Garmin Releases New GPS Computers, But Where’s My Request


by David Schloss on Jan 07, 2013 at 8:44 PM

I’ve had a Garmin GPS mounted to my bikes since before the Edge series of bike-specific computers was available, using their hiking models and the bike bar adapters to fashion computers that were functional but not particularly slim. (I’ve saved my ass with a mapping bike computer on several occasions, including trips to road ride in Beijing, mountain bike in the forests of Louisiana and poking around in the Netherlands. In fact it was a Garmin GPS computer that brought me to BikeHugger. Byron, who can’t stand the UI of Garmin devices was decrying the usefulness of an Edge model when I chimed in and schooled him on the value of a mapping-capable computer. The rest was history.

Garmin Edge 810 and 510

The new Garmin Edge 810 and 510 (announced today) add some great features (live weather, sync with iOS and more) but they’re still missing something I’ve been dying to get in a bike computer for years—the ability to customize a training ride by answering a few questions.

Here’s an example—I often tack miles onto my rides to extend my training and I’ll randomly pick new roads and see where they go. Sometimes this is great, sometimes I end up doing 30 miles when I wanted an extra 5. Often I’m headed straight up a hill when I wanted a flat, fast ride.

A GPS-based bike computer knows the terrain. Like my mapping software in my car, it could easily pick routes and avoid others. What I want to be able to do is pick two point—staring point and end point—and then customize how many miles I want to ride to get from one to the other, and the terrain type.

For example, I want to ride from my house to one of my shops (four miles apart) but I want a 20 mile route to get there. Or, I’d like to start at my house and end up back at my house, but I want to climb 5000 feet during my ride, and I don’t care how long it takes me to do that. Want to do intervals? Great, give me a local hill and pace me up it to stay on track and then plot my cool down. Or maybe I want to go from my house to my shop but I want to avoid as many roads as possible that I’ve taken more than once.

Or, sometimes more importantly, I want a route home from my current location that doesn’t go over a mountain.

This came to me once when I was capping off a grueling 50 mile event ride with what my GPS told me was a nice 25 mile route back to my house but turned out to be an additional 3000 feet of climbing that I was just not prepared for. Even if the GPS had shown me the elevation profile of the chosen route I could have decided to scrap the route before I found myself granny gearing up a 20 percent grade.

This wouldn’t be hard to do, it’s a variation on the route avoidance calculations that car-based units already have. But it would be massively, massively helpful to me. I wouldn’t have to ride out with a encyclopedic knowledge of the mountains around my house (or in a new-to-me city) to get a climbing workout or blow up my legs after a training ride with a climb-too-far.

Please, future Kickstarters and gadget developers, add these features and convert my GPS from a passive device into a serious Sherpa-like route guide.

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My question is why a stand alone device vice a smartphone app? The price point on both of these is in the same neighborhood as a Nexus 4; waterproof case/mount/battery adds $100; phones have GPS+GLONASS+Cell tower geo location ...

I’ve (and my lovely wife has) dug us some Garmin product ever since the Forerunner 105. However, the value proposition is quickly changing.

Yeah, that sounds like a great feature to someday have. It sounds pretty complex though to calculate elevations and paths and such, I wonder if a tiny computer could make that possible, or if now they have bluetooth, they could send the two datapoints to a webserver to get a reply back to save on power.

Now I’m also wondering if there will be some strava hacks to get the data directly into their site via bluetooth and the new garmin iOS apps.

Having an “Oh come on” moment I’m afraid.  That’s what your brain is for. You’re patently far from stupid think for yourself or at worst hire a coach.  Just don’t join the throng that can’t do anything without a piece of electronics telling them it’s OK and yet more little grey cell calcifying with lack of use.  (Returns to technology dependant business ;)  )

What I want is to put in my route and then when I stray from it, tell me how to get back on the route - not just get to the end point.

The combination of the Garmin 510 and phone seems interesting. Could the phone handle the mapping when needed and just let the Garmin do the GPS work? The 510 claims 20 hours battery life with typical use.

DC Rainmaker mentioned on Twitter that Mio (not the sugar water) announced this feature in November

I don’t know if I’d need something as complex as what David describes, but def a smart playlist type function in the app that I could say, “hillier please or flatter on the way home.” For as long as GPS devices have been on the market and the tech out there, they’re rather dumb personalized software wise. As David said above, I loathe Garmin and use the Joule II + GPS. It had a little breakdown when I went off course on a ride instead of re plotting like Another Pedaler said above. Another feature, for the lack of a better description is a hey I noticed you changed course did you want to start a new one or take the long way home?

@matt - before the Edge I used an eTrex (which has less processing power than the Edge) to do turn-by-turn driving, complete with the ability to skip parts of routes. The Edge has to be able to do that. And the maps are more detailed than back then as well.

Elevation data isn’t hard to calculate, Garmin already sells topo maps. But with the phone connectivity I’d happily let an iPhone app do the heavy lifting and push it to the Garmin. Now that I think of it, who wants to fund an App company that does this?

@Wooliferkins - I think I’m following your English there. But there are a few things here. 1) Hiring a coach isn’t going to help me on a day when I’ve done a ride but decide I want to do hill climbs. Or help me find new routes to ride when I’ve done all the roads I already know.

I used to travel 100,000 miles a year by plane and take my bike with me. No coach in the world is going to tell me where to find a 50 mile route around Orlando that happens to give me 3000 feet of climbing.

What’s missing from David’s mapping desires and this discussion is the QUALITY of the route. Don’t want something routing me down a busy 4 lane road with massive potholes just because you click “Flatter”

While the GPS has data like elevation available to it, what is lacking is a comprehensive database for other road “meta-data” ... such as road type (dirt, gravel, paved), quality (1=craters, 10 =smooth), how busy the road is, usage by trucks, typical road speed, bike lanes or other official transportation concessions, etc.  All the different meta-data should combine based on the users preferences to choose the appropriate route.  If I select “Road surface >= paved” then that begins to define the parameters for what I want in a route.  It would be nice to be able to exclude specific roads like “Never send me down this road, ever” ...for cases when the meta-data doesn’t capture whatever reason you have for avoiding that one, such as temporary construction or something like “a big angry dog lives here”

One could rely to some degree on various public bike-route sites, but would need to give creators or routes some kind of reliability score.  e.g. “This user creates consistently good routes” or “This route gets a low community score or low usage, but this other one is highly rated or used”.  Someone like Garmin could rely on the “traffic” data that their own users generate.  1200 of you choosing to ride the same back-road might indicate a good road to send other users down…

This is the Holy Grail of bike routing, and whoever solves it will earn a few bucks.  They don’t build roads to make nice ways of getting around on a bike…

@redhed18 good point and see this app from Carlton Reid


And I think what Matt was saying, what if an output from Strava wasn’t KOMs and suffer scores, but something really useful like well-annotated maps. It’s curation and I remember, early on in GPS for bikes, Bicycling embarked on a program to record rides everywhere.

Thanks for the plug. Shame app is not available for you in the US.

Bike Hub app is paid for by the Bike Belong-style levy and is free for users.

The app has turn by turn audio and arrow-on-a-map directions, routes via bike paths, if you choose that setting, and uses OpenStreetMap mapping. The app will try to route away from hills, if you ask it to. And there’s an OpenStreetMap layer for road surfaces so the app will direct a cyclist away from a cobbled street.

I get lots of requests for us to produce a US version of the app but the mapping in the US isn’t as good as Europe.

OpenStreetmap is excellent in Europe (in some localities every street lamp is on a map layer), but there are large blanks in the US.

The app is available for Android, iPhone and probably Blackberry soon.