Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Navigating my rides with a GPS

I get asked a lot how I use my GPS to lead rides.  That is a very good question and one that I'll hopefully answer in this post.  There are many ways to do it, and I'm sure there are folks who have easier, faster, better ways than I use.  My workflow works very well for me. 

What do I use to map and nav?
  • GPS: I have a Garmin Edge 800 and a Garmin Edge 705.  Both work similarly.  If given a choice, I use the Edge 800.  The screen is a little better.  
  • Onboard Maps: I don't use the Garmin maps that came with my GPS.  I use Open Street Maps. They're more current and include mountain bike trails as well as normal roads.  They are also free.  http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/OSM_Map_On_Garmin/Download
  • Ride Planning: RideWithGPS.com is my chosen mapping site.  I've used others and keep coming back to RideWithGPS.  
  • Cue Sheets: Potomac Pedalers Touring Club has a great catalog of cue sheets for rides in the mid-Atlantic region.  You need to be a member to access the cue sheets.  It is worth the $ if you plan and execute a lot of rides.  That reminds me that I need to renew with them. 

The basic workflow I do is as follows:
  1. Map a ride in RideWithGPS.  It could come out of my head or from a cue sheet.   
  2. Ride with GPS allows me to download the file as a Garmin Course (.tcs) and save it to my computer.  
  3. Copy it from my hard drive to the /Garmin/NewFiles folder on my Edge 800.
  4. Activate Turn-by-turn guidance for the course
  5. GO RIDE!

Creating a map in RideWithGPS is pretty easy.  Pick a starting point and start clicking.  Having a cue sheet guides your clicks.  Looking at Google Maps Bike Routes can help.  RideTheCity can help find routes too (http://www.ridethecity.com/dc).  When you're done, click SAVE ROUTE and a window pops up for you to name it.  It then gives you a link for a page for the route you just created.  On that page, you get a map, elevation profile and some stats.  You can generate a cue sheet from that if you like.  I've never really used that much though.  I pretty much depend on my local knowledge and the GPS to guide me on the road.

Downloading the map is easy.  There are easy downloads and instructions for the different kinds of GPS on the export tab to the right of the route page.  I use the TCS file for my Edge 800.  I use the GPX file for my 705.  

I then copy that file from my hard drive and paste it into the New Files folder on my Garmin Edge 800.  (See screen shot below)


For the Edge 705, I copy and paste the GPX file into the Garmin/GPX/ Directory.  

Now I can turn on my GPS and make sure it is set up for navigation.  That process for the Edge 800 goes like this:
  1. Menu --> Courses --> Select the course you want to use.   The screen gives you a map and some buttons at the bottom.
  2. Select the wrench button.
  3. By default Turn Guidance is turned off.  I turn it on.  This is the part that gives you a warning that a turn is coming up in the near future.  
  4. By default Virtual Partner is turned on.  I turn it off.  I find it annoying.
  5. I click the back button.
  6. When I'm ready to ride, I click "Go".  The GPS will then direct you on your ride.  It takes a few moments for longer rides to load up.
  7. When you're done, select Menu --> Courses --> Stop Course to stop navigating.  

For the Edge 705, it is a little easier. 
  1. Turn on the GPS.
  2. Select Menu --> Where to? --> Saved Rides and a list of GPX files show up on the screen.  Pick the one you want and select Navigate.  It takes a little while to do all the calculations and prepare to ride.  
Let me know if you have questions.

It's not what I do. It's who I am.

I saw a photo on Facebook lately that made me smile and think.  It reminded me that riding a bicycle is a lifestyle for many of us.  It isn't just something we do, it is a part of who we are.  We are cyclists.  As we get older, our bodies change and how we approach cycling changes, but it doesn't change that we just want to go for a bike ride.  The photo above reminded me how wonderful cycling is as a sport that we can enjoy throughout life.  I'd like to share some more sources of inspiration.

Before Christmas I met a guy on my commute home and we rode shoulder to shoulder for almost an hour.... I'd ask leading questions and in every answer we found things and friends and experiences that we had in common.  He was probably 15-20 years my senior and still going strong.  He was riding a LOVELY lugged steel bike that he'd been riding for 30 years.  The bars got higher as his flexibility needs changed, but he was still out pedaling distance every day.  My wife loves it when I come home and the first words out of my mouth are, "I made a new friend today!"  It happens a lot.  That day it DEFINITELY happened.  

We travel to the south of France quite often.  That's the homeland for my wife's family.   The Côte d'Azur is one of the most amazing places in the world to ride a bicycle.  I always have 2 wheels on hand to ride along the coast or up into the Alps.  The club that I ride with there are an amazing bunch of cyclists that adopted me and made sure that I always had a great loop to ride and some fabulous company to ride with.  I'm in pretty decent shape, but these guys all bury me.  I'm getting to the point where I can keep up with them over the really long rides, but anything under 60 kilometers and I'm chasing to stay on their wheels the whole time.  

My friend Girard is kind of the leader of the bunch.  In his late 60s, he's also the youngest of the group.  Some of them are in their late 70s.  All are former pro riders who never stopped riding after retiring from the top of the sport.  They're definitely cyclists in the true sense of the word.  

Girard pacing me up the first 18% gradient pitch of the climb into Olivetta San Michel, Italy

Even though I'm the youngest in the group by almost 2 decades, they won't let me do much of the work in the peloton.   I've finally convinced them that it is okay to let the fat American kid take a turn on the front and punch holes in the wind for a little while.  They usually shuffle me off to the back of the group fairly quickly.  God help me if I ever try and take a turn setting pace on a climb.  Such an injustice is met with a lot of exclamations in French and/or Italian and at least 2 or three of the guys coming around me to take the lead. My insult is usually punished by them upping the pace to put me in my place.  If I don't have the good manners to resume my place at the back of the pack, Girard usually is sent to talk sense into me.  

On my last trip to Menton (the small town between Monaco and the Italian Border where we live when we're in France), I was finally allowed to drive the pack home along the shoreline from Sanremo to Menton when we'd gone out on a particularly long ride and there was a quite strong headwind.  Some words were muttered in Italian, which I don't speak, ("Where's that tall guy?" is probably a fair translation)and Girard signaled me to the front.  That was the one and only 30km pull that I was ever or ever will be allowed to take.  The next day it was back to normal.  I did get a sincere, gentleman's handshake from two of the group and appreciative nods as we all split up to head for our respective homes.  Girard gave me a good pat on the back too.  

There's definitely hope for us to be riding throughout our lives.  It makes me very happy to have such inspiration in my life.  

Rock on!