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
-Power meter compatible
-Time of day
-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 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 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
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.