GPS for unicycling?

Onefiftyfour mentioned he uses a GPS for his uni rides as a more
versatile alternative to a cycle computer. I’m considering to buy one
for unicycling and hiking. What are features to look at? Other tips?

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

“My butt has a crack in it , but I can still ride. - spyder”

I’d say if you’ve got the money, go for it. From what I gather Rockley, one of my unicycling buddies, has pretty much completely mapped Mt Cootha where we ride most. His GPS tells him where he is on these trails that he has named, altitude, etc, speed, and many more things. He has used the data he’s collected to print out a big A3 map of the trails for our local bike shop.

He’s actually going to make a map of the trails we’ll cover in the upcoming (I don’t know when) Weekend of Australian Muni. It’s definately come in very handy. He’ll also mark certain points on the trails at which I want to stop and do some drops, log rides, etc.

Come to think of it, I might try to get myself one in the next few years.

If you do get one, please tell us how it works out.


Another thing to note is that I borrowed Rockley’s GPS once for a few minutes and really found it handy that I could look at what was going on (location, speed, etc.) while riding. I hung it around my neck and glanced at it when I wanted to.


When you have worked out what you want, have a look for that make/model in a sailing shop (chandlers) rather than outdoor type shops as these tend to be a lot cheaper ( in the UK anyway).

I bought the Garmin etrex vista for :astonished: $300. (On you can get it for $250- maybe that’s current) That model has a barometric altimeter and an electronic compass; both of which are nice, but not necessary. With out those features you can still get your elevation and heading from the gps. The reason I got this model was for the memory. It has 24MBs.

Most GPS’s have a tracking function where they plot your progress on a map. My gps allows for 10,000 tracking points. The last 2.5 hour ride I tracked used 618 tracking points.

Take a look here…(garmin website)

One thing you want to look at is the type of mapping software that will be available for the brand of gps that you get. Garmins use MapSource products.

I need to find a link to a GPS primer…


Take a look at this…

That’s a screenshot of a mapsource map showing a track of a coker/29 ride a few weeks ago. The mapsource PC software comes with any mapsource product. I bought the U.S. TOPO maps. You can also get U.S. MetroGuide, U.S. Parks and Rec., and others. A note about the TOPO product: Don’t expect it to be as detailed, topographicly, as USGS maps. The topo lines account for about 32 feet of elevation. I think USGS maps have 10ft lines.

Take a look at this:

This shows waypoints of some of our favorite spots on the trail. “Tumble” is where Duane’s kh24 bounced end over end for about 30ft after a steep downhill UPD.
Notice the absence of detailed topo lines. This park has many 30ft high ups and downs. I’m a little disappointed with the Mapsource TOPO.

I agree with the Garmin Etrex Vista…that’s the one to get

I’ve got a Garmin ETrex. It is pretty basic but works fine and will connect with a PC or Palm. It is also fairly waterproof, doesn’t eat batteries and isn’t very expensive

Has anyone seen theis?:

They are pictures drawn using a GPS plot. Might be fun to try on a Unicycle


phil has one he is away at the moment i think p.m him i think he is back on thurs/fri

I’ve been looking at the eTrex Venture but I’m not sure whether to go for the eTrex Legend for the extra memory though it seems more US based. I already have a altimeter in my watch so the Vista’s extra features aren’t much use to me. Any info would be a help, especially UK info.

Cheers, Gary

I own a Garmin 12 that I know longer use, and an eMap that I do use.

The tracking features are nice; the eMap records up to 2000 track points. I’d suggest that as a minimum - I’m jealous of oneFiftyFour’s 10000 track points.

The GPS altitude accuracy (in open skies) is typically +/- 50 feet; the horizontal position typically +/- 15 feet.

The advantages of a built-in barometer (as I see it, not having one): a more accurate altimeter measurement than the GPS measurement. And, as opposed to a seperate altimeter, it has the advantage of self-recalibration of altitude from the GPS - that is, it effectively automatically takes into account weather related pressure changes.

The advantages of a built-in compass (as I see it, not having one): Without the compass: when on a trail and stopped to see where you are, you only see where you are, not what direction you are facing. On cloudy days I often have to start walking so that I can get the GPS direction to tell which way I’m facing. With a built-in compass this would not be necessary. The value is obviously going to vary based on where you are, how well you know the area, tree and cloud cover, etc.

If you want the GPS for any use other than trail mapping and ride data, you want one which accepts map downloads. Note: the map software is also reasonably expensive.

A GPS is a fun toy for geeks. It’s a geek toy because you get to play with technology and the more you learn about the technology and the GPS system the better you can use it. It would be the kind of toy you would like.

For basic data like speed, distance, and average speed the GPS compliments a cycle computer rather than replaces it. The GPS is going to be subject to more errors than a cycle computer. The cycle computer is going to be more accurate. When I take my GPS on a Coker ride the GPS and cycle computer never agree on the total distance, speed, or max speed. The GPS usually says the trip distance was less than what the cycle computer says. This can be due to the GPS loosing signal during the ride. The GPS track also tends to cut corners which decreases the reported distance. I trust the cycle computer numbers more than the GPS numbers for distance and speed.

But the GPS does so much more than just tell you your speed, distance, and average speed. You can plot your trip on a map on your home PC. You can look at the time stamps on individual track points so see where you were at specific times. You can use those time stamps to figure out how long it took you to climb a hill or complete a certain section of the ride. There is all sorts of mapping and data analysis that you can do once you get the track data loaded onto your home PC.

I got my GPS to help keep me from getting lost during muni rides. Some MTB trail systems are a maze and it’s very easy to get disoriented and not know which direction to go to get back to the car. With the GPS I’m also more willing to explore trails that are not on my map. It’s nice to know that I’ll be able to find my way back. A GPS is a very useful muni accessory.

My GPS is a Garmin eTrex Vista. It’s a mapping GPS. I use it with the United States Topo map software from Garmin. Unfortunately, it does not look like there are Garmin Topo maps for Europe available. They have street maps for Europe, but what good are street maps for muni rides and hikes? Street maps are useful for driving directions, but the small hand-held units like the Vista don’t do turn by turn directions so street maps are not as useful unless you get one of the larger and more expensive GPS units that does the turn by turn directions.

Given the lack of European Topo maps for Garmin and Magellan you’re probably better off getting a non-mapping GPS. You’ll still be able to download track data from the GPS and plot it on a map on your home PC, but the GPS unit itself will not have a map display. You can make up for the lack of a map on the GPS unit by plotting in your own waypoints before you leave. The waypoints on the GPS will help you orient yourself in much the same way as the map display would. You can use software on your home PC to manage, locate, plot, download, and upload waypoints on the GPS.

Garmin GPS Units

Some good non-mapping GPS units to look at are:
Garmin eTrex Camo
Garmin eTrex Summit
Garmin Geko 201
Garmin Geko 301

The Geko units are cool because they’re small. Smaller than the eTrex models. The Geko 301 or Geko 201 would be a great little unit.

Some mapping GPS units are
Garmin eTrex Legend
Garmin eTrex Vista
Make sure you get the European base map with the Legend or Vista. The base map is a basic map saved in ROM. A North American base map would be useless to you.

Check out the mapping software at Garmin to see if the available European maps would be useful for you. You can browse the coverage detail for the maps on the Garmin web page to see what kind of detail the maps have.
Garmin Map Software

Another thing to consider is how you’re going to carry the GPS. You need to carry the GPS such that the antenna gets good reception. If you stuff the GPS in your shirt pocket it might not be able to get good satellite reception. The eTrex and Geko use a patch antenna that needs to be pointed up at the sky for best reception. This means that the unit needs to be held such that the display is pointing up towards the sky. I use a CamelBak accessory pocket to attach the GPS on the shoulder strap of my hydration pack such that the patch antenna is pointing up at the sky.
CamelBak accessory pocket

GPS units with a quad-helix antenna work best when the unit is held vertical.

You’ll need rechargeable NiMH batteries. The GPS will eat batteries. Keep a spare set of charged batteries with you for when your batteries die during a hike or ride.

More GPS info at

Re: GPS for unicycling?

Thanks everyone for the replies. Onefiftyfour’s map pictures were
especially useful to see what’s possible. I’ll let you folks know what
I end up with. I now definitely want one, but it won’t be in the next
few days. Great stuff!

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

“My butt has a crack in it , but I can still ride. - spyder”

Re: GPS for unicycling?

When I said thanks anyone for the replies, that excluded John C’s
reply. This was because I didn’t receive John’s post before writing
that. So here is another big thank you for John Childs alone! Very
informative indeed.

On Tue, 18 Nov 2003 00:48:11 -0600, john_childs
<> wrote:

>There is all sorts of mapping and data analysis that you can
>do once you get the track data loaded onto your home PC.
Oh boy. I will have to be careful or I will do one MUni ride per three
months and spend the rest of the time analysing the data :slight_smile:

>Given the lack of European Topo maps for Garmin and Magellan you’re
>probably better off getting a non-mapping GPS.
I’ve been looking (on the web) at the Garmin Etrex Vista (European
version). I found European street maps for it but not yet topo maps.
But even then, can you elaborate on why a non-mapping GPS is better?
Because it is lighter/smaller? Cheaper? Regardless, topo maps might
become available at some point in time. (The new version of my
favourite Dutch street CD-ROM now includes a topo-map overlay.) And
also, for other uses like distance uni riding, or in the car, the
street mapping option seems to be a ‘nice to have’.

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

“My butt has a crack in it , but I can still ride. - spyder”

Re: GPS for unicycling?

On Mon, 17 Nov 2003 06:50:00 -0600, onefiftyfour
<> wrote:

>I need to find a link to a GPS primer…

I found this one <> but it
is in Dutch so it probably won’t do much for you.

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

“My butt has a crack in it , but I can still ride. - spyder”

re: mapping/no mapping:

i would get one with mapping abilities. if there are no euro topo maps then the streets version will still be useful. duaner uses a streets map in his gps and if you compare his map to mine while we’re on a muni ride, you won’t see much difference besides a few topo lines. i guess that can vary depending on how hilly the terrain is. but the point is that you will get use out of the feature. especially if you ride the streets (coker) or drive in your car for that matter.


Re: Re: GPS for unicycling?

The non-mapping units are cheaper. The mapping units are about twice as much as the non-mapping units when you consider the additional cost of the GPS and the mapping software. Having a map display on the GPS is a very nice to have item, but it is not a must have feature if you are using the GPS for hiking and unicycling. If you can afford a unit like the Garmin eTrex Vista or Legend along with the street map software then by all means get it. You’ll love it. And you’ll wonder “How could I use this without the map?”. But if you’re trying to save money then a basic GPS like the Garmin Geko 201 along with a magnetic compass will do what you need for hiking and trail riding. The compass is necessary because the Geko 201 does not include an electronic compass to tell you what direction you’re pointing when you’re standing still. With the Geko you would make up for the lack of a map display by using more waypoints and pre-programmed routes.

The map display on the Vista is really small. It’s too small to use while driving. It’s not a good unit to use in the car. I’ve used mine in the car but you can’t make effective of it because of the small display. For car navigation you want something like the Garmin iQue that’s based on a Palm PDA. Wow! Now that’s cool. But the iQue would not be rugged enough to take on the trail.

There is also the option of plugging your GPS into a laptop or a PDA. Many GPS units have a serial connection that allows them to connect to a computer. The GPS will send real time position data to the laptop or PDA. There is mapping software available for laptops and PDAs that will plot your current location on the map in real time. I don’t know what software does this for Europe, but Microsoft Streets & Trips and National Geographic Topo! do it for the USA. Your Dutch street CD-ROM software probably supports this.

One GPS game I have not yet tried is Geocaching. I’m going to have to find a geocache that’s located near a MTB trail and use it as an excuse for a muni ride.

non mapping gpses are better because they use less battery and are lighter. They’re probably more rugged because of the generally smaller screen. Oh and much much cheaper.

However, the mapping obviously is a useful feature in some cases.

Everyone I know with a GPS (they’re bike people) has a non-mapping GPS, combined with some software like the tracklogs digital mapping or anquet packages. What you do with these is use a map on your computer to plot a route, or mark way points. Then you download this to the gps which gives you an arrow to let you follow that route, or tells you the distance / direction to a way point. You can also mark waypoints and record where you’ve been on the gps and upload them to a computer to see the route against a decent map.

In the UK, Tracklogs and Anquet maps are the software people seem to use, but they’re all based on UK Ordnance Survey Maps, so aren’t any good outside the UK. In the UK, they’re great, because they’re a really good quality map which is specially designed for outdoorsy people to use. I’d guess there’s a similar thing for other countries.


I had just been looking at the Tracklogs site, there Garmin prices are quite good. I didn’t know of them just found them whilst searching and I didn’t know of Anquet (GPS newbie :slight_smile: ) so thanks for posting that I’ll have a look at what they do.

From not knowing much and assuming there wasn’t much interest in GPS mapping in the UK it seems as though there is some.


If anyone is interested I’ve been looking at this site which is quite informative, nearly as much as John Childs :wink:

Apparently the Vista doesn’t ‘self-recalibrate’ but the GPSmap 76S does, or so I read, and that one is more expensive as you might expect.

I still can’t decide which one to get and then I’ll have to pay for it :frowning: