GPS is an indispensable device for any bicycle touring trip. You can, of course, use your smartphone for navigation or even paper maps. But the smartphone is not designed for the conditions to which it will be subjected during travel. Water, cold, dirt, vibrations – all this can cause a failure of your expensive smartphone.
But even if your smartphone does not break during your adventure, then its battery charge is hardly enough for a whole day of active use. But many of us still like take photos with a smartphone, use it for internet browsing and other things. So, battery life will be a problem even without using your phone as a GPS navigation.
At the same time, paper maps are a good option, but they themselves can’t tell you where you are right now. And can’t tell you how many miles are left to the nearest store and prompt its location. But paper maps are a nice addition to any GPS as they are lightweight and compact.
Dedicated GPS designed for traveling, not only protected from damage caused by vibration, water, and all terrible conditions. But also, can show you the location of the nearest store, water source, and POIs. Also, they have good battery life, much better than the smartphones. And many of them work from AA batteries, which you can find at any gas station.
If you have decided that you want a dedicated GPS device for bicycle touring, then the list below will help you to find the best GPS for bicycle touring.
Best GPS for Bicycle Touring No.1: Garmin eTrex 20/20x 🏆
Why it’s great: The first on our list is the Garmin eTrex 20/20x and, also the eTrex 30/30x which in comparison to eTrex 20 series has 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter.
I use the Garmin eTrex 20 (which is the old version of eTrex 20x) GPS for my bicycle touring and I can only say good things about it. However, it is not suitable for everyone.
The Garmin eTrex 20/20x runs on two AA batteries and it has battery life up to 30 hours – that’s without backlight and in offroad navigation mode. The off-road navigation mode it’s when you don’t use turn by turn navigation but you see the line to the place you need on your screen. But which road to take is up to you – that mode provides a great experience, urban exploration on the go, and good battery life.
This GPS saved my time many times and helped me get out of the huge and complicated cities, where it’s very difficult to determine the right road using paper maps and road signs. There were situations when all my phones (I was having two of them with me) were with a dead battery since I did not find places where I can charge them.
But my Garmin eTrex 20 always had a good battery charge (and spare batteries in my panniers!), thanks to the fact that it works from AA batteries. The Garmin eTrex 20/20x has many different and useful features, which you can read about in its description. But many of them are not needed for me yet but they are good to have.
Garmin eTrex 20/20x Pros and Cons:
- Affordable price
- Free maps. (OpenStreetMap’s)
- Many good and useful features
- Perfect battery life – 20-30 hours depending on the navigation mode and backlight
- Ideal for bicycle touring, hiking, camping, walking in cities (sightseeing) when you don’t have a power outlet near you every day.
- Essential POIs that comes in handy during bicycle touring
Cons: In comparison with smartphones this GPS has:
- small screen
- unhandy buttons, the touchscreen of the smartphone will be always easier to use (unless you use it during the rain)
- when you zoom a map to the max there is a little delay in drawing maps (that’s because this GPS doesn’t have super powerful CPUs and 2GB+ of RAM like smartphones have)
If you are willing to accept its small screen and other disadvantages, then the Garmin 20/20x/30x GPS is the best for bicycle touring and it’s the best value for the money. And if my Garmin eTrex 20 will break once, then I will buy a new one without blinking an eye. In 2018 I’m still using my 6 years old eTrex 20 and in 2019 I’m gonna use this GPS again.
Garmin eTrex reviews and current price:eTrex 20 View at Amazon eTrex 20x View at Amazon eTrex 30x View at Amazon
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Best GPS for Bicycle Touring No.2: Garmin eTrex Touch 25
Why it’s great: If you liked the Garmin eTrex 20/20x, but you can’t live without a touchscreen, then you should take a closer look at the Garmin eTrex Touch 25 or Touch 35. Both of these navigators are similar to the Garmin eTrex 20x and eTrex 30x. However, in this GPS unit, the touchscreen is used for operating. Which is much more convenient than the buttons.
However, the touchscreen requires more power from the battery. And because of that, the battery life of this device is up to 16 hours. But it still uses two AA batteries which you can find everywhere.
Garmin eTrex Touch reviews and current price:eTrex Touch 25 View at Amazon eTrex Touch 35 View at Amazon
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Best GPS for Bicycle Touring No.3: Garmin Edge 800
Why it’s great: The Garmin Edge 800 is one of the best GPS for bicycle touring and generally for cycling. But the Garmin Edge 800 is discontinued by the manufacturer because the Edge 810 and Edge 820 have come out, but many cyclists still prefer this model. And that is not surprising if you consider the fact that the Edge 800 has an affordable price under $200 and has a lot of good features for cycling.
However, this GPS does not use AA batteries. It uses a lithium-ion battery, and the battery life of this device is up to 15 hours. But what makes it great is the presence of the touchscreen, and ability to connect ANT+® heart rate monitor, and speed/cadence sensor which makes it the best GPS for cycling and the best bicycle computer with cadence and heart rate monitor.
Garmin Edge 800 reviews and current price:View at Amazon
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Best GPS for Bicycle Touring No.4: Garmin GPSMAP 64s
Why it’s great: This is a very popular model among travelers and it has a rating higher than the Garmin eTrex 20x. The Garmin GPSMAP 64 has convenient buttons, works on two AA batteries, but the battery life of this GPS is up to 16 hours.
The Garmin GPSMAP 64 is available in several versions, for example, the Garmin GPSMAP 64sc has a built-in 8-megapixel camera. While the Garmin 64S does not have a built-in camera. Also, you can connect ANT+ to the Garmin GPSMAP 64s and other models with S in its model name, except for the Garmin GPSMAP 64.
Garmin GPSMAP 64 reviews and current price:View at Amazon
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Garmin Edge 520 Plus – GPS and Bicycle Computer
Battery Life: up to 15 hours
Why it’s great: If you want not just a navigator for your cycling adventures, but also a bicycle computer, then you can buy the Garmin Edge 520 Plus. Its price is quite high, but you get a modern device with many useful features for the cyclist. And you can buy a speed and cadence sensor for this bike computer. And then you can see your current speed and cadence on the screen of this bike computer.
The Garmin Edge 520 Plus has a GPS function with turn-by-turn navigation and navigation alerts. Also, you can connect this bicycle computer to your smartphone and you will see all the important notifications from your smartphone right on the screen of the Garmin Edge 520 Plus. And this bike computer can monitor many different stats.
But I think that for bicycle touring the Garmin Edge 520 Plus is overkill. But if you love modern gadgets with many features and besides touring, you ride your bike often then why not? The Garmin Edge 520 Plus is a really good bike computer with built-in GPS.