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April 29, 2014
It’s fair to say that Garmin has become the dominant force in the cyclo-computer market in recent years with their range of GPS-enabled Edge units. But with the Cyclo 505HC, Magellan is hoping to challenge the top dog and provide riders with a viable (if not preferable) alternative. CTech Editor Matt Wikstrom put the Magellan Cyclo 505HC through its paces and wrote this review.
Magellan was founded in 1986 with the aim of developing commercial products based on GPS technology. The NAV 1000, the world’s first commercial handheld GPS receiver, starting shipping in 1989 and Magellan expanded its operations into military, professional and general aviation markets.
Since then, Magellan has changed hands (and names) a few times. In 1994, the company was bought by the Orbital Sciences Corporation, who then sold it to the Thales Group in 2001, resulting in a change of name to Thales Navigation. Thales Navigation continued until 2008 when the current owner, MiTAC International Corporation, acquired the company and renamed it Magellan Navigation.
Interestingly, MiTAC also owns Navman Technology, making it something of a powerhouse in GPS technology that meshes well with its interest in wireless communication. Magellan continues to concentrate on portable GPS devices with the bulk of its products designed for the outdoors and fitness markets.
Magellan recently entered the cycling market and offers two GPS platforms: the Cyclo 100 series and the Cyclo 500 series. The Cyclo 100 series is a basic GPS device that collects ride data with minimal navigation functions and retails for $129-$249. By contrast, the Cyclo 500 series is larger and features a full-colour touchscreen, pre-loaded maps, a variety of navigation functions, and retails for $379-479.
For this review, Magellan Australia provided us with the Cyclo 505HC bundle which comprises the Cyclo 505 head unit, a heartrate monitor and a cadence/speed sensor kit.
The Cyclo 500 series comprises two models, Cyclo 500 and Cyclo 505. Both units are identical — 3-inch colour touchscreens, Bluetooth Smart and Wi-Fi connectivity, plus preloaded maps and rides — but the Cyclo 505 also offers ANT+ connectivity. The heartrate monitor strap and cadence/speed sensor supplied in the Cyclo 505HC bundle take advantage of ANT+ and the unit will also collect data from any ANT+ power meter, if present.
The Cyclo 500 series is pre-loaded with maps of both Australia and New Zealand, courtesy of OpenStreetMap (OSM) and HERE. OSM is an open database of maps inspired by Wikipedia that is crowd-sourced while HERE is a commercial map vendor. The inclusion of two sets of maps may seem redundant, but differences in detail (OSM provides extensive detail on bike paths, for example) influence the device’s navigation and the user is free to toggle between each map set, depending on their needs.
While there is potential for owners to update and add maps from either source, this feature is not available, though I’m told Magellan is working on it.
One promising feature included with the maps is called “Places of Interest” (POI). POI is a sub-function of the device’s navigation that provides data on the proximity of a variety of places such as bike shops, cafes, medical facilities, ATMs, and tourist attractions and can be selected according to your needs. Once selected, the Cyclo 505 calculates the distance and provides a profile of the route for review before you load it to follow. In short, the device answers the question, “Hey, do you know where the nearest (insert POI here) is?”
The Cyclo 500/505 also comes preloaded with a selection of ride routes (“Tracks”) from around Australia thanks to Bicycling Australia and their “Where To Ride” series of books. Cyclists have prepared these rides and every state/territory except the Northern Territory is represented. As such, they provide unfamiliar riders with ready access to some of the country’s best rides. In addition, there are many more routes available for download.
Magellan provides an online application where you can upload and share your rides with other Magellan users. Once the Cyclo 505 is registered with an account on Magellan Cyclo, owners can use Wi-Fi to automatically upload new ride data, and if they connect this account with their Strava account, the new data will also appear in Strava automatically. Alternatively, users can bypass Magellan Cyclo if they’re prepared to manually upload their rides (via cable only, no Wi-Fi).
The Magellan Cyclo portal also promises route design, but at present this feature is not available. Fortunately, the Cyclo 505 works with other mapping applications such as Map My Ride, albeit manually, so the user has to install the downloaded file in the device’s Tracks folder before it can be accessed.
Looking at the rest of the device, a rechargeable lithium ion battery provides a run time of 12 hours for the Cyclo 505. It is water resistant with a rating of IPX7, which means it can withstand immersion to one metre for 30 minutes, more than adequate for heavy showers. Two mounting brackets are supplied with the device, one that mounts on the stem or handlebars with zip-ties, and an out-front arm. In both cases, the Cyclo 505 attaches with a twist.
The heartrate monitor strap is a simple affair to install, as is the cadence/speed sensor kit. For the latter, zip-ties are included for securing the sensors to the chainstay of the bike. The only way to check that the sensors are functioning is to use the device, which involves starting it up and pairing with each item. This can take a few moments that can stretch to minutes if multiple sensors are present. Unfortunately, the device must reconnect with each sensor every time it is started up.
An AC charger and USB cable are included for charging and/or data transfer, but keep in mind that the device has Wi-Fi connectivity too. A screen protector is also included, and Magellan offers a two-year warranty on the device. Expect to pay $379 for the Cyclo 500, $399 for the Cyclo 505, and $479 for the Cyclo 505HC bundle.
For more information visit the Magellan Australia website.
I found the Cyclo 505 was easy to get going but having spent a lot of time with Garmin’s Edge 200, I was already well versed in the use of a GPS device. Riders that are new to GPS can expect a steep learning curve but the technology has a lot to offer cyclists.
Navigating the Cyclo 505’s menus was straightforward and intuitive, more so thanks to the touchscreen. GPS connection was very quick but pairing with ANT+ devices such as the cadence/speed sensor was much slower, as mentioned above. The device can be set to automatically scan for the sensors that are regularly used but the Cyclo 505 goes through the pairing ritual every time it is started, delaying collection from those sensors. Route calculation could also be slow too, and there was a 200km limit for any destination.
The Dashboard (which displays all the data collected by the device) is fully customisable so the user can choose not only which data is displayed (e.g. current speed, altitude, cadence, heartrate, power, calories burned etc.), but also how many fields are present (two to eight are possible) and the number of pages available. My preference was for fewer fields and fewer pages. Once the device was collecting data, touching arrows on the screen advanced the display to the next page of data so it was quick and easy to keep an eye on my progress.
In the past, uploading my ride data was a chore that I normally put off because it always involved finding a USB cable, connecting the device, and logging into my Strava account. The Cyclo 505’s Wi-Fi sync with my Magellan Cyclo account bypassed all of that effort, and as promised, the data was automatically sent to my Strava account. While setting up another account may seem like a hassle, in this instance, it was worth the effort.
Using the navigation functions of the Cyclo 505 was straightforward too. There are options to enter an address, place a point on the map, or provide coordinates. Two routes are prepared for every destination — one that is classified as a bike route and the other, a car route — and these can be viewed and compared before deciding which one to follow.
I was able to influence the Cyclo 505’s route calculation by changing my preferences for the inclusion/exclusion of major roads, bike paths, unsealed roads, and even cobbled roads. Toggling between OSM and HERE maps also influenced route calculation. Unfortunately there was no option to make the route as short as possible (or to avoid traffic lights).
Overall, I found the calculated bike routes tended to be indirect due to the device’s preference for back streets, while the car routes were more direct and suitable provided I elected to avoid highways.
Once I decided upon a route, it loaded promptly and the device displayed the course profile. Flicking to the next page takes you to an overhead map of the route, while punching “Go” readies the device for recording data (and provides directions to the start point, if required). After that, a large arrow appears at the top left-hand corner of the map screen to advise me of the next turn. Interestingly, if I ever missed a turn — or multiple turns — the device was intent on turning me around to retrace my steps rather than finding a way to re-join the route, even though I was closing in on my destination.
I found that the Places of Interest (POI) feature was very handy, especially on longer rides through unfamiliar suburbs and regions. It was a simple affair to look up a POI — thanks again to the touchscreen — where I could scroll through a list ranked by proximity before deciding on my destination. The only thing missing from the Cyclo 505’s POI was public toilets.
One of the best reasons to use GPS on the bike is to design (and share) routes that help you discover the world around you. In this regard, the routes provided by Bicycling Australia make for a great starting point. They will appeal immediately to newcomers as well as interstate travellers, but experienced riders may find a new ride (or two) amongst the selection on offer.
Getting access to the preloaded routes was just a matter of selecting “Tracks” from the Navigation menu. All of the rides are listed in alphabetical order (which can be reversed to help searching) but unfortunately there is no search function. Inevitably, I found myself scrolling through the list to hunt down a specific ride. Regardless, it is a fine collection of rides that adds value to the Cyclo 505.
When I wanted to design my own ride, I had no trouble installing and following a route designed with Map My Ride. All I had to do was download it from May My Ride on to my desktop and then copy it (via USB) to the Tracks folder on the Cyclo 505. With all of the preloaded routes though, it pays to carefully select a name for your own routes (e.g. “AAA My new ride”) so that it is easy to locate in the Tracks menu.
The Cyclo 505 offers an interesting navigation function called “Surprise Me”. Users provide an address, POI or a point on the map, and the device will calculate a selection of routes. Alternatively, you can select Loop and elect a target distance that is used to design different courses that will loop back to your current position. In every instance, a maximum of three routes are offered with a detailed profile for consideration. In practice, I found the function worked well for destinations, however the device had a tendency to backtrack on parts of a route when it had to satisfy a prescribed distance.
I didn’t make use of the Workout menu, but users have a choice of electing a workout based on distance, time, calorie consumption, heartrate or power zones. The Cyclo 505HC also has an indoor training mode where the device will collect speed, cadence, heartrate, and/or power data for those users taking to rollers or a stationary trainer rather than the road.
The Cyclo 505 is a very effective device with lots of nice features, however there are a couple of limitations that affect its appeal. First, there is only the promise that the device’s maps can be updated in the future and that other countries can be added. Whether this will be free or come at a charge is unclear. Second, Magellan’s Cyclo application is under-developed, and while users are able to use other applications to create and share rides, it will be an obstacle for buyers that are new to GPS.
Such considerations are important because Magellan has designed its Cyclo 500 series to compete directly with Garmin’s Edge 510 and Edge 810. The Edge 510 may be cheaper ($349), but it lacks maps, while the Edge 810 costs considerably more and the preloaded basemap lacks detail ($499).
On this basis alone, Magellan has trumped the market leader, so I hope the company expands its support for this product to ensure its utility in the coming years.