Some Feedback on the Garmin Edge 705 cycle GPS

Garmin Edge 705 GPS

After close to 500km of cycling with my new Garmin Edge 705 I think I have enough experience to be able to bring the community some valuable feedback on this device.

Improvements since previous model

Compared to my old Garmin Etrex Legend, which I blogged about in July 2005, the Edge is a huge improvement.

  • The old Etrex had a ridiculous limitation of 24MB of memory, which was ok for loading up maps for a circumference of 100km of your neighborhood, but not enough for cycling long distance across Europe. The Edge 705 can take 2GB extension memory cards and is able to load the road maps of all of Europe. That is great: It means I don't have to carry a computer everywhere I go - even though I do currently - and I don't have to load up maps onto the Edge once every day.
  • The price has fallen dramatically. The GPS + the maps of Europe came to €400, half the price nearly of the previous model.
  • The Edge can better calculate cycle roads. I noticed this last Friday when having carefully used my laptop to draw out the road from Troyes to my destination I found myself on a two way road which would have been very pleasant had it not been for the 20 ton trucks passing me every minute in both directions. I stopped, asked the Edge 705 to calculte the road free of any of my interferences, and it immediately found a little dirt track to get me off that road (even though I had specified that I'd rather wish to avoid dirt tracks). The dirt track punctured my tire, which I found then was in a pretty bad state anyway. But rather have the tire punctured, than my head...
  • The Edge 705 comes with a heart rate monitor
  • It knows the elevation one is at, and the rate at which one is climbing
  • It can calculate the calories spent: it added no calories when I was zooming downhill without pedaling

Compared to Cell Phones

Before buying my Etrex I had inquired into whether a cell phone could have done the job. I did the same this time, and I have to say that it very nearly did. I found quite a number of iPhone add ons for cycling (listed on my delicious account) and I think for something close to the same price as the Garmin Edge, I could have put something together. It would have required

  • an extra battery pack (or two) to extend the battery life (perhaps Mophie's Juice pack Air
  • a cycle mount (such as this one perhaps)
  • some protection against rain. The Otterbox iPhone armor series would have been nice, but is no longer produced it seems. But perhaps Mophie's juice back with a waterproof bag would have been enough.
  • a heart monitor which is really important when out for some serious exercise. such as smhearlink perhaps?
  • Some turn by turn navigation software. Google Maps is really amazingly good, much better and faster than Garmin's software available on PCs amazingly enough. It has a pedestrian and a car mode, but not a cycle mode which is a pity. Still this would need to be tied up with the heart rate monitor, some visualization tool to tell you how fast you are going, some way of giving you directions, etc... This may come with a release of the next version of the iPhone, and I have seen some impressive demos of software called xGPS that provides turns by turn navigation on a jail broken iPhone.

All of this was perilously close to being possible. With a bit of energy I could have gotten all of this to work. What stopped me, was the data costs in Europe. I was going to leave France, go to Germany, Austria, the Czech republic, and Greece at the very least. And of course as soon as you leave your country of origin, data rates are simply not affordable: 9€ a Mega Byte. So that was clearly not an option. So the Garmin by allowing me to carry all the maps on the device and not requiring any internet connection is just the only solution for the international cyclist.

The bad

The Garmin software is also meant to work on OSX now, which it did not a few years ago. But it still does not work very well. I expressed my annoyance publicly after spending 8 hours trying to install the maps on the 2GB SIM card, and failing to. I had to do it from Windows in the end. That is a very very bad initial experience. It was a sunny day, and instead of being out on the road, I spent it trying to install and re-install software. I very nearly gave it all back there and then.

The Garmin software for OSX and PCs is dead slow. Google whose servers are on the other side of the world, has much faster responses. My feeling is that Garmin, being an MS-DOS company, does everything through disk access, because I could swear that it is not much faster on my dual 2.33Ghz Intel than it was on my 1.3Ghz Power Book.

Also the Garmin software does not have a cycle route calculation mode. It is only designed for cars. So you can't really sit down on your PC and calculate your route in advance there, because it won't be the same as what your GPS comes up with.

The cycle calculation mode on the Edge could do with a lot of improvements:

  • Cycles are not cars. You can do a U-turn on a bicycle in an instant - you don't have to find the next intersection to make a turn. If on a cycle I don't turn after being warned, it is probably because I don't want to turn.
  • In Germany and Austria, I noticed that Garmin does not seem to have such a good idea of where the cycle paths are. It would be really helpful to the GPS to know those.
  • The Garmin path calculation algorithm is very slow. I think it recalculates the whole route whenever one makes a wrong turn. It should really just make a quick adaptation, and find the shortest smallest change required to stay on the same route.
  • I am just about to check, but one very important list of shops the Garmin Edge should have are the cycle shops.

Conclusion

The Garmin Edge holds a good advantage over the onslaught of cell phone options, but if I were them I'd be watching the cell phones very carefully. They are not at all far from being able to offer some very decent, or equivalent solutions. (How far that is depends on your ideas of how quickly roaming rates will fall in Europe)

Comments:

If you read my write-up of the rides I do here in Germany, you'll soon learn that, I can get lost in a heart-beat. I don't care where I've been; I want to know my exact spot at that moment so I can get my bearings. I've never used a gps with my bike; I love the NAVIGON in my car. I want the instrument to tell me, verbally, where my next turn is and show me on the monitor my current position and direction. I also want to be able to project elevation and distance while I’m planning my ride, not just while I’m on my ride. I avoid hills if I can.
What GPS would be best for my long distance rides?

Posted by Archie L. Tucker on May 17, 2009 at 01:28 AM CEST #

Archie, it sounds like the Garmin GPS could be good for you too. It will tell you where you are, how high you are, it will help you measure your pulse, and quite a number of things. You can tell it where you want to go, and it will find a ride on small roads to get you there - that ride may be a lot longer than a straight line though.

But it currently is does not have a mode to help you avoid steep climbs. I wish it had.

You may wish to check if the next iPhone OS has turn by turn navigation, in which case you may want to wait for that, as it does not sound like you are travelling across borders.

There are still a lot of things to improve in the GPS. I did not do a complete overview of what is available in this space currently. So it may be worth checking what Garmin's competitors are offering.

Posted by Henry Story on May 17, 2009 at 02:18 PM CEST #

Hi, GREAT info - THANKS!
i ride quite a bit in denmark, and I'm considering buying an edge through my fam in the states (I'm a US expat in Denmark). do you know if the us version would work in denmark? Assuming that I source maps for denmark locally. Ken

Posted by ken cordes on May 29, 2009 at 07:59 AM CEST #

I would think the US Garmin would work in Europe. It would just be a matter of buying the European maps. I got the City Navigator Europe NT 2009, which was then upgraged to the NT 2010. Other maps may suit your needs better.

Posted by Henry Story on May 29, 2009 at 09:55 AM CEST #

I'm looking at buying the Garmin Edge 305. Do you know if it tells you by voice where to turn?

Posted by archie tucker on May 29, 2009 at 10:56 AM CEST #

I agree with Henry; once you get the platform, it is a matter of getting compatable maps for the area you want to ride. I have a friend coming from the States. He is going to bring one to me. I'll let you know as I get used to it. But, I'm slow; so, you will likely already have one before I get around to doing a review of it.

lloyd

Posted by archie tucker on May 29, 2009 at 11:01 AM CEST #

Archie, no the Garmin beeps and then shows you in a very readable way where you are to turn at the next junktion (unless you just go straight ahead). The beeping is good enough. Telling you where to go would just use up the batteries.

Posted by Henry Story on May 29, 2009 at 11:02 AM CEST #

No, the garmin 305 doesn't have maps, so it won't tell you where to go, or where you are.

Posted by guest on July 05, 2009 at 03:17 PM CEST #

Ah. Just noticed that I don't know about the Garmin 305. Mine is the Garmin Edge 705.

Posted by Henry Story on July 06, 2009 at 01:36 PM CEST #

Nice blog,

I am now more confused then before and will buy a cyclometer. I would have loved to pick a gps for my bike (local at the moment) with good maps for travel in a car, nationally (USA).

The comments I have read seem to say that unless you have a militarty unit they can loose signal, put you a city block in the wrong place and as you describe, if it is made for a car show you a hard way to go, because of car limitations, vrs cyclists needs.

I think I would want the one you have an Edge 705. Thanks to President Bush and his assistent, Mr Satan, my money is not worth crap and I can't aford a nice little toy like the 705. I think your review looked fair but I would like to see info on drop outs (lose the satelite), and usefulness in the auto.

oh, your blog did NOT confuse me, all the info to date educated me enough to believe that these things are not reliable and expensive and annoying. One comment on the affordable gps units said the maps suck, in Manhatten (a big freaking grid), they show 3 main streets. Now google maps will show you pictures of many of the buildings as well as maps, for every nook and cranny. If you want usable maps, you need to buy them and install them. This unit looks like it approaches usable (for me), but is 600 bucks with the attachments I would want for a bike. One of the scout leaders I know, has this unitwe chatted last night and he finally said, for your needs just buy a cylometer.

ciao

christie

Posted by christie on December 01, 2009 at 06:25 AM CET #

what is 500km's in miles any idea?

Posted by christie on December 01, 2009 at 06:27 AM CET #

Hi Christie,

Just ask google "500km in miles" and it will tell you "500 kilometers = 310.685596 miles"

The Garmin Edge705 is very good as a cycle bike, but not good for a car GPS. I have used it as such to get me out of a tight spot, but it will tend to drive you down really small roads that are safer for cyclists. So you need to use it as a tool to show your position on the map, and then do the routing yourself - not such a good idea if you are driving the car.

You do need to buy a map for the Edge, but it is the same map you can use for your car GPS.

On the whole it works very well I have found, except for some places here and there, where the navigation system went badly wrong. (mostly Austria)

Hope this helps,

Henry

Posted by Henry Story on December 01, 2009 at 06:41 AM CET #

Hi
I've been using the Garmin 605.

Regarding maps, you can get maps legally for free. If your computer savvy you can have a go at compiling your own or just download some recompiled ones.
UK maps at:
www.mapomatic.net/garmin-maps-download/
or
sites.google.com/site/talkytoasteruk/ukmaps
various country maps at:
wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/OSM_Map_On_Garmin/Download

just a quick note on the maps, read the info that comes with them, some of the maps are routable and some aren't.

have a look at openstreetmap.org and www.opencyclemap.org/

You don't need mapsource to create tracks and courses, use the web. see: www.gpsies.com/createTrack.do;jsessionid=90C0D8ED80D214AEE88AC492AE9437E0
or try:
www.bikeroutetoaster.com/Course.aspx

I bought the Topo maps, wish i hadn't wasted the money as all i use now are the free maps which have much more data. I even have a map of the UK cycle network.

Just have a google around you'll find loads of info for creating, uploading or simply downloading maps for the Garmin Edge.

Hope this is useful.
Dan.

Posted by Dan on December 08, 2009 at 02:14 PM CET #

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