How to load cycling maps on a Garmin

We use a Gamin Edge Touring as our prefered way of loading cycling routes, and accessing them during our rides. These instructions are written with this model in mind but most Garmin models should be pretty similar in the setup and use.

Our GPS unit came equipped with North America pre-loaded on it, but if you look at our Tours page, you will note we have a lot of rides in Belgium. So we needed to get maps of Belgium. Also, if I make a route, how do I load it on my cycling computer when it doesn’t have Bluetooth?

The following instructions have been gathered from a few sources who were working with different models.

Make Bike Routes for your Garmin

There are a number of options to make routes and each has their strengths and weaknesses. Foremost, I like making my routes with RideWithGPS. Making the route initially and editing it afterwards is really the easiest to use. I can choose from a few different map displays, easy link to Google Streetview, I can add both notes to the cue sheet as well as points of interest on the map. Items in the cue sheet show up while riding to help me point out things of interest to our customers.

My second choice for route making is the routes function of Strava. The ease of use is very close to RideWithGPS but has the added feature of global heat map. This allows me to see how popular a stretch of road is, or more importantly, how much riders avoid it. Sometimes I know two great areas for riding and with the heat map I can find the best route between them.

In both cases you want to export GPX file with your route. This will work on most modern Garmin GPS. Some older models may need a different format.

How to Get and Load Maps

There are three sources for maps but I like the first one the best.

For Open Street Map, the linked page will guide you through selecting the area you want as well as the way your computer can use it. First, you select Routable Bicycle. Second, select the country under the continent you want. The third option will allow you to add to your selection. For us, Belgium is mostly what we want, but sometimes we go into Northern France. Click the check box and you can use the controls in the upper left of the map to pan and zoom to the extra areas you want to include. Clicking on a blue square will add to your selection.

A word of warning here, you may have to adjust your selection to fit within the memory of your Garmin unit.

Last, you enter your email address and wait for the map to be made for you. A new window will pop up telling you where you are in the queue for map making. You should receive two emails; the first right away repeating what is on this page and a second when your map is ready for download.

Once you get the message with your link, download the map file. It will be zipped up, so save the gmapsupp.img out of the zip file to a convenient location. Plug in your Garmin to the computer where the file is via USB cable. It should show up as attached storage on your computer. Copy the gmapsupp.img file to the Garmin folder of the Garmin unit.

When the copy is complete, unplug the unit and restart it. It should recognize the new map data and start loading it. Depending on how much new map you have added it could take some time to a lot of time.

If the new territory does not show up in map view on the Garmin, it may need to be activated. To activate a map: tap the wrench icon, tap Activity Profiles, tap your activity profile name, tap Navigation, tap Map, tap Map Information/Select Map, select Openfietsmap Lite and (finally) tap Enable.

How to Load Bike Routes

Plug in your Garmin to the computer via USB cable. In the attached storage that is the GPS unit, navigate to \Garmin\Newfiles\ and copy the GPX file(s) with your route to this folder. Restarting the Garmin should put the routes in the list of saved courses. You can find this by tapping Where To?, then tapping Saved, then Courses.

If you have any improvements or comments on these instructions please drop us a line! I use these instructions too and would like to make things easier on myself.

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