So, you’ve signed up or are getting ready to sign up for the Coast to Coast Gravel Grinder? Hopefully you’ve read my blog post about bike setup and the course so you have a rig in mind? Alright, you’re on top of it! Now what you’re probably wondering is “Hey, I see there’s this course available online and that’s cool and all, but how do I shrink it down and carry it with me?!” Well, you’re in luck my friend, we’ve got technology that can take care of that for you. We’ve got a different blog post on cue sheets that you’re going to want to read and be knowledgeable on as well, but for now we’re going to focus on how to navigate the course using a GPS cycling computer. For brevity sake, and because it’s what i use and am most familiar with, we’re going to focus this post on how to navigate the course using a Garmin product (I use the Edge 810 and 1000).
These are also among the most popular units out there. You can get set up at your local bike shop such as GRBC or Spindrift (which all happen to be sponsors!). You can certainly use your smartphone, Lezyne GPS, Wahoo or other device but you’re on your own when it comes to figuring those out. I don’t like using my smartphone because it’s too large for my liking and i don’t feel comfortable putting an $$$$ phone on my handlebars in all conditions. I’d rather risk my $$$ Garmin Edge which has proven to be robust. Plus you’ll want to ensure your phone’s battery power is always powered up for emergency situations.
Alright, so you’ve got a fancy Garmin Edge or Wahoo cycling computer but the route still only exists in the ether of the interwebs, what now? First thing you’re going to want to do is be sure you’ve got the latest and greatest route we’ve created for the event, check the website under Route (this is for the 210 miler; shorter race route is in process).
Click on the Full Route link in the upper left corner of the map to access the GPX or TCX file which you can upload to your Garmin. Once the route is on your computer, be sure to turn it on, go to your courses menu and test it out. Make sure the file loads and your Garmin doesn’t freeze or freak out before showing up to pre-ride or race day morning. Check the map page on your Garmin to make sure the route shows up and you have roads/maps for reference. If your Garmin doesn’t already have maps on it here’s an awesome blog post to tell you how to do that: How to load free maps on your Garmin
Welcome to cycling nerd heaven at the DC Rainmaker blog site. You can find just about any info you might need for any of your biking related gadgets, you’re welcome! Now that you’ve got the Garmin, uploaded the route, tested it and verified you have maps it’s onto the next step.
Here’s the catch with any electronic device; it needs electricity. For your normal event of 2 hours give or take this isn’t an issue. I can typically get 14-15 hours out of my Garmin 810 and 8-9 hours out of my Garmin 1000 (bigger screen more powerful device). Even with the 810 you’re pushing your luck on a 209 mile gravel event as far as battery life. Thankfully, you can charge the Garmin while you’re using it with a portable battery pack! My go-to battery is the Anker PowerCore unit on Amazon, it’s less than 20 bucks and does the trick.
Your Garmin comes with a USB cable to connect it to the computer or charge it, but typically they’re pretty excessive in length for use on the bike. I like to use a short 6” charging cable with a right angle plug on the Garmin charging end to keep it out of the way. You can find these on Amazon as well pretty cheap.
Just to be safe i like to do a little weather-proofing to the battery/cable and wrap the battery and cable in a sandwich bag then twist-tie the end closed to keep water out. Tape works good too, but can be harder to undo should you need to access the battery. This setup serves a dual purpose and helps keep the cable from working loose or getting pulled out.
The last item you may need to go with your Garmin is an expandable memory card. Depending on the maps/courses you’re uploading onto your device you may need to grow those Megabytes to hold it all. You can get these cheaply at Meijer, Walmart, Amazon, etc…
Mounting a Garmin or other device to your bike is mostly personal preference, but when you’re talking an endurance event things start to get cluttered with all the stuff mounted onto your handlebars and cockpit. Add a battery and cables to the mix and things get a bit wild.
Here’s a short list of what you may need/want to accommodate; Garmin, Garmin mount, aerobars, battery pack, cable, feedbag, cue sheet holder, light, feedbag, etc… That’s a pretty large amount of stuff in a small space. Since i like fabricating things and tweaking to suit my exact needs i typically make all of my own accessory mounts, brackets, etc…
If you don’t have the time or simply aren’t inclined to do that stuff it’s no big deal. There’s a lot of cool items out there to help simplify your cockpit and mount things neatly. One small company is BarYak located in South Dakota. Super cool people who design and use all of the stuff themselves. If you’re looking smaller or more budget oriented you can find smaller accessory mounts on Amazon and Ebay such as the one pictured to the right.
Many companies make the actual Garmin mounts that clip onto your handlebars, aerobars, or elsewhere. There’s fancy aluminum ones by K-Edge that are made in the US and low-cost options from SRAM such as these.
Here’s what i would deem a fairly streamlined and organized setup: Garmin out front on aerobars, cue-sheet holder in between, aluminum bracket to mount light/battery and cable run neatly underneath. Top tube feed-bag for snacks/necessities.
At the end of the day, you need to put together a setup that you’re comfortable with, have tested and is reliable. Make some routes or download ones to test out and make sure you’re familiar with how the routing works. Here’s a write-up i did a while back on making routes in Strava. You’ll hear this theme echoed in many blog posts, but proper preparation for a long endurance event such as the Coast to Coast Gravel Grinder plays a much bigger role than most people think. You want to roll up to the start line with only one thing on your mind; pedaling your bike to the coast of Lake Michigan. Don’t let thoughts or distractions from your rig setup detract from the adventure at hand!