How To: Load Tracks Into Your Garmin

Posted by on Aug 18, 2010 in Bike, How To | 2 Comments

Bike computers that use GPs technology to calculate speed and distance are commonplace. Especially int he mountain bike world, where mapping and tracking routes is an important aspect of endurance riding. Events like the Dixie Lite, the Arizona Trail Race, and even the Great Divide Race are all largely made possible by GPS computers. And while those types of events can be done with out a GPS—indeed Fred Wilkinson rode the Dixie Lite with paper maps—they are easier to promote, navigate and finish with electronic maps.

But even an everyday ride, standard 100 miler, or weekend exploration session can benefit from the use of a GPS bike computer. It was my Garmin 705, and the loaded track, that saved me from going catastrophically off-route on several occasions during the 2009 Point 2 Point. Which was no fault of the way the course was marked. But rather a side effect of my inability to see certain colors when matched with other certain colors. In this case: Orange on Brown or Green. I simply could not see the bright orange paint on the trail. But that is another story altogether.

With the 2010 Point 2 Point quickly approaching, and several anxious riders spending day after day riding sections of the course, the question has come up several times of how to best utilize the GPS files that have been posted at the P2P website. It’s a good question, that really does not have just one answer. The unit you are using, the base maps you have installed, and the type of file you’ve decided to utilize will all play a significant role in how your race-day navigation will work. I’ve outlined below what I like to do with my Garmin 705. What follows will only work on a Garmin 605/705. If you are using a 205/305/500 you are best using a course file—which I have very little experience with.

Disclaimer: This is not fool-proof. GPS files are still rather sensitive things, but I’ve had the most consistent success following these steps:

But First: Why I like track files.

Track files are exactly what they sound like: tracks. In other words, they are simply a line drawn onto your map. If you have topographic maps installed into your Edge, then that is all the better. But a track file will load just as well on your factory basemap. And your location carrot—that small triangle that represents you—will sit on top of that track, so long as you are on course. If you deviate from that track, it becomes fairly obvious. Mostly. There is some level of “float” the further zoomed into the track you are. This is especially apparent on a tight, winding course like the P2P. But even that is usually corrected as you continue on course. Track files are  relatively easy to install, and don’t require any navigation, that is, there is no need to set up your unit to prompt you on turns or upcoming intersections. While that can be a useful feature, it can also be extremely annoying. Remarkably so after 5, or 9 hours in the saddle.

Trust me.

In the case of the Point 2 Point, a GPS file will be a supplement to the course markings. When in doubt, use the marking on the ground. Unless you can’t see them. In that case… pray to heaven you have a good track. The point being… don’t be Michael Scott.

Allright, at last, here is how it all happens. And by all means, if you have suggestions (or questions), or better ideas, leave them in the comments section.

1. Download your desired files. Files for the P2P can be found right here. Save the files to your hard drive (you may want to rename them) where you can easily find them. I made a new folder on my desktop called “2010 P2P”.
1A. At the Garmin Connect page, choose “Export –>GPX.*

*If you are using a 205/305/500, or prefer to use a course file, simply use the “Send to Device” option (see below for more).

2. Plug your 605/705 into your computer with the mini-usb cable.

3. Mount the unit as a removable device. On a Mac, this happens by default. In your finder window a hard drive called “Garmin” will appear. If you have an additional data card (highly recommended), that will also appear as “untitled”. On a Windows machine you will probably have to detect the new hardware in order for it mount.

4. Copy the downloaded files to the “GPX” folder on your Garmin unit. If you have a data card installed, copy them to that GPX folder instead.

5. Once the files are all copied, unmount the GPS and go to “Where To?” in the menu of your unit.

6. Choose “Saved Rides.” The files should be listed here.

7. Choose the first one listed, you should now see a window that reads: Navigate, Map Setup, Copy to Card/Device, Delete. Choose Map Setup.

8. The Map Setup screen will display some basic information about that track. It will also allow you to change the color of the track. But the most important option is the “Show on Map” checkbox. Make sure it is checked. After that, you can choose “Map” to see a preview of the track on your map. Select “OK” to go back to your list of tracks.

9. Repeat steps 7 and 8 for all of the tracks, which in the case of the Point 2 Point, will be a total of 6—unless a master file is released.

10. Once you have chosen them all to “Show on Map” they will… all show up on your map. But note that only the one you have selected will show up when you choose the “Map” preview. In other words, the default map that cycles through your screens when you push “Mode” will have the entire route as a nicely drawn line leading you through the labryth of forests and big, big climbs, and eventually to triumphant victory** at the finish line.

**I can’t guarantee your victory.

It’s that easy. Which is, not exactly easy, is it? But it is the best way that I know of. However, there is another method that you can try:

Plug in your device and turn it on.***

***That’s what she said.

At the Garmin Connect page choose “Send to Device”.

This option sends a course file to your GPS, and is probably the best way to load the route onto the 205/305/500 series, but will work with the 605/705 series as well. In this case, go to the Courses file on your GPS, and navigate the route from that.

Any questions?


  1. eeeeeeeeeevilbanks
    August 18, 2010

    Good post man. If I had the chops I’d just try to follow right behind you at pcpp. But since I don’t have the chops, I’ll be miles behind you hoping the combo of the markings and my Edge 305 keep me going on the right path.

  2. KanyonKris
    August 20, 2010

    I don’t know why the PCP2P tracks are broken up into so many pieces. Here they are sewn together:

    The whole route –

    Leg 1 –

    Leg 2 –

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