Author Topic: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?  (Read 6564 times)

Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« on: March 20, 2011, 08:12:39 pm »
I think it's time I bought one of these gizmos, but which one is best for me?

I need:-

Uber long battery life (I mean days if it can be recharged in under 8 hours or at least 12 days if recharge is slow. At least 48 hours without a recharge, but the more, the better) or something that can/does run on standard batteries that can be shop bought. If the latter, are there any issues of rechargeables not fitting. (Like I've had with a torch, my rechargeables were too fat to fit)

Software/mapping for on and off road in Britain and Europe (off road for Europe isn't essential yet, but could be in the future). If I can't have it ll at the same time, minimal faff to insert/download/install/whatever the mapping/software I will be using.


A rough and tough machine that isn't shy of getting wet and can handle lots of abuse.


I would really like:-


Free software/mapping, I am a tight git ;D unless it's very poor. I don't mind paying for quality if it's worthwhile. But mapping does get out of date quite quickly. Cheap upgrades or replacements would be good, but I prefer free. I don't mind paying a few hundred quid once, but paying that much every 5 years or so will start to grate. I'm after a long term investment really.


Something which I can alter the route as I go along, and/or have several versions (the long/medium/short route) of the same route and switch from one to the other. Or perhaps an external way of storing different routes such as a SD card.

Something that I can take a route from Googlemaps type of thing on line (or from the sat-nav software downloaded/installed/etc/etc onto my computer) which I can drag the route around while I plan it, then zap it into the sat-nav.

To have on and off road for at least Britain all the time if I can't have Britain and Europe. (Good) cycle  paths may be handy too, if they are possible. I believe there is one that goes from Dieppe to Paris, which I will look into for getting to and from PBP.

A sat-nav that won't become obsolete when new technology come along (I don't really want a Beta-max sat-nav)


Easy to use, as in, not a steep learning curve. As you can probably tell, I'm pretty clueless about sat-nav and hope to have it sussed at least on a very basic "tell me which way" level within a few hours.


I'd also like:-


One with lots of add ons, toys and gizmos, such as altimeter, gradient, pulse monitor or whatever else. Not essential, but I like looking at numbers and if it only costs a few quid more for lots of different numbers, then I like that sort of thing.


I'm not really computer literate and not clever with computers at all.
A local bike shop which I've only just found out about and seems like I might become a regular customer once I've sussed them out and decided whether I like them or not sells Garmins. So this could be a way for me to suss out my new LBS and get some help with using a sat-nav.

Money wise, for the sat-nav and software/mapping of Britain and Europe, on and off road, I don't want to go over £800 but will go a bit over if it's worthwhile. I can always buy the European software later.


If this has all bin done , just give me a link and I can delete this. I have had a quick look, but haven't really found anything.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2011, 08:49:45 pm »
Given the 'need' list, I think you'd have to think long and hard about anything other than the ubiquitous Garmin eTrex Vista HCx:

24 hours isn't unreasonable for a set of decent quality NiMHs.  More with primary lithium cells.  No problem using standard alkalines either - just select the appropriate battery chemistry from the menu.

City Navigator Europe will give you good routable navigation for all of Europe.  Topo GB will give you Garminised OS mapping for off-road in the UK.  Openstreetmap is free and will give you mapping for anywhere in the world that's either patchy or incredibly detailed (both on and off road), depending on how popular the area is with the sort of people who contribute to OSM.  I don't rate the OSM auto-routing, though.

Mine's taken plenty of rain, numerous instances of being dropped and a handful of crashes, including one on the 'bent where I landed on it, it ejected from the bracket, and ended up under me in several inches of muddy puddle.  Still going strong.

You can edit routes on the device, but the interface for doing so is necessarily more clunky than uploading one from a computer.  Uploading GPX files as tracks or routes using Mapsource, Memory Map or anything else is abouit as standard as it gets.

The learning curve isn't great, but it isn't awful.  It's not so much learning to operate the device (the manual is actually quite good, and there's no shortage of people who can help), but learning how it 'thinks', so you can create routes and be reasonably certain of how it's going to behave when you follow them.  Wrangling routes and tracks and software and so on is a bit of a black art.  There are various approaches favoured by different people, but it boils down to a trade off between quality of mapping, time and effort spent tweaking your route on the computer and the amount of actual thinking you have to do on the bike.

The Vista HCx gives you a magnetic compass (pointless on a bike, but you can switch it off - quite useful on foot) and barometric altimeter (improves the accuracy of the elevation readings, mostly), which also means some it gains some funky elevation-analysis stuff the other models lack.  What you won't get is heartrate, cadence, etc.  For those you're looking at the bike-specific stuff, which tends to use short-lived proprietary batteries (which I consider a show-stopper, but someone will no doubt be long in a minute to say they're absolutely fine as long as you carry the right box of unobtanium quantum accelerators).

The newer general-purpose models, Dakota and Oregon, have quite pretty touch-screen interfaces.  However, while the eTrex's little joystick is fiddly, it can be worked reliably with gloves on, unlike a touch screen.  The eTrex screen is also superior in daylight with the backlight off.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Panoramix

  • 50 61 6E 6F 72 61 6D 69 78
  • Suus cuique crepitus bene olet
    • Some routes
Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2011, 09:04:40 pm »

The Vista HCx gives you a magnetic compass (pointless on a bike, but you can switch it off - quite useful on foot) and barometric altimeter (improves the accuracy of the elevation readings, mostly), which also means some it gains some funky elevation-analysis stuff the other models lack.  What you won't get is heartrate, cadence, etc.  For those you're looking at the bike-specific stuff, which tends to use short-lived proprietary batteries (which I consider a show-stopper, but someone will no doubt be long in a minute to say they're absolutely fine as long as you carry the right box of unobtanium quantum accelerators).



Not quite true.

You can get heart rate and cadence on a Dakota (which is powered by AA batteries), you just need to buy the sensor. Run time is not so good especialy with the map on but in my view it is much more user friendly, I've never quite managed to make the vista behave how I wanted to whereas I could understand how to use my Dakota within an hour or so.

Francis will come soon to disagree with me  :)

Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2011, 09:35:30 pm »
  Openstreetmap is free and will give you mapping for anywhere in the world that's either patchy or incredibly detailed (both on and off road), depending on how popular the area is with the sort of people who contribute to OSM. 

As long as I can plan the route at home and put it on the sat-nav, I'm happy. I can use good maps for planning, all I really want a sat-nav for is to keep me on track without having to stop to get my map out. (This has been a major issue when off roading!) If I want to look at a map, I'll bring one with me and look at it. :)

Quote
I don't rate the OSM auto-routing, though.

If I can tweak the route to my liking with as much ease as I do with Googlemaps, then I'll be happy.

I like free stuff, especially now that I've had a quick google of the Garmin website and seen how much the mapping software costs! I'd still pay it if it's worth it, but OSM would have to be pretty bad and the stuff on the Garmin website would have to be much better.

I reckon some lithiums would last about a week, so two sets of batteries would be plenty for a 12 day tour. :thumbsup: Low battery life was one thing that put me off sat-nav before.

Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2011, 09:37:15 pm »

You can get heart rate and cadence on a Dakota (which is powered by AA batteries), you just need to buy the sensor. Run time is not so good especialy with the map on but in my view it is much more user friendly, I've never quite managed to make the vista behave how I wanted to whereas I could understand how to use my Dakota within an hour or so.

Francis will come soon to disagree with me  :)

Cheers. I'll have a look at one of those too. I'm not really fussed about a HRM, but I do like my gadgets.

I'll wait for FF now. ;D

Speshact

  • Charlie
Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2011, 09:44:29 pm »
I can't help you with the answer but I'd like to congratulate you on the quality of the brief re what you need/would like. Partly because it's precise without being clearly unachievable, but mainly because it's seems remarkably similar to the sort of thing I'd be looking for and will avoid me having to write it all down as and when I decide to get one  :thumbsup:.

If I were to add anything it'd be: is it worthwhile getting one which is second-hand or does it make sense to go for new?

Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2011, 09:59:53 pm »
If I were to add anything it'd be: is it worthwhile getting one which is second-hand or does it make sense to go for new?

For me, personally. If it's a bike or something I know about and I know what I'm buying and can fix it myself, I'm happy with secondhand. (Conveniently forgets that the last time he bought a secondhand bike was 1997 and has since bought 3 brand new bikes and one made to measure frame)
Electrickery though, I'm not clever with that. I couldn't tell if it works well or even at all and almost certainly wouldn't be able to fix it. I expect most secondhand stuff is good, but at least if I buy new, I have a guarantee for some time. I'm always a bit sceptical of electricals and like the idea of being able to take it back to the shop if it turns out to be duff.
Nothing wrong with secondhand though, especially if you trust who you're buying it from.

Besides, I've just had a bonus and I wantz teh shineeze. ;D

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2011, 10:25:25 pm »
I'd agree with that.  Unless it's a fantastic deal, or you implicitly trust the seller, second-hand electronics are usually only worth it if it's the sort of item that people sell-on quickly in order to upgrade to the latest, shinier model (things like last year's high-end graphics cards), or so ancient that the value is measured in terms of obscurity rather than performance.  I'd be wary of anything second hand that's liable to have had significant wear and tear, especially if there are hard-to-replace batteries involved.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

frankly frankie

  • I kid you not
    • Fuchsiaphile
Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2011, 10:44:27 pm »
Francis will come soon to disagree with me  :)

I disagree.  There - better now?  ;)

I'd still pay it if it's worth it, but OSM would have to be pretty bad and the stuff on the Garmin website would have to be much better.

OSM is still pretty bad in northern France, unfortunately.  In the UK and many other parts of France it's good enough, and in some remoter places it's simply better than any other mapping available (not saying much!).

I don't think anything is going to tick all your boxes, but the Legend or Vista HCx (or Cx if you can find a used one, even better) will get far closer than anything else - they far outstrip all other models for battery runtime.  Sheila got to Fougeres on the way back on the last PBP, before changing batteries (Legend Cx).  Where they aren't good is learning curve, and easy uploading of new routes while on the road.  However they can store 50 routes, which will get you a long way (if you say 200km per route).
They are also a pretty old model that seems bound to be superseded fairly soon, but that doesn't mean it'll suddenly stop working (or even that the replacement model will be better - it may well not be - see HCx vs older Cx, I have both and use the Cx for preference).
It's not dark yet but it's getting there.

Wowbagger

  • Dez's butler
    • Musings of a Gentleman Cyclist
Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2011, 10:56:19 pm »
I'm very happy with my HCx. I load tracks rather than routes and I rarely let the little bugger navigate for me.

I prepare my rides on bikehike and use open street maps.

You can download large areas but you'd want to buy an 8gb card (usual size of card is 2gb) but these are not expensive.

I can get the whole 700 miles of our forthcoming Lowestoft -Ardnamurchan on the machine.
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

Euan Uzami

Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2011, 09:24:16 am »
Personally I don't find my etrex vista hcx particularly good off road because the compass only seems to be able to know which way you're facing when you're going above approximately about 10 or 12 mph. (If you always are, then it might not be a problem ;) )
I once tried it and it was confusing because I couldn't tell which way was north.
It does exactly the same thing on steep-ish climbs on the road bike, but it always straightens itself out again when I get to the top.

Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #11 on: March 21, 2011, 09:37:23 am »
If it's a choice between the Vista and the Legend, I think (but could be wrong as I only have experience of the Legend HCx) that the Legend has better battery life.  I have seen reports that the compass is relatively battery hungry, so seems an un-necessary feature when a Silva is so easy to use.  I'm also not convinced that the barimetric altimeter is a worthwhile extra, though I don't use GPS off-road.

I've completed 2 200s on one charge of 7dayshop 2900mA rechargables.

Manotea

  • Where there is doubt...
Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2011, 09:43:32 am »
I believe FF's comment about learning curve applies to GPS units in general and not the eTrex units in particular. Personally I find the eTrex unit to be very straightforward, especially in conjunction with Garmin masource and maps (figuring out how all the different online mapping products work is a nightmare). I cannot comment on the Dakota/Oregon ranges but the 705 is definately much more complicated, though to be fair (must I?) it has a lot more functionality. That does comes with a drawback that some facilities have been 'dumbed down' and a bit clunky.

Once you are on the road operational simplicity is all. For example, I found it much easier to detour off route to the nearest town for supplies and then pick up the route later with the eTrex than with a 705. That's my experience. YMMV.

Regardless, best expect that it will a while to learn to use the unit effectively and develop a style/process for coding up routes and generally using the the system which suites you.

frankly frankie

  • I kid you not
    • Fuchsiaphile
Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2011, 09:47:21 am »
You can turn the compass off entirely, and I agree the barometric itself is barely worthwhile (it is better but not much), but the associated profile display screen is definitely worth having, and you don't get that with the Legend.

For TG-like distances there is also 'battery save' mode which IME works well, and should add about 25% to the runtime.

I once tried it and it was confusing because I couldn't tell which way was north.
It does exactly the same thing on steep-ish climbs on the road bike, but it always straightens itself out again when I get to the top.

If that's really annoying you might try a full reset.  I had a similar problem and this improved it no end.  Or you could just switch 'track up' off and have the map locked to 'north up', then it won't move about at all.
It's not dark yet but it's getting there.

Manotea

  • Where there is doubt...
Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2011, 09:51:02 am »
I've completed 2 200s on one charge of 7dayshop 2900mA rechargables.

I've given up using rechargeables in a GPS because you should always carry a spare set and if you don't keep them fully charged they will let you down when you need them.

4 x rechargeable AAs weigh twice as much as 4 x lithium AAs which last 2~3 times longer with no worries about the spare set losing charge. To me, happy audaxing is about eliminating things you need to worry about. A GPS with Lithium AA's is part of that approach.

Euan Uzami

Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #15 on: March 21, 2011, 10:47:03 am »
I've completed 2 200s on one charge of 7dayshop 2900mA rechargables.

I've given up using rechargeables in a GPS because you should always carry a spare set and if you don't keep them fully charged they will let you down when you need them.

4 x rechargeable AAs weigh twice as much as 4 x lithium AAs which last 2~3 times longer with no worries about the spare set losing charge. To me, happy audaxing is about eliminating things you need to worry about. A GPS with Lithium AA's is part of that approach.


ah, but surely if you use rechargeables, you can always be sure they are fully charged before an audax*, unlike with non-rechargeables. The total amount of charge they give you might be less, but it's about taking the uncertainty out of it.
If it's a 200, or probably a 300, you know for sure they are going to last through it.
(If it's a 400 or a 600, you know you are probably going to have to change them once, but you will be a fair way in, and you can make sure that your spare set is also fully charged.)
If you use non-rechargeables, say you are doing a 400 or a 600, and you take only one spare set, then there is the possibility that the first set could wear out 5 miles from the start, and thus the second set are probably still going to wear out before the end, leading to you having to buy some more from a shop.

* I charge them even if they are probably not yet fully depleted. (This may cause battery fade to happen faster but it doesn't happen overnight and thus you can monitor it.)

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #16 on: March 21, 2011, 10:49:30 am »
Lithiums are quite nasty though, environmental-wise, I think?
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

Panoramix

  • 50 61 6E 6F 72 61 6D 69 78
  • Suus cuique crepitus bene olet
    • Some routes
Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #17 on: March 21, 2011, 10:53:09 am »
Lithiums are quite nasty though, environmental-wise, I think?

+1

In practice, rechargeable means that you carry an extra set of batteries which is OK for me!

Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #18 on: March 21, 2011, 11:33:00 am »
Lithiums are quite nasty though, environmental-wise, I think?

Expensive too.

Euan Uzami

Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #19 on: March 21, 2011, 11:38:19 am »
Lithiums are quite nasty though, environmental-wise, I think?
most bog standard AA and AAA rechargeables are NiMH, not Li-ion, but you shouldn't dispose of them in a normal bin anyway.
An example of Li-ion ones are my ayup ones but they have their own specific intelligent charger and they don't suffer from battery fade very badly at all, they are still as good as when I got them - I am unlikely to disposing of them any time soon.
If you're concerned about the environmental impact then you want to focus your ire on the mobile phone industry - their batteries are pretty much always li-ion, often disposed of after a couple of years (possibly because their batteries fade very badly because their chargers are mostly non-intelligent, even though they would have you believe otherwise) and there's lots and lots of them  (more mobile phones in the uk than people, apparently) - so there's probably more li-ion finding its way into landfill due to mobiles than anything else.

Si_Co

Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #20 on: March 21, 2011, 11:48:36 am »
Lithiums are quite nasty though, environmental-wise, I think?

All batteries are nasty things really, especially if you take into account production by-products and not just diposal

Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #21 on: March 21, 2011, 11:51:01 am »
Just had to send my Etex Vista Cx back to Garmin, due to the glue on the outer casing not
sticking. I had a similar problem in 2008, and had the unit replaced. Another one is on the
way as I type.

Panoramix

  • 50 61 6E 6F 72 61 6D 69 78
  • Suus cuique crepitus bene olet
    • Some routes
Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #22 on: March 21, 2011, 11:51:20 am »
Lithiums are quite nasty though, environmental-wise, I think?

All batteries are nasty things really, especially if you take into account production by-products and not just diposal

Yes but rechargeables last several years while lithium last a couple of rides!

Manotea

  • Where there is doubt...
Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #23 on: March 21, 2011, 11:56:48 am »
Lithiums are quite nasty though, environmental-wise, I think?

All batteries are nasty things really, especially if you take into account production by-products and not just diposal

Yes but rechargeables last several years while lithium last a couple of rides!
I use rechargeables for lights but they have a different usage/charging pattern. For the GPS, convenience, weight and reliability win out. Sorry.

Re: Which sat-nav for teethgrinder?
« Reply #24 on: March 21, 2011, 12:10:15 pm »
I use rechargeables for lights but they have a different usage/charging pattern. For the GPS, convenience, weight and reliability win out. Sorry.

Lithiums are damn expensive though.

I used both. I had a bunch of rechargeables that I used to use (along with a decent charger) but carried a pack of Lithiums as an emergency backup.
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."