Garmin 800 Review

One of the first trip reports we read said that you can always count on your bicycle computer malfunctioning on a tour. Certainly ours have. Lady CoMo has her needs, one is a computer. We decided on a Garmin 800, mounted on the stoker’s handlebar. If I think Mary’s bored I can call out, “What’s our cadence?” 

The Garmin 800 comes in two flavours: just the GPS unit, or with cadence and heart rate monitor. Bearing in mind Mick’s comment (“is it about the ride or the rider”) we went for the full package. This basically means that, in addition to the GPS unit itself, there is a cadence sensor for the crank arm, and a heart rate monitor for the rider.


The 800 has three buttons to press: an on/off button on the side; a lap/reset button (which also saves your activity); and a start/stop button for the timer. (You can’t see these in the photo but, trust me, they’re there.) All other functions are controlled on the touch-sensitive screen, which is very well designed and whose icons are large enough to be highly accurate.

When the unit is turned on it first finds itself, i.e. it locates its satellites. This can take a few minutes and works best in an open area with an unobstructed view of the heavens.

Pressing “Menu” navigates to the screen below.

Main Menu

As you can see, the icons on the screen are nice and large. To ride, one presses the “X” on the bottom left corner, starts the timer, and rides. That’s it. The system records everything from that point forward.

We haven’t experimented with the other main menu icons (Where To Go, Training, History, and Courses). I expect these are used to load routes, set training profiles, etc. The History icon shows summary statistics for all rides saved on the 800.

You can customize the display for riding by pressing the spanner icon on the bottom right. This navigates to the Tool Options screen from which you start to navigate to the specific settings you want to change. I won’t list them all here, but navigation is very intuitive. I spent an hour flipping through all of them, and thereafter can find a setting quite quickly.

Tool Option screen

The settings we are interested in are the display pages. To get there I go Bike Settings > Training Pages. This lists all the pages available for display when you are riding.

Bike Settings

Training Pages

Some of these pages can be displayed selectively. For example, we only display one page of data. To choose its layout I press on “Page 1”. This pulls up the layout of Page 1.

Page One Layout

From here I can change the number of fields on this page by pressing the checkmark on the bottom right. I can then increase or decrease the number of fields to be displayed.

Changing Fields

To change any field on the display, I tap on it. This pulls up the list of available display options, of which there are many. For example, cadence can be shown as actual, average,etc. It also displays percent gradient (Mary’s favourite).

Field Selections

That’s basically it. The screen we display while riding is the Page One Layout above (which is what we look at most of the time), We can also show a competitive dude (must be a buddy of Titanium Man), an elevation profile of the recent kilometers, and a navigation map.

After recording a ride, we download to (not garmin.connect, or connect.garmen, or garmen.connect). From there it appears we can do a lot with the data. For now we only download, look at it and say “Oooh, we should be able to so better than that.”

One major advantage of the Garmin over regular bicycle computers is being able to display data over the entire ride. For example, we can look at the heartrate profile and compare it to the gradient at the same point in time. (Our heart rates seem to be higher on the first 15 minutes of the ride – this must be our warmup time.) This is much more informative than the average heartrate you would get from a regular computer.

Summary: Garmin got it right. For us, as neophytes, the unit is simple-stupid to use. It shows everything we want and nothing more. We will eventually get around to all the other fancy stuff. But for now, its basic recording it is hard to beat.