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Pros and Cons of "GPS bike computer" ? - bike computer needs advice!

2872 Views 4 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Harold
I'm new to bike computer and using GPS handheld as a bike computer... while I know GPS can function as a map, and can trace the trail riden. I want to know also some other pros and cons of traditional bike computer vs GPS bike computer... (e.g. garmin etrex series, edge 305, 60csx)

Can those who have used both kinds of system give me some idea? Thanks a lot!
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I use a Garmin 76CSx on my bike occasionally. With the GPS, you get more information than just top speed, current speed, average speed (you get that, too). You also get a saved course so you know your speed at a specific point on the trail. You of course will know your position on a map with the gps, too. You can also share your information with others so they can follow the same path.

A bike-specific gps like the edge has heart rate capability, too, but is less robust in mapping capabilities depending on the model.

One limitation to the GPS as a bike computer is that battery life is much lower than a standard bike computer. The devices are also bigger, depending on what you use (mine's huge). Reception can be an issue on occasion, but that's usually associated with older receivers. The newer ones are pretty good.
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I've wanted a GPS for sometime now. But I really felt like it was just another gadget that would be nice to have for capturing my routes, but not a necessity to have for biking. I've been riding for 17+ years now without one and have gotten by just fine. However there have been times when I've been on a unfamiliar trail in the mountains that had to break out the map and compass. That's always worked well for me and I must say I pretty good with a compass. But when you're at an intersection of two or more trails staring at your compass, all the while your legs are getting cold and tightening up, the idea of having a tour guide sounds much better. And when it comes down to it… I'd prefer to ride, rather than to practice my compass and map reading skills.

The main reason I was interested in getting a GPS was to capture the routes I ride, so that I could come back to the trail at a later date and ride it again without the need to check my map at every intersecting trail.
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I learned this the other day from on here:

' GPS unit will not equate the elevation changes into you overall mileage. It will only calculate the flat distance. For a good explanation of this, use Mountain Bike Bill's web site. Here is the link. Scroll down about half way for the elevation change explanation. '

http://www.mountainbikebill.com/GPSandTOPOs.htm
burtondogs said:
I learned this the other day from on here:

' GPS unit will not equate the elevation changes into you overall mileage. It will only calculate the flat distance. For a good explanation of this, use Mountain Bike Bill's web site. Here is the link. Scroll down about half way for the elevation change explanation. '

http://www.mountainbikebill.com/GPSandTOPOs.htm
That's not entirely accurate.

On the trail, you're right. However, when importing the data into external software (Mapsource, Motionbased, NG Topo!, and others), the conversion is made to account for elevation change. However, those conversions are calculated based on the DEM (digital elevation model) used by the software. Typically, DEM data is a raster format with 30m cell sizes...so you get a grid made up of 30x30m cells, each of which is assigned an elevation value. That's pretty accurate for trails that have long climbs and descents, but when you have lots of short ups & downs, a lot of those little changes will be missed.

HOWEVER, if you have a barometric altimeter on your GPS, you do get a readout of your elevation change over time, and barometric altimeters are pretty sensitive. They will miss less of that change.
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