Garmin Edge 500 Review

Gear Pro Reviews

To start the unit up, press and hold the Power button. The unit loads its software, locates the satellites and then displays the timer page. Acquiring the satellites is wickedly fast in comparison to the Edge 305, and it usually pulled them in around 15-30 seconds, even indoors in my house. The new HotFix™ technology uses predictive calculations of satellite positions for faster acquisition. The unit senses the heart rate monitor (if wearing one), and a simple pressing of the Start button initiates the data recording of a ride. If you forget to press Start, it then beeps and the screen states ‘Movement Detected’ after riding about 50 feet. I really like this feature, since I have had rides where I look down after some distance and realize my mistake. Press the Stop button when the ride is completed. You can save the ride data by pressing and holding the Reset button, or wait until the unit is hooked up to a computer.

The new mount system has proven to be strong, easy to use and install, although sometimes when fat fingering the buttons or accidentally hitting the unit, it rotates slightly out of position. The buttons can be a tad tough to push when wearing thick gloves, so it takes a decent push to engage them. The menu system is very simple, and intuitive, and most anything can be done after some practice. The user manual is effective, and goes into just enough detail to not be overwhelming nor too technical. It’s easy to change the data fields on the screen to any customized setup that is desired. The display shows the numeric value and title for the enabled data field, and the values size is dependent on the number of fields and positions on the screen.

I really enjoyed having the 3 pages of data, which keep the main page less cluttered (only important data), while allowing secondary data on the other pages (example: Total Descent, Temperature, etc.). The accuracy of the temperature is in the ballpark, but the readings can sometimes wildly vary. I found that most of the time the elevation reading was right within its accuracy (+/- 15-20 ft), but since it uses a barometric altimeter for its calculations, weather and pressure differences can give occasional erroneous values. You can set up to 10 known elevation points within the menu system, to provide more consistent and accurate readings. The GPS SiRFstarIV chipset has location-aware architecture and has enhanced sensitivity, reduced time-to-fix and improved positional accuracy.

I added a protective cover over the screen (like for a phone), just to save it from scratches and normal abuse. It also helps out with an overly shiny screen, which can be tough to read in bright light conditions. I haven’t had any battery issues, and I have done 6+ rides, and it seemed fine. I always seem to recharge and download my activities after each ride, so I haven’t bumped into the 18 hour battery limit. The backlight was a nice feature, especially at dusk (I am never up that early in the morning), and the timeout and contrast level is customizable.

Alert Features
You can set up Alerts for the unit, such as distance, time or calorie, and when the limit is hit, the unit beeps and the Alert is displayed. I liked using the distance one myself, and usually did it for 5 or 10 miles, and found it a handy way to remind you how far you have been. There are also some advanced alerts for heart rate, power and cadence.

Auto Features
Auto Lap automatically marks a lap (alerts with a beep and display) at a customized distance or position, and it will repeat whenever the criteria are met (like every 5 miles). I use this regularly as a marker for my mileage.
Auto Pause pauses for data recording when motion stops or reaches a customizable speed threshold. I tried this once, but it isn’t very applicable to a mountain biking situation. Frequently, you go slow on some terrain, almost to a standstill, and the Auto Pause goes on and off (it goes berserk), which I found really annoying. I think the addition of a time threshold (like 1 minute), would make this a nice feature to exclude long stops or breaks.
Auto Scroll will automatically cycle through the 3 pages of data, at 3 different speed (slow, medium, fast).
Auto Power Down is a 15 minute timer, which will automatically power down the unit, if it has not been started or has been stopped after a ride. It gives you an Alert with a beep and display, and allows 10 seconds for manual intervention before shutting down. This is a nice utility for those times you toss it into your bag and forget to turn it off.

ANT+ Sensors
HRM’s (Heart Rate Monitor) are great for training, are useful for keeping oneself in the proper heart rate zone, and when taking a breather it allows you to start when your HR reaches a plateau. The Garmin HRM comes with the full kit, or can be bought separately, and consists of an elastic strap that attaches to the flexible HRM, and is worn across the chest. Once the HRM is paired with the unit, you can keep track of your HR with a quick glance at the screen (if displayed). You can customize zones (1-5) or take the default (age related), and you can set a max and min Alert. I always set the max Alert (185 bpm for my age), and the unit beeps if you hit that mark, and when that happens you’re definitely in a hurting zone!
Speed/Cadence Meter (SCM) is really useful for indoor riding, since the GPS would be turned off, it will record speed and distance data, even though you aren’t going anywhere! Garmin’s SCM is the GSC 10, and it comes with the full kit, or can be bought separately. It consists of a pedal and spoke magnet, and the GSC 10 sensor/transmitter. The sensor can be problematic to attach to full suspension chain stays, and tends to work better on hardtails, and I only use the GSC 10 on my commuter bike.
Power Meters (Garmin doesn’t make one) are really more applicable to the roadie world, so I never tested one with the unit, though it’s compatibility with any third party ANT+ power meter on the market.


They changed their file format from .tcx to .fit, which is more flexible and has a smaller footprint. The file format may cause issues since it cannot be read by 3rd party software without first doing a file conversion from within Garmin’s training software. Unloading data is an easy task, just hook up the USB connector to the back of the unit, and the other end to a PC. Data can be uploaded and viewed from Garmin’s Training Center (GTC) or Garmin Connect (GC). The GTC is installed locally on a PC, and is their old school software. It has been around as long as I can recall, and really hasn’t changed much over the years, it’s primitive, albeit effective. I use it to backup my history to my PC. The most important feature of the GTC is setting up and uploading a course to the receiver. GC is Garmin’s web based activity and training management site. You connect to the site, and upload your activities, which can then be viewed and analyzed. Data can be drilled down for finer details, maps can be changed from topos, Google 3-D, satellite or city, and a much broader swatch of information is displayed. I liked the calendar, and activity tabs, so I could get a macro overview of my data. I do wish you could save the map to a graphic file?


History can also be viewed, and deleted from the unit’s menu system, although it is a bit slow accessing the data. The unit can save up to 180 hours of data, before a memory full message is received, so backing up the data to GTC, GC or a local computer is always a good idea. The unit appears as a mass storage device when hooked up to a computer, and you can manually upload .tcx, .fit and .crs files.

This feature allows you to train against a previously recorded ride, in which you battle against a Virtual Partner, following the course on a rudimentary map or elevation profile. You can load an existing ride that is already on the unit, or create a course within GTC or GC, although only GTC allows the addition of course points, or breadcrumbs. When you are following a course, it pings you with a ‘Off Course’ if you stray off the path. Being somewhat primitive, prior knowledge of the course helps, since it doesn’t inform you in real time of upcoming directional changes. Through some trickery, you can also load rides as courses from friends, the internet and other 3rd party software. I really never used the Course feature, so I can’t comment in depth on its usefulness, after all you get there when you get there?

Next » Bottomline

About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, 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 articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on the trail.

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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:

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

    Never had any freeze issues

    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.

    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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