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I’ve been a Garmin guy ever since I got my first GPS for Christmas in 2000. I’m on my fifth Garmin GPS now (the latest: Garmin Edge 305 which is sweet by the way) but I decided it was time to try out another GPS brand for comparison sake. Magellan’s eXplorist series seemed like a natural place to start and last week I purchased the bestselling eXporist on Amazon.com – the Magellan eXplorist 200.

The eXplorist series is a pretty close analog to Garmin’s eTrex series and the eXplorist 200 is about the same size as an eTrex GPS, though a bit thicker. If you want a bike mount for your eXplorist you’ll need to fork over another $40 for the official Magellan bike mount (though I found mine for around $30 with shipping from an online vendor). The bike mount is ridiculously large and bulky – it almost looks like an RV bucket seat – and it’s heavy. Just hope it holds the GPS securely…

When I first opened the eXplorist 200 package I realized I made a big mistake in my selection: the eXplorist 200 doesn’t have a computer port. Nope, no way to transfer waypoints and tracks to your computer and no way to load additional maps onto the GPS. This really is a deal breaker for me since I use my GPS to map mountain bike trails so I immediately decided I would return the unit to Amazon (after reviewing it here, of course). It’s tough to imagine that manufacturers are still building GPS devices without computer connectivity but I learned my lesson to always make sure.

The eXplorist 200 does have built in US highway maps which is a nice surprise for such a low end unit. The navigation screens are pretty user-friendly and the buttons on the unit make it easy to move between screens. I really like the “Mark” button that lets you quickly add a waypoint wherever you are and the joystick is great for moving around the map. All the buttons are very responsive unlike the buttons on the eTrex units from Garmin but I question whether they are as waterproof. I can also kinda see how having all these single task buttons could get confusing on the bike but you gotta take the good with the bad.

For basic functions (speed, distance, elevation) the eXplorist 200 did a pretty marginal job. Like the Garmin Edge 205, the eXplorist 200 doesn’t include an elevation profile plot, which is a pretty important for most mountain bikers. And despite my own GPS experience I couldn’t figure out how to get the eXplorist to track trip distance. After consulting the online documentation (the included user guide is laughably incomplete) I figured out how to reset the trip odometer but I never did see a running tally of my distance traveled. Magellan chose the “Comic Sans” font for much of the display, perhaps in hopes that a user-friendly font would translate into a user-friendly device. I just find it annoying and a little unprofessional looking.

If you’re a mountain biker (or any kind of cyclist for that matter), don’t waste your time on the eXplorist 200. While the eXplorist 200 would make a great entry level road navigation or geocaching device, the lack of computer connectivity and the absence of an elevation plot make this device extra weight on a mountain bike.

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Editor’s note: This is my first experience with a Magellan GPS and despite this poor first impression I plan on trying the eXplorist 400 next. The eXplorist 400 has a USB computer connection, an elevation plot, and removable memory so I have high hopes for a much better experience.

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