I finally gave in and bought a garmin

This is written 'backwards' - as time passes I'll come back and update it with my most-recent impressions at the top so it's immediately accurate.

For some context on the "giving in", I've a separate post on motorbike satnavs.

First Trip

I went round a bit of the TET and used the Garmin as my main navigation tool for it. The idea was to just follow the GPX downloaded from www.transeurotrail.org and follow it, occasionally routing off it to find things like petrol stations.

So, the Garmin is very good at drawing a line on a map, which is all it can reasonably do with a GPX that involves trails; even with the Talky Toaster OSM maps it was very unreliable at turn-by-turn on the trail. I wasn't comparing directly (and I've never ridden those trails before) but it felt much less useful than Locus Maps' off-road navigation.

Bafflingly, while the Garmin Connect app lets you send locations to the satnav, you can't send routes. The only reasonable way to plan routes mid-trip is to use a USB OTG cable and/or micro-sd card reader. The unreasonable-but-expected way is to just carry a laptop with you... I'd opted for the latter for several reasons, and found that basecamp relies fairly heaving on having a proper mouse, too, since that's the only not-infuritating way to zoom onthe map...

I tried using the tools I'm used to (Viewranger and Locus Maps on Android) to create GPXes and send them to the garmin to create on-road routes, but it *always* complained that there were too many "waypoints2, and offered to convert them to "shaping points". I don't know what the difference is, but often I seemed to get the right sort of routes, though I don't know how reliable this is.

So, generally, I stuck to having it just draw the GPX route and follow it by keeping an eye on the screen, which is fine at dirt-bike speeds. I did try to use it to find things to use - petrol stations, restaurants/cafes, motorbike shops etc. - and it was all but useless at this, to the point where I think I must have got something wrong. It was *always* faster and easier to use my phone and either transcribe the postcode, or send the location to the satnav.

I think that most of the obvious failings of the device - that you cannot reasonably view or plot maps on it because the screen resolution is so poor - is probably explainable as a result of it needing to be a resitive touch screen and those having a poor resolution. I've not really researched it, but I want to believe there's good reason my £350 navigation device is so bad at navigation. And I've not yet managed to explain why it takes so long to render the map.

I can now see myself using this for trail riding and off-road biased trips where I can create a GPX route and send it to the device and have it drawn on the map. I haven't yet worked out how I'd make it work on an extended road-riding trip, where I'll need something less prone to reinterpretation than a GPX route. But I haven't yet looked.

Second Impressions

(23rd Sept)

I’ve resolved to try to not have fully decided how good an idea this was until at least post-Christmas, but from a first week-and-weekend’s riding (some commuting, two blood runs and a day’s errand-running) this is better than my phone at:

  • Plugging in one-handed
  • Not worrying about charging
  • Always being a satnav and never accidentally-switching to something else

And worse at:

  • Sending me to petrol stations that haven’t existed for five years
  • Finding its position quickly
  • Recalculating a route quickly when I turn off (perhaps because of a road-closure that’s been in place for years…)
  • Creating a route on-the-fly out of a series of waypoints
  • Showing an overview map that conveys much information

I expect some of this this will get better and the rest just more-acceptable with time, but I’ve really not had the “why didn’t I do this sooner” thing that I keep hearing about other people doing.

The "Favourites" feature is very crude and unconfigurable (which it may be worth me figuring out Baseamp to fiddle with?) but the Garmin Connect app installs itself as a mapping thing, so when you "open" a location on the phone (from a calendar event, say) you can send it to the satnav. I suspect that I’ll carry on using my phone for storing locations and whatnot, and just send them to the satnav as I'm used to sending it to a satnav app.

Right now, I think it’s worth having (and will feel less lacking if I can move more audio-player controls to my headset from my phone) and I’m not really thinking about just getting shot of it yet, but I can’t see myself becoming one of those people who advises other people buy one. This is definitely lacking in almost every way compared to CoPilot and friends, and I’m not (yet) convinced that that’s just familiarity.

First Impressions

It's 20th September and it's arrived!

Out of the box, first impressions are not great; they're still using the USB socket that's so old that I know it as "the one GoPro use", and I don't even have a GoPro (or any of those cables):

The bracketry is all easy to fit and the lead's surprisingly long and thing; the 12v/5v step-down box is partly along the wire, but does mean that it doesn't *need* to be on the bars or right by the battery, and is easy to hide away in the plastics.

Bizarrely the screen seems to only have a landscape mode. Hopefully I'll figure out where that setting is later.

Picking One

There's very limited options here, really. The Zumos have the widest selection of features and are the most-modern, the Montana is specifically aimed at off-road riding, and the Monterra is actually an Android device and so may solve all my problems.

The Monterra is an Android 4 device (Android 5 came out in 2014; 4 years ago at time of writing; 8 is current) so even if the apps I like now do work on it, it's likely they will stop at some point in the future. This was clearly Garmin's experiment with Android, and they've sadly decided to not keep it up.

The Montana is the one everyone recommends, because it's got an 'off road' mode and an 'on road' one. The off-road mode doesn't appear to add anything; it's not any more aware of rights of way than the road-mode one and is still largely used to display GPX routes. The on-road mode is much more primitive than that found on the Zumos.

The Zumo can be loaded up with an off-road map (courtesy of TalkyToaster, who is recommended for the Montanas over Garmin's mapping anyway) and can have a GPX file displayed over the top. While you can trivially switch between off-road and on-road on the Montana, it seems you can do similar on the Zumo just by changing whether the map has just-roads or everything on it. It's also got the much-better road mode, and the modern ones have some sort of smartphone syncing.