Garmin or can I get away with the iPhone?

by snappyandrew   March 20, 2013  

Hi there
Just joined the forum so excuse any protocol muck ups.
I have an Iphone but am thinking of getting a Garmin so that I can get a SatNav and GPX compatibility. I want this to go on long journeys and not be constantly stopping. There's also the battery life thing.
I'd be really interested to see if anyone has any views

22 user comments

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Garmin, battery life, waterproof, specific purpose made.I would never go out without it. I have a Garmin Edge 705 and swear by it. Got second hand on ebay with heart monitor and cadence. I think its why I got addicted to cycling!!

posted by getoutofmyway [2 posts]
20th March 2013 - 23:10


personally i prefer a garmin as it's designed to do specifically that job and i find that it does it better than a phone. but there's plenty of people on here that are more than happy using a phone for navigation, and there are plenty of ways to extend battery life. i did a ride a couple of years back where i was running a garmin (for routefinding) *and* a phone (for live tracking) and I had a big portable battery pack (5000mAh) that kept them both going for the whole of a 16-hour ride.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7857 posts]
20th March 2013 - 23:32


Also worth considering the Bryton options. I love my 40T, and I got it for the price of a Garmin 200 with Garmin 500 capabilities. And I even got a HR monitor for free. Smile

posted by amc654 [33 posts]
20th March 2013 - 23:59


GPS unit because it is purpose built.

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posted by cidermart [493 posts]
21st March 2013 - 0:16


I use my Iphone and cyclemeter app with a heart rate monitor, it supports import and export to GPX to upload to strava if you wished.Big Grin

Personally I do not need navigation, half the fun of being out by myself is getting lost / finding new routes and dont need navigation for the club run.

I suppose its down to preference, I looked at it last year and personally felt the price difference between a cheap app and a Garmin wasn't worth it for the added functionality you get.

Battery life on the iphone is the only downside - for longer rides I use a extended battery pack I got for £20 off amazon and this is more than enough for6 hours in the saddle.

posted by andycoventry [120 posts]
21st March 2013 - 9:07


Welcome to the forum. Just don't mention helmets or hi-vis and you'll be fine! Big Grin

Depends what you want when you refer to navigation capabilities. I couldn't justify a Garmin 500/800, and got the 200 instead. I hadn't realised how good the 'Courses' feature is.

You create the route on garmin connect (or just find one on mapmyride or something) then send to the device. I thought that since the 200 doesn't have street-level satnav it would just show each waypoint marker (i.e. 500m that way), but instead the screen shows an accurate representation of the road ahead with the bends etc. There were a few times when I thought "that can't be right, this road is a dead-end", only to find that no, if you're on a bike or walking, the thing was spot-on every time.

It's really easy if you're using pre-created courses as well, just connect it to the PC, browse to it same way you would any other USB drive, then drop the gpx file into the 'newfiles' folder. Done.

If you go off-course, it alerts you, then shows an arrow pointing you back on course. It doesn't matter if you skip a bit, it doesn't insist that you start back exactly where you deviated.

The only inaccuracy was that the little line showing the road went the wrong way round roundabouts, presumably due to it's US origins.

It also runs for longer than an iphone (think I could probably get 8-10 hours), is smaller and looks less obtrusive mounted on the bike. Plus obviously you get all the usual computer functions, it's waterproof without a bulky plastic case, and you can press the buttons with gloves on.

You can't change the course once it's on the device.
The device has no awareness of anything off your course (side roads, diversions etc) or satnav-y things like points of interest, traffic conditions, roadworks etc.

If, on the other hand, you want turn-by-turn satnav, then unless you've really got the cash (and indeed the enthusiasm to know that you'll still be using it in say 2 years time), I'd probably settle for the phone for now.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3723 posts]
21st March 2013 - 10:28


Haven't fully checked it out yet but the Wahoo stuff looks very interesting to me.

Essentially replacing the Garmin unit with your phone to pick up cadence, speed and HR, plus you get the mapping ability.

And they make a mounting unit which contains an additional power source to extend life.

I haven't really made a full comparison in price, weight and functionality but I think it's the way things will go.

The new Garmins are a bit disappointing. The don't really seem to move the game along very much and I think they will potentially be overtaken by smarter apps on smarter phones.

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posted by abudhabiChris [697 posts]
21st March 2013 - 12:00


Try and win a Garmin on fantasy cycling! That's how I got my Bryton 40 and it's similar in functionality to the Garmin 200 described above. I find it's useful when I'm going on a new route but don't want to stop too often to look at a map or risk damaging my phone by having it mounted on the bike. If you go off course it still tracks the ride to create a new course you can save for next time. They have new models that might be worth checking out.

posted by Alan Tullett [1581 posts]
21st March 2013 - 12:43


i'm interested in the wahoo rflkt. its like a remote screen to your phone. keep you phone in your backpocket and it transmits via bluetooth. i got the wahoo case but it was very bulky and got stolen with my old bike.wouldn't bother replacing it either. the screen works with wahoo app and cyclemeter but is apparently programmable too. soon other apps will work with it. only problem is always having to have iphone but i am sure soon it will work with android etc.

posted by roly [43 posts]
21st March 2013 - 14:24


Hi Andrew

I use an iPhone5 with 3G data and Wifi off, using Strava and Viewranger for maps/nav, some photos, and after 4hrs it's down to ~70%. Meaning if you extrapolate it's about 13hrs capacity. Like others, if I was going out all day I carry a tiny 1000MAh battery pack that gives a 2/3 charge, or I have a bigger 2000MAh iPhone case one that gives a full charge and then some - that's over 24hrs riding!

Viewranger is hands-down the best route-building and nav app - it's genius, especially the route builder online with 'bike' mode. You can buy the entire South of UK 1:50,000 OS maps for about £17. Other chunks of UK and overseas maps are at similar prices - I'm buying half of Belgium next week for my L-B-L adventures. Great for rambling too.

Once you've built a route in Viewranger it syncs with the phone, and when you click 'follow' you can get alerts coming up to turns, and alarms if you go off-track - use this feature all the time to keep on course when I have a rough idea but not 100% sure. If you have mobile data turned on your other half/friends can track you via the BuddyBeacon feature.

The fact that just about every SAR team in the UK uses Viewranger is testament to its value.

Certainly right now I can't see the £350+ advantage of buying an 810 or even a 510. I'm sure they are lovely bits of kit, but if I had the cash I'd be buying better wheels/shoes etc before a Garmin.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's

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posted by KiwiMike [944 posts]
21st March 2013 - 14:40


Scrapped all my computers a few years ago and enjoy cycling a lot more.
It's interesting seeing the stats after a ride - I'm not one for checking the speedo every 30 seconds so an iPhone in the back pocket would probably suit me fine.
I've been looking at the Wahoo options as well - more for training with than any mapping functions.

A HR strap or cadence sensor with a Suunto ant+ stick is all you need.
A friend uses it and it looks very very impressive.

Would like to see a good review of this set up.

_SiD_'s picture

posted by _SiD_ [181 posts]
21st March 2013 - 16:20


Thanks everyone for your advice. I'm going to try the Viewranger option as someone has lent me a battery pack for the iPhone so we'll see how it goes.

posted by snappyandrew [87 posts]
22nd March 2013 - 13:55


I can think of better ways to spend 300 quid.
Strava app free. Stick iPhone in back pocket and forget about it.
If you get lost? No big deal really.

posted by stepho [102 posts]
23rd March 2013 - 15:28


certainly would not recommend a smart phone if you are planning to time yourself on ride segments using Strava - not as accurate as a GPS enabled Garmin.

posted by Metjas [349 posts]
24th March 2013 - 21:31


Just bump up to a Garmin. Once you have it you wont look back.

posted by guyondebike [34 posts]
25th March 2013 - 0:58


Anyone got a MIO 305HC -
I too am in the market of gettign a GPS after getting lost, making a bad choice at junctions and ending up doing 53 miles. (Which i agree is no bad thing, but the wife got very worried when i wasn't home)
This unit looks like it does much the same thing as a Garmin for nearly half the costs. Any thoughts please gentlemen

THere is only bad choice of clothing, not bad weather. MTFU and get out there and ride.
A little mantra for me in the winter months

posted by stealfwayne [121 posts]
25th March 2013 - 9:30


GPS bike computer on the bars for stats, data and basic route finding, paper map for backup. Just printing out an A4 sheet covering your ride area from Google maps or better, a proper mapping app, and carrying it in a plastic sleeve sealed up is better than trying to work out a route on a little screen. .

Don't take my smartphone riding any more, just an old dumbphone for, y u know, making phone calls and stuff.
Although admittedly the GPS mapping part is handy if you are actually lost

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posted by joemmo [1113 posts]
25th March 2013 - 14:44


Anyone interested in this?

Edge 500 that was returned by the customer, refurbed, and now up for the price of an Edge 200.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3723 posts]
26th March 2013 - 16:52


+1 to this. I just checked the Strava log of my lunchtime ride recorded with my iPhone 5, and it missed all bar one of the segments on it. I don't care, I just noticed their absence.

Looking at the fine detail of the trace you can see where it's drifted a few metres sideways off the road. Top = iPhone, bottom = Garmin Edge 305.

Screen Shot 2013-03-27 at 16.32.08.png Screen Shot 2013-03-27 at 16.37.16.png

posted by ade [85 posts]
27th March 2013 - 17:38


I'm holding out for cateye gps stuff, they look nice and hopefully price is a bit cheaper than the Garmins. At the min I run my android with no wifi/date on using Strava and the battery life is pretty decent. Only had it running for around 3 hours so far but think it would be happy doing 6/7. Would be nice to have something visible on the bars though

posted by Cycle_Jim [282 posts]
27th March 2013 - 19:44


Strava support told me Apple only allow the app GPS data every three seconds - possibly to preserve battery life. So on very short segments it's luck of the draw where you are when the combo of GPs accuracy plus the Strava start/finish 'bubble' coincide.

Regarding GPS accuracy, there's no fundamental difference between a Garmin or iPhone. Garmin may ping the GPS chipset more often, that's all. Antenna placement might be an issue - if the phone's vertical against a 70L sack of water and the Garmin's out front on your bike, as you ride through an area of trees / steep hills, it might make a difference.

Personally, reviewing my tracks I've never seen a problem, using Strava, Viewranger or any other GPX-recording app.

Andrew, just be sure to tweak the bty settings on both VR and the phone in general. With the right settings you can go all day and still get calls/SMS.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's

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posted by KiwiMike [944 posts]
27th March 2013 - 20:18

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KiwiMike wrote:

Regarding GPS accuracy, there's no fundamental difference between a Garmin or iPhone. Garmin may ping the GPS chipset more often, that's all. Antenna placement might be an issue - if the phone's vertical against a 70L sack of water and the Garmin's out front on your bike, as you ride through an area of trees / steep hills, it might make a difference.

Hmm, that is disappointing, I am planning to get a Garmin and was hoping for a sudden huge improvement in accuracy. At the moment I use an android phone running sports tracker and/or strava, and without knowing details such as how many satellites of what type it tracks it seems to be pretty comparable with an iphone. I still want the garmin so I have something a bit more rugged that sits out the front where I can see it the whole time because I will be using it for navigation a lot. As I said, I was hoping for better accuracy too though!

I'm riding the 2013 Giro d'Italia for charity! Check it out and follow my progress live at

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posted by Tour Le Tour [91 posts]
28th March 2013 - 12:57