I had been looking at that Garmn last week. Is it a good one to get for putting on the handle bars and following routes? I see it has a micro sd card slot.
For my needs, the Garmin Oregon 400T GPS has proven to be ideal. I think it says something that I would buy it again today, but it might not suit everyone because it is not a bike-specific GPS as some others are.
When I selected it, I was very much attracted to the touchscreen and 3-D graphics, which have not disappointed. Birds-eye satellite photo overlays have now been added as a downloadable option. It is daylight-visible, but the display is very dim without the back-lighting turned up, and that eats batteries. Quick. That is one reason why I plan to power mine with the Tout Terrain The Plug 2 and a hacked automotive power cord as I pedal along. Please note, the automotive power cord is necessary to keep the GPS from going into USB-transfer mode. A lot can be done with the Garmin Spanner settings, but the special cord is the most straightforward way to power it externally from either a dynohub or buffer battery. In dedicated, continuous
use, I get about 16 hours from a set of batteries, and I have decided it is worth it to use high-capacity lithium batteries or nickel-metal hydride rechargeables, as ordinary alkalines have just not provided the life I need while on-tour. Please note: Batteries cannot be recharged while in the unit; a separate charger is required for the batteries. I just use my little USB Eneloop charger and the Tout Terrain The Plug 2 if I'm using rechargeables.
I got this GPS for all-'round use, including hiking and use in the car when traveling. There are no voice prompts, but there are a number of modes including Recreational and Automotive that are better-suited to a specific task, and map types can be overlaid. I usually "stack" the topo and automotive maps when cycling.
I took the plunge and got all the US Park and City maps, as well as a complete set for Canada, Europe, and the UK and another set showing all the Benelux bike paths. I've found the micro-SD card feature to be essential, and have a 4GB and an 8GB to store the most-used maps and other stuff like my pre-loaded waypoints and anticipated tracks for upcoming trips. Garmin's BaseCamp software is really handy and nice for trip planning and has a nifty 3-D tilt-map feature that lets you preview the upcoming climbs on your route in sickening detail. One of the really nice features of Garmin GPSs is regular updates to the firmware and software/map data. The updates are free, and some added features make it almost seem like a new GPS. Menus get overhauled and options added that make for easier use over time.
These things aren't cheap, but buys can be had if you search. When I got mine several years ago, retail for the GPS *and* all the maps totaled about USD$1,200. As I recall, the MSRP for the GPS at the time was USD$599, and I got it on sale at a warehouse big-box store for USD$329. As with a computer, once the basic hardware requirements are met, it is the software that makes the difference. The 400T was the best-equipped for my needs right out of the box, but some GPSs I've seen had about as many brains as a can opener on arrival. My 400T will also accept the bike-specific cadence attachment, and speed is derived from the satellites, of course. It lacks the training programs and links to Garmin's online, bike-specific distance-logging and fitness features. I don't see many Garmin Oregons mounted to bikes (Pete's Garmin eTrex Vista Hcx is far more commonly used), but I would choose it again for my on-bike touring needs. Unlike the bike-dedicated models, this one also
excels off-road, where I frequently go, including across the center of roadless deserts on playa.
I love the included features. The Wildlife Spotter gives times of day that have proven pretty accurate for increasing the chance to see animals like deer, elk, and pronghorn/antelope. The calendar and moon-phase and sunrise-sunset time features all see daily use. The stored waypoints for services have been a godsend, with street addresses, phone numbers, and turn-by-turn directions to motels and restaurants as well as emergency services. It is a pretty essential tool. It is my first GPS, and it has made a tremendous difference over not having one. it makes life so much easier and more sure that at times, I feel like I am somehow cheating. I also never trust it completely. I always make sure I carry paper maps and at least one compass as a backup in case the GPS breaks or the batteries fail. I cannot afford the risk of doing otherwise, and there are times when I cannot acquire or keep a satlink to keep the GPS working. This is true for all brands and models.
I would be remiss if I didn't caution that a GPS is not a do-all for saving one's skin. Just like a compass, loss-prevention comes with knowing and thinking about how to use it, and using it before
getting misplaced. I was engaged in correspondence with James Kim just before he left on the family vacation that resulted in his tragic death due to a GPS- and map-advised route that was inappropriate in winter (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Kim
). It is a tragic story repeated here in Oregon at least several times each year.
There are similar GPSs in Garmin's line, like the less-expensive Dakota, but look carefully for your needs as some features are missing. Also, as a general rule, the x50 models include a Big feature like a (so-so quality) camera, but cut others that are navigation-oriented, so once again, choose with care. A good first stop on selecting between models is the Garmin Oregon Wiki, here: http://garminoregon.wikispaces.com/
Other wikis are available for various other models. I've hacked mine pretty heavily, and am very pleased with it.
You asked about mounting it to the handlebars. Yes, you surely can, using the bracket Garmin sell for about USD$10. It allows mounting to the stem (as I have) or on the handlebars, and is a nice, lightweight item that is well-made and durable. Zip-ties allow it to remain secure on it's synthetic rubber pads, while facilitating transfer from bike-to-bike (provided you supply new zip-ties). The mount uses the new rail-system common to all recent Garmin GPSs, and it is extremely secure. Still (remember, I'm a belt-and braces man), I use a Sony vidcam wrist-strap when off the bike and use it as an additional tether while on the bike. Some of the roads and goat-tracks I bomb down are unbelievably rough, and I don't want to see this little wonder bounding down the trail ahead of me. It has a tough magnesium chassis, but one hit just right (wrong), and the recessed touchscreen would be history.
Hope this helps. First compasses, then GPSs; two of my favorite non-bike, non-computer topics! Thanks, Matt.