I have been training with a Garmin E800 GPS bike computer for the last three months and am beginning to get an idea of its benefits and limitations. As somebody relatively new to cycling and having recently moved to the area where I live, I principally wanted the GPS to help navigate my way on long training rides. Unfortunately this seems to be its weak point. If you want to navigate from point A to point B on the most direct route then this would be a fairly straightforward command. However it is unlikely that starting and finishing in different places and taking busy main roads would be a normal preference for a cyclist in training.
There is no denying that the Garmin E800 is a sexy-looking piece of kit. And the amount of data it produces is mind-boggling. I have mine set up to display time, speed, distance, grade %, altitude, heart rate, cadence and calories. I find all of this interesting while I am cycling and can attempt to gauge my fitness and performance while on the move. On long and lonely training rides these sorts of distractions can work well to alleviate the monotony of churning out the miles. However, what I often need to know is that I’m cycling in the right direction.
When it comes to plotting a route the accompany software seems to have been created 20 years ago and leads to much grumbling and frustration. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by ease of using Apple products straight from the box and resent having to read the instructions for a Garmin product … but this is its final problem. It comes without a user manual – Garmin presumably hope that their customers are willing to spend hours surfing the web jumping from forum to forum looking for the answers to their common problems.
If you simply want to know where you’re going don’t assume a Garmin GPS will make things easier than taking down a few notes from a map before you set off. If you want to know your cadence, altitude, calories and vertical speed then make sure that you actually need to know that level of information. The maps and graphs produced at the end of your ride are great to look at but may not be useful for the average, amateur cyclist.