My first “Computer” on a bicycle was one of those little metal odometers that were actuated by a peg fitted on a spoke. The unit was mounted on the front RH dropout and the peg clicked away every wheel revolution. Cyclists of a certain age will remember them well. Mine eventually bit the dust by flying off across the road when I was flying down a hill, the poor thing couldn’t keep up with the revs!
This was back in the 1960s, and by the 1980s, I’d moved over to something a little more modern. It was made by Huret and driven by a pulley and belt system. It was still fitted on the front dropout, but had the luxury of a reset facility for a trip meter, and the ability to convert from 26” to 27” wheels by moving the drive belt on the pulley.
A few years went by, and the silicone chip made it’s presence felt, and I splashed out on a ‘bar mounted unit connected to the now familiar detector on the forks and a magnet on the spokes. A fantastic bit of kit: programable for wheel circumference, odometer, two trip meters, time of day, current speed, average speed and maximum speed. I can’t remember the make, but it worked well for many years. I recorded my first E2E with it in 1994, and I had it for a few years after that. My Huret was chucked in the bin.
I started to keep an accurate rides diary, and was bitten by the bug of recording everything. Sadly, one day my computer stopped working. I was mortified! So soon after, I bought a Cateye Mity8, even better bit of kit. Again, it had all the facilities I needed – perhaps even more – and my rides diary became more and more sophisticated.
Again, nothing lasts forever, and my Mity8 developed a fault. The rubber button cover perished and fell away, no doubt the button was worn out due to my constant prodding to get the info! The problem with these units, is that the central single button does just about everything, and the display toggles from one parameter to the next, sometimes you have to press six or seven times to get to the display you want to see. Simple, but tiresome.
Enter, The Garmin Edge: I bought an Edge 305. These units are GPS enabled bicycle computers with a large screen that can display up to eight parameters at once! The screen is programable, it can do some navigating, it follows you by GPS wherever you go and records absolutely everything. With suitable software – Garmin have their own basic version, Garmin Training Centre, but I use Ascent. This is a Mac based program http://www.montebellosoftware.com/index.html and I love it.
The Edge system is designed for fitness training and performance monitoring, but you can use as much or as little of the system as you want. I have a heart-rate monitor and a speed/cadence sensor. This unit records your cadence primarily, but will also record your speed when there is no GPS signal – indoors on a trainer for instance. The Garmin continually checks on your wheel circumference so accuracy is spot-on. The speed and distance are also spot on, and with the software you can see exactly where you’ve been, how high you climbed, how fast (or slow) you were going, how hard you were working – it assesses calories consumed! – your overall average speed, your moving average speed, and a whole host of other information. All this is stored in the Garmin’s memory and when you upload into your computer, it’s all stored and reviewable in there too.
The main drawback with the Edge 305 is its lack of maps. This is not much of a drawback as the unit is solid and reliable and you can actually navigate with it. After two years of faultless operation and information heaven, I moved up to the Edge 705. This is the top of the range, and has all sorts of mapping software that you can purchase and install. At the single touch of a button, you can go from displaying details – speed, time, altitude, heart rate, trip distance, cadence, – or as much as you want – to going to a detailed map of where you are. You can search its memory and look up any address or place in UK and it will find a suitable route to it from where you are. You can upload routes and follow them, whilst it gives you turn by turn directions too if you want.
With all the maps, it still has all the stuff that the Edge 305 has, so the 705 is quite a package. It’s slightly bigger than the 305, and also has a full colour screen. The batteries are lithium ion with the 305 lasting 12 or 13 hours, but the 705 has a massive 15 hours plus. I tested mine, and it was still running at 17 hours.
Data space is limited on the 305, and a long day in the saddle of 100 miles or so will make a big dent into the capacity, whereas the 705 is almost impossible to fill. It has a massive 1GB of memory, and a typical 100 miles would only take up less than 2MB, so there’s plenty space, and it even has the facility to add a MicroSD card into a little watertight slot.
The downside to the 705, is that the firmware is a little fragile. It seems beset by hiccoughs and system freezes. A quick look at the in-house Garmin forum for the 705 will show how many problems people have. Contrast that with the 305 forum.
I’m SMICKF by the way!
Once or twice I’ve had to telephone Garmin Tech Support to sort out a problem or two. The thing about forums is that you get inundated with opinion, not fact, so a call to a real expert is worth the time and effort. What I wanted, was an Edge 305 with maps. What I seem to have bought, is far more than that, and somehow just a little less.
All in all, I’m not too happy with my new purchase, but hopefully I can get to grips with its foibles and get some serious data retrieval!
My fingers are crossed.