A question we get asked a lot is what is the best GPS for mountain biking.
The most common mistake people make is going for a Garmin Edge or one of the road cycling GPS units.
They should have been looking at an outdoor GPS mountain bike unit. The main reason is these come with Ordnance Survey Maps and you need this map set when mountain biking as it is the only map set that shows Bridleways, which you need to follow when mountain biking. The mapping the edge range comes with (TOPO Active mapping) does not show Bridleways, it just shows everything as tracks, and these could be Footpaths, Bridleways or even a private drive!
Ordnance Survey mapping
Now we now understand that we need an Outdoor GPS unit with Ordnance Survey maps we now need to consider which of the map options we need to go for, with a Garmin mountain biking GPS unit we have three options.
1. Birdseye Plus Voucher, enabling you to download 25,000 sq km of 1:25k maps
2. TOPO Great Britain Pro 1:50k – Full GB 1:50k maps (same as a OS Landranger map – key here)
3. TOPO Great Britain Pro 1:25k – Full GB 1:25k maps (same as the OS Explorer map – key here)
Most people believe they need a 1:25k map option for mountain biking but they actually don’t, the 1:50k maps show all bridleways, as well as footpaths and roads etc. The only thing you don’t get on a 1:50k map is the map showing you where walkers have ‘a right to roam’ (open access areas) and field boundaries.
As neither of these is applicable for mountain biking the 1:50k maps are the best option.
The other great thing about the TOPO Great Britain Pro 1:50k map card is that it also gives you turn by turn on-road routing, which makes it feel like a car satnav when on the road. So, at any time during your ride you do end up on the road this navigational feature is second to none.
So, what is the best GPS for mountain biking?
Most of the modern Garmin GPS units are truly multi-activity outdoor GPS units, you can quickly swap between profiles so your GPS acts differently when walking, mountain biking or even road riding.
This ability to swap quickly and easily between these profiles I think is invaluable when deciding what is the best GPS for mountain biking.
I also think the look and feel of a touch screen unit is another asset that needs to be thought about. We are all used to touch screens and the compact nature of a touch screen unit (i.e. you do not have buttons underneath), keeps the unit showing you a large screen without you accidentally knocking the bottom of the unit with your knee on that tricky downhill section.
This leaves us with two contenders for the best GPS for mountain biking.
1. On a budget – Garmin eTrex 25t – more
The Garmin eTrex Touch 25 is just a smaller version of the Garmin Oregon 700 unit, it looks and feels exactly the same, except for the smaller screen.
this therefore gives you great battery life and with the stunning sunlight-readable screen you get on any Garmin GPS unit it makes for a great addition to any mountain bike.
2. Not on a budget – Garmin Oregon 700 – more
The Garmin Oregon 700 is ideal for complimenting your mountain bike experience and navigating you whilst out on the trail.
Its large screen is second to none and with its connectivity, to a smartphone it even tells you who is calling you whilst your mobile phone is safely tucked away.
The option with the 1:50k TOPO Great Britain pro is the one to look at and please do not forget your bike mount, as the Garmin Oregon 700 does not come with one in the box.