain biking/hiking, unless you are in an environment where there are lots of "stray" wifi signals (some MTB trails are).

    More germane to rural/wilderness mapping is what Open GPS Tracker calls "logging precision" and Alltrails calls "GPS Tracking Method." This is simply how often the software asks the GPS receiver for position data. The more often it asks, the higher the precision and accuracy because the fewer long straight lines it has to "draw" to connect the points to calculate distance. I don't even know if Strava has such a setting because, as mentioned, I discarded Strava long ago.

    Even with the GPS signal sample rate high, on a twisty trail that doubles back on itself, the distance measurement will be short by as much as 20% and the speed measurement similarly.

    Signal dropping from poor/cheap GPS circuitry, or, as Harold mentioned a bad antenna design, will just make this worse. However, I don't think this is the problem it was 10 years ago, even with really cheap hardware.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwiceHorn View Post
    Just as a matter of clarification, cell phones tend to use two modes of GPS, one that is just classic GPS where GPS satellite signals are used for location and "high accuracy or GPS+wifi" that supplements the GPS signals with data from nearby wifi signals. While the latter can be useful for mapping in urban situations with Google Maps, it is less useful in rural situations or for mountain biking/hiking, unless you are in an environment where there are lots of "stray" wifi signals (some MTB trails are).

    More germane to rural/wilderness mapping is what Open GPS Tracker calls "logging precision" and Alltrails calls "GPS Tracking Method." This is simply how often the software asks the GPS receiver for position data. The more often it asks, the higher the precision and accuracy because the fewer long straight lines it has to "draw" to connect the points to calculate distance. I don't even know if Strava has such a setting because, as mentioned, I discarded Strava long ago.

    Even with the GPS signal sample rate high, on a twisty trail that doubles back on itself, the distance measurement will be short by as much as 20% and the speed measurement similarly.

    Signal dropping from poor/cheap GPS circuitry, or, as Harold mentioned a bad antenna design, will just make this worse. However, I don't think this is the problem it was 10 years ago, even with really cheap hardware.
    I have not found such a setting on the strava app, fwiw.

    On phones, recording frequency depends on two things: the frequency the gps hardware pulls from the satellites, and the frequency that the app/software polls the phone's gps chip. MOST gps chips sample at a rate of 1Hz (once per second). There are some out there that poll at 10Hz. I have only seen these on dataloggers, esp for motorsports, though. With speeds orders of magnitude faster than biking or running, that recording frequency is an even bigger deal.

    I also agree that reception hasn't been nearly the same in at least the past 10yrs. I remember the first time I tried to map a mtb trail with gps, around 2001 or 2002 or so. This was after selective availability was turned off, but gps chips had not improved much yet. It was an absolute disaster. It was hard enough to mark a single waypoint, let alone record a track. I personally haven't had reception troubles since around 2005, when I purchased a gps with one of the first new chipsets since selective availability was turned off.

    And now, most chipsets receive signals from not only the US GPS satellites, but also from the Russian GLONASS network, or the European satellites, or maybe both. More satellites means better reception, on top of better error processing (of reflected signals in the woods and steep terrain and urban cores) by better gps chipsets.

    Sent from my VS995 using Tapatalk

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