technology offer the mountain biker other than bike and clothing?
The all singing and
dancing eTrex Vista. It doesn't make tea...
Does Hi-Tech electronic gear have any place on a mountain bike ride? That's a daft question to ask me, I'm regularly to be found with a digital video camera, helmet camera, GPS and micro-cassette out on the trails' If you're a total Luddite even the bike itself has no place in the hills, lose the 'too advanced' Gore-Tex jacket as well' You see where I'm coming from.
So what's the state of the art in electronic wizardry for the biker of the ultra-modern zero's? Read on and we'll wet your appetite for big boys toys.
Compaq IPAQ with
Memory-Map Pocket Navigator
The Holy Grail of Navigation
I've never been too big a fan of GPS, until now that is. Back in the day GPS handsets displayed unfathomable coordinates, today's models give you proper OS grid references and that's just the beginning. Using
software (for your PC and pocket PC) you can plan out your route on a full quality OS Landranger digital map, then download the route to your GPS so it points the way whilst you ride. The software allows rapid zooming and scrolling to see fine detail and plan your next leg.
in text only form.
When you get home the automatically plotted route you travelled can be up-loaded to your PC for storage, this helps confirm the exact route you took and makes easy work of re-tracing a top ride shown to you by a friend. To cap it all off it's also possible to transfer the route data to the web, then you can follow un-marked classic routes, even in areas with open access like Coed y Brenin and Afan Argoed.
This system doesn't take away all navigational skill, you still need to understand all the symbols and lines on the map to make sense of it. A backup paper copy of the map would be handy in case of electronic failure, but you can print this off to carry with you. The entire country is covered in only twelve 1:50,000 regions, so you can
print the pages you need, there's less of that 'edge of the map' irritation we all know so well.
So what's the downside to all this lovely technology you ask? As usual with state of the art gizmos it's all in the price. First off you'll need a GPS unit. The
Garmin eTrex series is really excellent, starting at around £120 for the basic eTrex, they rise to a heady £300 for the all singing and dancing Vista, with electronic compass and altimeter graph.
If you go the pocket computer route however, you won't need all the extras offered by the Vista. However, the electronic compass can be useful, as a standard GPS unit will only show the direction you're travelling in, making it more difficult to orientate your map. A good old fashioned compass will do the job too, but they're really not techno enough for this article'
The PC software you need is from Memory-Map Navigator'
and the current price for the PC version is £129.95. The Landranger
1:50,000 maps of the UK are £24.95 each, with the entire country being covered by only 12 maps, you get a lot of map for your money.
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