May 28 2006
I bought a new toy yesterday: the Garmin Edge 205 GPS-enabled cycling computer. Because I decided to drop hockey during the summers to concentrate on biking, I thought it would be nice to own a cycling computer that was more accurate than my $20 cheapo and offered features that will allow me to track my training progress through the summer. I spotted the Edge 205 and Edge 305 in the local bike shop and decided that for the $100 difference, I could do without the heart rate monitor and cadence meter that the 305 offered. So, I purchased the 205 and left the shop to give a try.
The first thing I did, of course, was to learn the basic operation of the unit. I then mounted it on the stem of my mountain bike and went for a quick 30-minute ride. I can’t describe in words how awesome it was to watch all the items that the 205 was recording. No complaints about the unit. It’s fantastic.
The 205 comes with software to download the ride, analyze it, show it on a map, display graphs of pace, speed, distance, elevation, etc. This is where things got frustrating. To begin with, the software is not compatible with the Macintosh. There was no mention of this on the package, of course. Only in very small print on the back of the CD sleeve does it mention, “PC Only.” That was reason enough for me to return the unit. There was no way I was going to spend $275 for a GPS and not be able to view and save rides on the computer.
I still wanted to see wanted to see how the software worked, so before returning the 205 I decided to load the software on my work PC. And here is where I encountered my second problem with Garmin. The TrainingCenter software did not offer a way to view the ride superimposed on top of a map. Is it not reasonable to expect to be able to actually view a map within the software bundled with a GPS unit? Well, actually, you can. For another $115 you can purchase additional Garmin software that you can use to import maps into TrainingCenter. Screw that.
I supposed there must have been a way to export the rides in a manner that I could import them into some other program, perhaps Google maps. In fact, there may be something out there, but the extraordinarily thin TrainingCenter documentation certainly did not indicate so. Anyway, I did some Googling and found MotionBased.com, a web-based application that allows you to upload your GPS data for analysis, mapping and storage.
This site is hot. Although there is only partial support for the Macintosh at this time, there is enough support to get your data uploaded and use most of the features in the application. For the features that do not work in the Mac, I’ve found some interesting workarounds. Somewhere on the site they mention that they are working on full support for the Macintosh, and even better, that eventually FireFox will be the recommend browser, not IE. Joy. At the very least, MotionBased has recognized that the world is not comprised of only PC users using Internet Explorer.
MotionBased has two levels of service: free and pay. Of course I registered for the free service which has all the features I need. There are too many fun features of the site to mention. If you own one of the GPS units that MotionBased supports, its worth the time to try the application. My favorite features so far Dot Races (where you can replay separate rides on the same course to compare performance) and the export to Google Earth (which is now available in beta for OS X). It’s truly mind-boggling what you can do with web-based technology.
If I hadn’t stumbled across MotionBased.com, I would be returning the Garmin GPS today. The lack of support for the Macintosh, the poorly documented bundled software and the additional cash necessary to unlock the full potential of the software really pissed me off. Nevertheless, The Edge 205 is certainly a wonderful GPS, and MotionBased.com seems to be a better application than the bundled TrainingCenter anyway.