Convert a Route to a Garmin Course File

I’ve been preparing cycle routes for my new bike commute and while that part of the process has been pain free and successful, the art of transferring the route to my Garmin Forerunner 920XT so I can follow it as a course, has been a royal pain in the proverbial. I have managed it though so I thought I would condense the steps into a mini tutorial.

Creating a Route

There are plenty of free iPhone apps available for plotting cycle and running routes. For cycling I have been using BikeHub and for running I’ve opted for GPS Outdoors both of which allow you to save the created route as a GPX file to email or to open in a different app. Note that I am interested in apps that create routes using their own internal routing engine (like your sat nav) rather than a manual drag and drop method for creating routes. If you are happy with the manual approach then I suggest you use the create course option on Garmin Connect which would save you the bother of converting and struggling to transfer the output to your device which I describe below.

BikeHub

Bike Hub GPX route plottingThis app allows you to optimise your route according to your desires for speed, distance or quietness. The default balanced route option gives a very similar route to the google maps cycle route and suits my needs well. I don’t think you can edit the proposed route as you can with google maps though.

You can email the GPX file to yourself using the curly arrow button at the top of the screen or you can navigate directly from the app itself.

As my goal is to get the route onto my Forerunner 920XT, I choose the email option.

Google Maps

I’ve been impressed with the routing engine in google maps, it has access to all the cycle routes and has produced me a remarkably quiet route into central London. It appears to be the safest route I’ve had so far which is a blessing as┬ámy city biking skills are a bit rusty.

Editing the route is a cinch with Google Maps as you can simply drag and drop the route to reveal other options. I wanted to do this for my return route when it will be dark as I’d much rather avoid the centre of Tooting Bec Common even if it does have a dedicated bike lane running through it.

Where google maps lets you down is its limited sharing options. It doesn’t offer the option to download as a GPX file but you can nab the URL and use another website to convert to a GPX file for you – GPSVisualizer

Google Maps Route

GPSVisualizer has quite a busy interface as it offers multiple conversion options.

GPSVisualizer
GPSVisualizer OutputStick the URL copied from Google Maps into the dialog box towards the middle of the screen and hit the convert button.

It then displays your GPX output as a bewildering text file but towards the top of the screen is the option to save the GPX file. Hit this and save to your computer.

Converting GPX to Garmin TCX Course File

GPSies.comThe next step requires the conversion of the GPX to Garmin Course file (TCX file) using another free web based resource called GPSies.com

Set the options up as I show in the image, select your GPX file location and hit convert.

Send TCX Course to Garmin Device

You’ve now created a route, acquired the GPX file behind it and now converted that to the Garmin Course TCX format. The final task and the trickiest, is to get this TCX file onto your Garmin device.

I can’t understand why this process is not a simple matter of opening Garmin connect and importing the said course file, but it is not. There are many, many forum posts asking how to transfer GPX files to Garmin devices and very few solutions.

I’ve seen one Garmin Support solution for importing TCX files directly into the Garmin Edge device but I haven’t tested to see if this methodology would work for other Garmin’s such as the Forerunner 920XT.

Using the deprecated Garmin Training Centre to upload Garmin Course and Send to Garmin Device

Following a GPX course on a Garmin Forerunner 920XTThe Garmin Training Centre is not supported anymore but if you’ve had a Garmin device for a while you will no doubt still have this clunky program on your computer. For now you will be glad of it. If you haven’t and you want to install it, here’s the link to the old Training Centre versions.

Open Garmin Training Centre, if you haven’t used it in a while you will need to plug in your new device so that it appears in the available device list. It picked up my Garmin Forerunner 920XT without any fuss.

I then when to File, Import and navigated to my TCX file. It imported it without bother and now appeared in my Courses list.

Garmin Training Centre

The final step is to select the course and then from the Devices menu bar at the top, choose Send to Device.

It transferred and is now available to select from the devices Navigate screen. When you are riding or running the screen zooms in so you can follow the breadcrumb trail easily.

Which Garmin Devices Support Courses?

  • Forerunner 920XT
  • Forerunner 910XT
  • Forerunner 310XT
  • Edge Cycling Series

 

 

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11 comments

  1. Hello, if you ever need a free and reliable converter, I suggest to have a look at gpx2kml.com This tool does the conversion in both ways; from gpx to kml format and vice versa. No need to install it, just upload your files, and the online program will make the conversion.

  2. I wanted to use courses to race against (like segments). I got my baseline (3rd best) “activity” file and imported it into a dummy account at strava.com

    In strava I was able to crop and export the “course”/pseudo-segment and eventually get it to my watch using training centre.

    It seems to works quite well for a bike activity. But, when in a run activity, the virtual runner time goes to –:–:– when I run through the start point of the course.

  3. Oh my goodness, it took me forever to find your solution… But I’m glad I did. I’ve spent hours trying to figure this out. You would think Garmin would make it easier. Thank you very much for sharing.

  4. Thank you so much for the information with regards to how to create and send routes to a Garmin Forerunner 920xt!! I really, really appreciate it. I am having loads of fun creating new routes and exploring new places!!

    Thanks again!!!
    Kind regards
    JS Basson

  5. Excellent description! It worked like magic! Thank you! Any tips how to sync the course from the device to Garmin Connect?

  6. There is such a better and easier way to do this. If using Garmin, all you need to do is go to the Garmin Connect Website, find the activity which you want to save the route, click on it, then, on the top right of the page click on the gear icon and “save course”.
    No need for other apps, nothing.

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