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Any experience with GPS systems?(7 posts)

Any experience with GPS systems?Duane Gran
Jun 6, 2001 7:16 AM
Okay, I'll just lay it on the line. I'm bad with directions and have gotten hopelessly lost only miles from my home. It is getting better, but my lack of navigational skills tends to keep me from being as adventurous as I would like to be. For example, a couple weeks ago I wanted to ride the bike to a nearby race, but I only knew how to arrive there by car on the major roads. So.... here is the point:

I'm considering getting a Global Positioning System device. I'm interested to know if other cyclists have had experience with these and can make any recommendations. At the moment I'm looking at two options. The first is a dedicated device:

The second option is an add-on for the Palm V device:

I'm thinking that the dedicated device would be a little smaller and be more water (sweat) resistant. The Palm option is mostly interesting to hit two birds with one stone, as I have been interested in getting a Palm device for a while anyhow. In the big scheme of things, either way I go I expect to not need the device very often because it is mostly for my adventurous days out in the unknown, but I suspect it will come in handy other times too.

So... have any of you had any experiences with these devices? If they basically just tell me where I'm at on an interstate highway, that won't really be helpful, but if they can tell me where I am on pigsnuckle road in BFE that would be useful.
re: Any experience with GPS systems?Larry Meade
Jun 6, 2001 8:17 AM
I have a Garvin GPS 3Plus that I will occasionally mount on a bike. Basically I use it like a fancy bike computer. Garvin makes a handlebar mount so it is really easy to set up. One thing that it really nice is its trackback feature. You can go out for a ride in an unfamiliar area and when you are ready to turn around, you activate the trackback. The GPS will then tell you when to turn to retrace your exact route back. Really nice in areas with a lot of back roads that all look alike.
Fun toys but ...Humma Hah
Jun 6, 2001 9:25 AM
... I've got an older hand-held GPS, bought for $150 from Walmart, intended for hiking. I've looked at the more modern systems which interface with Palms and show your position on a map (DeLorme supports these). They're cute, and of some value for autos, especially rental cars of someone visiting a strange city.

I primarily use GPS in the woods, and then primarily for map-making, taking coordinates to plot new roads or trails on USGS maps (using DeLorme digitized maps and a CAD package). I don't use GPS for primary navigation or to get un-lost: I've had batteries fail or the receiver get confused (they have trouble under trees or in deep canyons) too many times to trust them.

I'm a student pilot, done some orienteering, and am generally pretty good with maps. My feelings on GPS is it is a fine cross-check (lets you confirm what you should already know), but you MUST keep track of where you are, regardless of what you're using for navigation. There is no substitute for map-reading skills, since even if the GPS shows you where you are on the map, you need to be able to read that and determine which way you wish to go. On roads, you need a map that shows the roads and streets with sufficient detail that you can look at the signs at intersections and pinpoint your location. It may help to carry a compass, but mostly you need just good "pilotage" skills, reading landmarks such as street names.

When you get lost, here's the strategy for getting un-lost. Start with your best guess as to where you are, and pick a "linear feature" (a road, river, boundary, etc.) that you can't possibly miss. Head toward it. When you reach it, you need only determine where along it you are (i.e., read the street signs). You are then un-lost.
A Cautionary Tale.bill
Jun 6, 2001 2:03 PM
I have used these with rental cars. They have an extremely high grin factor and can be very useful. They pinpoint your location just great, and they provide a surprising amount of detail. BUT
They don't always provide an accurate or convenient way from point A to point B. For reasons unclear, if you ask the machine directions, every once in awhile it'll give you some bizarre and roundabout (and sometimes even impossible) way to get somewhere. And, they can become confused. I was in LA with my wife, who was there on business. I was supposed to pick her up one afternoon at her company's LA headquarters. She promised to prevent me from ever seeing my children again if I was late.
I requested directions to the downtown LA location. I'd never been to LA -- about all I knew was that LA is really spread out. So, I loaded the machine, got a feel for the roads from the directions, calculated the time required (it'll do that for you, too), and started out with plenty of time to spare. I was tooling along and was well on my way to being early. I was now, according to the machine, just a few blocks from my destination. Okay, turn left. Now turn right, there it is. 300 W Grand Ave., LA. Right street address. Only it wasn't a large commercial building, and, as it happens, it wasn't in LA. I was standing in front of a two bedroom bungalow. In some outskirt town (San Pedro -- does that sound right?). As I later learned, I was a good fifteen-twenty miles from where I was supposed to be. I re-programmed the damn thing, made absolute sure of the city name in the address, and it told me that I should look out the winder, because there it was.
Fortunately, I remembered that the office building was near a certain museum, and I asked for directions to the museum, and I got there only a half hour late. I am still married, but I learned not to trust those damn things so much.
my vote for PalmOpusOne
Jun 6, 2001 6:30 PM
I have a Palm V with the Delorme EarthMate GPS. The two work together swimmingly. I also have the BikeBrain product---it includes a wheel sensor that plugs into the Palm, and a mount that allows you to secure the Palm to your stem. This not only turns the Palm into a way-cool bike computer, but it also makes it easy to swap in the EarthMate. I just simply put the EarthMate in my bike trunk and run the cable along the top tube which allows me to have the GPS "live" while I'm riding.
fascinatingDuane Gran
Jun 7, 2001 10:39 AM
That is an interesting suggestion. I looked at the web site ( and it looks like a very competent bike computer. I like some of the features, which simply don't exist on other computers, however I tend to be pretty rough with my equipment and a Palm strikes me a delicate device. I will be giving this direction some thought. Thank you.
Get one...there fun!J e f f
Jun 7, 2001 6:38 AM
and you can buy mine if you want, I now have two. Its a Magellan, 4000, with video, manual, case, perfect shape. $100 shipped.