A YEAR IN REIVEW: The Good, The Bad and the Just Plain Cool Features of the Garmin Edge 800


The Garmin Edge 800 is the top-end bike computer on the market. The Edge 800 is a touchscreen bike-specific GPS unit with onscreen navigation and performance monitoring. The onscreen navigation has a similar look and feel to the screen and maps of the car-based GPS units. Performance monitoring capabilities are compatible with any ANT+ capable device.

The Edge 800 has a lot of capabilities for both recreational riders and athletes in training. But with the massive amount of capabilities comes some irritating limitations. After our year of ownership of the Edge 800 and regular use, here are what we have found to be The Good, The Bad and the Just Plain Cool features.

Basics

The Edge 800 has a 1.4″ x 2.2″ screen which allows riders to view maps directly on the device that track your movements via GPS just like your car navigation. (More on Maps, Mapping and Navigation below.)

There are two packages for the Edge 800, base and Performance and Navigation bundle:

The base package includes the Edge 800, USB cable, wall charger and mounting hardware for $449.

The Performance and Navigation bundle includes two sets of mounting hardware, USB cable, wall charger, speed/cadence sensor, premium heart rate monitor and 2010 Garmin US City Navigator Maps preloaded on a micro-SD card all for $649. In case you are wondering about the price difference, purchased separately the map along is $80, the premium heart rate monitor is $70 and the speed cadence sensor is $60. You save $10 purchasing the bundle.

Features

The many features of the Edge 800 include:

-GPS-based maps and location indicator

-Heart rate monitoring

-Speed/cadence recording

-Power meter compatible

-Auto-pause

-Time of day

-Sunrise/Sunset times

-Calorie calculator

-Elevation gain/loss and climb/descent grade percentage indicator with barometric altimeter

-Temperature

-Multiple training pages with customizable displays

-Virtual training partner

Maps

The maps used with the Edge 800 are Navteq-based and housed on a micro-SD card. The basic Edge 800 does not come with the North America City Navigator, but the Edge 800 Performance and Navigation Bundle does.

The map itself is the same road map used in the car navigation systems, so it’s great for riding on the streets. A limitation to the base maps is they do not contain bike trails or other off-road paths.

A fix to this are the add-ons available for purchase through Garmin or in cooperation with other entities such as the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy. TOPO maps are also available for mountain bikers. These add-on maps are available through the Garmin Store. Both road and TOPO maps for other areas of the world are also available if you plan on traveling with your Edge 800 or are located outside of North America.

Just like other Garmin systems, you have the option and ability to change the view from the standard overhead with North “Up” (North fixed to the top of the screen), to an overhead view with your direction of travel being “Up” (the map rotates to follow your direction of travel) or to the automotive 3D view with the map rotating to follow your direction of travel.

Mapping

Maps are only part of the package, the Edge 800 has the ability to find address and Points of Interest as well.  This mapping feature can be modified to avoid certain things like highways, carpool lanes, etc. and can be made to keep all routes on roads.  This is done in the Settings menu.

Courses can also be created and uploaded to your device. The Edge 800 product site recommends using Garmin BaseCamp. This mapping system has some major limitations. First, its base road map is basic and almost useless for any type of mapping. For mapping on the roads, it requires you to have purchased the City Navigator maps, but then it does not allow you to overlay other maps like Rail-to-Trails to incorporate paved or un-paved bike paths in your route. This software seems to be best suited for use with TOPO maps and creating hiking routes, not biking.

Searching the Garmin forums, others have recommended using MapMyRide.com and BikeRouteToaster.com. Both of these sites have great mapping functions with road, satellite and hybrid mapping features.  They also both allow you to download the course directly to your Edge 800 in the .tcx format.  (See Navigation for operation of these maps.)

Garmin Connect, the community of Garmin fitness device owners who share their rides and stats, also has a mapping feature called “Courses”.  The Courses menu allows you to create a custom course, just like MapMyRide or BikeRouteToaster, but the interface on the Garmin Connect website interacts better with the Edge 800. The maps on the Courses tab are GoogleMap based and include all bike trails and walking trails. You can create routes that move from road to trail and back again. After you create the course, you can set your pace, name the route, then save it. After you save it, connect your Edge 800 then press “Send to Device” and select the Edge 800.  Once you eject the device, the course will be on the device.

Navigation

Navigation is started by going into the Courses menu and selecting a course you uploaded.  You can also start navigation by selecting a POI or inputting an address.

You can manage the distance before an alert in the Settings menu of the Course page. The Settings menu also allows you to change the color of the route and turn the route guidance on and off.

Once the route is started, the Edge 800 navigates you through the roads and bike paths with alerts at certain points before your turn.   Once the audible alerts sounds, the screen changes to indicate the distance to the turn.

We have extensively used maps created at MapMyRide, BikeRouteToaster and Garmin Connect.  The navigation works well with point-to-point routes created through all three systems.  Navigation also works well when routing to POIs or addresses.  There are no major issues when using these types of routes.

But routes from all of these sites have a major limitation…during the navigation if you have a circular route or circle back to a point and cross a road at a later time in your ride , the Edge 800 will send you in the wrong direction, or will keep telling you to “make a U turn”.  This gets really annoying as you are on a tour (such as around Lake Tahoe) and every few yards you get an “off course” notification or “make a U turn” even when you are more than halfway around the lake.

I’m not sure if the problem is with the communication between the aftermarket map and the unit or a problem with the logic of the unit. It would be nice if Garmin would look into this issue a bit more and correct the programming.

Operation

The Edge 800 allows you to personalize training pages.  You can have the time of day, ride time, power (if you have a power meter), speed, cadence, heart rate, total climbing distance, grade, total descent distance, sun rise, sun set and tons of other options.  You can customize up to three training pages with all of the information you want while on your ride.  You can also have a training partner and of course the map page.

The touchscreen operation works well, even through gloves.  We have not had any major difficulties with the operation of the Edge 800.  Although sometimes when you are trying to power down the system, you are taken into the screen brightness page and can accidentally lock the screen or turn down the brightness.  This takes a minute to fix, but isn’t a huge issue.

When you first power up the device, it takes a few minutes for the GPS signal to lock on.  We usually start before the GPS connects.  If you do this, after a few minutes the device will beep and alert you that “movement was detected” and it asks if you would like to start recording.  Just press “Yes” and recording your route begins.

Once you are back home, you can plug the Edge 800 into your computer and upload all of your information to the Garmin Connect website to review all of your stats.  This works really well at not only recording, but allowing you to see your improvement or relive a ride.

The Edge 800 has mounts for multiple bikes and you can even take it on vacation.  We took it to Hawaii to bike down Haleakala.  Although you will not get all of your information like cadence, power or “precise” speed measured at the bike’s rear wheel, the GPS in the unit allows for a “basic” speed to be recorded based on the GPS location and movement. This works well using the Edge 800 on multiple bikes.

-Information recorded when on bike with all measurement devices

-Information recorded when on bike with no measurement devices

Overall Opinion

The Edge 800 is a great tool for riding and recording your stats whether you are training, riding for enjoyment or using your rides for charities like on Plus3Network.  The difference between the Edge 800 and its little brother the Edge 500 is the mapping function.  Unfortunately, the mapping function has some limitations when riding an out-and-back, circular or other complex route.

Overall, the Edge 800 functions well as a recording device with a map that can keep you from getting lost. It does a better job navigating you through some routes than others, but is still a useful feature, especially when you are in unfamiliar territory.

The Edge 800 is still the best product on the market, although we’d love to see Garmin work on the navigation operational issues.

Tips & Tricks: Get the Most Out of Your Bike – Get it Fit!


Getting the most out of you bike requires a lot of work and effort. Part of that work is performing regular maintenance of your bike like lubing the chain, checking and pumping the tires, washing the bike and having your favorite mechanic check the bike once or twice a year.

Beyond your regular tuning, the best thing you can do to get the most out of your bike and to help prevent injury due to bad form is to get your bike properly fit. A bike fitting is more than just setting your seatpost at the right height, it’s about putting your bike in the correct place for you to get the most efficiency out of each peddle stroke, alleviate any muscle soreness you are experiencing and help to prevent future injury. While bike fittings are important for all types of riders, road bikers benefit the most from a professional fitting.

Photo Credit: Velodramatic

Riders for top teams like HTC-Highroad, Saxo-Bank and Garmin-Cervelo have their bikes professionally fit by the manufacturers (Specialized using BG Fit for the first two, Cervelo for the latter) for not only power, efficiency and injury prevention, but also for aerodynamics on the time trial bikes.

Photo Credit: Velodramatic

For those of us not-so-professional riders, the best person to fit your bike is someone trained in the science of bike fitting and skilled in the art.

The many aspects of a true bike fitting include: type of bike (pure racer, endurance, touring or aero), frame size (including top tube length, seat tube height and stand over height), bar width, drop length, stem length, stem angle, bar angle, gear lever placement, type of seat, seat post height, seat position (fore and aft), foot position at mid-stroke and knee angle at the bottom of the peddle stroke. A skilled bike fitter can make all of these angles and interactions not only work for you, but make each peddle stroke more efficient, more powerful and more comfortable for the rider.

When you get your first road bike, you may be uncomfortable with the typical 45 degree angle position, especially if you just transitioned from a hybrid or mountain bike. So the fit of your bike can change depending on your comfort level with a road bike and your skill level. You will notice changes in the seat post height or stem length immediately after they are changed. But as you progress in your riding you will appreciate the subtle changes like fore and aft positioning of the seat and handle bar angle just as much.

Both of us have had our bikes since we began road biking just over a year ago. Miko’s initial bike fitting was designed to make her comfortable in her transition from a hybrid to a road bike. Her seat post was a bit lower, her stem was angled up and the seat was closer to the stem. The design of her endurance road bike allowed it to take on the hybridesq fitting, while still giving her the road bike experience. This was the right fit for her at the time.

After over a year of riding and minor adjustments to her seat height, Miko was ready for an updated fitting. We took Ruby into A Bicycle Odyssey to have Tony perform an updated fitting. He took her measurements on the bike and checked the handlebar width. He started with adjustments to the seat post height, flipped the stem changing it from an upward angle to almost flat, ensured her handle bars and hoods were positioned such that her back made a 45 degree angle with her bike in the hoods and her elbows slightly bent, while ensuring he back was almost flat in the drops.

The positioning change made the saddle uncomfortable, so after trying a few different saddles, a new one that matched her positioned was installed. The seat position from the stem was adjusted to reduce chafing in this new position. Finally, all of the angles were one again checked to ensure maximum efficiency. During the first ride she commented she felt she owned a new bicycle.

Jon purchased his first road bike from A Bicycle Odyssey. Part of the purchase price includes a fit by Tony. Transitioning directly from a hybrid bike is a huge change in position, control and speed. On his test ride, the bike felt like a great fit, except for the reach, which was a bit long. During Jon’s fit, Tony swapped the stem with one 10mm shorter. He then continued with a full fitting of the bike as described above. The Result: an amazing and efficient ride that allows Jon to ride long distances without pain, or go for short, hard rides without his back and knees paying the price the next day.  When Jon got his second road bike, he made sure to also have a fit done.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced cyclist, a good fitting can help you improve your cycling, help reduce pain you experience while cycling and make riding a more enjoyable experience.