GPS devices for (primarily road) navigation

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  • GPS devices for (primarily road) navigation
  • Premier Icon Bez
    Subscriber

    Firstly, let me state that I’ve got about 15 years’ experience of using around eight or nine different devices for road navigation, and I’m a fussy git (as my comparison of Garmin and Wahoo probably demonstrates in quite tedious fashion).

    There are things I like about Garmin (the through-junction navigation, the lack of need to set up cue points when planning a route, the usefulness of the map when zoomed out) and things I hate about Garmin (the faff in getting a route onto the device, a couple of usability niggles, and the general unreliability and idiosyncratic nature of them along with Garmin’s reluctance to fix things). Equally there are things I love about Wahoo (the ease of getting routes on the device, the clear display, the generally much smoother user experience) and things I hate about Wahoo (mainly their near-uselessness when you’re forced to deviate from your planned route and the fact that the app drained my phone battery, even when I wasn’t riding).

    Nothing out there is perfect, I know that, but I’m a late adopter (read cheapskate) and so I’m a little behind the curve on things.

    So my questions are these:

    – Any Wahoo users noticed any changes or improvements in navigation functionality in the last 6 months’ firmware updates? Or any changes to phone battery usage in the same time?

    – Any Garmin 1000/Explore users found their device to be much more reliable than an 800/Touring?

    – To get routes wirelessly onto a Wifi/Bluetooth enabled Garmin do you have to go via Garmin Connect?

    – Anyone able to comment on the stability/reliability of the 520 Plus yet?

    – Anyone able to offer any experience with the Karoo Hammerhead?

    – Any users of anything else willing to recommend something? Must have mapping (which rules out all Brytons, I think) and some form of turn notification at least; and must be under £300, preferably £200 (secondhand is fine). I’m a RideWithGPS user and would prefer not to migrate away from that, so ease of transferring routes from that would be a tick in a box.

    I have zero interest in heart rate, cadence, virtual partners or any of that malarky. Time, distance and average speed is all I need; it’s the ease of loading and following planned routes that’s the differentiator for me.

    Currently I’m using a Garmin Touring Plus, and it’s ok, but if Wahoo have improved their navigation I could be tempted back. (Though looking at the firmware page I’m guessing there’ve been no compelling changes.)

    richardk
    Member

    Have you tried the routecourse Garmin Connect IQ app?  I create a route on ridewithgps, pin it, then it automatically makes it available to download on my Garmin (520).  No laptops involved, works flawlessly through mobile and Bluetooth.

    https://apps.garmin.com/en-US/apps/b7efc9ca-5446-4e1c-bc53-474e97f376ac

    Premier Icon Bez
    Subscriber

    Ah, that looks good. Thanks. (I haven’t used an IQ-enabled Garmin device yet.) Does the free version support everything that anyone might want in terms of RWGPS downloads, or does the premium version have some benefits there?

    richardk
    Member

    I’m only a free RWGPS user so I don’t know what the premium version offers. From reading their site, setting the speed of a course so that virtual partner works, and setting the notification of an upcoming turn are the two points that jump out.

    so far, the free version does everything I need (similar to what you have above)

    Premier Icon Bez
    Subscriber

    Oh, sorry, I wasn’t clear, I meant free/premium Routecourse 🙂 I’ve used both free and Basic RWGPS offerings. (The benefits of paying for Basic, for what I wanted, were the ability to group routes into events and the ability to trim routes.)

    Anyway, Routecourse makes the 520 Plus look a little more tempting (as does the lack of touchscreen).

    PJay
    Member

    Just to throw you a curve ball, I posted a while ago about the fact that Ordnance Survey are now producing their own GPS devices based around OS maps.

    Probably far too new to get much user experience or reviews or properly fixed firmware, but they look interesting. They’re fitted with sim sockets (I assume for internet connection without needing to pair with a smartphone.

    https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/shop/gps/os-gps-devices.html

    Premier Icon BadlyWiredDog
    Subscriber

    Just to throw you a curve ball, I posted a while ago about the fact that Ordnance Survey are now producing their own GPS devices based around OS maps.

    My experience of mapping-focussed GPS units is that they’re excellent for walking and mountaineering use in the case of the Satmap anyway – I can’t deal with Garmin’s convoluted, user-hostile user experience – but not much use for biking where you need easy, at a glance, directions.

    I’m also dubious about the ability of a body which is focussed on creating mapping having the capability to spec and refine a GPS unit, but you never know I guess. It all feels a bit like, say, the BBC suddenly deciding it’s going to produce television sets.

    They’ve always struck me as a weird, slightly dysfunctional quasi-quango that can’t quite decide whether it’s a government service or a commercial body. Their contribution to the digital mapping sphere is a situation where they profit from selling mapping data to numerous individual companies who then repackage it in bespoke format – ViewRanger, Garmin, Satmap etc – but the end user has to pay over and over again for the same maps if they want to use a different format.

    And yes, the mapping that’s been produced using government funding historically and which, you can argue, should be available free to the public.

    And then they undermine their own digital customers by releasing their own OS version of the same mapping and a bespoke app. Very confusing.

    Premier Icon scotroutes
    Subscriber

    The issue with any GPS device and turn-by-turn routing is that the device needs to have the same mapping (including version ) as the system.used for route planning else it’ll recalculate when selecting the route. The Garmin .crs file seemed to resolve this IIRC.

    I’m currently happy with my Oregon 600. It doesn’t have all the connectivity but it does have a USB port and will connect to my phone with a OTG cable when I need to download a route(Though I mostly use Basecamp on my PC). It’s also easy to install a range of mapping on it and flip between them when required.

    Premier Icon scotroutes
    Subscriber

    On the OS – I recently found out that they’ve released the 1:250,000 mapping for open/free use. Not the digital stuff, just the “paper” version. Still useful for road cycling if you want to carry a few A4 sheets with you.

    PJay
    Member

    I’d have thought that a straightforward waterproof smartphone mount ought to be on your list of possibilities. It’ll be touchscreen, which may not be ideal, but there should be plenty of options for mapping/routing apps (you can even run Tom Tom software on android) plus you’ve the advantage of a phone and internet connection.

    Premier Icon Bez
    Subscriber

    Thanks. All reasonable propositions, although:

    OS devices: what BWD said. OS 1:50k mapping is actually pretty poor for at-a-glance road use and on paper these don’t seem like devices aimed at on-road turn notifications.

    Oregon: I’ve heard good things about these. But they (and their mounts) are just too bulky for my liking, unfortunately.

    Smartphone: tried a few of these (even to the point of converting two of them to Edge mounts), but to be honest the downsides are extensive. (Limited battery life, touchscreens that don’t work in the rain, poor visibility in sunlight, they don’t like being dropped, and even then it’s hard to find apps that give better user experiences than dedicated devices.)

    I think realistically my choices are: Touring, 520 Plus, or Elemnt. All known quantities to a large extent; but if the 520 Plus turns out to be reliable then I suspect that’s the favourite.

    PJay
    Member

    Oregon: I’ve heard good things about these. But they (and their mounts) are just too bulky for my liking, unfortunately.

    I like my 700 although it is touch screen.

    I used an Erex 3.0 prior to this and the battery life was amazing; the screen’s smaller and it’s somewhat underpowered but is small and very robust with (as mentioned) ridiculously good battery life. The newer Etrex 30x can be found sub-£150 if you shop around and will run the same maps as an Oregon with turn by turn routing; it’s button and joystick operated and you also get a good quality Topo map included which I would hope was a UK one if bought in the UK (does use the same mount as the Oregon though).

    https://buy.garmin.com/en-GB/GB/p/518048

    Premier Icon scotroutes
    Subscriber

    Oregon: I’ve heard good things about these. But they (and their mounts) are just too bulky for my liking, unfortunately.

    You should try to get an extended loan of one. It would be interesting to read about your experiences with it and how you compare it to the other devices. It’s certainly not one you jump right in to. There are lots of customisation options and the overall usage methodology is quite a bit different from an Edge series. Having said that, they don’t seem to have suffered from Garmins sometimes poor QA either.

    This thread reminded me I had been planning to replace the smashed screen on my Experia Z1 Compact to use as a navigation device (via Strava) for longer riders.

    My Edge 25 can’t be recharged from a portable power pack (whilst in use) nor will it last longer than 8 hours, which becomes relevant when training for a 325 mile ride…

    Also as I found out to my cost at the weekend, even on road rides, the Edge 25 navigation can get a little overwhelmed by multiple turns/junctions/changes of direction (at least, if you turn Glonas off to extend the battery life, then the Edge 25 always seems a few metres behind).

    Hoping I can switch the phone to aeroplane mode but then turn GPS back on, thus using minimal battery. Interested in Bez’s other downsides though, hoping I can compromise, rather than fork out for a fancier computer

    Premier Icon dudeofdoom
    Subscriber

    (Wahoo)mainly their near-uselessness when you’re forced to deviate from your planned route.

    yep. Got caught out with that in Spain last year, I find it niggling that they have got so much right , I’ve got the element and the use of the leds on it is just so right.

    I’ve got one of the Karoo Hammerhead things, I don’t think it’s there yet but I reckon if they can sort their on device (no internet connection) routing they may have cracked it for usability.

    Got to check its routing the garmin and wahoo always seem to want to take me over the mountain goat track which is a nice ride but the mountain road is quicker/safer for a lone rider when you don’t want the real mountain experience.

    blader1611
    Member

    I have the wahoo bolt and the battery is great,far better than garmin devices. Just to give you an idea i set off for a ride with mine with the route page on and connected to both my hr monitor and my cadence sensor and paired to my phone. I then paused it mid ride which seemed to keep the screen on and watched the TDY for an hour or two and then set off home. I was out for about 4hrs+ and the battery only drained 20%.

    zerolight
    Member

    Bez, I’m not a big Nav user so I can’t comment much on that aspect of the Wahoo. What I can say though is that I’ve never had any impact on iPhone battery with the Wahoo app installed. I’ve been using it several months now and I never force quit any apps so if it was somehow hanging onto a process (which it shouldn’t be able to do when suspended) then I’d have seen the impact. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s got zero impact on phone battery. According to iOS, in the past 7 days it’s used 1% battery.

    flashpaul
    Member

    I quite like my lezyne super gps

    to be clear though it doesn’t have maps stored on the device

    it does have turn by turn directions and bread crumb trails which work well

    rerouting needs the lezyne app running on a smartphone and a data connection

    It’s easy to download tcx files from ridewithgps and then upload to the lezyne website which are then synced with the lezyne app

    You do need to use the web version of ridewithgps though I think to extract the tcx file which isn’t great on a mobile. I just download routes on a pc to Dropbox then upload to the lezyne gps root website on a phone

    Premier Icon gray
    Subscriber

    That routeCourse Connect IQ app is excellent.

    I have an Edge 820 and 520. Got the 820 for the mapping / navigation, and the fact that it can do voice alerts via my phone.

    If I was buying again, with money no object, then, erm, actually I’m not sure. The screen on those is a bit small for maps. I get my phone out if I want to look about. The touchscreen on the 820 is ropey, but the button interface on the 520 is clunky… I’d miss the voice alerts (I use a tiny bluetooth earpiece that doesn’t get in the way or block out any noise) – much easier when zooming along then the screen. If they made something like the 820 but maybe a smudge bigger and with a touchscreen that worked better, and buttons as well for when you have the wrong gloves on, then I’d buy that.

    That’s no help at all, but I’ve written now so might as well post 🙂

    xxx

    richardk
    Member

    On the free vs premium routecourse options, after yesterday’s usage I think the premium might be worth it.  Transferring a course onto the 520, and I didn’t get any turn notifications ( I do normally, and all the options were turned on)

    Reviewing their premium features page – https://dynamic.watch/help/premium looks like they might only come with the premium subscription.

    Premier Icon Bez
    Subscriber

    I think the premium might be worth it. Transferring a course onto the 520, and I didn’t get any turn notification

    I’m inclined to think that things may be different with the routable devices (820, 1000, 1030, 520 Plus) because they (re)calculate routes based on their own mapping data and give directions based on that, rather than using cue points in the source file as is the case with units that don’t have mapping data (and the Wahoo).

    To be fair, it’s sometimes handy to have custom cue points as well as the generated turn notifications, but I can live with losing that functionality if it’s the price of being able to get routes onto the device without fishing out a laptop.

    Anyway, I shall find out soon enough: ordered a 1000 Explore. Happened to notice that Amazon are selling them refurbished for £240, and I hadn’t yet used my £5 for installing the Amazon app, so £235. This has the advantages of a bigger screen, IQ support, and an SD card slot (I just picked up the full GB set of 1:50k OS maps on the classifieds) so if the touchscreen and the battery life are both tolerable I’m hoping this will keep me happy enough. I’m sure I’ll find some annoying quirk to grumble about 😉

    Premier Icon Bez
    Subscriber

    The Explore arrived. Came with some unexpected stuff in the box, namely a silicone bumper and a couple of mounts for the remote (which seemed a bit odd as there was no remote).

    Garmin being Garmin, there are some stupid hurdles when setting it up: the device is perfectly capable of detecting and logging in to wifi networks, but it won’t let you start that process until you’ve installed Garmin Express on a computer and plugged the Edge into it. Which is just ridiculous. As far as I can see you never need Express again after that.

    Bluetooth pairing (with an iPhone SE) was initially a bit hit and miss but it seems to be working now. Also hit and miss is the syncing: there seems to be no way to manually trigger that from the device (it seems you can manually sync a single route via the Connect iOS app, but that doesn’t actually work). Having just created a test route on the Connect website I cant quite see how to push/pull it onto the Explore other than (I assume) bouncing my wifi network so it reconnects and syncs. The apparent absence of a “Sync now” option on the Explore is, again, ridiculous.

    Getting Routecourse on there necessitated a firmware update (which went surprisingly smoothly) and some wrestling with the Connect app’s embedded browser (which went anything but smoothly). Installed fine, but then I got to the point where I remembered RideWithGPS have a terrible authentication system which means handing over my credentials to a third party for use in an opaque service. Worse, the RWGPS API uses HTTP GET to authenticate, which means that if the Routecourse developers haven’t figured out that they should put the credentials in the headers rather than the parameters, your creds are going to be in log files all over the place. Plus there are no permissions: once you’re authenticated you can get at all sorts of stuff via the API.

    Being the picky type, I therefore haven’t used Routecourse.

    The device seems ok so far (haven’t ridden with it yet; only used it on the train coming home). More map display customisation options than I expected (the Touring had a much-reduced set compared to the 800). Battery life is still under scrutiny: might be satisfactory, might be low enough that I send it back. Either way Garmin’s claims are as laughably untrue as ever. I still lament the absence of a “home” button as per every smartphone in the world, especially as I’ve never had any use for the “lap” button. Hey ho.

    So it turns out that in this case it’s RideWithGPS getting in the way of a device doing what I want. Maybe I should start using Garmin Connect to plan routes. But then, that’s bonkers, too.

    *sigh*

    retrorick
    Member

    I bought an Xplova X5 evo last week. Road.cc had highlighted it was on offer so I took the chance after reading the reviews.

    Route plotting is easy on the phone. Off route navigation isn’t a problem, it just tells you how far you are from the original route and shows a straight line to get back of you choose to do so.

    Screen is good, maps are easily zoomable.

    I have only used it once on a  85 miles road ride. It did a good job of guiding me through the country lanes to Southport and back. Guidance wasn’t turn by turn for the complete ride, something did go amiss. The tracking was excellent and the overall experience enabled me to ride without stopping to use my phone.

    Premier Icon Flaperon
    Subscriber

    My best experience is the ELEMNT with RideWithGPS. There have been no changes to navigation or map layout in the last six months and if anything the zoomed out view is worse.

    Compared to my Edge 1000 though, the clear screen, battery life, and sheer reliability of the Wahoo device makes it the hands down winner. The Edge will give up on turn by turn directions after about 40 miles anyway, so you’ll have to go back to following the purple string.

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