Turn by turn navigation on your GPS computer

Recording your ride and getting directions at the same time is possibly something you didn’t know that most GPS cycle computers can do.

Cycling in a new place can be difficult as how to do you remember where to go? If you have a great memory for road names and left and right turns then awesome you probably don’t need to read any further. If like me you’ve have a few knocks to your scone then your memory may not be what it once was, then working out how to load a map to follow into your GPS computer could be a lifesaver. This article will show you how to get turn by turn navigation on your GPS computer.

Where’s my map

It may seem obvious but the first step in getting a route to follow on your Garmin or other computer is to plan a route. I used Mapmyride.com which had a route that looked great and meant I just had to download the file. But there are a range of sites that offer mapping options.

What do I need?

First you will need a GPS computer that allows map files to be downloaded to it. In my case I am using a Garmin 510. I think most will accept map files, the exception usually being the really cheap ones, but any of the pricier models should.

The other two things you need are a computer with the cable to connect your device to it and a web browser.

Step one:

Download the map file:

Map my Rides download screen. Choose GPX

Map my Rides download screen. Choose GPX

Chose the GPX option if you use Mapmyride.com.

Step two:

Next pull up a web browser and head to http://www.gpsies.com/convert.do. This is where you will get the file into a format that the Garmin can work with.

GPSies web conversion panel

GPSies web conversion panel

You will need to browse to the GPX file you downloaded and then on the options below choose the file output you want. In my case I selected Garmin Course TCX. There are plenty of options for you to select..then hit the convert button.

Step three:

Plug in your garmin – this part may vary for your particular GPS computer if it is not a Garmin – check your manufacturers website for more details. Once the computer has recognised the device you need to open up a file browser window – windows explorer on windows.

Locate the Garmin and then browse to the main folder list:

Garmin file list

Garmin file list

The folder you want is new files. When you place the file into here and turn it on after disconnecting from the computer the Garmin will see it and then load the file into its memory for use. If you look back via the computer once it has been turned it will no longer be in that folder and it will be in courses.

Step four:

When you turn on the Garmin select the folder on the bottom left of your screen then select courses. If you have only one course saved that will be it. Otherwise select the one you wish to ride if you have multiple. That’s it, you will now have the GPS computer telling you if you are on the course or of.

Does it work well?

The Garmin 510 does not contain mapping data, so when you follow a course you have a line that is the road you are to follow. If you know the starting route then it is quite easy to follow, but when you get to intersections you will need to pay a little bit of attention to left, right or straight ahead but ultimately it will tell you to head south or west etc so it is pretty easy to follow. I had no idea of where I was riding when I did this and I got home exactly as I should in a new territory. So I can recommend this as a great way to test riding in new areas but make sure that you don’t get really lost in the process.

The computer will inform you almost instantly if you take a wrong turn as it will say that you are ‘off course’ so rest assured you won’t get lost.


It is a little fiddly to get the file into the computer but once it is there (about a five min process) it is simple to use and takes the guess work out of riding in new or unfamiliar areas. I recommend giving turn by turn navigation on your GPS computer a try!

Author: Christopher Baylis

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