Product: Garmin Edge Touring Plus
Price: £249 (list price), £167.19 (Wiggle; Dec 2016)
Duration used: 200+ days
Purchased from: Wiggle UK
Waterproof body and touchscreen works well in rain
Ability to upload custom maps via SD card
Built-in barometer gives fairly accurate altitude readings
Requires some computer knowledge to add GPX tracks and custom maps
Why Do I Need a GPS Cycling Computer?
You don’t. Most touring cyclists we have come across either do not use a cycling computer at all or opt for a simple odometer, content to know their kilometres and the speed they are travelling at (usually measured by rotations of the front wheel). The Garmin Edge Touring Plus is a GPS device, meaning that it collects data about your GPS coordinates constantly while recording. It consumes much more battery than an odometer, only lasting about 9 hours of continual use, but produces a beautiful GPX track which can be uploaded to a computer for sharing with the world. It also doubles as an easily navigable world map. You have the ability to load custom maps on to the device and do away with any paper maps you might be thinking of carrying around. While we do prefer using the mobile phone app OsmAnd for viewing maps and destinations, the Edge Touring Plus is definitely a viable alternative if you don’t mind using the small screen.
We find the Edge Touring Plus a great little device to use; it saves us phone battery finding our current location, produces excellent GPS tracks for reminiscing and sharing with our readers and followers and tells us lots of other useful little things about our environment: altitude, temperature, sunset/sunrise and many others. These features are certainly not necessities for the touring cyclist and if you don’t own one already, the price point may be enough to put you off!
Edge Touring Plus Features
Edge Touring vs Edge Touring Plus
As suggested in the title, we are using the Edge Touring Plus, a slightly suped up version of the Edge Touring. The actual differences are the following:
- Built-in barometer for gauging altitude
- ANT+ sensor for picking up heart rate data (e.g. from a chest strap)
The barometer is actually a useful feature for a bike tourer. While not super accurate (often being out by 100-200 metres at 4,000m altitude) as an altitude meter, it gives a good indication of all elevation data you could want to know when touring: are you still high enough to be in a mosquito free zone? Are my legs hurting because I’ve climbed too much today?
Watching our elevation numbers during the day is actually pretty interesting and while we don’t really keep an eye on our kilometres biked any more, we do regularly see how many metres we are climbing.
As for the heart rate data, when I lived in a city and still rode a road bike, it was very useful indeed. However, we haven’t had any use for it on the tour so far and don’t anticipate we will in the future. Still, if you’re somebody that loves to watch their numbers and cycle in specific heart rate zones, maybe this would be a big selling point.
Okay, so the Garmin has a lot of strengths. It is a durable device with a touchscreen that functions in even very poor weather. However, looking up addresses on the tiny device has to be one of the world’s most infuriating tasks. Even if you have an exact address, chances are you will struggle to find it on the address search. You will have a much easier time creating a GPX track to a specific address on a computer and sending it to your Edge Touring Plus. This somewhat defeats the point of a GPS device specifically for touring, since you are fairly unlikely to be carrying around a laptop (unless you are us!). It’s something Garmin definitely need to think about improving on the Edge Touring Plus.
Uploading Custom (OSM) Maps to your Garmin or GPS
Depending on where you purchased your Garmin Touring GPS, its SD card will come preloaded with the Garmin street maps for the respective region. We started off with EU maps, which were pretty good and didn’t need replacing until we flew to South America. When we landed in Bolivia, we realised we had completely forgotten to download the maps and biked for several weeks without them.
There’s a reason it took so long to get them; the map files are not so easy to locate and getting them from the internet to your GPS device is more technical than we imagined. We did finally figure it out and hope to make it easy for you too, so keep an eye out for our article on uploading custom maps to your Garmin or GPS coming soon.
All in all, the Garmin Edge Touring Plus is a solid option for anyone looking for a GPS device to accompany them on their travels. The ability to load several custom maps coupled with semi-accurate altitude readings makes it a fairly unique product in the cycle computer space. If we had not already owned the device when starting our adventures, I doubt we would have dropped the significant amount of money it will set you back. The bike tourer simply does not need all of the features which come with the Edge Touring Plus and a mobile phone with offline maps installed is far superior to the Garmin’s tiny GPS screen and limited map functionality.