5th Day of Randonneurmas: Garmin Vista HCx GPS

The 12 Days of Randonneurmas rolls onward with something for the technical side of randonneuring. We all somehow managed with cue sheets and maps (and asking for directions — ha!) and I was determined to hold out as others bought GPS units and started talking this strange language of waypoints and signal sensitivity. But once I started carrying a GPS on the tandem it became a regular part of our randonneuring experience.

Hands down the best GPS (in my experience) for randonneuring is the Garmin eTrex Vista HCx. MG carried it on the D.C. Randonneurs’ Woodbine Wallop 200K this Saturday and raved about knowing where she was on the route at all times, especially after dark.

The Vista HCx Mounted on a Nitto Lamp Holder
The Vista HCx Mounted on a Nitto Lamp Holder

Garmin makes bike-specific Edge models but they have to be recharged at home. The Vista HCx, which is technically for trail use, relies on common AA batteries that can be changed during the ride without the loss of data. With high-capacity NiMH rechargeables, I can get about 15 hours use before changing batteries.

The Vista HCx is still a little brick on the handlebars. But, the backlight is strong and the turn-by-turn prompts work really well once you get the hang of making routes on Garmin’s Mapsource software. Check out Nick Bull’s tutorial for the ins and outs. The Vista HCx runs about $300 but can sometimes be had as a bundle with other accessories for less — REI puts it on sale occasionally. One more gadget, but this one is terrific when you need it. And, it makes a pretty good automobile GPS if you can live without voice prompts.

Tomorrow: Something less expensive.


2 thoughts on “5th Day of Randonneurmas: Garmin Vista HCx GPS

  1. Two comments: First, for using the Garmin Edge on brevets, some people have figured out how to lash-up a USB-connected AA-powered auxiliary power supply. I know nothing more about how they do this, but searching on the radnon Google group might get you a link.

    Also, we noticed on the Woodbine Wallop that an HCx with the latest mapping software, set to navigate as a bicycle going for “fastest time”, navigates quite differently than a Cx with prior generation mapping software, set to navigate as a bicycle going for “shortest distance”. The point being: 1) before you download a route to your GPS, check that for your mapping software the route calculated on the PC matches with the cue sheet, and 2) learn by trial and error what settings on the GPS and PC will make it so that the GPS navigates the same as the route that is computed on your PC. Since this varies across GPS models, across mapping software versions, and across the settings chosen for each, it is ultimately up to the individual randonneur to figure out what works best for them, using trial and error. Always take and follow a cue sheet!

  2. A trick that was passsed on word-of-mouth but which I had the good fortune to benefit from: Tie that sucker down! I attach the leash, and wrap the excess around the stem and then click it into the mount. And a good thing I do!:

    Recently I came to an abrupt stop, in a ‘semi-horizonta’l position and the ‘brick’ popped out of the mount and ….dangled only inches from Terra Firma! No harm done but it might have been a different story if my HCx had been riding ‘Allure Libre’ if you know what I mean.

    Yr Pal Dr C

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