What to Look for When Buying a GPS for Mountain Biking

A good GPS is an essential tool for all mountain bikers. It lets you know what’s coming around the next corner, helps you track your routes, and gives you the ability to map every adventure.

Though many people think their smartphone GPS is good enough, such devices pale in comparison to the ones in this article.

Mountain bike GPS’s are better than smartphone options because they are easier to operate and are much more accurate in remote or off-road environments.

In this guide, you’ll learn a few things to consider when shopping for a GPS for mountain biking.

Do You Actually Need a GPS?

Every mountain biker, regardless if they stick to their regular trails or adventure into the unknown, can make use of a good GPS.

The small devices have many features that come in handy while riding, and they prevent you from getting lost.

The devices are also great for bikers who like to log their trails. Many GPS’s give you the option to keep track of your rides.

That functionality helps you know where you’ve been, where you’re going, and where you might end up next. A perfect way to stay on top of your progress.

GPS for Mountain Biking: What to Consider

There are several important factors to consider to make sure that the device meets your needs, here they are:

1. Screen Size

When picking out a mountain bike GPS, many people assume that bigger means better. However, it’s not that cut and dry.

While a large display allows you to better see your screen, such devices typically cost more and drain their battery faster.

Big touch screens may also not work as well with gloves, which can be a problem for those who ride in cold weather.

A large space can look great and increase functionality, but be aware of what you’re giving up in the process. Always pick the screen that best suits your riding style.

2. Battery Life

Many mountain bikers rely on their GPS while out on the trail. As such, you never want it to die at the wrong time.

Most systems last for about 10 hours, but some models can go much, much longer. Always try to find devices that stay on for extended periods of time.

That will prevent you from getting lost when you take a wrong turn or explore a new area.

Also understand how quickly a GPS loses battery power, and note that some batteries get weaker with time.

3. Maps & Routing

Being able to fully map your routes is one of the best reasons to get a dedicated mountain bike GPS. Though some phone models give you this option, they usually don’t work as well.

Always search for models that have complex mapping and routing systems, regardless of where your travels take you. It is also helpful to get GPS options that integrate such systems with your smartphone.

4. Additional features

Some GPS devices have additional features such as an altimeter, Barometer, or even Heart rate monitor which may be beneficial for your riding experience.

You should look for a device that is built to withstand shocks, vibration, and extreme temperatures. Make sure it is rated IPX7 or higher for water resistance.

Also, consider how the device will be mounted on your bike. Some GPS devices come with built-in mounts, while others require a separate mount or handlebar attachment.


Here are some other questions you may be curious about, I’ll answer them very briefly below.

What is the best Garmin for MTB?

Some popular options among mountain bikers include Garmin Edge 830, Edge 530, Edge 130 Plus, Edge Explore. All are built to withstand the rigors of off-road cycling and come with detailed, pre-loaded maps.

What GPS works with Trailforks?

Trailforks can be used with a variety of GPS devices, including the Garmin Edge, Wahoo, and some models of the Bryton and Lezyne. The app is compatible with most GPS devices that allow for custom map loading or GPX file import.

Useful Tips and Resources

A mountain bike GPS is a great accessory to own, but it is not always easy to use. The tips outlined here will help you understand your device.

In addition, if you’re looking for other ways to enhance your mountain biking experience, you can check out the handy items listed in this video.

Final Words

No matter where you bike, a GPS is essential. It is easy to get lost while traveling off the beaten path, especially if you’re in the brand-new territory. A functional mapping system with solid battery life ensures you’ll always be able to return home.

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