By Fred Zahradnik
I really like having a detailed training log, but I don’t like entering all the information required to keep a log updated. That’s why I was eager to try the Garmin Edge 305 with heart rate, which automatically uploads vast amounts of ride information into a personal computer.
The Edge 305 captures most data via the array of global positioning system (GPS) satellites in Earth orbit. Created by the U.S. government for the military, GPS technology has been available for consumer use since the late 1990s. A boom in consumer products followed, and the 305 is industry-leader Garmin’s take on GPS technology for cycling.
GPS gives the U.S.-designed, Taiwan-made 305 some remarkable capabilities, so let’s talk about the juicy stuff first.
- Since it determines your position and speed via incoming satellite signals, there’s no need for wires or sensors on your bike. This also makes it easy to use the 305 on more than one bike.
- Riders in serious training programs will appreciate the wealth of data that can be captured, stored, analyzed and graphed by the 305 system. Data points include time, time rested, total time, time of day, lap time, speed, average speed, current speed, max speed, distance, calories, altitude, grade percent, compass heading, sunrise, sunset, total ascent and total descent. Whew!
- Our test unit came with the wireless heart rate option, capturing current heart rate, average heart rate and heart rate zone. Garmin also offers the 305 with a wireless cadence kit.
- You can store, analyze and graph your data with the included Garmin Training Center software. The online/sharing feature will be especially useful for riders working with a coach. This advantage has been realized by no less than the Italian ProTour team Milram, as RBR reported in a newsletter. MotionBased also plugs your data into Google maps and displays them for you automatically.
So how do all of these features come together to help you enjoy cycling and improve your training? Here’s a typical ride from my testing:
I unplug the 305 from its charger and snap it into the bike mount (stem or handlebar). The unit reads “acquiring satellites” for a few seconds as it picks up signals from outer space. Once it does, the incoming signal is steady and reliable even under forest cover and in hilly/closed-in terrain.
As I roll out the driveway I make sure the heart monitor is picking up my pulse accurately. I press the 305’s start/stop button, and I’m off.
The 305 features a customizable LCD display. You can select up to six data points to be displayed simultaneously in small rectangles, or you can enlarge one of the points to full width for easier viewing. If you do that you can see only three data points simultaneously. I liked the six-point option, showing heart rate, speed, distance, percent grade, calories burned and compass heading.
The 305’s seven buttons are responsive and easy to push. Hitting the “mode” button will alternate the display among the map, altimeter and menu displays. The altimeter, by the way, measures elevation gain by barometric pressure, not satellite telemetry.
The map display will be disappointing if you are expecting the type of GPS maps seen on car dashboards. The 305 doesn’t give you any road or terrain data. It provides a simple track line of your route. So it’s not a true navigation aid, but it will most definitely help you get home if you are lost on a road or mountain bike ride. Just keep the little triangle representing your current position pointing towards your starting point, or any waypoint you’ve set, and you will get there eventually. The 305 will also show your GPS coordinates if you need to call for rescue.
On the ride I glance at my speed, heart rate and compass heading, and I satisfy my curiosity about grade percentage on some of my favorite hills. In six-panel mode I sometimes need to squint to read the display. I noticed the same complaint in user reviews online. The solution is to switch to the larger, three-panel display.
The 305 really comes into its own after the ride. I start the Garmin Training Center software on my PC, plug the 305 into the included USB cable, and watch it automatically upload all the ride data. The numbers drop into an automatically dated folder, where I have full access to the information. It couldn’t be easier.
Training Center displays a calendar and file bar on the left side so you can easily locate and review workouts. The map, graph, totals and notes are displayed on the right. Unlike the 305’s on-bike display, the software includes a simple road map that gives a better visualization of the ride.
Training Center lets you graph speed, elevation, grade, heart rate, percentage of max heart rate — or combinations of these. Interesting, but this information becomes even more useful as you compare workouts over time on the same route. Just click on the “biking” folder to see totals for all the workouts you’ve logged, including distance, time, average speed, max speed, calories, average heart rate, max heart rate, total ascent and total descent.
If all of that isn’t enough, sign up for the Garmin-operated MotionBased website. Registration is free and allows you to upload your data and get into route sharing, detailed mapping including Google Earth, integration of weather data, advanced graphing and more. For a full list of features comparing the included Training Center software with the online MotionBased, click on “information.”
To get on the cutting edge, you can use the beta version of the “player,” which moves a dot around your route while replaying the accompanying ride data. You can even back up to check your heart rate on that killer hill. You can also e-mail player workouts to a friend. Motion Based “Lite” is free with registration. The full-featured service costs $7.95 per month on the annual plan, $11.95 per month on the monthly plan.
A few more notes of interest:
- The 305 lets you store three bike profiles. This matters because bike weight (along with your weight) is factored into calorie burning calculations.
- Garmin’s heart monitor transmitter, worn around the chest, must be very moist with sweat to provide accurate and consistent readings — more so than for other brands I’ve used. This was noted by other cyclists in online comments. I cured the problem completely by applying electrolyte gel before each ride. (The chest strap with transmitter weighs 75 grams.)
- Apple computers are now supported by downloadable Training Center software and on the MotionBased site.
- The 305 is designed for cycling but works fine for running. I used it on several runs. The software allows data to be saved and analyzed under a “running” category. This adjusts for calorie burn.
- Another version called the Edge 305CAD ($380) includes a cadence monitor instead of at heart monitor. It too is wireless. Or you can buy a 305 for $435 that provides both heart rate and cadence.
- The 305 is “waterproof” (immersion at 1 meter for 30 minutes). So it’s not likely to be bothered by rain. The operating temperature range is -4F to 140F (-20C to 60C).
- About a third of the 98 pages in the owner’s manual fell out. That may be a one-off problem. On the plus side, all the pages are clearly written with sharp illustrations, making it easier to learn all the 305’s functions.
Overall, I enjoyed using the Edge 305HR. Capturing and graphing so much information was interesting and a great motivator. For cyclists who work with a coach, sharing access via a MotionBased online account would be a perfect way to stay connected.