Which GPS do I buy ?
With the Roof just around the corner we have had so many people asking us what the best GPS would be for the Roof of Africa. Originally when GPS's were first introduced to the Roof, only units without mapping capabilities were allowed to try limit short cutting etc. Things have changed though and competitors may use any model of Garmin GPS. Why Garmin ? Besides being the most widely used and popular units, they are compatible with the organisers software. If you have another make of GPS and it can accept tracks from Mapsource, you are welcome to use it.
How does the downloading at the Roof work ?
Units are handed to the GPS guys next to documentation, where all the tracks for the event are loaded at the same time. It is then up to the competitor to select and navigate the correct track for each day.
What is a track ?
A track is a record of a path travelled connecting a series of track points together. A track is made either by plotting it with a GPS or by using a mapping program like Mapsource and drawing it. The most accurate way to capture a track for a race like the Roof would be to physically ride the route and record it.
How come our tracks loaded at the races are sometimes not that accurate ?
This is because the tracks often get filtered, a Foretrex unit can only accept a track with 500 track points or less. A typical Roof day track would consist of 3-4000 track points. On Mapsource tracks are filtered by the organisers so that a Foretrex can accept them. At Romaniacs the days route is not filtered, but divided into segments. At each refuel you have to physically select the next track. This is why we choose to run a Etrex Vista HCX which can accept 20 tracks of 10 000 trackpoints each.
My old Foretrex 201 used to freeze up and sometimes switch off ?
There were problems with the Foretrex 201's, Garmin have an effective warranty system in place and have been very accommodating in most cases with swopping racing units out. If you have a broken unit that is out of warranty, send it in to Bandit GPS or directly to Garmin Distribution Africa and you may be pleasantly surprised. Most of the problems came with mounting the GPS directly to the handle bars, the vibration kills the units. Try making a foam mount out of a swimming pool noodle or piece of foam, it works wonders or order the Garmin Forerunner mount part number 010-11029-00 The new Foretrex 301 and 401 have proven to be way more robust than their predecessor, the 201.
What are the differences between the Foretrex 301, 401 and the Etrex Vista HCX ?
Quite simply, when navigating a track, the Foretrex models show a thick black line on the screen, that is easy to see at a glance. Should you look down at your GPS and you don't see the line, you have gone off course. Always believe the GPS. The unit takes two AAA batteries that will give you around 17 hours of battery life. The Foretrex 401 is the same as the 301 but can take a heart rate monitor, it has an electronic compass as well as an barometric altimeter and the ability to share data wirelessly with similar units.
The Etrex comes with a few benefits, firstly a more accurate track (up to 10 000 track points) provided the race organisers have an un filtered version of the race track for memory capable units. It has a bigger (colour) screen and you can adjust the colour of the track to suit you. Most importantly, you can connect an external power supply to the unit, which enables you to run your backlight permanently.
What external power solutions are available ?
Bandit GPS have modified cables that power most units directly from the battery (12V input- 5V output), they also stock the Power Traveller range of products including the Power Monkey and Power Chimp. These clever little power packs will power your GPS for days on end without recharging. It can be strapped behind the number board out of sight.
What is the best way to mount my GPS ?
The Garmin rubber mount is available for the Foretrex, but I still say that a homemade foam mount will work better. The Etrex range has more options, either using the traditional RAM mount or the compact Bandit GPS mount consisting of a RAM cradle, rubber mounted to a 3mm stainless steel plate that bolts straight onto your standard bar clamps with the help of two stainless steel collars. This ensures that the bracket does not get caught by the brake hose. Any Garmin unit can be fitted the same way including a Nuvi 500 etc.
What other units can we use and what are their downfalls ?
Any of the Etrex range can be used. Try to use one with a USB cable, or take your cable with when you hand your GPS in at the Roof. The Oregon and Dakota series can be used, I personally find that the touch screen is not that easy to see in the daylight unless you run the backlight permanently. Touch screen units are more prone to get bumped and change screens. It is not that easy to revert back to the map page when you are racing. The 70 series can be used, but the size is a problem, the 60 series can also be used, but we have experienced them switching off due to the batteries losing contact, run an external battery source and you should be fine. The Zumo and Nuvi 500 can also work, but it is not advise able as they are pretty pricey and very bulky.
How do I set my GPS up ?
Get rid of all the clutter, delete all pages except for the map page and trip computer. Delete all maps so that when navigating, you only have the relevant track on your screen. Change your trip computer to "Big Numbers" so that you are left with three big fields to read, set them to time of day, distance and distance to destination. Set your time zone to "Cape Town" or "Cairo" (make sure daylight savings option is off) and your units to metric. Under the "routing" menu, set the navigation setting to "off road", make sure "next turn pop up" is off. Under map select the "track up" option. You should be good to go.
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