Review: Garmin’s Edge 200 brings GPS into reach

Afternoon edit 1/12:  clock issue workaround added to text.

As a kid in the late ’80s, the mountain bike was my and my friends’ tool to explore the old logging roads and quarries of the Granite State.  As I’ve grown and moved over the past 25 years, I’ve continued to do the same, compiling extensive paper and mental maps of everywhere I’ve lived.  For that reason, I’ve long liked the idea of using GPS to map my rides.  While early multi-sport and later bike-specific models could certainly take the data needed to make decent maps, their size, complexity, and cost have long kept me away.

With ever-improving (and ever-shrinking) GPS and battery technology, it was inevitable that someone would release a GPS-enabled cycling computer that made sense for my intended use: tracking time, speed, and distance as well as collecting data that could later be used to generate maps- all at a price that makes sense.  With the release of Garmin’s $150 Edge 200 this fall, it looked as though the inevitable had happened.  Click through to find out if traditional cycling computers have become obsolete and my desire to map every ride can be met…

Foregoing power monitor or heart rate monitor connectivity and pre-loaded topo maps, the Edge 200 is a simple unit to use.  Initial charging is done via an increasingly common mini USB port and no calibration needed.  Initial setup is limited to entering language, measurement, and time format as well as providing gender, weight, height, and year of birth that enable (very) simple calorie burn calculations.  Like the higher-end Edge 500 and 800, the Edge 200 uses a simple but effective bar/stem mount, held in place by two o-rings.  Two mounts (helping to justify the cost by allowing for its use on multiple bikes) and over a dozen o-rings of different sizes are provided.

Though the unit itself is a whole lot larger than I expected, the 55g mounted weight is within spitting distance of the far smaller Cateye Strada Wireless with its sensor and zip ties (50g).  Still, the Garmin takes up most of a 90mm stem and a good deal of the 100mm stem pictured- but is well protected in that position.  The large size allows for four legible lines of text while riding: current speed, distance, riding time, and a line that can be toggled or cycle between elevation gained, calories burned, and average speed.  Weirdly, though there is a clock on the main screen, it is not accessible while riding.  As most of us live in a world of constraints (fitness, financial, and of course schedule), this is a huge oversight.  Especially with mountain biking’s starts and stops and given varying start times, the Edge does very little to help you keep those “I’ll be home by noon” promises.  Garmin has sent the current clock issue workaround:  while on the ride screen, press and hold the Menu (lower left) button for two seconds.  This will take the unit back to the home screen (with its clock) without stopping recording.  Not readily viewed while riding- but better than no clock at all…

Having owned older GPS units, I was (and continue to be) amazed by not only how quickly the Edge 200 locates itself, but also how often the speed is updated.  There’s virtually no lag between a sudden deceleration and its reflection on the speed readout, making the Garmin a convincing cycle computer.  In addition to just gathering data, the Edge 200 allows rides to be uploaded as “courses,” which are displayed on screen as a simple line (absent any landmarks or roads) and can be followed without too much trouble.  As a mountain biker, the “back to start” button, which treats the current ride as a course is much more promising- aside from its tendency to crash the unit, requiring a restart.  Though it usually works on the second try, last thing that anyone needs when panicked about finding their way out of the woods is a blank screen.  Every once in a while, the Edge 200 also seems to shut off for no reason- rebooting and choosing “resume” after noticing that it has happened is easy enough- but it can be frustrating when mapping new riding areas, generating a straight line between the crash and resume points.

The 14 hour run time is more than adequate for a weekend’s worth of riding- provided that you remember to turn the unit off before throwing the bike on a rack and mapping the drive home.  My failure to turn the Edge 200 off has resulted in a number of information-free rides- not the end of the world, but some additional idiot-proofing on Garmin’s part would be welcomed by us idiots.

Though it can be disabled, the audible chirp when the Edge 200 auto-starts and stops is evil.  When struggling up steep, technical climbs at immeasurably low speeds, the last thing that I need is a computer reminding me of that fact.  Audio alarms can be set at regular time, distance, or caloric intervals- handy for anyone who has trouble remembering to eat or drink properly or to help with interval training (ugh).  The lap timer is fairly standard save for the ability to have laps automatically recorded based on location, which is cool for for multi-lap races.

Though more advanced or training-oriented riders may want to upload collected tracks to their training or mapping tool/site of choice, Garmin’s own Garmin Connect site has been more than enough for my needs.  Uploading the Edge 200′s data by way of a browser plugin, Garmin Connect is easy to use and understand as well as to share with other users.  The maps are overlaid on either Google or Bing data and time, speed, elevation, and distance information is easily graphed based on rider preferences.  Its ease of use really encourages me to upload my ride data regularly and makes the most of the data gathered without being a pain to use.

Overall, Garmin have met most of my needs in a GPS-enabled computer.  The Edge 200 is very easy to use- a manual wasn’t provided with our sample and the fact that one was only needed to silence the auto start/stop beep reflects the work that Garmin have put into making the unit easy to use. The addition of mapping and GPS-based elevation to the standard bike computer functions is all I’ve wanted, and removing heart rate, power meter, and cadence connectivity has brought the price down very close to traditional bike computers that report elevation.  The inability to display time while riding is a huge oversight, however, and one that has had me in domestic hot water more than once.  The occasional crashes are also frustrating- every time I connect it to the computer I’m hoping for a firmware update to fix both that and the clock issue.  Overall, Garmin have nailed the price/features/usability mix with the Edge 200.  Very useful now, with a couple of software tweaks it could would handily earn five thumbs up.

marc

www.garmin.com

Comments

Huffman - 01/12/12 - 9:28am

Looks like Garmin has not redesigned the tabs that lock the GPS into the mount, these are prone to failure. Everyone I know who has an Edge 500 has experienced one or both tabs breaking off. I discovered mine broke when the unit fell off during a road ride.

If you mount the unit on the handle bars it seems to be less of an issue. When you stem mount it, if the bands holding the mount are too tight causing it to curve slightly around the stem your tabs WILL eventually fail. If it’s under warranty they will replace it if you keep after them. If not then you can only buy a “refurbished” unit, who knows if the tabs on it are already on their way out.

For that reason I’d rate it at 3 thumbs up at best since Garmin has known about the problem for quite a while.

Cor - 01/12/12 - 11:31am

Never had my mounts break. Using a 500 for two years now on four different bikes.

Henry T - 01/12/12 - 11:43am

I got one of these for Christmas and returned it. Too few features for too much money. I’m looking for a 500 instead at a good price. Garmin went too far cutting features. They still haven’t figured out how many people have started using smartphones instead.

Sean - 01/12/12 - 12:50pm

Random crashes, lockups, loss of data, and an unusable clock? And still gets four thumbs-up? Sounds like a beta version to me, maybe a bit generous on the review.

h2ofuel - 01/12/12 - 1:47pm

Another important note is that if you plan on doing any riding on a trainer with this computer, it will not display or record any data from the ride.

Jose - 01/12/12 - 3:10pm

I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with Henry. I have a 500, and I bought the 200 for a family member. As an entry level device, I can’t think of any features this device is missing. Yes, you can’t do ANT+, which means no heart rate, power, or cadence, but aside from this, the device is pretty full featured. Keep in mind it’s a bike computer, you’re not going to be analyzing data while riding, and and once the data is uploaded you can look at every finite detail.

You might be itching to comment on the fixed display fields (the 500′s display fields are customizable), but without Power, Cadence, and, Heart rate, what else would you possible want to change. The Edge 500 will display about 30 different items, and quite frankly after 2years of ownership, I’ve found most of them to be pointless.

As for smartphones… I’ve tried several (mapmyride, strava…etc) but there just not as nice. Plus after 3hrs of bike riding, your phone’s battery is flat dead. Not exactly a great option when you’re on a long bike ride and need either more recording time, or have a need to make an emergency call.

Are the gamin’s perfect, no, are they the best product out there… In my opinion… yes.

Chris - 01/12/12 - 3:35pm

Agreeing with Henry. As a newbie cyclist myself, heart rate and cadence are two things that have really helped me make sure my training rides are being as effective as possible. I can live without maps, even though I would really like the option in case I want to go exploring on my mountain bike.

In terms of the data it feeds you while riding, it’s almost all accessible on units that are a fraction of the cost. Garmin website connectivity is this computers main function, and it can be a fantastic tool, but it’s something I can do without, more so than cadence or heart rate.

TheDude - 01/12/12 - 5:44pm

These are bitchin’. 200 is not for the gear-head that needs all the bells and whistles. Tabs have not broke on mine and I’ve had my 500 for one season (1500 road miles and 500 mtb miles). They need to make a wrist mount for running though… that’d be cool.

I’d agree with Jose for most of his points. Plus phone GPSs are not as accurate for location, from my experience.

Marc - 01/12/12 - 5:55pm

All,

I’ve also used my smartphone’s Google Tracks app for mapping- but for the reasons that others have pointed out it is less than ideal. Putting the phone in ‘airplane’ mode will help keep it from burning through the batteries quite so quickly. The Garmin is really a bike computer replacement with mapping capabilities and as such would replace not only the phone but a bar-mounted computer as well.

marc

Louis - 01/13/12 - 10:52am

I’ve beat the hell out of my 500 for 2 years. It has been dropped, thrown into a bag, etc. The tabs haven’t broken and I love it.

I will recommend the 200 to all new cyclists. It is so easy to just pop on and go. No sensors, no installation, no calibration. Just turn on and ride out the door.

Gregg - 01/13/12 - 4:10pm

I had a 305, and now the 500 (wife has 705). The mounts on the 305/705 were useless, always breaking. I have almost 2 years on the 500 and not mount has broken or ejected the gps unit. I do miss the on-screen map a bit, but the 800 is so darn big. Oh, and I did get a wrist mount for the 500, its meant for some model of Forerunner. It fits the Edge 500, but its turned 90 degrees from normal so not as easy to read while running.

Darwin - 01/15/12 - 11:58pm

The inability to see the time on the main screen was one of the reasons I returned mine.

Rich - 03/25/12 - 3:03pm

Agrre with Jose here. I used to use my Iphone and Runkeeper. Doing a 3hr ride would flatten battery and leave me uncontactable and tuneless. Not good. Used the Edge 200 for the 1st time today and totally amaized at the speed the GPS located me and at how accurate the speed reflections were. Uploading route was a breeze and ive saved as a route so i can challenge myself to get a quicker time the next time i do that route. On the negative side the clock issue is bad. .Only reason im here is because i chanced Googling “Gamin Edge Clock” *Nice tip from the editor* will try this on next run. May just buy an LCD watch. overall impressed with this device and i HOPE the mount doesnt brake. Only time will tell.

kingers - 09/05/12 - 8:54am

No proper clock…it’s a deal breaker and I’ll spend my $150 somewhere else.

Seems like only a noob would design it like that, a tech guy who never actually cycles just drives cars.

Even the old Garmin treks had configurable screens with all sorts of info like Sunset (let you race home in time in winter!) and that is only $99.

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