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by Dave Rome
December 26, 2017
Photography by David Rome
The cycling GPS game is typically seen as a two-horse race between the benchmark and market creator Garmin, and relative newcomer Wahoo Fitness. No other brand has been successful in cracking into this space with such force.
Nevertheless, Giant is tipping its cycling cap into the circuit with a unit developed with longtime cycling GPS player Bryton. The new Giant NeosTrack closely resembles an existing Bryton model, but incorporates a handful of tweaks based on the feedback of the Giant-sponsored Sunweb pro team.
The computer offers the usual list of features expected of a modern GPS device, including Bluetooth, ANT+ and Wifi connectivity. Add in fully customisable settings, breadcrumb mapping, training options, and this unit starts looking like a viable option for even the keenest rider.
Let’s first address the Pygmy elephant in the room: the NeosTrack is manufactured by Bryton, and uses Bryton’s 530 model as its base, but it is a different, unique computer. A look at the button layout is proof of this.
Jeff Schneider, Giant Bicycles’ global gear marketing manager, has been hands-on in bringing this new computer to Giant’s growing catalogue of accessories.
“We’re not looking to take on somebody like Garmin,” he said. “We saw a big opportunity, and a gap, in what was being offered in the market.
“When we first started the project, we needed to get computers into Sunweb’s hands quickly. The quickest way to do that was to have a black and orange Bryton 530 unit given to them, with our software. They came back with 23 (and then a further 12) different functions they needed, something they had by Tour Down Under.”
A few of those requested functions included that maximum power was recorded in one-second intervals, an error warning for power meter calibration issues, additions to the ride history summary, uploading to TrainingPeaks, and compatibility with the latest Dura-Ace Di2 groupsets.
“The overall case looks like a Bryton, but we’ve reconfigured the buttons to what we feel is more natural and easier to use,” Schneider continued.
Giant uses its own mount, which looks similar to Garmin’s, but isn’t compatible.
Unfortunately, though, Giant has opted for the NeosTrack the proprietary quarter-turn mount it uses on its other computers, instead of adopting Bryton’s already well-established format. Giant offers several mounts to suit from its own catalogue, but that still limits aftermarket options.
“We’re using our own Giant proprietary mount,” Schneider said. “We had already developed a mount for other computers. We’re also talking with Bar Fly to ensure our (mount) puck is included.”
Giant NeosTrack (left) against a Garmin Edge 520 (right).
The Giant NeosTrack (left) is relatively slim in its profile. Here it sits next to a Garmin Edge 520 (right).
The relatively low profile, rectangular device looks much like many other GPS devices on the market, and with exception to the (small) Giant logo above the screen, you’d be excused for assuming it’s from another brand, too.
The 93 x 57 x 20mm device itself hosts a 66mm monochrome LCD display. A lack of touch-screen functionality further simplifies things, and helps Giant keep the NeosTrack’s weight to 79g – quite respectable for a device with such a large screen.
All functions are handled via a five button layout, with two on each side distanced generously apart, and an on-off button at the bottom centre that also operates the backlight. This change alone from Bryton’s Rider 530 is enough for me to prefer the Giant NeosTrack over its close relative.
With the simpler display, Giant claims an impressive 30-hour battery life as a key advantage. Specific usage will greatly impact the exact number, but I managed north of 20 hours of ride time between charges – a far higher number than the competition. Handily, the NeosTrack will display a 30-minute warning before it shuts down from a lack of power, but even if you ignore that, all ride data will still be automatically saved.
Charging is done via an included standard micro-USB cable, with the port sealed with a rubber cap. Charging takes approximately four hours, although it’s tough to report an exact time since the device doesn’t let you know when it has reached a full charge.
The device offers a waterproof rating of IPX7, effectively meaning it should survive whatever weather you can pedal through. While I didn’t push those limits, the unit brushed off a three-hour ride that saw the screen constantly covered in water from an on-going release of the clouds.
Two mounts are provided with the NeosTrack.
The out-in-front mount works fine, but I didn’t get on well with the rubber shim that fits in between the clamp and handlebar.
With the stock rubber insert, the device sat slightly off centre.
Another angle showing the twist with the stock rubber insert.
Replacing the insert with my own fixed the issue.
Giant includes two mounts with the NeosTrack: one that attaches to stems or handlebars with o-rings, and a more modern out-in-front mount that places the display ahead of the bars.
The simpler o-ring mount works flawlessly, but the grooved rubber shim required with the out-front mount for 31.8mm-diameter handlebars tends to force the computer askew. Looking at other reviews online, it appears I wasn’t the only one, and I eventually had to make my own to fix the issue. The clamp itself is also a bit wider than usual, which is something to consider if your bar space is already at a premium.
Like any GPS cycling computer, how well the NeosTrack actually performs its duties is determined by both its hardware and software; the device itself only acts as a shell to follow orders, and in this sense, Giant have big plans to further enhance the features and experience on offer. As it stands, Giant have made worthwhile improvements to Bryton’s standard platform, and what’s there is reliable and relatively easy to use. With over 80 functions available, I won’t go into detail of them all.
A key part of the NeosTrack is its own free desktop and smartphone app, the latter being available for both Android and Apple iOS. This NeosTrack app performs a number of functions, but most notably acts as a central hub for the uploading and downloading of information to the device. This includes wireless software updates, ride routes, and automated data sync with the likes of Strava and TrainingPeaks.
Initial setup of the device, and connecting it to the app via either Wi-Fi network or Bluetooth is rather easy and quick to do, as is connecting the app to your Strava and/or TrainingPeaks account. Unlike Wahoo Fitness’s more app-based system (but just as with Garmin), the bulk of the customisation and setup process is done on the device itself. That said, the menu layout and general usability is fairly intuitive, and with fewer buttons, it’s arguably even easier to operate than a Garmin Edge 520.
The main menu.
Holding the lower right-side button will take you to the control menu, and from here you have easy access to all of the NeosTrack’s settings. Viewing your ride history, changing between bike profiles, and transferring your ride to the app is all available here, plus plenty more.
External sensors such as heart rate monitors and power meters (all sold separately) are added on to individual bike profile settings, meaning you can pre-configure the NeosTrack to pair with each bike’s specific hardware setup. The device will recognise multiple power meters, speed sensors, and even Di2 shifting; SRAM eTap and FSA compatibility is pending. But unfortunately, the data fields that you see while you ride are not automatically adjusted for those bike profiles, a small nuisance if you want detailed power information on your road bike, for example, but different details on a mountain bike.
Data fields can be configured to your liking. Pictured are eight data points, but up to ten are allowed.
An example of four data fields.
And three is the minimum.
When it comes to the data fields of the ride screens, you can manually select anywhere from three to ten data fields to display on each of the available six screens; you can turn individual screens off, too. Choosing the data fields is relatively easy, with each option segmented by its greater category. For example, all possible power-related data fields are found within the Power category.
Annoyingly, adjusting the number of fields shown per screen resets the fields already selected. In other words, if you’re happy with the four existing fields on your first screen, but want to add a fifth, you’ll likely need to manually set those first four again.
Despite the device offering Bluetooth connectivity and a dedicated smartphone app, text message and call alerts are not currently offered. There’s something to be said for an uninterrupted ride, free of connection to everyday life, but it would be nice to at least have the choice. If such feature are important to you, then Garmin and Wahoo Fitness remain the better picks.
Likewise, the device relies solely on its ANT+ wireless protocol to connect with heart rate monitors, speed/cadence, and power meters. This isn’t a major negative, especially given the vast majority of cycling and fitness sensors still use ANT+. However, newer devices invariably use both, and have a wider range of compatible sensors as a result. Bluetooth-enabled sensors also report additional data such as current battery levels, which ANT+ sensors don’t provide.
Easy pairing for ANT+-enabled devices.
On the plus side, that ANT+ connectivity is reliable and easy to use, quickly pairing with the heart rate straps, speed sensors, and Stages power meter I used for this test.
The NeosTrack is competitively quick to find tracking satellites and whatever devices are on your bike (based on the bike profile selected). In most cases, it was even quicker than a Garmin Edge 520 to find satellites, but it lacks the Garmin’s progress bar that lets you know how things are going.
The display is claimed to be glare-free, and while it’s pretty good in a range of light and quite sharp, the claim is a little generous in my experience. That said, the large screen is easy to read most of the time, with the backlight ready to use in low-light conditions. My vision is lacking compared to the general public, and I had little issue in reading the figures displayed (and there’s always the option for fewer, larger data points if your vision is really lacking). One exception to this is the time of day that is always shown in the top right of the screen; the font is tiny, but that can be displayed in huge digits within the data fields if you want.
Switching between display screens is made easy with the large buttons, and the mount holds the unit securely while operating it one-handed. In my opinion, the lack of a touchscreen is a good thing, and no matter how sweaty your fingers are, or how thick your gloves are, you know you’ll be able to work the computer.
Whilst riding, these are the only functions you can change.
Unusually, the full device menu is disabled when in ride mode. Only backlight and sound control are available; stopping will allow full menu access. This is analogous to how many infotainment functions in automobiles are disabled when the vehicle is in motion, but it’s a nuisance nonetheless and often delays the start of your ride if you need to quickly recalibrate a power meter, switch to mapping mode, or turn on interval training. Thankfully, it’s a software function Giant is looking to fix.
Speaking of navigation, the NeosTrack does offer breadcrumb-type mapping, but it requires rides to be either uploaded from the NeosTrack app or transferred across as a GPX file with the device plugged into a computer.
To use the direction capabilities, you need to either use the app (desktop or mobile) to create a route, or drop a GPX file onto the device.
From here, the screen provides a simple breadcrumb to follow.
It can also plot how much further on your route you have to go, a useful feature for point-to-point events.
This breadcrumb mapping function is quite basic, with no landmarks or locations given for further guidance. It really is a matter of following the squiggle on the screen. The NeosTrack will let you know if you do go off course, but it won’t necessarily tell you how to backtrack.
Using the NeosTrack app to create a route is simple enough, although on more than one occasion I caught it suggesting routes using local fire trails that were less friendly to road bikes with skinny tyres. I’d recommend taking a close look at the suggested route before uploading it to the NeosTrack cloud for wireless download. Additionally, while the app works with global mapping, it only offers known physical addresses and key locations. So while it can direct you to Bondi Beach, it cannot take you to man-made landmarks or businesses that aren’t in the database; you’ll need to get the address yourself separately.
The NeosTrack also offers a number of specific training and testing options with its Giant Lab feature. Testing options include guided maximum heart rate (MHR) and Functional Threshold Power (FTP), among other related tests. You can also create interval workouts within the device, or upload plans from TrainingPeaks.
When it comes to training, the NeosTrack offers plenty of detail, especially if you’re using a power meter. Here, ride display options for normalised power, TSS, left-right balance, and much more are present.
In an age where we expect our digital technology to be as quick as our reactions, the NeosTrack has an frustrating micro-second lag with each button press. My impatience struggled with this at first, often resulting in me thinking I didn’t push the button. It’s something I soon got used to, but is worth mentioning for those used to the latest and most advanced devices (or more likely, coming from using a modern smartphone).
Once the pedaling is over, you simply press “stop” on the device, for which it gives you the option to save or discard the ride. Saving the ride keeps it on the device, and prepares it for the next Wi-Fi or Bluetooth upload to the NeosTrack app.
Firmware updates and ride transfers happen wirelessly.
While there are plans to make the data transfer between app and device truly automated, currently such a transfer happens with a manual click from the main menu. The wireless transfer of ride data is reliable, but noticeably slower compared to a Garmin Edge 520.
Perhaps a trick taken from Strava, that Garmin Edge 520 also gives you more instant feedback on your rides, including any notable personal records or other achievements. By comparison, the NeosTrack’s only personality shows with its greeting when turning it on and off. It’s all business here.
The data captured (and shown live) tracked closely with a Garmin Edge 520 used at the same time. However, on one wet ride in the hills (claimed 1,500m elevation),the NeosTrack recorded the elevation at only 1131m. Uploading it to Strava corrected the number to 1431, but I suspect the issue could have been remedied by calibrating the barometer to the starting altitude – something the NeosTrack allows deep within its menus.
Using the computer was expectedly reliable, except for one occasion. Here, I managed to get the computer stuck in a loop where it was constantly showing a “busy” warning. It was still recording the ride, but I had to turn the unit off in order to clear it. Thankfully the auto-save feature meant the ride data was saved, not lost.