Seems like our whole lives go by the numbers. We start off measuring ourselves against the kitchen door and it never stops.
Grades, scoreboards, girls' telephone numbers, salary, mortgage, it all adds up. Cyclists may be among the most chronic counters. Logging mileage is just the tip of the iceberg... calories, feet of climbing, power, heart rate, cadence all are fodder for increasingly sophisticated computers. Garmin's latest, the Edge 500, takes a fresh look at the data we love to collect.
No doubt getting input from the men in Argyle, Garmin engineers slimmed the unit down. It weighs just 57g compared to my comparatively portly Edge 305 at 79g. There's a new spin-and-lock mount, secured to bar or stem with o-rings. It feels very secure and that's going to be well received by those who experienced problems with the slide-and-latch mechanism of its predecessors (I never ejected my unit while on the road, but I did snap the tabbed latch off one mount).
Cosmetically, the white and silver unit is prominently trimmed in Garmin blue... that's great... IF YOU HAVE A BLUE BIKE. I'd rather they'd stuck with a neutral scheme: black, white, silver or better yet, provide optional colored bezels. Did no one tell them; we obsess about the total look of our rides?
Even when we're not riding, we're still counting. Last week a combination of weather and work had me go five days between rides, the longest I've gone on foot in three years. Around day four paranoia kicked in and I started thinking this is how you stop riding for good... so it didn't matter that Thursday was horrible out, I was riding no matter what. Some records are NOT meant to be broken.
The Edge 305 survived a trip through our washing machine so I had no doubts about the 500's ability to survive the elements and an accidental drop (or two). Garmin hardware is tough.
Two years ago I complained bitterly about the sorry state of Garmin's Connect software. After acquiring the once nimble MotionBased startup, Garmin seemed intent on hobbling backwards with a slow, buggy and functionally inferior service. I'm happy to report that Connect has improved (at least this afternoon).
Software is the great differentiator. Get it right, the iPhone comes to mind, and success follows. Get it wrong, and a line of dissatisfied customers will soon stretch around the internet block actively sharing their bad experiences with everyone who'll listen. Connect looks cleaner. The dashboard tab displays the last 5 uploaded activities, and the most recent one in detail. The Activities tab shows a 20-record table with quick edit functionality that's passable but hardly efficient. Curiously it provides edit capability for "event type" which is not displayed in the table itself. During the upload process two of my activities never completed processing (with a checkmark indicator) but nevertheless appeared in the table. That kind of disconnect doesn't foster confidence, and there's more.
Logging back in while putting this post together I noticed that there was a firmware update for the Edge 500 (v2.1). After downloading and installing a 20+MB web updater tool, the update was downloaded and applied. Unfortunately, here's where things didn't work so well. The updater carrier finished its role by indicating the device would restart. It never did by itself. Twenty minutes later, I restarted the device and the update was validated but in the process all my screen settings, bike info and history were erased. So much for that great comeback, some of the old inconsistencies remain. Solution: Connect should store all of these customized settings and refresh them on the device in situations like this. There will have to be a pretty compelling reason to update the firmware for me to risk having that happen again.
It's tough to count on software but without it we'd be back to scribbling in notebooks. That might be an option I'd consider, if I could read my own handwriting.