GPS watch on Unicycle

I’ve purchased the following product to evaluate my training progess.

I will be using it on my qualifing ride to map my progress and act as a confirmation of my qualifing ride.

I’m not much of a picture and video while riding, so there won’t be many pictures of my qualification ride.

Are other riders using a watch style of GPS for long distance riding ?

Hey looks very cool. My dad and I used GPS to track our route through Nevada. It was super helpful.

I totally agree about bringing a cam or vid cam along on rides. Less luggage (especially breakable expensive stuff) the better.

Cool thing with the virtual partner and so. I use a regular GPS that tracks my location and speed. Then I download the data to the PC and analyse it using Excel (I made some fancy spreadsheets). Yours stores tracks too, doesn’t it?

I’ve just bought a Forerunner 205. It’s a nice device, although I haven’t taken it on any long distance yet.

By the way, you might want to check out SportTracks if you haven’t.

I use a Forerunner 305 for Cokering and Muni. It is very acurate on distance and speed, but overstates ascending/descending. It is a fantastic tool!

I recall other threads in which the altitudes are less accurate so I want to ask, is this happening only during muni when trees or steep slopes block some satellites, or is this a general shortcoming in all riding conditions? Do we have enough gps users here to collect some reporting on the altitude accuracy?

I think this is a general problem for these kind of GPS. Those with barometers are more accurate, or so I’ve heard. If the unit only relies on GPS, you need a good signal from many satellites to get a accurate altitude. It’s not that strange if you think of how it works.

If I recall correctly there already is a thread addressing these issues. Might be worth to do a small search.

I’ve not heard of units with barometers, I’ll have to look into that.

Actually I think the topic is scattered in a few threads, I am hoping this would be an opportunity for a lot of gps users to repeat their experiences here so it’s all in one thread. If I get some time I might actually try a search, collect all I can find and post it here.

Small search indeed! I just spent an hour sifting through dozens of threads and so far have come up with these few links:

A general rundown of the accuracy of handheld gps units in 2007 (with positive recommendation for the Forerunner 305): Garmin Forerunner 305

Interestingly, it appears that elevation data is more accurate if you climb bigger hills: Garmin Forerunner GPS

An older survey of gps units, in 2006: gkmac's GPS survey

Finally, and not quite on topic, it appears that aside from hoping you choose the right combination of search keywords there is another potential difficulty with using the search function: Make special note of the second post in the thread.

I did what I could, I hope that if anyone has additional information about the latest crop of handheld gps units they’ll post it here. Legtod, I hope I haven’t mucked up your thread too much, I’ll go away for a while and (I hope) let others add information to this.

Maybe I used the wrong term, “Barometric altimeter” is probably more correct. To name two, eTrex Vista® HCx and GPSMAP® 60CSx has this feature.

Thanks for sharing the links. Actually, the thread I was talking about is here. Very informative. (Sorry for not posting the link yesterday, I was simply too tired. :p)

Forerunner 201

I tried out the unit last night.

Tried comparing the measured kilometer on my vetta cycle computer and speed.

Both the vetta and forerunner 201 gave same speed and distance.

The Forerunner was much easier to read because my vetta is mounted on my T7 and the Forerunner was velcroed to my KH gloves.

I was able to create custom views on the unit to show distance elevation avg speed. Not too shabby.

I tried downloading the data from the unit and experiment with the graphs and data. Pretty cool stuff. I really like the history option so I can compare ride and data from a ride on my 29" and same ride on my 36".

Anyway, the unit has a 14hr-15 battery life before recharges. Hopefully thats long enough for RTL requirements.

I have some experience in this area. Lack of altitude accuracy is a weakness with terrestrial GPS in general. There are two big reasons:

First, you can never have an ideal satellite geometry for altitude determination. This is because you can never have lock on a GPS satellite below the horizon when taking a reading from the Earth’s surface, which is required to have a vertical position accuracy matching the horizontal position accuracy. Since the vertical accuracy can never be close to optimal, altitude determination is “noisier” than the horizontal determination, which has easier (not impossible) geometric requirements for optimal positioning from the surface. An overhead canopy of leaves can disrupt all aspects position accuracy, but the vertical accuracy will always be worse.

Second, GPS uses an approximation of sea level based upon the WGS84 geoid survey model of the Earth’s surface. This model is globally accurate to about +/- 1 meter, but locally can stray by tens of meters. Defining “mean sea level” for every location on Earth is quite difficult for a number of reasons.

Hope this helps!

I have an old model Garmin Vista with barometric altimeter. The advantage of the barometer is that it has a better resolution than the GPS altimeter, so if you go up a few metres the barometer will sense that, whereas such a small elevation gain would fall within the noise of the GPS altimeter. However, the barometer is affected by weather (low or high barometer), whereas the GPS gives more of an ‘absolute’ altitude. However, as entropy excellently explained, the GPS altimeter is plagued by inaccuracy, which boils down to the reading jumping up and down around the true value.

The old Vista (and probably also the newer models that hansc posted links to) combines the two altimeters together in a clever way. The GPS altitude is used to calibrate the barometric altimeter, but kind of in a slow way (hyperbolic approximation). Effectively, you have the best of both worlds: the resolution of the barometer with the absolute accuracy of the GPS altimeter. (Not talking about the deviations of the WGS84 datum level to actual mean sea level.) By the way, you can set the old Vista to ignore the barometer and rely on the GPS altimeter only.

However, even with the two altimeters combined, there still is noise in the data. Especially in unstable weather conditions (e.g. with gusty winds, or showers), there are random variations in air pressure that the Vista interprets as going up or down. In the tally that is kept internally to show total elevation gain, these have the effect of overestimating Total Ascent.

In my Excel processing of the Vista data, I have experimented with a threshold level, such that only elevation gains above the threshold get summed up. This would kind of eliminate the elevation noise that is not genuine. This is not very real of course, since a small but genuine elevation gain would also be dismissed, whereas the noise on a bigger elevation gain would count as real elevation gain. But it’s the best I could do since I have no independent handle on the noise of the combined altimeter output. I can set the threshold such that I believe the resulting total elevation gain.

There are quite a few riders who use the Garmin. Check out and search for all the unicycle rides… they have their own catagory!


I have a Garmin Foretrex 101 and 201, very similar GPS to the one in the OP. I like to upload my data to Bones In Motion at which does a really nice job of extracting information from the GPS data, getting altitude data from topographic maps, and showing you your ride on a variety of types of maps.