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If gadgets were people, they’d be those people who just need to change their bottom bracket and index their gears in the car park before a ride. Just a little suspension tune-up at the most weather-beaten point in the ride. Just one tyre change before we set off. Just three gigabytes of updates to download before you can ride. That sort of thing.

When it comes to tech I am capable but curmudgeonly, and, let me set your expectations now – while they’re all functional devices that work well in certain ways, and while some are better than others, not one of the GPS units in this test has software that’s well designed throughout. I go out into the great outdoors to get away from progress bars and notifications, so all of the set-up procedures required for six GPS units were not a welcome crossover into this part of my life. Nor the design philosophy of some of them, which seems to cater to people who absolutely must get every text message or social media gnat fart immediately delivered to their eyeballs like little doses of digital crack.

When I’m out on the bike, I want my brain and nature to gently poke at each other, a nice jolt of adrenaline on the downs, and to not get lost. If I can look at some numbers to measure my performance later then great, but it’s not that important. So I’m reviewing these not just on how well they function and not just on how good they are for navigation, but to an extent also how well they support my stated aims as a mountain biker.

An hour and a half spent looking at sunshine streaming in the windows while software updated on two of them was not a great start…

A note on accuracy:

This can be a difficult thing to judge, and dealing with data is rarely simple. GPS isn’t a flawless technology – at certain times and places you’ll always pass into satellite coverage shadows, and I’ve found that this seems to affect me most on or below steep north-facing slopes. Similarly, if the GPS tracks from a device seem to stick well to roads, this might be high accuracy, or it might be software shuffling data points around after the fact – plenty of websites and bits of software perform this kind of trickery while preserving overall stats. Since my brainmeat doesn’t have an atomic clock and sub-millimetre-accurate satellite positioning to benchmark against, it’s impossible to tell and I’ve used other ways to judge accuracy. For instance, how much a resulting GPX file wanders away from the trail or road I was riding, and whether or not it smooths out every kink and loop caused by a crash or stopping to look at a view.

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About Singletrack

International Adventure: Southern nights, endless trails: Rickie Cotter's truly epic trip down the length of New Zealand, complete with beautiful watercolour illustrations by Beate Kubitz. UK Adventure: Be careful what you wish for…" We nearly broke our editor while riding some of the Howgill Fells remotest singletrack. Classic Ride: The Dark Peak: The riding around Hope Cross in the Dark Peak is definitely on the ‘must do’ lists for every UK mountain biker. It's a Classic Ride for a reason. Not ridden it for a while? NEVER ridden it? Then you need to get yourself to the Peaks... Grouptest: GPS Units: David Hayward puts six GPS units through torture to see which is the best for trail use, mapping, Strava and finding yourself again. Bike Test: Proper mountain, mountain bikes: Barney looks at three 160mm bikes from Focus, Scott and Specialized designed to get you up the big hills and back down again with fun and style. Racehead: Scotland the awesome. TweedLove and the Fort William World Cup are proof of Scotland’s superiority over all - at least for a month every summer. Last Word: A question of perception. Tom Hutton and Matt Letch go head to head in discussing how mountain biking needs to be presented to the wider world if we’re to increase (or even defend) our trail access. And, as they say, much much more: Product reviews, columns, tests and random burblings for all!