I noticed that, on the NAUCC muni rides, several riders had GPS units.

I’ve become interested in getting something to track my performance both on and off road and I’m looking for suggestions. It seems that some sort of GPS unit might be what I’m after.

Some things that I’d like (I don’t know if these are even available):

  1. Speed (Current/Min/Max/Average)
  2. Altitude (Min/Max/Total gain/Total change)
  3. Heart Rate (Min/Max/Avg.)
  4. Location. Perhaps with some maps? Or, just coordinates that could be used to locate position on a paper map.
  5. Traceback (if I get lost I’d like to use it to find my way back).
  6. Export ride data to computer software that can analyze/store performance metrics.

Did I miss anything?

Does a device exist that can do all of this for me? Is it a GPS or a traditional cyclometer?



I don’t know of a device that will do all of that. You’re looking for a combination GPS, heart rate monitor, and cycle computer. I don’t think that combined techno toy exists yet.

Mike Tierney (aspenmike) has a Polar heart rate monitor that includes the cycle computer functions along with an altimeter. You can check it out on the Polar web page. But Polar doesn’t have anything that combines all that with a GPS.

For the GPS features you’re looking at something like the Garmin Vista. The Vista has the mapping and altimeter. The GPS will also give you current speed, max speed, average speed, distance, and other info.

But the GPS only works when it can see the satellites so it’s not the most reliable trip computer for speed and distance. If you’re riding out in the open it’s very good. If you ride under tree cover the reception can be poor to spotty. You also have to keep the GPS located in a position where it can best see the satellites. That means that you can’t really just stuff it in the back of your Camelbak and expect it to record good data. I keep mine on the shoulder strap of my hydration pack and position it so that the antenna is looking up at the satellites. A traditional cycle computer with a magnet will be more accurate for speed and distance.

And Garmin is about to release a color version of the Vista. One of the new features is a USB connection that will allow you to upload maps more quickly. With the serial connection it can take about an hour to upload about 24 MB of map data. The USB interface will be faster, but I don’t know how much faster.

To load maps into the Garmin GPS you need the Garmin map software. You can’t load other maps into the GPS, only the Garmin maps. You get two choices, topo maps or street maps. Topo maps are more appropriate for muni and the topo maps include most streets and street names.

After you get the GPS you’ll have to factor in the cost for maps and other misc. software you’ll want.

So you can get what you want with a Polar cycling computer heart rate monitor and a GPS like the Garmin Vista or Garmin Legend.

I might be one of the people that you saw using a GPS during some of the MUni rides; I had a yellow thing on the top of my helmet.

I have had the problems that John mentioned, some days it just won’t do 3-D (altitude) :thinking: , just 2-D and trees with leaves on are bad to the point that it won’t do 2-D. :angry:

The system I use is Delorme Street Atlas for handheld - the GPS has a Bluetooth & battery module (extra $) which talks to my PDA which has the maps for the area that I’m in (space is limited, depending on memory). With this I can see the map as I’m cycling and still have the GPS in an optimum place. It comes with maps for the whole US and the newest may include Canada, I also have TOPO USA, which can also upload maps to the handheld. This stuff isn’t cheap, but I love my techno geek toys.:stuck_out_tongue:

If you want to see a little of what I’ve done with it, this is a map of Bluff Point (link) or right-click-and-save-target-as Bluff Point (zip), a small state park in CT that I’ve mapped, note the green line, a ½ mile ride out onto Long Island Sound - the GPS said I can ride on water and I won’t gainsay it! I had to do most of this during the winter months as it’s all tree covered.

Garmin® eTrex® GPS

That one does all that except heart rate and maps. It is very compact and under $100.