Garmin Edge 500 Review: 2,500 miles and Still Ticking…

I have to say, I’m married to my little Garmin Edge 500.  I have the speed/cadence bundle which sells for around $350.  A worthwhile investment to me.  I’ve gotten my money’s worth.  According to the Garmin Connect website, I’ve ridden around 2,700 miles and climbed almost 300,ooo’ feet since I started using this particular unit.  So I guess that  qualifies me to chat about all its pros, cons and idiosyncrasies.  In a nutshell, I would highly recommend this unit for any mountain biker or roadie, from full casual to pro racer.  I’ve beaten it up, dropped it in water, smeared it in muddy cruddy… and it’s still my best friend… but it does have some interesting flaws (don’t we all?)… read on if you care…

Garmin 500, rigged on the bar - so I can put my light close to the stem, and strap my tube/ co2 to the stem

The Goods:

  • size & weight – The 500 is small.  I haven’t weighed it, but Garmin claims it’s 56.7g, and I’m sure that’s pretty close.  It’s dimensions are only 1.9″ x 2.7″ x 0.9″ – so it’s much more “race” sized, than the bigger 705, 805, etc.
  • battery life – Garmin claims up to 18 hours on a single charge.  I’ve used it for 12 hours, and still had plenty of juice left.  So I think they’re pretty honest.  Even after all the hours and charges I’ve put it through, the battery life is still stellar.  Maybe the next version will have 24 hour + battery life, so you could ride a whole 24 hour race without having to worry about charging… I’m sure the technology is there.  Or else, give it interchangeable batteries, etc- I’ve researched a bunch, and although I’ve seen aftermarket external batteries and solar chargers, nothing is too practical for the ultra-endurance racer… and as far as I know, the 500 cannot charge and be in “working” mode at the same time.  If I’m wrong, please let me know!!
  • mounting – I’ve heard many people complain about mounting, but it’s been great for me.  It clicks in perfectly now, just as it did on day one.  the little rubber bands tend to stretch a little over time, but not enough to get that “loose”.  Sometimes I mount it on my stem, but I also like to put my spare tube there… and mount my Exposure MaxxD close to the stem, so I put another mount closer to my grip.  Perfecto.
  • customizable fields / screens – I like the way you can customize the information on display.  You can control the number of fields on the screen, what each field displays, and how many pages of fields you have set up.  Kind of like a rudimentary iPhone.  I personally put all my important info on one “main” screen (time elapsed, miles elapsed, speed, cadence, calories burned, heart rate, and %HR max).  Then I have a second screen I can scroll to that has time of day, temperature, elevation gained, and current elevation.  They offer a bunch more fields, including power output, etc- but I don’t have a power meter (yet), and this works for me.  I scroll between the screens when I’m bored.  Very cool.
  • garmin connect account – It’s free.  It’s super simple.  Just connect the 500 to your computer with the supplied usb cable, and download your rides straight to the site.  It gives you a plethora of tasty info, in a very user friendly format.  Here’s a ride of mine, so you can see what I’m talking about:  Starkweather Trail – You can keep track of all your training and racing in one place.  Makes it very easy to track progress, and keep notes what works, what doesn’t, etc.  You can also use it with Strava, etc if you prefer.
  • Ant + Wireless – It’s always detected my HR monitor, speed/cadence sensors right away.  I don’t have a power meter (yet)… but I hear it works just as well with the Ant + enabled power meters such as Saris/Cycleops Power Taps, etc.

The Bads (remember, I have ridden the crap out of this unit, so take with a grain of salt):

  • speed magnet – after a few long endurance races and countless training rides, the cheapy plastic mount that attaches the speed sensor magnet to my spokes broke.  It was constantly coming loose, and spinning around the spoke, as it got rattled by all the miles.  I had to keep cranking it down, using pliers, and eventually I over-tightened it and it snapped.  That was about 800 miles ago.  Since I ride outside, and it can figure out speed decently enough for me without the sensor, I’ve stayed away from paying for the replacement.
  • cadence magnet – a race or two after my speed sensor magnet mount broke, my cadence magnet came off as well.  It mounts to your crank arm with some adhesive and a zip tie.  Not sure how mine came off, but it did.  Again, it took nearly 2,000 miles of heavy riding for this to happen.  Not a huge deal, as you can figure out your average cadence pretty easily with online calculators if need be, but sometimes it’s good eye candy in a monotonous section of a long ride to glance at your cadence on the screen.
  • heart rate strap – although the HR strap is very comfy (I barely notice it there), after time, it does start to stretch and get deformed.  Lately, it’s started to slip a little, so I just keep tightening it.  Once in a while, it’ll give me off the chart HR readings (200% max, while I’m resting)… but this could be because I didn’t get the sensors wet enough at the start.  I’ve noticed that once I start sweating, it gets to normal pretty quick.  Again, this doesn’t happen often.
  • price – the $250 investment isn’t bad for the 500 (or $350 with the bundle).  However, I think the replacement prices are a little high.  I’ve been wanting to buy a new HR strap ($40), cadence and speed magnets ($12), and some new rubber mounting rings ($6).   But that’s $60 I’d rather spend on beer, gas, or pull ups (think 3 year old daughter).
  • elevation accuracy – the elevation is not super accurate.  there are times when the elevation is up to 1,000′ off.  Not the end of the world, but thought I’d mention it.  The elevation ascent and descent is pretty accurate.  And at least it’s consistent.
  • temperature – the temperature sensor is pretty bad.  sometimes it reads way too warm, other times, way too cold.  Again, not that big of a deal to me, but thought I’d mention it.

Okee dokes, that’s my take on this gem of a unit.  If you have one, I’d love to hear your thoughts… hoot!!

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