I have recently been trying out a $30 CycPlus Bike Computer GPS speedometer (model G1) on my yak. It is impressive and some other paddlers might be interested. The device is currently sold at Amazon (after a brief stock outage) and at the Walmart website for two dollars more. It provides:
a) Real time speed in 5/8” high characters in MPH or KMH;
b) Time and distance in smaller characters;
c) One-button push to see the average speed;
d) Automatic cessation of all measurements when the vessel is brought to an approximate stop and automatic resumption when again under way, adding to the already accumulated time and distance;
e) Waterproof case; and
f) Rechargeable battery with roughly 10 hours of run time (in warm weather).
I benchmarked the CycPlus’ speed readouts against my new car and against a Garmin portable GPS navigation system for automobiles, the latter in the car and on the yak. The CycPluys performed well but might be under by 1/10 of MPH. It responded to acceleration and deceleration more quickly and smoothly than the Garmin. My tests of the distance reading found it close to distances taken from Google Maps satellite view. A small portion of the Amazon reviews indicate the distance reading can be substantially under, with one bicyclist reporting this occurred on a path having heavy tree cover—and mile posts.
The CycPlus has a few quirks. It does not display speed until the craft is going 1.6 miles per hour, and does not start counting and displaying time and distance until 2.4 MPH, and then all three stop after the speed declines below 1.6 MPH. The distance first displays in feet or meters, and as it exceeds the four-digit display, it switches to miles or kilometers, with one decimal place. The supplied mount is designed to affix on ½” to ¾” tube. For paddle craft, it can be secured to a short length of plastic pipe, conduit, dowel, etc., with a line run through and lashed to the craft. As with all GPS devices, it displays speed over our globe’s surface rather than through the water, so the indicated speed will be greater or less than actual speed through the water that is being affected by river flow, tides, or currents.
As of October, 2021, Amazon is offering at least two other brands of similar devices, the Meilan Mini GPS Bike Computer and the XOSS G Mini Bike Computer, both at the same $30 price point and with posted reviews similar to those for the CycPlus. All three companies offer other models with additional features and higher prices. Caution: Some bicycle “wireless speedometers” and “wireless computers” measure the revolutions of the wheel, and thus will not work in paddle craft.
These low-end GPS speedometers can be used to check the effects of varying paddle stokes or paddles, to monitor training sessions, and for assistance in dead-reckoning navigation. If you paddle more than a half-mile from shore or in unfamiliar places, a full-fledged portable GPS navigation device is convenient and a prudent safety precaution–but most will cost 5-10 times as much and will not have a large display of speed. Some people use phone apps for checking speed and for navigation, but others don’t want to deplete the batteries of their only means of communication, or find the screen difficult to read, or don’t want to risk loosing or damaging $500-1,000 phone.
Do readers have any experience with these low-end GPS speedos? Does anyone have thoughts about how else they might be used in paddle craft for fun or safety?