Summary of the different navigation functions of GPS cycle computers

Posted at: Feb. 13, 2022

This is a summary of the different navigation functions of GPS cycle computers. Even GPS cyclocomputers with the same navigation function have completely different usability depending on the onboard navigation function.

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This is a function in which the cyclocomputer provides guidance (notification) when you turn on the road on your route to your destination. Some cyclocomputers simply tell you “turn left in XXX meters”, while others tell you “turn right at YYY intersection in XXX meters”, just like a car navigation system.

Each manufacturer has a different name for it.

Route navigation (line only display)

This is a type of navigation function where only the line of the route to the destination is displayed when the cyclocomputer is set to the navigation screen. Most models display an arrow of the current location on top of the line. Since there is no map, you can check “where you are on the route” and “approximately where to turn”, but it is only a guide.

Since this alone is weak as a navigation system, this function is often installed at the same time as turn-by-turn.

Map and Route Navigation

This is a type of navigation system in which the route is displayed on a map, instead of just lines as described above. Since the map is displayed, it is easy to see the route you are taking, and you can confirm where to turn.

Some of the higher-end models can be used with turn-by-turn, but there are also models that only have map and route navigation without turn-by-turn.


This is a function that automatically recalculates the route when you deviate from the route, the same as yesterday, which is common in car navigation systems. Depending on the manufacturer, this may be called route recalculation.

This is a function that is often only available on high-end models because it requires route search to be included in the cyclocomputer itself.

Standalone Navigation

In the past, most of the navigation functions of cyclocomputers were based on importing routes created by apps or the Internet into the cyclocomputer. However, the latest cyclocomputers such as Garmin allow you to search for routes using just the main unit.

However, the latest cyclocomputers such as Garmin allow you to search for routes using just the device itself, eliminating the need for a smartphone or PC to create routes, making your ride much more flexible and comfortable.

Going back the same route

The navigation function of a cycling controller is based on navigation from the start point to the goal point, and the navigation ends when you arrive at your destination.

However, when you go on a long ride on a bicycle, you often want to go back along the same route when you arrive at your destination, so the back along the same route function is a surprisingly useful feature.

For example, Garmin calls it “Trackback”, and Wahoo calls it “Retrace your route”.

Round Trip

This is a navigation function in Garmin’s cyclocomputer that automatically creates a course that goes around the starting point and returns to the original location. Rather than navigation, you could call it a route creation function.

This function is useful when you are running a circular course for training or other purposes, rather than a linear course.

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