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Garmin's Edge Explore 2 has a plethora of changes and updates over its predecessor, and they've made it a very rounded GPS that is just as capable as a ride companion and data logger as it is for big tours and unfamiliar lanes. The large screen shows plenty of detail, it's simple to use and it even includes metrics dedicated to eBikes. It's probably the only computer most of us will need.
When it comes to Garmin's large-screen range, if you like to explore either locally or in pastures new then the device with the white case is the one you want. Starting with the Garmin Touring many years ago, the white-bodied units have focused primarily on quality mapping and directions above all else.
With the new Explore 2 though, there is a lot more data and connectivity to keep you involved.
The Explore 2 is easy to set up using the Garmin Connect app for your metrics, and the actual device for your various data pages. You get three activity profiles: Road, Indoor and Off-road. A Gravel option would be nice too, especially if you ride mountain bikes as well and want different metrics, but it isn't a deal breaker. If, like me, you ride a mixture of road and gravel, then you can just use the off-road one for the gravel rides.
If you aren't massively into your data and just want the basics, you can be ready to go in a matter of minutes, to be honest. Like many of Garmin's latest devices, whether they be bar-mounted or smartwatches, you get a widgets page before entering the main display page.
The widgets show various data fields such as your last activity, the weather, your direction or saved courses, to name just a few. I didn't really mess about with with this page much, but if you are a data fiend it's customisable.
Via the menu settings button there are huge amounts of data and metrics you can set to either show on your screen, or to work in the background for post-ride analysis.
The Explore 2 will link with power meters, indoor smart trainers, cadence sensors, heart-rate monitors and more – it'll connect to pretty much everything from the Garmin catalogue as well, of course, such as the VIRB action cameras and Radar system. Even without that, its built-in barometric altimeter, temperature sensors and dedicated eBike sensor support means you'll never run out of things to look at.
You can set up alerts for things like power output, speed or heart rate to keep your training on track, plus many others alerts like reminding you to eat or drink or, who knows, maybe breathe.
The Explore 2 will also link to your phone, showing your notifications on the screen and allowing you to control your music.
Another neat feature is LiveTrack, which allows you to share your position with people either from a 'look at what I'm up to' point of view, or as a safety feature. You can also set up contacts for your device to notify (via your phone) should it detect a crash. I've used this on various Garmin devices, and it is very good, with very few false alarms.
You can get as involved as you like with the Explore (or not), which I found to be ideal. The more I used it, the more I'd find myself tweaking settings for various bikes until I ended up with the package that worked for me.
After clicking the button to get the Explore ready to record it's a simple and straightforward unit to use, and it's quick to latch onto the satellites, sometimes even locating them from inside the house before leaving. Should you want to change data screens while riding, the touchscreen is responsive to your fingertips whether they're gloved or not.
As mentioned above there are loads of data fields to look at, plus pages showing the built-in mapping and cool graphs for ClimbPro (showing the elevation of the route when navigating), heart rate and so on.
Running the Explore alongside other GPSs (a Garmin Fenix 6 Pro watch and a Bryton computer) showed it in close agreement: all three were within a tenth of a mile-per-hour for current speed, and were close on elevation too.
I had no problem with satellite signal strength under heavy tree cover or blips from any outside interference, and on the odd occasion where tunnels were long enough to kill signal, the unit soon reconnected once the sky came into view. The Explore does Garmin's usual thing of connecting the dots either side of the signal loss, so the result has no missing details and things like average speed are still intact.
Battery life is decent at around 16hrs while navigating and having everything operational, although there is a battery saving mode which will pretty much double that – easily so, if you aren't using it for navigation.
The one thing the Explore 2 can't do is support workouts, so if your main aim is structured training, look elsewhere in Garmin's range or at other brands.
As soon as you finish your ride, everything is uploaded to your Garmin Connect account, where you can go through a load of post ride data. You can also choose to get it directed to Strava or whatever other app you may use.
This is the main aim for the Explore 2, so as you'd expect it's pretty good at it. You can either create a route on Strava, Komoot or whatever and upload the file to the Garmin – quick and simple – or you can follow an existing route stored on the device in the Course Creator.
If you have no routes stored, you can knock one up on the device itself. It's a little clunky though, as you have to keep zooming in and out to see the points you want to tap.
My favourite though is the Round-Trip Course option, especially if I'm away for the weekend or travelling a lot with my bike for work. It's not quick by any stretch of the imagination, as it requires a few minutes to come up with the routes, but it is effective. You just tell the device how far you want to ride, and it comes up with three routes.
It's not infallible – a couple of routes tried to send me down private roads or tracks – but to be honest it's not on its own in this respect. Should that happen though, you can just ride past the junction and the Explore will quickly reroute you. Alternatively there are points of interest you can navigate to, or you can just enter a postcode as with a standard satnav.
Overall, the Explore is a capable unit for route finding. Directions are easy to follow regardless of what data page you have on display, as the map pings up with the route and countdowns to any turnings, which reduce confusion should there be multiple junctions.
The Explore 2 is £249.99, which is a tenner cheaper than the Garmin Edge 530 that I own and use on a daily basis. Considering that the Explore 2 is a larger unit with a bigger screen, and the fact that it is a touchscreen too (the 530 isn't) makes it look very good value for money.
The 530 does include an out-front mount though, which the Explore doesn't. It comes with just the standard handlebar/stem mounts in the box.
Competition wise, the Bryton S500E is £259.99 and, while it does come with a colour touchscreen (one I didn't find that responsive), it is a much smaller screen than the Explore 2's. It does offer around 24hrs of battery life though, and can connect to a multitude of devices too.
Wahoo's Element Bolt is the same price as the Explore 2, and the latest version has a colour screen. It has loads of features as well, although again it's quite a small unit if you want to use it for navigation.
Having used the original Explore, I think the Explore 2 is a massive improvement. It now has many of the attributes of Garmin's more expensive units, and while it lacks the ability to offer structured training (which might be a non-starter for some), if you want a general GPS that works quickly and gives excellent navigation, it's highly recommended.
Large screen and quick, clear navigation, plus loads of connectivity options
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Garmin Edge Explore 2
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Garmin says, "When you need a dependable, easy-to-use GPS bike computer, Edge Explore 2 is there when you need it most. So ride on and discover new trails – Edge has got you covered."
The Explore 2 is a capable GPS computer for collecting and displaying general data, with the added bonus of great route finding and planning if you find yourself away from your local roads more often than not.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
DIMENSIONS: 106.1x 55.7 x 20.6 mm
DISPLAY SIZE: 3.00
DISPLAY RESOLUTION: 240 x 400 pixels
WATER RATING: IPX7
BATTERY TYPE: Rechargeable lithium-ion
BATTERY LIFE: Up to 16 hours
BATTERY SAVE MODE
Maps & memory:
ABILITY TO ADD MAPS
STORAGE AND POWER CAPACITY: 16 GB internal memory
NAVIGATION ROUTES: 100 Courses
HISTORY: 200 hours
Daily smart features:
CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth®, ANT+
CONNECT IQ (DOWNLOADABLE WATCH FACES, DATA FIELDS, WIDGETS AND APPS)
ON-DEVICE CONNECT IQ STORE
TEXT RESPONSE/REJECT PHONE CALL WITH TEXT (ANDROID ONLY)
REALTIME SETTINGS SYNC WITH GARMIN CONNECT MOBILE
CONTROLS SMARTPHONE MUSIC
VIRB® CAMERA REMOTE
SMARTPHONE COMPATIBILITY iPhone, Android
Safety and tracking features:
FIND MY EDGE
Activity tracking features:
Training, planning and analysis features:
TRENDLINE POPULARITY ROUTING
CLIMBPRO ASCENT PLANNER
GARMIN CYCLE MAP (ROUTABLE CYCLING-SPECIFIC STREET MAP)
ALERTS (TRIGGERS ALARM WHEN YOU REACH GOALS INCLUDING TIME, DISTANCE, HEART RATE OR CALORIES)
ON-DEVICE COURSE CREATOR
ON-DEVICE LOCATION SEARCH
POWER METER COMPATIBLE
COMPATIBLE WITH VARIA RADAR (REAR-FACING RADAR)
COMPATIBLE WITH VARIA LIGHTS
EBIKE SMART RANGE ROUTING
SMART TRAINER CONTROL
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Apart from the odd navigating blip where it wanted to send me down private tracks on gravel rides, it performs very well, offering a multitude of tasks and the ability to be linked to a lot of sensors.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Responsive touch screen.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
No out front mount included.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's a tenner less than the Bryton S500E and comes with a larger, more responsive touchscreen. Wahoo's Element Bolt is the same price as the Garmin, but has a smaller overall size and therefore screen, which means the mapping isn't as clear. There is also no touchscreen if that is on your must-have list.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Explore 2 is no longer primarily aimed at mapping and navigation. It has the majority of the capabilities found on Garmin's more expensive devices, offers decent battery life, and is priced well against the competition.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!