Sunday, 22 January 2012


I first got a GPS for the bike back in 2008. Astonishingly that was nearly four years ago. It was a Garmin Edge, and I used it to collect traces for Open Street Map, time my rides, and for occasional route finding. A couple of posts here about putting the OSM Cycle Map on a Garmin Edge have generated as much traffic as almost anything else I've written, and I had a bit of an exchange with Wired Magazine when they  illustrated an article on OSM cycle maps with one of my pictures, despite the license conditions.

So we have had some interesting journeys together, but my old Garmin Edge packed up towards the end of last year. I've been using various apps on a Smartphone since, but now I've been treated to a proper replacement - a new Garmin Edge 800.

Things have clearly moved on in the last four years, and this new GPS is lighter, easier to read, with a better mount. The touch screen is a big advantage, and unlike the smartphone, I can use that while wearing gloves.

It didn't come with anything other than a minimal base map, and I obviously wanted to take the OSM cycle map with me. I had generated a copy of this a year ago for the old Garmin. To get started quickly I transferred the memory card across, and found that it still worked up to a point, but minor roads were invisible.

I couldn't find an up-to-date, ready-made version of the OSM cycle map for a Garmin, so again I set out to build my own. The tools in this area have also moved on since I last did this. It has taken quite a bit of fiddling around to make a new version of the cycle map, and so far I have only partly succeeded. I'm still struggling with minor roads, and the sea is missing (which matters more round here than it did in Berkshire).

If I forget about special styling for the the cycle stuff, and just opt for the standard map format, then things are a bit easier. I can generate a nice basic map with a considerable amount of detail, and lots of POIs. As best I can tell, route finding has improved, though it's difficult to know whether to credit the map or the device for that. With the standard format I get to see the sea, as well as minor roads. 

That will do me for the time being, but this is an itch that needs to be scratched. I can see that I'm in for a bit of fiddling with mkgmap styles over the next few days (unless anyone has a better suggestion).


Laura Laker said...

As a cyclist with a terrible sense of direction and poor map reading skills I've been wondering for a while about the benefits of bike-specific GPS. I was surprised to read that yours doesn't include the smaller streets or the sea! Would you say it's worth getting one, even if I don't have the skills to reprogramme mine as you have?

gom1 said...

I should have been more clear. I'm using Open Street Map (rather than one of the standard ones). And it does (now) include the sea and the minor roads. Where I'm stuck is getting the cycling stuff and the sea and minor roads onto the same map. Once I get this working I'll be happy to upload the map if it would be of any use.

I think this is well worth the effort - I'm just getting a bit bogged down in technicalities. If you don't want to get involved in the same technicalities, I think the options are to pay for the standard maps or to do what I did to begin with and rely on the kindness of strangers. Other suggestions are welcome.

William said...

I use OsmAnd on my Android phone and am most impressed with that. As the name suggests (it's short for OSM Android), it uses OSM cycle maps, but can use almost any other map, too.
Getting the maps pre-downloaded is a doddle, too, although it helps to do that over WiFi and not the cellular network!
Not having your map making skills I think I'll stick with this for the time being.
Another plus with my setup is that Nokia bike dynamo kit I have on my bike. With only a small modification I can now charge my HTC phone as I'm riding. This is important, as phone batteries obviously don't last nearly as long as dedicated GPS unit batteries.

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