Life on the edge…

Some more thoughts on the Garmin Edge 810: I’m still not impressed. It seems to fail on some of the absolute basics I would expect from it.

I should say that I still have no maps for it. I initially tried to buy the version with European maps pre-loaded. Unfortunately, these sold out as I was entering my credit card details, so I swapped to getting the version without maps and buying the downloadable version of the maps direct from Garmin. Sounds like a great idea, right? Wrong.

It turns out that the maps (which in this case are a in a file that is nearly 4GB) need to be downloaded via Garmin’s system straight to the card when it is mounted in the device. 

Ok, I thought, I can do that. But no. The download takes several hours doing it this way, and after trying on 4 different computers with 4 different computers it still hadn’t got all of the way through without crashing or hanging. Not impressed. Then I realised that there was a firmware update (version 2.5) available, so I installed that. Now the download doesn’t even start, because the system hangs at the “checking compatibility” stage. So that is a fail. I am now deciding if I should buy the garmin maps preloaded on a card, or use open source maps instead. I am leaning towards the later.

So that all means that I have no maps loaded. It should still be ok, I thought, because I can still plan a path, download it to the device and then just follow that path. And I certainly can do that. There are a few different ways to plan the path, and I tried a couple out last weekend.

I was pretty happy with “Bike Route Toaster”. It let me plan a course pretty easily, gave me warnings before I reached a corner, and the course was a reasonable one. There was a bit of time on rough dirt roads, but not much. To follow it was pretty easy. As I said, I had no map but the route was drawn on the screen as a purple line. I was drawn on as a triangle, with a blue line to show where I had been. All I had to do was make sure that the triangle kept following the purple line, and with it beeping at me before each turn that was pretty easy, so I was happy.

The next day did not go so well. This time I was using a route I had created using garmin’s own route planning website. For some reason on this one the warnings before a turn were not working. Disappointing, but it still beeped if I left the route, so I could still enjoy the ride and not have to stare at the screen the whole time. The problem was the choice of route. I did tick the “follow roads” option when getting the course created, but the definition of a road turned out to be pretty loose. 

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Specifically, there were some places where it took me down (or up) huge flights of stairs, and some places where the path could at best be described as an overgrown walking track. I didn’t think it would be a problem, because in every case there were also actual sealed roads around that were fine to ride on, but that was when I discovered what I consider a fundamental flaw.

If I left the planned route, it beeped to warn me, which was good. The other thing it did though was stop redrawing the map. So if it was telling me to follow a goat track, and 20 meters beside it was a nice sealed road, I had to follow the goat track anyway, because otherwise I would never see where I had to go next, unless the goat track and the road happened to cross, in which case it would tell me I was back on track and redraw the map.

Now to me, this behaviour is the opposite of what I want. If I am on the course anyway, that is fine, I don’t need to see the map, I’m already going the right way. If I am off course though, well then I need to know where I am relative to the course so that when the course becomes passable again, or heads off in a completely different direction, I know how to follow it! So again, to me, that is a fail.

There are a few other super annoying things that it does, that I am hoping I can fix somehow, but for the moment it remains a fairly unimpressive device.

On the plus side it seems to get a GPS location very quickly, and it has an easy to use and highly customizable display. As a bike computer it works fine. It also communicates with my mobile and uploads all the details of my ride effortlessly. It only uploads them to “Garmin Connect”, which seems pretty useless as a tool to analyse performance, but I am hoping I can find a way to easily get the data from there into something more useful. It will still be a big help in finding my way around Italy, and it will allow me to show you exactly where I am riding at any time, but it is disappointing so far. I’m just happy everything else is working well to make up for it!

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