Here’s our 2016 guide to GPS devices for cyclists.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
What GPS unit do you have? What features have you found most useful?