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GPS for your bike!?  Are you serious? by Gerard Brown

I like to ride, and ride and ride. It clears my mind, no bills, schedules or...wait a minute! Where am I!?

Let me back up a bit. I moved to New England & discovered cycling. Great exercise, fun, outdoorsy experience. I came from a land known as Southern Indiana where roads have names and are laid out in a grid, much like the farms those roads go around. In my experience in New England you are in the next town before you know it and have been through three more before you turn around. While this adds the charm that makes New England a great place to cycle, it doesn't help when you have to get back home so you can make the ball game.

One day I went for a two hour ride that unexpectedly turned into five hours and I had to be rescued. According to my calculations I rode about 40 miles on my way to Dedham...Massachusetts. I was exhausted and luckily had my wife-mandated cell phone. My wife didn't mind rescuing me but the hint for a GPS unit of some kind was well taken.

It was a very happy Father's day when she plotted with Roy at Grace Bicycles and got me exactly what I asked for: the Garmin Edge 705 with heart rate, Speed/Cadence and a memory expansion with local maps. The only thing I don't own is a power meter but as long as I pick one that is ANT+ compatible (ANT+ is kind of like Bluetooth in that it is a short- range wireless signal) the 705 will report the power info.  I have borrowed a PowerTap in the past and it's very easy to configure so you can see and record your wattage. The Edge is an all-in-one cyclocomputer with a head unit about the size of cell phone and wireless sensors so it is easy to install and keeps the bike looking sleek. My boys named it Jarvis after the computer in Iron Man.

Apart from cycling I have used the head unit simply as a handheld GPS when we are on vacation. It has a walk/cycling mode as well as a car/motorcycle mode. I tracked the ship we took whale-watching in Bar Harbor, ME and it is very neat to see that trip on Google Maps. I slipped it in my pocket for a 5k I did and was surprised how well the satellite data was able to calculate my speed. My wife got a little jealous and used it training for a half marathon. When she saw that she didn't have to re-drive the route to find her mileage, a request was made for a Garmin 305 watch.

Now I can get as lost as I like and still find my way home and know my average speed, max speed, mileage, elevation, and all of the other goodies. I plug it into the computer and wonder at all the graphs. One thing about being the guy on the ride with the GPS computer is that everyone expects you to know where you are going.

All of this information is great but what happened to just riding and clearing my mind? Well, I use my Garmin more like a flight recorder than a real-time reminder of what I am doing (or not doing). I start the recording and take a bike ride, every once in a while I'll look for specific information, like the grade of a hill. But for the most part I download the data when I get home and compare it with other trips or whatever my current cycling goals are.  I have used the files with the Tacx Fortius Virtual Reality Trainer we sell at the shop.  I can import the file of a ride I took last fall and re-ride it using the trainer to provide a Google Earth view. I even get the resistance of the hills right here in town (or was I in Medway?). Performance rides are different and Jarvis has a ton of functionality built in to do intervals and virtual partners that I have used, but when I just want to take a tour of the foliage and get back home Jarvis can do that too.

Now for the geeky specifics:

A List of functions the Garmin reports:
Heart Rate
Barometric Altimeter - pretty darn accurate if you are an elevation
Calories Burned
Records 1000 laps
Auto Pause
Auto Lap
Marks up to 100 locations
Marks up to 50 routes
Pace Alert
Time/Distance Alert
Interval Training
Street Maps w/Turn-By-Turn Navigation

Physical & Performance:
Unit dimensions, WxHxD: 2" x 4.3" x 1" (5.1 x 10.9 x 2.5 cm)
Display size, WxH: 1.37" x 1.71" (3.48 x 4.36 cm); 2.2" diag (5.6 cm)
Display resolution, WxH: 176 x 220 pixels
Weight: 3.7 oz (104.9 g)
Battery: rechargeable li-polymer
Battery life: 15 hours, typical
Water resistant: yes (IPX7)
GPS-enabled: yes
High-sensitivity receiver: yes
RoHS version available: yes

Maps & Memory:
Basemap: yes
Ability to add maps: yes
Accepts data cards: microSD™ card (not included)
Lap history: 1000 laps
Waypoints/favorites/locations: 100
Routes: Limited by memory space available

Heart rate monitor: yes
Bike speed/cadence sensor: yes (some versions)
Garmin Connect™ compatible (online community where you analyze, categorize and share data): yes
Garmin Training Center® software compatible: yes
Virtual Partner® (train against a digital person): yes
Courses (compete against previous workouts): yes
Auto Pause® (pauses and resumes timer based on speed): yes
Auto Lap® (automatically starts a new lap): yes
Advanced workouts (create custom, goal-oriented workouts): yes
Simple workouts (input time, distance and calorie goals): yes
Pace alert (triggers alarm if you vary from preset pace): yes
Time/distance alert (triggers alarm when you reach goal): yes
Interval training (set up exercise and rest intervals): yes
Customizable screen(s): yes
Barometric altimeter: yes
Unit-to-unit transfer (shares data wirelessly with similar units): yes
Power meter compatible (displays power data from compatible 3rd party ANT+™-enabled power meters): yes
Additional: Operating temperature: -15°C to +50°C