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Gravity Tester
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My wife and I did some great rides in NW Arkansas over the 4th o' July weekend and ended up confronted with many an unmarked trail. We never got inexorably lost, but a 3 hour ride accidentally turned in to a 8 hour death march under a baking sun on skinny (!)bench cut trails built apparantly from marbles. Kinda fun for me, but not so much for the missus.

We're headed to So. Utah this fall and to avoid further marital discord and getting really stupidly lost, I think a GPS gizmo might be the ticket. While it won't solve all the problems, at least we can breadcrumb trace our way out, or have a bearing to indicate which fork in the trail would lead towards our intended destination. If the worst happens, we'll have lat/long coords for the helicopter or rescue/medics.

So after a bit of research, I've done a pretty good job of confusing myself. It seems damned easy to overbuy the thing. I think I want the Garmin eTrex Vista Cx. It seems to have what I need and not much that I don't. The price ($350-ish) is about what I'd like to pay. I don't see myself printing out maps or altitude graphs, getting all giddy about geocaching, or needing anything with a HRM built in.

So my question is what brand / model would you recommend, or is there any reason to avoid the Vista Cx?
 

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Check out Woot.com right now. Today only, one day one deal kind of thing. Magellin for 329, wiht 50 rebate.

Matt
 

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Dangeruss said:
My wife and I did some great rides in NW Arkansas over the 4th o' July weekend and ended up confronted with many an unmarked trail. We never got inexorably lost, but a 3 hour ride accidentally turned in to a 8 hour death march under a baking sun on skinny (!)bench cut trails built apparantly from marbles. Kinda fun for me, but not so much for the missus.

We're headed to So. Utah this fall and to avoid further marital discord and getting really stupidly lost, I think a GPS gizmo might be the ticket. While it won't solve all the problems, at least we can breadcrumb trace our way out, or have a bearing to indicate which fork in the trail would lead towards our intended destination. If the worst happens, we'll have lat/long coords for the helicopter or rescue/medics.

So after a bit of research, I've done a pretty good job of confusing myself. It seems damned easy to overbuy the thing. I think I want the Garmin eTrex Vista Cx. It seems to have what I need and not much that I don't. The price ($350-ish) is about what I'd like to pay. I don't see myself printing out maps or altitude graphs, getting all giddy about geocaching, or needing anything with a HRM built in.

So my question is what brand / model would you recommend, or is there any reason to avoid the Vista Cx?
A compass and map are lighter, cheaper and reliable. A GPS unit can be very handy, but not something you should rely on like a map and compass. I have owned and used marine, professional and consumer units, and find I need nothing more than my basic eTrex model for sports and general convenience.
 

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Get the one that has a bike mount Its by Magellen? I always had a uncanny ability to always find my way around. I have a "internal Map" I guess?
 

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Slowest Rider
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Vista is a great navigation GPS for the bars

Trying looking around by typing GPS in the search box at the top in the Passion and the General Discussion forums. You find things like at this thread, for features of GPS.
I did an overview of the Garmin line for MTB utility on
this post. Rest of good thread here.

Many are getting the Edge, but it's mostly good for data logging and not for navigation. It won't store or show maps, and other issues. See the link below.

You can get the eTrex Vista Cx for $290 from Amazon.com, with expandable memory, color screen, and it's robust for handlebar mounting. My Vista has survived 3 years on the bars with lots of endos, heavy technical riding, and three broken bike frames. The only thing it's missing is the new SiRF receiver, that will help reception in thick foliage. (Not a big issue for me in CA.) You can get the more sensitive SiRF receiver with the GPSMAP60Csx, but it's ~$200 more and won't survive on the handlebars. See
here for Dan'ger's woeful tale of that attempt. (I now carry the 60CSx as a second GPS in the camelback.)

For proper orientation on the trial, you'll need Garmin's USA TOPO maps for another $75 to show the contour lines and features like streams and peaks. This topo map is good to use at home on the computer to make waypoints by comparing features (peaks, streams, roads,...) to good paper maps. I usually am right to 100' on new trails. I waypoint trail intersections and link them together to make my Route that I folow.

You also want a compass and paper map for backup. Paper maps are especially valuable to explain trail names on places with signs (everywhere in CA).

Some useful links:
eTrex Vista versus GPSMAP60x - with better antennae, but more fragile
My opinion of Garmin Edge for MTB - not as good as for road biker.
Discusson of different models and features
 

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Binge Rider
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Everything Big Larry said...

Go with the Vista Cx. It does almost everything a mountain biker needs. The color maps and downloading "MapSource" data is really helpful. I got the 305 Edge as a gift from my wife. It came right out of the box and on to her bars. I guess she learned from the best about gift buying. But not being able to NAV on the 305 is its biggest downfall. The heart rate monitor / cadence monitor / training program is about the only thing the Vista Cx will lack. It has everything else. Including a handlebar mount if you buy from a reptuable dealer! Good luck.

ps If you should choose another GPS, make sure it has the grid reference system that you desire / are use to using. Some only can use Lat / Longs while maps are often in something different (MGRS etc.) Unless you know the math formula, you won't pinpoint yourself with two different grid systems. The Vista Cx is compatiable with many different grids...primarily Lat / Longs and MGRS. A nice system that works.
 

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The Silent Rider
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Just like bitflogger.....

said, map and compass are always reliable. The only problem with that is being in the military for 17 years, I have seen my share of people that just can't read a map to save their lives. As for a GPS system.....look to see if it has a "bread crumb" function. All you need to do if you get lost is follow your tracks back. As for me, I have an Edge 305 but I also have some built in compass system.....even when "lost" I tend to find my way very easily. Good luck, I know how it feels to have a wife that isn't too pleased with what is going on.....I wouldn't have wanted to be in your shoes at that time.
 

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GPS Horror Story

I was riding in CO and was using a GPS to help me find my way around. Thought I was doing a great 25 loop. As I approached 5 miles back to the car, I realized I was at the top of a 200 ft drop. :madman: The extra 5 miles turned into a 15 extra mile circumvention to the bottom of the drop. After that, I learned how to read a topo map and use a compas. GPS is great but if you are lost, it might make your ride worse . LEARN HOW TO READ AND USE A TOPO:thumbsup: !

Garmin 205 is awesome though.
 

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Where is my mind?
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bitflogger said:
A compass and map are lighter, cheaper and reliable.
I tried that one a couple of times. Didn't work for s**t. Trail I used was such a spagetti mess that the compass was useless. Can't afford a GPS just yet, but when we head to new trails, it would add a boost of confidence.
 

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GeoMan
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The new SiRF chipset used on the latest Garmins is a terrific improvement. The Edge, Forerunner, 76CSx, and 60CSx are some examples that use this new technology.

I use both the Edge and 60CSx on my mountain bike at various times. It's common to be locked on satellites before I ride out of my garage. The sensitivity of these models is incredible and certainly worth consideration.

I was involved with search and rescue for years and found the old GPS's (10 years or so ago) not worth the trouble when compared to a topo and compass. My whole opinion changed with the new receivers.

Geo.Man
 

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Slowest Rider
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Using GPS: To not get lost & To get found

Not Getting Lost

A GPS doesn't have any automatic trail routing navigation system. Actually, the maps may not even show most singletrack trails. Nevertheless, a GPS can help greatly on ride navigation, but you need to start at home before the ride.

First, you always want a paper map showing trail names, and compass, even if you've got spare batteries and backup GPS like I do. Find a good map on the web (I always find one somewhere) and print it out.

Use your paper maps and compare to the Garmin Topo maps on the computer at home before the ride, and make waypoints at the trail intersections. Many of the trails aren't shown on the topo maps, but you can figure it out from the paper map, matching contours, elevations, ridges, peaks, and streams to predict where the trail intersection might be. For example, recently on a new 40 mile ride in the woods of Big Basin, I made 30 new waypoints and guessed them all correct to 100' or so.

These days, you can often find directly the electronic GPS tracks and waypoints from other riders posted on the web (in GPX format). But it's not yet very common, so it's hit and miss still, depending on the luck of finding someone who's posted them on their web site, rather than a single repository you can go to.

Then create a route using the waypoints and it will point your toward the next on in succession. I have my odometer page show the distance to the next waypoint as one of the four fields (others are altitude, speed, and trip odometer). If the indicator isn't counting down, as sometimes happens, I flip to the compass page, and pull out the paper map to figure out what's wrong before I go off into an unintentional excessive epic ride.

If you can get a friend, like from MTBR, who knows the area, it's always best to ride with him first, especially since he's likely to know where to find the sweet ride stuff. You can look at your track later to help make your waypoints. Even on such guided rides. I stop very briefly and mark a waypoint at trail turns and intersections I pass.

Getting Found

When riding solo more than a few miles locally, I also print out the topo with the intended route for my wife, so everyone knows where to look in case of a problem (mechanical, medical, accident, wild life encounter,....). If I'm thinking about some ride options or extending the loop, I make a new route for those options, and explain to my wife I may do those.

If you're lost or hurt an need to call for help (on cell phone or radio), the GPS can help, especially if you need to be flown out. The pilot (I fly also) can just plug in the coordinates into his RNAV system and go straight to you. The rangers may be able to us GPS coordinates, many of them have navigation systems. But if they're driving in, they're just as likely to want trail names and general description, like "1 mile up on Screwy trail from Lost Biker trail". That's where paper maps help. But giving coordinates can't hurt, especially because not all trails are labeled, especially if you're off the main trail, and not everyone coming to help may know the names.

It also should be mentioned I find the GPS is good for finding new trails. As I pass intersecting unmarked trails while riding along, I waypoint them, maybe go down a little ways and back to get the direction later from my track. After a while, I get a few new waypoints and can connect the dots to find new routes too.
 

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GEOMAN said:
The new SiRF chipset used on the latest Garmins is a terrific improvement. The Edge, Forerunner, 76CSx, and 60CSx are some examples that use this new technology.

I use both the Edge and 60CSx on my mountain bike at various times. It's common to be locked on satellites before I ride out of my garage. The sensitivity of these models is incredible and certainly worth consideration.

I was involved with search and rescue for years and found the old GPS's (10 years or so ago) not worth the trouble when compared to a topo and compass. My whole opinion changed with the new receivers.

Geo.Man
I agree the new receiver is much better. But the older ones weren't bad. I've been using the Vista for 3 years just fine with rarely a reception issue. It's more like the new ones are simply much better.

But once you get reception, the old and new are about the same in accuracy. For example, I carry both the Vista on the handlebars (for use while riding) and the GPSMap60CSx in the camelback for backup and recording a second, often more reliable track as you mention.

I just showed on this post the relative tracks of the worst reception I've ever seen with the Vista versus the 60CSx. On other days, the Vista track was indistinguishable from the 60CSx track. So it was the worst day and worst location for reception in thick tall trees (that are so dark nobody can get pictures at noon), deep in a valley on the north side of a steep hill in Soquel Demonstration Forest near Santa Cruz.
 

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Gravity Tester
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Wow! Great responses (esp. links and advice from BigLarry). Thanks! I feel I'm on the right track with the Vista Cx. I went to REI to looky-touchy today and it seems light and robust enough for what I might put it through. The salesperson was a doofus though.

I've got some 24k resolution topo maps and trail maps on order of the So. Utah areas we'll be riding so I can do as BigLarry suggested and create waypoints where I expect the trail to be. I've already prices the topo maps for that area and factored that into the price. I also intend to buy the unit well before we go so we have time to learn its operation and features.

Off topic a bit... I thought about hooking up with another MTBR'er for some trail riding, but I'm sheepish about frustrating them. If they're locals, it's doubtless they have a technical riding and fitness base that's hard to duplicate here in flat-azz Texas. We'd hate to be the couple that spoiled a good ride due to us not being able to hang with them. I suppose a paid guide might be a better choice, but I think a lot of the fun is "discovering" stuff rather than being led to it.
 

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Binge Rider
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Try it & pimp for a guide.

Hooking up with another MTBR'r is a great way (if possible / feasible) to see new trails. But there's also a lot of satisfaction and fun, by planning your routes, riding them, and either finishing them as planned, or recovering from "navigational challenges". I would think Utah would have a lot of info available on routes. If I were you, I would plan a trip for you and your wife using the topo maps and GPS techniques mentioned by Big Larry just to try it. Ride a day or two using that. It's not for everyone but some really like that added "element" of mountain biking. Adventure, navigation, gizmo's and gadgets. Then take a day and try to hook up with a local. You can have the best of both worlds. Try posting a thread in the Utah forum asking if anyone would be interested in showing you some trails too. I'm sure if they accept, their ready to guide you regardless of ability levels. At a minimum, ask for recommendations on trails and if there are any GPS routes available in the area.

Also...hopefully your wife will have some interest in GPS stuff too. My wife rides but isn't one to go out and explore for new trails on her own. Often I can either plan a route for her or bread crumb it, (bac-track) then give the GPS to her and let her go ride the same thing. (We have two kids so rarely can we ride together right now) But she is comfortable in using the GPS and it will get her out riding different stuff. Whereas I like to NAV and stuff, she uses her Edge a lot more for the training aspects of it. Also, like Big LArry said, if you were out together and something happened to "flight lead" she needs to have the knowledge of how to use the tool to get help or get out.
 

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Spine Shank said:
Go with the Vista Cx. It does almost everything a mountain biker needs. The color maps and downloading "MapSource" data is really helpful. I got the 305 Edge as a gift from my wife. It came right out of the box and on to her bars. I guess she learned from the best about gift buying. But not being able to NAV on the 305 is its biggest downfall. The heart rate monitor / cadence monitor / training program is about the only thing the Vista Cx will lack. It has everything else. Including a handlebar mount if you buy from a reptuable dealer! Good luck.

ps If you should choose another GPS, make sure it has the grid reference system that you desire / are use to using. Some only can use Lat / Longs while maps are often in something different (MGRS etc.) Unless you know the math formula, you won't pinpoint yourself with two different grid systems. The Vista Cx is compatiable with many different grids...primarily Lat / Longs and MGRS. A nice system that works.
I have a Garmin Etex legend($130) and it works fine for me. I've had several GPS and they could all use varous grid systems. For land navigation I would use the UTM grid system. That being said I've spend the last 30 years working on the ocean and Lat/Long is the standard there. There are plenty sources of topo maps on the internet, Google earth is one, also look up USphotomap I use this alot. The usphotomap has UTM while Google earth does not. With USphotomap you can also switch between photos and topo maps. I print a map of the area I'm going to ride in. Then dip it in Thomsons water seal and let it dry. Then into a flexible plastic map case. As your ride take way points and plot them on the map as you go with a Smartie pen. Keep it simple just call them 1,2,3,etc. You can name them later on your computer at home. The next time you ride you will have the way point already set up. After a few rides you can chose the way points you want for the ride your doing. I carry the GPS on the shoulder strap of my camelback. I use a soft case rivited to the strap. In dense NE cover I will some times lose track, but I can always wait a minute and get a position.
Attached is a Track of Big River in RI. This one is not great as it does not have any way points or the grid lines. It's the only one I have with me, I'm sitting on a ship in the middle of the South Atlantic right now.
The trick to using this stuff is practice. It's worthwhile to even try some Geocache to learn how to use the thing, Google search for Geocache will get you started. Find a Geocache for you town, print a map for that area and get started. Get way points, plot them on the map and in general lean to use the equipment.
A few last comments. The paper map will be there when the batteries in your GPS die. A magnetic compass always works. The compass function on many GPS only work when your are moving. Someone expecting your return and having a map of your expected track can be a lifesaver.
 

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hugh088 said:
I have a Garmin Etex legend($130) and it works fine for me. . The compass function on many GPS only work when your are moving. Someone expecting your return and having a map of your expected track can be a lifesaver.
I agree, I use a Garmin Rino , actually the 110, (Lowest level) I do like it becuase it also gives me a Radio in the same unit, and I ride alone quite a bit. I have been mapping the local trails using the tracks feature, then sucking them in to TOPO, as well as Google Earth, here are a couple samples... The maps I am posting to our website, for folks wanting routes, and have thought about going a next step and posting the gps file there for folks wanting to load a route into their gps online before coming to the area...

Happy Trails~
CT
 

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Slowest Rider
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Good points Hugh! Perhaps 088 good points? :p
Here's some additional comments.

hugh088 said:
With USphotomap you can also switch between photos and topo maps.
What you describe is an excellent method for presentation of tracks after the ride. I've also been quite impressed by Garmin's Motion Based web program. After uploading your track from the Edge, Vista, Forerunner, or whatever, it plots elevation profiles, 3D topos, up to 5 different background types. It's super.
But satellite views may not help you pinpoint a trail intersection pre-ride unless it's visible under the trees on a current photo - often they aren't. And even then you have to pick the right trail. It's better to look at an official map.

hugh088 said:
I print a map of the area I'm going to ride in. Then dip it in Thomsons water seal and let it dry. Then into a flexible plastic map case.
National Geographic sells "Adventure Paper" that makes a good water resistant map using a normal color printer. It costs a few cents more per page, but you don't have to wait for the water seal to dry. I usually just fold and put the map in large flat zip lock freezer bag if I'm riding in the rain or plan on doing an endo in a deep stream, which happens all too often.

hugh088 said:
As you ride take way points and plot them on the map as you go with a Smartie pen. Keep it simple just call them 1,2,3,etc. You can name them later on your computer at home. ...
Good idea. But if you have your GPS with you, then you can do the same by just hitting the mark button (or enter on the joystick), and it will take the point for you with a temporary label. Then there's no games later trying to place the paper point on your computer.

hugh088 said:
.....A magnetic compass always works. The compass function on many GPS only work when your are moving.
You can get GPS with a built in magnetic compass and barometric (air pressure) altimeter, usually for only another $40, depending on the model. The 'sensors' come with the eTrex Vista and the 60CSx (versus the 60Cx). The 'S' stands for sensors. The internal magnetic compass allows you to see direction when stopped. The barometric altimeter improves altitude precision from around !00 feet (with GPS triangulation) to perhaps 10 feet, with calibration at the start of the ride.
For MTB, I like having the precise altitude of the barometric altimeter. The compass is sometimes useful when stopped at trail heads. But the magnetic compass is extremely useful in geocaching, if you want to get into that.

hugh088 said:
The trick to using this stuff is practice. It's worthwhile to even try some Geocache to learn how to use the thing, Google search for Geocache will get you started. Find a Geocache for you town, print a map for that area and get started. Get way points, plot them on the map and in general lean to use the equipment.....A magnetic compass always works. The compass function on many GPS only work when your are moving.
Agreed, Geocaching is a fun way to get my kids off the couch. It's also why I have a Vista and a 60CSx. With two of the GPS in different kid's hands, they have a mini-competition trying to find the next little treasure. The Vista Cx and GPSMap 60CSx have special Geocaching screens to show the search hints downloaded from the web, and mark off geocaches found.
Again, if you think you'll get into geocaching, get the models with the altimeter and magnetic compass sensors, and Geocache software, like the Vista Cx and the GPSMap60CSx.
 

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I loved my Etrex legend (except for the rip off bike mounts) until I broke it yesterday :(

I will obtain another one for sure. It had more to do with me getting into this sport than anything.
 
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