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Best GPS "cycle computer" for Mountain Biking

andy_welchandy_welch Posts: 1,101
edited August 2012 in MTB buying advice
Hi All,

After many years of faithful service, my Garmin Edge 205 has just died. Well it's not actually dead, but the mode button doesn't work (and it rattles when I shake it), so it can only do the basic bike computer functions now.

So, I'm toying with the idea of leaping into the wonderful world of mapping. But which one?

Garmin Edge 800 with 1:50K mapping seems the obvious choice (as I already have all my rides in Garmin Connect), but seems to be the most expensive (around £350) and has the smallest screen.

Satmap 10 and Adventurer 3500 can both be had for £260-£290 with full GB 1:50K maps and have bigger screens, but less bike specific features (I've enjoyed using the virtual partner on the edge on occasions, for example).

Main use would be finding new (natural) routes around Aberdeenshire and the rest of Scotland. So, key features would include:

1. Rugged. The edge survived many years on the road bike, but has died within a few months of being used off-road. May be just coincidence, but clearly it needs to take some abuse (which is why I'm reluctant to just mount my iphone on the bars - well that and the fact that its GPS performance is so much worse than the Garmin).

2. Easy route planning on a PC i.e. using a mixture of map and satellite images to plan a route then easily transfer it to the device.

3. Ease with which route can be followed on device i.e. clarity of maps, easy of operation with gloved hands etc.

4. Ease with which route can be changed out on the trail e.g. when you realise that track you saw on the satellite image doesn't actually go anywhere.

5. Bike specific functions e.g. speed, average speed, gradient etc.

I guess it's unlikely that anybody will have direct experience with more than one of the units above, but it would still be good to hear your thoughts.




  • handfulhandful Posts: 920
    Hi Andy

    I can recommend the edge 800.....IF you are very patient and a bit techy. If you are neither of these I would steer clear as it can be a very frustrating bit of kit. I have had mine for a bout a month now and now love it but there is so much stuff out there about it that is wrong, misleading etc.

    My advice if you do opt for this is to go for the base model, the OS maps are not worth the extra money IMO. I've tried them (don't ask how :wink: ) and now reckon the OSM maps from Talkytoaster are far easier to use and see although not all areas may be as good as this area. The OS maps are far too cluttered to be of any use to me although my reading eyesight isn't great these days tbh so may be ok for you.

    For the cheapest price, go to Go Outdoors and sign up for their discount card (£5 per year) and they will beat the best price by 10% so I reckon you should be able to get the base model for something around £225 inc the £5 for the discount card.

    For extra info, the best route planning software I've used to date is Bikeroutetoaster although Ride With GPS looks like it could be ok as well.
    Vaaru Titanium Sram Red eTap
    Moda Chord with drop bars and Rival shifters - winter/do it all bike
    Orbea Rise
  • njee20njee20 Posts: 9,613
    I'm not sure you are after the Edge, that does a lot of bike specific functions that you possibly don't need - ANT+ functionality, cadence, intervals etc.

    It sounds like you just want the mapping and navigation functionality so I'd look at an Oregon, Dakota or the new Montana, all of which have a bigger screen than an Edge, better resolution, take AA batteries for long or multi-day rides and IMO work better for mapping.
  • carchie86carchie86 Posts: 32
    I have had my Edge 800 for about 8 months now and really like it, I haven't tried any of the others so couldn't really comment. You can get the Edge 800 Trail Bundle which includes Discoverer 1:50 maps for £320 from Winstanley Bikes ( ... B_150_Maps) which is a bit closer in price to the other devices you were looking at.

    1. So far I have found it to be rugged and you can also buy silicone cases and screen protectors for only a few pounds to give it some extra protection. I haven't bothered with a silicone case myself but I did buy a screen protector as with mucky fingers it would be easy to scratch the screen whilst out on a ride.

    2. With the Garmin you can download Basecamp which allows to plan routes using the bundled explorer 1:50 maps. I haven't actually fully worked out the features yet or how to use it properly but there are plenty of video tutorials to help you. At the minute I still prefer to use Bikehike and transfer my routes in from there but I believe Basecamp has a lot more features, however you you can use whichever you prefer and can plan routes using Google Maps, Satellite or Ordnance Survey. Transferring the routes is easy, just a case of saving the file and dragging it into a specific folder in your device.

    3. The Garmin screen is pressure sensitive so it works very well with gloves, although big thick winter cycling gloves can prove a little inaccurate at times. I think the screen is a little small and because of this the maps aren't always as clear as you would like them to be. However you can zoom in and zoom out as and when you need to and I have always managed to follow the routes I have created fairly easily. The device will also sound a sort of alarm to let you know you have gone off course which comes in handy. It can also be programmed to tell you distance to next turn and what direction you should be heading which proves useful particularly in forests or unmarked trails.

    4. It's not something I have done or looked into yet so I couldn't easily comment on altering routes whilst on a trail, but I imagine it is possible.

    5. As it's specifically designed for cycling there are a load of bike specific functions many of which you will probably never use, but it's nice to have them anyway. I couldn't possibly list them all here, but speed, distance, cadence, averages and maximums of all of the previous mentioned, temperature, heart rate and zones to name but a few. One of the best features of the Garmin is that you can customise your display screens in any way you like from 2 up to 10 readouts of info per page.

  • andy_welchandy_welch Posts: 1,101
    Thanks for the feedback folks.

    I'm leaning towards the Garmin 800. Partly because I liked my old edge 205 and am used to how it works (so those menus that people seem to find frustrating will probably be quite familiar); partly because it is the only one of the three with a barometer, so would give more accurate data on amount of climbing and partly because it probably represents the best compromise between a small cycling computer and a large navigation device. The others are no doubt better when you are lost in the middle of nowhere, but are probably too big to stick on the bike for every ride. The Garmin (with its cycling specific featured, e.g. virtual partner) can be used as a regular cycling computer on routes that you know well, but the maps would help to get you back home in strange terrain.

    The others also seem to switch themselves off after a while (to save battery power) which would drive me mad.

    The only things that are holding me back are the ability to use satellite images and custom maps on the 800.

    There may be a Scottish angle here. I get the feeling that, in England, you mostly ride on the paths that are marked on the OS maps. Bridleways if you are being strictly legal and footpaths for some cheeky sections. But up here in Scotland we have an access code that can be summarised as "ride where you like, just don't be a censored " and loads of paths (built for logging, stalking etc) that aren't on any OS map. So satellite images are often more useful for discovering new paths than maps. The Garmin Birdseye tool seems to offer this feature (for a price), but all the demonstrations I can find are for the USA and I can't see whether you can actually get high resolution satellite images of Scotland onto the device.

    The Open Streetmap project looks as though it could provide a way to map all the trails that I use (for myself and for others), but I'm not sure how easy it is to add trails to these maps and then load them back onto the device.


  • cameraukcamerauk Posts: 1,000
    Another vote for the Garmin 800
    Have a look here for a few details on custom maps etc ... spx?id=119
    hope it helps
    Specialized Camber Expert
    Specialized Allez Sport
  • Why not check out the Bryton 50? It's what I'm currently swaying towards
  • TwellyTwelly Posts: 1,437
    Is the Bryton 50 compatible with Strava? Why are you leaning towards it over the Garmin? I have just poked my nose into the GPS market so this thread is interesting.
  • TwellySmat wrote:
    Is the Bryton 50 compatible with Strava? Why are you leaning towards it over the Garmin? I have just poked my nose into the GPS market so this thread is interesting.

    Not sure about Strava but then I don't use it so not fussed.

    Whilst the Garmin 800 is probably 'The Best" gps/satnav for cycling I can't justify spending the money on one however a friend of mine has just completed a tour of the south of france using his Bryton50 and has alot of praise for it.
    Whilst it still has a few flaws (have to use Brytons website to make up routes to download to the device) I can live with that and as Bryton are still quite a young company they are continually improving their products firmware meaning you get continual support and a great product at a reasonable price
  • njee20njee20 Posts: 9,613
    It's not currently as easily compatible with Strava, there's some workaround, but it's not plug and play like a Garmin. I looked at one to replace my ageing Edge 705, but decided against it, going to wait for the Edge 900 or whatever is next I think!
  • is teh edge 705 worth a punt new for circa £150 ?
  • anyone ?
  • andy_welchandy_welch Posts: 1,101
    I could be wrong, but I don't think the Edge 705 can handle OS maps (and not sure about open streetmap either), so it's probably more suited to riding on road than off road. This guys blog might help:


  • ViperS15ViperS15 Posts: 61
    TwellySmat wrote:
    Is the Bryton 50 compatible with Strava? Why are you leaning towards it over the Garmin? I have just poked my nose into the GPS market so this thread is interesting.

    There isn't a direct upload for a Bryton on Strava but you can download your files from Bryon's website and upload it to Strava.
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