Planning your bike rides – Garmin Connect

Posted: December 11, 2012 by Ben Weber in Cycling, English, Equipment, Training
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I have been playing with some online route planning software in order to plan for our cycle training rides in Brazil and for the tour in the United Kingdom. Why is it important to plan? Not just because of the need to know roughly how far you will be going, but also because a: it is good to know how you are going to get to your end point (particularly in countries and areas where you don’t, for safety’s sake, want to end up in the wrong place, and b: you need to have at least an idea of what the elevation profile will be. This latter point is pretty darn important, as pretty much anyone would be able to ride 100km in a day if it is just going along a nice and flat path. However, if you are going to be climbing up lots of hills and going more than +1000m and 100km in a day, you have to be in decent shape; +2000m/100km in one day: very good shape… anything more and you will have to be in excellent condition…

The software I have been playing around with is Garmin’s own Connect software ( – for when you have a Garmin device;; and As you can imagine, they all have their advantages and disadvantages…

Garmin ConnectGarmin’s Connect tool is good as, even in São Paulo, you can plot routes that will take you through parks (such as Ibirapuera park), and it will recognise these as legitimate to take, and not just the road. You can save multiple routes, and easily see where you have these routes on the world (Google or Bing) map and side-list, so it’s nice and simple. At the same time, as you might expect being from the maker of the Garmin GPS, it is nice and easy to down/upload your routes from/to the Garmin GPS units. You can get a full range of different stats (from temperature profile; elevation; speed; pace; moving/total averages/calories and, if you have the sensors, cadence and heart indicators among others) about the various rides you have gone on as well, and it is great to be able to compare the rides you have done along the same route, and easily see how things have changed.

You can also plan workouts, and keep track of your health progress, but without the appropriate sensors, I haven’t had need to try this yet. The software measures indicators such as Body Fat, Body Water, Bone and Muscle Mass, physique rating, visceral fat, metabolic age and daily caloric intake… impressive stuff, and it says that with a Tanita BC-1000 Body Composition Monitor and a “compatible Garmin watch”, the measurements can be “tracked wirelessly” using the Connect Health system. Even more impressive. Would be very curious to see how it all works, though it is certainly promising. I am straying away from the point of this post though (sorry!), so back to planning rides (though of course, your health is important in knowing the kind of routes you could be doing!)!

Everywhere but the highway

Everywhere but the highway

There are two problems I have encountered: The first is that while it is easy to simply draw lines of the route (where, for example, there is no road or trail marked on the map), here in Brazil at least, it will do everything to stop you plotting a route along a highway. This can be quite annoying as we often end up riding along the hard shoulder of a highway (such as from Nazaré to Atibaia). I guess that there might be laws about this in places, but there should at least be an option.


No elevation…?

The second problem is that, while you get a nice visual of the elevation profile, it does not tell you the total elevation gain/loss for a ride – quite a problem, especially when you are planning long distance rides. Doing 100km with +1000m of gain is one thing… doing it with +3000m is completely different, and you can’t really gauge this looking at just the profile. Maybe the problems are me not doing something right in the software, but I like to think am okay at getting to grips with these things, and if am not doing something right with it, then I imagine that others are having a few problems too!!

So overall?

The software is free… if you have bought a Garmin GPS unit. For a free piece of software it is good and it is great in the post-ride analytics, especially if you have all the appropriate sensors. But as you most likely would have forked a couple of hundred dollars or so on a new unit so as to be able to use the software, then you might expect the two points I mentioned to be ironed out – you are not going to be spending money on a GPS unit if you are not going to be going anywhere…

With this in mind, I would give it a solid 7/10, and will take a look at Ride with GPS and Route Toaster next post…

  1. Charles says:

    Ben I’ve done a lot of this. I’d ignore Garmin Connect in favour of Strava.
    Bike Route Toaster if using on a Mac needs to be in Safari or FF browsers. It’s pretty buggy but the best out there. ONLY use Google Maps in BRT not the Open Street Maps they are far to unreliable to create a route to follow

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