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Importing routes

I bought my Edge 130+ (as a replacement for an old Edge 500) in order to be able to follow mountain bike routes downloaded from the web. Often I edit them before riding them.

My Edge 500 allows the import of .tcx files, displaying the course points as turn instructions in a very helpful way. My Edge 130+ successfully imported one .tcx file and has rejected my every attempt since (refusing even to re-import the same file). The file is left untouched in the New Files folder.

At first the Edge 130+ consistently accepted .gpx files. The waypoints were treated as saved locations rather than as turn instructions, which I found unsatisfactory, but looking at the GPX schema I have no idea how, if at all, GPX files are meant to store a mixture of points of passage and points with turn instructions. (So much the more reason to support the import of .tcx files, I would say.)

Recently my Edge 130+ has sometimes rejected .gpx files too. I have no idea why; I religiously clean out the Activity and Courses folders. (I think my Edge 500 accepts .tcx files about four times in five, but occasionally I have to repeat the transfer.) Might it have been because of the accumulation of saved locations?

I’m not happy with turn instructions being displayed as saved locations. Presumably if I convert tracks to .fit format I will be able to drag them to New Files and they will import successfully; turn instructions, stored as FIT course_points, will be shown in the same way as in tracks produced by Garmin Connect. This is still not as good as the display on my Edge 500, but maybe liveable with. And at least there is a compensating advantage, since .fit turn instructions come from a larger set than those used by .tcx, including (for instance) ‘Sharp Left’.

So my question is: which route import formats is an Edge 130+ intended to accept? Which of these make correct use of turn instructions?


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  • Thanks for the answer. I’m sure it’s correct, but I think it’s regrettable. FIT is difficult to program and, being binary, not suited for use as an exchange format. But I can see faults in both GPX and TCX.

  • A lot routing sites now support a FIT file format. If you use Garmin Connect it will deliver it using FIT.

  • Well, wikiloc offers only .gpx and .tcx, utagawavtt offers to ‘send to garmin’ through some interface, offers only .gpx and .kml, and offers only .gpx. I suspect that of these only wikiloc hosts tracks containing turn instructions, but this is probably because people don’t bother to provide them because their course points get lost on transfer anyway.

    For myself I will get by – I maintain a gps editor (routemaster) and plan to extend it by adding .fit as an output format. But when I browsed reviews before buying my Edge 130+, I got the impression that standard exchange formats were accepted for import. This is stated explicitly (in German) here, but I’m sure I saw the same in English in reviews of other current devices.

  • I mean (I really should know!)

  • There are tools that will convert TCX to FIT 

  • Like you, I use the 130+ for mountain biking, and I load courses on it all the times. I edit them on my PC as GPX files, import them as courses into Garmin Connect (web interface, not the app) and finally put them on the device via USB, through Garmin Express.

    I've never manually added turn instructions to my courses (didn't even know it was possible), but honestly I never needed to... I mainly rely on the course map (zoomed in) to understand where to go, to the point that and I often keep turn-by-turn navigation OFF, as otherwise on twisty single-tracks it makes the Edge beeping continuously.

  • Well, I added FIT as an output format to routemaster. I can put coursepoints in a route, download it as FIT, and drag it to the New Files folder on my Garmin. It then gets installed as a course, and the coursepoints are displayed in exactly the same way as the ones generated by Garmin Connect.

    However I find that the “name” of the coursepoint – i.e. a brief free-format text string supplying supplementary information – is ignored. This is a shame. There’s not much use in including a “generic” coursepoint without saying what’s significant about the point in question; nor is there much value in alerting to a “danger” or an “obstacle” without saying what the danger or obstacle consists of.

    On the other hand, I do have the advantage of an expanded set of coursepoint types over what is supported by TCX. Sharp L/R and Slight L/R are particularly useful.

    At any rate, by using FIT files as transfer mechanism I still have the ability to add coursepoints manually to a route, which is what I was looking for.

  • I found coursepoints very valuable on my Edge 500, and have been trying to replicate the same functionality on my 130+. Unfortunately the device doesn’t provide as good support for them, so some of their benefit is bound to be lost.

    I have never used mechanically generated coursepoints, and can’t imagine them being of any value. I don’t go through Garmin Connect: I download a file from the web, tidy it up in routemaster, and drag it directly to the New Files folder. Consequently the only coursepoints present will be the ones put there by the author of the original track or by myself in editing. They’re only worth having if they supply information you won’t get from the breadcrumb map.

    The most useful case is when paths fork, particularly if the route to follow is hidden in the forest. The deviation will not be discernible on a breadcrumb trail, and you can easily sail past it and waste time working out what’s gone wrong. A coursepoint here can be invaluable.

    The main feature of the Edge 500 which has been lost from the Edge 130+ concerns the two small panels on the map page containing text information. On the 130+ they give you your bearing and speed whereas on the 500 they give you the next coursepoint and your estimated time to reach it (or to the end of the course if there are no coursepoints left). The first of these panels gives you your distance to the coursepoint, its “type” represented by an icon (eg. a left arrow), and the “name” (i.e. supplementary text). So if there’s a hidden left turn in 3.2km, you’ll be warned of it as soon as it becomes the next coursepoint. As you get closer, you’ll know to keep an eye on your Garmin. On the other hand the Edge 130+ gives no warning until 20 seconds before you reach a coursepoint, and for mountain biking this is not very useful because you’re unlikely to look at the GPS that often. It also gives a beep which might or might not catch your attention. The turnpoint alert is big and clear when you get it, but as I mentioned in my other post, the coursepoint “name” seems to be ignored.

    The panel for the next coursepoint serves an additional purpose. If you’re off course, it tells you your distance to the course, and if you’re on course but heading in the wrong direction, it assigns a negative “distance to course” (it took me 5 years to work out what this means). You can therefore always find out whether you’re on or off course, or heading in the wrong direction. This information is difficult to extract from an Edge 130+. A while ago I was riding a course in the wrong direction without getting any warning from my Edge 130+.

    I suspect I’m unusual in placing reliance on coursepoints (or in seriously editing GPS tracks at all). Wikiloc encourages uploaders to add coursepoints to routes but I don’t think it gives any useful advice on how to do so. (It also provides TCX as a download format.) Wikiloc’s quite old, and was probably set up when Edge 500s were in commoner use. Maybe increased prevalence of GPX as an exchange format, reduced support from Garmin, and lack of user knowledge have combined to push coursepoints out of general use.

  • Very interesting, thanks for the explanation, I never used course points but they seem very useful, pity the 130+ doesn't fully support them. I do work a lot with GPX files for navigation, as I often take our group to new trail systems and I rely entirely on my courses (and the 130+) to guide us through. I typically get trails or segments from the web (e.g. Trailforks, MTB Project, even Strava occasionally), then combine and edit them in a tool called JOSM (on Windows), where I can use satellite imagery and maps to create very accurate and "clean" GPX tracks.

    When I navigate with the 130, I zoom in significantly and - so far - this method has proven good enough even on complex trail systems. Yes, the occasional fork where the two paths run almost parallel could be tricky, but if I spot it in advance in JOSM, I can emphasize the turn. The one thing the 130 handles very poorly, in my opinion, is where there are sections of your course that intersect or overlap, as then it becomes difficult to understand which way to go. Most of the times I can go around it in the design phase, but in some cases it's just impossible. In these situations, I guess the course points and the "distance to course" you mentioned would be very useful. 

    Oh well, can't have everything... I like the 130 for its size (I use a stem cap mount, which makes for a very clean setup) and even if it has a few shortcomings, I consider it a great option for mountain biking.