Welcome to the 2021 edition of GPS Guided Cycle Touring with Santana Adventures! The long wait to explore new territory with our crew and your friends is finally over!
Much has changed in E-Navigation since we issued our last guide in 2019. In Spring of 2020 we were in the process of expanding our navigation offerings from classic plug-and-play GPS units with microSD slots, to next-gen units that communicate with “the cloud.”
In the meantime, Garmin, the producer of our most favored bike mounted GPS devices, has evolved in that direction. Of the classic Garmin devices that supported a micro-SD, only two remain current: the Montana and eTrex.
For those of you that have Garmin GPS units with microSD slots, do not fret. We will continue to support your plug-and-play units by supplying a “chip” with preinstalled routes and maps. No need to find “the cloud” and/or transfer things on your own. Despite the convenience of the cloud, we are a little old school and still feel the field tested microSD cards are the easiest and best for bike navigation. Our pre-burned chips will continue to be provided at all of our tours. For those of you just entering the fray, please continue reading to figure out which “generation” is best for you.
FAQ’s that always arise before a tour:
1) Will there be cue sheets/maps? No, all rides will be GPS guided; you will need a GPS unit. A route/cue sheet, unlike a GPS, can’t confirm if you’re on or off course. Even if you’re off course and hopelessly lost, reporting your GPS’s coordinates allows emergency responders or our SOS van to arrive without delay. This can be a lifesaver!
2) “I really like my Magellan/Polar/TomTom/PucciManeuli bike GPS…” Great! While these may be incredible units for workouts and single day club rides, without exception there have always been issues (read failures) whenever someone tries to use these other units on a Santana Adventures tour. Yes, the Garmins have idiosyncrasies too, but they are the most reliable at getting you from point “A to B.”
3) “Can I use my portable automotive GPS?” DO NOT bring GPS units designed for cars and motorcycles (including Garmin’s “Drives” (formerly Nuvi) and “Zumo”) These devices are purposefully engineered to reject any course that can’t be navigated by a small truck or RV. For Santana Adventures’ tours, all automotive GPS units are 100% FAIL!
4) If you chose to bring a unit other than the GPS units we recommend, you are on your own to figure out how to get from point A to B. This may cause you to miss a ship departure, which is apt to be twice as expensive as a new GPS.
5) “I’ve never used a GPS unit and I’m frightened of the prospect.” Don’t worry we’ll send you a “How To” guide before your tour and will also provide coaching sessions before your first ride.
GPS Devices for Navigating Santana Adventures Cycling Cruises
A bike mounted Garmin GPS device that accepts a micro SD memory card is our fully endorsed and supported method for getting from Point A to B during a Santana Adventures Cycling Cruise. Because the memory card capabilities of these units mean less programming hassle for you, this is the “A” choice. We pioneered GPS guided bike touring over a decade ago using this setup and we still find this method the most reliable, especially when a ride(s) needs to be updated during a tour. In those situations (which occur about 10-15% of the time due to weather or other unforeseen factors) the breadth of experience of the Santana Adventures staff comes into play developing a modified route for the following day, or days. The updates will be provided in the morning before your ride via a reprogrammed microSD card that you simply plug into your GPS unit.
Works great but YOU will need to do some wrangling
If you do not already have or cannot obtain a Garmin unit that accepts memory cards, the latest Garmin Edge units (see recommended list) will operate seamlessly with our routes, and the functionality is the same as the units that accept chips. The downside here is you will have to load routes and maps yourself, and if any changes occur during the trip you will need to update/sync your unit to the changes. You need to be fully attuned with how to do this yourself. The good news is this is relatively easy with a combination of our RWGPS account and your Garmin Connect app. The challenge: you need cell service and/or reliable WiFi to accomplish this. Remember we are often away from metropolitan areas and cell service and/or WiFi. Worst case scenario with these units is you will need to be leashed to one of our laptops in the A.M. ahead of your ride if you can’t get updates via “the cloud.”
Here’s a downloads page with all of the Free Smartphone Apps you’ll need to make your microSD-less Garmin work with our routes – SantanaAdventures.com/eventapps/
Other Brands of Bicycle GPS
There is only one acceptable contender in this category and that is Wahoo Elemnt series. While we have not yet field tested the Wahoo units they should work just as well as the “cloud enabled” Garmins. If you already own and use one of these, it should work fine for you. Make sure you are fully up to speed on how to load maps and also sync routes from RWGPS. We will not be providing support or additional coaching for Wahoo units.
We all love our smartphones, and they are an indispensable tool for everyday life as well as travel. While they will work flawlessly with the RWGPS app there are a few things you should know about using your phone as a GPS for our routes.
- You will want a high grade bike-mount for your phone. Smartphones are not as durable as Garmins, so spend a few extra bucks to make sure it stays mounted to your bike if you end up on bumpy terrain.
- Is your phone waterproof? While we never recommending riding during a full rainstorm, sudden rain showers do happen. If you’re going to mount your phone on your bike, please make sure it’s water proof.
- Does your phone have adequate battery life? Our GPS routing app uses lots of battery power as it is constantly checking your location and vector. We recommend bringing a battery pack with you so that you can recharge while on-the-go. While they cost a little more, getting a water-resistant or waterproof battery is also a smart choice—if you already own one that’s not; bring a ziploc bag for it.
- Your phone is your lifeline if you have a breakdown or an injury—please make sure you’re taking precautions so that it operates when you need it most.
If you plan to use your phone for navigation, please download these free apps before you leave for your cycling cruise.
Which Garmin unit should I get?
Option 1 — I like to keep it simple: Remember back in the day when you planned a road trip and went to AAA, and an agent helped you figure out the best way to get to your destination with a map and a highlighter pen? You simply followed the line provided on the map; you might have strayed once in a while but as long as you got yourself back on the highlighted line you would get to your destination. This is how all outdoor oriented GPS units work. They provide guidance with a highlighted line, and you follow it. If you get off the path, use the underlying map to get yourself back on track. (units: Montana, Oregon, eTrex models)
Option 2 — I need lots of encouragement: I need to see call outs, text messages and hear beeps, bells and buzzes so I know when to turn and also want to be nagged with beeps, bells and buzzes when I get off route so I don’t ride into the Mediterranean – Atlantic – Danube – South-China-Sea. (units: all endorsed Edge models)
From a dozen years of working with thousands of cyclists attending our tours, we’ve learned that most will prefer Garmin’s simpler and less complicated outdoor units. When you talk to fellow cycling enthusiasts, however, most will steer you to the designed-for-cycling Edge models with race-training features., If having a cycling-specific Garmin with race-training features is attractive to you, just realize Garmin’s Edge models are much more temperamental (fussy) and setting them up correctly is essential if you don’t want to experience a different adventure than the rest of your traveling companions
Discontinued but still supported
If you find one of these in a closet (or on Amazon or eBay), it’s all you need.
Plug-and-Play Models with microSD card slots
Cycling specific: Edge 800, 810, 1000, 1030, Edge Explore 1000, Edge Tour and Tour Plus
Adventure: All Oregon, Dakota 20, eTrex 20, 30, 20x, 30x, and any version of eTrex Touch.
Montana, all versions: the Montana is a larger and heavier hybrid GPS unit that also works in cars. Although it takes up a lot of real estate on your handlebars, it has the classic features we love (microSD slot and a supersized touchscreen). Priced from $600.
Edge 1030Plus (no microSD slot): this popular touchscreen is the latest flagship cycling GPS from Garmin with a large easy to see map screen and all the bells and whistles that the statistics geeks will love. Probably over the top for most users, the large screen for navigation is a huge plus even if you don’t use any of the other capabilities. Starting at $600.
Edge 830 (no microSD slot): Slightly “detuned” version of the 1030Plus. Smaller screen but has same mapping capabilities as the it’s bigger cousin. Starting at $400.
Edge Explore (no microSD slot): This cycling unit is designed for the bike touring market. The screen is slightly smaller than the 1030Plus but bigger than the 830. Most “fitness features” have been removed in favor of navigation from point A to B. Cost $250.
eTrex 22x and 32x (best current choice for simplicity): These have the plug-and-play microSD slot, but lack a touchscreen. You can sometimes find them on sale for as little as $150. If you have a choice, the 32x is worth an extra $20.
Where do I start? The best answer is go to a reputable dealer. We like GPS City (www.gpscity.com) and REI (www.rei.com). While you might find some of these units for less elsewhere, both listed retailers can provide solid additional advice, and both offer customer-oriented return policies. Of course, if you are alright with paying top dollar you can also buy direct from Garmin. If you are looking for cycling units, your favorite bike shop will probably have these in stock but beware of the youthful bike racer upselling you to the best model for racing or fitness. Remember the criteria we have presented and stick to it. As tour time approaches we will send out a complete setup guide that covers all endorsed Garmin GPS units, and as mentioned, we will also have coaching sessions at the beginning of your tour if you are not completely comfortable with operating your unit.
Any questions? Please contact our Garmin/GPS Guru: Gene Mezereny – Gene@SantanaAdventures.com