Back in the late 70s when I was a kid, riding all over North Derbyshire on my Viking Warlord, the only way to find out how far I’d travelled was to get out the map and a piece of string. Some of my better equipped mates had a little plastic odometer that fixed to their front fork and literally ticked off the miles with startling inaccuracy. Whilst distances were interesting, the Holy Grail for a 12 year old budding Bernard Hinault was speed. Efforts to persuade my dad to drive alongside me and clock my mph as I frantically pedalled downhill proved frustratingly unsuccessful. One day, another mate rolled up sporting a speedometer on his handlebars. Green with envy we listening open-mouthed to his tales of daring 50mph bursts down the local hills (before registering that the numbers only went up to 40). Things are a bit different now of course. The advent of GPS means that every possible cycling statistic can be recorded, logged and shared on the internet. The days of pieces of string and wild exaggeration are all in the past.
The Garmin Edge 500 was developed with input from pro-cyclists. Compared to other GPS computers on the market, it is very compact – not much bigger than a standard bike computer. It definitely doesn’t clutter up your handlebars. The pay off for this small package is the lack of anything more than the most rudimentary mapping. I suppose the pro’s don’t really worry about getting lost in the middle of the Tour de France. To make up for that, the Edge 500 can measure and display a huge range of statistics from your ride. There are 3 screens of data available, each with the potential to display up to 8 different readings. There are 45 different measurements to choose from, varying from speed and heart rate, through to altitude, temperature and calories consumed. Scrolling through the data on a ride can be done with a simple press of a button, or automatically.
Setting up the Edge 500 is a doddle, the user friendly interface allowing you to customise your display to show as much or as little as you wish. It is possible to change the data fields displayed mid way through a ride, without losing any of the information collected to that point. Entering rider information (weight, age etc.) and bike information can be done by clicking through various screens, or more easily by using the provided software and adding the details from your PC using the USB cable.
Uploading your data after a ride is easy, using Garmin’s own Connect website or the Training Centre software that comes in the package. You can also use other websites such as Strava or Training Peaks if you prefer. Extracting the details of your ride can be a great help if you’re training for an event, especially if you use the optional Heart Rate Monitor. Combine it with the Cadence and Wheel magnet sensor and you can also use the Edge 500 on your turbo trainer. If you really take your training seriously, the unit is also compatible with power meters, including the eagerly awaited Garmin Vector pedal based system. Even if you’re not that keen, there’s something very satisfying about looking at your ride on a map, particularly if you use the Google Earth option.
The Edge 500 can also help to motivate you and make solo rides a bit more interesting if you use the “training partner” option. By creating a course from a previous ride, you can race against yourself, as a virtual partner (actually a little stick man on the screen). It’s surprising how this can fire you up into a sprint as you approach the finish just behind your mini-me!
The Garmin Edge 500 is a brilliant package, well designed, easy to use, tough and robust. With a multitude of features, it is the perfect training aid for those riders wanting to take their cycling up to the next level. I just need to find another use for all that string.