Forums/GPS Device Information

Which file type do I use, TCX or GPX?

Kevin Prentice
posted this on August 8, 2012, 10:57

Why Would I want a TCX File?
There are two versions of TCX files, a TCX History and a TCX Course.  For navigation you will want to use a course, which this guide assumes.  If you just want a record of your activity, you would export a TCX History file, since that will contain your stored heartrate, cadence and power data if applicable.
There are three reasons you would want a TCX file over a GPX:

  1. You have a GPS unit that does *not* have mapping capabilities (Edge 305/500) but want turn warnings, or you have a GPS unit that has mapping capabilities (Edge 705/800) but you did not purchase the SD card that contains the mapping/routing information which provides the nice GPS style turn guidance.
    1. TCX files contain the cuesheet generated when mapping a route using our planner.
    2. When you come close to the cuesheet entry, your Edge will beep and an arrow icon will appear on the map.  An abbreviated 10 character description of the cue will also appear.  Garmin’s are limited to 10 characters, so we attempt to strip out irrelevant text from the cue, leaving just the street name if possible.
    3. Often, the beep you get with the very simplistic turn by turn directions of a TCX occurs as you are in the middle of the intersection, meaning it doesn’t happen in advance of the turn.  That’s fine for most people, since it’s just a reference - most of the time you have an idea of where you are going and just need an auditory beep to make sure you don’t accidentally pass a turn.  However, some people want advanced notifications of an upcoming turn.  As part of our premium accounts, you have the capability to shift these warnings a variable distance before the actual point.  So, you can say “alert me 20 meters before the turn” if you are a premium user exporting a TCX.
  2. Your GPS unit has fancy maps installed, but you have custom cue entries like water and food stops.  Using the TCX will still allow your GPS unit to have the fancy turn guidance you get when you have a quality map installed on the GPS, however you will also get the simple beep/icon style navigation of the TCX.  This allows you to get alerts when you approach your custom cues, while still using the fancy navigation capabilities of your GPS unit.
  3. You are interested in the training capabilities of the TCX, meaning, you want to export a route with a set speed, and you want to get alerts when you go above or below that speed.  At this moment, we do not have the capability to export a *route* with these average speeds, however if you export a TCX of an existing activity that you have done, you can race against the speed you went when originally riding on that activity.

Why Would I Want a GPX File?
There are two kinds of GPX files - a GPX Track and a GPX Route.  99% of people want a GPX Track, which contains the thousands of points used to draw the map.  The GPX Route *only* contains the cuesheet entries, and relies on the GPS device to route the person between each of the cuesheet entries.  Since the maps inside the GPS unit are different than the Google maps used to plan the route, often times the route chosen by the GPS unit will be different than the one planned using our site.  Unless you know what you are doing, GPX Routes are not useful and should be avoided.
Two reason to choose GPX file:

  1. You have a GPS unit that doesn’t read TCX files.  TCX is a fitness/training specific format and is generally only available on the Edge/Forerunner line from Garmin.
  2. You don’t care about riding a certain speed, and you don’t need the basic turn guidance offered by the TCX.  If you have Garmin or OSM maps installed on an SD card in your map capable GPS unit, your GPS will provide native turn guidance and there is no need for the basic navigation offered by the TCX format.

Other File Types

  1. FIT
    1. Used by newer fitness units (Edge 500/800, newer Forerunner watches).  This file is pulled off the unit and uploaded to a site like ridewithgps.  It is not used as an export format for navigation.
  2. KML
    1. Not used as an export format for navigation, but a useful export for viewing a route or activity in Google earth.


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Phillip Windell

Hi Stefanie,

I have an Edge500 and it does have a "map" page.  But it is just very rudimentary, and due to some flaws in the firmware Garmin needs to  fix, it is a bit unreliable.  The map page shows just a "breadcrumb trail" on an other wise mostly blank screen. The "you" is the familiar black pointer at the bottom center of the screen that the twisting line representing the path winds it way along as you progress just like other more advanced GPSs.  It is a separate page from the "Cue Sheet" turn-by-turn page.

The flaw in the device is that the path line will vanish, come back, then vanish, then come back along with an endless barrage of  "Off course" and "Route found".  For the thing to work correctly it needs a huge number of data points evenly spaced along the path (20 to 40 meters apart).   I have not had the opportunity yet to try a route created from your site to see how it performs in action.  I do know however that TCX Files from your site are the only ones I have found that properly create the Cue Sheet Page.   Even Garmin's own site won't do that properly.  If the device doesn't get the information it wants for the page, then the page is just removed and not available.

August 14, 2012, 12:55
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Phillip Windell

BTW - I've communicated with Cullen he does know about the data points issue with the Edge-500 and was going to look more into that later.   Hopefully Garmin will just fix it one of these days with a firmware update and we won't have to worry about it.

August 14, 2012, 13:28
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Richard Stum

I have a Garmin 310XT and it won't import any tcx or gpx files exported by RidewithGPS. I have tried using Garmin Connect and Garmin BaseCamp to no avail. The 310 WILL import files created in Garmin Connect, but I have many files in RidewithGPS.

August 14, 2012, 14:26
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Phillip Windell

I don't have a 310XT so I have no way to judge it.  But with the 500 I don't really "import" anything, least not using the Garmin Communication Plugin/Driver anyway.  The 500 will appear on the PC as a Drive (just like a thumb-drive).  I just use Windows to copy the TCX file(s) to the Folder on the Device called "NewFiles",...then unplug the Garmin device and turn it on.  As it starts up if looks for any new files in the "NewFiles" folder and converts them on the fly to its native format and places the new converts into the Course Folder and deletes the original files from the NewFiles folder (so the Newfiles folder is always going to be empty when things are working right). 

The 500 will work with,.. and convert,... a huge number of file types this way,...I don't think I have found one yet that it won't do.  So if your 310XT has a similar file structure, maybe it will work the same way,..I don't know,'ll just have to give it a try.

As a secondary workaround you might also be able to upload files (TCX or otherwise) created on other sites up to the Connect.Garmin Site,...and then "Send to Device" from Garmin's site.  To do so,...get the file on your PC from Ride-with-GPS (or whatever other site).  Then on click on Upload and look at the bottom of the popup dialog box to the Manual Upload link.  If you don't get the link then try it with the device unplugged from the PC

August 14, 2012, 14:47
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Phillip Windell

Also see if Garmin has a Firmware Update for your Device.  Sometimes they add new features via the updates.

August 14, 2012, 14:48
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Richard Stum

My firmware is up to date.
Essentially, I ONLY want to import gpx or tcx files that were created with RidewithGPS into Garmin Connect. I get error messages ("An error occurred with your upload. Please try again.") in Garmin Connect. From there I can get the "course" to my 310 XT.

August 14, 2012, 15:46
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Phillip Windell

Ok.  I had to look a little deeper here. 

1. will only accept the uploading of "Activities", will not accept the upload of "Courses".   On the flip side of that it will only push a "Course" to a Device, never an Activity.  However it will export an Activity as a file,...not that that part helps you any, is just an FYI. 

2. RideWithGPS will export "Activities" using a TCX History file however it must be a true "Activity", cannot be a "Course" that you are attempting to export as an Activity.

So, as best I can see this, cannot do what you want to do as you are describing it.

If you want to download to the Device from Garmin's site,...then the Course must be created directly on Garmin's site

If you want to create the Course on RideWithGPS then you need to export directly to the Device and that will use the GPX Track file type

If that fails then your remaining file type options would be TCX Course or GPX Route.  These would have to be saved to the PC and then copied to the Device using Windows Explorer and that would only be possible if the Device presents a useable File System to Windows and if the Device is capable or has the means to process the files after they are copied.

Bottom line,...the story does not look promising.  But keep in mind that I am not one of the RideWithGPS Support personel, I am just another customer of the site as you are.

August 14, 2012, 18:40
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Owen Stephen Dawson

I normally use the Garmin Training Center  to upload track data from my Edge 305 have found out that exporting either TCX or GPX files from the TC both formats retain the full summary data. I then upload these to BaseCamp to edit my wrong turns by removing points using the eraser function they always work with NO ERRORS.  However when I upload  the TCX file  to Garmin.connect it is always missing the Distance, Speed ,Calories info in the summary and the GPX hardly ever uploads 9/10 times I get error message ("An error occurred with your upload. Please try again.")

If I upload to RIDEWITHGPS it always works with both file formats even the XML v2 schema TCX format from BaseCamp will upload the same however can't be said for STRAVA they wont accept this latest XML version however I have found a work around using TCX Convertor my findings have been posted @

If you use RIDEWITHGPS or STRAVA check out these really cool API tools @

N.B> Never use BaseCamp to upload directly from your Edge 305 as it will not load the HRM and Cadence data for your ride, use the Training Center exported files as a RAW data store then upload to the online resource of  you choice.

November 14, 2012, 12:18
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Rick Tompkins

I've been using TCX files on my Garmin 800 for a year without problem.  there are some peculiar defaults that need to be overwritten, but these are documented elsewhere.  The one thing I can do is create a custom cue sheet entry and get the 800 to recognize it.  For example, if I'm doing an unfamiliar climb I might enter a "Summit" cue sheet entry, the the time/distance to next "turn" doesn't reflect the Summit, only the next turn.  Is there any workaround for this or am I doing something wrong?  Or should I be using GPX Track?

August 11, 2013, 21:29
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Has anyone had experience with Osmand for Android? Which of the two different gpx files is usefull for Osmand when used offline, only with gps active, the gpx track or gpx route?

May 7, 2014, 05:00
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Chris Stavrinides

I have the same question as caci99.  The exported file although can be loaded to OsmAnd is not of the correct format - I have been told it should be as route in gps 1.1 format.

Osmand will follow the track but not with detailed instructions ie at a roundabout the instruction could be "slight left" instead of "2nd exit" .

 Does Ride with GPS support this format and how can be exported?

Many Thanks



July 29, 2014, 07:15
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Geoff Hazel

Why would this happen?  I download the tcx file for a route on my work PC and it downloads.  I copy it to 'new files' on the Edge 500, turn it on, and no course appears,  The tcx file vanishes.  I go to my personal laptop,do the same exact thing, and this time when I turn on the Edge500 it shows "working" and I get the course.

What's different about my work PC that keeps the file from 'working' when I download/copy it?  It seems to be the same size and named the same.

September 25, 2014, 16:24
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Robert Granty

The Osmand app for android discussed earlier is a strong off line navigation program.  It provides turn by turn instructions using voice and visual cues from a GPX track file.  It does not work correctly with a GPX route file.  Since GPX track files do not include a cue sheet, this device provides only the turn information.  But when combined with the street name information provided by a TCX file to a Garmin device or with the Track Navigator app, the user has very robust and precise routing information from dual GPX/TCX files..

June 16, 2015, 01:28
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Kevin Prentice
Ride with GPS

Hey Robert! (and everyone else)

Our Android app supports all of what you mentioned above without the need for .TCX or .GPX files. Simply plan a route with our route planner and save it, and it's instantly available on your phone. Our Android app will then let you download it for Offline use, and will still provide you with audible and visual turn by turn navigation, in addition to all of the map tiles in and around your route, while recording your ride. You can even use this feature in Airplane mode. 

June 18, 2015, 10:52
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Socrates Solomides

From your comments it looks like a TCX Course file downloaded from ridewithgps to a Garmin Edge Touring is the best option for simple turn by turn navigation. I do not need fancy statistics. Just need to cover 4200 Km in two weeks without getting lost or wasting time looking at maps, etc. AI also have your Android app on my mobile. From your comments a GPX Track file does not offer any advantage over TCX files for simple turn by turn navigation.

July 15, 2015, 12:42
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Socrates Solomides

Does a TCX course file automatically reroute back if your of course???

July 15, 2015, 12:57
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Phillip Windell

The TCX file only contains the original route information, it doesn't have anything else to do with the behavor of the GPS.   If you are following a TCX route then it is up to you to get back on the route yourself.   If you enable Recalculation and you put the GPS into a situation where it recalculates, then it will ignore the original route from that point forward.  It does not recalculate back to the route, it recalculates the path to the destination and ignores the original path.

July 16, 2015, 06:34
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Phillip Windell

To get back on route manually "zoom back" the map screen to see where you got off course and then use the map visually to pick the best path to get back on the course.  Once you get back on course it will say "course found" and continue navigating correctly.    But you have to be sure the Recalculation is turned off on the GPS so that it does not abandon the route and calculate its own path to the destination..

July 16, 2015, 06:42
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Socrates Solomides

Phillip, If I am using your Android app on my mobile does it recalculate automatically and bring me back on course or does it abandon the route and calculate its own path to the destination

July 16, 2015, 07:32
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Kevin Prentice
Ride with GPS


If you are referring to our mobile app, we do neither. We will never re-route you, nor ignore your original route. If you are navigating a route and should happen to go off course, we will give you an off course audible warning. If you continue to stay off course, we will periodically continue giving you the audible warning to let you know you are still off course. At this point, you could simply open the phone screen up, or turn around, and make your way back to the route. When you get back near the route, we will give you a different audible warning letting you know you have re-joined the course, and we will pick up navigation from where you left off. 

July 16, 2015, 09:21
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Phillip Windell

What he said   ^^^  when dealing with the phone App.

If using a regular GPS unit like Garmins,....if you disable Recalculation it will behave the same as the App.  but if recalculation is enabled it will abandon the route and navigate a "new" path to the destination based on the normal navigation criteria settings.

BTW - I don't work for RWGPS,...I'm just a user of the product.

July 17, 2015, 07:29