The Bike List

Garmin Edge 810 GPS Cycle Computer - Performance Bundle £480

Tested by Christophe Demoulin, tester for The Bike List

A few years ago now, Garmin opened up a new market within cycle computers: GPS functionality. It didn't take too long for them to gain a foothold in the industry, converting even some cynics adamant that a paper map and compass are far more reliable. Admittedly, early versions of the Edge did have some poor reliability reports, but the ability to record vast quantities of data while routing through unknown territories was ground breaking.

There have now been a few versions of the Edge, and the two latest models, the 510 and 810, both have a touch screen interface. A big question for some is the ability to use the touch screen interface with gloved fingers, or on wet days. You can rest easy in the knowledge that the device is absolutely functional regardless of how thick your gloves are. Naturally, a bare fingered touch will be more effective, but I've had no issues with full winter gloves on. Much to our delight, when the parcel was delivered we had the full performance bundle including a premium HR monitor, cadence sensor and a full Navigator Maps MicroSD Card.

Initial set up was child's play; the quick start up guide was left in the box as I navigated my way through the start up screens, downloaded the appropriate software and connected the device to the web. I must admit though, there was an early moment of frustration when setting up the data fields on the 'Ride' screen. Being used to the more complex and slightly illogical navigation of the Edge 705, I initially struggled with the simplicity and user friendliness of the 810! So some simple advice if you are lucky enough to get your hands on a Garmin Edge 810: forget what you know about Garmins, and approach this one afresh.

The unit has a home screen - a simple thing you might say, but new to the Edge and facilitates immediate use. You can set up a number of different modes, for example: Race Mode with no auto-pause and just the basic information on screen, Training Mode with data to your heart's content, or perhaps Touring Mode with a split screen map and some data. The choice is yours, and each mode is entirely customisable from name to screen display, smart-averaging options, colour (!), virtual partner etc. Also accessible directly from the home screen is your bike selection, and to the delight of the credit card-happy riders out there, you are no longer limited to 3 bikes as you were with the Edge 705! But to the great frustration of any weight weenie, when you input your Bike Profile (to which you can add a photo via Bluetooth), you can't use any decimal places! So if you've been "bolt-tuning" and shedding weight in whichever way possible, you can't specify that your pride and joy is 6.6kg rather than a round 7kg! This seems a bit of a schoolboy error by Garmin, no?

Having touched on Bluetooth, it's definitely an area that is worth elaborating on. The Bluetooth functionality is new to the Edge family, and a great technical advancement. A simple perk is the ability to upload your ride data in a matter of seconds to Connect Garmin using your smart phone. An even more impressive innovation is the tracking system allowing your friends and family to track you online using your smart phone's connection. Once again, setting this up is child play, but beware that using this facility abroad may bump up your phone bill with international data roaming charges. While this may at first glance appear as a useful bonus so that your better half can check how close to home you are during your claimed "short" Saturday morning outing, it also serves as an extremely useful safety measure. If your Garmin and smart phone are paired and tracking you online while you are out riding alone, whoever you've sent the tracking link to will be able to verify your last known location should anything happen to you. There is also a weather forecasting tool which is quickly accessed by clicking the On/Off button, and similarly to the tracking, connects via your smart phone to give you sunset/sunrise and an hourly weather forecast over an extended period.

Naturally, Bluetooth saps battery life. In this case, it saps both your Garmin and your smart phone batteries if you are using the online tracking, in which case the aforementioned "safety measure" sounds rather unsafe if you're out discovering the unknown. Your carefully planned route might disappear from your screen as the unit switches off, so you reach for your phone in the vain hope that its battery has outlasted the Garmin. This won't happen though. That's to say, your phone will not outlast the Garmin 810 - this battery is made to last. I haven't yet ridden it to the death as my own batteries have a tendency to run out quicker and not recharge as easily. Nonetheless, a few figures might give you a good indication of quite how good the battery life is: at the 276km Liege Bastogne Liege, I started with 97% battery life, and 10hrs later, I still had 37%. This was with consistent connection to an HR monitor, Cadence Sensor, no routing but with GPS tracking, and no Bluetooth connection as is served little purpose with data roaming off, but I did forget to turn the backlight off - it was on for the first two hours of the ride at 50% brightness. In my experience, the backlight is actually what saps the battery life more than anything. So, compared to Garmin's claimed 17hr battery life, you've got to assume the unit will do as it says on the tin.

Navigation is another area that has changed significantly as the Edge range has evolved. Years ago, you had a map on screen which you could dutifully follow, or adapt your ride on the go on rejoining the route when you felt the urge. Today, with the 810, I would vehemently recommend following the route that is stored in your unit, or all hell will break loose! The incessant beeping, screen changing, notices and beeping all over again is nigh on harassment! Naturally, you can turn the volume and the routing off, but it is rather frustrating that such an intelligent device can be so absurdly belligerent. If the route is of any length (I have not yet figured out what the threshold distance is), then any wrong turn taken on the route will also prompt the message asking you to create waypoints. Sadly, this message does not disappear after a few seconds, and in fact, it pauses the ride entirely. To every cloud there is a silver lining though, and should you find yourself bonking, out of spare inner tubes or not willing to withstand the British weather any longer, the "Take me home" function will guide you the shortest way back to the safe embrace of four walls and a roof over your head. So, while the routing option is effective and will guide you wherever it was you planned accurately and with plenty of forewarning before any junction or turn, it isn't very adaptable to whimsical route change and deviations.

A definite benefit of the new navigation interface is the content of the maps though. The integrated base maps has improved, including more British roads than previously. This includes a better differentiation between farm tracks and roads for road cyclists keen to avoid punctures! More interestingly though, the MicroSD card comes with huge amounts of information, and I'm not just referring to roads. Search for pubs, campsites, hotels, hospitals, service stations - you name it, this is a bar mounted cycle specific satnav! Especially useful for those doing longer tours with pannier bags and overnight stays. No need to pull out the phone, find the nearest yellow pages or ask in broken French where you can put your head down for the night while cycling across the Alps…the 810 will give you a choice and guide you there by whichever route you prefer.

The Performance Bundle comes impressively loaded with two different mounts: a standard quarter turn mount with a simple elastic fixing system that can be done by hand (including two different sizes of elastics for varying stem diameters), and one "out front bike mount" which allows the unit to stand proud of your bars - ideal for short stems or more aggressive racing positions. These mounts all boast the positive quarter-turn locking motion consistent with the Edge 800. A mechanism which is absolutely 100% reliable in our experience, having hammered some trails on the MTB and completed the 2013 Paris Roubaix and Tour of Flanders faultlessly, and importantly: quietly.

The other components found within the Performance Bundle were as expected from Garmin: top quality. The Premium HR Monitor is a considerable improvement on the basic model, offering better comfort and HR pick-up. There is no doubt in my mind that this upgrade is of significant value if you have any intention to wear your monitor. The Cadence sensor appears identical to the previous versions and functions in the same way. So for those looking for an upgrade from a previous Edge unit, you can leave your cadence sensor and wheel magnet as they are, and connect up the new 810 via ANT+. Equally, should you train with a powermeter of any description, you will be able to readily connect to the 810 for additional data collection via ANT+.

Overall, the Garmin Edge 810 has been an absolutely delight to test these past two months. It took me a while to get along with the routing function, but I am now quite happy to be bossed around by the Edge 810 having understood the flashing, beeping and buzzing it makes. The Bluetooth functionality is the main upgrade from the Edge 800, providing weather forecasting, live tracking, and instant Garmin Connect and social media connectivity. So those who mainly ride in the UK and want to provide their loved ones with greater assurance of safety when on the bike…what better argument can you have for convincing your better half of parting with £379?

A note on pricing: £379rrp Classic Bundle will get you the Garmin Edge 810 unit with a quarter turn bike mount but no extras such as cadence or heart rate monitor; £429rrp Performance Bundle will get you a cadence sensor and the premium HR monitor as well as the out front bike mount; lastly, the £479rrp Performance and Navigation Bundle will get you all of the above, with a City Navigator® for Europe - an absolute must if you plan on riding abroad. Naturally, the three options get you USB cable and basic start up manual, but for a more thorough User's Guide, you'll have to get one online from the Garmin website.

As has always been the case with Garmin, Product Support is impressively effective. Albeit with the need for an international call should you need to speak to them, the support team will address your queries or issues promptly and will follow through to resolution. Fortunately, it is unlikely that you will need to speak to them as the historical glitches in previous models have been largely resolved, and as yet I have experienced none.

In conclusion, the Garmin Edge 810 is a reliable unit that will add a number of dimensions to your riding if you haven't yet experienced a Garmin on board your steed. If you've currently got an Edge 705 or earlier version, this unit is a considerable upgrade. If however you already have the Edge 800, the only genuine benefit you will gain is the Bluetooth functionality. You may ask: do I really need this feature? I say yes. Perhaps not now, but this integration of sporting devices to the internet is simply the next step towards the future. Maybe you'd rather wait until smart phones are no longer the "bridge" to the internet, but in the meantime, Garmin have devised an excellent product that functions extremely well and welcomes technology dinosaurs and tech-geeks alike.

Buy from wiggle.co.uk

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At a glance

Verdict An excellent GPS device that ticks all the boxes and a few more too with a flawless Bluetooth functionality that will either win you over, or redirect you towards the only comparable alternative at a lower cost: the Edge 800.
Value
Performance

Garmin Says:

The touchscreen Edge 810 is designed for the cyclist who wants it all - navigation and advanced training capabilities in 1 device. It offers connected features¹ through your smartphone, including live tracking, social media sharing and weather. The 810 is compatible with optional detailed street or Ordnance Survey® maps, so it can guide your ride for touring, commuting or extended activities where you might need onboard maps and navigation. Because it's GPS-enabled, Edge 810 provides accurate data and navigation capabilities, anywhere in the world.

GPS bike computer for cyclists seeking performance and navigation

  • Connected features¹: live tracking, send/receive courses, social media sharing, weather
  • Built-in basemap and optional detailed maps for navigation
  • Distance, speed, ascent/descent and GPS position
  • Optional heart rate², speed/cadence² and power³
  • Wireless data transfers to Garmin Connect™ to analyse and share
  • Activity profiles store preferences for different cycling activities

Supplier: Garmin (Europe) Ltd, +44 (0)23 8052 4000, www.garmin.com/en-GB