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The Well Executed Cycling Road Trip Part Part 3: Buy a Garmin

Part 1 covered the accommodations.
Part 2 covered the bikes and clothes.

Part 3 is going to cover how to keep from getting your @$$ hopelessly lost.

Buy a Garmin.  An Edge 520 Plus or better.  Learn how to use it. Download the Garmin Connect app.  Download Ride with GPS right to your Garmin.  You’d also do just fine with a Wahoo or Lezyne GPS based computer – whatever floats your boat.

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Adventures are great, my friends.  You and the open road, nowhere to be but on the road, pedaling to your heart’s content.  Man, I’m getting fired up just thinking about how much fun I have on road trips.  I have a friend who doubles as our own personal Garmin GPS navigation system, though.  Technically, he’d be a human map I suppose.  When we head to the northern part of the State, he knows all of the good roads to ride and awesome places to see.  Sadly, he won’t be around forever.  Nor will he make every trip in the future, so I’m building a library of rides.  All transferable to my Garmin for turn-by-turn directions.

Not only that, with a free Ride With GPS account, I can download existing routes to my Garmin (or download them to the computer and transfer them to the Garmin).  Not only that, I can search Strava and Endomondo for nearby routes and get them to my Garmin as well.  My friends, there’s something to be said for just following your nose, but I like to have a bailout so I can get home.

The Garmin, as far as I’m concerned, is a must have piece of equipment for a well-executed road trip.  Simple as that.

*I’m sure other GPS computers are fine as well, I simply don’t have any experience with them.  I wrote about what I use.

 

Garmin Varia Round Seat Post Mount; The Answer to Standard Frame Mounting Problems

I’ve written before about my Garmin Varia radar/taillight and how much I love it for solo rides – and more important, how I use it to keep from getting buzzed.

My wife is happier when I use it on weekend club rides, too, but I’ve run into problems when I want to use the radar with a saddle bag on my Trek 5200. Now, this is about to get highly technical, so try to stick with me, and I’ll do my best to clearly describe the issues with using the mount that comes with the Varia on a standard road bike frame versus a compact road frame.

First, on a properly sized compact frame, which has a sloped top tube and extended seat post, I can use the regular “rubber band” mount because I can get the Varia low enough it won’t interfere with the back of my legs when I pedal (I do have to use the aero post adapter and I had to cut out quite a bit of material with a razor knife to make it fit, but it works).


With the 5200’s standard frame, with a top tube parallel to the ground, I’ve had to mount the Varia high, so my legs don’t hit it with every pedal stroke which can move the light, changing the radar’s angle and effectiveness at picking up traffic. Under normal circumstances, this isn’t a big deal because I don’t use saddle bags on my road bikes – I prefer a pouch I can put in my back pocket (and that’s just a personal bike snobby preference – my bikes look “cooler” without the saddle bag). Yes, I know. No, I don’t care if it’s a bit snobby.  Yes, I’ll be able to live with myself just fine, thank you.

From time to time, though, especially getting into the cooler months, a saddle bag is a necessity so I have a spare pocket to store clothes that come off as [or “if” as often is the case] it warms up throughout a ride. Last weekend was a perfect example. My wife and I loaded up the camper and headed up north to join a friend on his birthday ride. The forecast called for some seriously cold weather, with eventual warming throughout the day. I needed the pocket room so the saddle bag went on and my Varia stayed at home, which meant my wife was a little bummed.

Thus enters the expensive but useful round seat post mount.

I had to turn my seat post collar around to make room for the mount (see the second photo below), but with the Varia secured, I no longer have to worry about it moving if I brush it with my leg as I’m pedaling. Truthfully, I’d hit it now and again even with it mounted right under the saddle as it is in the photo above. The secured mount is a vast improvement. Again, though, this isn’t a problem with a compact frame, because it can be mounted low enough that the legs can’t hit it.

Now I’ve got it mounted in a place where it’s almost low enough my legs don’t brush it, but it’s secure enough it won’t move even if I do – so now I can use a saddle bag when I’m heading off on the next adventure:

The Garmin Varia Radar Tail Light… Why I Won’t Leave Home Without Mine.

I’m a firm believer in “safety in numbers” when it comes to cycling. First, a double pace-line with 24 cyclists is a little hard to miss. Second, a motorist has to get into the opposite lane to pass – there’s no squeezing by a double pace-line.

Riding solo is a different ballgame altogether.

Rather than use this time to give you yet another review on an excellent product, I thought I would take a minute to pass along how I use mine – it’s a little unorthodox.

If you look at the display, only a corner of the Garmin’s display screen is used up on the radar.  In the upper-right hand corner you’ve got a little symbol to show the radar is connected and working:

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Now, the magic happens when you’re moving and a car gets within 150 yards.  You get a verbal cue that a vehicle has just been picked up and the sides of the screen go black and a dot appears on the right side that represents the car.  That dot on your screen moves closer to the radar symbol at the top of the screen, proportionally, to the car closing in on you…

With me so far?  I know, roughly, when the car will come by me…

So here’s how I use the blip;  I normally ride exactly where a vehicle’s passenger side tire would go, maybe even a little toward the center of the lane.  As that blip approaches I pick a line, before it’s on me I move right about two feet, toward the edge of the road.  The three feet a motorist is required to give me becomes five.  Any jerk who tries to buzz me will find their vehicle at or slightly greater than the three feet they’re required to give me anyway.

Now, is this foolproof?  No.  Sadly, fools have been finding ways to screw things up since the beginning of time, but it’s the best thing I’ve come across so far.  And I haven’t had anyone come close to buzzing me since I started the practice.

This is worth the price of my Varia… if I had paid for mine in the first place.  I was given it by a friend who upgraded to the newer, fancier model.

The Road Bike and the Beauty of a Clean Cockpit; Upgrading from a Standard Computer to a Garmin

I’ve ridden with a simple stem-mount computer since I’ve ridden with a computer – until I bought a Garmin this year, and now that I’ve got it I’m glad to have gotten rid of the stem-mount cycling computers (on all but the tandem, my wife gets the Garmin on the tandem to avoid a wired computer).

While there once was a time, and not long ago, I thought a simple cycling computer was the best way to go, times change. It’s not that the simple computer is bad, but it is inarguable that a Garmin Edge 520 Plus with mapping capability is a game changer next to a simple computer.  The fact that its  a “flush out front” mount cleans up the cockpit immensely is just an excellent bonus.

 

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For the longest time I didn’t think I could justify the cost in upgrading to a Garmin.  This year, I just thought it was time to start getting some maps in order for some of the longer routes we ride up north.  They’ll be invaluable in the future when my wife and I want to take a camping trip.  All we’ll have to do is pick a campground, load a map and go – turn-by-turn directions the whole way.

I didn’t think, after everything was hooked up, that I’d like the new setup as much as I do.

Incidentally, I picked up two SRAM mounts, so I have a mount for both road bikes, the gravel bike, the tandem, and both of my mountain bikes (the Garmin comes with three mounts, too).  The SRAM flush out front mounts are only $20 and they’re a little lighter than the original Garmin FOF mount.

I Finally Bit the Bullet and Bought a Garmin

For the longest time I was content relying on others to handle navigation duties when we rode. My buddy, Chuck has had a Garmin 520 Plus for quite a while and that comes with turn-by-turn directions. Mike, my other best riding bud, picked up a 520 last year as well.

Well, I couldn’t take it anymore. I ordered an Edge 520 Plus last week. Not only does it have turn-by-turn, it’s got maps as well. Freaking spectacular. One of the shop mechanics had a chuckle at my expense because he could remember, not too long ago, when I eschewed electronics altogether for most of a full season because I was tired of turning everything on before I started to pedal.

Well, now all I have to worry about is my Garmin because it’s hooked to my phone and Strava. So much for unplugging.

You may have noticed in the photo above, I’ve got the SRAM flush out front mount on my Venge, rather than the Garmin mount that comes with the cycling computer. The SRAM mount is half the price of, and lighter than, the Garmin mount. It shouldn’t have to be said, weight wins on the Specialized.

A surprising benefit to the Garmin mount is the cleaned up cockpit… I never stopped to think how much better the front end of the bike would look without my computer mounted above my stem:20190226_180944763507980808725433.jpg

So now my bike is really, really, really complete. I don’t have anything else to do to it, it’s perfect.

Better still, now my wife will have a computer on the tandem because the Garmin comes with three mounts – two handlebar/stem mounts and one flush-out-front mount. And you can choose which bike you’ll be riding when you set the computer up (I have all four of my road bikes programmed in – The Venge, the Trek, the gravel bike and the tandem).