- by Christopher Jones
- Published: 4 October 2016
When a cyclist refers to their Garmin, you know they’re talking about their cycling computer; Garmin has joined Hoover, Kleenex, and Perspex as an almost generic term for a class of products. Brands like Polar, Magellan, and Bryton do offer some quality competition, but earlier generation brands, such as Sigma and Cateye, have been well and truly left behind. The biggest threat on the horizon for the entire product category is the mobile phone app, but Garmin have embraced the competition and have introduced some interesting features into smaller and longer lasting packages. The new Edge 820 is the latest Garmin and I was keen to see if it would be a pawn or a king.
The Garmin Edge 820 sits between the Garmin 520 and Garmin 1000 in their product offerings. It has the same sleek body as the 520 but has a different colour scheme to differentiate it from its less advanced sibling. In essence the 820 is a fully fledged cycling computer with colour touch screen and the ability to capture more data than you know what to with.
I got my hands on the 820 for a very brief trial and the package I got to play with included the 820 unit and a tether, bike mount, speed sensor, cadence sensor and a heart rate monitor for the chest. The sensor and monitor were already paired with the device, so the setup was painless. I simply turned on the device, entered few a few basic details and I was ready to go.
The menus are fairly straight forward, however the touch screen is not as advanced as your average smart phone. I found that there was a lag at times and the relatively small display was also a little finicky – you have to be precise when clicking and swiping which is not always as easy as it sounds while cycling.
The functionality for data recording and dispay is intuitive and, with a bit more time, I would have explored the options to access ride data on my computer more efficiently. I simply did it manually by connecting the device to my laptop over micro USB.
Each cycle computer has its own nuances – for example, by default the Garmin 820 provide my ride average speed over the entire duration of the ride, which included a stop at the cafe. This is the same as my Bryton device, but my Strava phone app recognises the ride pause and provides the average speed for the active ride time rather than door-to-door. While the Garmin said my average was 18.34 kmh, Strava showed 25.8 kmh.
For the max speed, the Garmin recorded me at 80.78kmh while the Strava app was 70.2kmh and Bryton was 65kmh. Both the Bryton and Garmin have a separate external cadence sensor mounted on the bike and Garmin said I have an average 72rpm while the Bryton suggested only 63rpm. If that appears a little slow, it’s obviously because I ride bigger gears and am always going uphill.
The heart rate recording was spot-on between the two devices, and between the Garmin, Bryton and Strava, the odometer was fairly close. Despite all of the differences, the short test time didn’t allow the chance to check the calibrations in order to understand the differences, and to adjust settings to compensate. Even with the differences, the average cyclists will benefit from the consistent baseline data from a single cycle computer, which will allow them to self-evaluate their in-ride performances. [For completeness, I should note that I also planned to use the Magellan Cyclo 550 to the test, however it decided not to work].
In practice, the 820 is easy to use and I like the compact handlebar mounted unit. It goes without saying that the smaller display is not as generous as the 1000, so if you check your cycle computer more often than I do while cycling then weigh up the pros and cons of the larger unit.
Garmin are responding to competition from smart phone apps such as Strava with the integrated CyclingIQ functionality. This allows you to connect with your smartphone and receive and send data through your mobile. The unit can show notifications of incoming text messages and calls, and share data through social media and the Garmin Connect portal.
While some of this replicates features of smart phone apps, cycle computers such as the Edge 820 still have the advantage through their native connectability with sensors ranging from speed and cadence through to power meters (via ANT+). Cycle computers also tend to be much smaller, taking up less room on your handlebars, and have considerably longer battery life than most smart phones.
GroupTrack is a new feature which allows riders to connect with others in their group and track them in real time. If you have a big bunch that separates, with the help of mobile data, you can see exactly where the other group are. I didn’t have time to play with this, but it’s something that definitely interested me.
Do you or Don’t you?
If you are a bike nerd or a highly competitive cyclist, the Garmin 820 gives you a fully fledged cycle computer in a more compact format than its big brother, the Garmin Edge 1000. Data obsessed riders who want to store everything, but are satisfied with just the key data points on screen will appreciate the smaller and lighter 820.
Yes, it can do navigation, but again, the smaller viewing area should be a consideration if you will regularly rely on the cycle computer for ride guidance.
The price may be a limiting factor for many, at $649 or $799 with the speed sensor, cadence sensor and heart rate monitor. For futher details visit Garmin Australia.