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First ride: Garmin Edge 800 GPS touch screen bicycle computer + video

We take the new touchscreen Garmin Edge 800 out for a ride with the Garmin Transitions team

As we reported from Eurobike Garmin are about to release their brand new Edge 800 GPS bike computer and this week we’ve been lucky enough to give it a whirl out on the road.

Our ride was in the New Forest with the Team Garmin Transitions boys and lasted an hour – well, 55:59mins, to be precise – so we don’t claim to have explored all of the 800’s possibilities yet. Watch this space for a complete test over the coming weeks and make sure you check out our interview with Andy from Garmin (below) for all the manufacturer’s crucial information. Here are our initial impressions…

If you’re familiar with Garmin’s existing range, the 800 is most similar to the Edge 500 in looks – although it’s 2D size is about 40% larger (5.1 x 9.3cm versus 4.8 x 6.9cm) – and in terms of function it’s like an upgraded 705 with glitches ironed out.

It’s a touchscreen design (apart from lap/reset and start/stop buttons) that, before you ask, works fine when you’re wearing full-finger gloves, and it fixes to your bar or stem via a twisty mount that’s held in place by two stretchy O-rings. The mount is exactly the same as the one the 500 uses rather than the one the 705 uses which has its detractors. We’ve always found the 500 mount to be perfectly secure and swapping between bikes takes seconds so that should be one worry taken care of.

You can fully customize the data screens to give you exactly the amount and combination of info you want at any one time. You can have up to 10 fields on each screen and up to three screens – so, for example, you can have all your current measurements together on one screen and then scroll to another screen that shows your rolling averages.

Speaking of scrolling, you can either tap the arrows on the sides of the 3.8 x 5.6cm display (for comparison, the 705’s is 3.48 x 4.36cm) or swipe your fingers across the screen in the direction you want to move. We had no trouble at all with reliability here – it worked perfectly every time over the course of our short ride. We’ve no idea if the screen easily scratches with dirty gloves, though. You’ll have to wait for our full test for the answer to that one.

We didn’t have any difficulty reading the screen either and we were out in the sunlight, then under clouds, then in shady woody sections. Again, a longer test might reveal weaknesses there but so far so good.

As for navigation, the Edge 800 comes with an in-built base map showing major roads and cities, and it’s compatible with Garmin’s microSD cards which you slot in underneath a rubber seal at the base. You can choose Garmin GB Discoverer Ordnance Survey mapping for the whole of Britain (1:50,000 scale), or go for 1:25,000 maps of National Parks or National Trails. You can design your own route or select your destination and you’ll get navigation prompts on the screen to get you there.

You can pair up the 800 with an ANT+ heart rate strap and/or power meter for extra performance data and everything is logged for uploading to the Garmin Connect website when you get home – where you can store all you ride information and analyse it at your leisure.

What else can we tell you? Garmin reckon the Edge 800 is waterproof – we’ve not had the chance to test that – and a barometric altimeter gives you climbing data. And you can set yourself a training partner who will ride at a set speed or at your previous pace over the same course. Oh, and the typical battery life is claimed to be 15hrs.

Prices start at £349.99 for the standalone Edge 800, rising to £399.99 for the Performance Bundle which includes a speed/cadence sensor and heart rate monitor strap, and £449.99 for the Performance and Navigation Bundle which includes all the mapping too.

So far everything looks really promising. We’ll let you know as soon as possible if the 800 lives up to expectations once we get to play with one for real.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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