State of the Mediocre…

8 04 2011

Garmin Spew...

I finally managed to reach Garmin tech support on my second call. I asked them which of their handheld waterproof outdoor units that I could strap to my bike would allow me to have more than 50 points in a route while providing turn-by-turn navigation and more than 500-600 points in a track I download to the unit without truncating the track? Given those are the specs of my 5 year old Vista Cx I expected to be pointed to a new model Garmin.

I was wrong.

My unit is state of the mediocre when it comes to Garmin’s outdoor line of products…=-( He did say they “were working on it” in a tone that made it sound like I was asking for their GPS unit to act as a guidance module for my faster than light spaceship!

It’s a bit pathetic, but at least I know not to waste my efforts on any other Garmin outdoor handhelds. I’m going to call Delorme next and see if their unit with SPOT and satellite messaging can do better.

Garmin 1999 called and they want their GPS technology back!



15 responses

8 04 2011

Try a Bryton Rider 50 , two models cheaper than most other brands and improving all the time. Use OpenStreetMaps good detail, and are designed for cyclists.

8 04 2011
David Crowell

I have the eTrex Vista hcx, and have the same limitations. I’ve given up on turn-by-turn unless I’m lost and want it to get me back somewhere.

I used multiple tracks (filtered to 500 points each), and just followed the line. It was more work to set up and didn’t warn me of coming turns (I had to look down more often), but it worked for my five-day mini-tour.

The fact that it uses easily obtainable AA batteries was a huge selling point.

But… yeah…. “State of the Mediocre” sums it up nicely.

8 04 2011
Scott Loveless

I have a DeLorme PN-60. There is one available with a SPOT device, but I don’t have that. Anyway, the only limit on waypoints or track data is the physical memory of the device – 3.5GB built in, up to 32 with an SD card. It also does turn by turn directions, and can be configured for specific activities, such as cycling or hunting or cross country bowling or whatever. It’s my first real GPS device, aside from an Android phone, so I have relatively little experience, but I’m pleased so far.

8 04 2011

@David – brevets often one turn after another including at night….following a track is not feasible without turn by turn directions.

@Scott – I was interested in the Delorme GPS units and was waiting for someone with one to confirm it can do turn by turn directions. The one with the SPOT looks great as you can send short text msgs via satellite when out of cell range.

8 04 2011

@Scott As far as I can determine the route point limit for the DeLorme unit actually seems to be 25 points but there’s a hacky way to workaround it to get it up to 100. (as opposed to recorded to track data)

@Vik No matter which GPS you might want to check out the user created mapset of openstreetmap or more specifically the subproject openmtbmap (unfortunantely not all that much done with the latter in North America as yet)

8 04 2011
Scott Loveless

Well, that’s disconcerting. After a little reading, it seems that there is a 25 waypoint limit on tracks created with the PN-60. Tracks created on your PC using their software can have up to 100 waypoints. Each track can contain up to 20,000 points (different from user-defined waypoints, I guess). Apparently, the only limit on the number of tracks is physical memory. So I guess that’s how they arrive at “unlimited waypoints”. You’ll have to forgive my ignorance. Calling or emailing DeLorme for a confirmation might not be a bad idea.

8 04 2011

It’s very tricky….for example I can create a track on my Garmin that has 1000 or 2000 points, but if I try to DL’d a track someone else created online that has more than 500 or so points it can’t accept it and cuts off everything past some arbitrary limit – despite having over 4GB of memory!!!

8 04 2011

Interesting. Awhile back I was surprised to learn that my Garmin Edge 305 has the ability, in an odd way, to do turn-by-turn directions. It doesn’t beep or jump up and down that there’s a turn coming, but the screen does change and show which direction you’re turning.

So with that knowledge, last year I played with it, built a route on, finagled it a bit, and managed to import onto my 305. The route I put on was STP, and it took ~190 miles of the ~205. Yeah, I had the route sheet, and I really didn’t need it or the GPS (with 10k riders, over 2k doing one-day, you just follow the ass in front of ya), but it was quite slick to have, and was very useful at a few intersections in the small towns. Maybe it took 190 miles to use up 50 waypoints, but sure seems like it would’ve easily used more than that.

Just an information point for ya. I wouldn’t recommend the 305 for mapping use. However, I have been reading of some folks using the 800 (805?) for such.

8 04 2011

The rando lists are full of tales of woe about the Garmin 500 – 800 line up. Mostly how to keep the power hungry beasts running and random crashing of the OS.

Based on what I’ve read they make my Garmin Vista Cx seem most excellent.

I don’t need or want cadence/HRM or other info from a ride. I just doesn’t interest me and that seems to be the sort of stuff these units offer.

I’d also like to use my GPS for in car and hiking/kayaking use…so a handheld model is nice.

8 04 2011

not exactly sure why you have trouble following the route at night, Vik. cause there are too many turns?
i was able to follow it night or day. at night the map symbology changes, but with the back light, i can see it just fine. i understand that it is tedious to follow the route this way, but i suppose it is better than nothing – and at $100 for me, the price was right.

i agree though, the limitations are ridiculous. the only reason i can think of is that they hard-code it this way to save processing power? i can load unlimited track points in the everytrail app on my iphone AND save all the maps, reducing my dependence on the cell network – which i do as backup. of course, the iphone isn’t as rugged, and can’t really take being mounted to the bars that well (at least mine can’t) and there is the problem of assisted GPS and rain.

8 04 2011

You can’t ride all night with the backlight on as you’d be burning through batteries like crazy. With turn by tuen nav the backlight only comes on just before a turn and the shuts off until the next turn. This saves a lot of power.

8 04 2011

a couple weekends ago, i went bikecamping and rode about 200mi on 2 sets of batteries using the backlight *a lot* but not all the time. about 8hrs+ was at night. i might have been able to do it with just one set as the set i started with was already at half power and the second set which i am still using have a lot of juice left.

when you use off-road nav – it still lights up when you approach a point, so that is helpful. not the same as turn by turn, but you don’t have to hit the light button so much. in addition, you can set the backlight really low to save batts and it’s still very easy to read.

8 04 2011

Right so now start to do the math…for a long brevet we are talking 80hrs of riding with 3 nights to deal with. My GPS is spec’d to run ~24hrs on some fresh batteries with minimal backlight – so say 18hrs to be safe. That’s already 4-5 sets of batteries with my minimal use of backlight. If I start to use more power I’ve got to carry even more batteries which is not really feasible.

8 04 2011

Mediocrity is the new black. There is rarely a major product these days that invites a “wow!”. Something original that turns heads like an iPad or an Xtracycle. Everything is just a minor upgrade these days targeting the lowest common denominator. I still have the GPSMap 60CSx that is like 5 years old (also limited to 500 points per track, but I learned to live with it) and there is no handheld GPS that offers much beyond fancy touchscreens and colorful GUIs. I looked at the Oregon but I really can’t justify spending a few hundred to replace my 60CSx.

8 04 2011
Henrik Van Ryzin

I totally agree with Adam. I also use a GPSMap 60CSx, and have been sadly watching Garmin’s product line become a over-stuffed mess with a zillion shoddy products that don’t work as well as units they made years ago (i.e. worse battery life and fewer features). Garmin seems focused on a business model that depends on subscription map services, and has abandoned its focus on rugged long-lasting outdoor navigation aids. Backpacker just named the Delorme their editor’s pick for 2011 – hopefully that gives Garmin a wakeup call.
I should add that I have a Forerunner 310xt which I use for running, and it actually does its job really well.

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