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Guess what Lisa bought me for our Anniversary?

Thursday, May 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

May
24
2012

Lisa and I decided to get joint bank accounts when we started living together back in 1992 (two years before we were married). Doing so was a smart choice because we learned very early in our relationship to think of money and assets as “ours” and not “mine and yours”. Back then we didn’t have much, but we really liked the feeling of being a single financial team. Because of this early choice Lisa and I became very comfortable dealing with our money as a single unit, and that has served us well over the years.

The only real downside of completely transparent finances is that buying one another surprise gifts is pretty difficult. In fact, it almost never happens.

The Garmin Edge 500 - Premium Red Edition stem mounted on my Fuel.

The Garmin Edge 500 - Premium Red Edition stem mounted on my Fuel.

So I was caught completely off guard when Lisa manged to surprise me with an awesome anniversary gift: The Garmin Edge 500 – Red Premium Bundle!

Ever since I started using Strava I wanted to purchase a dedicated GPS bike computer, as they are far more precise than smart phones. After some research, I decided that I wanted the The Garmin Edge 500 – Red Premium Bundle, and so I added it to my Amazon Wish List.

Lisa put on her stealth cloak and managed to tuck away an unexpected work bonus without me knowing about it. THANK YOU SNEAKY LISA! 🙂

Improved GPS accuracy is just part of what I’ll be gaining with the Garmin: the premium version of the Edge 500 has a heart rate monitor and a speed/cadence sensor, and that data will now be included along with the GPS data when I ride. As most of you know, I’m a stats junkie and so having all this information available after each ride is going to be very cool. Also, on the Garmin Connect web site I can playback my rides and view data like heart rate, elevation, speed, elapsed time, cadence and even temperature as I watch the rides on the maps. I can share these rides publicly, too.

Of course the Garmin is compatible with Strava, and I’m very hopeful that the improved accuracy will eliminate, or drastically decrease, segment matching errors.

I’ve not done any serious riding with the Garmin yet–just a few quick test rides around the neighborhood. I’ll share some initial thoughts now, but after I’ve spent some time with the unit I’ll post a more complete review.

  • The main display unit measures 2.7″x1.9″x 0.9″, and weighs 57 grams (verified).
  • The information display is completely customizable. You get three screens with up to eight stats per screen. As you can see in the above picture, I currently have my main screen set to show the 4 stats I’m most interested in: Heart Rate, Elapsed Time, Distance and Speed. Again, you can set the three display screens up any way you like.
  • The stats that can be displayed are numerous, and include just about every type of data you could ever want to know.
  • Scrolling between the three screens is accomplished with a single button press. I found this very easy to do while riding, even with gloves on.
  • The display is easy to read, even in direct sun. Also, it’s backlit.
  • Comes with a true barometric altimeter for accurate elevation data.
  • GPS lock was very fast. Accuracy (under cloudy skies) was 9-11 feet, which I feel is quite good.
  • Navigating the menus was intuitive, and it only took a few minutes for me to become comfortable with the procedure.
  • A single charge (Lithium Ion battery) will last about 18 hours. Reviews I’ve read say getting 18 hours per charge is pretty accurate in real-world.
  • The package includes a USB wall charger, or you can charge it with any standard USB computer connection.
  • The Red bundle comes with Garmin’s premium heart rate monitor strap, which I found easy to adjust and very comfortable.
  • The heart rate monitor seems to be very accurate (I compared it with my Timex Ironman).
  • Installation was easy.
  • IPX7 water resistance: can withstand accidental immersion in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes.
  • The package comes with 14 strong mounting bands (7 small and 7 large) that attach the mounting bracket to the stem or handlebars. You only need two bands, so it’s nice to have spares. You also get two mounting brackets, so switching the unit between bikes really easy.
  • The mounting bands are strong enough that even if one breaks the other will keep the unit in place.
  • Installing and removing the main unit from the bike takes about 1 second. To install, you simply twist the unit 90 degrees until it locks into the mounting bracket. To uninstall, just reverse.

This is how easy it is to install the unit onto the mounting bracket:

Installing the Garmin Edge 500 onto the bracket takes about 1 second.

Installing the Garmin Edge 500 onto the bracket takes about 1 second.

 

Because the unit is so easily removed, keep that in mind if you ever leave your bike unattended. Someone could steal this thing in less than a second.

One negative I’ve noticed so far is that the cadence sensor is not really suited for full suspension mountain bikes. The sensor mounts on the chainstay, and the magnet mounts on the crank arms. It works great when I have the bike on the stand, but when the rear suspension is compressed (even just sitting on the bike) the magnet no longer lines up properly. This is actually not a big deal to me, as cadence data is not of much use to mountain bikers. Hardtail mountain bikes, rigid mountain bikes and road bikes would not be affected by this problem. Thankfully this issue doesn’t affect the speed sensor, which is obviously very important.

So far I’m impressed, but the real test will be how well this thing tracks out in the woods. There’s a setting in the menu system that affects how often the unit records GPS data points. The default is “Smart”, which is probably OK for road bikes, but it also has the option to force recording a point every second. I changed it to the 1 second setting, which is probably the better choice for mountain bikers.

By the way, I’ll still be using my awesome Timex Ironman quite a lot. I’ll use it anytime I’m doing indoor cardio, measuring my resting heart rate or testing my heart rate recovery.

Time to hit the trails! 🙂

John Stone Fitness Comments

4 Responses to “Guess what Lisa bought me for our Anniversary?”
  1. John your blog is making me want to get in to mountain biking. It sounds like alot of fun and a good way to keep in shape. I think you do a good job of explaining things but it still seems complicated lol.

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    • Try not to be overwhelmed by it all. Cycling is indeed a deep pool, and there is a lot to digest. When I started riding a few years ago I didn’t know a mountain bike from a road bike, let alone the many different kinds of bikes under each of those broad umbrellas. Once you start hearing about specialized equipment, repair/tools, attire, racing and on and on… it can all seem pretty daunting to a newcomer.

      Like I said, it’s a deep pool, but I think the best advice I can offer is to do what I did: dive in and have fun. You’ll learn what you need to learn as you get more and more into the sport. As much as I’ve learned over the past few years, I know there is far more waiting for me to absorb.

      I suggest finding a good local bike shop and spend some time there trying out bikes and asking questions. Your first major choice will be mountain or road (I’m not a fan of hybrids, but some people like them). It sounds like you might be interested in mountain biking more than road biking, so you may have already decided the most important question. Go to your local shop and look at and test ride bikes within your budget. Don’t forget that you’ll probably need stuff like a helmet, biking shorts, hydration unit, gloves, spare tube, emergency repair tools and so on. Your LBS will be able to help you with all of that. Most people (myself included) start with a decent hardtail (no rear suspension) mountain bike.

      One final note: there are some great deals to be had on Craigslist and the like, but for your first bike I’d strongly suggest establishing a relationship with a local bike shop and buying there. If you find a good LBS it will prove to be an invaluable resource as you’re starting out.

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  2. Hi John, being a fellow stats junkie, I can heartily recommend that you check out SportTracks 3 (http://www.zonefivesoftware.com/sporttracks/) if you haven’t done so already. It is much more versatile and a lot deeper than Garmin Connect, and it also has a host of plug-ins for all kinds of cool statistics (and for some pretty sick ones, too) to satisfy even the most neurotic of us. 🙂

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    • Nice, thanks! I’m installing the program as I type this. 🙂

      What I like about Garmin Connect (and Strava) is that I can share the rides online with all the stats, but this program looks really cool too. I’ll check it out in depth over the weekend!

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