Friday, April 20, 2007

Navigate this! - Garmin Vista Cx

One solution to my navigational woes on brevets is to use a GPS. I'm a gadget freak and I studied GPS engineering at grad school so I have a soft spot in my heart for GPS receivers. A little research on the net pointed me to the Garmin Vista Cx. It is a smallish hand held GPS unit with a barometric altimeter and electronic compass. It comes with a 64MB microSD card for storing base maps and route info. I also grabbed Garmin's Map Source City Navigator NT software. This allows me to do my route planning on a laptop and then download the waypoints and maps to my GPS. GPS Central had the best prices on these items beating the US MSRP in CDN dollars by quite a margin.

Once I got everything home it took about an hour to get the Vista Cx configured and Map Source City Nav installed. I grabbed the route info for the Strathmore 200K brevet [this weekend's local LD ride] and began punching it in. It took about an hour to get it loaded and routed properly. Now that I know the software better that time would be closer to 30mins.

Loading the route waypoints on the Vista was a snap and I put on all the maps for BC, AB and Sask [maps = 30MB] as well. One thing to note is that the GPS and the laptop generate the actual route independently from each other. So they can join up your waypoints in two different ways leading to some problems on the road. People seem to have different ways to deal with this issue, but my solution was to use sufficient waypoints between the controls to force the correct route and to ensure the routing settings in Map Source and the Vista were as similar as possible. I reviewed the route on the GPS and it seemed to be correct at first glance.

Although there is some additional upfront time req'd to prepare the route for the GPS - this time is not wasted as it really helps familiarize you with the brevet route and once programmed you'll be able to ride the route without any further effort for years to come.

I bought two Garmin handlebar mounts for the Vista, but I haven't yet tackled the job of how to mount it on my Volae.


Steeker said...

is'nt GPS cheating :-p

Vik said...


PoiterH said...

Hi Vik,
I got a HCX to replace my old mono screen Vista. I find the colour screen somewhat harder to see in low sun conditions. Great when sun is directly behind. Turn the backlighting way down for night brevets as it can take you night vision if it comes on unexpectedly.