Cycling GPS devices

Here’s our 2016 guide to GPS devices for cyclists.

Garmin gps next to the iPhone on bicycle handlebars

The two main goals of a cycling GPS devices is to be able to track your cycling and to provide turn by turn directions. As with all technology, there are little variations in what each unit will do and record.

Therefore, when choosing a GPS, thinking about the following things can help narrow your choices.

Data

What do you want to record with your new gadget? Do you want to keep an accurate record of how far you are going and at what speed? Do you want to be able to record your heart rate as well as these things? Or do you want the unit to tell you where to go and show you a map?

Battery

How long does the battery need to last? Are you only going to be using the unit on short rides to and from work with a chance to recharge the batteries as and when needed then battery life is not a consideration.

Size

GPS units vary in size quite a lot. If you do not have much space on your handlebars or don’t want to carry much around then it might be best to pick a small unit. However, if you want to be able to view maps, then try to get one with as large a screen as possible.

Garmin pretty much has the market cornered for cycle GPS units so we have focused on their offerings here. On with the options then!

Garmin Edge 20 and 25 – £86-£110

The Edge 20 is the entry level GPS unit from Garmin. It will track your speed, distance and the time you take to cover them. You can upload a route to it via Garmin’s software and it will tell you where to go, useful when out on a day ride.

Edge 20 and 25

The Edge 25 is the slightly more advanced as it can pair with a heart rate monitor should you wish to have even more stats to play with after a ride. You can do everything on this that you can on the Edge 20.

The two units are the same pretty small size. They will fit on even the shortest stem and take up about the same amount of space as a small light. The battery (8 hours of life) should have enough juice for a decent length day ride or a few commutes to work.

If you are after a small unit that records all the important ride information then this one is probably the one for you. If you think you might want to do more navigation with it at some point or use it for longer than 8 hours without access to charging, then maybe look at the next option up.

Garmin Edge Touring and Touring Plus – £150-£190

The next model up from the Edge 20 and 25 is the Touring version. This is a more sizeable unit with more mapping and route marking capability. Again there are two versions, a simple one and one with a couple more features, the Touring Plus. The larger size allows for a larger battery as well, with up to 17 hours of use on one charge.

Edge Touring and Touring Plus

Both models have a fairly large 2.6″ colour screen and come with base maps. Garmin likens these models to being the same as a sat nav for cars, and that is pretty accurate. You don’t need to be connected to a computer to chose a route, and you can get more detail about the journey. This is a great feature if you are intending to do longer rides or prefer to explore once you are out, rather than just follow a predetermined route.

The Touring Plus has the added benefit of allowing you to connect a heart rate monitor (or other ANT+ device). It also has a barometric altimeter, meaning you can accurately track your elevation changes as you are not relying on estimated data from satellites way up in space.

Garmin Edge 520 – £204

The 520 is a pretty high performance unit and is definitely the unit if you are training as well as commuting. For example, you can connect a power meter and a heart rate monitor so you can get info on recovery times. It also has Strava Live Segments so you can upload your stats to compete against everyone. The unit also has a base map so you can explore while also trying to get that KOM.

Edge 520

The 520 can also sync via bluetooth to social media should you be competing with others in your club, along with giving you weather updates and live tracking to let people know where you are, handy for racing. This really is the unit to get if you are in serious training mode.

Wearables

There are a wealth of wearables out there that can also track your cycling. Garmin make some as do Polar and TomTom. They are often aimed at runners, and as such not all have features to track cycling as well, so check the specs carefully to make sure the watch does what you want. If you have fancied an activity tracker for a while and want to know how far and fast you are cycling on your commutes then a watch might be a good option.

I personally have a Polar M400 which is a multi-sport watch that works well to record information on a ride. It will not give me directions or a map, but I can view things such as speed, distance and heart rate in real time and then upload everything, including route, to my phone later to get more detail.

Polar M400

You phone

Of course you can just add some apps and cheaper accessories and use your phone to tell you where you are going and how you are doing getting there. Strava has become the most popular option for tracking the details of your ride. Google Maps can be great for directions, as can BikeHub and CityCyclist.

If you do opt for the phone, then a mount is required. I personally like my QuadLock as it is easy to remove my phone when I want to take a picture or leave my bike. The Finn also seems popular and is certainly cheap, easy to use and pretty neat.

Strava on phone

The main downside of using your phone as your cycle computer is that it will drain the battery fairly quickly. There are of course ways around this by carrying portable battery packs with you. If you are just looking for something to use on a commute initially, utilising the features of your phone might be a good start to see if you really care about the data before splurging.

Of course, regardless of GPS device choice, you also want our Bike Doctor app!

See also:

What GPS unit do you have? What features have you found most useful?

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39 Responses to Cycling GPS devices

  1. Luca 16/03/2011 at 12:37 pm #

    I do have to ask why anyone would bother with a device such as this, when smartphones nowadays can do the same and much more? On my Android device I use Google Maps (free!) for navigation, it even suggests alternative routes to avoid the traffic, and then Sports Tracker (free or £5.99 for a pro version) to track my rides. This also lets me upload my tracks to their website, so I can view pretty maps of where I have been: http://www.sportstracklive.com/user/lucaspiller

    • chris 16/03/2011 at 12:44 pm #

      Luca,

      I use a Garmin 705 because I am planning some long term travelling and do not want to mess about with acquiring SIM cards in every country to enable data services.

      With the Garmin, I can create a route on a laptop/netbook, download it to the device and then at the end of the day, upload the GPS (and track stats) data.

      • K 16/03/2011 at 12:55 pm #

        I use a Nokia phone, which includes free turn-by-turn navigation for driving and walking. I find the latter is very useful for cycling – for example, when travelling from the Royal Docks to New Cross it directs me through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

        You can download maps and set routes before you set off and use them offline, so you don’t need data services in whatever country you’re in. And you can run Endomondo in the background, tracking your route and speed.

        • Andreas 16/03/2011 at 1:11 pm #

          Luca – Roger that! I’ve written about this before numerous times (see: how to
          turn your phone into a £300 gps device
          )
          Also – comment by Chris is spot on!

        • S 27/02/2016 at 11:50 am #

          Thanks K! Which app is this one? I haven’t tried any of them on my phone yet!

      • Luca 16/03/2011 at 1:46 pm #

        Hmm that makes a bit more sense (sorry if my comment sounded a bit flamey, I was in a bit of a rush!). There are a few apps that let you download maps for offline use, but they aren’t great, and I haven’t seen anything that combines that and tracking. A friend pointed out that battery life is also a lot better with these!

        • Andreas 16/03/2011 at 2:34 pm #

          True – you can always get one of those chargers (around £20-£40) to keep an iPhone or other phone going for twice or three times as long..
          So you always have options.

  2. Mike 16/03/2011 at 12:41 pm #

    Hi Andreas, thanks for this review. I see from your photo that you also have an iPhone clipped to your handlebars. Have you tried any of the GPS apps for the iPhone? And what mount do you use to prevent it jumping off and smashing on the road when you hit the first pot-hole?

    Cheers

  3. Kevin Campbell's Blog 16/03/2011 at 12:51 pm #

    what luca said, if anyone has money to waste on this give it to me instead as you can just buy a cheap smartphone like an android and use apps like google navigator and maps and many more great apps too like cardiotrainer

    • Andreas 16/03/2011 at 1:22 pm #

      RE: Using your mobile phone. See my iPhone posts and Android posts etc

  4. hello 16/03/2011 at 12:54 pm #

    The post is sponsored by GARMIN …. the title should be “the GARMIN cycling GPS devices”

    please complete your post with alternative devices :
    COMPEGPS SPORTIVA
    HOLUX FUNTREK
    HOLUX GPSPORT
    BRYTON RIDER

    and much more ….

    I wish that my comment will not be cancelled !

    • Andreas 16/03/2011 at 1:21 pm #

      LOL – I wish it was sponsored by Garmin! As Mr Hello said there are other GPS devices and this list is not by no means conclusive. The Bryton Rider in particular looks interesting. Info here:
      http://www.londoncyclist.co.uk/go/bryton/

  5. Aggi 16/03/2011 at 2:51 pm #

    The main trouble with a smartphone I find is that using one with GPS and screen turned on permanently gives a very poor battery life. Plus, I’m yet to find a decent case for my Android phone that still allows me to use the touchscreen and is as waterproof and tough as something like a Garmin.

    I use a Garmin Dakota 10 which is more for hiking so it doesn’t have the Ant+ with cadence, etc (although does have touchscreen and a handlebar mount). It records everything like speed, distance, averages, etc though and is easy to upload to a PC. It also does Tom-Tom style routing with the route adjusted for car, bicycle, walking, etc. Decent value for £150.

    For maps you don’t have to pay for the Garmin ones (true for most of the Garmin series) but you can instead download OpenStreetMap ones for free. http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/OSM_Map_On_Garmin There are also cycling specific ones with National Cycle Routes, cycle lanes, etc with cycling routing http://www.velomap.org/

    • Andreas 17/03/2011 at 9:17 am #

      Aggi – good input – recommend people skimp on the expensive “cycling” packages Garmin offers and opt for getting Open Street Maps on their garmin (Thanks for link). I’ll checkout the Dakota 10.

  6. skippy 16/03/2011 at 3:26 pm #

    Remember reading a blog post where a “Garmin user ” was in an accident and the “garmin” served as proof of the route that this victim had been using ! Without this evidence the Police were favouring the motorist (don’t they always?) and subsequently that motorist found bother with having “misled” the police !

    Not considered using the latest technology since i rarely use a bike computer these days and given up on wearing Polar’s hrm since the last packed up .

    • Andreas 16/03/2011 at 8:27 pm #

      Excellent stuff Skippy – clever of him to use the Garmin device for evidence – why in all motorist / cyclist collisions is the cyclist rarely supported?

  7. Craig 17/03/2011 at 8:20 am #

    All this talk of smartphones and dedicated cycling computers. Has anyone really looked at the cost? A smartphone in general, by the time you have added cost of contract is about the same as the GPS devices described here. As Aggi points out, battery life on a smartphone is poor, and perhaps there is a case for Andreas to do a review comparing both iphone (which is one of the market leaders on battery life) and a GPS device for battery survival.

    You can pick up a basic road GPS for £100 ish. When cycling off-road a GPS is relatively inaccurate in positioning and unable to even place you on a bridleway, Consequently, I am left wondering if there is any need to splash out on anything but a basic GPS device as a navigation aid?

    • Andreas 17/03/2011 at 9:27 am #

      True – but I guess with a smartphone the big difference is that you already have this device anyway.

      I don’t know if I could pedal enough to run down a Garmin device – they seem to have lasted epic distances! Where as I can tell you my old iPhone on a 4-5 hour ride will be 100% dead. (Unless I’ve done some major battery conservation)

      It does seem that a road GPS is better suited for the job – only considerations then are: 1. What happens when it rains? 2. How to mount to handlebars? 3. Off-road cycling (+cycle routes?)

      • Craig 17/03/2011 at 3:59 pm #

        Well I know you can get mounts for bicycles to carry most of the “car” GPS versions, so I guess some waterproofing is also available.

        Off road – dunno, but my guess is for basic use most riders will want to know where they are and how to get home or to a destination. I’m sure a push by cyclists would improve the level of mapping. Most “car” GPS have walking and cycling modes.

    • Will 17/03/2011 at 2:22 pm #

      Dedicated GPS devices might be slightly better, but a smartphone is massively cheaper, even if you don’t already have one.

      If you have a contract then pretty much anything except the iPhone can be had free of charge (even as low as £20 per month or lower) and even if you want to go down the PAYG route, decent smartphones with GPS are now available for under £100 and will do more than a dedicated GPS costing twice as much.

      Battery life can be an issue, but this can be resolved with spare batteries, bigger batteries or plug in chargers and to be honest, how often do you go on a 6+ hour ride?

      Finally; Waterproofing. Waterproof bar mounts are available, or can I suggest perhaps a waterproof phone: http://www.motorola.com/Consumers/XW-EN/Consumer-Products-and-Services/Mobile-Phones/MOTOROLA-DEFY-XW-EN

      If you are a hardcore cyclist with money to burn then sure, a top end dedicated GPS is the best option; For the rest of us, just get your phone out!

      • Craig 17/03/2011 at 4:01 pm #

        £20 per month for at least 18 months is still more than £100 Will :). True you get some free calls and txts and get to use it other than on bike days. And I agree it is better than buying a GPS for the sake of it.

  8. Ciarán 18/03/2011 at 10:33 am #

    Is there a smart phone app that gives voice instruction over bluetooth?

    So I can have my phone in my pannier or rucksack and just be told when next to turn, rather than having to look down every-so often to find out what’s next.

    I’ve not seen a need to own a smartphone yet, but that would be a “killer app” for me, and save me a lot of time and hassle.

    • Andreas 18/03/2011 at 11:46 am #

      I believe you’re looking for Bike Hub (iPhone & Android) – only problem is its not loud enough to be heard. (Unless you put in headphones which is dangerous)

      • MJ Ray 01/03/2016 at 8:05 am #

        Using one earpiece isn’t dangerous, but you can also use an external speaker or bone conduction headphones if you prefer.

  9. Bluenose 18/03/2011 at 10:47 am #

    I have a garmin etrex legend, an older model but robust one purchased for walking. It also works just as well for cycling. Screen is smaller than modern devices but it is really really really robust and of course fully waterproof.

    I doubt if phones are that robust and even the modern GPS units may not be that robust either.

    I use rechargeable AA batteries in it.

    • Middletonian 26/02/2016 at 2:10 pm #

      A second vote here for the etrex legend which I use with maps created from openstreetmap. The only drawback is that routes imported from a PC are limited to 250 waypoints, so you need to edit out some of the points or split into segments before downloading (using RouteConverter). I too use rechargeable batteries but for longer (multi-day) rides I run it from a Shimano hub dynamo, run through a Sinewave Cycles Revolution USB charger, which is great.

  10. Tim 18/03/2011 at 11:04 am #

    I wrote a review for the Garmin 800 for the Evans website and earned £250 worth of vouchers which helped a lot with the cost. I love it but as you say it costs.http://blog.evanscycles.com/customer-review-of-the-month/garmin-edge-800-enduro-pack-customer-review-of-the-month/

  11. Aggi 18/03/2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Are there any Android apps with offline mapping and routing which also allow you to upload your route, speed, elevation into something which allows you to keep track of your distance, routes, etc. I looked last summer and struggled to find anything with decent offline capabilities.

    An issue I aslo find in the winter is that most phones have capacitive touchscreens which don’t work with gloves.

  12. Gaz 18/03/2011 at 1:46 pm #

    Don’t forget that these GPS devices provide information that is not avaliable elsewhere if you are involved in a crash. You can proove which direcition and how fast you are traveling just before someone pulls out in front of you. No more rubbish that you where going to fast or you sped up etc..

  13. John Benson 18/03/2011 at 2:38 pm #

    I’m currently cycling through The Americas & belong to a google group for riders on the route.

    A consensus through a significant number in the group would be for a Garmin eTrek Vista HCx for not only long distance touring but any touring that involves a distance where use of the GPS is needed.

    Amazon had them at practically half price a couple of months ago – don’t know if this is still the case.

  14. Gavin Smith 05/04/2011 at 8:16 pm #

    I use the 705, i generally know the areas where we are cycling and only really use it to track my progress afterwards.

  15. prince 19/06/2015 at 6:38 am #

    i think we can find the location easily even we miss the path

  16. Harry-H 24/02/2016 at 12:15 pm #

    I’ve got a Garmin 910T – which I use for running and cycling. It’s OK, but the Garmin website is a PoS and Garmin support is worse than useless. I’ll never buy another Garmin device.

  17. James Legg 24/02/2016 at 1:12 pm #

    I’ve been using a Wahoo RFLT+ paired with a pocketed iPhone failry happily. Suspect it’s not as fancy as the top end GPS units, but is quite configurable and as the screen is off on the phone battery life is better.

  18. Ewan MacGregor 26/02/2016 at 10:18 am #

    Hi Andreas,

    Haven’t spoken for a while but we also have a rake of phone mounts and batteries to keep you active and connected. I’m not sure if you’ve had a chance to see our new shower case MountCase range that compliments our waterproof BikeConsole range. As well as the popular Apple iPhone 4, 5, 6 and 6Plus we also have models for the Samsung Galaxy S4, 5,6 , 6Edge and a lot of universal cases for the less popular phones.

    Take a look at our current range on http://www.cyclewiz.co.uk.

    We are just launching a range of motorbike mounts with charging options as well.

    Cheers,

    Ewan

  19. MJ Ray 01/03/2016 at 8:09 am #

    Another recycled old post, based on the comment dates. Why do we keep getting these?

    Things have moved on. Phone GPS battery consumption is now much lower. Screens still drain battery but put it in your chest pocket and put voice prompts on and you can’t beat it for touring. The only time dedicated devices win now is if you won’t stop to check the screen, which is dangerous anyway.

    • Andreas 02/03/2016 at 3:27 pm #

      Hey MJ,

      We are going through and updating all our gear roundups to create 2016 versions. Instead of creating duplicate new posts, we are updating the ones with out of date content.

      Andreas

      • MJ Ray 03/03/2016 at 12:45 pm #

        I think I’d suggest renaming the old post, adding notices that there’s a newer one and putting the new one in its place, else it’s both destroying articles that other people referred to and leaving a ton of stale comments which may be irrelevant now.

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