Yes, my bike is seriously "geeked up"!

One thing I hate about trying new bike routes is having to follow the printed cue sheet of directions (Did we miss that last turn?). These days, a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver can remove much of this hassle. Instead of using printed directions, you can download a route's "waypoint" coordinates (or turns) into a GPS unit. The unit will then typically point in the direction of the next waypoint along the route, and then beep or flash when your near each turn. These little gizmos are a real wonder when exploring new territory. I've been using a GPS for about two years now and love it!

GPS units come in two basic flavors: map and map-less. The map-less units are least expensive, but they are only useful if you follow a pre programmed route, or wish to record and download your route to your home computer after your ride. However, the really cool units are the ones that can also display a map. This comes in real handy when you need to find an alternative route or go in search of stuff like food. However, a word of warning. After you buy a map capable GPS unit, you may find that you also need to purchase additional software in order to load detailed maps on your unit. Then, you'll need additional memory modules to hold the maps (Get the picture $$$). For reference, my old Garmin eMap has an 8 Meg module, and this is able to hold all the detailed maps for Washington, Baltimore, and Northern Virginia area.

Some GPS Vendors:

In the past, exchanging GPS routes was not as simple as one might hope. It seems there are dozens of incompatible GPS file formats floating around. However, that may now be changing. A new XML based file format called GPS eXchange Format (GPX) has been defined. Since it is XML based, it very simple to view and modify. To actually use GPX, you can download and install Easy GPS. This will allow you to transfer a GPX file to your GPS unit (and Visa-Versa). If your unit is not supported by Easy GPS, then you can try a file format converter, like GPS Babel.

A sample GPX file is included with the Shenandoah River Ramble. Look for more files comming soon!