Which file type do I use, TCX or GPX?

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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