Wednesday, April 05, 2006

GARMIN EDGE 305 - Bike Specific GPS

It is thanks to Farqui and Rob that earlier this year I started to think that a GPS device might well be useful. Initially I picked up a basic Etrex, which seemed fine, though it was clearly designed to be hand held rather than mounted on a bike and is perhaps showing its age.

In using the Extrex I realised that, although it did much of what I wanted, the newly released 'Edge' offered more for the kind of cycling I do and would certainly get more use. So UGI set in very early, in fact almost instantaneously!

The 'Edge' is a brand new GPS device designed specifically for Cycling, it is primarily a training device and, apart from its price, this may steer some away from it. I chose the 305 version with Heart monitor as I thought this might bring some sense to my solo midweek riding which is aimed at keeping my fitness up.

The main thing that strikes you about the 'Edge' is its size, it looks tiny next to the Etrex. In the package you get two bike mounts that will adapt to fit out of the way on the stem, a big plus in my book - less likely to get damaged in a crash. You also get a USB cable, Charger and Garmin Training Centre Software. The device also uses a new chipset for picking up satellite signals that is certainly more effective in difficult areas such as under tree cover.

Expensive Bike Computer?? Well yes, I suppose, but it has made my solo cycling so much more interesting. It works like this: when I set off for a ride I press 'Start' and it records my journey precisely in terms of speed, distance, altitude, (The 305 has a barometric altimeter), Heart rate etc. When you get back and plug it into the PC it automatically transfers this data, (history), to the Garmin Software and you can then convert the route into a 'Course' and save it back onto the 'Edge'. The USB link also charges the internal battery while you do this. Next time you ride the route you can use the saved 'course' and compare with your previous trip. This is obviously a simplistic explanation, for the serious athlete there is much, much more that can be done in terms of workouts, zones, alarms, (useful if a bit worrying at C-y-B that an alarm told me I was exceeding my maximum recommended heart rate on some of the climbs!!) and so on - it all gets very complex and at this point I start to glaze over. Overall I have found the 'Interface' easy navigate, even on the move, also easy to read.

The above may seem a bit OTT for a GPS device, but of course it is also possible to save your 'courses' into Tracklogs mapping software and similarly upload routes to the 'Edge' and follow them as with other GPS devices. You can also mark points on your route for later use and to help you find your way back. The thing it will not do is to tell you your location in terms of grid reference or longitude/latitude, but it will tell you distance and bearing from a marked location, which may be as useful.

Drawbacks?? The Internal Battery will not give the life of rechargeables and there is always a concern about the life decreasing with age. I have found it fine for a day's riding, which is as much as I need. Price, you can pick them up online for around £190 (srp £245 ish), but this is expensive and it may well be too much for some. However, if you are not worried about the HRM you can go for the almost identical 205 which you can pick up for £135 ish, and when you take into account the included bike mounts, cable and charger it starts to look like very good value I suspect that the 'Edge' is an early stage in the development of multi-purpose GPS devices and it will not be long before we see more and cheaper units suited to cyclist.

Now that I have got the hang of it I am really excited about the possibilities. I am already planning to visit some areas where I have never really found my way and think that I will be able to make real headway in building up some useable routes.

Amazing bit of kit in my IMHO!

More info here, buy here ?

P.S. I ought to mention that I did have some problems with the software on the original unit I bought, but Garmin have offered pretty good service and replaced it with a new unit. There has been one software update so far and I suspect there will be others


daahnhilla said...

I'll second that!
I've only used this unit once, (thanks dad!) but found it a brilliant, easy to use piece of kit! Lots of useful features, and gives loads of information. Especially usefull if you want to explore and want to get back to an original point!

Farqui said...

Garmin certainly seem to have improved the accessories they now supply, my ol'eTrex had none ! The Edge is a much smaller and neater package that the earlier units so you can see that you're getting a thoroughly modern piece of kit. I especially like the stem mount which keeps the cockpit neat and tidy, especially now they not yellow :p

IMO a GPS unit is a strange piece of kit, 'cos you find them hard to justify initially. But once you've used one, your hooked and will never look back - I haven't used a cycle 'puter since.

Dan Howell said...

Interesting write-up. I think, on the face of it, I'll stick with my eTrex as I like the OS positioning and graphical mapping/output it provides, plus the customisable data fields it can give you. The logging and features on it are great, and I wouldn't use the heart monitor feature at all (I can feel the things trying to burst out of my chest cavity so I don't need an alarm to tell me I'm about to pop it ;) ).

The new GPS chipsets are a lot quicker, though, and that's something I've noticed with the eTrex - not the quickest to lock onto a signal.

The swappable batteries I prefer, and you get a day's riding out of some decent NiMH rechargeables no problem.

The colour of the eTrex is a bit garish though, and it's relatively bulky compared to this little beauty.

Garmin's official PC cable is a rip-off and I made my own from an internet-sourced plug and cable from Maplin for less than £8. Other than that, the accessories for the eTrex are a bit on the steep side.

uphilla said...

The HRM is a personal preference, if you do without and get the 205 price looks more affordable. As far as i know input and output of mapping data is not that different to the Extrex - Farqui compared my recording of the Karrimor with his and found only subtle diferences which may have been due to the chipset. You get 3 standard Data pages, the basic bike computer can be customised to show as much or as little data as you need. There is also the 'Map' page and Altimeter. The 'Courses' page apears when you do a 'Course'. Lots to play with, some useful some not so. :-)

toons said...

Can you plan\plot your route using track logs and then upload to the edge 305 or Etrex?

Farqui said...

You can indeed, any software works with any GPS. Check around for something resembling a Tracklogs review ;)

toons said...

That’s a pretty comprehensive review, cheers for that Farqui.

Since you wrote that review, have you found anymore websites\forums for swapping tracklogs?

This new world of tracklogs could be interesting, especially for un-chartered territory.

Why didn’t I catch on earlier!

Farqui said...

Toons, have a sneak peek within the "gps" tab on the sidebar -->

If anyone else has any handy websites, then I'm happy to drop 'em over -->

Farqui said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

Farqui said...

Update: I recently dropped lickle yellow eTrex and found the screen all bust up (doh). I despatched it to Garmin last Wednesday and its been returned less that x1 week later (Tuesday). What a brilliant service !

They operate a flat fee repair charge regardless of the issue on a sliding scale dependant upon the units features. Call Garmin support for details.