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Monday, September 22, 2008

Introducing Piaw Routing

I own a Garmin GPSMap 76 CSX, and used it extensively on the Tour Across France. One of the things that made it really useable on a bicycle tour is that you can set the driving speeds, which leads the Garmin unit to route roads the way a cyclist would --- small streets are best, and the smaller the street, the better the cycling. The results have been nothing short of astounding --- I would never have found many of the roads the GPS unit found, since my Michelin maps just aren't detailed enough. The routing software ignores elevation information, so frequently we found ourselves on beautiful, isolated nice climbs that only locals would know about. In a fit of egoism, I'm going to call this set of settings "Piaw Routing".

"Piaw Routing" is not perfect. Sometimes, it leads the unit to route you in a loop for some perverse reason, and occasionally the main road is traffic free so if you're in a hurry, Piaw Routing is not for you. And of course, you have to like hills, since frequently the smallest roads are on hills. (Piaw Routing once put us on a hiking path --- it was gorgeous and ridable but steep!) But you should never use your GPS unit blindly --- you always have to think anyway, so for the judicious user, Piaw Routing in addition to the other tips on using the Garmin unit, makes a Garmin GPS unit (and appropriate maps) not just a nice toy, but an essential tool for cycle touring in a foreign land.

Note that I only have a PC with MapSource --- I don't know how to change the settings on the Mac, so if you're a Mac owner, you're on your own.
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