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From Google Maps to GPX to Garmin – creating a cycle route

Garmin GPX Google MapsGoogle Maps is a useful tool for creating cycle routes or indeed most other forms of transport. However, it’s by no means straightforward to turn all that planning into a GPX file that you can use on a Garmin.

There used to be a way to export a GPX file from Google Maps, but for reasons unknown they removed the popular feature.

There are of course other ways of creating cycling routes, but given the amount of data Google has access to for finding decent stopping points along the way, the all-important cycle route option, plus Streetview previews of the actual roads you’ll be on and even live traffic data, it’s a pretty comprehensive resource and one that most people are familiar with.

So, how do you turn a Google Map route into a suitable GPX file that you can export to a Garmin?

Step one – creating your map on Google Maps

  1. Select your starting point and your end point. If your start point and end point are the same, then make sure there is a small distance between them as Garmin seems to struggle with perfectly circular routes, a hundred metres seems enough.
  2. Add destinations to add in stopping points or particularly scenic places along the way
  3. When you’re reasonably happy with the route, then you can start editing it. Either by adding in additional destinations or by dragging and dropping the route. Be careful when dragging and dropping as Google Maps sometimes struggles with this feature and starts putting in circular loops in that you can’t remove. If it does, then copy your URL to save your map just in case and try the back button.
  4. To check the route is as expected, then hover over the white dots to get a Streetview preview of the junctions along the way. If you’re on a road bike, then you’ll want to avoid gravel tracks, a.k.a. puncture city, and if Streetview hasn’t been down a road, then there’s a reasonable chance that it’s not paved. For a final check drop the Streetview man onto the junction and you can usually work out if you’re heading down some farmer’s stone-filled  cut through

GPX advanced settings for GarminStep two – how to export it as a GPX file

  1. Strictly speaking you can’t export it directly anymore, but there are a few services that allow you to convert it to a GPX file
  2. A good one is GPX Visualizer’s convert to GPX service.
  3. Copy your URL from Google Maps
  4. Select the output format as ‘GPX’
  5. You don’t need to adjust any of the other default settings, unless you’ve added multiple destinations, e.g. London to Brighton via Croydon.
  6. Top tip: If you have added more than one destination in Google Maps, then click advanced settings (see the picture) and then put ‘Connect segments’ and ‘Merge all tracks’ to ‘Yes’ and the route and your Garmin should display it as one merged route.
  7. Just paste your URL into the field ‘Or provide the URL of a file on the Web’ and then click on the ‘convert’ button
  8. Download the file as instructed

Step three – how to add a GPX file to a Garmin

This may not apply to all Garmin models, but has worked for the ones tested, for example a Garmin 800.

  1. Locate your new GPX file on your computer, e.g. under ‘Downloads’
  2. Plug in your Garmin to a USB port (using the standard cable it comes with)
  3. Find your Garmin’s hard drive through ‘Windows Explorer’ on PC or ‘Finder’ if you’re on a Mac
  4. Click on ‘Garmin’, then on ‘NewFiles’
  5. Drag/copy your GPX file into ‘NewFiles’
  6. Then disconnect the Garmin and click on power to start it up

Step four – where to find the new GPX file on a Garmin

  1. Tap on ‘Menu’
  2. Then tap on ‘Courses’
  3. And there should be your route
  4. Off you go and don’t forget to record your route as you go by pressing the ‘play’ button bottom right!

There you’re done. It shouldn’t be so complicated to get a route from the leading mapping tool onto one of the leading navigation brands, but let’s hope a stress-free guided ride at the end of it all makes it all worthwhile…

Please put any other top tips on route planning, Garmin’s and GPX files in the comments.


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This entry was posted on September 18, 2014 by in cycling.
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