A couple of weeks ago I wondered if I should purchase the Garmin Edge 810. Well, fair readers, that question was answered with a “hells yes!” and I am now the proud owner of my first GPS cyclocomputer.
Talk about some beautiful riding weather this past weekend – bright blue skies, temps in the 50s, chirping birds, the whole nine. Luckily I was traveling without my bike, so I was not forced to actually ride outside and experience “enjoyment” and “happiness”. I was especially grateful to see the forecast return to rain and snow flurries upon my return. Talk about dodging a bullet! Sitting inside next to a roaring fire, sipping fine scotch out of a crystal tumbler, I decided to play around with the Edge 810 and prepare it for the eventual outside riding I will be forced to suffer through during the warmer months.
I opted not to pay the extra $200 for the “navigation bundle” – this bundle includes a Garmin GSC-10 speed/cadence sensor, a Garmin Premium soft strap heart rate monitor, an out-front mount, and the City Navigator maps for North America – all of which can be found cheaper on Amazon.
I don’t have any use for the out-front mount, and I wound up buying the GSC-10 and the HRM from Amazon. That means the only piece of the puzzle I am missing is the City Navigator maps. You see, Garmin ships the Edge with what are called “base maps” – they basically contain major highways only and are absolutely useless for any kind of navigation. Nothing like purchasing an expensive GPS device only to find out it’s virtually useless without coughing up another wad of cash – I’m glad to see Garmin’s “Rape Your Customer” program is finally trickling down to the cyclist GPS market.
Luckily, you are not forced to use Garmin’s maps – the device supports third-party maps, including ones from the very cool OpenStreetMap project. OSM is essentially an open-source map wiki which anyone can edit and contribute to. I tested creating a map of CT, NY, and NJ from Lambertus’ site and confirmed I can load it onto the device. I tried the “Routable Bicycle” version but it did not include any points of interest, so I switched to the “Generic Routable” version. This version allows searching by address and also includes some POIs, although I found the maps severely lacking in my area.
There are quite a few people packaging OSM maps for Garmin devices (including specialized maps for hiking/mountain biking/etc…), so I will continue to test out various providers until I find one that meets my needs. My number one priority is accurate mapping – being able to load my cycling routes onto the device and have the GPS able to guide me along the route. Next priority is a good POI database – being able to key in “gas station” or “restaurant” or “hospital” and find a complete list of offerings in the immediate area. This will come in very handy when I am doing long-distance rides through unfamiliar towns. Finally, the ability to search by address would be great, but I could probably live without this feature. I might wind up purchasing the City Navigator maps after all, but I’m willing to spend a bit of time trying out the free offerings first.
Finally, it is worth noting that you need to buy a MicroSD card to hold all of these maps. I picked up a 16GB MicroSD card for under $13. Now, the City Navigator maps are also available on MicroSD cards – I am not sure if these are read-only, or how much space they have, or if they are tied to your specific GPS unit once you use them. Garmin also sells the City Navigator maps as a downloadable file, so I would just do some research before purchasing if you want to mix CN and OSM maps.
I’ll continue testing the Edge 810 and various map providers and will report back with an in-depth review once I have some good info to share.