Garmin Edge 500 Review

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Every once in a while there’s a product that comes along that I like so much and I won’t shut up about it.  The Garmin Edge 500 bike computer is one of those products. It’s been my little gadget of obsession over the past few months. I’ve been using it since Christmas and have given it a good test drive to know what I like and what I don’t like about it.

Let’s start with what I don’t like about it:

  • The battery life stinks.  I get about 300kms in (3 good rides) before the battery says it’s at less than 30% remaining.  This is not a huge deal except for the times I don’t feel like (or can’t) plug it into my USB port to recharge.  A couple of the guys who I rode with in Vietnam didn’t bring their USB charger and relied on my computer to charge theirs.  It wouldn’t have made it through the first week if I didn’t have my cable and computer with me.
  • Speaking of computers and cables, I’ve heard a number of complaints with people having a hard time getting their computer to recognize the Garmin when plugged in for downloading.  I’ve had this problem too.  I’ve noticed that I’ve had far fewer problems when I use the USB cabled labeled “Garmin”.  I’m assuming their USB cable is somehow different than any other standard USB cable out there. I have no idea why…
  • The mount that attaches onto the bike for the Garmin seems flaky.  When I’m fiddling around pushing buttons I’m worried it’s going to twist off.  Michael from Velodramatic has had mount problems which he’s written about here.
  • The Garmin Connect web interface where all the data downloads to is pretty good for most of it’s functions but could be better.   What I will say however is the power analysis software within Garmin Connect is horrible.  It’s definitely not made for this.  If I want to look at my power data I need to export it and then re-import it into another power analysis software.  I’m using SRAM Quarq cranks paired with my Garmin 500 to measure my power.  It’s a great setup.

Now for the good news. Here’s what I love about it:

  • The size. It has a minimalist form factor and no unnecessary large screen and maps (unnecessary for me anyway).  Garmin is also coming out with a few more colors if you don’t like the silver/blue.
  • The backlight is coming in very handy for these dark mornings.
  • Even though I said the mount is flaky, I do like that they give you two mounts and how easy they are to install.  It’s very simple to swap onto different bikes.
  • The usability and intuitiveness of all the features is outstanding.   I haven’t needed to pick up the manual.  I used to own a Powertap and always needed to keep the manual close by just to access some basic functions.  It was very frustrating in that regard.
  • Even though the power analysis software is too basic, much of the other features in the software when you download your data is pretty cool.   I love having a record of all my rides with all the information that’s recorded.  It would be good if they had a place where you could write notes or a training log in there as well.  If you don’t like the Garmin Connect software there’s another one out there called Strava that’s been recommended to me.  Unfortunately the first time I used the site I had troubles importing my data and haven’t been back since.  Any others out there you’d recommend?  I use a Mac so I’ve put TrainingPeaks in the too hard basket.
  • The amount of information that’s possible to display is phenomenal.  Temperature, road gradient, vertical ascent rate, HR, power (with pwr meter of course), cadence, heading….you name it, it’s got it.
  • The display has 3 separate screen pages that are totally customizable.  You can have up to 8 different sets of information on each screen (5 works very well but 8 seems to be too much info on the screen at one time).  This is very easy to do and you can even do it on the fly.

Now, the only problem I have with all the information that’s tracked is that I can’t decide how to set up my display screens.  During racing I like to have one set of information.  During training I like to have another.  Here’s how I’ve done it so far:

Racing Screen:

  • Distance
  • Speed
  • Ride Time
  • Wattage
  • HR

Training Screen:

  • Wattage
  • HR
  • Lap Time (for doing intervals)
  • Distance
  • Temperature

Just Cruizin’ Screen:

  • Speed
  • Time of Day
  • Temperature
  • Distance

I’m interested to hear how other people have set up their screen settings on the Garmin Edge 500 as well as your feedback.  Even though there’s room for improvement I’m absolutely loving this little gem.

BTW, this wasn’t a paid review by Garmin.  I purchased my unit at sky high Aussie bike accessory prices just like everyone else.

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