cheap GPS for motorbikes

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The Garmin Edge 205 is one of the best GPS for biking; it’s small, lightweight (only 88g !), and it’s specifically designed for cyclists/mountain bikers. It doesn’t have any mapping capabilities, featuring only a small (128×160 pixel) grayscale lcd display; but on a mountain bike you really don’t want to bring a flashy, bulkier, battery-devouring gadget while traversing valleys, ascending peaks and freeriding your way down on your typical all-day long mountain epic.

But I was thinking: can I use this little thing also on a motorbike ? Because the cool thing of this Garmin is that it allows you to follow a pre-loaded route; that’s the main use for me when cycling, so I don’t spend too much time on routefinding, and concentrate on riding the technical bits of the trail.

So after scouting around on the internet I have come up with this recipe to study an itinerary on Google Maps, load it onto your Edge, and also add specific location of interests as ‘waypoints’. And all that with free software ! How cool is that ?

The recipe

  1. get driving direction in Google Maps
  2. export it to KML or GPX format (see below for details on how to do this)
  3. use TCX Converter to load the KML (or GPX) file and then save it as .TCX
  4. use Garmin Training Center (free software download for all Garmin GPS devices) to upload the .trk to
  5. Edge
  6. go to bed
  7. wake up ! the sun is shining and the roads are empty !
  8. mount the Edge somewhere on your motorbike.
  9. go to “Training”, Do Course.
  10. follow the course

How to save Google Maps driving directions as a KML/GPX file

Option A

Straight from this cool post:

  • Get your driving directions the way you want in Google Maps
  • Click on the “Link to this page” in the upper right of Google Maps. You should get a little window with a long URL. Copy the URL by right-clicking on it.
  • Simply append “&output=kml” to the end of the URL
  • Select the entire URL and copy it to your paste buffer (CTRL-C for example)
  • Paste the URL it into your browser’s location URL pane at the top; append “&output=kml” to the end of the URL, then hit ENTER. This should bring up a window asking what to do with the file; save it somewhere on your computer

Option B

Go to this site: and follow the instructions.

Additional notes

I don’t really like map-based GPS devices: they make us lazier, people follow the indications of the little machine and have no fuckin idea where in the world are they, where’s the north and where’s home; tell me what happens when the battery dies. Still, I understand that (at least here in Italy), it’s pretty difficult to get lost, at least on our normal backcountry roads. And I understand that not everybody cares too much about basic orienteering skills.

My point is: always have a map with you; it’s the most dependable orienteering device you can have.

I realize that not everybody will go and buy a GPS designed for bycicles for their motorbike trips; not everybody will go though the hassle of preparing their itineraries the day before; so I guess this is a solution for all the nerds out there, Nerds like me that profoundly dislike pre-packaged food.

Also think about this: the retail price for the Edge 205 is EUR250 as of today. I’ve bought mine on ebay for EUR100. All the software that I’ve used is free. I don’t think GPS solutions come cheaper than this.

It’s not probably the way of things that you guys with the BMW will enjoy; too cheap. But I’m thinking to the people riding Suzuki DR350, or Yamaha Tricker, or any type of offroad bike; or people that do touring on a budget; or the maniacs doing the Valentino Rossi on the passes — think about this, you can also skip the preparation part, mount the Edge on the [piastra di sterzo] of your 999, hit the start button, and then ride the 50km of the ss67 from […] up to the Muraglione pass; then you export the track back home, email it to your friend that will load it as a route to follow. He will then have also a shadow of you, pulling away because you’re obviously faster than him. And while he tries to catch the little white arrow on the tiny display of the GPS he crashes into a truck. Ok, one biker down, who’s next ?

There’s actually two models of the Edge; the 205 and the 305. The 305 is exactly the same, but also has a heartrate monitor (and is more expensive). Pretty useless if the exercise you’re doing it’s just opening the throttle.


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