Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Garmin EDGE 705 Review: The Ultimate Cycling Computer

September 7, 2008 by · 32 Comments 

Every once in a while there comes a device that radically changes how I experience an activity. The Palm Treo (yes, way back when) redefined SMS for me, being the first to do the ‘chat’ style SMS UI that the iPhone is now known for. The Ericsson T28 was the first phone that I used where I could travel across continents and make calls. For me, the EDGE 705 has redefined cycling for me, and I’m afraid that without it, my cycling experience would feel like going back to the days before I had a mobile phone: manageable, but very limiting.

In essence, the Garmin EDGE 705 is a GPS enabled cyclocomputer that, with the right accessories, can register and measure your heartbeat, cadence, and power. You can then take the log from this device and analyze the distance, speed, heart rate, cadence, and their associated averages, max, and mins of your ride. This data is collected either by the Garmin Connect website or via their proprietary software that is available for free download.

Now, there are plenty of cyclocomputers out in the market; what makes this one so much better? Well, it all depends on what you need or want. If all you care about is your speed and cadence, there are some cyclocomputers out there that cost $50 and pretty much do all you need. What the EDGE 705 offers is far more granularity on everything regarding your workout and the highlight: …. MAPS!

Because Maps are what make this device for me, let’s start there. On a bike, you can cover 200-300km in a day if you’re really fit. This, could take you from say, New Haven CT. to Boston, or here in the UK from Dover to London. With such large distances, you could use a physical map to plot your trajectory, but it is quite cumbersome to carry and read when on a bike. This is where the EDGE 705 excels. Once you have forked over the extra dough for your regional maps, you can tell the device to take you somewhere and it will work, for the most part, like any other GPS device you’ve used in the past. While on the road following the EDGE’s recommendations, one beep means upcoming turn and two beeps means turn now, and yes, they are audible enough. This has revolutioned how I cycle because now I can explore London with the complete freedom that I wanted to in the past but with zero fear of getting lost. I have now made it a habit of just cycling in any direction I want to explore until I get bored, and then I just tell the device to take me home. Gratifying to say the least.

However, all is not perfect with the EDGE 705’s mapping. To begin with, it is a tad on the slow side. You have to select a location from either a waypoint you’ve previously selected or look it up on the maps that are in your card. The maps come preloaded with stuff like food & drink, transportation, and other locations of public interest, but since this is not updated on the fly as a yellow pages online would be, you rarely find what you’re looking for (Garmin, please, for the next version, allow a GPRS link for updates). In addition, there is no way to look for things via Post Code (in the UK).

Once you have selected where you want to go, either from a historical waypoint (you can load waypoints onto a card as well) or from one of the locations on the Map card, the device will begin calculating your route. This can take up to a few minutes, but once calculated, the true journey begins. You will then discover the following:

1) You can’t expect it to course-correct that quickly if you make a wrong turn, and it doesn’t always adapt the route to your new situation, most if not all the time, it tries to force you back onto the original route.
2) If you do take a wrong turn, and it needs to recalculate the route, this can take a while. Sometimes you have to stop altogether until it finishes recalculating. This happened to me once in a bad neighborhood, and boy was I anxious until it figured it out so that I could get a move on!
3) Quick turns can sometimes be missed since it isn’t easy to look at the street and down at your device in cramped city streets with cars whizzing by. On the open road, however, it works pretty well.
4) Course selection will not be the ‘fastest’ but I did notice that it does prefer routes that are bike friendly (if you choose to avoid major streets). This is great when you want to ride little streets and discover new routes.

That said, I would still take these shortcomings over nothing at all any day. The EDGE’s mapping abilities have just made cycling so much more fun for me. I can go anywhere and truly enjoy the tarmac without the fear of getting lost or not being able to get back home.

The second attribute that sold me on this device is the analysis component. Although other devices out there, such as the Suuntos and the Polars can do the same, because of the GPS features, you can actually track where you have been on a map. Exploration at its finest!

For example, I use the Garmin Connect website (buggy to say the least and with frequent down time) to upload my travels and log my workouts. However, I can also set goals for distances or any other metric the EDGE can record. Pictures speak louder than words, so click on the thumbnails below to get a better feel for what I mean:

Garmin Connect website screenshots:

Garmin Connect Dashboard

Garmin Connect Dashboard

Event Analysis Page

Event Analysis Page

Take your average cyclocomputer and it will give you the essentials, just like a home phone will allow you to make calls, but add to that the ability to know where you are, where you want to go, and how you performed by every metric and WHERE, this is what the EDGE 705 allows you to do!

As for how the device works in general, well, it is readable during the day, and at night I have left the backlight on for transportation from point to point and never had any battery issues. I’ve had it rain and no problems there either. The buttons are nice and big, and the operating system is manageable, but not intuitive. The screens can be customized to allow you to have as much or as little information as you’d like. I personally have Speed, Cadence, Avg. Speed, Distance, and Time as my main screen items, and then on the secondary screen I have stuff like heart rate and others. The only measurement which I do not trust is the calorie counts. I find them to be a bit on the overstated side of things.

Mounting the device on the bike wasn’t bad at all, and now my bike looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. The only thing I wish were smaller is the cadence meter which is excessively large and clunky. Battery life of the EDGE 705, as I mentioned before, is pretty good. The longest I have ridden in one go has been 4 hours during the day and I think I only used up a quarter of the battery at most.

Aside from the price, I highly recommend the EDGE 705 for those of you that want to not only quantify and analyze your bike rides, but also to explore and discover new bike routes. Garmin has room to improve for their next generation device, particularly when it comes to the speedy calculation of routes; until then, however, you will not be disappointed if you pick this baby up.

Pros:

Large, readable, and customizable display
Analysis heaven. You can find out anything you want about your ride.
Mapping. You have to buy the maps card for your region to fully unlock the potential of this device.
Free website and software that allow you to put everything together and share it with your friends
The device shows up as a drive on your PC, allowing you to load waypoints manually.

Cons:

Price of the device and version with cadence meter
Maps need to be bought separately and are also expensive
Calorie counts are unreliable
Mapping a course on the device can be slow
Garmin Connect website is slow, unreliable, and prone to failure
Garmin Connect software for the Mac has bugs that make it annoying to use

Chromewalker Rating: Highly Recommended

Other Chromewalker Stories on GPS:

Garmin GPS Watches:

Garmin GPS Watches: The Progression – [Correction]

Convert TCX files into GPX files:

Quick way to convert .tcx files into other formats such as Google Earth KML

Other Garmin EDGE 705 Reviews:

http://www.velorider.co.uk/wp02/?p=29
http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/category/accessories/gadgets/gps-devices/product/edge-705-31875

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