Posted by: audaxing | September 11, 2012

Garmin Gripes

I recently used the Garmin Etrex 20 on a 300km jaunt around the SW of england

I’ve used an Android GPS equipped phone as a back up map and way of getting back on track when lost for a while. But I recently got a “proper” GPS that clips to the bars so the little line can be followed. I loaded an Open Source Map and the gpx file supplied by the organiser.
Once the gpx file “track” is selected it is displayed on the small screen as a line. The current position is shown as a an arrow. The arrow points in the current direction of travel. So you can see the current position and direction on the line and follow it.

Routesheet and GPS

Routesheet and GPS

Following the line worked great, making sense of the routesheet or reassuring me that I was in the right route.

But as I understand it, it is supposed to “lock on” to a line and sound bleeps when a “way point” is approaching. The gpx files I used had a bunch of way points. However the eTrex didn’t seem to want to lock on. I tried a recommended work around of putting the eTrex in “distance” mode. It is supposed to grab the first point using “distance” mode and then it can be switched to “auto”. This didn’t work 🙂

Part of the reason I have for so long resisted getting a “proper” GPS unit is that there is too much faffling about. Looks like I will be faffing around with some kind of update to make the turn notifying “bleeps” happen

UPDATE: I worked out how to make it beep. You need to follow a “route” rather than a “track” and select “off road” for the routing method. It’s really annoying though and not the panacea I thought it would be!!


  1. I’m sure you already know about this link on GPS tips, but just in case not:

    I have a very old but still working eTrex Vista C that I’m currently planning on using for LEL next year. But I need to actually stick it on my bike and try some of those tips first, make sure it’s a usable option. When we get some local SA Audax rides planned I’ll have to try mapping the route out and loading it into the unit, as our guys don’t provide GPS files I don’t think – just route sheets.

    I also saw one article that I forget the link of where the guy didn’t use the map at all, just a compass and distance to next turn, with a turn arrow. Following the map idea seems more natural to me though.

  2. I’m guessing you had the etrex “routing” setting to “off road” if you were navigating to a gpx track? In this mode the etrex will operate simply as a moving map display with the track displayed on it and will not beep to indicate changes in direction. Be sure you have auto zoom set to off in the map settings to use this mode to the best advantage. The etrex does require a bit of investment in taking time to understand its various modes of operation and unfortunately the manual is poor in this respect but it is a great device once you get the hang of it. The link Rob suggested is a good starting place but do feel free to email if you get stuck.

  3. […] have Fizik under bar tape padding and a clip to take the Garmin eTrex 20 and Shimano M540 pedals. Both have mudguards and racks. But there are many […]

  4. RE GPS:
    I was lucky in one sense, in that I bought a GPS unit from a competitor of Garmin. The unit lasted a year, BUT the Ordnance Survey maps are a boon for plotting on the computer. Once I have plotted and saved the routes from the OS on the computer I transfer them to the Garmin map and load them into the gps unit which has its own map card inside. The device saves me time at “difficult” junctions. I cycle straight through. My longest ride was 114miles from Berwick to Carlisle.
    J.R. Bird

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