The Tandem Club



Discussion of anything related to Tandems. Opinions expressed on this discussion board are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the Tandem Club. Postings or extracts may be published in the Tandem Club Journal.
To add a response or post a new message you need to have an account and be logged in. You can get emails sent to you by enabling the Send Forum Emails tick box in your user preferences. Note you need to login to the website to add replies. See our help information here for more information.
You can add to this discussion using the entry box at the bottom of this page, when logged in. Login

GPS devices & maps for touring?

chris Peachey2018-08-22 17:46:48

We've decided to buy a GPS (Garmin?) for the tandem.

What recomendations please?

We would want to use it in the UK and Europe. Some appear to come with "base maps" Are these maps good enough for minor roads and bigger tracks? or what is the alternative?

We won't need the "training" data but mileage and total climb and avg speed would be good

Also it's likely we would want to plan a route on a iPad or iMac and download the route to the gps. What software would we need?



Linda Jackson2018-08-22 18:29:34

Hi, we've used a Mio Cyclo 315 for 1000 miles or so. Belgian make I think. We picked it up for £ 150 with an online deal so cheaper than a Garmin and works well once you get used to it.  Can create, save & upload gpx files with the free Mio web based software (Only used it with a laptop rather than tablet though).  Perfectly adequate for C2C & back, twice, & Cotswold cycling on minor roads.  Mapping includes Europe.  You can buy accessories; heart rate monitor, cadence meter etc., if you need to.  Came with charger & upload lead & 2 mounts.  Tuffluv sell a good out front mount online.

We bought it over Garmin because of the price and we weren't sure how we'd get on with it but we're very pleased.

(Still can't part with my OS maps though...M)

Mark & Linda

August 20192018-08-22 20:52:29

I purchased the Garmin Edge Touring this year.  It is used by others in our cycling club, so I could draw on their knowledge and experience, as necessary.  There are various videos on utube to aid familiarisation and orientation!

I use it with Bikehike  This site provides the gpx file for uploading.  Any navigational errors, I find, are due to operator error rather than the Garmin or the mapping software...

Unfortunately, I have not found a way to get it to "talk" to our android, I have to go through the laptop. Perhaps someone can shed light on a workaround.

We have used the preloaded maps in England and Ireland - without problems.

Ruth Toner

June 20192018-08-24 09:24:42

I have used Viewranger for  years with OS mapping and last year finally managed to get a really workable solution using VR on a Moto (Android) phone for route planning with a Garmin Etrex 30+ for route following and stats and recording on the bike. I have used both the provided Garmin mapping (the included TopoActive type based on open cycle maps) and something from the Netherlands also based on Open data, which I prefer.

What we did on tour in France in 2017 was draw the day route with VR (loaded with ISGN map) on the Android phone. This planned route was a series of straight lines between sigificant junctions. I transfered it as a .gpx file to the Garmin using OtG cable and the file manager facilities. When we set off I got the Garmin to follow it as a route. This would prbably not work well for short circular routes but you can of course load up outbound and return as two routes.

I had the Garmin on the front and Margaret had the Moto (Android phone) on the stoker bars. This was useful as the Garmin did better on new motorway interchanges while the ISGN mapping was better for some villages and has far more associated detail.

We planned out this method before we left home based on my prior use of VR and the Garmin Etrex but pre-tour panics being what they are around here, only go the OtG (On the Go) cable on tour day two in Pontivy.

This solution does require some learning both of VR interface and its way of seeing things and likewise for the Garmin.

The question Ruth has about Android to Garmin comes down to:

Does your Android phone support On the Go?

If it does, you should be able to use an OtG cable which means the Garmin will see the Android phone as if it was a computer. All I have done with that is move files between the two with the file manager on the Android phone, in our case a Moto 5 plus.

When I use the Garmin Etrex for Audax with a detailed provided .gpx file I don't use Garmin routing but follow the .gpx as a track. This is due to a very anoying omission on the Etrex 30 + which does not allow recalculation of routes to be locked off. This is probably less of a problem on certain Edge models although some Audax folk prefer Etrex even when they have quite a full draw of different Garmins.

This is quite a complex area and I have spent a fair bit of time working out my methods for both touring and audax modes. The information about GPS including Garmins on the YACF forum is very valuable but you may need to work at it a bit to suit your own equipment, history,and geographical persuasion.


June 20192018-08-24 10:07:13
Peter Meers2018-08-24 10:14:36


I have just completed a 10 week cycle tour using Komoot on my mobile phone.

I chose it as it uses OSM, allows route planning on the mobile, not on a laptop, and provides voice and image turn by turn navigation.

While not perfect it was a better option for me than buying an expensive cycle GPS.

I actually ran Strava and Komoot simultaneously on the mobile (iphone 8). I usead a backup battery in the handlebar bad to ensure we never ran out of battery but some days it was not needed.

I ran Strava as a means of keeping our stats and to communicate our progress with family and friends.

Just another type of option for you to consider.


Peter M

chris Peachey2018-08-24 16:19:58

Thanks all for the feedback. I have a clearer idea now of what we might need. We need to sort out the mapping before choosing a suitable GPS device. All info on GPS map sources gratefully received! the gps versions of maps (ie OS, ign etc) have the same detail as their paper versions?


Adam Bell2018-08-27 11:19:02

A lot of people with Garmins seem to moan about their software.

I've used SatMap devices for years on my bikes partly on the basis of them using OS maps for the UK mapping, which provides 1:10K, 1:25K & 1:50K versions, so everything on the various paper maps, but also because they have such large screens, and so are much easier to read.

The latest Active20 model is expensive, but being a NT or a Cycling UK (CTC) member gives a 15% discount off Cotswold Outdoor (who are one of the re-sellers), plus I got 4% cashback for going via Quidco.   



Tim Dowson2018-08-27 12:30:02

Adam, I'm interested to see you find Satmap so good. We got an 'active 12' (I think) a few months back - it looked like a good package along with the extras. I agree the mapping is great, when you can get it to work. Having a 1:50k map updating its position across the screen while you cycle is wonderful - the best maps available by far for the UK. And in theory the device is very flexible with lots of different settings.

But getting to the map you want, and everything else, was almost unworkable.

- The shape is good to hold but dreadful for handlebars - it sticks up so far it pushes around on the bars when you fumble with its clunky slow buttons. The (pricy, extra) bike mount could hardly be tightened enough, and fitting the unit into the mount was so hard I nearly dislocated my hand, even when I greased the clip.

- the computing seemed grossly outdated with lots of confusing steps and slow screen changes to get from one screen to another, or from its start up point in London to your position. And then it started freezing, regularly, and I could only reset it by taking out the battery, which is so fiddly that even at home it seems likely to damage the fittings.

- And the battery generally doesn't last even for one day out.

I could have taken a few days off work to try to learn all the details for the simple use that we wanted from it, though that wouldn't help with the buttons, the mounting, the battery life or freezing. But the point was to save time, not cost time, and while maybe it was a good try some years ago when GPS and computers were new, it's meant for general release, not now as a testing product for dedicated enthusiasts. So despite the outstanding maps, we've given up on it - and we now have an idea why "reconditioned" (ie returned?) ones were on sale, which you don't see much with most modern kit. We did even wonder if lots of critical reviews had been deleted from the site.

So now we are back to paper, with the addition of open street map on a phone. A surprisingly good combination but I would like to have the contours back..


Adam Bell2018-08-27 14:24:44

To be honest, I found it quite easy to operate and didn't have any issues with freezing on my old Active 10 model (the 12 just adds barometic pressure and orange buttons)!  However, both suffer from issues with the button stalks and joystick snapping off over time, as I think twice in 4 years I had to send it back for new buttons to be fitted.  A very bad design feature.

You're right about the sticking up bike mount, but I never had any problems tightening up the ratchet on it. I found if I ran a lit match over the end of the strap to slighly melt it, then it was much easier to feed in, when swapping bikes.  

They do offer a discount if you hand it in and buy the new Active 20 model, which may explain some of the reconditioned units.  This is much better designed - all touch screen which is also much brighter and very visible in bright sunshine, plus a bigger battery.  The bike mount is also much better as they use Quad Lock, so low profile.



June 20192018-08-30 08:38:42

The Viewranger premium (that is paid for) mapping I have is OS and IGN and it has the same detail as the paper maps of the scale purchased. The experience on a phone is not the same as paper as it is like looking at the map through a screen sized hole. You have to do a lot of zooming in and out and this restricts its usefulness on the bike but is fine for route planning on a laptop or on a phone and for stoker use in the tandem context.

If you go for an all Garmin solution you can use their software to route plan on a computer but I only made a brief aquaintance with it before going back to Viewranger for on-tour route planning as I had used for years on a mobile phone. At home I also use GPXeditor for route planning.

The remarks about going back years of computing history applies to Garmin Etrex 30+. It is an old fashioned and slow interface but on the other side of the coin the device is very robust and waterproof and runs for a long time on a couple of recharge AA cells (NIMH) especially if you make full use of the reflective screen to avoid use of the backlight as much as possible. I am glad I did not go for the touch screen model. We can rechage AAs on the move using our hub generator to make AC, B+M eWerks to rectify and regulate and an Ixon light as a charge controller.

The remark about days off work also chimes with my Garmin experience. It took a long time to get it set up in a way that fits my needs. However, it is flexible and there is a lot of cycling specific advice on the web. After a health problem last year I have been able to put heart rate read out top left on each of the windows and the use with a Tikr heart rate belt is simple and comfortable.


chris Peachey2018-08-30 16:32:35

Thanks for all your responses. I am thinking the Garmin Edge Explore with it's 3" diag screen would most suit our needs and is not too expensive. Should I be looking at anything better?


Chris Lee2019-02-19 00:47:11

We’ve used a Garmin (Oregon 450) for our tours using free OSM maps from;

In our experience so far the maps seem to have every tiny track path and road plotted with names along with shops, hotels campsites etc...  It might not be as slick or supported/ updated as a commercial product though?

It does require a little computer knowledge to get them on to the SD card, and is best to do a bit of reasearch to see if they are compatible with any given model of Garmin but we’ve found them great for touring Europe, and currently using in New Zealand.

The only downside, is you have to be careful when using it to route you as we’ve had it send us down some very dubious ‘tracks’ I’m not sure if this is the fault of the maps or the routing/ avoidance settings in the Garmin though.


Stephen Dee2019-02-19 08:58:50

I use a Garmin Oregon 600 with Open Fiets Map.  The quality of mapping varies with location, but it is better than the OS50K mapping supplied with the Garmin when in built up areas.  I have used it in Germany and Poland as well as UK. The map colours take some getting used to, but cycle routes and tracks are highlighted by colour.  On the GPS to save space, detail such as buildings are ommited at the detailed higher scales, but at the lower scale built up areas are like that on OS 50K mapping but with more road detail.

Chris Bishop2019-02-19 21:13:21

I use a Garmin 1000, very happy with all aspects of it. Look around for offers, got mine from Halfords