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.
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 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.
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?