Garmin is one of the biggest names when it comes to bike-mounted GPS devices, and the Edge Touring Plus plugs a gap in its range: it has the sat nav capabilities of the top-level Edge 810 without the cost or complexity.
Its name holds a clue to who Garmin had in mind when designing the unit – riders who are planning to spend longer days in the saddle, who want navigational aids and the capability to record some data, but don’t need the full shebang of power, weather forecasts and extensive connectivity. So it’s more of a route planner than a performance tool.
And route finding is where the Touring Plus really comes into its own. It works like a sat nav in a car, but with maps tailored for cycling (it comes loaded with the Garmin Cycle Map microSD card covering the UK and Europe).
Menus let you specify whether you want to stay on roads or use cycle paths (or off-road trails for mountain biking), it can display cycling points of interest, and there are the usual navigate to a point and return home options.
If you don’t have a specific destination in mind but just want to ride a certain distance, you can use RoundTrip routing: get yourself a GPS fix, plug in roughly how far you want to ride, and the Touring Plus will suggest three different routes to choose from. The ability to set waypoints and move them around is also useful.
You can upload routes from your computer, manually or through Garmin’s software, and once complete, ride data can be downloaded and used on Strava and the like.
The physical unit of the Touring Plus is the same as the Edge 810; same dimensions, same screen size (3.6 x 5.5cm) and definition. The 160 x 240 pixel screen offers enough detail and colour to give a decent enough display that’s usable while riding. In order to save the battery, the screen darkens between junctions, but brightens as you approach, and there are audible notifications to alert you too.
The touch screen feels more responsive than a Garmin Edge 800, and is on a par with the Edge 810. Controlling the screen is easy with bare hands, although the screen isn’t as responsive as a smart phone. Navigating through menus while wearing gloves can be tricky, because you can’t press the screen as accurately.
The Touring Plus is reasonably fast to start up and scroll through menus. As with many GPS units, the way it navigates you can take a bit of getting used to – often at the start of the ride we found ourselves going the wrong way until the Touring Plus alerted us to this. Our only real gripe with the navigation is that, while the increased detail of the junction screen is useful, it stays on screen for too long after you’ve completed the junction before reverting to normal navigation. You can exit the screen manually, but it’s not ideal to be fiddling with a GPS while riding close to a junction.
Navigating on the map screen is done through zoom touch screen buttons and a ‘hand’ button to move the map. As well as viewing the map screens, you can swipe sideways to display customisable ride data such as speed, total distance, distance count-downs, altitude, estimated calorie use and temperature.
There’s also a screen showing your ride profile, and the unit’s ANT+ receiver means you can link up to a compatible heart rate monitor or other ANT+ device, such as the RideSense sensors on Giant bikes. Data from these devices can be programmed to appear on the various ride screens.