Author Topic: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot  (Read 2161 times)

Blodwyn Pig

  • what a nice chap
Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« on: February 29, 2020, 05:05:15 pm »
I hear these names Gramin, e-trex,wahoo, etc,and I don't have a clue what they are , what they do, and how they differ and do I need one.

As I understand it,

there are things that record your ride, so you can 'map my ride/stava' type thing, are they the same?
there are things that you download audax routes on to?
there are things that have maps,  I think?

I use a halfords trip computer, ( 5 function, so super basic) and I am a techonumpty.

Do I need something new, what should I be looking for, what is a good mix of the above? if at all possible, and what do they cost..

Sorry to be so vague, but I have noo one else to ask, but you lot..... :)

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #1 on: February 29, 2020, 05:13:22 pm »
Do you need something new? Only if you want to do something not possible with your trip computer.
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

telstarbox

  • Loving the lanes
Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #2 on: February 29, 2020, 05:14:50 pm »
Do you want to use it to navigate, to record your rides on a map, and/or something else?
2019 🏅 R1000 and B1000

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #3 on: February 29, 2020, 05:29:51 pm »
*passes a tin opener for the can of worms*

There are various products that do various combinations of the above things, and they're all bad.  The trick is working out what you want to use it for, so you can decide where to compromise...

For example, a mobile phone will be brilliant at showing maps, but means you have to think about battery life[1] and probably waterproofing and how to attach it to the bike and so on.  It might not be ideal for logging because you can't rely on apps staying running in the background.

A simple tracking-only device will reliably record where you've been, but won't give you any navigation features at all.

A Garmin eTrex is designed for hiking.  It will run for ages on AA batteries, is completely weatherproof and is pretty good at logging rides, mediocre at maps, hopeless at turn-by-turn navigation and has a steep learning curve appropriate to its heritage as a device from the 1990s that you'd use alongside your compass and paper map.

The Garmin Edge series sacrifices the battery life of the eTrex for the (in)convenience of USB charging, a neater cycling-specific form-factor and a load of training/racing related options that are mostly of interest to PE teachers.  The user interface and map-rendering performance suck in broadly similar ways, and it's just as bad at turn-by-turn navigation.

Wahoo are a competitor to Garmin, who seem to have a more user-friendly workflow, but seem quite wedded to things like Strava and mobile phones.

Basic cycle computers are hard to beat for the simple tasks of telling you what time it is and how far you've ridden.


In general, logging is easy.
Displaying maps is eminently achievable, but if you want to scroll around and get a 'big picture' view, you'll need something with more CPU grunt (and probably a bigger, high resolution display) than a power-optimised GPS receiver - think Android and IOS devices.
Displaying a map with a line on it for some audax or other is a little harder, but most devices will do it.
Getting turn-by-turn instructions from point A to point B is achievable on more expensive models.
Getting turn-by-turn instructions from point A to point B on a route suitable for your bike and motor traffic/hill/COR preferences is much harder, and will frustrate you.
Getting turn-by-turn instructions along the pre-planned route of some audax or other is the holy grail; none of these devices are really designed to do it, and while there are various methods of mis-using their navigation features to achieve something close, it will require more than a little voodoo, and the expectation should be that it will go wrong and try to send you off-route down some 70mph dual cabbageway or Sustrans bog-snorkelling course at some point.
It should also be said that paper maps and routesheets have all sorts of horrendous failure modes too, but you're probably used to working around them.


(If you have a smartphone, I'd strongly suggest playing with some likely looking apps on that for a bit to work out what you do and don't want it to do, before investing in an expensive device that will infuriate you.)


[1] Anything require you to connect a power source while riding along is well into "now you have two problems" territory.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Blodwyn Pig

  • what a nice chap
Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #4 on: February 29, 2020, 05:35:04 pm »
Wow Kim! yet another stunning answer...................So, not simple then ??? :facepalm:  din't think it would be really :-\

Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #5 on: February 29, 2020, 05:49:16 pm »
I was at BP's stage a few years ago (and I haven't exactly progressed very much).

I tried really hard to follow any number of threads to try to gain an insight into how the mysterious world of GPS worked. I even asked a couple of questions along similar lines, with the emphasis on KISS, but typically, about five posts in, it had got to a level of detail that made it all sound hideously complicated and faff heavy.

I worked out that what I wanted most of all was to not get lost, so a map and a pointer on the map saying where I was was enough. Referring to paper maps during a ride is tedious, especially so when trying to combine that with a dot on your phone screen.

I ended up getting a secondhand SatMap. It displays OS maps (and I know how to interpret those without any special training), and shows where you are on that map. That's all I need/want. No special skills really required to get out of it what you want.

As a bonus, I can load a gpx track onto it which I can follow, and it will record where I've been (fun when it comes to recording off-piste routes when skiing with a guide, so that I can go back and find them at a later date). (It doesn't do route creation, A to B, but I don't want that.)
Rust never sleeps

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #6 on: February 29, 2020, 05:59:27 pm »
I ended up getting a secondhand SatMap. It displays OS maps (and I know how to interpret those without any special training), and shows where you are on that map. That's all I need/want. No special skills really required to get out of it what you want.

Objection: You know how to interpret those because you've already had the special training.  It's not innate, it's a learned skill just as much as Tracks and Routes and RideWithGps and OSM and GPX and FIT and USB storage and so on.

I should also point out that much as I love an OS map, they're not actually very good for display on a GPS device, both because you can't see very much of one on a small screen (the Satmap is a relatively large device specifically to address this issue) and because they lack detail at the how-does-this-junction-work level.  Hence GPS devices tend to use vector maps, that can be zoomed in on more usefully for that sort of thing, and optionally interpreted by the device itself for "take the second exit" level instructions.  The downside to vector maps is clutter management.  OS maps are lovingly hand-crafted by cartographers at a few different scales, where a GPS device or smartphone has to work out what not to show at a given zoom level algorithmically.

FWIW, my general approach to cycling navigation is to use a Garmin eTrex with a vector road map, uploading a line-on-a-map 'Track' for things like audaxes, and doing some extra fucking about with Routes and Waypoints to arrange for not-always-correct prompts so that I don't miss turnings and info controls.  When just-in-time planning is called for, I dig out my Android smartphone or tablet, and display an Ordnance Survey map (complete with "you are here" arrow), because that's much better for big-picture and does-this-bridleway-join-up-with-the-road stuff, while the Garmin is better at how-does-the-next-junction-work (and logging).  Very occasionally, I'll use the Garmin like a car sat-nav to automagically calculate a route to a railway station or something, because that's better than stopping to look at maps in urban areas.

(I'm not necessarily recommending this approach to anyone.  A lot of it hinges on being familiar with both OS map navigation and having used Garmin's hiking GPS receivers since the early noughties, and wanting to have as little to with web-based services as possible.)
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #7 on: February 29, 2020, 06:55:40 pm »
So, not simple then ??? :facepalm:  din't think it would be really :-\
Well, it's as simple or as complex as you make it. 
I have a Garmin Touring, which I find simpler to use than the Etrex that preceded it.  In Kim's list, the Touring is an Edge with most of the sport elements removed.  I don't often bother to go beyond the line on a map, Audax, touring, day rides, it's very simple. Plan the route on the PC, load it, switch it on, follow it, I have it zoomed in and just glance when there's a junction coming up and again once through it, on the odd occasion I've miss read it that's obvious before going very far.  Recording is just a matter of pressing a button to start, though there's no sign that you've remembered to do that :-[  I have occasionally let it decide a short bit of route for me, to a campsite, or railway station or supermarket... that works OK, maybe not the best route, but it's always got me there.
On the other points - I use paper maps for the bigger picture, I wouldn't be riding through an unfamiliar area without one anyway.  It lasts several days on a powerpack, so I've never found it less convenient that the Etrex's AA batteries.  Cost was about £150 and comes with the maps installed, it's about five years old, I think the current equivalent is the Explore.
I wouldn't be without it, it's enhanced my cycling considerably, I'll plan a route with a lot of turns because it looks a nicer route where I'd previously go for something simpler if the navigation looked like a faff.  Others are of the opposite opinion, you'll have to make your own mind up.


Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #8 on: February 29, 2020, 07:06:04 pm »
Let me try to simplify, a little.

There are four main activities for which a GPS can be used, first decide which of those you want to do, and then how much you want to optimise, and finally how much you want to spend.

1 - Cycling
2 - Running/other physical activities
3 - Motoring, especially in furrn parts
4 - Hiking

If you want to do 1, 3 & 4 and you can afford it, the Garmin Oregon is the likely best option. (excellent for hiking, very good for bikes, good for motoring (IPX7 waterproofing, AA batteries with decent life, larger screen than all but phones, multiple map capability, vaguely acceptable routing adaptable to activity)

If it is only a subset of that, you have to resolve all the questions raised by everyone else.


Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #9 on: February 29, 2020, 07:07:27 pm »
The problem I find with most online mapping is a lack of distinction between roads bridlways  and paths. With os maps you can see what you are getting into. I used to have a satmap and as long as I was prepared to take the time to load a route it saved me stopping to check where I was going at every junction. I now use the Garmin edge touring which will plan me a  circular route in a  strange area for me at my choice of distance and the routing is generally okay. Battery life is it's main drawback for me but I am going to get a backup battery for it sometime later in the year  .😀
the slower you go the more you see

Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #10 on: February 29, 2020, 08:35:39 pm »
I ended up getting a secondhand SatMap. It displays OS maps (and I know how to interpret those without any special training), and shows where you are on that map. That's all I need/want. No special skills really required to get out of it what you want.
Objection: You know how to interpret those because you've already had the special training.  It's not innate, it's a learned skill just as much as Tracks and Routes and RideWithGps and OSM and GPX and FIT and USB storage and so on.
Upheld.

I've become slightly tech-averse having had to continually re-learn yet another way of doing something I already know how to do. As such, if I can avoid learning another 'way' (by avoiding 'newtech') then I will. Given that OS is something I was fairly familiar with, Satmap was an easy choice.
Rust never sleeps

Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #11 on: February 29, 2020, 09:56:22 pm »
I think a sense of what you’d like a GPS to do would help with the guiding. Expanding on your three a bit, and overlapping a fair bit with the above, I can think of:
 - replace the map you normally navigate by, with the convenience of a “you are here” indicator (I like a map, mostly I know where I am, but a pointer saves time when I don’t)
 - replace the map with a preplanned route overlaid (I’ve found this useful for audaxes)
 - let you make up routes in an ad-hoc way (never tried this, mostly I’d want a bigger screen or sheet of paper for that)
 - tell you how to get to point B and work it out for you (never tried, a good route is a pretty personal thing)
 - read or show text instructions (never tried this on a bike and I don’t fancy it)
 - record routes for Strava etc (yes, I find this handy)
 - show speed, distance time etc (like a typical bike computer)

As to which one, I have limited experience so will just offer anecdote...
I used to have a SatMap. I could already use (and like) an OS map. It’s a bit bigger, OK for a general view but I mostly used it with around a km around me. It worked well for following a planned route.

On Kim’s point, I never found I missed detailed junction layout information - at my speed road signs and looking mostly suffice to fill in what a 50k OS map doesn’t show. Sometimes it’s a bit cluttered, and vector could improve that. Equally, OS being reliable with paths, bridleways and byways is handy.

When water got in and fried it’s brain I went back to paper OS on a bar bag. I quite like the broader sense of where I am and have stuck with that for navigating.

I now have a Lezyne for recording and computer functions. It draws a track, but it’s a bit like an etch a sketch and has yet to prove useful.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #12 on: February 29, 2020, 10:35:07 pm »
On Kim’s point, I never found I missed detailed junction layout information - at my speed road signs and looking mostly suffice to fill in what a 50k OS map doesn’t show. Sometimes it’s a bit cluttered, and vector could improve that. Equally, OS being reliable with paths, bridleways and byways is handy.

For cycling it's an urban vs rural thing mostly.  OS is most useful when you're interested in terrain (particularly paths, bridleways and contours) but would be almost useless for navigating in central London, where you care more about junction topology and - crucially - road names.

I find the usefulness of GPS changes, too.  In rural areas it's more about showing you where you are (and the convenience of light-up, waterproof, self-folding maps), whereas in urban areas you generally have a pretty good idea where you are, and it's more about giving you enough of a warning of what's coming next so that you don't have to stop to plan.

Hence I use both, depending on context.  (For completeness, I've used OS 1:50k maps on my eTrex, and concluded that while it's acceptable for hiking, the screen's just too small and sluggish at scrolling to use them effectively for cycling.  I've not used a Satmap, but the extra screen width[1] probably helps.)


[1] As OS maps are bitmaps, the device can't re-render the text on the fly.  Which means they're hard to read unless you have the device set to display the map 'north up'.  Vector maps are better suited to being rotated for 'direction of travel up' mode, which makes better use of the available space on a tall, narrow screen.  (Again, this is one of those things where what's best for walking isn't necessarily best for cycling or driving.)
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #13 on: February 29, 2020, 10:53:52 pm »
The problem I find with most online mapping is a lack of distinction between roads bridlways  and paths. With os maps you can see what you are getting into.

A few planners can show road and surface type sourced from Open Street Map - cycle.travel and Komoot that I know of.

I’ve found the data is pretty good, but not fine grained enough to distinguish between the various different flavours of silly Sustrans path and your tolerances for each.

Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #14 on: February 29, 2020, 11:51:23 pm »

(If you have a smartphone, I'd strongly suggest playing with some likely looking apps on that for a bit to work out what you do and don't want it to do, before investing in an expensive device that will infuriate you.)

I think this is very good advice :thumbsup: As far as apps are concerned, I would perhaps suggest Komoot as a good starting point being a relatively easy to use app that incorporates all of the features listed by Perpetual Dan. 

Most of the stuff I say is true because I saw it in a dream and I don't have the presence of mind to make up lies when I'm asleep.   Bryan Andreas

Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2020, 12:00:57 am »
Starting Audax rides provided the impetus, but I use my etrex for all rides when I need navigational help (e.g. explorer rides).  I don't carry any backup paper maps, but do have a phone with offline OsmAnd mapping, if needed. I started in 2014 with a older style Garmin Etrex Vista HCx* (2xAA), using downloaded OSM free routable maps, and am still using a Vista HCx (not the same unit) for following tracks, constructed on RidewithGPS / Strava.  I buy secondhand units for <£30-60.  A few years ago I settled into simply following the coloured line track on the screen, glancing down when approaching a junction etc.  I have the free Garmin software BaseCamp & also Mapsource on the PC to download tracks to Etrex, fairly easy to use. Managing some level of quirky details seems to be the thing. FF's site info was/is very useful...  http://www.aukadia.net/gps/  At some point will probably get an 'Etrex 30' variant.

*Can't really recommend a Vista HCx, with design issues/ not the most robust; usually end up scavenging and generating a franken etrex.  But when mine is working it's pretty good, & does the job well.
Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.  EOW.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #16 on: March 01, 2020, 08:24:47 am »
My first answer probably didn't seem helpful but I still think it's the place to start. What do you want to do?

You've got a trip computer which will tell you how far and fast you've gone and are going, so if you're content with using paper maps, routesheets, following people, riding known routes, following your nose or getting lost for navigation, and a notebook if you want logging, you don't actually need anything else.

I got an eTrex several years ago because it was much easier than a routesheet for audaxes. I find the preloaded maps decent and use them in follow-the-line mode rather than turn by turn. I don't use the Garmin itself for planning, I do that online using something like rwgps or cycle.travel. If I rode more in unfamiliar urban areas, I'd probably want to use turn-by-turn navigation, more for cities, where
you tend to get more complex junctions, than towns. But I don't.

Some of its other functions, such as average speed and time of day, are useful for audaxing as is the logging for validation of DIYs. Apart from that I'm not concerned about logging or stats, so nothing to say there.

Where follow the map, rather than turn by turn, is really useful for me, is two situations: Getting lost – it's easy to look at the screen and see both where you are now and where you should be (the pink* line) and how to get there; Deliberate but impromptu detours from the planned route – same thing really.

*It's always pink on my device, I know other people call it purple.
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #17 on: March 01, 2020, 09:43:30 am »

For cycling it's an urban vs rural thing mostly.  OS is most useful when you're interested in terrain (particularly paths, bridleways and contours) but would be almost useless for navigating in central London, where you care more about junction topology and - crucially - road names.


True. My urban cycling is mostly limited to places I already know my way around, and getting between Victoria / St Pancras and other mainline stations. “Do you care about cities? “ is probably a reasonable addition to the list of questions.
I seem to remember having a street name layer of mapping, but rarely used it. The bigger screen certainly helps with more detailed bitmap maps, though zooming beyond 2* or 0.5* isn’t terribly helpful.

quixoticgeek

  • Mostly Harmless
Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #18 on: March 01, 2020, 10:28:58 am »


Buy a Garmin Edge, someone will tell you you bought the wrong device.

Buy a Garmin etrex, someone will tell you it's 2020, and you bought the wrong device.

Buy a wahoo, someone will tell you you bought the wrong device

Buy another brand, someone will say "who?" And tell you you brought the wrong device.

Use a smartphone, and someone will ask "what about battery life?" And "how do you keep it waterproof?" And tell you you brought the wrong device...

I used an etrex 10 for years, it gave me a line on a screen, my speed, and nothing else, no map, nothing. Great for geocaching, shit for everything else.

I use a Wahoo elemnt bolt. I love it. I have 2. It works for the way I use a GPS. I don't do turn by turn directions, I use pre planned routes (Strava or komoot), and it provides me with a auto scrolling map with a "you are here" arrow and a line to follow. I can zoom to see more detail at junctions etc... The default screen is a map, with speed and cadence. I have a second mount on my Brompton. Some have commented that it's a bit of an unusual juxtaposition to have a Brompton with a wahoo, but I have the device, and it works fine for the urban cycling I do.

On a 300k Audax I picked up 3 other riders with faulty GPS (2x Garmin and 1x smart phone). And navigated all 4 of us to the finish. We had between us 2 working GPS. One on my handlebars, and a spare in my saddle bag...

Ultimately they will all probably do what you want, even if right now you're not sure what you want. Your choice will be considered wrong by some people. So pick what looks nice to you.

I like my wahoo

J
--
Beer, bikes, and backpacking
http://b.42q.eu/

Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #19 on: March 01, 2020, 08:50:58 pm »
I am about at your stage except that I have already taken the plunge and coughed up. New they are all relatively expensive (as Orwell's pigs might have said "all equally expensive but some are more equally than others") Living in a part of the world where a gps for my perceived need secondhand is about as common as rocking horse crottes I bought new (but it was a christmas present with contributions from the extended family).
I got it to help with route planning for club stuff. Our regular on-line route planner (Openrunner) is becoming more and more gps orientated (no longer produces route cards like it did a few years ago) so it seemed a logical step for the future. My need is really to download a trace that I have made myself and then ride it to test and debug before writing a paper route card (because I am one of the few in the locality who actually has bothered to get a gps). So far since the beginning of the year I have yet to achieve the slightest useful thing with it other than using the trip computer (which gives non-moving time, which would be useful if I could make it stop - at present the time spent consulting it just adds on to the non-moving time until I wipe it to reset). I will get back to reading the downloaded manual (which looks a bit like my first smartphone manual - 41pages of technoguff before it told me how to make a telephone call). As has been said, the learning curve is steep - and brutal!
If you know what you want a gps for then you can look further but speak to real people, because the publicity can be most misleading (I might have bought a Wahoo if it hadn't been for the emphasis on phone apps in the publicity and the uploading to strava aspect which turns me off completely).
If you don't know that you need a gps then you probably don't need one.
If you have aging eyesight be prepared for getting bifocals!

Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #20 on: March 01, 2020, 09:16:42 pm »
From your profile you are in North Kent.

It’d probably be really useful if people near you could meet you over a pint and show you some if the features of the one they have and answer any questions face to face.

We all have different needs and preferences from GPS. The preferences will change over time depending on what you are primarily using the GPS for. So you’ll never get a consensus on which one to get.

Garmin and Wahoo are manufacturers
Whilst eTrex  is a series / model range from Garmin.
If you don’t make time for exercise now, sooner or later you’ll need to make time for ill health.

Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #21 on: March 02, 2020, 01:49:11 pm »
Here is a screen print from my Etrex 30x in map mode, navigating a track. You can load custom maps to the device for any part of the world. The mapping you are looking at is Open Street Map. You follow the purple line, with no prompts.  I've never bothered with prompted navigation, like a car satnav, as I've yet to see a GPS that does it well for bike rides. Besides I like my GPS to remain silent rather than beeping all the time.



If you don’t make time for exercise now, sooner or later you’ll need to make time for ill health.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #22 on: March 02, 2020, 04:58:43 pm »
Besides I like my GPS to remain silent rather than beeping all the time.

Alternatively, getting your attention when you need to make a turning into a minor road, stop for an info control or similar is one of the best things about using a GPS receiver for cycling navigation.  I suppose it depends on how often you find yourself daydreaming and missing a turning (I always seem to do it downhill, making it twice as annoying).

Regardless, I'm reasonably sure that sounds (and lighting up the backlight) are optional for any sort of navigation.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #23 on: March 02, 2020, 05:23:16 pm »
Besides I like my GPS to remain silent rather than beeping all the time.

Alternatively, getting your attention when you need to make a turning into a minor road, stop for an info control or similar is one of the best things about using a GPS receiver for cycling navigation.  I suppose it depends on how often you find yourself daydreaming and missing a turning (I always seem to do it downhill, making it twice as annoying).


Oh I have it beep for controls but other stuff no.  I don’t trust it to decide a route besides it’s woefully underpowered for that activity so only suitable if trying to cross London a few miles to reach a station etc. I do occasionally drift past turns on audax but usually because talking or enjoying a fast descent.

It’s the beeping you are off route every 9 seconds (Edge special) or every turn that would drive me mad.
If you don’t make time for exercise now, sooner or later you’ll need to make time for ill health.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Is there an 'idiots guide' for an.....idiot
« Reply #24 on: March 02, 2020, 05:30:30 pm »
The really annoying one that Edges seem to do is that "you're riding very slowly" beep.  I assume that's related to the fussy (compared to the outdoor models, which just quietly get on with it) way they handle logging, which is only useful if your ride involves laps and start/finish lines.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...