The Curious Case Of The Malfunctioning Garmin

davis ford

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “Yo, Steve, I’ve been carefully studying the above ride map and what’s up with you starting your ride at a different spot than where you ended it?  That has to be about a mile away.  You never do stuff like that, bro.”

Of course, you are right, although I’m not sure why you’re thinking in hip-hop slang.  That’s weird.

I like the positive thinking, but I'd prefer something more accurate.
I like the positive thinking, but I’d prefer something more accurate.

I didn’t actually start my ride a mile away; that’s just the spot where I got my Garmin GPS to start working.  Until that point, it was stubbornly refusing to cooperate.  After turning it on, it simply gave me the encouraging status of “working” and then spun its wheels.  After several minutes of patiently waiting, I tried to turn it off, only to be greeted with a long beep that continued until I pressed the power button again.  Then it finally shut off.  I was optimistic when I hit the power button again, but the thing simply gave me the same “working,” message (which was increasingly looking like Exhibit A in a false advertisement lawsuit I was contemplating).  I wasn’t going to sit around all day, so I started my ride and hoped the Garmin would come to its senses.

I’ve used my Garmin 494 times since I got it in 2011.  It’s simply the most reliable piece of gear I own.  I’ve dropped it, been hit by a car with it, been rained on, baked, froze, and just about every other thing that you might expect to happen to a GPS while riding or running. When something works 494 times, you kinda expect it to work on the 495th time.  When it doesn’t work, you’re somewhat at a loss for what to do next.

Convinced that the thing wasn’t going to fix itself, I decided to start fiddling.  To be honest, I probably should have moved to this stage much sooner in the process, but fiddling doesn’t come naturally for me.  I like to have a rational purpose for doing something and pressing buttons for no good reason doesn’t seem very logical to me.  Except that it was logical.  After pressing the button that causes the Garmin’s stop watch to start/stop, the device snapped out of its coma and immediately began giving me the display full of data that I’m used to seeing.  Why this solved the problem I have no idea.

With the case solved, I headed toward Davis Ford.  This is a picturesque area that is always nice to visit.  You can even take some pictures if the traffic is light or you don’t mind cars flying past you at 60mph with only a couple of feet of shoulder to separate you from them.

This is the bridge with the Occoquan River to the right.  You can see there is still quite a bit of grit on the shoulder from the winter snow plowing.

Davis Ford

Davis Ford is named after a family which owned a lot of land on both sides of the river back in the late 1700s.  Beyond that, I can’t find much else about them.  The exact crossing seems to have changed over the years.  Washington and Rochambeau moved part of their armies along this road as they traveled from NY City to Yorktown.  In the Civil War, Confederate troops from Georgia bivouacked along the river on the lookout for a Federal incursion southward.

Towards the other end of the bridge, there is a view of some sand bars that would be interesting to explore when it is less muddy and I have a boat instead of a bike.


I then climbed up some hills on Davis Ford Road and eventually made my way home.  I stopped at the less historic Lake Terrapin (created a few years ago by a home developer) for another picture.


I’m pleased my Garmin is fixed but less than excited about the snow that is currently falling outside my window.  With the official start of Spring only days away, Winter doesn’t seem ready to release its grip just yet.

22 thoughts on “The Curious Case Of The Malfunctioning Garmin

  1. Nice write-up. I, too, love my Garmin Edge 500 – though it has never worked “perfectly.” Among several little quirks, to this day, with hundreds of rides documented, it still reads my average speed and average moving speed as more or less the same. Even on a ride where I stopped for 30, 40, 60, 80 minutes total, the two speeds still read within a tenth of each other. I recently rode with a guy who had the identical Edge 500, and nearly identical bike and setup. We ride the exact same ride, stopped at the exact same spots for the exact same amount of time… when we were done, his avg moving speed was 2.2 mph faster than his avg. Mine — .1

    I’ve contacted CS three times and despite my love for and loyalty to Garmin, their CS is umm, less than stellar. After sending me through the same old routines to see if maybe it’s not the Edge and I’m just an idiot, they come back with a version of “Yeah, we’ve heard of this issue before, sorry.”

    Anyway, until I can afford a Joule GPS with Powertap meter, my Garmin will continue to chart my rides. I love my Hal 9000.

  2. My edge 305 has been acting up alot. I’ve almost worn the buttons off, and the battery is getting way past it’s prime. I could easily replace the battery but I’ll probably end up buying a new one because I doubt it’s even close to waterproof anymore. Still it’s been rock solid for 3 years now.

    Mine did something like yours and I had to find the button sequence that did a reset. Think it was power + reset button + enter or something like that.

  3. Glad to learn your garmin came to its senses, and hope it holds onto them for years to come. And, ahhhhhh … for a ride on a road and two water bottles. Yum.

  4. I know Garmin have been doing lots of updates to both the webpage interface and the unit software recently. It could be that it updated the software when you last plugged it in and when you next turn on the unit it completes the installation process, thats the usual process and shows that ‘working’ signal.

    1. That could explain it, Brian. I have been faithfully downloading those updates you mention. Perhaps the delay was simply the device completing the installation.

  5. Looks like it was a good ride even with the misbehaving technology! Good write up too. I hope the snow and winter finally release its grip on the rest of the country.

    1. Someday soon, it will be Spring. Officially, this occurs on Thursday and I think the weather will cooperate as well, if the forecast is to be believed.

  6. Good blog Steve. I’m a Strava man myself, but with all those around me who swear by Garmin, perhaps I should give it some consideration. I like the pictures, beautiful blue sky. The UK is on the change now, I have been out with shorts and lightweight tops for a couple of days now. Still an edge to the wind but quite bearable. It must be Spring, I cut my grass at the weekend!


  7. I am sorry about the snow coming just when things were looking better. I saw some on the edge of a weather map on TV and wondered of it would catch you.

    Perhaps all the Garmin satellites were busy looking for Malayan aeroplanes.

  8. Here’s another Garmin 500 story… today I rode 50 miles and at the end of my ride, I looked at my Garmin before shutting it off. It said I had climbed 3200 feet and change.

    I uploaded to Garmin Connect, and it lists my ride elevation gain as 2,930.

    And so it goes…..

    1. Yikes. Now I’m going to pay more attention to my data before I load it into Garmin Connect. I wonder if the same thing’s happening to me and I’m just too dim to notice it.

  9. I have had problems with my Garmin 800 after installing firmware updates and have had to similar hard restart it. A couple of months ago it went properly on the blink. I had to try some software rejigging through undocumented means and revert it back to an older firmware version. After all that – back to be the old bulletproof device that you describe.

  10. Thanks. My Garmin has been giving me the “Working” message for months. Decided to fiddle and found this post and… voila! Fantastic!

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