I recently started riding road bikes and whilst Strava managed to keep my times, speed and distances quite efficiently, I needed more, I ordered a Garmin Edge 800 from Amazon complete with maps, heart rate monitor and cadence sensor hoping I could one day compete the tour de France, or more realistically the tour de Balma (thats where I live by the way).
Start reading from Whats in the box? or jump straight to another section.
What’s in the box?
I don’t know what the general consensus is but for me the best part of buying something new is the unboxing. I feel and most probably look like a kid opening his christmas presents at 12:01 on January 1st.
Lets get started wit the rather nice looking box.
I don’t know if I opened it from the right side but the first thing I noticed was all the small parts each in their own bag.
First up we’ve got the docs, each manual its own language, I don’t even think i’ll try reading some of them.
Next up is the bike mounts, there is two to be precise with multiple rubber bands in different sizes. You may want to consider buying a different Bar Fly but more on that later.
Being a brit in France I appreciated the fact that there was a French and British mains adapter in the box ready to be used with a USB to Mini USB cable.
My first thoughts on the device was that it was deeper than I had imagined but considerably lighter, which i’ll specify below.
On the front there is two physical buttons, Lap/Reset and Start/Stop with the power button located on the right hand side.
You will also find the Garmin logo printed on the top, beautifully displayed to oncoming fellow cyclists.
The device is mounted using the quarter turn to lock system shared by most recent Garmin Edge Cycling devices. The female mini usb port used to charge the edge is hidden under a rubber waterproof cover next to the Micro SD Card slot used for navigation maps.
The Micro SD Card comes in its own little case along with an SD Card adapter making it a lot easier to use with a Mac or PC.
I was really impressed with the quality of the Heart Rate Monitor (HRM), it felt a lot more substantial than most other monitors on the market (I have to admit I haven’t tried many).
In all the excitement I actually forgot to get pictures of the Cadence sensor before fixing it to the frame so you’ll have to make do with photos of it on the bike (a Cannondale CAAD10 for the curious few, but don’t worry, it may pop up in another article).
So there we have the content of the box, more than I imagined. Next up, a few more technical details, the juicy stuff if you will.
Being my first cycling device, I wondered what kind of hardware they would fit into this small device, knowing that it would need a decent battery to be constantly recording GPS signals.
The Garmin Edge 800 is 510 mm wide, 930 mm tall and 250 mm deep with a 2.6” (160×240) touchscreen. It packs a rechargeable lithium-ion battery allowing for up to 15 hours battery life (I’ve managed a maximum of 3 hours in a day riding for the moment) and weighing in at only 98g.
If you already own an ANT+ HRM then you may also use it with the Edge along with compatible Power Meters.
Do note that the Edge 800 doesn’t offer any kind of wireless communication such as Bluetooth or Wifi to synchronise, only manually connecting using the USB cable will allow you to upload your rides to Garmin Connect, Strava or other alternative sites.
For wireless synchronisation, consider the Garmin Edge 810 which uploads rides through your mobiles internet connection using Bluetooth.
I won’t get into detail here about all the features of the device as i’ll try and show the useful features in action further below.
Mounting the Edge
The Edge 800, as well as most other recent Garmin Edge devices, uses the quarter turn quick mount system.
The mounts should be attached to the bike horizontally using the industrial rubber bands (don’t worry, they’re very tough) and then the edge device should be placed on the mount horizontally, rotated 45 degrees and you should hear it click into place.
I personally don’t like the edge being so far along my handlebars and it kind of looks out of place, so after talking with my friend from over at Lokan.fr, he was kind enough to give me his Garmin bar fly that he had replaced with the orange bar fly sold by Strava. As you can see in the photo below, it allowed me to center the Edge above my telephone mount minimalising handlebar real estate and just simply looking cool.
Using the Edge 800
So I’ve got my beautiful Edge device all unwrapped and strapped to the bike, now what happens?
When starting up the Edge 800 for the first time, I was taken step by step through the initial setup pages where I would give up my height, age and unwillingly my weight before moving onto the bike information. The device allows multiple profiles to cater for those with multiple bikes or different size rims or simply shared usage.
After the initial setup were taken to the first screen of the device which happens to be the navigation screen with the maps, and using the forward and backwards arrows in the bottom corners of the screen allows us to navigate between all the screens.
The touchscreen is surprisingly responsive and as of yet (touch wood) there have been no misunderstandings between my fingers and the screen. Dont get me wrong, its not an iPhone or a high end Android device screen, but it does its job and does it well.
I purchased the complete bundle, Edge 800 + HRM + CAD + CN which includes a cadence sensor, heart rate monitor and city navigator maps however you don’t have to buy the Garmin maps, you may use the maps from OpenStreetMap.nl which work just as well and are, dare I say, slightly better looking. For a tutorial on how to use the OpenStreetMap on your device check out this post over on dcrainmaker.com.
Navigation on the device is pretty similar to the way we use GPS devices in our cars, you choose where to navigate to by selecting ‘where to?’, ‘courses’, ‘history’ or ‘courses’.
- ‘Where to?’ will allow you to select a destination from saved locations, a multitude of POI (Points of Interest), specific coordinates, addresses or back to where you started your ride.
- ‘Training’ offers three options; alerts for each sensor, workouts that have been made and saved to the device and scheduled which shows all upcoming scheduled training sessions.
- ‘History’ pretty much speaks for itself, all previous navigated routes will show here.
- Finally ‘courses’ which are personal routes created and saved to the device from sites such as Garmin Basecamp or Strava.
After selecting a location the device will calculate the route and start the visual guidance (no ladies voice i’m afraid), at this point we can either stay on the map screen and follow the guidance or switch to any other screen at which point you receive simply a beep if you go off course.
The next screen shows real time stats for heart rate, cadence, temperature, time, distance, speed and elevation to name a few. It is possible to show up to 12 stats on the screen per page, and to change the stat shown is easy, simply press down for 1 or 2 seconds on the square or rectangle that you’d like to change and you’ll end up on a screen with all the possible stats to be shown.
On the elevation screen, which I haven’t really used to be honest, you’ll be able to configure and follow the elevation of a preconfigured route. I’m no expert on the matter which is why I recommend reading this article if climbing is something you like to do.
If you’re looking to beat records and PB’s then the virtual partner screen is for you, by loading on to the device the data from a previous ride or someone elses ride, you can race against a ghost.
TIP: If you’re wondering how to take screenshots on the edge, you need turn on the option in settings – system – display and then until the device restarts, a quick press on the power button will save a screenshot to the /scrn folder which can be found on the device when plugged in to a computer.
So after one or a couple of rides you will want to get your Edge 800 hooked up to a Mac or a PC to synchronize your ride data to Garmin Connect or any other compatible alternative using the Garmin Communicator Plugin. Once uploaded you’ll notice on your Garmin dashboard your different rides and when you click on one you’ll be able to see all the information about the ride on the left of the screen and graphs for each sensor on the right.
Here’s a couple of graphs from my first outing with the Edge, first up speed over time. If your wondering about the dip between about 10 minutes and 17 minutes, there was a road block so I had to walk through the mud and got it all stuck in my shoes, argh.
Below that we can see the elevation over distance
And my heart rate along the way
Cadence showing the amount of rotations of the pedal per minute.
And finally the temperature which has a tendency to drop during the ride.
So there you have it, the Garmin Edge 800 is a good device, whether you’re willing to pay the couple of hundred extra for the Edge 810 with wireless connectivity is a entirely up to you but for my needs the 800 definitely ticks all the boxes and I’m looking forward to using it on all my rides and tracking my progress over the months.