Garmin Edge 705
By James Sharp
I remember when the cycling computers--the digital, electronic kind--first appeared on the scene. My first computer, over 20 years ago, was the original CatEye Solar. I remember it having speed, average speed, time, distance and an odometer. It was also the size of a brick, and weighed about the same, but boy was it cool. Now, in a smaller package with a bigger screen, Garmin has their newest marvel, the Edge 705. What a difference a few decades make!
Garmin's Edge 705 is their top of the line bike specific GPS. The spec sheet is longer than my arm! Rather than list them all here, I'll refer you to their website--see below for a link--but here are some highlights: Rechargeable lithium polymer battery good for up to 15 hours of use. It comes with a basemap preloaded and accepts micro-SD cards up to 4GB--more on that in a minute. It comes with a stem and handlebar mount--the stem mount has a trick wedge that helps get the angle of the screen right even on higher rise stems. The 705 comes with a heart rate monitor and has an optional wireless cadence/speed sensor for instantaneous speed. It has an auto-lap feature that automatically starts the lap counter each lap. It uses a built in barometer for more accurate elevation data. It's compatible with power meters from SRM and more. It has a high gain antenna so it has a good reception even in fairly thick tree cover. It has the usual speed, distance, etc...and it's a GPS, with full routing capabilities. In addition to all of that--and more--it logs all of that information for future perusal and training. And it's addictive. I think that there might be a GPS anonymous. If not, there should be.
The first thing I did when I got the unit is power it on in my house. Usually, it takes a new device some time to obtain a fix, even outside. And this device had no idea where it was, it had never been used. Inside my house, it locked on to my position in less than 3 minutes, faster than any GPS I have used to date. The next thing I did was set up the device for me--I inputed my weight, type of bike, whether I had the heart rate strap and the wheel sensor and how much my bike weighed. It uses this information to calculate calories burned. Since I am perpetually watching my weight--darn food, so good--I appreciated the calorie counting. I could watch the calories burned add up to counteract that donut I had. Nice. Once that was done, I set up the two display screens. You toggle between the two using the little joystick. In practice it is very easy to do, even with thick gloves on. Each screen can display up to eight items--for a total of 16 different metrics. You can see a myriad of data like: lap time, speed, distance, distance to destination, elapsed time, calories burned, elevation, total elevation climbed, etc. Next you've got the map screen that dutifully traces a breadcrumb route of where you've been. Finally that last display screen is a route profile. Once you are through the display screens there is the main menu screen that allows you to change which bike you are riding, what information is displayed, etc. You can even change what shows in the main displays on the fly. Once I set up the main display I attached the GPS and went for a ride. You'll notice that I didn't mention reading the manual. I did read it, but not until later. If you've ever used any Garmin GPS you'll be right at home with the Edge. Even if you haven't, the 705 is intuitive enough that you can get pretty far just punching buttons and looking at all the menus.
There are two ways of getting maps into the Edge. The first, and least painful, is to buy Garmin's maps preloaded on a micro-SD card. You can get either the Topographical maps or Street maps this way, but only the Street maps are capable of turn by turn directions. Our review unit came with the Street maps on a 2GB micro-SD, of which slightly more than 1GB was used. The remaining space can be used for routes and waypoints. The second way is to buy Garmin's maps on CD and transfer the maps of interest onto your own micro-SD card. Note, however, that while the device will see up to 4GB of storage, it can only use up to 2GB of map data. The remainder of the storage card can be used for route and waypoints, but not for additional maps. I recommend going with the preloaded card, unless you have the maps on CD already.
I really, really liked the customizable screens. I loved having all of that information right there in front of me. I found the screen big enough to read even on rough terrain and the back light was easily dimmed to the point that it didn't really interfere with my night vision. The color screen was fantastic for viewing the maps. On monochrome screens, it is hard to tell the difference between a primary road, a secondary road and a river. Adding color makes identifying what you are looking at much, much easier.
I found the mount to be sufficiently secure. It attaches to the bike via zip-ties so it goes on in less than a minute. I never had the Edge fall off, even on high speed, steep, single track. When I didn't have the Edge attached, the mount itself was unobtrusive. In fact, I found the size of the 705 to be a good trade off between a large screen with big buttons and a small-ish overall size. I think that if they made the GPS any smaller, battery life, button size or screen size would suffer.
Overall, this is a killer bike computer. There are, however, a few complaints. First, the manual isn't the easiest to read. For many settings, it's easier or faster to just poke around and find the menu you are looking for. Next, I think that the 2GB limit for map data is a little on the small size. Sure, our Street map preloaded card had all of the U.S. and it still only used up a little more than 1GB, but Topo maps require more room. It would be nice if you could fit the entire U.S.--both Streets and Topo--on one card and be done with it. Speaking of maps, the ones that I used were a little old. They had roads that don't really exist any more and didn't have newer--new as in the last 5-7 years--roads at all. As the disclaimer says, the GPS is no substitute for local knowledge. Finally, the virtual partner is a very cool feature. It allows you to race yourself--or someone else--over a course you, or someone else, has ridden. What would be nice, however, is if your virtual partner was really virtual. For example, lets say that you have a time trial coming up. You know the route and map it on the Edge. What would be nice is if you could specifiy what pace you want to ride everywhere on the course. If you have a downhill, specify a fast pace, like 35 or 40mph. If you have an uphill section, have the virtual partner climb at, say, 13mph. On the flats, set the pace at 20, or so. You can't do this. What you can do is specify an average speed for the entire course, but that's just not the same. Finally--and this is a minor niggle, you understand--even though the battery life is really pretty good for a GPS, you do have to remember to charge it regularly, and the battery is not user replaceable. If you forget to charge it, you have no speed, no heart rate monitor and--if connected to a power meter--no power.
Oh, and temperature. Come on Garmin, you have everything else, you might as well put a thermometer on there!
Summary: Garmin's Edge 705 is the pinnacle of bicycle computers. It has a very rich feature set. It can be connected to other ANT-compatible devices-- like the SRM power meters. It is easy to use, easy to set up and easy to move from one bike to another. It logs your ride data--and route--for future analysis. Frankly, there is very little to not like about the Edge 705. Sure, it's expensive--prices range from $499 with just the heart rate monitor to $649 with the heart rate monitor, speed/cadence sensor and the Street maps on a preloaded micro-SD card. But, to quote Ferris: "It is so choice. If you have the means I highly recommend picking one up." I couldn't have said it better myself.
James Sharp is a contributing editor for GearReview.com. He likes to know where he is at all times, and gets lost anyway; more of his ramblings and a look at upcoming reviews can be found at his blog: Lactic Acid Threshold.
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