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Sunday, March 18, 2012

A mountain biker reviews the Garmin Edge Touring Plus

Garmin Edge Touring Plus review

The Garmin Edge Touring Plus is the latest model in the company’s line of GPS cycling devices. I’ve shied away from reviewing most Edge products, which have been designed to appeal more to fitness buffs and road cyclists than mountain bikers.  But when I learned that the new Edge series focused on navigation, had a mountain bike routing mode and offered round-trip routing choices, well, my curiosity got the best of me.

So I asked for and received a loaner review unit. Then the polar vortex came and went, along with subsequent blasts of cold air, so I haven’t been out with it as much as I’d like. So what follows is a relatively brief review, strictly from a mountain biker’s perspective.

Hardware

As you can see above, there are only two buttons on the front of the unit, although it does have a resistive touchscreen for further input options. A power button is located on the left side, and underneath are two flaps covering the mini-USB port and microSD card slot (as you can see below). A microSD card preloaded with the Garmin Cycle Map is included.

Garmin Edge Touring Plus rear view

The back side of the Garmin Edge Touring Plus

The Edge Touring Plus is only available in white, which is a sign of how well thought out this device is for mountain bikers! More on that subject in a minute, but first how about a size comparison to to some other Garmin handhelds…

Garmin Edge Touring Plus size comparison

Garmin Edge Touring Plus compared to the Oregon 600 and GPSMAP 62s

The Edge comes with a mount that uses some stretchy bands to attach it to the handlebars. While that may sound iffy, I found it quite secure. Basically you just insert the Edge into the mount an twist it 90 degrees to lock it into place…

Garmin Edge Touring Plus mount

Garmin Edge Touring Plus mount

I apologize for poor photo quality. I love my new Moto X phone, but the camera is horrible.

Mountain biking with the Edge Touring Plus

What appealed to me about this unit was having preloaded trail maps and the ability for it to compare various routes, including elevation gain. How did it work out?

First of all, some trails were missing, but the database was amazingly complete in the areas I tested it. However, despite the fact that I had the routing mode set to mountain biking, it often thought paved roads should be included in my route, even though there were plenty of trails and fire roads nearby. So I checked avoidances. The only options are to avoid unpaved roads and narrow trails. It would be great to see an option to avoid paved roads and paved trails.

When planning a round trip route, you have to select a distance of 5+ miles. One of my favorite loops is a great 3 mile time trial, but 3 miles isn’t an option. Regardless, I tried accepting a route it suggested but then rode my short loop anyway, and I’m pleased to report that it did recalculate and actually guided me back to my starting point, via all the junctions I would normally take. Anyway, the >5 mile limit isn’t a huge deal. But how about a way to specify how much elevation gain you want to do instead of mileage? That is a much more important metric and ride criteria for me.

Garmin Edge Touring Plus navigation screenshots

Navigation screenshots

Now while those things can be handled with software tweaks, there are hardware issues too. First of all, white? C’mon guys, what mud-encrusted mountain biker wants white gear? Secondly, having only two buttons does limit your options. I’d love to see a Garmin Edge Mountain edition, but I do wonder if the form factor would support the needs of that audience.

A minor issue was the auto-pause settings. It cannot be set for < 0.5 MPH, which can be problematic for mountain bikers who can (depending upon conditions and ability) often slow to a crawl.

Conclusion

I’ll stick with my 62s for mountain biking, but this might be a good device for road riders.

More Garmin Edge Touring Plus reviews

  • Consumer-authored reviews of this unit can be found at Amazon

I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…

Other Garmin Edge Touring Plus resources

Compare prices on the Garmin Edge Touring Plus at these merchants:

 

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.

Comments

  1. How do those devices survive an endo being mounted as they are in the photo?

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