No, I’m not going to recommend a GPS for biking setup like the one at left. But suffice it to say, I do spend a lot of time biking with various GPS units. And whether you are a road biker or a mountain biker, there’s a GPS that will work well for you, and you only need one on your handlebars! Either type of cyclist will have special needs, so let’s take a look at the options for each:
GPS for road biking
The lower level Garmin Edge series is comprised of cyclometer-type GPS receivers. All of them have high-sensitivity chipsets for superior satellite reception in urban canyons and under canopy. While they are excellent cyclometers, they aren’t all that great as navigation devices (more on navigation options below). If you are primarily wanting to track your performance though, they can be an excellent choice.
A new model is the Garmin Edge 200 (seen at right), which is a basic cyclometer, though you don’t have to calibrate wheel size or mess with wires (yay!), plus you can upload your tracks to online maps and see where you’ve been and get some basic stats.
The Edge 500 adds a barometric altimeter and lets you add a heart rate monitor.
Models with turn-by-turn routing
If you want something for navigating the roads you’re riding, you’ll probably want a GPS with turn-by-turn navigation. Several Edges offer this capability. The newest model is the Garmin Edge 800 (shown at left), which brings a touch screen interface and extensive mapping capabilities to the Edge series. The previous generation includes the Garmin Edge 605 and Edge 705, the first models with color screens and mapping capability (maps purchased separately).
GPS for mountain biking
If you want something that is primarily a training partner, the Edge series (described above) is a great choice. But most mountain bikers getting a GPS will want one that has better backcountry navigation features. Here are my top choices:
- The Garmin GPSMAP 62s (at right) has all the latest features, such as advanced track navigation, and the ability to add Garmin custom maps or BirdsEye aerial imagery. I prefer it to touch screen models such as the Garmin Oregon 450 simply because it’s easier to operate (and change screens) on the fly.
- The DeLorme PN-60w / inReach combo is a special case. Used together, these devices allow for two-way communication with the outside world, even where there is no cell signal. If you venture far off the beaten track, or go it alone, this one is hard to pass up.
- Don’t want to spend as much? Consider the new Garmin eTrex 20, which brings a bevy of new features to a low-cost unit.
And no matter which unit you end up with, remember that there are plenty of free topo maps available for Garmin mapping units.