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On-bike GPS navigation (slate.com)
5 points by jseliger 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 12 comments

Bikepackers have been using on-bike GPS navigation for years. These newer devices just make it a bit easier to create routes by linking directly to your smartphone. The eTrex series of GPS from Garmin are more popular for long, multi-day rides because they run off AA batteries.

This is an ad. Bike computers are just really expensive single purpose smartphones.

And smart phones are really just hand-held computers.

I don't think "just" is appropriate. How many smart phones can handle rain or snow? How many support both GPS and GLONASS? How many have the UI (both screen and buttons) which fit with the needs of what many cyclists want?

I've used both dedicated bike computers and an iphone mounted on my handlebars in a waterproof case, and the only upside I noticed to the dedicated device was that it didn't drain my phone's battery. The UI wasn't any better and both were fine in the rain.

You are right. I researched this now and the details that were important when I last bought a GPS are now no longer relevant.

Other than battery life, some of the reasons people prefer a dedicated unit are: better aerodynamics than a smartphone+case, support for ANT+ sensors, more rugged in the face of falls (even for a smartphone in case), more easily controlled by hands in a bicycle glove, and the ability to still have phone service even if the GPS battery is exhausted.

Minor nitpick: GPS doesn't enable adventure. If anything, having constant GPS guidance takes away from the adventure. Many of my best memories while biking have happened because I got a bit lost and stumbled upon something neat in a place I wasn't expecting to go. Same goes for road trips.

But that's just me being a Luddite. For now I think I'll stick to my phone's GPS if I need a map.

Minor nitpick, GPS does enable experience for some people.

My riding partner has difficulty with converting the absolute direction of maps into relative left/right terms, and prefers GPS turn-by-turn guidance.

I go on cycle camping trips. I get lost most often when I go through cities, because I find it hard to keep attention on the map, pay attention to the traffic, and take in what I'm cycling through, all at the same time. I am tempted by a turn-by-turn GPS so I don't, for the n-th time, have to stop and redetermine my position and bearing.

That is not an adventure.

I have been "lost", in the sense of not being where I thought I was, and being further off the route of where I planned to go, many times. So far none of them have resulted in an adventure.

Nor have none of them been of the sort described in this article, where getting lost near sunset increased the risk of hypothermia.

What has resulted in an adventure is looking at a different route, wondering "where does this go?", and taking it - knowing that I have enough mapping technology with me to both see that it might be an interesting route, and not get more than temporarily lost.

I've actually found that I'm happier wandering randomly around a city knowing that it doesn't matter how lost I get, because GPS will get me home again.

I maintain that the best way to get to know an area is to get lost in it. Being on a bike combines the flexibility of off-road paths with the speed of travel being about 5x that of walking.

Every time I move to a new city, one of the first things I do is go out with nothing but a bike, my house keys, and a little cash (just in case). Friends are still amazed I can get from one place to another so quickly without resorting to GMaps or similar.

I normally use ridewithGPS and a cheap head unit for brevets -- but i carry cue sheets, too.

so this journalist used a gps and it was great experience? great story!!

Ummm, no. This journalist used a different type of GPS-based mapping system and found it was a better experience for the types of activities she does.

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