I’ve had my Garmin for a year or thereabouts so this seems an apt time to say a few things about it.
I’ll make it easy by splitting into the good and bad things as I see them.
- Route Guidance The main reason I bought the unit was to make my life easier when riding unfamiliar routes. I quickly tired of putting routes together online then carefully creating a ‘route sheet’ noting down every junction. Not only was this time-consuming but it was very tedious on the road having to keep checking I was going the right way. I’m now able to download the route directly on to the Garmin and see the route superimposed on to the map on the screen. Simple and brilliant. The only time I go wrong now is when I forget to look down!
- Not just a GPS The Garmin is not just a GPS device. It also measures speed, gradient, climb, heart rate, cadence, power (if you bike is suitably equipped with a PowerTap or SRM) – in fact everything that a self-respecting cyclist might want.
- Display options The display options are brilliant. The ‘mode’ button can be used to toggle through the main display and the map. The display has two views and each can have up to 8 different parameters (speed, cadence, etc) which are entirely customisable. The map page (as pictured above) works likewise with wholly customisable options.
- Magic It’s quite infeasible that Garmin have managed to pack so much into such a small (albeit not by bike computer standards!) package. Postcodes, addresses, stations, routing, altimeter, routes, history, etc, etc.
- Updates After a shaky start, Garmin responded quickly with firmware upgrades correcting early problems.
- Service I had a problem with my unit displaying cadence. I sent it off to Garmin and, to my surprise, received back a brand new unit with heart rate monitor, cadence unit, etc.
- Cost There’s no hiding behind the fact that the unit is pretty expensive. In addition, unless you get a bundle in the first place, the additional items (cadence unit, stem mount, etc) can cost more than a new bike computer!
- Confusion Waypoints, trackpoints, GPX, courses, history, tracks, routes… What does it all mean? To be honest, I still don’t know. The documentation is poor to say the least and, despite many hours of research, I never fully got to grips with what it all meant. It took me a long time to find a solution to downloading a route from Bikely, getting it onto the Garmin and setting it up in such a way that the unit didn’t screw it up. This might all work much better now with subsequent releases of software, but having invested so much effort in finding an acceptable solution I can’t be bothered to get back to basics are start afresh.
- Bracket Mounts The handlebar mounts are rubbish. They only last a couple of months, are made of flimsy plastic, and cost about a tenner to replace.
- Maps Why does the map alone for the unit cost more than the entire unit with the same map for a car!?
- Basemap The unit comes with a basemap which is a complete pile of shit forcing you to buy additional maps. This seems a bit unreasonable to me.
- Reliability I’ve had quite a few issues with the unit and have twice had to send it back to Garmin.
- Software The software for the PC is pretty dated and, frankly, poor. And confusing. Different bits of software, some desktop, some online, doing seemingly overlapping things. The software doesn’t even seem to ‘read’ formats that come directly of the unit for goodness sake.
- Acquiring Satellites The start of my rides are often marred by waiting for the unit to ‘acquire satellites’ which is pretty irritating.
Overall? The Garmin is expensive. And it has quite a few irritating faults. But I think it is a totally brilliant bit of kit. It has a bit of a ‘first version’ feel and you expect to pay a bit of a price if you are an early adopter. But Garmin seem to be a good company and quickly responded to the unit’s early issues.
I would genuinely struggle without it now. Last weekend I went to the Brecon Beacons; I was able to download two great routes from Bikely – created by others – in no time at all and was able to explore a completely unknown area without a second thought.
If you haven’t got one already – go buy one!