Surly Disc Trucker in the winter

The turn by turn directions on the Edge 500

The Garmin Edge 500 can actually do turn-by-turn directions on a preloaded course if you do it the right way. In my quest to get this working just the way I wanted it to, I tried many different options. Options such as BikeRouteToaster, RideWithGPS, GPSies just to name a few. I also tried the GarminTraining Center, which is Garmin's built-in application for created courses. None did exactly what I wanted and they all left me a little frustrated at times. I wanted to write a step-by-step guide to walk others through what I found to work best for me.

First, why create routes? For me it was simple, I wanted to try out some new trails and some new ways to get here and there and I didn't want to get lost or haul a map along. I also wanted to do some touring on unfamiliar roads to new destinations. I'd take a map along, but wanted it as a backup. Hence the fun of planning a route ahead of time and mapping it out for import on my Garmin Edge 500.

The piece of software I found to work best is Tyre. Why Tyre? To start with it can use Google Maps, and Google's bike route option, for planning routes. You can even import a Google "Directions" URL and have Tyre create it as a route. The route is draggable and waypoints can be added. To be fair, Google Maps bike routes should only be used as a starting point, you need to refine it from there. Google Maps bike routes doesn't always bring you down the best roads, but it will find bike trails and automatically map down them.

For Tyre to work with bike trails, it needs to be configured the right way. You do this under Preferences, which you can find under the Tools menu on the title bar as seen in the image below.

Tyre Preferences Menu

Tyre Preferences Menu

The first option is the Google Bike Route option. Make the checkboxes as you see in the image below, paying special attention to the Calculate, Cycle, and "Use draggable route lines" options.

Tyre Google bike route options

Tyre Google bike route options

The next set of options is the Google Map options. Set these as desired, probably making sure the "Place waypoints exactly on roads" is checked.

Tyre Google bike route option

Tyre Google Map options

Once you are all set up for Google Bike Route options, it's time to start creating your map. There are a couple general rules I follow depending on what type of course I am creating. They are as follows:

 

  • One way destination course - Put the starting and ending address in as waypoints and also any other cross streets. As Tyre uses Google Maps, cross streets usually work. You can refine the course from there.
  • Out and back course - Define your course as a one-way course and save it off. Use Tyre to "reverse" the course and save the back route as a different name. Load the TCX files individually to your Garmin Edge. The Edge doesn't like if you prematurely turn around.
  • Loop - Start it like a one-way course, adding waypoints at both the start and finish for the same place and add any cross streets in the middle. The more waypoints you can add initially, the easier job you'll have refining.

 

With that said, let's take a look at creating a course.

The first thing you do when creating a course is to add waypoints according to the general guidelines above. Tyre has the ability to drag and change routes like you do in Google Maps, but if you want the complete turn by turn instructions this isn't the best way to do it. Without the turn by turn directions the Edge will simply say, "Course Found" and "Off Course", which may work most of the time, but not always. You start adding waypoints by going to the Waypoint menu item as in the image below.

Tyre Waypoint additions

Tyre Waypoint additions

The next image is me adding just the start and end waypoints and letting Tyre search for them via Google Maps.

Starting and ending waypoints

Starting and ending waypoints

Once the waypoints are added, Tyre gives me the suggested route using Google Bike Routes. I'll want to refine this, some of those streets are not so nice.

Tyre's initial route suggestion using Google Maps Bike Routes

Tyre's initial route suggestion using Google Maps Bike Routes

Now I want to start adding my intermediate waypoints. Tyre has several ways of doing this, you can either double-click on the map where you want to add one, or you can manually add it on the waypoint menu. As I also mentioned before you can drag the route to change it here, but we don't want to do that as our directions only show if they are waypoints. I usually add a waypoint just AFTER an intersection so the course stays pure with no loopbacks.

When the waypoint is added, you have the option to name it. This step is very important, my examples here are wrong. The Edge 500 gives you 10 characters for each point, so make sure those 10 characters are descriptive enough for your navigating!

Adding an intermediate waypoint

Adding an intermediate waypoint

When you add in waypoints by double-clicking, they often go to the end of your route. You can easily drag and drop them back in to place on the waypoint list on the left. Tyre has an option to supposedly prevent this, but I must be doing something wrong as mine always go to the end.

Continue adding waypoints at key intersections in this manner until your route is filled out. Even on a complex 60 mile course I usually only have 10 or so waypoints. Once done hit "Calculate" and the course fills in with your waypoints, you can also do this along the way when adding waypoints. My completed course is below.

Completed course in Tyre

Completed course in Tyre

Once completed, it's simply a matter of saving the course off as a GPX file. For turn by turn directions the Edge 500 must have the file uploaded as a TCX file. Tyre can save as a TCX file, but I haven't had good luck with the directions when doing so. We'll add another step which makes that work flawlessly. The image below shows saving as a GPX file.

Save your completed course as a GPX file

Save your completed course as a GPX file

Now it's time to go to GPSies.com and convert your GPX to TCX as shown in the image below. Select the same options as you see in the image.

GPSies GPX to TCX conversion

GPSies GPX to TCX conversion

GPSies also has the option to reduce the number of points in the file. Many older GPSes had issues with number of points, the Edge seems to be ok. I haven't reduced any of my files using GPSies.com, I've always used TopoFusion, which does an amazing job.

GPSies point reduction options

GPSies point reduction options

Once GPSies.com has converted your GPX file to the required TCX format, now it's time to hook the Garmin Edge 500 to your computer and transfer the course. It's as simple as dropping the TCX file in to the NewFiles directory under Garmin once your GPS shows up as a drive in Explorer, as shown in the image below.

Drop your TCX file in to NewFiles on the Edge

Drop your TCX file in to NewFiles on the Edge

Now disconnect your Edge and power it on. To get to the Courses, you'll need to first long-press the bottom left (Page/Menu) button until the menu comes up, then you'll choose Training by short-pressing the same button.

Long-press the Page/Menu button

Long-press the Page/Menu button

Choose Training by short-pressing the same button

Choose Training by short-pressing the same button

The next menu you will choose Courses by short-pressing the same button labeled Enter.

Choose Courses by short-pressing the same Enter button

Choose Courses by short-pressing the same Enter button

A list of courses appears and we see the same Ride to Work course we built above, short press the bottom left Enter button to select it.

Choose your Course by short-pressing the same Enter button

Choose your Course by short-pressing the same Enter button

A few options appear, ultimately to see the turn by turn directions we'll want to choose Do Course by short-pressing the bottom left Enter button.

Choose Do Course by short-pressing the same Enter button

Choose Do Course by short-pressing the same Enter button

And lastly we have our turn by turn directions, all nicely laid out and ready for us to ride. You can see here where I mentioned the 10 character limit. I named my waypoints terribly and they are not very descriptive. They might work, but I'll want to pay more attention to that next time.

The turn by turn directions on the Edge 500

The turn by turn directions on the Edge 500

As I mentioned before, there are many ways to do this. How I explained it makes sense to me, but it may not to you. Always feel free to consult your Edge 500 owner's manual if something is not clear. Happy riding!