First look: Garmin 705

Feature-packed GPS bike computer looks a winner

The Garmin Edge 705 has been probably the most eagerly anticipated new widget of the last six months among bike-riding gadget fans.

After a few days of riding and fiddling with the device, our initial impressions are very positive. It combines traditional high-end bike computer functions such as heart rate, power measurement and altitude with the navigational capabilities of a GPS with map display. It's a compelling combination.

In use: powerful but clear

Despite the apparent complexity of the Edge 705 – eight buttons and a joystick is a pretty intimidating set of controls – getting started with it turns out to be easy. Once it's charged, you just fire it up, sit it near a window so it can find satellites, set up your personal profile, stick it on the bike and go ride. Using the start/stop button tells it which bits you want to record.

On your return you can save your data to the PC software Garmin provides as a download on its website. If you're a bit more computer-geeky, then you can pull the data file straight out of the unit, because it mounts as a USB mass storage device. You can then upload and analyse the files with your favourite website or software, as well as Garmin's.

The GPS location tracking seems to be extremely good. On a mountain bike ride, the route trace is a very close fit to the mapped trails and to satellite images, and you can even see one point where I looped back to help a friend with a mechanical, as you can see below.

Oh no, rider down! The GPS trace shows where we had to nip back to help a friend. Fortunately Pete just needed to tighten up some bolts that had rattled loose on his new bike's maiden voyage,

If you're an avid ride-maker and trail mapper, then it's worth having just for those functions.

We have found a couple of glitches, though. The unit's calculation of calories expended is way out. According to Garmin, that's because doing it right is protected by patents. You'll be fine if you just use that function to compare the work done from one ride to another, but don't use it as an eating guide or you'll turn into a blimp.

As Neil Pedoe from Cycling Plus magazine has mentioned in our forums, the routing can be idiosyncratic. His Edge 705 took him on, “the most hilly, zig zagging route imaginable between Bristol and Bath... Ouch.” Of course, if you like hills, you might see that as a feature not a bug. 

Cass Gilbert and Jeff Jones were with Neil on that test ride. We had told the 705 to "avoid major roads" and because we didn't want to use the Bristol-Bath bike path, the hilly route we were given was actually quite direct. It showed us parts of Bath that we'd never seen before, leading us to propose an "avoid seedy parts of town" as a routing option.

Features: functions galore

Key features for bike riders include the ability to plan, upload and follow a route; record a route and download it to a computer; and to set a destination and get directions as you ride. The 44mm x 35mm backlit display is clear and bright and the button-push sequences turn out to be pretty self-explanatory.

The Edge 705 also has a huge range of bike computer functions. You can customise the display so you can see up to ten of them at once, and you can have different displays for different bikes. I won't list them all here because it'd take a couple of screens. They're on pages 48-52 of the manual (1.5MB PDF), which is well worth downloading in advance if you're considering purchase. 

There's a lot to absorb to get beyond the basics of the Edge 705, and we're not that deep into learning it all ourselves yet, but Garmin has done a great job of keeping things clear and easy to find. Those familiar with earlier versions of the Edge will have no problems getting used to the new one.

The manual is a bit sketchy in places, but once you get used to the idea that you navigate through the menus with the joystick in much the same way as you drill through application preferences on a computer, it's pretty straightforward.

Advanced features: more power

For riders with sportier ambitions there are lots of training features. You can, for example, repeat a previous ride and compare your performance with the 'virtual training partner' function. Or you can get a ride from someone else with an Edge and do the same thing.

The workout function lets you, for example, set a time and distance for a ride, or specific portions of it, and see how you are doing against your target, which should appeal to time trialists.

For advanced training you'll need a power meter. The Edge 705 uses Garmin's ANT+Sport 2.4GHz wireless protocol to get data from external devices (and other Edge 705s), which means it needs a compatible power meter. SRM has announced an ANT+Sport version of its power meter and Quarq's CinQo power meter is natively ANT+Sport.

SRM is saying second quarter of this year for its wireless power meter, while Quarq's shooting for late April. When we get our hands on one of them, we'll let you know how they go with the Edge 705.

Options & prices

There are four bundles available. The basic unit, with heart rate monitor is £299.99. This uses the GPS to measure speed.

The bundle with a speed/cadence sensor is £329.99. You'll need that if you want to, say, use an indoor trainer, or if you like having accurate instantaneous speed.

Garmin offers two options with maps. The £359.99 Road Performance Package comes with a microSD with City Navigator NT, Europe road maps, while the MTB Performance Package with GB Topo DVD is the same price.

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