I am very grateful to them for allowing this and I have to say that they put no conditions on what I did with it and what the final review would be like - good or bad. The only condition was the time I was allowed to keep it.
What you get inside the box
The box is fairly compact and the unit that was sent to me is certainly the one I'd opt for. This was the top of the line City Navigator bundle. With this you get:
|Quick start guide and instructions|
|City maps for UK and Europe on a Micro SD card|
|Handlebar mounts - which work really, really well|
This is surpassingly easy to set up. The elasticated and adjustable band goes round your chest and the small plastic coated sensor you can see in the picture below clips on. An option on the Garmin then allows it to look for the sensor and once found it collects data.
I used this a couple of times (only a couple as the Garmin wasn't of course mine and only on loan). I saw the Elite riders at the Nocturne last year and in January using these when warming up. I imagine it is a very clever training aid that allows you to get to know you body, what it is capable of and how far to push yourself.
This is again quite easy to set up and despite its smaller wheels does work on a Brompton. It measures your pedalling cadence as you ride. It measures and reports to the Garmin your pedalling stokes per minute, providing valuable feedback on your performance. This is clever stuff and will allow you (together with the ride data and maps from the Garmin Connect Website) to see how your cadence changes over different terrains and points along a ride. A great way to improve your performance, whether it be to ride further, increase your speed, improve endurance and pedalling efficiency.
|USB cord and wall charger with UK plug and European plug|
The actual Garmin Edge 800
It is waterproof and has rubber flaps to cover the two ports on the back. It is definitely waterproof as I cycled home a few times in terrible downpours and even heavy snow and all worked perfectly fine. It is a tough little machine and I suspect it would cope with the odd drop or two.
|The Garmin Edge 800|
|The City Navigator maps are a must|
The user interface is easy and intuitive to use. The
home screen has four icons that launch a variety of other menus and options.
Where to - allows you to type in a postcode, location or place of interest and navigate to it.
History - stores some or all of your rides so that you can come back to them at your leisure.
Training - this is where you can set training goals. I recorded my daily commute and then used the Egde 800's Virtual Training Partner to tell me whether I was ahead or behind that stored ride. This is a really good feature. I also used it at Richmond Park and was able to see if I had improved.
Courses - allows you to navigate routes you have downloaded, created or been on before.
GPS / Navigation / Accuracy
Turning on the Edge 800 you will see that it automatically tries to lock on to satellites. I found this to very quick and by the time I had fully unfolded my Brompton I was ready to go. I am one of those people who is hopeless at navigating and usually gets lost. Having the Edge 800 on my bike gave me the confidence I needed to go cycling to areas I was not familiar with.
On Saturday I used the Edge 800 to navigate from the Royal Festival Hall all the way to Cambridge. You can read about that here. It did its job brilliantly and never faltered. If I made a wrong turn it was due to me and not the Garmin. In terms of accuracy I could see no difference to my iPhone 5 using Google Maps. It updated where I was quickly and I could see the street name easily.
|Navigation is simple, fast and accurate|
The quoted battery life is 15 hours. That is possibly in ideal conditions. On Saturday it was freezing cold, made worse by 14-17 mph headwinds. In addition, perhaps stupidly, because I wanted to be able to look down and see the screen as bright as possible at all times, I left the backlight on permanently. Despite this it got me to Cambridge and then when I returned to London, from Kings Cross to St John's Wood. In fact the battery was showing an incredible 43%
Mounting to bicycle
|A very clever mounting system|
There is a great level of user customisation in terms of what the screen displays. You can keep it on your favourite screen and with a swipe you can have several others at your fingertips.
One of the screen I liked a great deal was the elevation screen. This shows the realtime progress you make as you travel along. I found that on the Cambridge ride this was fun and useful as I could see how close I was to reaching the top and whether I'd be lucky enough to get some coasting in afterwards.
|Look at that hill!|
Distance to destination
This info was great to have at ones fingertips and being able to regulate your speed at a certain pace proved to be very useful on all rides.
|Love this screen with all this information!|
One superb feature is the ability to interact with the Garmin Connect Website. There is a tab called 'explore' on which you can search thousands of ride locally or anywhere in the world. These are rides that people have made themselves or been on and then shared with the Garmin online community. Using the Edge 800 for this alone is worth buying it as it is excellent.
When you connect your Garmin Edge 800 to your PC or Mac you have the option of connecting to the Garmin Connect website which allows you to transfer the data the Garmin collected on a ride. The information provided is quite breathtaking and I love viewing it after a long ride. It is worth pointing out that the information can be totally secure, shared with people you want or available to all. You can of course have different combinations.
The website, once you log in to your account, is like your very own library of rides and data to be view whenever you wish.
|Detailed maps - Google or Bing|
What I think could be better
Screen - The screen is very good but coming from an iPhone 5 with a Retina Display, I'd like a future Garmin to have a higher resolution screen that was slightly bigger. Saying that it might mean that the battery wouldn't last as long and that is probably more important to me.
Wifi - Garmin have addressed this with their new Edge 810 which allows you to connect it to your smartphone.
Spoken directions - it would be good if future units had this as an option you could turn on and off. Turn by turn directions that were spoken you mean you wouldn't have to take your eyes off the road. I think it would be very useful.
The rise of the smartphones with GPS and good mapping apps now means that they can perform some of the same functions. There are however a few caveats. The biggest is that my iPhone for example is not waterproof. In addition the battery on my iPhone will not last as long. The mounting system for the Garmin is excellent and takes up little real estate on my handlebars. A phone mount would. I am the sort of person who likes the right tool for the job and the Garmin is certainly this.
There are other manufacturers that make similar GPS cycling computers to the Garmin Edge 800 but from what I have seen, for me, they are not as good or as heavily feature laden. Add the Garmin Connect website and you have a winning formula.
I rate the Garmin Edge 800 very highly. I found it useful on all trips and didn't want to give it back to Garmin. In fact as I write this having sent it back only yesterday, I miss it and missed on my commute today! It is easy to use and the navigation system is genuinely useful, especially for someone like me hopeless at finding their way. Battery life seems to be very good and it lasted a full day of cycling.
Would I buy one? Yes I would. I cannot afford one at the moment but it is on my list of near essential items. There is as I have mentioned the newer 810 version but I am told by Garmin that the 800 will not be going off the shelves anytime soon. The 800 can be picked up at very attractive prices at the moment and whether you get this or the 810, you can't really go wrong.
You can click on the link below to take you to Garmin's website where you can find out more about their range of products.
Click here for Garmin's Website