Wednesday, July 26, 2023

GPS Take 3: Wahoo Elemnt ROAM - Part 5

 Okay, I have a couple of things to share now about this GPS computer. I've been putting up updates here and there and the last one I posted was HERE. Also, in case you haven't figured it out, I received this GPS computer at no charge to test and review. 

The ride I just did on Sunday was a test of the Elemnt ROAM's ability to navigate me by prompts without being tethered to a phone using a GPS track I made for a loop through Southern Black Hawk County.  So, how did things go? This post will let you know....

First off, I was able to get things up and running by finding my route in the computer and bringing that up to ride by. The route was made by downloading a GPS file from one of my GPS computers, (may have been the old Lezyne, I cannot remember), into Ride With GPS, and then that was synced to the Wahoo unit.  This may be an important factor regarding what happened on this ride. 

The first section of my ride comes from my house and through a densely paved and alley way area of Waterloo, Iowa. there are a LOT of choices to go by, so if the GPS track was goofy at all, I could see that happening here, but thankfully the Wahoo cruised through this test with flying colors. 

The Elemnt ROAM had a bit of a hiccup on a bike path intersection here.

The first check came when I had a "Y" corner on a bike path. Going RIGHT would take me to the at-grade crossing of 18th Street, a very busy road, to get across to the 18th Street Bridge bike path. The LEFT choice takes you under the bridge, THEN right and LEFT, up a steep bit, RIGHT again, and RIGHT again, to the bridge. 

The above cue was confusing as my first choice would have led me astray had it been to the RIGHT as I would have ended up on the at-grade crossing. No bueno. But I get it. That's a tough section. 

The data dropped out here in Evansdale and yet the track was there. (Grey line)

The next weird thing happened in Evansdale when the GPS just stopped navigating me at all. I traveled about a half mile with no guidance, but the track was still showing up as a light grey colored line. Again, not good.

The thing finally came back on once I crossed the Cedar River, shown on the screen there.

I crossed the river and hey! There is the guidance again!

I liked the "cues" that would show up in these green boxes at times.

So, the unit does have a few nice things going on. Distance to the next cue. Seems pretty spot-on, that is until it starts counting down the feet to the cue, which is WAY off! I saw anything from 40ft on up to 100ft off for that. But the alarms are there, I have plenty of time to ascertain where to turn, and in a cool feature of this computer, the LED lights across the top stream toward the direction you are to turn to. That could be handy at night or in low-light conditions, but for me it was easier to see this cue to turn at a glance. 

See that little "Z" shaped squiggle in the track? Yeah, about that...

 Then I was on my way and everything was going fine with the exception of the feet to turn numbers which were comically way off. Then I was seeing a cue that was telling me to turn in 4 miles, which I inherently knew was incorrect because I know these roads so well. What the heck was going on?

Well, the unit insisted that I make the right hand turn on Kimball Avenue, a paved road I would never use, and when I did, almost immediately it flashed a weird diagonal trace back to Quarry Road, then it flipped to a reroute. At the time, I figured it was a flaw in the GPS track, and I've experienced this because I've done a ton of work using GPS tracks and sometimes the reference points drop data at intersections in oddball ways like that. I cannot count the times that sort of thing has screwed up my routes. 

Well, after looking at the track at home, I saw what happened and sure enough, it was a flaw in the GPS track. Great! 

Here the track is perfect, but the unit couldn't figure it out.

Interesting. I had been on Ansborough at this point for a quarter of a mile already.

So, then the Elemnt ROAM got screwed up as I turned from Quarry Road onto Ansborough. The initial prompt was good, but then the unit went immediately to what you see on the screen above and was telling me to turn again when the track clearly shows that I shouldn't. And I couldn't turn Left anyway. The road is dead straight here.

This happened three times going up Ansborough and then the GPS got so confusing that I just shut it off. The rest of the ride was a lot more fun, by the way. 

Conclusions: Okay, had I not known these roads I would have been lost in Evansdale, not to mention the snafu at Kimball Avenue. That's not acceptable to me. As it stands, the navigation is untrustworthy. 

So, was it a bad GPS file? Is this a Ride With GPS issue? Am I a dunce that doesn't know how to run a GPS computer? All are possibilities at this point. All I can do is try again with a new loop this time that I will carefully craft in Ride With GPS and then upload into the unit. Then we will try again. 

Could wildfire smoke have the effects some might suggest? Well, my iPhone works great in these conditions, and the smoke index was pretty low Sunday here. So, no I am not buying that excuse anymore.

By the way, I could write cues up by hand faster, but none of you want to read or hear that. So, onward with the GPS experiment. Stay tuned....


Skidmark said...

Greets GT, glad you found your way home 😂

Nooge said...

There’s three different ways to come up with routing cues (turn-by-turn directions) on GPS devices (not just Wahoo). Option 1 is to have some website / app generate the cues, then the GPS device shows you those cues without altering them. Option 2 (not supported by all devices) is to have the GPS device itself generate the cues from only a GPS trace (no cues in the imported file). Option 3 is to select a destination on the GPS device and have it route you there without any file import.

Your Ride with GPS file is an example of Option 1, so bad cues aren’t the GPS’s fault. And I believe Ride with GPS will alter the original GPS file to stay on roads by default, if I remember correctly. If you decide to use this method, I would suggest that you really zoom in on every part of the route on your PC and make sure the cues and routing are perfect before using it. If you don’t like the Ride with GPS cues you could try Komoot.

If you “star” (save) a route in Strava and have your Strava account connected to your Roam, then it will sync those saved routes. In this case, Strava is only sending the GPS trace, no street and turn info. You can have the Roam generate its own cues for the route. This is option 2. Again you’ll want to make sure the GPS trace is good before using it. This method will better test the Roam’s ability to route you.

Option 3 you do directly on the device itself. It will rely on built-in maps for your region and calculate how to best get from A to B.

I agree GPS signal / smoke was highly unlikely a factor in any of these particular issues.

Nooge said...

Also, regardless of routing method, it’s handy to zoom the map in and out to see the GPS trace yourself to aide in confusing situations. On Wahoo devices you just push the up and down buttons on the right hand edge to zoom in and out on the map at any time.

I also change the settings (through the phone app) to keep north at the top of the screen instead of auto-rotating the map. When I’m stopped or making turns at low speed the GPS has a hard time knowing which direction I’m moving and so the map can get twisted around. Keeping north at the top means the map doesn’t rotate and I can more easily navigate.

Both of these tricks help especially on MTB trails where the trail twists and splits a lot.

Guitar Ted said...

@Nooge - As always, thank you for your thoughtful and detailed comments regarding the GPS journey I am on.

My response to you here is that "Option #1", we'll call it, is the option I will likely have to be using for an event, where the Event generates the route file. At that point, I am at their mercy.

This is why, if I were to go again to Gravel Worlds, let's say, I would try the GPS track, but I'm having written cues with me too. Just in case.

Option 2: this is something I'm going to see about with the Elemnt ROAM as well. I have a loop in the device already which was traced by the Elemnt ROAM.

Option 3: This gets hairy here because most of the time the GPS programs will avoid gravel roads and on top of that, they don't know where the problematic dogs are, or where the cool dirt roads are that I may want to hit. For a quick route back to the house? Okay. Probably good for that, but to get to another town? It's likely going to default to county blacktops.

I do not have Strava, (I know, the horrors!), so that isn't an option for me. It's my belief that I shouldn't have to have something like that to enjoy turn-by-turn navigation, but I know many developers think that's what most folks want, so they develop around that preconceived notion.

Nooge said...

Agreed on all fronts GT! That’s why I zoom the map, to use my brain to interpret, not just follow the instructions. There’s low probability of them being not only correct, but clear, when you deal with complicated intersections.

You can get your routes from anywhere (or your previous rides, as you mentioned), you just need to load them into the device somehow. You can even pull them straight from any website on your phone into the app, which will push it to the device. Strava is one of many options.

scottg said...

It is pretty easy to to double the route over itself
when drawing and editing RWGPS, the Roam will gleefully
have you make a uturn go back 100 feet then forward 100 feet.
Like Nooge said, it is worthwhile to zoom in, you can see the overlaps
in routes on the Wahoo, then you just ride in the correct direction,
you'll get the off course lights and beeps, then Wahoo sees your
back on course and gives you the green lights of happiness.

The RWGPS route editor is better than it was, but still it likes
to make loops and swirls that if you don't edit out, will make
for goofy routing like you experienced. I am using a Bolt V1.

Guitar Ted said...

@scottg - Yes, you are right. I lived that flaw in RWGPS, Plot-A-Route, and one other older GPS based route planner I have forgotten the name of, for years doing Trans Iowa routes. So I am VERY familiar with what those route planners can do to mess you up.

Like I said in the post, I'm pretty sure the route I used for the examples given in this post were tracked by a GPS computer. So, in this case it was a simple fault in the route that was generated somehow, I don't know. I just know it was there.