My Garmin GPS Device Journey

I’ve owned a few Garmin GPS devices over the years. I fell into the Garmin ecosystem mostly because at the time, there weren’t really any viable options! Now there are actual decent competitors such as Wahoo, Hammerhead and Bryton. Still, I’ve (mostly) stuck with Garmin. My first ever Garmin device may come as a bit of a surprise…

Garmin Forerunner 205: My very first foray into GPS sports tracking and Garmin devices was actually a running watch! That’s right. To be honest, it didn’t get a lot of use. The Forerunner 205 was a chunky monkey and and built like a brick. There was no heart rate monitoring, no Bluetooth connectivity, no bells or whistles. It also took around two minutes to lock onto satellites.

It gave pace, distance, time and afterwards, a nice little GPS trace on Garmin Connect (oh the days before Strava). I couldn’t get blue like in the image above, so mine was bright orange. When I gave running the flick in 2011, I sold it on eBay. I bet it’s still going strong. I kind of wish I’d kept it, just for kicks.

Garmin Edge 200: When I first got into road cycling, I didn’t use a GPS computer. I stuck with the “old school” Cateye computer that used a magnet on the wheel to count revolutions. I actually won the Edge 200 by writing a review of an Evans Cycles sportive I took part in! In a way, that was the start of my “writing about cycling” path. The Garmin Edge 200 did everything I needed at the time, but did not have ANT+ or Bluetooth connectivity.

Garmin Edge 510: This was my first touch screen Garmin GPS and I immediately preferred it to the use of buttons (a totally personal preference). The Edge 510 was both ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible and could connect to external sensors, such as a powermeter. The 510 was a fantastic device that served me well over many, many rides. Until one day it didn’t.

INTERLUDE! Wahoo Elemnt Bolt: When the Edge 510 died, I had a brief foray into the Wahoo ecosystem with an Elemnt Bolt. First impressions were good. Oh so easy to set up compared to a Garmin and the zoom in/out feature was a nice touch, but I wasn’t a fan of the black and white screen (the Bolt V2 has a colour screen).

Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt V1 (image source DC Rainmaker)

Unfortunately my Wahoo Bolt died within two months, A bad batch apparently, but I returned it for a refund and bought a…

Garmin Edge 820: I’m a fan of touch screens for my GPS units, so I went with the 820 over the 520, which is essentially the same apart from the use of buttons. The touch screen on the 820 left a lot to be desired though, lagging badly or requiring quite a hard swipe/press. If the screen got a drop of sweat on it, it would often fail to react to any touch.

The battery life decreased over time too, to the point where it was dipping below 10% towards the end of a century ride. Not cool. From a full charge, I once got home after a long ride with 2% battery left. Some time after the 830 was released and reviews were all coming back positive, the 820 went on eBay and once again I upgraded…

Garmin Edge 830: All this leads to my current GPS of choice, the Edge 830! The 830 feels like a truly refined “production” version whereas the 820 always felt like I was beta testing. The touch screen is far more advanced and the software is leaps and bounds faster. Battery life is also excellent (so far). I am very happy with my current Edge 830 and it’s definitely the best Garmin product I’ve owned.

Rumours have it that a new round of Garmin Edge units are on the release radar for 2022, so if you are in the market for a new GPS but have time to spare, it might be worth waiting. 😉

7 Comments Add yours

  1. The Omil says:

    Still on my first – an 810 that is now nearly 7 years old – battery life still over 14 hours. I think I just got lucky.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s good going! 😀


  2. Doug McNamee says:

    I had a Garmin 820 (Well, I should say I had two). The first one failed and wouldn’t hold a charge, that was after about a year. I sent it back to Garmin and they sent me another unit. It worked great for about 5 years up to the point where I could no longer get software updates, so I decided to do something different in terms of an upgrade. I invested in a Hammerhead and it functions and feels pretty much like my 820, plus it detected and works with all my sensors. The 820 had a tendency to occasionally drop some of or not detect them. So far, so good with the Hammerhead, I’m happy with my decision but I really almost did pull the trigger on the 830.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. After having way too many Garmin GPS devices to maintain, between my parents, daughters and mine, I was not about to dive in to cycling computers with them. I had a running watch I got from a work bonus once. It was a pain to deal with. I gave it to my brother.
    My first Wahoo head unit died after the first battery went dead. It never worked after replacing the battery. It would drain the battery in a matter of minutes. Cool for a while, then nothing. The wheel speed and cadence sensor did not fit my Roubaix frame. I was very annoyed with the whole experience.

    Then came the pandemic and all my usual water and restroom stops were closed. Indoor cycling became a thing. I got a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, a Wahoo smart trainer and I already had the heart rate monitor. The Bolt died quickly and was replaced very quickly, within a matter of days by emails. The new unit was the latest and color and has worked perfectly ever since. I’m very happy with it.
    The HR monitor is likewise durable and just works. I did replace the strap with an upgrade from Amazon.

    I acquired a pair of Garmin Vector 2 power meter pedals. I bought a kit to use my Shimano Ultegra pedals with the Garmin spindles. The bearing in the right pedal wore out in about 16 months. I converted back to the Shimano spindles and will send the Garmin up the road. Playing the power metrics game was interesting, but at my age it really doesn’t matter a bit. I suspect the Garmin bushing is OK, but I’m not likely to use the Garmin pedals and buy their cleats.
    Wahoo has the Speedplay power meter pedals, but I never liked Speedplay. I wore out a pair of cleats then wore the pedals to where the locking wasn’t quite right. Having the active part of the latch on the bottom of the shoe is not a good design where you might step off into sand, wet sand, dirt and mud. During RAGBRAI the one year I rode that, I spent nearly every farm stand stop, clearing the mechanism.

    I don’t use the Wahoo for navigation, though I’ve used it once or twice to follow routes I’ve loaded, it is OK. My preference for GPS routing guide is for the unit to tell me or show me the next two turns ahead. That way I know which lane I need to be in. Like a roadblock for rally racing.


  4. Steve Hellaby says:

    My first device was the Garmin Edge 1000. Was great for a few years before the rubber cover on the power button disintegrated. Sent it back to Garmin for a refurb which also lasted a few years before the same thing happened again.
    By this time the 1030 was out. and despite the fact that the 1000 was still otherwise working fine and still had a decent battery life, Garmin ‘no longer supported the 1000’. WHAT! In this day and age of trying to minimise electronic waste that’s surely not the best policy….. unless you’re trying to sell more devices that is.
    In a fit of pique I bought a Hammerhead Karoo 2 and it’s great. The only thing my Garmin did that the Karoo doesn’t is automatically switch from the data screen to the map screen when approaching a turn. That was my favourite Garmin feature. The closest the Hammerhead gets to it is a screen that is half map and four data fields and I use that if I’m on a very unfamiliar route. Still the Hammerhead is basically an Android phone (without the call capability) and updates are issued every few weeks so I live in hope of the feature being included in a future release.
    There’s a 3D printed Garmin 1000 power button fix that I’ve managed to get my hands on so the 1000 is now working again and is now my backup device – not that I’ve ever needed it. The only problem with the 3d fix is that it’s not inherently waterproof so caveat emptor.
    Anyway I”l stop now before this reply becomes as long as your original post!
    (By the way Klem, still waiting to hear if I can submit FulGaz videos with a GPX file from the Hammerhead. Original ticket and test files submitted at the beginning of the year.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Steve Hellaby says:

    Just got an email from Sigma about the new Garmin 1040. At £600 they have to be kidding!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s