Garmin Edge 500 Review

Gear Pro Reviews

Set Up
I turned the unit on, and it walked me through some basic configuration, such as language desired (English and Bad English), age (old), sex (Often), etc. The screens are very intuitive, and the 4 multi-function buttons which were easy to use and comprehend. After the initial configuration, you can set up the data fields that appear on the screen in any layout you desire. There are 41 data fields that can be chosen, and they run the whole gamut of information from speed, distance, time, heart rate, etc. Some of the data fields are only pertinent to the optional input devices, such as power meter, heart rate monitor and speed/cadence sensor. Another great new feature is having 3 pages of data screens with up to 8 data fields each, so you put lower priority data on the secondary screens, and access them if needed. The multiple page feature prevents cluttering up the screens with too much information, since I personally find more than 5 pieces of data hard to read and focus on. The screens can easily be paged through using the buttons, or the Auto Scroll feature can be enabled for automatically rolling through the pages.

In regard to ANT+ sensors or devices, I predominately used the heart rate monitor, and on rare occasions used the cadence sensor (power meters are more roadie specific). The devices need to be paired (synced) up with the unit, which entails enabling the device within the menu system, and then scanning for the device. After the initial pairing, the device will automatically be recognized.

gps

The included CD is just a user manual (60 pages) and doesn’t contain any software, so you need to go to the Garmin web site and download any of the required software. I downloaded and installed their WebUpdater software, and plugged the Edge 500 in when prompted, and it loaded the latest firmware. I next installed their training and data gathering software, which consists of Training Center (locally based) and Garmin Connect (web based). The USB connector port is on the back of the unit, behind a small rubber cover (it can be a pain to slip back into its slot). One thing I really liked is that there is a charging counter, that shows the current percentage of battery storage.

gps_500_port

Installing the new mount system was a breeze. You simply place the mount on your stem or bar (notches pointing forward), clip the rubber band on the mount’s hook, wrap it around to the other side and hook it up. The industrial strength rubber band, come in 2 sizes, and there are quite a few extras in case they get old, broken or lost. This past week I lost a band while I was on a road trip, while the bike was on the rear bike rack. I rode the unit with one band on a bone jarring trail, and it did not fall off! I didn’t have an extra with me, but a normal rubber band seemed to work just fine as a temporary stop gap.

gps_500_install

To install the Edge 500, push the back tab into the mount’s slot to engage it, and then rotate it 90 degrees.

gps_500_install_last

GPS 101
The US NAVSTAR Global Positioning System (GPS) is operated by the U.S. Air Force, and is a space based global navigation satellite system. It consists of three parts, a space segment which is 24 to 32 satellites in medium Earth orbit (20000 kilometers), a control segment which comprised of five monitoring stations (Hawaii, Kwajalein, Ascension Island, Diego Garcia, Colorado Springs), three ground antennas (Ascension Island, Diego Garcia, Kwajalein), and a Master Control station (Schriever AFB in Colorado), and lastly a user segment which is the receiver such as the Edge 500.

The satellites send out a microwave signal at the frequencies of 1.57542 GHz (public) and 1.2276 GHz (military), which includes the time the message was transmitted (via onboard atomic clock), precise orbital information (the Ephemeris), and the general system health and rough orbits of all GPS satellites (the Almanac). The signal (30 seconds long with 1500 bits of encrypted data) is encoded with high-rate pseudo-random (PRN) sequence, which is unique among each satellite. Each receiver knows the PRN codes, so it can decode the signal and distinguish between different satellites. Each of the satellites is in an orbit that allows a receiver to detect at least four of the operational satellites from any spot on Earth. The receiver utilizes the data to determine the transit time of each message, and computes the distances to each satellite using the time lag, and along with the satellites’ locations it uses trilateration (intersection of 3 spheres) to compute the position of the receiver.

Next » Usage

About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian has been part of the Mtbr team since 2007, where he has become an integral member of the review and test staff, specializing in technical articles. He likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, extreme skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth and hyperbolic articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on extremely technical singletrack.


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  • Spencer says:

    What screen protector did you get to fit on the Garmin?

  • Hans says:

    I’ve had one for a month or so now. Replaced my old Polar HRM. This unit is far nicer and easier to use. Your review nailed most of the issues I have had with the device.

    But, I have run into one problem with the unit where it will freeze up when the Lap button is pressed. I haven’t found a repeatable pattern yet. But what will happen is that the device will freeze and no button, even power off, will do anything. Eventually the unit will turn off and then you can turn it back on. The current values when the unit froze up will still be there and you can continue on. But you have lost several minutes between the time it froze and you are able to get it recording again.

    Also, this has also caused the data file to not be recognized by the Garmin Training Center software. Instead, I was able to load it with the web version of the software by manually selecting the data file.

    There’s more info and possible solutions for this Lap freeze up issue on the Garmin support forums.

  • Øyvind says:

    @Brian: Why do you list “No max speed” as a weakness? Your max speed is available both as a data field and in the history after a ride.

    @Hans: The freeze issue is annoying, but when it happens you can do a soft reset (press power+menu+reset simultaneously) instead of waiting for the internal watchdog to trigger. I’ve only had this happen once, and just as in your case the GTC could not read the data file but GC could.

  • Brian Mullin says:

    Spencer:
    What screen protector did you get to fit on the Garmin?
    Answer:
    I just get a generic one, and cut it yourself to size

    Hans:
    Never had any freeze issues

    Øyvind:
    Typo, should have been “No max altitude”…fixed

  • Charles says:

    I’ve been using the 500 and it’s been great. The course function is perfect for training rides and loops that one may do. I use it all the time for my commute to work. Basically you “race” against yourself when you rode that loop the first time. Having 3 screens and upto 8 data fields can make anyone happy. Also putting the info into Garmin connect and then from there you can import your trail into Google earth quite easily. The only wish I had with this unit is the ability to see your current trail as you’re riding it. I have an older Garmin Foretrex which would create a breadcrumb trail as you go. Helpful for those trails that are sketchy. The satellite fix is fast and accurate. Having two mounts included is brillant. Also you can have upto 3 different bikes stored into your computer. Also if you want to use it for running, then get the Garmin quick release kit for the forerunner (010-11215-00 id). Comes with a wrist strap and an extra bike mount. Also for screen protector, I have Lexerd. It’s not matte but there really isn’t a glare issue. The wrist mount and lexerd are both available at Amazon. 5 chilles easily

  • Charles says:

    I’ve been using the Garmin Edge 500 for a few months now. I have not had any of the locking up issues, but the tracks in the woods are pathetic. On the road, no problems, but take this unit off road and the data falls apart. I’ve emailed Garmin and sent them my files, but they haven’t had any luck figuring out what’s wrong. I know I’m not alone with this. A good friend of mine has purchased this item and had the same issues. He then bought a second and ran them together on the same rides. Both units get different data. Sucks. Like I said, great on the road, sucks in the woods.

  • Duke says:

    Garmin Edge 500 LOSES or CORRUPTS data
    Garmin forums has many long threads on this topic.

    DO NOT BUY
    until they fix the firmware on this piece of junk

    I owned the 305 before… it never had these problems

  • Brian Mullin says:

    I have used the Edge 500 for 75 days, and never lost any data nor had any corruption. I also have found the accuracy in the woods (where I spend over half my time) decently accurate when I compare them against my Edge 305 and Delorme PN-40.

  • Duke says:

    Lucky you!
    Just imagine how mad you’ll be when you do.

    It’s a good unit when it works…

  • Terry says:

    I have had my edge 500 since about late March, 2010. I used it for skiing, running, and of course biking. It works great–EXCEPT the absolute altitude consistantly reads low, by as much as 500′. I was on Mt Lincoln (14,300′) the other day and I had a reading of 13,800′. Tech support told me to turn it on and wait 15 min before moving the unit. I tried that, but it didn’t seem to help. The good thing is that the change in overall elevation seems to work ok (which is my primary interest anyway).

  • Brian Mullin says:

    Like any barometer, calibration helps, so when you are at the trail head or even when you drive over a mountain pass, do a set elevation point within the menu system. When I use my altimeter watch or even my old school analog aneroid barometer, I was always calibrating them, since the current weather and temperature can alter accuracy. As you stated, the overall elevation profile! Make sure that the vent holes on the back of the unit don’t get covered, since that is where the sensor id.

  • Steve whetman says:

    THis unit has just one flaw…its totally inaccurate, loses speed under any sort of cover ie trees or next to tall buildings, this stuffs the avg data and distance. thing is if this basic stuff is wrong how can anything else be trusted?Garmin say fix on its way but don’t know when SO please save your money until fixed..if ever! roll on 2.5 f/w

  • Brian Mullin says:

    Sorry to hear that, my test unit worked flawlessly with enough accuracy for over 6 months of heavy use, and a good deal of it was under heavy tree cover and deep mountain canyons.

  • Brian P says:

    I must concur with Steve W. I use mine exclusively on the road, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in certain areas and watched as the speed fluctuated by as much as 3mph in a matter of a second. With the first unit I purchased, I figured it was area specific (though no trees or buildings could have possibly been the issue as it was open farm land), so I took my trusty 205 along to compare. It was rock solid, while the 500 was all over the place. Sent it back, same deal with second unit. Like a dope, I thought once it got it’s poop together again, all would be good distance-wise. Then I did a 125mi. ride where this cropped up again at various times, and my total distance was only 123mi. They definitely have a firmware situation with this unit, and even though I’ve ordered the speed/cadence sensor, I’ve seen on the forum that the unit uses the scs when you have good acquisition, but reverts to the unit when you lose signal. WTF! Totally reversed from how it should work. I would wait until they come up with a decent firmware upgrade to address these issues, as I’m not alone from what I see on Garmin’s forum.

  • Bob H says:

    I have been using mine for months now and the only glitch is it reset to teh default screens when I updated the firmware and that was a minor annoyance. i use it on my road bike, mountain bikes and motorcycle with great success. The only time it loses data is under some high power lines and that’s not all the time. Have been mapping mountain bike trails all summer without missing anything even with the heavy canopy above. I’d buy another but it’s so easy to swap from bike to bike why should I? Get one you will not regret it.

  • bbudell says:

    I have been using one since January. There was a firmware upgrade a little while ago that took care of the freezing thing when you hit the lap button. I have clocked more than 250 hrs with the devise and haven’t had any problems with lost or corrupted data. Yeah it isn’t super accurate for calculating your speed in the woods at a given instant(gps mode, not the wheel sensor) but for recording ride data for post-ride analysis it is great.

  • Travis says:

    Does the heart rate function pick up a Polar HRM, like most gym equipment?… it’s kinda a standard, or do you need to buy their chest strap thing?

  • Brian Mullin says:

    It should be fine, although I have never tested it, just sync the units up using the menu system

  • numerous problems with Edge 500 bundle says:

    I have an Edge 500 bundle.
    Firstly the instructions do not have enough detail in some areas.
    Secondly, I cannot see where I can read or record maximum heart rate for a ride.
    Thirdly,when setting up bike 1, 2 and 3, I cannot seem to put in different wheel diameter settings for bikes 2 and 3, thus affecting the accuracy of distance and speed for bikes 2 and 3, which have different wheel diameters.
    Fourthly, I cannot seem to find on bikes 2 and 3 their individual odometer readings. So does this mean that there is one odometer for the three bikes?
    Fifthly, a clumsy design fault is that when riding the bike, in particular MTB on rough terrain, when you try to push a button, because of the angle of the arm in relation to the centre mount of the Edge on the handlebar, you nearly unclick it off.
    I am not happy and if I had known these glitches previous to purchase would not have made the purchase.

  • Jon Peck says:

    I’ve been using the 500 since July and have been quite happy with it. Weekdays I usually do a ride that it reports as 30.7 miles, which is consistent with my old device and seems pretty accurate.

    Starting a few days ago, it has begun reporting 1-2 miles less on the exact same ride. The map seems to have the whole ride, and the elapsed time is correct (so now the average is lower). Until now the variation has been no more than .3 miles.

    It also shows after uploading a maximum speed that does not appear on the route and is implausible (as much as 51 mph, which is at least 10mph too high).

    What could be wrong?

  • susan says:

    Jon,I too have had a similar experience with 500. I ride mostly on trail with decent cover and it was slightly off here and there, until about a month or so ago. Now its at least a half a mile up to three or four miles off for same ride. My husband has an older unit with maps and his is alway more than mine, go figure when we use it together on a tandem. I did have an issue with lost data at summer’s start and it would not show up on training center so had to pull data off unit and write down. The speed and distance thing is starting to really irk me as I am riding for charity and any miles lost is lost for them. Also, just put on my trainer and the speed is going all over the place, from zero to 15 and back to 3 in seconds at same pace. Not sure what deal is lately but performance has been really off and not much good to me if going to rob me of miles and speed in training. Isn’t that the point of unit???? Has some flaws that need fixing.

  • Alejandro Herrera says:

    what would be the review on the bike mount, I’ve had one fall and my computer got lost on a technical wood decent, and a friend of mine almost lost his garmin 705 with a simple fall, it came flying off. Saw a video comparison on youtube and they say is much better, but it’s usually a road biking user review not a rough MTB user. How solid and durable is the mount?

  • Brian Mullin says:

    I never had an issue with the computer falling off, and I have now had the Edge 800 under review for a long time, and the mounts have been fine? And as I stated in the review “This past week I lost a band while I was on a road trip, while the bike was on the rear bike rack. I rode the unit with one band on a bone jarring trail, and it did not fall off! I didn’t have an extra with me, but a normal rubber band seemed to work just fine as a temporary stop gap.”

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