Tips & Tricks: Bike Rental on Vacation: Destination San Francisco


Miko on Angel Island with her rental mountain bike.

Cycling runs deep in the San Francisco Bay Area culture.  It has  been in the blood of Bay Area residents since the 1960’s.  The first mountain bikes were even designed and rode in Marin County, on Mt. Tam by Gary Fisher and other mountain bike pioneers in the 1970’s.

With all this cycling fever, it makes sense the first bicycle rentals for tourists have been available in San Francisco since the mid-80’s.  However, it wasn’t until the closing of the Presidio Army Base and takeover of the land by the National Park Service in 1998 that tourist cycling took off.

Once the Presidio bike trails opened in 1998, riding across the Golden Gate Bridge by bike not only became easier, but accessible to almost anyone.   Since then, biking has become an integral part of the San Francisco tourist experience.

Not everyone has a folding bike, or wants the hassle of bring their own when on vacation.  We sympathize. We’ve brought a bike on the plane to various triathlons, we’ve rented bikes while on vacation, and even done the whole “borrow a bike” from a hotel. Some of these were good experiences, others, not much.

The only question is, which rental company do you choose?

That question is answered by determining what type of bike you want to rent: Hybrid comfort bike? Mountain bike? Road bike? Electric bike? City bike?


Miko’s rental hybrid bike on our first ride to Sausalito.

Hybrid Bike

The most popular option when renting is the hybrid comfort bike.  These bikes typically have flat pedals, larger tires, larger saddles, flat handlebars, disk brakes and can even come with front shocks.  The hybrid is your general purpose bike good for the road, paved trail or even a smooth dirt road.  The bikes typically feature 27 gears with a triple chainring up front and a 9-speed cassette in the rear for maximum flexibility while one a ride.  Shifting is done by rotating the handles forward or backwards.

One of the drawbacks of these bikes is their weight.  Hybrid comfort bikes tend to be very heavy, weighing from 27 to 35 pounds.  You will see people pushing hybrid comfort bikes up some of the hills on your way to Sausalito.  As they are the most popular bikes, they are also the most used, so maintenance is not always the best.  This can result in a bike where the gears do not change easily, the chain can come off the chainring while riding and squeaks in either the chain or frame can be heard.

An advantage of hybrid bikes is that they can be taken on any of the ferries back from Marin County, so no worries about having to pedal back to the city if you are tired by the time you reach Sausalito or Tiburon.

Hybrids are available from most of the bike rental companies in San Francisco.  Typically, there will be at least one rental company with hybrid bikes available with a location close to where you are staying or wandering around the city.  Just make sure you know what time you have to return the bike by and whether or not the company you rent from has a separate “after hours” return location.

Hybrid bikes range from $24 – $40 dollars per day to rent.


Miko’s rental mountain bike.

Mountain Bike

Mountain bikes are similar to hybrids in that they have wide tires, shocks and flat handlebars.  Mountain bikes can either be “hard tails” or “dual suspension” bikes.  A hard tail mountain bike has a front fork shock and a solid frame.  Dual suspension mountain bikes have both a front fork shock and a rear shock which allows the seat tube and rear assembly to flex while riding.

Mountain bikes have either flat pedals or can be fitted with clips, disk brakes, thumb shifters and 16 to 20 gears.  Rental mountain bikes have a double chainring up front with a medium size (~34 tooth) chainring and a smaller (~22 tooth) chainring for climbing.  They also have an 8 to 10 speed cassette.  Mountain bikes have tire sizes which range from the smaller 26-inch tires, to 27.5-inch to the big 29ers.  These bikes are meant for use on unpaved trails, dirt roads and can even be used to climb Mt. Tam or go exploring on Angel Island.

While mountain bikes are not rented as often as hybrids, the nature of a mountain bike will lead to some of the same shifting and squeaking issues if the bikes are not constantly maintained.

Mountain bikes are available from many of the same companies that offer hybrid rentals, however, they are not available at every rental location.  Mountain bikes are also ferry-friendly.

Mountain bikes range from $25/day for a low-end aluminum hard tail to $175/day for a dual suspension, carbon-fiber frame bike.  There’s a lot of variety between these two extremes, so it’s best to check out all your options before renting.


Miko loved this rental road bike so much, she bought the exact same bike!

Road Bike

Road bikes are your skinny-tire, bent-handlebar, rim break, lever-shift Tour de France-style bikes.  They are light, fast and can cost as much as a new car.  A few of the bike rental companies are offering high-end aluminum and carbon fiber road and time trial bikes for rent.  These bikes are meant for a specific market segment.  These are renters which typically own, or are looking to own, their own road bike, but did not want to deal with bringing the bike with them on vacation.  As a result, these bikes are the best-maintained rental bikes available.  You can either get flat pedals or bring your own clips and shoes to use while riding.  These bikes require some experience with skinny-tire bikes just for your own safety and comfort.  The road bikes can be used on any road trail and are great for really exploring the Bay Area, from San Francisco to Paradise Loop, Marin Headlands, Muir WoodsMt. Tam or Stinson Beach and beyond!

These bikes are also ferry-friendly and the friendliest on you when carrying them up the stairs when exiting the ferry.

Road bikes are not available at all rental locations and range from $40/day for an aluminum frame to $175/day for a carbon fiber frame.  Again, there is a wide-range in the rental prices depending on the components and bikes available.  Because road bikes are very size-dependent, it’s best to make sure you know your size, or go to a company with a large range of sizes for rent.

Electric Bike

Electric bikes are similar in design to hybrid bikes.  The major difference is that the electric bikes have an electric motor which powers the rear hub.  While these are not as powerful as a motor scooter, they will assist you in getting up hills and going along a flat path.  The battery is an “assistance” to your pedaling.  Pedaling is still required to make these bikes move and they have governor to limit their top speed.

The major drawback to electric bikes are that they are NOT ferry-friendly.  The Golden Gate Ferry system does not allow these bikes on their boats.  If you ride your electric bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll be riding back as well!  However,  the Blue & Gold Fleet will allow electric bikes on its ferries back to Pier 41 from Sausalito or Tiburon.

Electric bikes are also not available at all rental locations and range from $25/day to $88/day.

City Bike

City bikes are the latest development in bike rentals.  Although these bikes were originally meant to be “shared” bikes for city residents, they are quickly becoming another popular rental options for tourists.  The city bikes have frames which are able to be stepped through and a seven-speed internal rear hub.  These bikes are heavy and best used for trips that are dead pan flat, although some people are able to make it across the Bridge.

These bikes are not electric, so they are allowed on the ferry.

City bike rentals require a membership, which starts at $9 for 24 hours and then a rental fee of $4 for the first hour and $7 per 1/2 hour thereafter.

Renting a Bike

If you are looking for a hybrid, city bike or electric bike, simply walking out of your hotel or a search of the internet will show you where to rent.

However, we’d like to concentrate on where you can rent high-end road and mountain bikes.

Bike Rental Companies

1. Blazing Saddles – San Francisco


Blazing Saddles is one of the oldest bike rental companies in San Francisco.  It offers a wide variety of bikes and a number of locations throughout San Francisco including their high-end rental located at 1095 Columbus Avenue.


We have rented both high-end road bikes and high-end mountain bikes from the Columbus Street location.  Don’t forget your pedals and shoes if you want something other than flat pedals.

2. Sports Basement – San Francisco


Sports Basement is not only a great place to buy sports equipment, clothing and bikes, it’s also a great place to rent a road bike.  Bike rentals are only available at the Presidio location.

3. The Sausalito Bike Company – Sausalito


The Sausalito Bike Company is the sister store of A Bicycle Odyssey, and is located in downtown Sausalito at 1417 Bridgeway.  It’s a ten minute walk or less from the Sausalito Ferry Terminal.

This company specializes in renting high-end road, mountain and time-trial/tri bikes.




Although they are located in Sausalito, when you make a reservation you can ask them about brining your bike to your hotel in San Francisco and giving you a top-notch bike fitting.  Make sure to bring your own pedals shoes.


Tips & Tricks: It’s Not Bonking, It’s Dehydration


**Kinda scientific article, not meant to be medical advice, nor has it been reviewed by a doctor or other medical professional.  It is however, based on research of published articles in medical journals and other sports related articles linked below so you can look for yourself.**

Riding a bike has a lot of different dangers and obstacles, many of which are out of your control.  Whether biking across across town or taking on a double century, the first major obstacle your body will encounter is dehydration.

Dehydration peaks its ugly head in many different ways.  Among those are: dry mouth, reduced aerobic capacity, muscle cramps, decrease in sweating, eyes drying, reduced fine motor skills, decreased urine, lightheadedness, and eventually weakness, heart palpitations, nausea and vomiting.

I personally had a sever case of dehydration at a Half Ironman triathlon in the US Virgin Islands.  I got out of the water to start my next leg on the bike and my muscles just felt heavy. I could not get going and at first though it was the headwind.  Then I realized my power was gone and I just felt weak, and it just continued through the run and to the end of the race.  It was one of those days when most of the racers were not only done, but were also out of the transition area and clapped as I and the last 25 racers came to the finish line.  It was a very tough and humbling day.  But it was also a great lesson how dehydration affects your body.


We’ve all experienced some degree of dehydration while exercising, but what’s really happening inside your body? Dehydration is the body’s loss of water such that it contains an insufficient volume of water for normal functioning.

The volume of water in your body is directly related to the volume of blood in your body.  As we all know, blood carries oxygen to your muscles to keep them functioning during aerobic exercise, but another core competency of your circulatory system is to maintain your core temperature (at ~37 degrees C) to help prevent overheating which can lead to coma through a process called thermoregulation.

Basically, the circulatory system performs thermoregulation by carrying heat away from your heart and other vital organs using heat transfer.  This type of heat transfer works by pumping blood through the organs and then to the skin.  The blood cells oxygenate the organs while the water in the blood cells absorbs the heat within the organs.  Water has a large heat capacitance (ability to store heat) and is the main part of the blood cell that assists in thermoregulation.  The “hot blood” is then sent to the skin to dissipate the heat through the skin surface.  This process regulates your core temperature.

The amount of blood flow to the skin during rest, or non-exercise periods is typically 4%.  This amount can increase to remove the excess heat from the core up to 48%!  This huge potential fluctuation in blood flow redirection is one of the main reasons maintaing blood volume, via hydration, is so important for cyclists and other endurance athletes.  Muscle tissue needs oxygen to produce power.  If your blood volume decreases, the amount of blood available to oxygenate your muscle tissue reduces, resulting in reduced ability to produce power.  (See Control of skin blood flow during exerciseMed Sci Sports Exerc. 1992 Mar;24(3):303-12; see also Major Functions of the Cardiovascular SystemHydration: Is your sports drink making you dehydrated?; and Skeletal Muscle Blood Flow).


So the solution would be to replace that lost water by drinking a lot of water while working out, right?  Well, no, it’s not that simple.  Research has found water by itself does not work to rehydrate the body.  There’s an element missing in water, that element is sodium.  (See Sodium-free fluid ingestion decreases plasma sodium during exercise in the heatJ Appl Physiol 100: 1847–1851, 1999.)

So then just use a salt tab, right? Wrong.  Salt is sodium chloride (NaCl), what your body actually needs is Sodium Citrate (Na+).  While salt is ok in small doses, increased ingestion leads to gastrointestinal distress, which is neither helpful or fun during a long ride.  Sodium Citrate actually increases water retention resulting in greater hydration.  Hydration: Is your sports drink making you dehydrated?

So the question becomes, what can you drink that has the higher concentration of Na+?  A study at Drake University performed testing to determine the amount of sodium (Na+) was found in various sports drinks and other foods.  The sodium was either in the form of trisodium citrate or sodium bicarbonate, as both are effective in oral rehydration.  (See Citrate can effectively replace bicarbonate in oral rehydration salts for cholera and infantile diarrhea, Bull World Health Organ. 1986; 64(1): 145–150.)  The study looked mainly at sports drinks like Gatorade, Gatorade Endurance, Powerade and Accelerade.  (See Electrolyte (Na+, K+, Cl-) Concentrations in Assorted Sports Drinks and Milk).

orange heroendurance-group powerade-printable-coupon all-natural-accelerade-fp_1

However, as the study was released in 2010, there are some newer kids on the block of rehydration for athletes.  They are Osmo, Nuun, Cytomax and DripDrop.

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Normalizing the results for the amount of Na+ in a 16 fluid ounce (~0.5 L) serving of each, here is the amount of Na+ in each of the major rehydration beverages:



Gatorade: 8-11 (mmol/L)


Powerade: 11.5 (mmol/L)


DripDrop: 30 (mmol/L)


Accelerade: 63.5 (mmol/L)


Gatorade Endurance: 105.5 (mmol/L)


Cytomax: 180 (mmol/L)


Nuun: 360 (mmol/L)


Osmo: 360 (mmol/L)

There’s more to replacing the fluids lost in your body than just the Na+ content, but good rehydration starts there.

We have both had success with Osmo, Nuun and DripDrop, although we have done our best using Osmo on the ride and Nuun as a pre-ride hydration aide. Since my experience in the USVI, I revamped my hydration by adding two more bottles to my bike and starting to us Osmo as my hydration supplement.   Less than a month after my experience at the Half Ironman in the USVI, I competed in the Escape from Alcatraz and had one of my best races ever!  I am a firm believer in the value of hydration.

Get out there, try out the rehydration beverages that look best to you and good luck on your next ride!!!

Tips & Tricks: Keep it Clean – Cleaning Your Bike

In some ways, a bike is just like a car. When you pull up for a date and your Corvette, Mazda or Prius (no, not Prius*) is dirty, your date considers “if that’s how he treats his toys, how’s he gonna take care of me?” Same thing goes when you arrive at a group ride, race or favorite bike douche hangout and your ride looks like you keep it in a coal mine, people judge from your ride that you would also get married, and then let yourself go. Don’t be that dirty bastard!
Follow these simple steps to properly wash, lube and even wax your ride and keep it cleaner, longer.
Step 1: The Sponge Bath
Since pressure from a water hose or solvents like WD-40 can damage components and even remove the factory lubricant from the chain, it’s best to wash your bike by hand.
This is a bit more of a challenge in an urban environment. We use a corner of a parking structure with a sanitary drain nearby, that way you can dump the water when you are done because direct the solution to a water treatment plant where the grease, oil, and particulate matter can be removed from the water and the cleaned water can then be released. We use Simple Green as our soap, as it can be placed in the sanitary drain with no issues. If you are in a back yard, you can allow the dirty Simple Green solution to fall onto ground, grass or gravel, where it will biodegrade, but be sure to water-in if the rinse hits grass or plants.
You will need the following for the wash: One – two gallon bucket; Simple Green; spray bottle with clean water; a sponge; a rim/tire cleaning brush; a paper bag; some cotton rags and lube. See the items pictured below.
First, mix the Simple Green with hot water. Make the mix so that there are enough bubbles, but not overly sudsy.
Then go to your cleaning area and soak the sponge in the water. Start cleaning your bike by ringing the sponge out over your bike frame.
Next ring your sponge out over the components while running your pedals in reverse. Get the chain, cassette and chainring soapy.
Then sponge down the bike frame to remove all the heavy dirt.
Ring the sponge out over the bike frame one more time to re-wet the bike, then use your spray bottle with clean water to rinse all of the soap off the bike frame and components.
Once you have rinsed off all of the soap, dry off the frame with a clean cotton cloth. Once you have dried off the frame, use a separate cloth to lightly dry off your components by padding the water beads off the cassette, chain and chainring.
Now its time to clean your tires and rims. Start by soaking your rim brush in the bucket. Then clean your rims and tire with the rum brush to get off all of the dirt from the tires and brake dust from the rims. Clean both sides of the rims at the same time. Once your are done with the rims, use the clean water bottle to again spray off all of the soap. Then dry the rims with a cotton cloth. Repeat for the the process for your other wheel.
Step 2: The Lube Job
To properly lube your chain, you will need to find a second spot at your cleaning area where the ground is dry. Post your bike so you can rotate the pedals in reverse. Then place either the paper bag or a rag behind your chain in order to protect your frame and rims from the lube.
Use a second rag behind your rear derailleur and sprockets to again protect your wheel and rim from the lube, as pictured above.
After washing the bikes, we use Boeshield T-9 Spray Lube. This lube was developed by The Boeing Company for aircraft parts and is perfectly suited for use on bike chains as it dissolves minor corrosion from the parts and leaves a long-lasting waxy coating that is waterproof. This is perfect for lubricating your chain after washing your bike.
Spray the lube toward the ground directly on the lower rung of the chain, below the chainstay, while rotating the pedals. Rotate the pedals ten times around while continuing to lube the chain. This should provide a sufficient coating.
Then spray a bit of lube on both sides of each the upper and lower rear derailleur sprockets. Then rotate the pedals another ten times to really work the lube into the chain and moving parts.
Now it’s time to wipe the excess lube off the chain and rear derailleur. Press your thumb on one side of the sprocket and your forefinger on the other. Rotate the pedals ten times. Repeat for the other sprocket.
Then place the rag on the chain where it meets the lower sprocket at the rear derailleur and rotate the pedals ten times to remove excess lube. Repeat at the upper sprocket.
Lightly press the top and bottom of the lower section of the chain with the rag between your fingers. Rotate the pedals twenty times to remove the excess lube.
Now lightly press the outside and inside of the chain with the rag between your fingers. Rotate the pedals thirty times to remove the excess lube.
Repeat the process with the top and bottom of the chain and rotate the pedals another ten times. Now wipe off any lube from the chainstay.
With your bike cleaned and lubed, now its time to protect your bike from the elements. The best way to do this is to apply a coat of wax to your bike.
Step 3: Wax On, Wax Off
This tip always raises an eyebrow. Most riders have never thought about applying wax to their bike. Waxing your car is one thing, but waxing your bike?
If you have a dark colored frame and have never waxed your bike, you may notice streaking or a cloudiness to the finish. Waxing your bike helps eliminate the streaking and cloudy finish.
Not only does the wax make your ride shine, it also protects the finish from the elements and helps keep dirt, dust and mud off the frame. Although most bikes are made from either aluminum or carbon fiber frames, the wax we use comes from the car detailing industry and our friends at Detailed Image. This same wax can be used on your steel or titanium frame as well.
Your first step is to apply the Optima No Rinse to the frame. you can do this either through a spray bottle or by applying the No Rinse onto a rag and using the rag to wipe down the frame, using enough to make the frame look wet. With a clean rag, dry the frame completely.
Next, apply the Meguiar’s M205 polish to the polishing pad. Dab a small amount of polish onto the various parts of the frame. Then use the pad to work the polish onto the entire frame. Use a circular motion to work the polish in. The polish is fully applied once you no longer see any obtuse coating or streaking from the application. The finish will feel a bit rough and waxy to the touch.
Now wipe off the polish with another clean cotton rag. Use circular motions again to remove the wax. You have removed all of the wax when the finish is smooth to the touch.
Although it seems repetitive, the next step is to use the Meguiar’s Final Inspection Spray to remove any missed wax. Again, you can either apply the spray directly to the frame or to a rag. Either way, use a clean rag to apply the Spray to the entire frame. Then wipe it down with another clean, dry rag.
The last step is to apply the Blackfire Wet Diamond to get the final shine and protection. Apply the Blackfire to another clean rag and wipe down the entire frame. Then use a second rag as a final way to remove any residue from the frame. Finally, use a microfiber cloth to wipe down the entire frame.
If you take a picture of your frame before and after the waxing, you’ll notice a huge difference in the shine of your bike. You’ll also notice your bike stays cleaner, longer as you continue to ride throughout the season.
This wash and wax is also a great final wash of the season if you are putting your bike away for winter. When you pull it back out in the spring, all you will need to do is wipe it of with the microfiber cloth and apply a new round of lube to the chain. The T-9 applied above does a great job at protecting your chain from rusting or seizing while in storage.
Our pre-ride ritual requires lube, a couple of rags, a paper bag, steel wool and alcohol pads.
Start by lubing the chain with Rock-n-Roll lube. On days with dry roads, we use the red, Absolute Dry lube. When the roads are wet, or it’s foggy out, we use the Gold lube for a bit more waxiness to keep the chain from getting wet.
Set up the rags behind the the chain and apply the lube to the lower part of the chain behind the chain ring. Rotate the pedals ten times while applying the lube. Next apply the lube to both upper and lower rear derailleur sprockets. Then rotate the pedals another ten times.
With a clean rag, wipe the excess lube off the chain and derailleur sprockets. Start with the lower sprocket and then the upper sprocket. Then the chain where it meets the lower sprocket and repeat where the chain meets the upper sprocket.
Then wipe the excess lube off the top and bottom of the chain by gripping the top and bottom of the lower part of the chain with your thumb and forefingers and rotating the pedals twenty times. Then do the same for the sides of the chain an rotate the pedals thirty times. Finally, repeat wiping the top and bottom of the chain another ten rotations. When you are done, your clean rag will have much of the dirt, grime and excess lube from your chain.
After lubing the chain, we use an isopropyl alcohol pad to wipe off the aluminum breaking surfaces of the rims in order to remove any brake dust and ensure proper breaking.
If you have a nick or other surface imperfection in your braking surface, you can also use steel wool to smooth out the surface. We use copper, as it leaves less residue on the aluminum braking surfaces as your are smoothing it out.
Finally, we pump the tires to the desired pressure. We use 95 – 100 psi for normal rides, or 100 – 110 psi for races. Once the tires are pumped, we are ready to roll with the clean, bright and shiny frames!
Whether you just got a new bike, or have been riding the same steed for years, a good wash and wax can make your ride look brand new and sparkle in the sun!
*Riding in the San Francisco Bay Area, we encounter A LOT of Pariah (Priuses or Pri-i, whatever), none of whom appear to either be cyclists, or even like cyclists as they are your most likely offender to passing too closely! Our theory is the Prius drivers are angry that cyclists have a smaller carbon footprint. Beyond our personal observations, the National Highway Safety Administration backs up our theory in that it has found bicyclists are 57% more likely to be in an accident with a hybrid, such as the Prius, than an internal combustion engine car (aka cars other than hybrids). Although it is our opinion no serious cyclist would ever drive a Prius and thus, a Prius driver need not read this article. However, just like every other rule, we have been informed there is an exception. So if you are one of the exceptions, please feel free to read and use all of the information in this article.

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.


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.


The many features of the Edge 800 include:

-GPS-based maps and location indicator

-Heart rate monitoring

-Speed/cadence recording

-Power meter compatible


-Time of day

-Sunrise/Sunset times

-Calorie calculator

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


-Multiple training pages with customizable displays

-Virtual training partner


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.


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 and 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 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.


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.