Convert a Route to a Garmin Course File

Garmin course on Forerunner 920XT

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.


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 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

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



Operation Surgical Spirit

Puncture Repair Kit

Grantham Canal at CotgraveThis weekend was going to be epic.

Mileage to the max plus a curry with Rach.

We ticked the curry off no bother, which just left the miles to deal with themselves. The plan was for Lynn to drop me close to the start of the Grantham canal which happens to be in Nottingham, she’d then drive off, spend an extremely long day with her mother and wait for me to pop out 33 miles later at the Grantham end.

I set off in fairly good spirits, a little hungover and a bit intimidated by the wiggly, windy road ahead but mostly #upforit.

I might have mentioned previously (here or here for example) that I haven’t been much taken with the concept of walking but the long distance trail really does appeal to me. Cutting swathes across the countryside leaving a breadcrumb or GPS trail that would actually show up an aerial shot of the UK is rather satisfying.

Grantham Canal - with actual waterThe Grantham canal seems to be a lesser spotted variety of long distance trail. There was a tiny stretch where I was assailed by manic dogs and a couple of joggers but mostly I was alone, admiring the birds and longing, longingly for a bench to appear. It deserves to be more popular and I recommend it to anyone in search of a peaceful walk/bike/run through the lush lincolnshire countryside.

The pubs are a little sparse though and I missed the planned stop at Hose where I was supposed to meet my folks for a burger and Stella shandy. Hose has the greatest concentration of Grantham canal ale houses but it has an inconsequential bridge (n0 39) that is easy to pass, make a note of it if you want to complete the route in style as you’ll need to exit the towpath and head right in search of the Rose and Crown.

This map from the Grantham Canal Society is worth reviewing.

Grantham Canal

I did meet my mum and dad and they ferried me off for a cup a tea, a bacon butty and supplied me with emergency plasters for a pair of evil blisters starting to burn on both of my heels. They then joined me for a short stroll, timed to perfection with a peculiar hailstorm.

The blisters started at mile 8 so the moment I found a bench I whipped off my socks and changed them for my spare pair which unfortunately felt like a sisal door mat. I was limping by lunchtime, then the plasters offered some relief for a few miles.

Collapsed by Grantham CanalFrom mile 18 onwards I was completely taken over by the pain from my blisters. It is amazing how crippling an inch long bubble of tissue fluid can be. I tried everything available to me – switching socks again, having another fruit sherbert, re-applying plasters, walking barefoot and then I laid down. That was marvellously effective. It was so warm and peaceful and I could have stayed there all afternoon. I very nearly had to as well, it was a complete bugger to get back up again and my poles are no use under 16 stone (+) pressure – they just concertina back to packed size.

I did make it back to vertical without pitching myself into the canal and the hobbling continued, one bench to the next.

Despite all the support from the facebook sidelines I decided at 22 miles that I ought to save the crippling heroics for the big London2Brighton day and so called for my carriage home.

It had felt quite important to get this 30-miler under my belt. I’ve been incredibly concerned about my ability to complete the 100k route and this half distance trek would have given me a psychological boost. I still feel fairly positive though. My feet let me down but I was mentally strong and the rest of the body is willing.

Puncture Repair KitI need to go away, reassess footwear, buy lining socks, compeed, heavy duty zinc tape and embark on a twice daily application of surgical spirit. I might even consider some Nightgear Military Magnum boots to go with my military twin layer socks.

It’s easily going to be the hardest challenge I’ve ever set myself. Driving back to London last night after a warm bath and a roast chicken dinner I was aware that if I were doing the 100k I would still be walking – barely half way to Brighton, easing my painful feet into bed at midnight I would still be walking and when the darn cat woke me at 7 am, I’d still be walking/crawling into Brighton.

If any of you would like to donate to the Samaritans on the back of my painful London2Brighton attempt I’d be very grateful – here’s the link.

GPX of the full canal available here.

Battling across Hastings

Screen Shot 2012-08-14 at 23.52.34

We had an unexpected trip to Hastings and decided to take on one of the local lengthy walks.

I’d heard about the Rye to Hasting coastal walk but was surprised to discover that the route from Rye station to White Rock Hotel was a whopping 13 miles – what possesses people to walk that far?

Neither of us really do hiking, and while Lynn doesn’t do running either, she is prepared to adopt a run/walk strategy in order to get the hiking over and done with sooner.

I wasn’t well prepared for the adventure but luckily the time out country walks website had the route’s gps available to download and it opened in Runmeter, my current gps app of choice. It proved to be a lifesaver as the 1066 walk was really badly signposted from Rye and I had to rely on the breadcrumb trail to indicate when we’d run off course, which happened often.

Tough FoliageWhatever tracks that might have once indicated the direction, were well and truly obliterated by the shoulder high foliage, and the route frequently took strange road avoidance detours that messed with my already inadequate internal compass settings.

We were “lucky” to coincide with one of the few good summer days but the humidity was something shocking. We set off with a 2 litre bladder pack and two standard bottles but I think I’d sweated as much within the first third of the route. We replenished on lemonade lollies as the opportunity arose but then we hit the latter half of the trek – a cruel and isolated, cove hugging, cliff climbing, monster of a trek.

I can no longer remember how many times we reached sea level, only to find ourselves cut off by the waters, with the only onward route marked by a vertical climb up a set of steps built either by giants or conservation volunteers trying to conserve energy by cutting out half a dozen risers. Lynn had to fashion me a walking pole just to get me up.

I was gasping for fluids by the time we made it to the cable car perched above the Stade area of Hastings. A perfectly placed ice cream van shone like a beacon in my hour of need. It had run out of water merely seconds before my arrival. I could have fainted but stood strong and compromised with a double scoop ice-cream with chocolate flake. It was almost as good as a Stella.



Uphill from Box Hill to Epsom

Elevation profile

Next weeks race t-shirt dropped through the letterbox this morning. I wonder how many people will use that as the a perfect get out of jail card and abandon the trouble of racing at next weeks Great Trail Run at Keswick. It certainly crossed my mind.

I run for pride as well as t-shirts, so dragged myself out of bed for a final half marathon training run. Lynn was joining me on the bike so we scoured the web for an off road cycle route and ended up with the GPX data for the station to station route between Box Hill and Epsom.

Holy moly was that a hilly route?

Not that you can expect to arrive at Box Hill and find a flat route ahead of you but a 6k ascent to start a training run is pretty taxing.

20120609-233007.jpgThe route ended up being the #22 Surrey Cycleway and although it was predominantly on tarmac it did manage to cut swathes through some of the most glorious landscape of the North Downs. It was a mixture of quiet roads and bridleways and made for a perfect running and cycling partnership.

20120609-232944.jpgI took a leaf out of Eddie Izzard’s guide to long distance running and broke off for ice-cream at the first opportunity. If you’re ever in the middle of Epsom race course I would recommend this van – perfectly whipped 99’s with butterscotch dribbles.

This is why I run.

Route Details

Route: Boxhill and Westhumble Station to Epsom Station
Distance: 15km
Terrain: Mostly tarmac, quiet roads and a few stretches along muddy bridleways
Google map: link
Garmin tcx course on garmin connect: Boxhill-Epsom.tcx

If you fancy following the route, you should find all the maps and data you need at the gps-routes site. I converted it to a Garmin course trx file so that I could follow the breadcrumb route on my Garmin 310XT but it’s well signposted – just follow the 22 cycle route.

Trains are fairly regular between Epsom and Westhumble but you might want to check times before leaving, we ended up with a 59 minute wait and had to waste a bit of time in the local pub, but it sold Stella so who cares.