A first ride with the GPS, I wanted to give it a go to see how well it coped with a real journey. It was a bit late in the day, but while most of the UK seemed to be suffering with snow and floods, the sky here was blue and the sun was out, no real wind either.
The first problem I had was using the auto route feature which attempts to track your route following the roads, you just need to locate key points. A handy feature, but at the same time puts in a point every 33 feet in order to get the granularity needed to follow a road and all its small bends and change of course. As I found out, this plotted around 5000 points for a 35 mile ride which was way too much for the eTrex which accepts 175 points. I repeated the route, this time without auto route but instead me plotting it by hand putting in points where the roads bends and most of all when I needed to turn onto a different road.
I fitted the eTrex to the bike, loaded up with waterproofs (I learnt from last time!) and off I went. The eTrex is able to show you the route, but it’s not that useful when on the road . The main screen I used was the one with the compass and the big arrow showing you which way to head, this also showed the current speed. I wasn’t looking at the screen all the time but it was enough to quickly glance at the arrow and make sure it was mostly pointing forwards or a degree either way (seeing as the route it is following is not plotted at the normal 33 feet). It worked well, as the road went round small bends the arrow went off either direction but no more than 10 degrees either way until the road took me back on course. When I missed turnings (which I did a couple of times) the arrow shot over 90 degrees and I knew I had to stop and back up a bit to take the expected junction. Infact, on such occasions it put a message on the screen saying TURN, which gave me a good clue that the turning coming up was the one I needed. It counted down the remaining miles and kept an idea of the time remaining.
The other screen was more interesting than useful, there is too much small text to be able to read it at any speed. It showed me the time remaining to the next point plotted, the distance from the plotted course and the degrees I would need to get back on course. Nice to refer to when you are going up a hill for miles and you want to know how long you have left until the next point when you (hopefully) can turn off and start the downhill bit!
Back to the ride, it was mainly uphill, long and slow. It was also off road in places, one of the aims of the eTrex was to be able to plan and follow routes that took me off the main roads and along tracks that you would not normally even know about. I was taken along some pretty strange ones which added a lot to the time as the recent snow had turned the tracks into complete mud. Infact, snow and ice was still very much present in places. Making my way up the long slow hill (which seemed to be most of the route!) my attention was drawn to how much my back side was hurting.
I have pondered over this ever since getting the bike and seeing the nice large comfy saddle of the Highway and the razer like example on the Royal. Last time, I didn’t notice it, but this time I certainly did. The Highway is like sitting on a nice comfy, while sitting and relaxing you just peddle and after a while you get to where you are going. The Royal is more like you have done something bad in a previous life and you are slowly paying back for it. It does not hurt or painful, it is just not as comfortable. I will try swapping saddles to see how it goes next time.
After the long long uphill, there was a corresponding down hill, but like all down hill sections they seem to be much shorter than the up hill bits. It was a good excuse to get up to the highest gear and get to the high 20s while my feet hardly had to turn. Again, the eTrex only has enough space to log it’s position and so I had told it to only record a log every half a mile. In the end I had plenty of space remaining at the end of the ride so I could change that for next time. Because of that, speeds recorded were not as accurate as they could be when it came to viewing the logs.
Because of my late start (2 o’ clock) it meant when I was 10 miles away from home it got dark. I had lights, but it is not something I will making a regular occasion. The last 10 miles took a long time, I had mapped a route to miss the main road but instead go through what looked like residential streets and a quick hop cross country by the beach. A bit of a mistake. Firstly, the residential street had a locked gate at its entrance with big signs saying “Go away, get lost, we will shoot you if you don’t live here”, or at least gave that impression of unwelcome-ness. I didn’t take too much notice, which I probably should had done, but the road looked like a normal road to me and it was on the map, and would anyone see me? No-one did see me as I expect if they had then I expected it to be like a scene from the XFiles with half alien humans coming out of the houses to grab me. A sped on, some houses even had gated driveways within their gated streets, just in case maybe, or so keep the people inside in?
It turns out the small off road section to get me to the other side (and to safety) was harder than it looked on the map. Apart from not having barbed wire and watch towers, people clearly didn’t want any outsiders anywhere near. Even on the beach the large signs warning of land mines made sure the dog walkers knew their place. I was pretty glad to get out and back on my way. I later learnt that within a recent high profile murder case that went nationwide the body was found….. in Kingston Gorse. That didn’t surprise me.