A GPS Used For Anything But Navigation

A GPS Used For Anything But Navigation

Range Govindan
Jul 14, 2010

Since GPS devices have become really popular in the last few years, I haven't used one myself in any way shape or form. I tend to use Google Maps extensively to help me map out where I have to go. This works equally well for my home town or when I'm traveling. However, recently I purchased a new GPS to help me with something else than navigation.

GPS is a great technology, especially for people who need help orienting themselves. It's nifty to have an interactive map that can give you indications based upon your current position. A few months ago, I reported on how I used Google Maps for training purposes. I've recently started training again and I had grown tired of my usual method. I wanted something more precise.

The GPS market is saturated with different products and ideas. It's hard to find something that works well in a variety of different situations. If you train by running or cycling, you can easily spent $400-600 on GPS products for all sorts of activities. The best bet would be to get all-in-one products, like the Polar RS800CX. However, these get very expensive once you add all of the sensors, foot pods, heart rate belts, etc.

This is why I chose to get myself a Garmin Edge 500. This is the latest edition in Garmin's line of GPS products intended for cycling enthusiasts. You can find this product, with a heart rate belt, for $230-280, depending on where you shop. When I am on my bike or running, I have found out that it's not a good idea to have something to distract you, which is why I didn't get the Garmin Edge 705, a larger and more comprehensive cycling GPS, that displays routes in color, just like a car-based GPS.

The Garmin Edge 500 is an all-inclusive package. It comes with all of the sensors you need to start using it right away. There are no extra expenses. Setup is pretty easy as well. You have to position one sensor on your bike, on the chain stay to be precise, and another sensor on the spokes. The cadence sensor is mounted on the crank arm. The installation of this is straightforward and simple. You can do this in a few minutes quite easily. Putting the unit onto the bike is also pretty easy, thanks to a number of industrial-strength rubber bands. This means that you aren't damaging your bike when you install it.

It sometimes takes a while for the GPS to detect the satellites, but it's pretty short. The new Garmin Edge 500 takes about half the time that the bigger Garmin Edge 705 takes, because of the new technology. Also, the Edge 500 weighs 2 ounces, so it's about the size of a normal bike computer.

Using it is easy. You just start it up and you're ready to go. There are a number of handy displays while you're cycling, but I found that speed, distance and the timer are the most important. The real magic of this GPS is revealed once you connect it to your computer. Using Garmin Connect, you can upload your training information to their servers, share it with other people or just analyze it yourself. It's quite comprehensive and user-friendly.

This allows you to set training goals and track how you are doing. The hear rate monitor is a good indicator on how good of a workout you've done. But what I really like is the fact that the Edge 500 is compatible with a whole lot of different accessories, like the foot pod and the quick release kit. You can purchase these separately and pop your Edge 500 on your wrist, with the foot pod on your shoe laces, and track your run as well as your speed while you're jogging. Once again, you can easily upload these.

All in all, I found the Garmin Edge 500 an easy to use product that did what I thought it would do. I like how it can be hacked to track my running as well as my cycling. One of the things that needs improvement is the display. Sometimes, it's hard to see, but overall, it's good. It's also one of the cheapest and lightest ways to track your training with a GPS. Typically, such products can cost upwards of $500, like the Polar RS800CX.

[all photos by Range]

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