Sunday, March 18, 2012

GPS for biking

GPS for biking

GPS for biking!

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

GPS Cyclometers

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.
  • 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.

Related posts:


  1. john walther says:

    after reading numerous reviews and postings, I cannot find something that directly answers what I’m looking for, which is a gps device to use primarily when biking on a rail trail or some other off-road (not mountain biking) use. Some trails in the DC area at least connect with other trails, and some sort of navigation would be nice so I can get back to where I started without being lost. Would also like to keep track of time and distance. Another nice thing would be able to do the same thing while walking/hiking, but that’s not as critical to me.

  2. There are some trail navigation options out there. If Garmin’s 24K regional maps have the trails, they will be routable. Ditto for DeLorme and their Topo USA product.

    The newer Garmin units also have some nice advanced track navigation functionality, which would allow you to download a record of someone else’s ride and upload it to your GPS as a track/trail that you could then follow…

    I believe the rails to trails website offers .gpx files for many trails.

    Most handheld GPS will keep track of time and distance.

    • john walther says:

      thanks, appreciate the quick response! I guess I’m still confused about which Garmin unit would be best. The original one I was looking at was the Edge 205/305, but those only draw a line of your route (not with a map). Then I saw the Edge 605, which has maps, but has some horrible reviews on Amazon, and is very expensive. Then I saw the Dakota 10/20, which appears to have applications built in specifically for biking and hiking (and car?), but all the reviews and info just talk about it’s use as a hiking tool. Seems like there are other possibilities too, but I can’t keep track.

      • Hmm, I may not be the best person to ask, as I might be a bit biased. I’ve never really been a fan of the the Edge series. They seem more like cyclometers to me — workout data first, with navigation being more of an afterthought. I’d go with something like the Dakota 20 or Oregon 450 (incredible sale at REI thru 9/6, BTW). My reviews of both were conducted primarily on mountain bike, so reading them may give you more perspective.

  3. Mark McGarry says:

    I’m still uncertain which model is best suited for me. I need to download preplanned bicycle touring routes that follow rural sideroads. So basically an auto type unit with long battery life that’ll fit on a handlebar, viewable in sunlight, that will give turn by turn navigation with cyclo-data secondary, and accept all the way points of a downloadable custom preplanned route. Big problem with the old Nuvi 200 series is that while it can accept custom routes from Google Maps for example, it’ll only accept the start and end points, then calculate it’s own route – useless for my purpose. Ultimately, the goal is to convert our dozens of paper-based cycling routes to a digitized format that can be downloaded to a cycler’s turn-by-turn navigation unit.

  4. I would like to get a GPS for use in the following applications in this priority:
    1.) Mt. Biking on off-road trails
    2.) Hiking
    3.) typical city navigation use.

    I’m have been looking at the Edge 800 vs. Oregon 450. I decided the 450 is better suited for what I want to use it for. Then I read your recommendation for the GPSMAP 62s. So now its a show down between those 2 units. What are your thoughts… what advantage(s) would one have over the other… which screen is easier to read when mounted on a bike? Are they both as accurate?

  5. I am looking at a few different gps models but find it hard to find to choose as a newbie, since my needs are diverse. Basically, I will be taking two trips this year. One is a big cycle tour from munich to barcelona, mostly along established roads in Europe, the other will be offroad in Central Kazakhstan. What should I buy?

    • That’s tough. If it was all on or off road, it would be easier to say. Maybe the Dakota 20 with City Navigator maps for Europe and whatever topos you can find for Kazakhstan.

  6. Thanks for the answer, thats good service! I was looking at that one too. whatever I decide, will make sure you get some affiliate revenue :)!

  7. Hi Rich,

    Thanks for the excellent webpage. I’ve just purchased a Oregon 450, largely based on all your reviews, and am very pleased with it.

    Question though: I’ve created a route with Bikeroutetoaster and downloaded it as .gpx file onto the unit. I’ve checked the internal memory and the files are being correctly saved in …/GARMIN/GPX. However, the imported route doesn’t show up in the Garmin (can’t find it) while routes created from within the Garmin work just fine.

    All the forums I’ve read say that .gpx files in …/GARMIN/GPX should get automatically loaded at start-up. Any idea what’s going on?



    • Glad you’re enjoying the 450 — great unit!

      That site appears to be designed more for Forerunner and Edge fitness devices, which use courses rather than routes and tracks. Before we go any farther, check to see if it is in the track manager, rather than the route manager. Also, did any waypoints from the route show up?

  8. I’m still confused after reading the thread. Here is my need. Any help offered would be much appreciated I am planning a self-guided bicyling tour in Tuscany for later in the year. I don’t speak or read Italian. Hence, I am looking for a good GPS to (1) plan my routes (including recommending and plotting routes that keep my on quiet roads to the extent possible in getting to my desired destination); (2) give turn-by-turn directions; and (3) help navigate me when I get off course. From what I read above, it seemed as if the GPSMAP 60cx is the model I want. I see in your review that it works on a handlebar mount, but I don’t see the mount, and looking at the image of it, it does not appear as if it’a a device that fits (and remains secured) easily on a bicycle while doing long-distance touring. Tell me what I’m missing. Note: the only cyclometric specs that I particularly will be caring about is an odometer, distance traveled on a particular leg of the trip, current speed, and average speed. A good mapping device that helps me navigate on good, bicycling roads in an area I don’t know are much more important. In fact, I’d be willing to sacrifice purchasing a GPS that provides cyclometric metrics for a decent mapping GPS by using my current Cateye computer. I already have a GPS in my car so I don’t care about a model that does double duty. I have no problem in knowing I have to buy software in addition to the hardware in advance of making the acquisition as long as I can get what I need. I’d also be curious as to why you recommend this unit over the Garmin 605. Thanks in advance.

    • I’m not sure I would recommend it over the Edge. The Edge series, paired with City Navigator maps, seems to do a pretty good job of street routing. But then, so does the 60CSX.

      As far as mounts go, some people find the stock Garmin mount a bit less than secure, and go with a RAM mount instead.

      • Matt Birnbaum says:

        Follow-up to the other Matt’s question. I also am planning on touring in Tuscany and tend to do 1-2 self-guided tours a year. I’ve just started doing my homework into a GPS for basically the same reasons that the other Matt stated. On the Adventure Cycling website forum, the gurus there do not recommend the Edge, largely because of its limited mapping capabilities, including a maximum of 100-way points. Hence, why do you see the 605 as a toss-up to the 60Cx?

        • It was just for his particular use case. IIRC, the 605 does fine for turn-by-turn navigation on roads, making it an okay choice for road biking. I would never recommend an Edge for backcountry nav / mountain biking though.

          You make a good point about the waypoint limits BTW.

          • Matt Birnbaum says:

            Thanks Rich for the prompt reply. After looking at the thread, I can now in retrospect that I was the original “other Matt.” Who knew I learned so fast? Let’s come back to the specs:

            (1) 2+ self-contained tour in Tuscany on roads (no mtb; no major hiking)
            (2) Future uses will be similar self-contained road biking tours (about 1x-2x/year) for at least the next 5 years.
            (3) Day and evening club rides (30-100+ miles) in different areas around DC region (including most on back roads to which I’m not that familiar).

            Not interested in keeping account of my stats. Navigation is more important, especially when I get lost or go off the beaten track to explore (or both!). Looking for only basics: current speed, average trip speed, trip distance, odomoter, max trip speed. Not sure about altimeter — probably would be nice but not essential.
            Turn-by-turn directionsl would be very helpful, as I have bad eyes, making it hard to read cue sheets at times. Would like to keep list of any routes created as well as download maps/cue sheets developed by others.

            Currently have Garmen for my car; works great!

            To date, when I get lost, I use my Blackberry, click on Google maps and ultimately get reoriented. Blackberry will not work in Italy given it’s through Verizon. It also is not all that efficient but does the job and is cheap.

            Here are options for Tuscany and beyond:

            (1) Continue to rely on paper maps/cue sheets and cyclometer. If in U.S., use Blackberry as back-up in emergencies.
            (2) Purchase a GPS principally for navigational capabilities, including potential to develop sequence of routes over 100 way points for supporting longer self-contained tours (60cx I presume).
            (3) Purchase a GPS principally for navigational capabilities but also as replacement for current basic bicycle computer, recognizing limits of 100 way-points.

            Final question: how much “juice” do I get for 100 way-points?

  9. You know, I’m not sure I have the best perspective to answer your question. I have found Edge models extremely frustrating, but haven’t worked with “courses.” Instead, I’m more familiar with waypoints, tracks and routes. I’d go with a handheld over an Edge in a heartbeat, but that’s just me.

    Hmm, I was going to suggest searching online for your routes and see if you could find more .crs or .gpx files, but it looks like Garmin is now using .tcx instead of .crs. So you might want to do a few searches for .tcx vs .gpx to see what format touring riders prefer.

    I think this will help too…

  10. Matt Birnbaum says:

    Thanks a lot, Rich. I appreciate the promptness, clarity, and honesty in the responses. I’ll go do the homework. You’re not the only one who I have read who has recommended a handheld strongly over the Edge.



  11. Hi Rich,

    amazing site. So glad I came across it!

    However, being new to GPS and all this i’m a bit confused as to what is right for me.

    In April i’m cycling from the UK to New Zealand for about 1 year so i’m looking for something that will help me get there for a good price. I was looking at the edge 305 as a couple of people who are touring carry one. However, on the specs it says that i can not add maps nor does it come with any base maps. This is something I might need, although I have never tested any GPS stuff before.

    Any suggestions for this 1 year trip?

    Thanks again

    • update… I like to look of the Garmin Dakota 20 GPS

      • I’d definitely prefer the Dakota to the Edge, but I’ve never been a fan of the latter. Be aware that you’ll need to budget for maps, or use a free source like OSM. Managing maps for that long of a tour could be an issue too, unless you’ll have a laptop along.

        • i will have a laptop yes.

          • It might be a good idea to buy City Navigator Europe (I’m assuming you’ll be cycling through quite a few European countries). If you get the micro-SD card it won’t be locked to one unit and you could sell it after your trip.

            Sounds like a great way to spend a year BTW!

  12. Glenn Peacock says:

    Thanks for all fo this info. Amazing site! I’m trying to help some friends plan for a bike trip in France. They want a road bike GPS unit to help navigate from town to town. From what I read on your site, it would seem that the Oregon 450 might be the best device for their use. But I also found the TomTom Urban Rider, which could presumedly be purchased in the France (or Europe) version, and then add US maps for use here. Any thoughts on that, or how it might compare to the Oregon 450 for strictly road-based use? Thanks again!!

    • I’ve no experience with the Rider. For biking, I prefer the Garmin GPSMAP 62s to the Oregon 450, as its easier to change pages on the fly, since you don’t have to look at the unit to do it.

  13. Hi.
    i am in the army so who knows were ill end up. but i travel alot between colorado.
    i am looking for a GPS that i can take wiht me for hiking in the forests of michigan and the mountins of colorado.
    I will be needed it for my mountin bike trips to!
    i am also looking at pulling duble duty as for it would be my car gps to.
    now according to your erlyer anwsers it looks like the GPSMAP 62s would be in the right direction?

    Thanks for all the help!

  14. john walther says:

    I started this string, and never bought anything because it was too confusing (too many similar choices, too many conflicting opinions). I recently saw an Edge 605 offered for $200, so I decided to do some more research. I can say it’s just as confusing now.

    But here is the best I can determine for someone like me. I want something small that easily goes on a bike, and could also maybe be taken along on a run/walk. Seems like the Edge units, Dakota 20, and eTrex units are the smallest/most convenient? My main use is basic stats (speed and distance stuff) for rides/runs around the neighborhood. Is it true that pretty much all the options do that? Also want to be able to go off on a series of unfamiliar, interconnected rail trails and not have to pay attention to all the turns I make on the way out, and be able to easily find my way back (back-track). Do all of them do that too? Another possible use is maybe have something for the car when I’m trying to get somewhere and I don’t have Mapquest printouts. Not sure if I want to ever get into the bike “training mode”, which if I do it seems obvious to go with one of the Edge units.

    Is there anyone out there who could recommend the best option?


    • Yes, those three series are the smallest for your needs. They all offer the basic stats. The Dakota and eTrex mapping units offer backtrack functions. Not sure about the basic eTrex H or the Edge models. For auto use you would probably want to add some of Garmin’s City Navigator maps (or their new 24K topos series, which includes highway maps).

  15. john walther says:

    thanks again Rich. I did some more thinking and research and am pretty sure I’m not into “training”, so the Edge is out. So now I’m debating between the Dakota 20 and the eTrex Legend HCx. Seems like they’re pretty similar functionally and size-wise, but the Dakota has a bigger screen (so maybe better in the car?) and the touchscreen, which you really seem to like. However, the Dakota appears to be much more expensive. Did I also read in one of your reviews that you thought the Dakotas would replace the eTrex? Which one would you pick?

  16. john walther says:

    Wow! I see hike and bike bundles for the Dakota 10, but not for the 20. I see the 20 by itself at one place for $230, but everywhere else closer to $300. Maybe I should wait a while?

    • Yeah, and the sales come and go. You just missed a deal for the Dakota 20 for $169. It could be a couple months or more before we see a good Dakota sale again.

  17. john walther says:

    Rich – I thought I sent a comment in asking about the nuvi 500 as another option, but that doesn’t appear to have shown up. Anyhow, from your review and others I’m thinking that is not as good for me as the Dakota 20, because it’s not as good for carrying around. I also don’t like that it has a special, somewhat expensive battery, and you would really need to purchase a backup.

  18. john walther says:

    Rich – I went ahead and ordered a Dakota 20. Just wanted to say your website provided invaluable assistance as I tried to sort out all of the options and information that is out there. Thanks again!

  19. john walther says:

    will do!

  20. Tim Yeager says:

    I am not very familar with GPS devices, but I am in need of something that I can carry on my bike that will track my course and elevation, which I can then download and print out as maps and elevation charts. Also I occasionaly ride in unfamilar areas, so navigation would come in handy. Will most of the GPS devices with altimeters do this? What would be my least expensive option for this?

  21. Hi,Rich: I have a Garmin nuvi 500. It is waterproof and I can use it for driving, cycling, and walking. I bought it primarily for the car so with the car charger, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t have a long battery life. However, I have also started using it for cycling. I enjoy seeing all the data it provides as I ride my bike. The problem is that the battery life is dismal. I will charge it the night before and after two and a half hours, it has a low battery. So while I love the unit, I am thinking I might need something with a much longer battery life that I can still also use for driving, cycling, and hiking. Any suggestions?

  22. I have a Garmin Etrex Venture, old but still good. I use it on my bicycle and it serves the purpose. I am interested in getting a newer unit with perhaps more sophistication. I have tried/tested several units and find an annoying problem with most of them. I do mostly trail riding and haul my bike to the trail head with the car. At the end of the ride I turn off the GPS unit, mount the bike on the car and drive home. With most new units when I turn the unit on at home I see they have drawn a straight line “As the crow flies” between where I turned it off at the trail head and where I turned it on at home. They also add the distance of this useless line to the odometer. My Etrex does not do this. Garmin says their new sophisticated units will draw this line also and they see nothing ridiculous about it. DeLorme units don’t draw this line but I just don’t like some of the features of their unit. Any suggestions?

    • The best ways I know of to deal with this are (1) save the track at the end of the ride (the new units don’t truncate them to 250 points) or (2) use a program like TopoFusion to download tracks. I love their import tracks dialog. And you can use the free version for that too.

  23. I have recently bought a Garmin 62s mainly based on some of the points raised here at this site which confirmed that this would be the best choice (thank you!).

    So far I find it a marvelous device but find that as a Company Garmin seems to not publish some detailed specs that I would really find beneficial in my situation.

    I will be using the 62s on a bike trip and so far use it with rechargeable Ni-cads. That works well but I would like to have the gps on all the time while riding. This brings me to my questions.

    I am considering buying an “E-Work” by Busch & Muller to hook up to my Son 20 hub. (I have a 20″ wheel molten so the Son will be putting out the correct output with this hub) The E-Work will split the hub output to the lights and device when the lights are on – however the device needs to be set to a particular voltage and amperage both.

    That is my first problem. Does anyone know what the car charger voltage and amperage is? I can’t seem to find that information anywhere.

    Secondly, I would like to double check that the Garmin 62s CAN be run from power while operational. When it is put to the 5V out on the USB bus the device turns off. I am worried since Garmin does not address the situation directly that it could be that the 62s can only be recharged while off. Does anyone know the answer to that?

    Lastly, if the 62s can be charged on the go and operational at the same time, are there any particular requirements as far as the internal batteries are concerned? What I mean is are Ni-Cads fine or does one have to buy Garmins rechargeable battery?

    Thanks for any input and advice or tips that anyone may have. I’m running out of time to improve this before I leave for my trip and hope I can make this great GPS perfect!

  24. Guy Taylor says:

    I’d like a unit that will allow my wife to monitor my location and progress while on the roads. She does not like me riding alonde and this may help her fears.

  25. My husband mountain bikes and has an old Garmin Vista that he is looking to upgrade. He needs the topo maps for biking. The Edge 800 looks interesting but has some concerns about wear ( he is hard on things). what are the big differences in the Dakota or Oregon? Can they be bike mounted?

    • If he cares more about tracking his fitness stats, get the Edge. If, like me, backcountry navigation is the prime issue when mountain biking, get a handheld like the Dakota, Oregon 450, GPSMAP 62s or eTrex 20/30. All can be bike mounted. Deals are being posted on this site and at my GPS Deals site.

  26. I am looking to purchase my first handheld gps for trail navigation on a mountain bike. Do any of these garmin models give turn by turn navigation for gpx maps of trails?

    Thank you

  27. I was wondering if you thought any of these were better in the rain? I want to be able to take a long cycling tour, almost entirely on roads, and am sure I will encounter a fair bit of rain.

    (BTW, I am leaning towards the Oregon 450, since it seems I could convert that more easily to a hiking GPS than the Edge 800 . . . sound reasonable?).

    • Not really. I think they are all rated IPX7 in terms of waterproofness. And despite the smaller screen, I prefer the 62s to the Oregon series for biking, since I can switch pages on it without having to look at it.

      But yes, a true handheld, Oregon, 62s Montana, are much better than the Edge for hiking.

  28. Colleen McGuire says:

    Hi Rich — I’m look to buy a GPS that mounts on a bike with the primary purpose of making new routes that other bikers can thereafter follow with turn by turn directions (and waypoint). Or downloading to the new GPS device from existing routes that I already made on my Garmin 205 that I had uploaded on Garmin Connect also with turn by turn directions (and waypoints)

    You indicate on your GPS for Cyclists page that the Garmin 800 is the best device for this. But why do you not mention Nuvi 500 whose horizonal screen for maps looks terrific, and the 500 or nuvi 550 has a bike mount.

    Please weigh in. Thanks. colleen

  29. Colleen McGuire says:

    Hi Rich, I appreciate your comments about my last question and clarification about Nuvi — that was really helpful.

    For my stated needs you recommend the Montana 600. I could possibly afford it but actually I don’t need all the bells and whistles of the best.

    I’d like your recommendation for the most simple device that allows me to make new routes or download existing routes from Garmin Connect with turn by turn directions that I can then give the device to friends (or they buy their own) and they can follow my routes. Looking for a decent sized screen too.

    I also have a Garmin e-Trex Vista, but i want something simpler. Not as simple as my Edge 205 but less complex than e-trex Vista for the task i mention.

    I hope I am not sounding too fussy for you.


    • Most Edge and more traditional handheld units will allow you to record a track of where you’ve been or load routes from Garmin Connect. But for turn-by-turn directions, your friends would need a unit with routable maps.

      The newer Garmin handhelds have an improved user interface. If you like your Vista but want something simpler, you may want to check out the eTrex 30. As far as Edge units go, the 800 sounds best for you.

  30. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for live GPS tracking? I’d like family and friends to be able to track my progress via a web site on some of my extended rides. I know there are things like MapMyTracks and Instamapper but I haven’t found anything compatible yet with an ipod touch that is gps enabled with the Magellan Toughcase.

  31. @John Walther – You would need to buy a City Navigator package such as this…

    There are some free alternatives, but the quality and releiability aren’t as good.

    • John Walther says:

      Ahhh, got it. So what you’re saying is that some gps devices come preloaded with maps, but the Dakota doesn’t, right? That City Navigator deal looks pretty reasonable; I was always curious about the free alternatives, so you’ve answered that question as well – thanks!!

      • Right. The free topos are great BTW, but for turn-by-turn road guidance, you may be better off buying.

        • John Walther says:

          which do you think would work better (city navigator vs topo) for navigating things like rail trail bike paths? I’ve gotten lost on the DC area trails before because there are several that interconnect (it’s not just out and back).

          • Neither, because I’ be surprised if the coverage was very good. I would load a free topo from and then add one of the following:

            – Garmin’s Rails to Trails maps (link) – but they only work on the device; desktop planning is not possible
            – Tracks downloaded from online (link)

  32. I want to be able to send and receive text messages in the wilderness outside of cell range. To do this I believe I have only one option the delorme inreach, however I’m not sold on the accompanied pn-60w.

    I’m thinking of either buying an android phone or the samsung galaxy player 4″ and using Gala app. Am I overlooking something or will this work? I mostly want topo maps with my location and waypoints don’t need all the functions of highend gps’s.

    Do all tablets/phones with gps work relatively the same in the backcountry?

    • I think there are other options, but the inReach is probably the cheapest.

      You would need an app with onboard maps. Not sure if Gaia is onboard (stored locally on the device) or offboard (delivered OTA).

      No, not all phones work the same in the backcountry. Some really struggle with GPS reception without getting an A-GPS boost from a cell tower.

  33. Great reviews. I was curious what would fit my needs best. I am very new to GPS and have never had a need for routes or maps. However i now live in China and planning a touring trip with a few friends and want to know what can accomplish this without getting me totally lost. I am looking for something to replace my old cycling computer and add some turn by turn features and maps. I dont know if maps are as accurate from asia so think i want to set a course via google earth or something similar. Given this what would you recommend as the best option to make this trip as easy as possible?

  34. divider says:


    I am planning to do the great divide in june. i would like to download the ACA’s route maps onto a gps. i was wondering which one would be best for this and also which is the most straight foward as i have never used a GPS before and have a very limited ability with computers. Please could you offer some advice?

    many thanks

    • First of all, please understand that handheld GPS by their very nature are complex beasts with quite the learning curve. If you go with a GPS, be prepared to spend quite a bit of time with it, out riding and at home, before the Great Divide. Our handheld GPS 101 and 201 sections are here to help though…

      Also, be aware that the GPS file posted at only shows turns, and not the actual trail. You can probably add that, but it will be more complicated.

      Have you thought about battery usage? That could be an issue. You can expect a 10-20 hour life, depending upon model. For the easiest to use, I’d suggest the Garmin GPSMAP 62s. For better battery life, the eTrex 20 or 30.

  35. Hi, what kind of map comes preloaded on the edge 800? I’m wondering if I really need the micro SD. Card.

  36. Stephen Shoyer says:

    Hi Rich
    First I thank you for all this expert valuable information you provide.
    I’m planning a coast to coast trip on a Recumbent Bicycle and would love to have your opinion
    on which Garmin to take with me. Obviously weight and size is an issue. The unit will be mounted on the handlebars and be exposed to UV and Rain and whatever else nature may throw in. I will be stopping at motels so recharging would not be an issue. The most readable in sunlight and also backlighting would be an issue as well.
    Thank you in advance for your time and info.

    • Please only post your comment on one page; duplicates are deleted.

      The 62s is the largest non-touch screen unit. Touch screen models have visibility issues, although the Montana series is better than the Oregon, so you may want to consider it. So it comes down to the Garmin GPSMAP 62s or the Montana 600, IMHO.

      You will probably want City Navigator maps as well.

  37. Stephen Shoyer says:

    Thank you Rich for your prompt reply

  38. Milly Gleckler says:

    Hi Rich,
    I live in Austin,Tx and try to ride on bikelanes only or sidewalks. Would I be able to specify this on a Garmin 800 with a City Navigator map? I don’t have a smartphone, and usually look at mapquest and use the pedestrian or bicycle setting selection, but then I have to write it down and look at a piece of paper, which I would love to give up. It’s my birthday May 26th so I’m wanting to go to REI and I wanted your advice. Thanks so much, Milly

  39. Contour Condor says:

    For me, the eTrex 30 seems much better for cycling than the eTrex 20 you recommended because the 30 supports heart rate and cadence sensors.

  40. Very much appreciate your site & excellent advice. Been researching several handhelds for enduro (dirt bike) motorcycle riding in mountains of PA. I’m looking for a unit that is durable and small – mostly screen since I won’t be interfacing with it much while riding. Noticed that in prior posts your reflex is to recommend Garmin (Montana or Dakota) but you also wrote a fantastic article on Magellan eXplorist. Garmin is a best with GPS tech, but Looks like Magellan may offer the better maps of backwoods trails, etc. Any last minute advice before I select one? Again, thanks for maintaining such a great site.

  41. Hello

    Thanks for this review. I am looking to navigate Seattle streets with a GPS to avoid hills. Yes I know, that would be tricky but I would like to chose routes that are the least hilly/steep. Is there a GPS that would allow me to do that within the city? And if it can help me find my way around that would be great!


    • I don’t think there are any GPS receivers that do this, but Google Maps is trying to do it, so the best choice might be an Android smartphone with Google Maps Navigation.

    • Contour Condor says:

      There is a great way to do route selection by elevation by planning your trip in Google Earth before starting out. (Google Earth is a free download). You can then optionally load your planned route into a GPS for navigation while you ride. I do this often when planning cycling routes in mountainous regions. (I prefer to go uphill or level for the first half of the trip and then downhill for the return.) The sequence of steps to do this in Google Earth is not completely intuitive. It doesn’t automatically select a route for you. Instead, you can select routes manually and then study the elevation profile for the route to decide if there is anything you want to change. The trial and error can be time consuming, but I enjoy the process as I get to learn more about the area as I go. Its fun to explore the area in Google Earth and then go see it in person. If you are interested in trying this out, I’ll list out the steps that I follow. There might be a better forum to post this since its not directly related to GPS selection. Pretty much any GPS that handles routes or waypoints will work with this technique.

  42. David Becker says:

    I use Google Maps for planning bike trips, sometimes weeks long. I like the fact that Google’s biking algorithm favors bike trails and low traffic roads if they are within a reasonable distance of the most direct road. This is extremely handy when riding into a strange city. Question: How do I move these routes onto a GPS, and which bike GPS should I buy for this capability? I understand that one problem may be that an imported route, once set, is so fixed that if you go off it for a block or two, you have to restart exactly where you left, or the GPS cannot follow the route (it can’t recalculate and take you back to the imported route). Is that true?

    • You can’t transfer routes, but you may be able to transfer individual locations…

      You would also need to buy a mapping-compatible unit and add City Navigator maps. I wouldn’t expect bike trails to be available for routing either.

      Honestly, your best bet would be an Android phone and Google Maps Navigation, but I don’t think it will allow you to transfer a route after planning it on the desktop.

  43. Dan Clotfelter says:

    I wanted to ask what model would you recomend if i wanted to use it on either my road or mtn bike, and i really want one that will tell me the grade of climbs, and my total amount climbed over the duration of a ride. Im not sure iw ould want the turn by turn experience, but i like to look at a little dashboard with speed, time, grade, total climbed so far in the ride. Money is no object, i want the best that does this, and it if it does a lot more too, that cool.

    • Of the current models, only the Edge 500 aan 800 offer grade as a data field choice. The 800 is the only one with a barometric altimeter, for improved elevation gain readings, although its accuracy can be impacted by changing weather. Hope this helps.

  44. I was wondering if there’s a gps that would take you through the most bike friendly roads, and that it including separate bike lanes as well as well as shared ones. I dont want a gps that functions as well as a car. For that I could just get one off the store…

  45. My husband bought me a XT7 ALTI-GPS watch for my birthday. He runs. I bike, mostly road, but some mountain. I have a simple spedometer on my bike already, which is why he bought the watch. But, I think I’d prefer a unit for my bike instead of a watch. The Garmin Edge 500 seems to be a good fit for my needs, but you have to buy the heart rate monitor seperate. Are there any options in that same price range that already include the heart rate monitor?

  46. Dan Clotfelter says:

    I had to repost on this board for the solution i’m using now. I bought a 4g phone (Samsung III) and some holders for each bike off of eBay for 19 dollars per bike. I load Strava onto my phone and now use Strava for my rides and get all the GPS info i could want, and it uploads the rides to the WEB on the Strava site before i get off my bike and go into the house! The best thing folks is “ITS FREE”….You just have to have a 4G phone. It can also read a heart monitor and cadensce but i haven’t hooked those two items up yet. This is the best expereince in my life with a cell phone APP….Get yourself signed up on download the app to your phone, and your ready to ride. It also tracks your rides and compares times to previous rides and compares you to all other Strava riders who have riden the segment you just rode. Some rides i have done have had 5 segements within them already registered. So when you get done riding you get to instantly see how you did against yourself and all the other riders using Strava who have done the segment too! To freaking cool! My cell phone is my GPS and my Bike Computer.

  47. Roger Mitchell says:

    thanks for the opportunity to ask a question. I have a garmen zumo 550 with North America city navigator and also I have the small mini disc for Europe which worked well in the Zumo. My question is: if I purchase the garmin 800 for our tandem bicycle will this mini disc be compatible. The main reason for potentilly purchasing the Garmin 800 is to be able to make sense of the labyrinthine steets of rural Spain. Thanks again, cheers Roger Mitchell, BC

    • If you bought it from Garmin and it was preloaded to the card, you should be able to move it between units without problem. You could test it to be sure by checking it in another Garmin (a nuvi, etc.). However, if I’m not mistaken, the zumo 550 uses a full size SD card, and the Edge uses a microSD, so it wouldn’t fit, unless the card came as a microSD in an adapter.

  48. Steve Boyle says:

    Hey Rich,
    I just stumbled up your site trying to find out which GPS unit my be best for back country mountain biking. I’m a big fan of long distance (50 miles+) mountain bike events and have done several evernts which were well marked over the years. I have no experience with GPS units but several of the events I’m now considering strongly recommend having a GPS device. Many of these events will be of 6-12 hours in duration, so battery life and ease of use are both important. The events I’m looking at all have downloadable gpx files. Any thoughts you might have would be greatly appreciated.
    Steve Boyle

    • Contour Condor says:

      Hi Steve-

      I have been very pleased with my Garmin eTrex 30 on my mountain bike. A few things to consider with navigation while cycling: it is difficult to look at a GPS screen while you are mountain biking, especially if you are on single track trails. Even when you can steal a moment to glance down without crashing, you don’t have time to study the screen. The best hope for reading the screen while in motion is to have only a few fields set as large numbers so you can see them readily. I have not been able to use the map while in motion on single track. Of course, if you currently use a cycling computer, you might have some experience with trying to look at a screen while riding and can judge for yourself.

      A very nice feature of the Garmin is that you can customize every screen with different sized data fields and can choose exactly what you want in those fields. After a few rides, you’ll have an idea of what you find most useful and can configure the Garmin to show you that in large letters. You can also configure which screen display in which order when you cycle (switch) through them. Perhaps competitors products are equally as configurable. I don’t know.

      The map does come in handy while riding when I come to a crossroads and stop. Which way? The map on the GPS comes in handy then if you have the trails/course in the GPS. Garmin is good here since you can load custom maps. I’m told you can even scan a PDF, etc of the trail system and load it into your Garmin GPS. I haven’t done this yet. I was surprised to find that the trails where I was riding near Blacksburg, VA were already in the OpenMaps road maps that I loaded for free in my Garmin. These trails weren’t named in the maps, but at least I could decipher the route at each cross roads. It also helped that I captured a waypoint at the parking lot….so I continuously knew which direction was the car.

      One possibly useful line of thinking is this: Why are the race organizers recommending GPS? Do they have specific benefits in mind? Will they be providing GPS waypoints, tracks, or maps for you to follow during the event?

      In addition to navigation, the GPS is beneficial for tracking your workout. Where did you go? How fast did you go in each section? Where did you slow down? Where did your heart race the most (if you get a unit that is compatible with a heart rate monitor)? How far did you go? How much elevation did you climb?


    • I like the 62s, because it is so easy to change pages on the fly. For longer battery life and lighter weight, you may want to go with the eTrex 20 or 30. You can extend battery life by tweaking the screen backlight timeout and track recording settings. If the GPX files include tracks, any of those devices will be great because of the new advanced track navigation features…

      Since you’re new to GPS, I’d suggest reading our handheld GPS FAQs (, especially our handheld GPS 101 series…

  49. Hi Rich.

    I was wondering what you’d suggest for my needs.

    I’m looking for a unit that I can take in my pocket/backpack while I’m walking or biking.

    I’m not interested in stats, but merely directions to get me places by bike/foot.

    My requirements:

    1) Small As Possible
    2) Costs less than $200
    3) At least four hours of battery life.

    Bonus: can be mounted on my bike handles.

    I know that smart phones will do the trick, but I don’t want to deal with the monthly fees.

    What would you suggest for me?


  50. hi rich.
    i wanted a good GPS mainly for hiking, but i also wanted it to do biking for on road and traiks. after dping some research i came up with the oregon 550t. i wanted a touch screen but rugged and water proof. im also getting the topo 24k for my area to map out trails. i liked the whistles of the etrex for biking but its not good for hiking, at least in my opinion.what i want is course distance, speed, route directions, and the bike cadence as well as hiking route and geocaching directions. my question, will the oregon 550t give me good biking options? little research is done on the biking aspect. as far as sunlight readable i got some antiglare screen shields to put on it and a bike mount. soon a bike/pedal cadence.

    • I actually prefer the 62s, because it is so much easier to change screens on the fly while biking, without looking at the device. But I think the 62s, eTrex 30 or any Oregon x50 will do what you want. If you want a camera, you may want to check out the 62sc or 62stc too.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!


9 − three =