I have to confess to being a bit of a stats hound and, while I don’t chase after King of the Mountain titles on Strava (as if I could!), I do like to keep a record of where I’ve been, how fast I went and how high I climbed. I love Strava as much as seasoned sporty semi-pros, even though I could never hope to match their achievements. To monitor my stats, until recently, I relied on my iPhone running the Strava app. The app is great – accurate, easy to use and fully-featured. The only downside is the drain on your phone battery’s life; it wasn’t good on the iPhone 4 and I dread to think what it would do to the iPhone 5. So, with a lengthy 5-hour ride down to Southampton in my sights, I decided to purchase a Garmin Edge 200 to save me from a flat battery. The unit is the lowest-priced in Garmin’s range, but I was able to pick it up for about £80 from Halford’s on a special deal. Its standard price is about £87.99 now.
The Edge 200 is a simple GPS system and cycle computer, and its simplicity is its strength over other units. As you can see above, there are only four menu options: Ride, Course, History and Settings. This is not a touch-screen device, so each option is selected by pressing one of four little bumper-buttons on the side of the unit. Each menu option is context-sensitive, so when you click on Ride, for example, then some new menu options pop up – Start, Resume, Pause, etc. It’s very intuitive and easy to use.
The screenshot above shows the main Ride screen, and this is what you’ll see most of the time you’re using the Edge 200 (with even the tubbiest of us going a bit faster). This is the “cycle computer” and shows you your speed, miles completed and average speed. If you’re running a Course (more on those later), then it will also show you the number of miles you have left to go until completion. There is no room here for heartbeat monitoring, gradient measuring, power output or any other clutter on screen; it’s just the simple information that you need. If you want more information, you need to shell out for the Edge 500 or Edge 800, which costs about five times the price.
The Edge 200 has a very simple way of storing some of your historic ride information (see above), but I imagine this is really only for when you want to review something on the go. Ideally, these stats are meant to be uploaded to the Garmin Connect website, which is free to access for all Garmin customers as the unit stores many more statistics than it can display on this little screen. The unit won’t lose your data, though, and can store about 200 rides’ information before it starts deleting things to make room.
The final clincher for many deciding whether or not to purchase this unit will be the Course mode. It was certainly my biggest question before diving in. The short answer: yes, you can plan routes and then follow them on your Edge 200. Is it as good as the Edge 800 with its maps? No, but that’s why this unit costs £90 and the Edge 800 costs £400. You pays your money and takes your choice.
In order to plan a route, you need to use a computer. You cannot plan anything using the Edge 200, although you can save your ride data as you go along to “create” a route and save it for later – think of it as like leaving a snail trail behind you. You can also reverse your ride data to create a “return” route and go back to where you started. However, the main method of planning is to use an external GPS mapping system, such as that found at the British Cycling website, or using an app such as Cycle Streets, which can export your map in .gpx format. Once you’ve plotted and exported your route, adding it to the Edge 200 is a simple case of dragging and dropping your .gpx file into the Edge 200’s “New Files” folder using your PC or Mac and it will then appear as a Course to follow in the relevant menu.
Following a course can be a little tricky unless you have some idea of where you’re going, so I would always recommend having a map available, but the Edge 200 will show you where to go by pointing a line in the relevant direction. It’s surprising how accurate this can be, but can be tricky to follow if you find yourself at an intersection with multiple paths all going off in broadly the same direction. However, it’s accurate enough that you should be able to pick up any deviations, and the Edge 200 will alert you if you go “off course” and point you in the right direction to get back on it. I managed to navigate myself all the way from Basingstoke to Southampton doing this, but I was also following NCN Route 23 which helped.
When it comes to uploading, the Garmin Connect site is very easy to use – just plug your Edge 200 into a USB port using the supplied cable and it will detect it and, with just a single click, you can upload your ride. The unit is also directly compatible with the Strava website, which works in exactly the same way. The data recorded is accurate and a delight to review, allowing you to see how fast you were at any given point, along with altitude and estimated power. You can also compare yourself to other riders using Strava segments. There are other tools in the Garmin Connect website that I haven’t played with, simply because I’m such a fan of Strava instead, but there looks to be lots else you can do – including route planning from Garmin’s own site.
The battery life on the Edge 200 is amazing. Officially, the battery lasts for 8 hours – but I’ve used it for over 5 and barely lost one bar of energy. The simple LCD screen means that the unit can keep going for hours and hours without a charge, unlike it’s more expensive counterparts. It charges off either the supplied USB lead or USB plug, also supplied. Instructions for use are included, with full-colour diagrams. There is no complicated software to install on your system; the hardest thing you’ll have to do is fit the cradle to your bike to hold the unit, but this is little more than stretching a (very) taught rubber band around the pivot of the handlebars. The unit is then simply mounted by turning it 90 degrees into place.
The Edge 200 is an ideal entry point for anybody who wants to know how fast they’re going and to review their ride data afterwards. It’s perfect for a training aid for serious cyclists and a great joy for those of us who just like to show off where we’ve been. The unit is capable of outputting enough information to keep most cyclists happy, and unless you really need those maps (and have deep pockets), the Edge 200’s course capability is enough to plan most rides with. I take it with me on every ride now, and haven’t used my iPhone app since.