Sunday, 3 March 2013

garmin edge 200 review

Again, the usual qualifiers: I am not a product reviewer, but rather a user of products; I am not being paid by Garmin or anyone else to review this product; I paid for it myself with my own money; etc, etc, etc.

What in the world prompted me to buy this you might ask?!?

Ok. I am the first the admit it. I am a geek.

I like numbers and have been, for well over a year now, anally recording every single km ridden on my bikes in a spreadsheet and have been content doing so. With my new bike on order (due to hit the road late April) and being faced with the prospect of buying yet another cycling computer to track the numbers for that bike, I did a bit of digging into some non-traditional approaches as to what to use to track my km and other data.

Benefits of a GPS system (for me)

There is no set up. Simply attach the unit to the bike, stick it in your pocket, what ever you want, and go. If you swap tyres around like I tend to do, there is no (relatively) tedious set up like there is with conventional magnetic ticker counter bike computers.

Data is therefore consistent between different bicycles and tyre sizes. Any error in the reading of the speed and distance will at least be a constant error regardless of any variation in the bicycles or tyres used.

Disadvantages of a GPS system (for me)

Battery life is not what I am used to. Usually, I get several years out of a battery on my bike computer but the GPS systems need more charging. All this means is that I have to remember to do it. But, since I am disciplined to charge my cell phone and tablet every night, what is another device? No big deal. Just remember to do it is all or that next ride might be dataless. Something which only matters if you care, which you do or why bother with a GPS device?

Errors. Yep, there are errors with a GPS system. Venture into a tunnel? Bye Bye signal. Trees? Can do it too apparently. As long as this is not a huge deal, it is, well, not a huge deal. Depends on the person and what they are using the data for.

How I am using the device / Mounting the device

My intention is to use this device as my speedometer for all of my bikes except the off road bike. That bike spends a lot to most of its time under heavy forest cover and is also voted most likely to crash and crash hard. This means that mounting a GPS unit to it is not something I am interested in doing.

Garmin is nice in that they ship the device with two mounts, and enough thick stretchy elastics to choke a goat so an owner of this GPS can immediately set up two bicycles with the unit without having to move the mounts around. Extra bits can be ordered if so desired. Also, the elastics are long enough, and varied enough, that they can accommodate stem or handlebar mounting. This is a nice touch and something that Garmin should be praised for.

Garmin, Sram, and a few other companies also make mounts to put the device (all of the "edge" GPS units from Garmin use the same mounting system - set it in the mount sideways, twist, click, and it is mounted) out in front of the handle bar stem without using much handlebar real estate. Ever see those speedometers riders in the Tour de France use sticking low and out front of the stem? These brackets will mount the device like that. I am going for the Sram bracket as the Garmin one is crazy expensive ($65 here in CDN dollars vs $25 for the Sram) for what amounts to basically the same thing.

At the end of the day, this GPS will replace several different bike computers. No more magnets, cords, zip ties. All gone. The bikes will look a lot cleaner and will be easier to wash up when they get filthy.

In use

When the device is first turned on, the screen is broken into four sections. Clockwise from the upper left, they read as follows:
  1. Courses - a list of preset (by you) courses that you can follow. This is not a feature that I have explored and wonder, now, if it is something I will use. Time will tell if I will use it. If I do, I will report back and say what I think. For now? No comment.
  2. Ride - press this when you want to go on a ride. It will geolocate you via satellites, and you are off.
  3. Settings - does what you think it does. You can set how you want distance counted, your weight, height, etc etc. Useful if you want the calorie counter to be as close as possible.
  4. History - this allows you to browse previous rides stored on the device. 
Each section has a little arrow pointing to the button on the side nearest to it and each function is selected by the button. The screen is not a touch screen.

Press the ride button, and the device attempts to find your location. You now have two options, "back" and "start". Press start and the device starts to track what you are doing.

Once a ride is "started", the screen reads like this from top to bottom:
  1. Current speed. This is in a smallish font compared to what I am used to. Even the smaller speedometers I have use bigger numbers for the speedometer than this Garmin unit does. That said, I no longer notice now that I am used to seeing it. Next to the current speed, on the left of the numbers, is the little +/- symbol to tell you if you are over or above the current average speed.
  2.  Distance. The font is the same size as the Current Speed function.
  3. Time. This is the elapsed time since the ride was started. If the auto pause feature is selected from the settings menu, the timer will pause when no motion is detected. The lowest of the four lines of text on the device will display how long you were paused for. The device will sound an alert if no motion is detected, and again when motion resumes.
  4. The last data item is variable. It has Average Speed (default), Ascent (done by GPS tracking not barometric pressure so it is not so accurate - more on that later), Calories (a guess since this device does not support heart rate monitors or any other external add ons), 
Once a ride is done, pressing the upper right button takes you to some options. Again, upper left in clockwise rotation they are as follows:
  1. Back to start -  an rtfm moment for me - not a function I have used.
  2. Resume - restarts the ride again. This is a nice feature. When riding to work, I pause the ride, work all day, and restart it for the trip home. I end up with three "times" this way - moving time, elapsed riding time, and total time since the ride was first started. I can see when I left the house and when I got home that way. Depending on how long the day was, this can be a depressingly large number (heh).
  3. Save - stores the ride in the device's history.
  4. Discard - dumps the ride from the memory.
The first ride out, the device seemed to be confused a bit in its display of speed. My speed was constant, but the unit reported wildly - over 5kmph - different speeds. I was under a very light tree cover. The unit has not done that again, either at the same spot or even under broad highway overpasses. I am marking this down as a hiccup and am not going to worry about it.

A couple of things I like about the device have to do with how rugged it is. For one, it is rated for operation down to -20 Celsius. That is very handy for someone who commutes all winter in our moderate Southern Ontario winters. Should I need to use it ever when it is really cold, under the jacket it will go in an inside pocket. It should still work there as my cell phone GPSs have done when under coats in the winter.  The device is also rated quite highly for waterproofing. It has a IPX7 rating which translates to 30 minutes under water up to 1m deep. Good enough for rain and snow... and nice when coming inside from the cold.

The best is saved for last

And here it is: 

When you buy a Garmin device like this, you get a free account on Garmin Connect. With this, you can post routes in your area for the public to see, compare stats with your friends using Garmin devices, form groups to track data (clubs etc).

I use it to track my stats. Check the site out - there are sample screen shots of the various features there for you to look at.

One nice thing about it is this. Remember I said that the Edge 200 uses the GPS satellites to track elevation? Garmin Connect auto corrects any errors based on the breadcrumb trail the device passes over to the site. Their maps have accurate elevations, and their software fixes any errors in this regard so that the profiles it draws are accurate.

Final word for now

Would I recommend this product? Yes.


  1. I ordered one of these as I already charge a cell phone with a gps ... thoughts?

  2. While my cell phone has a gps as well, I don't bring it on rides with me. The Garmin unit is much sturdier than a cell phone, and is quite water resistant. Since I ride in all weather, and have ridden in rain which would have done in a cell phone or any other non-sealed electronics (I have even ruined a bike computer in the rain), very tight weather sealing is a must. Plus, longer rides - vs commuter runs around town - see me with a tool kit, snack, keys, and card holder in my jersey pockets. There is no room for a phone :)

    Edit to add: the pebble looks like it is more sealed than the Garmin unit, but the Garmin unit is more sealed than most cell phones I have seen. And since the Pebble needs a cell phone to do what the Garmin can do... Plus, I am not sure, so someone correct me if I am wrong, if gps use on a cell phone does not eat into data plans in Ontario. Sadly, for me, the Pebble is useless. I use BlackBerry phones.

  3. Thank you for posting this review of the Garmin Edge 200! Granted, I have already ordered one of these and am waiting for it to arrive, but your review confirms that I made the correct choice when looking for a rugged, simple to use, and comparatively inexpensive cycling GPS unit.

    I am also happy to have discovered your web site combining cycling and photography interests. I will be bookmarking the site for further exploration. (I'm posting from work at the moment -- when, of course, I should be "working.")