Friday, July 16, 2010

Let's talk GPS

First off, on a cool note, we had an earthquake in Maryland this morning. I woke up at 5am and was brushing my teeth when I heard a low rumble and the house started moving. I ignored it, figuring the furnace had just kicked on. Until I realized we don't have a furnace... It wasn't a large earthquake by a Californian, but nonetheless it was pretty awesome.

To the topic at hand...

Do any of you use a GPS device while biking? I know that at least Chesapeake Sailor uses a Garmin Edge 705, which is the top of the line Garmin (and well out of my price range).

I've been doing a bit of research on them...

The Edge 205 is the very entry level Garmin device. It shows basically what a $10 bike computer shows, but it does track your gps coordinates. This is $250.

The Edge 500 does everything the 205 can do, but adds an altimeter and, for extra, you can add a cadence and heart rate monitor. It is the same price of the 205, so I doubt there is any reason to even look at the 205.

The Edge 305 is the predecessor to the 500 and comes standard with either a cadence -or- heart rate monitor. You can purchase the other and use it as well. Price hike to $350 though and since you can get the Cadence and heart rate monitor on the 500 for $350, there really isn't a point in spending more money for an older product.

The Edge 605 is the first one to offer an on-screen (and colour) map. It will show you where to go and has the functionality of the edge 205 (speed, distance, gps). Unfortunately, and in a move I don't understand, it is not compatible with any cadence or heart rate monitors. So basically you are paying $400 for a $250 product (the 205) with maps. It doesn't even have an altimeter! I'll pass.

And finally, the king of the Garmin series, the Edge 705. It does all the neat things of all of these, including an on-screen map, cadence and heart rate, speed, etc. The issue is the $550 price, which is more than my bike is worth.

And to toss in my final cheap-ass options are getting the non-bike specific gps's. The Forerunner 205 for $150, which is a running watch, the Etrex H, which is a mountable handheld, and the Foretrex 401, which is similar to the Forerunner 205, but also has an altimeter (a great review of the 401 is located here.

So anyways, do you have a gps? What do you like about it? Do you even care about your data? For me, I don't really see a point in monitoring my heart rate nor cadence. While it would make for a cool data set, I'm not training for any races. I just like the idea of knowing exactly where I go with higher accuracy than can give (along with knowing what speeds I am going throughout the ride).


  1. My 2 pence --

    I invested in the 705 for Randoneuring and other long range events where I'm riding in unfamiliar territory. These are rides I done once a month or more of 100 miles+ in length. During such events the mapping features are worth every penny. The difference between 705 and 605 is probably not very significant in this regard, but the Christmas sale on Amazon offered a good price for 705 the day I was ready to buy.

    However, the other 80% or more of my mileage each month I'm using the same features you'd get on the 205.

    If your plans don't include any significant time / miles outside of areas you are already familiar with, the mapping won't be worth your money.

    A final note, the altimeter is of questionable precision on any model. I can't reliably compare my altimeter readings even to another 705 user who accompanied me on the same ride. It does however give me a good comparison between different routes I ride with the same unit.

  2. I felt the earthquake too, kind of cool.

  3. Yea, for somebody who does a lot of unfamiliar roads, the 705 sounds like a great idea to have! The more I look (and discuss with others), it seems like the Forerunner 305 seems like a great idea since I can use it for running with ease as well. It comes with a heart monitor and can use a cadence device if I wanted. And its only ~$150 too! A great review was made by a local, DC Rainmaker here.

  4. I have told my wife that I'd like one for my birthday. On the one hand Im hoping she gets it. On the other hand I know theyre too expensive to justify. What a dilemma!

  5. oops forgot to mention this. You know there are other GPS device makers other than Garmin dont you? i.e: (UK SITE) (US SITE)

    Im sure there must be others too, especially in the US.

  6. @KungFoo: I went over to Best Buy (an electronics chain store here... not sure if you have them) at lunch. The Forerunner 305's are selling for $145. They come with a heart rate monitor and they can use the cadence as well (have to buy separately). I'm thinking that is the route I'll go. Check out this thread I started on reddit and DC Rainmaker's review of it.

    And for you, since you do a good amount of biking inside, the cadence attachment also comes with a bike computer (exactly the same as the one you installed on your current bike) that you can attach to the wheel of your stationary to get a distance as well.