My 305 seems to crash regularly when I try to upload to Strava, and the battery occasionally goes dead when I think I've charged it . When I ride with the 500 crowd my climbing figures are always higher. A lot higher. All this, plus promised longer-life battery charges, faster boot up time, lighter weight (OK, that really didn't matter,) temperature recording (is that cool or what?) and a big sale at ProBikeKit.com finely pushed me over the edge (Garmin Edge 305, Garmin Edge 500, get it?) Plus, I can use my existing heart rate strap and cadence sensor. And, when I get a Power Tap power meter from Santa or some local charity (hint hint) it will handle the ANT+ signal from that and display it. Sure, I'll never really have a Power Tap, but just in case.... Anyway, I bought the 500.
I was also happy to discover that the mounting system for the 500 could be replaced by a nifty third-party item called a "Bar Fly" that puts the unit out in front of the handlebars and is just way cool. I was less happy when I found out it cost almost $40. I got all happy again when I found one on eBay for $19, which seemed like a fair price for something that should only cost $6 in a more reasonable world.
When I unboxed the Gramin and started setting it up, going through the endless beep-beep-beep of pushing tiny buttons a zillion times to navigate through myriad screens I discovered an oddity. On my old 305 I could set my maximum heart rate right on the unit with those annoying buttons. With the 500 I had to use Garmin Connect, their online tool for logging rides. Naturally this entailed downloading updated versions of Garmin Connect and Garmin Web Updater to my Mac, then creating a (thankfully) free account for a service I'll never use, plugging in the numbers on a web page then downloading the info to the unit. In the end it worked, (I think) but what a pain.
Another issue I know I'll have to face is that of a battery extender. My 305 runs about 8 hours, which works for most rides. But double centuries at my speed need more that a 8 hour window. I bought a Minty Boost external battery pack (blog entry on the Minty Boost) and have been very happy with it. With a couple of high-end AA batteries in it I can get through a 19 hour ride with power to spare.
Apparently the Garmin 500 has some weird "feature" that causes it to drop out of it's functioning GPS mode and into a charge-only mode when connected an external power pack. Endless searching on the web suggests that adding a resistor between specific pins of the USB charging cable solves this problem, but that level of electronic and soldering magic is beyond my meager skills. There are third-party battery packs, but the descriptions are annoyingly vague on whether they will power, or merely charge a Garmin 500.
Fortunately, the 500 has a claimed 18 hour battery life, so I won't need anything extra unless I attempt another double, which wouldn't be any time soon anyway.
After waiting out the weather and finally getting a ride in I discovered the BarFly is flippin' great. I holds the computer out in front of the bars where it's a lot easier to see. Plus, it just looks totally cool. I'm really glad I got it.
The Garmin 500 seems to have a couple of key differences from my 305.
- It records elevation gain lower than the 305. Really, it may be right, or not. Elevation gain is really a philosophical issue as much as a physical issue. What counts? Every bump, or vibration, or only changes of more than 6 inches? Or a foot? Or three feet? It relates to the age old question: How long is the coast of Britain? I'm not sure but I know at least my numbers will match all my Garmin 500 friends, even though my stats will be lower than with my 305.
- It records temperature. It responds slowly, and I know 500 units set next to each other read differently, but it's something fun to look at.
- It transfers data a zillion times faster. At first I thought it didn't transfer. It was so fast I didn't see progress. I thought it didn't work, but no, it was so fast I didn't see it happen. I'm good with that. The 305 sometimes seemed like it would never finish.