We discuss some GPS devices and features we are familiar with. This is by no means comprehensive. There are many models on the market and each has its own features & functions. This section is relevant though as a reference to consider such features in the unit that you want to purchase or use.
We provide detailed step by step guides with screen images for a specific set of devices we have access to. For other devices, it may still be useful to browse these pages as they mostly work using similar concepts. In all cases, be sure to test the digital data on your device well before you start your bicycle tour.
Consider your use and preferences when purchasing a device:
What do you expect to be your primary use of the unit beyond this trip?
For multiple purposes, including cycling, hiking and paddling, consider the Garmin eTrex 30. You can store entire routes with all their service points on this solid unit, which allows for many functions beyond just the bicycle, such as 2,000 waypoints to mark the route, man-over-board location marker, etc. The two AA batteries will last several days and you can replace them on the road. The unit does not include maps. You have to add them separately.
For regular bicycle riding/training and riding on new routes, consider the Garmin Edge series or Magellan Cyclo. Most include maps for the region you bought them in. Neither is good for service points. The Edge devices can only store 200. The Cyclo cannot import service points. Instead, use your mobile device for a richer experience browsing for services.
Do you need maps?
The Garmin Edge 510 is a power bicycle computer that provides navigation following a track on blank screen. Most of the time, you can follow the track without problems. There may be times at intersections where it is not clear which road to take. Never worry though. As soon as you are off the track, the unit will alert you, if you turn Off Course Warnings on. Again, service point usage is limited on all Edge devices.
For a no frills, low cost device, take a look at the Garmin eTrex 10. If you don't need to navigate on it other than to follow a given route, It will allow you to see your location on the track, track where you have been, and it holds up to 1,000 waypoints.
What is your price limit?
Go all out and purchase the latest Garmin Edge 1000, which promises great connectivity functions, clear screen, and maps. Service points are still a limiting factor on this unit. It is best to use it in combination with mobile device for rich experience browsing for services.
If neither weight nor price are an issue, try out a Garmin Montana which can be used for multiple purposes, holds up to 4,000 waypoints, and has a large, smartphone-sized screen.
Many of the recent devices already include maps when you purchase them. But not all devices. Even for those that include maps, often the maps are for a specific region where the unit is sold. When you travel to other regions, you need to add maps.
Use one of the following references for information about adding such maps:
The GPS device world refers to these service points as “waypoints”. The limit on number of points that can be stored in each device varies widely. Once limit is reached, the device will not process additional waypoints for display on map, search, or navigation. We did not observe limits on mobile apps.
Here are the limits on devices we researched:
Garmin Edge series: 200 points
Garmin eTrex: 2,000 points
Garmin Oregon & Montana: 4,000 points
Garmin GPSMAP 64st: 5,000 points
Magellan Cyclo 505: does not import waypoints
Note that additional memory does not increase the limit of the number of waypoints. It remains constants within the unit regardless of memory added by an external card.
Recent GPS devices have reasonable amounts of memory that should be sufficient to store the tracks and record your trip. Most also support adding micro SD cards, up to 32 GB, for additional memory.
Plan on having 2 or more of these cards depending on your trip. They help with the following:
Backup: while rare, it is possible that the GPS device may get corrupt or malfunction and require a complete reset. While the device may lose all its data, you will have another set of data on a backup SD card with tracks & maps.
Additional service points: you will need to erase the existing waypoints on the unit before inserting new card with new waypoints.
All Garmin GPS devices we know of have a battery life that will last at least a long full day of touring and then some. Some devices can last up to several days. Magellan Cyclo 505 had an average of 8–10 hours cutting it close to a full day of riding.
Depending on your tour style, make sure to understand the battery life of your device and the method for charging it. Some units, like the Garmin eTrex, will allow you to replace their AA batteries when they run out.
Other units, such as Garmin Edge series, have internal batteries and can only be charged from a power source. You can charge them from sources including:
Electric outlet using power adapter & USB cable.
USB battery: here are several options for an external battery pack to recharge devices via a USB cable. These can serve a dual purpose of charging the GPS device and your phone.
There is a limit on the number of characters that the GPS device will display for a file name. If the file name gets clipped on your device, check the manual for your device's limit, and rename the files accordingly.