Review: Garmin Edge 800

Halfway across Ohio on my American autobahn extravaganza from NYC to Southern California, I hatched a plan. Garmin, the global GPS innovator had recently introduced the Edge 800, the world’s first touchscreen GPS cycling computer.

The week before my departure I’d been told there weren’t any editorial test units to be had. But Garmin’s HQ was just south of Kansas City, a short detour from my planned march across the Midwest and I figured if I showed up, they’d have a tough time saying no to my genial, yet persistent, requests.

The next morning, I rolled into the Garmin complex, road bike locked atop the car, ready for the grand tour and fully expecting to leave with some new, as-yet-unavailable-to-the-public navi-goodies. An hour or so later I was again heading west on Highway 70, much wiser about the ways of Garmin and with a pre-production version of the Edge 800 on the passenger seat.

Once I hit Colorado, which took forever because Kansas goes on for eons, it was time to do some test ridin’.

Like its most recent predecessors (Edges 705 and 500), the 800 was no disappointment. The form factor of the latest iteration follows the curvaceous lines of the 500, but is more of a rectangle and slightly larger, owing to the bright color touchscreen. My road bike already had the Garmin sensors onboard, so once the 800 was powered up and locked on the satellites, it immediately recognized my bike’s speed and heart-rate sensors. All I had to do was punch in my personal data — age, height, weight — and give the bike a name. Less than five minutes after power-up, I was rolling through scenic Colorado.

As it has grown, Garmin seems to have really focused on creating a user experience that’s increasingly friendly on the front end, yet amazingly robust under the hood. One of the obvious beauties of the 800 is how it masterfully blends the mountains of metrics that serious cyclists crave with an ease of use that keeps you feeling in control without the compulsion to constantly ape the screen.

However, if aping is your thing, Garmin has more than enabled you. The 800 has five main readout screens. The first is the color map for location and navigation. The second is a graphic and numerical pacing screen that shows your pace against a target. The final three are designated for the numbers and can display as many as six unique metrics per page. The data can be staggering.

Navigation with the 800 is very simple — just input an address or merely tap a location on the screen and it quickly calculates a turn-by-turn route with audio prompts along the way. If you take a wrong turn or merely meander, it quickly recalculates for you.

After you’ve climbed every mountain and forded a few streams, you’ll likely want to see your stats. Garmin Connect is the maker’s web way station for digi-crunchers and a place to share ride routes with other Garminites. Hook up the device to a computer with a mini-USB, log into the site, upload your activities and then slather yourself in it. If Shakira were a mathematician, she’d be singin’ it too — the numbers don’t lie.

Users can also share their data and routes with the world or merely with a chosen few. If you’re hankering to do a famous climb or some obscure route, it’s likely in the Garmin database. Upload it to your 800’s memory and follow the yellow brick road.

Quite honestly, the Edge 800 is a no-brainer — it gives you the convenience and peace of mind of never getting lost and knowing your performance stats every second of the way.

Author’s Note: Garmin recently acquired MetriGear, a company developing power meters implanted in the pedal spindle. Pedal-based power data makes the technology easily portable between bicycles and makes Garmin an end-to-end solution for cyclists who want to not only know where they’re going, but also OD on performance metrics. Garmin’s lips are sealed about when that technology might make it to the public, but we’d say you’re almost certain to see it in 2011.

Spread the love