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Ride to Amsterdam 2011, GPS needed...

ClarebunnyClarebunny Posts: 64
edited April 2011 in Tour & expedition
Hi all!
Myself and the hubby fancy a ride to Amsterdam next summer (and back, not doing things by halves!). Any advice would be very welcome!

We've never done any touring of any kind before- most we've really ridden is 50 miles or so with a few pubs in an afternoon... but we're both young and fit and we're strongish riders - we want to take it at our own pace and enjoy it. Plan is Berkshire==> Harwich over a few days (staying in b&b's), crossing over to Rotterdam and then ride up to Amsterdam (B&b type affairs again). About 50 miles a day ish..... we're just starting to plan!

We think we'd like to use some kind of GPS systm (with maps as a backup)... and want to put it on our christmas list..... but we don't know where to start looking. So really any advice about buying a GPS for bikes would be great. My husband has an android phone, but on GPS mode has limited battery life, which might make thing challenging!


Thanks all!
~I like to bike~

Posts

  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    My recommendation for the best value, and most useful GPS for cycle touring is the Garmin Legend HCx (don't get the HC). the screen isn't as big as other GPSes but it will run for 2-3 days on a pair of AA batteries.

    You will need a handlebar mount and a couple of micro-SD cards.

    Go to opencycle ap and buy their map for the Benelux countries it'll cost you a few quid (for a good cause) but unless you know how to make changes to your computer's registries, it's the most practical option. There's also an Opencycle Map of France available from here:

    http://fredericbonifas.free.fr/osm/garmin.htm

    Ask on here if you need help installing these on your GPS.

    Experiment with the routing options, if you want, but I wouldn't rely on them - the simplest method is to put waymarkers on the map at important junctions.
  • Thanks for that! Would it be this one: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Garmin-eTrex-Le ... 452&sr=8-1

    That's definitely a more reasonable price than some of the ones I've seen!

    :)
    ~I like to bike~
  • bigjimbigjim Posts: 780
    (don't get the HC)
    Erm.. I've got the HC and it's great. No problems at all and the batteries last for days.
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    clarebunny - yes that's the one. Although having recommended the Legend, I see that the Vista HCx is only a couple of quid more. The Vista has a barometric altimeter - and it will also display an altitude profile of your day's riding. I've never found I needed a barometric altimeter (the Legend gives you an altitude reading using GPS that I've always found accurate enough) but the altitude profile is cool, in a nerdy sort of way (not that you'll need it in Holland!), and if the difference is only a couple of quid....
    bigjim wrote:
    (don't get the HC)
    Erm.. I've got the HC and it's great. No problems at all and the batteries last for days.

    The problem with the HC is that it doesn't have a slot for a memory card - so you can't load extra maps onto it. also if you have a memory card you can use it to store the tracks you've recorded rather than using the main memory. If you don't need extra maps that's fine, but given that the HC models are only a few quid less than the HCx models it's better to go for the HCx.
  • bigjimbigjim Posts: 780
    I paid £70 for mine as new against £138 for new HCX is a big enough difference for me. There is enough memory on the C to store xtra maps. depends how many you need. Agreed the card storage is a great advantage but not enough to justify the expense for me. If you were away for months at a time fair enough, but, I wish.
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    bigjim wrote:
    I paid £70 for mine as new against £138 for new HCX is a big enough difference for me. There is enough memory on the C to store xtra maps. depends how many you need. Agreed the card storage is a great advantage but not enough to justify the expense for me. If you were away for months at a time fair enough, but, I wish.

    You got a good price - a quick Google suggests that the HC goes for between £90 and £110.

    The HC has 24Mb of memory - to put that into perspective: the French OpenCycleMap topo that I linked to comes in at 468 Mb and my Garmin Land Navigator of Italy comes in at just over 1Gb.
  • JHcpJHcp Posts: 144
    When touring battery consumption is quite critical which is one of the reasons we bought the Etrex as it has one of the best at 25hrs on two AA's. We can get 2 - 3 days touring on a set of charged eneloop 2000mah batteries and carry two spare sets and charge them up at campsites overnight.

    I would definitely go for the Vista Hcx as there is very little difference in the price now between the it and the Legend Hcx. I paid £180 for our Vista Hcx a year ago! The Altimeter and compass are very useful and the ability to swap micro SD cards with different maps installed on is great. Also having the extra memory with the micro SD card means you can install loads of custom POI's such as Archies campsite of Europe POI's etc.

    You can get a free copy of the OpenStreetmap for BeNeLux here.

    If you do decide on a Vista Hcx there is some information on how to use it on our site here, as we found the Garmin manual that comes with it a little limiting.

    Jon
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    We toured the Netherlands in September, we used a Garmin Dakota 20, £186 from Handtec. We took 2900mah Vapextech AA NiMH rechargeables and got about two days per set. It takes an SD card and I used the Netherlands Velomap (an openstreetmap that includes all the cycle routes, long distance LF routes and local numbered "nodes" routes).

    Best bit, you can plan your routes using fietsrouteplanner and download to your gps I used this and had the entire 500 mile tour on the gps before I went. The Dakota also does routing on the hoof using the Velomap so you can change plans without problem.

    (There is a similar cycle route planner for the whole of Europe, here http://www.fietsvakantie.eu/ with English Instructions here.)
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    alfablue wrote:
    We toured the Netherlands in September, we used a Garmin Dakota 20, £186 from Handtec.

    That's a decent price. Did you find the screen bright enough?
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    edited October 2010
    andymiller wrote:
    alfablue wrote:
    We toured the Netherlands in September, we used a Garmin Dakota 20, £186 from Handtec.

    That's a decent price. Did you find the screen bright enough?

    Screen brightness wasn't as good as I like, and it was poorer than it would be because I used a screen protector, however I was aware that this might be the "achiles heel". In other respects, touch screen, AA's, OS mapping etc, it was the best choice for me. The thing that made it much better in use was when I changed the colour of the route line to black, this then stood out clearly from the road/path colours, the default colour (pink) was not sufficiently distinct especially as it wasn't too bright.

    Although I would like brighter, it was never unreadable.
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    NB, the Dakota bike mount is an £11 extra.
  • alfablue wrote:
    We toured the Netherlands in September, we used a Garmin Dakota 20, £186 from Handtec. We took 2900mah Vapextech AA NiMH rechargeables and got about two days per set. It takes an SD card and I used the Netherlands Velomap (an openstreetmap that includes all the cycle routes, long distance LF routes and local numbered "nodes" routes).

    Best bit, you can plan your routes using fietsrouteplanner and download to your gps I used this and had the entire 500 mile tour on the gps before I went. The Dakota also does routing on the hoof using the Velomap so you can change plans without problem.

    (There is a similar cycle route planner for the whole of Europe, here http://www.fietsvakantie.eu/ with English Instructions here.)

    Thats brilliant- like the planner bit!
    ~I like to bike~
  • So... Garmin Vista HcX or Garmin Dakota 20?
    ~I like to bike~
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    Clarebunny wrote:
    Thats brilliant- like the planner bit!
    I planned it in "biite-sized pieces" roughly a days cycle, not the whole route in one file.

    Another tip, we joined Vriendenopdefiets ("friends of cyclists" or "friends of the bike"). For 10 euros you get a directory with 3700 B&B addresses, where they are cycle friendly and the maximum charge is 18.50 euros per person. We stayed in 5 of these on our tour, the rest camping, or trekker huts in camp sites (very good for the wet days). Most of these B&B's just do it under this scheme, and the ones we used were better than any B&B or hotel, in 3 we got our own appartment.
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    The other thing we did was join "Natural Camping Sites" natuurkampeerterreinen, which is a network of about 150 beautiful, quiet, simple and well maintained camp sites. Lovely places to stay. It costs 13 euros for the guide/membership, you can get it from VVV (tourist information offices) or ANWB offices (like the RAC in the UK except the "Dutch Touring Club" covers cyclists as well as motorists. Take your AA or RAC card with you and the shop staff will serve you as a guest member). Alternatively you can get the guide from the campsite when you turn up (if it is one that has a manned office, a lot of them just have an "honesty box" where you fill in your form and pay). They cost about 10-12 euros per night for two people in a tent.
  • alfablue wrote:
    Clarebunny wrote:
    Thats brilliant- like the planner bit!
    I planned it in "biite-sized pieces" roughly a days cycle, not the whole route in one file.

    Another tip, we joined Vriendenopdefiets ("friends of cyclists" or "friends of the bike"). For 10 euros you get a directory with 3700 B&B addresses, where they are cycle friendly and the maximum charge is 18.50 euros per person. We stayed in 5 of these on our tour, the rest camping, or trekker huts in camp sites (very good for the wet days). Most of these B&B's just do it under this scheme, and the ones we used were better than any B&B or hotel, in 3 we got our own appartment.

    wow that sounds worth it too! BIKERADAR people are brilliant :)
    ~I like to bike~
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    Clarebunny wrote:
    So... Garmin Vista HcX or Garmin Dakota 20?

    A difficult one. It depends a bit on you and how much you are prepared to gamble on a new gizmo - you may after all find that you prefer using paper maps.

    Probably the most important difference is the screen size. The Dakota offers a bigger screen - but you pay a price for that in terms of power consumption (two days on a set of AAs as opposed to three?). Screen brightness may not be as good as the smaller models but is still usable (I can't speak from experience - but I'd happily take alfablue's word for it). On the other hand you might find that a larger dimmer screen is more useful than a smaller one.

    The larger touch screen would make it easier to route plan as you go along (on the Legend/Vista you uses a little joystick to set waypoints - which is do-able but a bit fiddly).

    I think there are things you can do with the Dakota that you can't do with a Vista/Legend - probably the main one is Custom Maps. However this is probably most likely to be useful if you are going somewhere where digital maps either aren't available or are very expensive.

    So I suspect the answer comes down to 'what's your budget?'
  • Good question Andy- it's a christmas present so hopefully under £200- which I think they both are from a bit of googling?

    We want something easy to use- we will definitely still have paper maps too- and practical! :)
    ~I like to bike~
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    I looked at a comparison between the Vista HcX and the Dakota 20 on the Garmin web site, aside from 5 hours more battery life (Vista) and screen size, number of colours and touch/not touch sensitivity, the main differences that may be of relevance are:

    1) the Vista can store 20 tracks, the Dakota 200 (I have about 50 stored, about 25 for my NL tour);

    2) the Vista has no internal memory (does that matter??? I guess thats why you only get 20 tracks, but can you store more on the SD card?);

    3) tilt compensated compass on the Dakota (compass works even when the unit is not held level);

    4) Dakota is compatible with Garmin Connect (online facility to record and analyse rides).

    I don't know if these are very significant issues, none are likely to be deal breakers, I think the main thing is how you like them in the flesh/in use/on your handlebars - can you get to see them in a shop?

    There is a useful Wiki that has helped me get the most out of the GPS - http://garmindakota.wikispaces.com/
  • Again, very helpful- thanks Alfa! I will see if I can find somewhere that stocks them ot have a play, but the Dakota sounds pretty robust!
    ~I like to bike~
  • andymillerandymiller Posts: 2,856
    alfablue wrote:

    1) the Vista can store 20 tracks, the Dakota 200 (I have about 50 stored, about 25 for my NL tour);

    2) the Vista has no internal memory (does that matter??? I guess thats why you only get 20 tracks, but can you store more on the SD card?);

    3) tilt compensated compass on the Dakota (compass works even when the unit is not held level);

    4) Dakota is compatible with Garmin Connect (online facility to record and analyse rides).

    I don't know if these are very significant issues, none are likely to be deal breakers, I think the main thing is how you like them in the flesh/in use/on your handlebars - can you get to see them in a shop?

    There is a useful Wiki that has helped me get the most out of the GPS - http://garmindakota.wikispaces.com/

    You can and you can't store more tracks on the Vista/Legend. If you want to download (or is it upload) tracks to the GPS to follow later then the number is limited because it is stored in the GPSes memory - alongside waypoints. If you want to store the track(s) recorded as you ride then there is no limit.

    I like to ride to a campsite and then explore off-road rides in the area - so for me the ability to store more tracks would be extremely useful. for A-B road touring it's maybe a nice to have rather than a must.

    I think they'll both do what you want and both come in for less than £200.
  • Hi all, thanks for all your advice- we did it! 316 miles over 6 days (accidently 7 days because we messed up our diaries!). Great fun and now we're tired!
    ~I like to bike~
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