I am sick of being lost on the bike, bought a Garmin Edge 810.
Some of you may have noticed that in my daily blog I’ve occasionally lamented the fact that I’m extremely directionally challenged. It doesn’t matter if I’m on foot, driving a car, on a mountain bike trail or out road cycling: if I’m not leveraging modern-day GPS technology to my advantage, then I’m almost always lost. All of my friends and riding buddies know this about me and, as one might expect, plenty of good-natured ribbing is lobbed in my direction. While I don’t mind the jokes, I really do find my inability to find my way around extremely frustrating. I’ve tried and tried, but I can’t seem to overcome it. That part of my brain just doesn’t work.
I guess I get it from my mom–she’s really bad at finding her way around, too. I, along with my brother and sister, used to bag on her all the time when we were kids. See what happens? This is karma.
Anyway, because of this affliction I am probably one of Garmin’s favorite customers. In the car I use Garmin’s excellent Nuvi 50LM (“LM” stands for free Lifetime Maps). Ever since I picked up this extremely effective (yet surprisingly inexpensive) little gadget, time spent behind the wheel has become much more enjoyable. I picked one up for Lisa, too, as it’s much better than her car’s navigation system.
Moving over to the the bike side of things, I’ve been doing a lot more road riding lately and my terrible sense of direction is really detracting from my enjoyment of the rides. I’ve been creating and riding long (100-160 kilometer) routes that take me to areas of Florida with which I’m not at all familiar. Oftentimes I’m riding with a group, but I can’t stand that I never know where to turn. It sucks when I’m up front pulling and I have to constantly ask my fellow riders “Um, do I turn here? Which way?!”
I own the excellent Garmin Edge 500 (Premium Red Edition), and I’ve been extremely happy with it–especially for mountain biking. Unfortunately the Edge 500 only offers very rudimentary course functionality, and is not designed to provide true turn-by-turn navigation. While you can upload a preplanned course to the Edge 500, it can only provide you with a “dumb” breadcrumb trail of that course. By “dumb” I mean the Edge 500 has no idea that you’re on, say, Elm Street–all it can do is follow hundreds of little dots. So, if you happen to miss a turn, the Edge 500 can’t re-route you, it simply indicates “off course”. Not very helpful. Added to that, I’ve found the Edge 500 often says “off course” when I know I’m not, and it frequently stops updating the map screen for no apparent reason. I’ve tried to use the Edge 500’s course functionality many times, and it’s essentially useless. This is basically what you get (click to enlarge):
What I’ve been doing to get around this problem is decidedly low-tech: I print out a turn-by-turn cue sheet and then tape it to my top tube. This solution is better than the Edge 500’s breadcrumb trail, but it’s far from perfect…
Obviously if I miss a turn and don’t know where to go, the cue sheet can’t help me. When this happens I have to stop my bike, pull out my phone and figure out things from there. This issue arises more than one might expect, as often the cue sheet instructions are flat-out wrong, and/or the physical street signs do not match what is shown on Google Maps (for example, see my recent blog, “Nice 100 KM ride; Strava’s route feature; Street naming convention rant“).
Finally–and perhaps most importantly–there’s a definite safety issue with cue sheets. When I’m flying down the road on my bike I don’t like to take my eyes off the action for more than a quick moment. Not only can the cue sheet can be very hard to read in bright sunlight, it’s tough to quickly find your place in a long list of turn instructions. I nearly wrecked the other day while staring down at my top tube in an attempt to locate my next turn, which was lost in a sea of vibrating text. It was at this point I decided that a better solution was needed.
A couple days after that happened I was on a group ride, and I met a very strong racer named David Hildebrand. Wanting a bit faster pace, early in the ride David and I split from the main group and took off on our own. Here’s the thing: David is from Connecticut (he was down here training), and was not at all familiar with the route. Of course me being me, neither was I. 🙁 So how is it that we didn’t wind up in Tampa or something? David had the course loaded into his Garmin Edge 800.
The Edge 800, unlike the Edge 500, has true routable maps. In other words, it provides turn-by-turn directions, and it knows where you are. So if you miss a turn, it will intelligently guide you back to your course (just like a typical automobile GPS navigation system).
Both the Edge 800 and the Edge 810 provide all the functionality of the Edge 500, but they also provide true turn-by-turn intelligent navigation, and much more (click to enlarge):
While the Edge 800 would do just fine for navigation purposes, the Edge 810 offers real-time ride sharing. This is a great feature because I can allow anyone I want (invites can be sent by email, social media, etc.) to track my ride progress in real-time. My wife Lisa was insistent that I get the 810 over the 800 for that feature alone. She loves the fact that she’ll be able to watch my live progress on a map, making sure that I’m safely moving down the road and not lying in a ditch somewhere.
Here’s a pretty cool video from Garmin that shows off some of the Edge 810’s capabilities:
When the Edge 810 first came to market about a year ago, it had a lot of problems. The vast majority of these problems have since been corrected with firmware updates, but there are a lot of negative reviews from livid users who bought the Edge 810 when it first became available. Can’t blame those guys for being angry (the Edge 810 is not cheap!), and Garmin should be ashamed for releasing a top-shelf, ultra-premium product with so many bugs and issues.
I’ve done a ridiculous amount of research on the Edge 810, and I feel fairly confident that it’s finally working as designed with the latest firmware updates. I’ve decided to pull the trigger on it (it will be here tomorrow), and if it’s buggy, or simply doesn’t blow my skirt up, I’ll return it.
In the coming days and weeks you can expect my thoughts and impressions on the Edge 810, along with a bunch of hints, tips and tricks (I’ve picked up a lot while doing my research).
I’m very hopeful that this little gadget will allow me to circumvent my broken internal navigation system and allow me to safely enjoy my rides.