Digital Cue Sheets in Various GPS Devices

Digital Cue Sheets in Various GPS Devices

It’s only been about 6 years now that I have been using Garmin GPS devices to help me record my bike rides and runs, track my speed and power output, and even provide me with navigation help when it came to leading club rides and riding in regions where I don’t know the roads. Until about two years ago I always used a handwritten or typed cue sheet for rides that I wanted to stick to a particular route. But two years ago I purchased my first Garmin that would provide me with turn by turn (“TBT”) navigation. It was a Garmin Edge Touring (“GET“) device. Instead of writing up a cue sheet from a ride I designed on RWGPS, all I would have to do was export a TCX file from RWGPS and copy the file from my computer into the “newfiles” folder on the GET device. When I started the GET device up after the copy process the device would convert the file to a FIT format file (instead of TCX) and use it to give me TBT navigation. While on rides it worked for me most of the time. Sometimes it would freeze up, and other times it would get confused as to how to proceed at an intersection. I always dreaded a problem with the device because I didn’t want it to do a recalculation of the route. Sometimes the recalc wasn’t correct.

My understanding of how the GET device works is it deals in “Routes” when operating. A Route is a set of Waypoints which are navigated to one at a time in a specific order. If there is no underlying street map loaded into the device that is associated with a Route, then a straight line is drawn between Waypoint A and Waypoint B. If there is an underlying map, then the line between points A and B will follow available roads on the underlying map. In any event, the path from A to B is calculated. And it is this calculation that makes using Garmin Edge devices so iffy in reliability and dependability. I think the Garmin Edge devices besides the Touring model include the following various model numbers: 205, 305, 500, 510, 605, 705, 800, 810, and 1000. All of these models run on built-in rechargeable batteries, and I think they run out of juice after about 10 hours or so. So not too helpful for long bike rides lasting all day or longer, i.e., 300K or longer brevets.

In 2017 I’ve signed up with RUSA.org to ride in several of the long rides they offer. Since I am aware of how long (or short) my GET device can function before running out of power, I knew I was going to have to do some research on alternative GPS devices that would provide me DIGITAL CUE SHEETS for my long rides. A 200km ride has to be completed in 13.5 hours, a 300k ride in 20 hours, a 400k ride in 27 hours, and a 600k ride in 40 hours. I think I got that correct. So either I needed a device that could run longer without the need of a recharge, or a device that could replace batteries when they went dead. The latter option seems to be the only available solution.

What I learned during my research was that the solution that Garmin sells comes in the form of its line of Handheld devices: eTrex, GpsMap, Montana, and Oregon. They all run on easily replaceable AA batteries: alkaline, NiMH, or Lithium. And most models allow you to load street maps that can be used for TBT navigation. Of course, TBT navigation requires more energy consumption, and therefore requires more frequent changing of the batteries. And since I’m not a fan of recalculating routes, I really don’t have any need or desire to mess with TBT navigation or the underlying maps.

I’ve gone ahead and purchased Garmin’s eTrex 10 model and its eTrex 20x model. The 10 lists for $110 and I got it for $78 off Amazon. And the 20x lists for $200 and I got it for $140. Both are similar to each other, and for my purposes I don’t see any difference. Yeah, the 20x will allow you to save 2,000 waypoints, when the 10 will only let you save 1,000. And the 20x will let you load street maps so you can use TBT navigation, when the 10 will not. Also the 20x has a higher resolution screen in color, and the 10’s screen is a lower resolution and black and white. Neither device uses TCX files. Instead they use GPX files. But TCX files are easy to convert to GPX files using online sites like GpsBable or GpsVisualizer.

Why do I find these two eTrex models so cool? Well, they both can go up to something like 25 hours on just two AA batteries. But the way they provide Digital Cue Sheets is so reliable and dependable that I doubt I will ever go back to using my GET device. When you power the devices up they go live really quickly (within a minute). And after selecting the Track (not Route) of your ride you want to do, then you will see the GPS cursor on the “map” where your eTrex (and you) currently stand. If you are standing at the start of your ride ready to go, then the cursor will appear on the screen with the outline of the Track along with all the Waypoints on the Track. A Track is a breadcrumb trail of a ride either recorded by a GPS device or more likely created by an online mapping program like RWGPS. The Waypoints represent all the turns on the track that you will be making during your ride. The picture of the Track on the map screen will inform you as to whether you need to take a right, left, or go straight. The picture will also help you avoid over-reliance on street signs that are either incorrect or nonexistent. What could be easier, especially during a night ride with a lit screen?

If the battery goes dead while riding, then you replace the batteries and everything starts up just the way it was before you lost power. The cursor will show up where you stand, and the track will reappear since it never changes. You will still be using the same Track you had been using, and the GPS cursor will still be showing where you are on the map currently. No recalculation to screw things up.

Read my NEXT POST to see what I do to create my GPX files that I copy into either of my Garmin eTrex devices.

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