Type-A training tweakers, metrics maniacs, peripatetic two-wheeled geo-cachers and the geographically challenged now have something to collectively rally around: the Garmin Edge 705. This latest fitness offering from the GPS giant has more than a little somethin' somethin' for the can't stay put, always get lost, urban treasure hunting, serious bike training, and it's-the-journey-until-you-can't-find-the-destination types. The Edge 705 combines (take a deep breath) GPS maps and navigation, heart rate, cadence and power output into a palm of your hand wireless unit. It can display up to 16 separate metrics during the ride and combined with the included software and web-based apps it becomes an incredible tool for social networking, exploration and serious training analysis.
From a gander at the spec sheet, it seems setup and orientation would take awhile, but it turned out to be a breeze straight out of the box. You don't even have to calculate your wheel dimensions; it figures that out for you. Despite having to decipher some thick cyclist jargon, I was rolling in less than an hour -- map telling me my location and plotting a course to the trailhead while spitting out vitals all along the way.
That was just the appetizer because data readout, collection and save-your-ass navigation are just part of the equation. Connected to your Mac or PC back at the lodge, the Edge 705 offers a myriad of ways to breakdown cycling actions that you've done. The included software (called Garmin Training Center) is very serviceable and helps you track courses, training regimes, and the mass of recorded data. And if you want to know what others around the globe are up to, Garmin's recent acquisition, Motion Based, is definitely for you.
Hatched back in 2003 by outdoor data junkies Clark Weber and Aaron Roller, Motion Based
is a two-tiered site that combines the number crunching capabilities of
Garmin Training Center with a global community of GPS aficionados who
want to share their adventurous exploits. Users can easily upload their data to the Motion Based site and share activities. So let's say you're heading for France and want to get your Lance Armstrong on at the fabled L'Alpe d'Huez. No problem, just pick one of the many L'Alpe d'Huez rides uploaded by users on the site, click on "download to device" and you’ve got the whole course on your unit with turn-by-turn directions. The opportunities for fun and exploration are endless.
Think of a destination, search the more than 3 million activities in the database, download your choices to the Edge 705 and off you go on a magical tour sans mystery. Presently a separate web
application, Motion Based will be folded into the Garmin Connect site by September with a more robust and feature-laden platform.
For the power-hounds out there, Garmin has embraced the open source ANT+Sport wireless standard. This 2.4 GHz frequency is a low power, totally locked-in to your device protocol that like Bluetooth, seems to be taking some time to get traction. It makes sense that the powermeter
providers -- SRM, PowerTap, Ergomo, iBike and Quarq among them -- are taking their time since the Garmin co-opts their proprietary hardware, but it seems sensible and inevitable because the Edge 705 is a unifying device, and from our experience, is best of its breed. If you want the whole shootin' match right now, SRM is the best choice and the most expensive. Quarq's Cinq-O crank-based bolt-on should be on the market by the time you're reading this, although with limited crank compatibility. I wasn’t able to test the Edge with a powermeter, but
that’s coming, so keep an eye out on wired.com for a power update.
Over the course of a couple weeks I've put in more than 40 hours on the road and trail with the 705 and I found it to be incredibly accurate, even in close quarters with other bike-borne wireless electronics. It's righted my course a few times and has become an invaluable training
tool, enabling me to analyze ride and race data over a couple months and realize marked improvements. At the end of the ride, the Garmin Edge 705 seems to be the Holy Grail for cycling enthusiasts. It tells you where you are, points the way to a destination, gets you home and provides every bit of data you need to become a fitter cyclists -- if that's your thing. And in 20 years of reviewing god knows how many gadgets, this is one of the dozen or so for which I'd gladly plunk down my own dough. So if you see me tooling through the trees or on some deserted twisty with it aboard my Specialized, you'll know I put my money where my gob-smacked mouth was. —Jackson Lynch
WIRED Detailed maps and directions are spot-on. GPS reception is excellent even in heavily wooded areas. Software and web app integration are a boon to digit crunchers.
TIRED Needs capability for more than three bikes. CD-ROM user manual needs more detail. Should come with a glare-free screen skin. Must run the battery all the way down before the first charge or you'll only get about three hours of use.
$650 as tested, garmin.com