Garmin Trouble

“I don’t like going in without Pickett. It’s like going in with one boot off.”

~Lieutenant General James Longstreet, July 2, 1863

Longstreet’s sentiments were uttered before the attack of his corps on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg.  He made the attack with only two of his three divisions.  The division commanded by Major General George Pickett was too far from the battlefield and had yet to arrive.  Longstreet’s attack failed and Pickett would get his turn on the next day.

More about Longstreet later.

It was with the most profound shock and horror that I discovered my Garmin was not working today.  I turned it on as I have done on every ride for the past two years and the thing wouldn’t turn on.  The Garmin logo appeared and then nothing else happened.  After a few minutes, it shut itself off.  I couldn’t imagine what I had done to my Garmin, when suddenly, I remembered – I had installed an update two days ago.

Oh dear.

I hopped on my computer and made my way to the Garmin forums and quickly discovered that approximately one trillion people are having problems with the most recent update to the Edge 500.  There are a host of problems, some identical to my own.  It appears my Garmin has been destroyed (or at least disabled) by its creator.  No word on what the remedy is.  I tried to call customer support at 6:02 PM, only to discover they closed at 6:00 PM.  I then emailed customer support and they promptly sent me a machine-generated email which informed me that they would answer my question within three days.

The USAF Crystal Ride is in five days.

Using my best Captain Kirk  Wrath of Khan impersonation, I looked up at the ceiling and shouted, “Garmin!”

I have used a bicycle computer on every single ride I have been on since March, 2010.  That’s 256 rides, for those keeping track.  I have been on rides without a cell phone.  I have been on rides without a helmet.  I have been on rides without water, ID, sunglasses, or bicycle shorts.  I have even been on rides without every single piece of cycling equipment I own, save one.  My bike computer.  Now, five days from the event where I need a computer more than any other time, I am computerless.

So I went on a ride tonight, just a short 15.5 miler which I have done many times before (at least this way I could keep my distance logs accurate).  As I left, I felt much like James Longstreet must have felt, except I didn’t have 25,000 soldiers at my command or an imposing hill to take.  Other than that, it was pretty much the same thing, and by that I mean I was missing my most important item, just as Longstreet was missing a key component of his unit.

It is at this part of the post that I am supposed to tell you what a liberating experience it was to be free of my computer, how I could immerse myself in the sights and sounds of the world around me and truly enjoy my cycling experience in a way I failed to appreciate while focused on my bike computer.  I am sorry to report, Dear Reader, this did not happen.  Instead of enjoying these elements, I found myself…  wondering.

How fast was I going?  What was my heart rate?  What is my average pace?  How long have I been out there?  What is my calorie count?  What is the temperature?  All these things are usually at my finger tips.  Now, I had no idea, and it bugged me to no end.

Let us hope that the good people at Garmin Customer Support deliver me from this perdition prior to this Sunday’s sportif.  In the meanwhile, I shall attempt to find my inner calm by sharing with you some pics of an interesting vintage truck display I saw this evening.  Tracy over at Springfield Cyclist often posts on Things I See While Riding.  It’s a neat concept and it is in this spirit I submit the following:

The trucks are the private collection of one Jerry Cooper, or so the sign next to the display states.  No further information is provided, leaving a visitor wondering who Mr. Cooper is and why would he pick this spot to display his collection.  There were about 15 different trucks, sedans, and tractors and it is a very nice collection.  It did nothing for my average pace or my heart rate.  I wish I could tell you the precise impact it had, but I don’t know – my Garmin is broken.

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36 thoughts on “Garmin Trouble

  1. If in dire need you could always pick a wired computer that would give you much of the information. A cheap one would give you speed, average speed, distance and riding time. One of my bikes has one that cost me $18.00 that works fine.

    • They were interesting and completely random. I wish there was a little more information on each vehicle. Mr. Cooper has taken the time to paint the year of each vehicle’s production in the windshield, which was a nice touch, but I can never have enough info!

  2. Maybe a nearby cycling buddy could lend you one as a stand-in? Or something similar that has the basics? I know, it wouldn’t be the same, but …..what a drag.

    • Not a bad idea. I also have my iPhone with its Strava app that will at least capture my route and speed, assuming the battery can last for the entire 3.5 hours of the event.

  3. That would be very frustrating. I am looking into getting one such thing to help me–and I can imagine how frustrating that would be!! Bike on and the trucks were great!

  4. Cycling without even knowing how many miles you’ve done since you last checked, prompts one to “need to know” more often. It’s a drag when cycling to not have access to that which we are most accustomed. I become very compulsive when out without my bike computer or Garmin when touring, or cycling with my club friends. When on the recumbent, I’ve never had it, so I don’t miss it. That’s all about to change, though 🙂

  5. I got tired of dealing with Garmin several years ago and for the past 400 or so rides I’ve used the Cyclemeter app on my iPhone instead. I got tired of paying Garmin for “map updates” that cost almost as much as my GPS did to begin with.

    • I’ve never paid for anything beyond the initial purchase of the gear. The Edge 500 has been rock-steady until this unfortunate event. I dabbled with the Strava App on my iPhone and was disappointed in how quickly the battery drains. I’m certain it wouldn’t cover a century and I’m not sure it can handle the relatively short (90km) Crystal Ride this Sunday. I may have no choice but to find out. And of course the iPhone doesn’t measure temperature, heart rate and power.

      • The battery in the iPhone will not last for a Century ride if you keep the display on the entire time. I keep my iPhone in my jersey pocket. If you have the Cyclemeter app you can get audible feedback during the ride (time, distance, average speed and a bunch of other options).

  6. I hope this makes you feel better, Steve. My Polar is going haywire at the moment, with my heart rate suddenly shooting up to an unhealthy 230 for no reason at all. It even plays with my emotions by occasionally being close to what I’d expect, but not quite (popping up 10 bpm then quickly shooting back down, for example), giving me a sense of insecurity about my hill-climbing prowess, or lack thereof. Hope it’s a quick and easy fix for you.

    • Gerry, in all seriousness – I highly recommend that you see a doctor right away and make sure that you do not have atrial fibrillation. It is a condition that affects some male endurance athletes with few other obvious signs. What you described may not be a problem with the Polar monitor at all. Other signs could be feeling tired and listless, sort of over trained and a unusually high resting heart rate. Seriously. Get checked out.

      • Iron, I appreciate the comment and concern. It’s interesting timing because my mother was just diagnosed with AFib a few months ago. I already have heart palpitations from time to time that started after getting more serious with the training, so I don’t rule anything out. However, I feel nothing unusual when the Polar shoots up (and falls down) and the changes really are dramatic.

        That being said, next time it goes mental I’ll check my pulse to see if it really is the machine. Thanks again for the comment and your post is very useful, too, since many athletes think that being an athlete means they’ll be healthy…it’s unfortunately far from the truth!

      • Glad to hear. Someone I know very well had an ongoing A-fib episode and the only thing that caused him to realize it was his polar heart rate monitor. It was doing the very same thing you described – crazy high numbers with very little exertion and erratic jumping around even when he was resting. Good luck to you. Hopefully all you need is a new monitor.

  7. I totally get this. The pathetic little device I bought at Target two years ago that isn’t even accurate broke this week. I end up having to go to Map my Ride after every ride to get my real stats, and I am lost as well. My husband says ‘let’s get you a Garmin, like the one you like on that blog you follow’. mmmmm…….

    • I think some sort of bike GPS is the way to go. I am not so far “in the tank” for Garmin that I don’t realize there are other fine systems besides the Edge. Having said that, the Edge 500 worked without fail for two years until this incident. I took it to Australia, England, Tampa, Boston, and Virginia Beach. I’ve cycled in the rain, heat, and cold and for over 10 hours at a stretch, all without a hiccup. Until yesterday. Sigh.

  8. Sorry to hear about this Steve, I completely sympathize. I updated my Edge 500 a few days back, but before I did I checked on the forums, etc to see if there was a consensus. Of course, the people who had problems were posting a mile a minute, but I decided to take the plunge anyway. So far so good–I haven’t taken it out on a long ride yet, but just playing with it seems to indicate it’s OK. I used the Webupdater thing…some who had problems ended deleting the new update manually by treating it like a mass storage device when attached to their computer, then re-installing the old (2.8?) version. It seems like some had customer service tell them to mail it in for repair/replacement while others with the exact same issues had a different customer service person walk them through a solution. So you might need to call until you get someone who can actually help you…

    I hope they solve this for you–I know I’d miss mine if it were down, especially for a big event. I’m thinking that your wife’s bike could use one, so maybe the solution in the short term is to get a new one for her, and “borrow” it 🙂

    Good luck! Eager to hear how is all shakes out.

  9. Assuming you have some kind of smartphone, check out mapmyride, endomondo, or strava. Although I still use my relatively ancient 305, I’ll run one of these (usually endomondo) as back up. The downside is that they suck up your battery.

    • Bingo. The battery is a huge issue for longer rides like the 90km ride I will participate in on Sunday. They also don’t have heart rate, temperature and other feeds I enjoy. But they are good in a pinch, especially on shorter rides.

      • Actually they do those things via bluetooth. I bought a separate bluetooth specific HR strap. I really like it because it recharges via USB. I understand it will pair with the Garmin cadence thingie, but I haven’t tried that yet. If you want to know about the strap, I’ll look for you. Oh, & Duracell has chargers you can pop on the the battery starts to go. Probably double your time. However the ambient temp you would be SOL.

  10. As I read about your dilemma, I see a man who has become a ‘garmin junkie’ over the last two years. When bereft of your garmin, it leaves you with the tremors. A true sign of addiction! Solution? A 10 function Cateye computer would cover most of your needs (except HR of course), or even a simple $5 watch……………….
    The big question is: did you enjoy your cycling any less in the days when you didn’t have a garmin? Perhaps this is the moment to re-discover some of those forgotten joys.

  11. I am surprised that a finely honed athlete like yourself can’t tell from your inner signals how you are doing. I like the thought of having to revert to tried and tested methods and can see you riding along holding a map in one hand while simultaneously looking at your watch and taking your pulse and dictating the results into a Dictaphone. It would make for an exciting ride.

    I hope you can sort your Garmin out. It would be nice to think that someone at Garmin could write an e-mail to their affected customers, whom they must be able to recognise, telling them exactly what to do. I am sending you sympathetic vibes across the ocean.

    • LOL! What a brilliant idea – I shall immediately begin assembling the necessary items!

      I am sure I’ll fix the problem, the only question is when. My general lack of technical expertise will be a major determinant in how long this takes.

  12. While I can offer no advice about your Garmin woes, I’ll be at the event on Sunday and will try to cheer loudly enough to compensate for your lack of data!

    • Look for the incredibly handsome man in the grey/black camouflage Army jersey. That will be me. There will be several Army jerseys, so be sure to identify the most handsome man. Of course, others would probably suggest looking for the somewhat large (behemoth by cycling standards) man on a Red Madone. That would probably serve you best!

      • I’m picturing a conversation like this:

        I approach a handsome man in a camouflage Army jersey.
        Me: Steve? Hi!
        Him: Sorry, I’m not Steve.
        Me: But you are handsome and in an Army jersey.
        Him: Ummmm…thanks?
        Me: Have you seen someone more handsome than you in an Army jersey?
        Him: (Backs away)

      • Now THAT’S FUNNY! 🙂

        Just got my bib today: #391. Looking for that number is probably a better method than the above approach.

      • Sure…now the conversation will be

        Me: Excuse me, can you please turn around so I can see the number on your @ss?
        Him: (covers his @ss and backs away)

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