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.

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