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Garmin's Edge
January 8, 2013 7:54 PM   Subscribe

Garmin, the well-known navigation company also makes bike computers. Today they unveiled a GPS-enabled bike computer that adds bluetooth to pair with your phone (and piggyback on your network connection). The resulting product video featuring Garmin's pro team riders is a little Hollywood and a little silly showing riders competing virtually against each other but paints a pretty impressive picture for real-time stats, weather, maps, and data sharing among cyclist friends. More at Wired's Gadget blog and a complete review at the DC rainmaker cycling site.
posted by mathowie (39 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
(sorry if this reads as too Pepsi Blue, but I think it's the neatest bike computer I've ever seen and points out this could be the tip of the iceberg of cycling computer and phone integration)
posted by mathowie at 7:56 PM on January 8, 2013


All the Garmin promo video needs is Jonathan Vaughters wearing a Nick Fury-style eyepatch as he stares at computer displays and assembles his team.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 8:00 PM on January 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


I just have a big honkin' smartphone on mine. The b.iCycle app is a great little tracker. Plus, I can swivel it up for a handlebar cam!
posted by Burhanistan at 8:04 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does it work any better in canyons filled with redwood trees than any other GPS bike computer? As a cyclist who essentially lives on the forest moon of Endor (same type of forest, slightly further south than where the film was shot), these things have never been able to keep reception for me.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:06 PM on January 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Does it work any better in canyons filled with redwood trees than any other GPS bike computer?

Really? I've had a couple different earlier versions of these garmins but I've never had any data loss, even way off the beaten track in thick forests on mountain bike trips. I'd actually worry about these units, since there's definitely no cellphone coverage on these rides but I've never had a problem getting a nice map after a ride no matter how thick the forest was.

What kind of bike GPS computer are you using?
posted by mathowie at 8:13 PM on January 8, 2013


(Also, it would be fun to have a "show us yer bike" MeTa à la the deskology threads at some point.)
posted by Burhanistan at 8:17 PM on January 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


So. . . for several hundred dollars, I can buy a gadget that seamlessly connects to my cellphone in order to provide a very limited fraction of the functionality of my cellphone? I'm fond of bikes, and neat hardware, but it's hard to imagine why this wouldn't be better handled in software.
posted by eotvos at 8:18 PM on January 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


My wife had a garmin GPS she used on her bike.

She has long since given it up for a Samsung Android MP3 Player that runs a GPS, plays her music and can report her cadence.

I sorta feel like Garmin and TomTom are the RCA and Zenith I grew up with.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:19 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


it's hard to imagine why this wouldn't be better handled in software

Part of what the bike computer does is track your heartrate, cadence, and power data. There are iPhone dongles for older iPhones to let you get some of that data (not sure I've seen a situation that gives you all), but yeah, I could see garmin not making bike computers in 3-4 years and instead just producing better software for phones.
posted by mathowie at 8:24 PM on January 8, 2013


Bike Porn
posted by growabrain at 9:00 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem I've always had with strapping fancy computers to your bike is that the first time you wreck, it'll probably fly off the bike and explode into a million fragments on the ground.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:14 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's one in particular (pricey!) that relies on convergence with an iPhone. Here's another that is Ant+ with less bundled. I think you're right...give 3-4 years and the technology will improve to the point where separate devices/processing units from a phone will start to phase out. As it is now you give up on ruggedness when using a smartphone, even when cased (these Garmins, especially the basic LCD models, also look like they would be easier to read in direct sunlight and have much better battery performance). With Apple in particular changing their connector specs for the latest gen, I don't blame 3rd party manufacturers for now with their wireless/bluetooth approach to data transfer. If more industry standard phones using regular USB get a larger share...who knows?
posted by samsara at 9:18 PM on January 8, 2013


I just got a Motoactiv, which is an Android-based fitness computer that has just so much potential. It's about the size (and twice the thickness) of an iPod Shuffle, and does just about everything imaginable -- GPS tracking, fitness sensor connectivity with Ant+ or Bluetooth, WiFi for syncing workout data, music playback, and also some awkward/unreliable Bluetooth-based phone integration.

The software's definitely a bit rough around the edges, and it's very unfortunate that Motorola never opened the door to 3rd-party development on the (very capable) device. However, I think it does present a clear vision for where ultraportable computers could go in the future. The thing's a full-fledged Android 2.3 phone without a radio, in a package just barely bigger than a wristwatch.

Apart from the lack of easy hackability, the device's other drawback is the lack of cellular connectivity. While this feature does seem somewhat superfluous on the surface, I do like being able to have an emergency phone with me during long workouts. It's tragic to think that the US phone market will never let me freely eject my phone's SIM, and temporarily swap it into my fitness tracker. There are too many roadblocks to this kind of freedom (both technical and political) to even count.
posted by schmod at 9:42 PM on January 8, 2013


I'm pretty sure I ride more than any of you on here, and I don't even have a speedo on my bike.

These types of gadgets are as needed as the $10,000+ bike they're riding them with.

I'm inevitably going to have to get some sort of GPS thinga-ma-bob doo-hickey for a race I want to do this year, as that's how friggin' long, desolate, badly signed, and SOL you're going to be if you do get lost. But I'm not looking forward to it (another thing for my fumbling hands to break, sigh). The $200-ish Garmin model that takes regular AA's is going to work swell.
posted by alex_skazat at 10:34 PM on January 8, 2013


Yeah, the biggest upside I can see with the 510 coming out is that the 500 should now be cheaper. For the vast majority of cyclists who want to hit start, get GPS route/speed/HR/cadence info, hit stop, and upload to a database, the 500 is all you'll ever need.
posted by OHSnap at 10:55 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's tragic to think that the US phone market will never let me freely eject my phone's SIM, and temporarily swap it into my fitness tracker. There are too many roadblocks to this kind of freedom (both technical and political) to even count.

If you pay for an unlocked phone, you're free to use the SIM from another phone in it. US phone companies aren't locking SIMs to certain phones (but they do lock phones to only allow their own SIMs).
posted by zsazsa at 10:56 PM on January 8, 2013


It's neat but a smartphone with a bike computer app already has a bunch of useful functions...gps, mapping, top average and current speeds, total time, bicycling time, altitude and how much you've climbed etc.
posted by aerotive at 11:31 PM on January 8, 2013


The problem I've always had with strapping fancy computers to your bike is that the first time you wreck, it'll probably fly off the bike and explode into a million fragments on the ground.

I've crashed hard with both an Edge 605 and a Forerunner, and I can report that Garmin makes very sturdy devices. My Forerunner has been bashed against the ground several times over the last 5 years, and still happily ticks along.

Now if they could just apply that kind of quality control to the horribly outdated and wrong maps they have on the Edge series...
posted by cmonkey at 12:12 AM on January 9, 2013


Bike computers have a much higher battery capacity. GPS tracking on your mobile only works if you take short trips, not if you are taking day-trips. (maybe 10-15h with a garmin, but I never managed to get more then 3 hours continuous use out of any mobile phone using it the same way, with monitor switched on and GPS running, on an android or iPhone)
Plus they are waterproof and more robust, if you want to mount your mobile on your bike to see where you are you would need a custom made case too. Those are not available for all phone models.

If they manage to up the battery efficiency of mobile phones with GPS enabled so it will hold for more then 3 hours I might switch too. But i'd still be hesitant unless there is a sturdy case that my current phone can fit into.
posted by ts;dr at 12:47 AM on January 9, 2013


Does it work any better in canyons filled with redwood trees than any other GPS bike computer? As a cyclist who essentially lives on the forest moon of Endor (same type of forest, slightly further south than where the film was shot), these things have never been able to keep reception for me.

I'm betting in the next decade or so good quality integrated Inertial Navigation / GPS chips will get cheap enough to make a tracker that continues to work fine in tunnels and canyons but for now they're just too expensive.
posted by atrazine at 2:17 AM on January 9, 2013


Two problems with using your iphone as your computer. If you crash it's likely going to break. (where as the Garmin computers will probably be fine. The screen is plastic or glass covered with plastic...whatever, it seems tough). The chances of your phone running out of charge while using one of those navigation apps is pretty high and I don't want to be stuck without a phone 50km from home.

I've totally gotten my money's worth out of my Garmin 800. (Also I have to say, that the software setup was un-intuitive and the manual worthless. The 1st 3 or 4 rides with it I considered throwing it into a river and it wasn't until googling through the Garmin forums that I found some intelligent instructions on how to set it up like how I intended to use it. I wanted to set up and follow a specific route but out of the box and the instructions are for using it like a car GPS where you want the shortest/fastest route.)
posted by Spumante at 2:37 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's encouraging to think that maybe they have a working touchscreen, though I'll beleive it when I see it. Wet/dirty hands, gloves, low temperatures are another reason capacitive touch-screen cell phones aren't optimal for bike use.
posted by bonehead at 5:17 AM on January 9, 2013


Yeah, the biggest upside I can see with the 510 coming out is that the 500 should now be cheaper. For the vast majority of cyclists who want to hit start, get GPS route/speed/HR/cadence info, hit stop, and upload to a database, the 500 is all you'll ever need.

A Forerunner 305 with chest strap and cadence sensor will do it too, for even less money.
posted by Wild_Eep at 5:35 AM on January 9, 2013


Maybe "this time" Garmin will have software that doesn't randomly crash, requiring a reboot. I've had to reformat my micro SD card, too. And they still haven't fixed problems on older models that have been known for years.

The battery life of 14-18 hours and the small, waterproof, rugged case are the main advantages of these bike computers over phones.
posted by jjj606 at 5:46 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I use an iPhone app for my bike computer (kept in my jersey pocket) and my wife uses a Garmin bike GPS. They are both good systems and convergence will come, but it isn't here today. The current mounted Garmin units are much more durable than a phone and the battery life is radically better. Someone will in time develop a dumb terminal bike computer that has good batter life that is cheap and rugged and offload the GPS and data integration to the phone. That will be interesting.

For my part, I prefer keeping the thing in my pocket. There are few reasons I need any of the data available at a glance. This seems to be the simplest solution overall and I wonder if more people may incline this way over time.
posted by dgran at 6:08 AM on January 9, 2013


As a crappy, but serious rider, I can't imagine replacing a Garmin with a phone.
My wife tries to use her phone with MapMyRide. I tried Strava.
Both suck the battery dry in no time. Garmins have many 8-12 hours in the tank.

I just bought a 500 to replace my old, battered 305. I love reviewing my rides. Dumping the data into Google Earth with 3D turned up a bit is a great way to relive the ride, and see where you really went.

I'd love for my family to be able to track me on long rides. The Find My Friends iPhone app is always behind reality, if it works at all.
posted by cccorlew at 6:41 AM on January 9, 2013


I'm pretty sure I ride more than any of you on here, and I don't even have a speedo on my bike.

Let me guess... you're a Rivendell fan?
posted by The Michael The at 6:43 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


With Apple in particular changing their connector specs for the latest gen, I don't blame 3rd party manufacturers for now with their wireless/bluetooth approach to data transfer.

Wires suck in a lot of respects, particularly in a mobile environment. The main reason that Bluetooth is becoming popular is that the "Bluetooth Low Energy" spec was needed to make these applications feasible, and that wasn't standardized until 2011.
posted by Slothrup at 7:13 AM on January 9, 2013


Wow, that DCRainmaker review is most comprehensive review I've seen of anything. It approaches Siracusa levels.

Overall, looks great. When my 705 dies, I'll probably pick the 510 up.

I hope the net integration leads to a few features helpful to riders on group & club rides. Often when the group gets split up or something like a flat happens, there's a ton of confusion.

Having the ability to communicate to the bike computer, which you are looking at all the time, as opposed to a phone would be great. Imagine being about to signal a regroup, a flat, or even a coffee stop to other riders that they will see on their computer with GPS coordinates as well.
posted by Argyle at 7:21 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure I ride more than any of you on here...

Lol
posted by JeffL at 7:49 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like how he also assumed we all have carbon fiber bikes and wear expensive biker apparel.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:58 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bah, this is sort of the project I had in mind with the Arduino I have.

I'LL NEVER FINISH IT. You win, Garmin.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:43 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure I ride more than any of you on here...

You probably have a lot of free time since you don't own a TV. ;)
posted by resurrexit at 9:21 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love the commercial, although I had no idea what they were trying to tell me. It did make me want to ride my bike, and move back to AZ, or Spain.
posted by bongo_x at 9:33 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having the ability to communicate to the bike computer, which you are looking at all the time, as opposed to a phone would be great.

I thought one of the little video bits showed a new message indicator on a garmin head unit, but maybe all those bleeps and bloops were on people's phones.
posted by mathowie at 12:11 PM on January 9, 2013


Hrrm, I thought the whole purpose of the linkage was to allow two way communications so your phone stayed safely in a jersey pocket.

If they don't have it working now, they should.
posted by Argyle at 1:12 PM on January 9, 2013


A Forerunner 305 with chest strap and cadence sensor will do it too, for even less money.

Not if you know where to shop. I scored my Edge 500 with HR and Cadence from ProBikeKit right before Christmas for $250. The cheapest I'm seeing the Forerunner is $299 without the cadence, which is another $30.

Plus, the Edge shows more data on a single screen, if that's important.
posted by OHSnap at 1:13 PM on January 9, 2013


I'm pretty sure I ride more than any of you on here, and I don't even have a speedo on my bike.

These types of gadgets are as needed as the $10,000+ bike they're riding them with.


Maybe more than a lot of people on here, but probably not all.

Plenty of other commenters pointed out why these products can be useful. And I'll happily chime in that probably very, very few of their users are riding $10,000+ bikes. I know a lot of fine, talented bike racers riding pretty basic bikes - steel or aluminum frames, oldish frames, out-of-production drivetrains, and traditional wheelsets - who spend their money on a decent computer because bang-for-your-buck, having the right data to act on makes you faster than buying $10,000 bikes or $2,000 wheelsets or whatever.

Oh, and here's another good reason to have one: “I yelled as she hit the gas harder and drove right into me.” ... The driver told the police she didn’t think she had hit Sabga. Though her car had a telltale dent, the officer said that without proof of where the cyclist had entered the intersection, he would not be able to write a citation against the driver ... Later that day it dawned on Mr. Sabga that he might have the proof he needed in the data stored in the Garmin GPS tracking device he used for training ... “Clear as day, you could see where I stopped at the stop sign, where I got hit by the car and where my bike came to rest,” he wrote. “On the corresponding time stamp, you could see the speeds, the stops and even where my heart rate spiked as she hit me.” The police were unwilling to pursue the case, but they suggested that he send the data to the driver’s insurance company. He did so within a day, and the company took responsibility for the accident.
posted by entropone at 1:37 PM on January 9, 2013


Aw, hell yeah, great story! My family wonders why I have so many lights and gadgets for cycling, and I say it's so my life insurance can't blame me and screw them out of the money when I'm inevitably run down on the way to work.
posted by resurrexit at 2:18 PM on January 9, 2013


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