GPS Units in Europe

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Graham O
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GPS Units in Europe

Postby Graham O » 2 Jan 2012, 9:12pm

I'm thinking of taking the plunge and getting a GPS for the bike which will be used in Europe this year. Like most people, I'm a big fan of OS maps and for UK use would like OS mapping for the UK. But what happens if that unit is taken to Europe? Does it have "base maps" like Garmin have, can they take Garmin European maps or similar? Any advice will be much appreciated.

Thanks

Graham

skicat
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Re: GPS Units in Europe

Postby skicat » 2 Jan 2012, 10:39pm

You haven't said what make of gps you're considering, but unless it's a Garmin it won't take Garmin maps. The base maps in Garmins are extremely basic - certainly not detailed enough to plan a bike route. There are free maps available for download (see openstreetmap.org) but I don't know if you can get "ready-to-go" maps for other brands apart from Garmin. I suspect the answer is no.
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GeoffL
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Re: GPS Units in Europe

Postby GeoffL » 3 Jan 2012, 12:10am

AFAICT, Open Streetmap based mapping is available for most Garmin mapping GPSrs. Take a look at http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/OSM_ ... n/Download for a starting point.

HTH,

Geoff

Ayesha
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Re: GPS Units in Europe

Postby Ayesha » 3 Jan 2012, 6:59am

The cost effective way of getting across anywhere is to plan the route on BikeRouteToaster and upload it onto the GPS unit as a .gpx.
You will see the route but no roads. Just follow the route.

With a close-up zoom, there is not much room for mistakes.

Graham O
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Re: GPS Units in Europe

Postby Graham O » 3 Jan 2012, 9:17am

Thanks for your information. The main desire is for OS mapping and that limits my choice of GPS, but I didn't want to say which particular GPS as I was hoping someone would give me their experience of using an OS mapping device in Europe. If a Garmin, then it is possible to use their European mapping and for non Garmin, presumably Open Street Mapping. I don't want to put a particular route in as I don't want to be constrained to that route. My plans for France and/or Spain are to go where the mood takes me with just a few locations as essential.

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Re: GPS Units in Europe

Postby Ayesha » 3 Jan 2012, 9:37am

If on a 'as the mood takes me" tour, I would take a device which is a SatNav rather than a GPS bike computer.

Working on this principle, I have a TomTom Rider with a battery back up.
On tour, all I do is set the night's accomodation as a 'Favourite' and it automatically recalculates the best route 'By bicycle', showing me the distance and ETA. Then I can wander around, continually being told the time I will arrive at my digs if i follow the route.

http://www.tomtom.com/en_gb/products/bi ... /index.jsp

7 hours of internal battery life.
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Audax67
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Re: GPS Units in Europe

Postby Audax67 » 3 Jan 2012, 10:06am

Ayesha wrote:The cost effective way of getting across anywhere is to plan the route on BikeRouteToaster and upload it onto the GPS unit as a .gpx.
You will see the route but no roads. Just follow the route.

With a close-up zoom, there is not much room for mistakes.


+1 but older Garmin Etrex models have a 500-points/track limit, and if you eliminate points using MapSource rather than splitting a track into 500-point chunks it gets too sparse to follow in towns. Dunno about current models.

Incidentally, the Etrexes will navigate to a given point quite well. One of my favourite training games is to pick a target and follow the route the Garmin decides on rather than the easier one I would have picked for myself. It doesn't care about hills.
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GeoffL
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Re: GPS Units in Europe

Postby GeoffL » 3 Jan 2012, 10:18am

Graham O wrote:If a Garmin, then it is possible to use their European mapping and for non Garmin, presumably Open Street Mapping.

If only it were that simple. AFAICT, there are Open StreetMap-based map sets available for almost all Garmin mapping GPSrs but not for many of their competitors. So you need to make a careful choice of GPSr if you want to use Open StreetMap. The link I posted up-thread is for the OSM map sets for Garmin GPSrs. As you can see, most of the World is covered. While some other makes have OSM support, that tends to be limited and/or not as simple to get working. For example, someone's managed to get OSM onto a TomTom device, but it requires third-party software and it's not simply copying over a file as you do with most Garmins. So you'll probably need to rely on the manufacturer's mapping (and pay through the nose for updates) if you use TomTom etc.

Be wary also of claimed battery life. For example, 8 hours claimed probably won't actually be 8 hours and in any case only having 8 hours is an issue if you're planning to ride from 9am to 7pm. You can get around this by switching off the unit where you can get by without it. Alternatively, USB external powerpacks can be used.

Where units like the TomTom Rider win heavily is in ad-hoc routing. With an OSM-based solution, you need to either enter the lat/lon coordinates of each waypoint or else mark them on the map whereas with a TomTom etc. you can usually identify the waypoints by street address or postcode. However, IME TomTom et al. aren't as flexible for route planning.

Audax67 wrote:... older Garmin Etrex models have a 500-points/track limit, and if you eliminate points using MapSource rather than splitting a track into 500-point chunks it gets too sparse to follow in towns. Dunno about current models.

Current models are much better. My Dakota has a 2000 waypoint limit and some units have even more. However, used with routeable mapping, they're even better as you can eliminate a lot of more waypoints than you can without mapping as you only need to leave enough waypoints to force the route where you want it to go rather than needing to mark every significant point. Also, with routing you get luxuries like advance turn warning, and you won't be left high and dry when construction work blocks your planned route etc.

Ayesha
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Re: GPS Units in Europe

Postby Ayesha » 3 Jan 2012, 10:33am

Audax67 wrote:
Ayesha wrote:The cost effective way of getting across anywhere is to plan the route on BikeRouteToaster and upload it onto the GPS unit as a .gpx.
You will see the route but no roads. Just follow the route.

With a close-up zoom, there is not much room for mistakes.


+1 but older Garmin Etrex models have a 500-points/track limit, and if you eliminate points using MapSource rather than splitting a track into 500-point chunks it gets too sparse to follow in towns. Dunno about current models.

Incidentally, the Etrexes will navigate to a given point quite well. One of my favourite training games is to pick a target and follow the route the Garmin decides on rather than the easier one I would have picked for myself. It doesn't care about hills.


As far as I remember ( I don't use Garmin any longer ) the points on a .gpx upload are 'viapoints' on the Garmin. They are on the route but do not appear in the Watpoint list.

16,000 total IIRC.

Graham O
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Re: GPS Units in Europe

Postby Graham O » 3 Jan 2012, 10:36am

Ayesha, thanks for the mention of a SatNav rather than a GPS. Certainly an important difference and it may well be the way I end up going as it is more appropriate to an adhoc tour. As a lover of maps however, I will have paper maps with me and just use the GPS/SatNav for routing rather than getting the map out at every junction. (I've started using my phone in this mode and it does make life easier.)
Sometimes threads on here take a while to develop and valuable comments come out. For example the 500 or 2000 points per track. As a point of interest, would you use a GPS to navigate out of town on a precise course, i.e. turn left, turn right etc, or would you just set a point on the outskirts and aim for that and accept any mistakes on the way? Personally, I wouldn't want that level of detail around town, or is that because I use maps and a GPS alters your way of doing things?

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Audax67
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Re: GPS Units in Europe

Postby Audax67 » 3 Jan 2012, 10:48am

Ayesha wrote:
Audax67 wrote:
Ayesha wrote:As far as I remember ( I don't use Garmin any longer ) the points on a .gpx upload are 'viapoints' on the Garmin. They are on the route but do not appear in the Watpoint list

16,000 total IIRC.


Mine calls them trackpoints and they are indeed separate from waypoints. You can pre-store 32 tracks of up to but not exceeding 500 points each. The active log uses the same storage space and can exceed 500.
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Audax67
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Re: GPS Units in Europe

Postby Audax67 » 3 Jan 2012, 12:17pm

GeoffL wrote:
Audax67 wrote:... older Garmin Etrex models have a 500-points/track limit, and if you eliminate points using MapSource rather than splitting a track into 500-point chunks it gets too sparse to follow in towns. Dunno about current models.

Current models are much better. My Dakota has a 2000 waypoint limit and some units have even more. However, used with routeable mapping, they're even better as you can eliminate a lot of more waypoints than you can without mapping as you only need to leave enough waypoints to force the route where you want it to go rather than needing to mark every significant point. Also, with routing you get luxuries like advance turn warning, and you won't be left high and dry when construction work blocks your planned route etc.


Sounds good.

When I follow a pre-stored GPX I keep the map set to "track up", but when I have to go off-track I set it to "north up". Last summer I navigated through Nancy that way in complete confidence, and it's quite a significant city. The time gained over reading paper maps is considerable, especially when unbelievers hang back at the crossroads haggling over flapping bits of paper.
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Re: GPS Units in Europe

Postby Big T » 3 Jan 2012, 12:41pm

I've used my Garmin Edge 705 abroad (in Majorca) and the mapping was adequate. It didn't have some of the tiniest lanes on the mapping but most of the minor roads were viewable.
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Mattie
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Re: GPS Units in Europe

Postby Mattie » 3 Jan 2012, 1:29pm

Graham O wrote: As a point of interest, would you use a GPS to navigate out of town on a precise course, i.e. turn left, turn right etc, or would you just set a point on the outskirts and aim for that and accept any mistakes on the way? Personally, I wouldn't want that level of detail around town, or is that because I use maps and a GPS alters your way of doing things?


On my last few trips I have used a Garmin Vista HCx with Garmin Europe NT 2011 software. The software is loaded on to your computer and then you choose which maps to download to your device - all of France - all of Spain - all of Portugal just in case. With this you get detailed maps on your unit, plus hotels and campsites coordinates etc. You do not have to take the computer with you for small trips as the device will load tons of stuff as it is.

So to get out of town you choose the start/junction of the road that you want to get on and put the arrow on it and "Go to" and the unit will direct you to that spot so you can find the road you want to get on; Very useful when trying to find the way out of a big town using the smaller roads, which as a cyclist are probably the ones you want to be on. As a plus it uses easily available AA batteries and you can leave the device switched on all day.

I am surprised that nobody has suggested an iPhone or similar smartphone option. :?

Graham O
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Re: GPS Units in Europe

Postby Graham O » 3 Jan 2012, 1:44pm

Mattie wrote:
Graham O wrote: I am surprised that nobody has suggested an iPhone or similar smartphone option. :?


Thanks Mattie, that's another question answered. With regards the smartphone option, I have been tempted to use mine on the bike, but the lack of waterproofing, non AA batteries and cost while on the road weigh against it.