Technology keeps changing and Garmin is no different. It’s extraordinary how advanced personal GPS units have become over the past five years. In 2006 I picked up one of Garmin’s Edge 305 units to use here in Europe. At the time I was really impressed with its functionality. It didn’t have all the memory necessary to have a true map of where I was biking, yet it was able to trace all of my routes, pinpoint markers as well as calculate altitude, speed and all the other fundamentals by calibrating geographic location. The screen was pretty “primitive,” but in all respect it was a great starting point for many of today’s Garmin models, notably the Edge 705. This unit is a must for any long-distance bicycle adventurer. The 705′s joystick makes it a handy tool to toggle through the screens (which are color) and the classic buttons make it easy to activate the programs. The simultaneous displays are also customizable and the screen itself is huge compared to the 305. The added benefit is that it records your routes as its younger brother does, and it will tell you how to get to where you’re going if you download the regional maps to the unit. It will then memorize your routes and favorite locations just as your car Garmin will. It’s an exceptional piece of equipment for anyone interested in testing out their adventurous spirit who doesn’t have a map (although a map is a handy thing to have). If you’d like more on the reviews of the 705 check out the lads at bikeradar.com. They’ve done an excellent job explaining the 705′s assets and what Garmin needs to do to improve the next model (I would also add a feature to upload all of your data to the web by remote connection – maybe we won’t be waiting too long since Garmin has recently come out with the Nuvifone. Only time will tell).
After working as a bicycle tour guide for a decade and a half, I’m surprised so many of these niche tour operators are still using paper directions. Sure, from a cyclist’s point of view there’s a bit more security in having a hard-copy of directions in your hand, but I wonder how green the process is. I can imagine the amount of paper and toner wasted on each cyclist for each departure. There aren’t many companies in the industry making the switch from paper to portable technology. However Pomegranate Journeys is implementing the Garmin units on every bicycle for every tour. That’s a bold move considering most people are accustomed to thumbing through maps and folding over directions while pedaling along the itinerary. It’s only a matter of time before people start operating the units and follow the itinerary displayed on them instead of reading and riding (we’ve all just about replaced our land lines with mobile phones and our computers with smart phones right?). Granted, a map is still a nice thing to have, but when you’re on an organized tour with ten other cyclists, two guides and a van, you can do without the map and focus on the road. This initiative also gives Garmin a great opportunity to test multiple units simultaneously, affording them another huge technological change in next year’s model. What color will it be?