I have been using a Garmin ETrex for a while and it has worked very well, a very robust piece of technology before the times of Google maps and USB. It has been a challenge at times on Linux to get it to talk to the computer, but always got there. I’ve liked the long battery life and the ease of use when on the bike, you just follow the arrow to the next way point. The best bit, because it is yesterday’s technology, it cost hardly anything when I bought it secondhand, which is a shame in a way as technology like this is seen as obsolete and yet it isn’t really. We just have different expectations in our technology now.
Having said all that, it is a device you have to setup at home, meaning if things change when you are on the road there is nothing you can do to change your route. It hasn’t been a big problem in my travels as I have a smart phone that I can use, this comes in handy when things look a bit different on the road than they did at home. There are also times when you want to find what is nearby, the GPS arrow won’t every tell you that.
A number of times I have thought about upgrading to a Garmin Touring Plus GPS which is suited for my needs, having actual maps and even its own route planning, plus an option to search for nearby things. It doesn’t have the arrow pointing in the direction to follow, but the map does give you a bit of background on just where you are (sometimes lost when just looking at an arrow). The price has always put me off, while I am sure it is a worthwhile tool I have never thought the high price made up for what I currently had with the ETrex and a smart phone to back it up. That was until I spotted someone selling their Touring Plus for a lot less – I thought it was time I gave it a go and so I bought it.
I was surprised by how small it was having been used to something that resembles a late 1990s mobile phone on the handle bars, the bright yellow ETrex, the Touring Plus is half the size and fits on the stem out of the way, a bit of a bonus. I was able to quickly copy a pre-prepared route from the computer to the device just by plugging it via USB and it showing up as a hard drive. Another bonus was not having a restriction on the number of waypoints a route in a GPX file has, something that the ETrex does have a limitation (lack of memory maybe?) which means you had to split long routes up or manually create your own way points at major points in the journey. I was also able to plan routes on the unit itself, a bit fiddly and slow when you are used to smart phones, but usable all the same. It did suggest I bike straight over the top of the downs off road and down the other way instead of going round when I planned a route, but it corrected this when I told it not to take me off road. However, handy all the same seeing as I am afraid to take the Royal touring bike off road at times. I was able to find local attractions nearby, cafes and such like. Who knew that the nearest fountain to me is over in Worthing?
I’ve yet to put it into use as I have not had chance to go out on the bike since I got it, I did take it for a walk around the streets to see it in action. A small beep when you get to a junction and an arrow on the map showing you the way, it then turns off the backlight until it needs to alert you again. It might take me a while to find the best bits of data to display, and having to touch the screen to turn on the backlight to see things like your speed and time etc… but maybe that stops a bit of “gps watching” that I get sometimes with the ETrex where you are constantly looking at the distance to the next way point when you are plodding along slowly up a hill or against the wind.
So, role on the next ride, maybe I might attach it to the Marin so it can tell me the way to work.