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  1. #1
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    Dedicated bike GPS done wrong

    I unwrapped my new Garmin Oregon 450 with much anticipation last night, but sadly it was short lived. As many people do, I did a lot of research on the internet before settling on the 450 to use for mountain biking, hiking and other outdoor activities. It got good reviews and I read one write-up by a claimed user that uses it for mountain biking that swung me.
    Anyway, I wanted a decent fairly low cost GPS for multiple outdoor activities. I have a smartphone with many apps that can do much of what I want to do, but thought it would be better to get a more rugged and dedicated device that was purpose built for the great outdoors. In hindsight, that was a big mistake.

    1. Dumb and user (un)friendly
    It has been a long time since I worked with a Garmin product and I just assumed in the world of smartphones and smart apps, that the same thinking would now be employed on GPS devices. Well, it is not. The interface is archaic and as ridged as the rock of Gibraltar. Yes, you can customise this and customise that, but it remains rigid. The pre-programmed options (profiles) are not great and can’t give me what I want; certainly not that I can find. The device has a 3” screen and I want to use half of it to see the map of the route I am cycling. This is rather important in mountain biking… I also want to see my current speed and a couple of basic KPI’s. Well, to my disappointment you can get the one or the other, but not both on the same screen at the same time? If you can, I certainly can’t figure it out. I don’t have days to surf around on various forums to figure it out. My point here is that I didn’t have to surf for days to figure out how my smartphone (Samsung S4) works and trust me that is much more complicated and can do much more than this, so why should I have to do it with a GPS?

    2. Dimensions and weight
    The device is bigger and heavier than what I imagined. Yes, it is rugged and made for rough treatment, but why so much bigger than a smartphone that can do 50 things more? I’m sure if you ripped the GPS module out of a smartphone and just kept the bare essentials with it along with screen and battery, you would end with something a quarter of the weight. Add a bullet proof case and it would still be half the weight and certainly have much smaller dimensions.

    3. Software interface
    This is where it really fails and big time. There are multiple Garmin software interfaces for communicating with this device, but each one fails in some way or another. The first is Garmin Connect, which is a web interface that allows you to download activities you have done and upload them to the web, share and record for future reference. It uses downloadable software to communicate with the device. The other and probably most important thing, is that Garmin Connect allows you to download tracks that others have already done. Imagine this, you can pre-plan a mountain biking trip so that you can follow a route that others have already followed and then clock your time against them. Well, it doesn’t work. You can do all the fancy planning and downloading of tracks on Garmin Connect, but when you plug in your Oregon 450, it won’t let you upload it! It only allows you to download trips that you have already done. What is the point of having this device then? The technology exists and there are hacks that now allow you to do it, but why do you have to go to such lengths? Why can Garmin not just support their own products properly?
    The second interface is Garmin Basecamp. I have had more success uploading and planning routes with this package, but it is not easy to use and you need a PhD in astrophysics to get it to do what you want. Why? Why not just make something easy and intuitive like the rest of the world does with software? Why not make it powerful too so that you can do anything you want? I have now resorted to using both Garmin Connect and Garmin Basecamp to get what I want. This means exporting files from one to the other, using hacks and cracks to make that work. Why not just make it work properly in the first place? Why are only some devices supported by Garmin Connect?

    4. Hardware interface
    This is a real corker. The device uses a mini-USB cable to communicate with computer for updates, upload activities and download new routes (if you have the time to follow the processes described above). It also has a built in wireless communication module whereby it can send information such as routes etc. to other compatible Garmin devices. But it can’t communicate wirelessly with a computer! Why can it not just use the same wireless module for that? Even if you had to buy some kind of a dongle to make it work?

    5. Product range
    Another baffling thing is why Garmin have so many products? There must be 20 models targeted at outdoor navigation alone. Another 10 especially for cyclists and another 10 for joggers and other fitness orientated people. This could be done with two or three products with different software applications. At the heart of each one of these devices is a GPS module, touch screen and processor with a bit of memory. It should be fairly easy to standardise and bring cost down substantially. You could have one device that could be used by road cyclists (who are critical on weight) with a removable case that you can switch to another case and then use on a mountain bike (where ruggedness is more important) and then another case to use as hiking GPS. Why have different devices for each application? You could have different software apps dedicated for hiking or for cycling or for whatever you want. Garmin can open an app store and make tons of money that way. Having so many products that are so similar yet so different just pushes cost up and forces the user to purchase more than one device. In both cases the only winner is Garmin. Why not be more consumer friendly?

    I am really surprised that a company like Garmin have not moved with the times. They have such a good reputation and build such good quality products, why not capitalise on that. Have they not realised what happens with companies that don’t? Why not just have a look at BlackBerry, where they were 5 years ago and where they are today. If the boys at Garmin don’t wake up and move with the times, they will end up in the same pile… All that needs to happen is someone to wake up and see the need for a SMART GPS, build it on Android or IOS (or whatever SMART platform) and they will close their doors…

    My advice is that if you are looking for a GPS to use on a mountain bike (perhaps road too?) right now, I reckon you are better off buying a used iPhone and dedicated bike mount than investing in a so called “outdoor” GPS. It will cost you the same, but you’ll get what you want through the right app and not have to deal with all the BS you have to as described above.

  2. #2
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    Wow Chuck!

    Well, I use a Garmin 500 for cycling and I even use it for hiking with great results. I find Garmin connect to be easy to use with an over abundance of information at my disposal.

    Sorry you had such a bad experience with your Oregon, but I am sure it's main intended use was/is not cycling. I am sure it's an added feature because they already have the programming in place for other devices.

    Good luck and welcome to MTBR although most people don't use their first post to *****, that comes later.

  3. #3
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    One word, unrealistic expectations.

  4. #4
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    ^ You have 50% too many words.
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  5. #5
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    You opened it last night, woke up this morning and wrote review like you are an expert on it.
    How about learning a little more about it, giving it some real world use, etc, before passing judgement?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by chuck_za View Post
    ...I wanted a decent fairly low cost ...In hindsight, that was a big mistake.
    Applys to pretty much everything, not just GPS units.
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  7. #7
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    While I agree that it is a bit antiquated as compared to modern smartphones, but if you did as much research as you said did I'm sure you realize Garmin is not running an IOS or Android operating system so to expect the Garmin to act like those devices is an oversight on your part. Keep in mind the hardware requirements are quite different as well. I've heard the GPS receivers in smartphones aren't always that great.

    Regardless I do think Garmin could use an update to their model line.
    “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did." Mark Twain

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by net wurker View Post
    ^ You have 50% too many words.



    Yep, like the 50% unrealized expectations.

  9. #9
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    It sounds like his new Oregon 450 really grinds his gears.

  10. #10
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    Wow that was long.

    Garmin connect allows you to save someones activity as a course and send to your device. Then all you have to do is tell your Garmin you want to follow the course. I think you need to spend more time using the Garmin before you give up on it. I love my edge 500 and wouldn't go back to trying to use a phone.

  11. #11
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    You had me at "hello"

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve View Post
    You opened it last night, woke up this morning and wrote review like you are an expert on it.
    How about learning a little more about it, giving it some real world use, etc, before passing judgement?
    You're right, I will spend more time on it. I was up half the night due to a misbehaving two year old and that contributed to the lengthy post. I'm not holding my breath, but will give the unit more of a chance.

    Having said that, part of the reason for the post is that I was hoping someone at Garmin would pick it up and have a good read at it. We have the ability now to make things more flexible/customizeable and easier to use (as smartphones have proved) and I see no reason this cannot be applied to GPS.

  13. #13
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    I love my Garmin 500 but if I were Garmin I'd be worried. Smartphones are eating the world. I look at my Garmin 500 while I ride for various bits of info but the most important (to me) analysis happens after the ride when I log the ride on Strava. I could get all that with a $50 Cateye on the bar and my phone in the pocket running the free strava app (or one of the many alternatives).
    My phone has a 1080p display, a quad-core processor, 64 GB of storage, it connects at incredible speed to the cellular data network and calculates position using both the US and the Russian GPS systems. There is *no way* that Garmin could offer me similar functionality for the ~$130 this phone cost me (including cost of 32GB microSD card). I know, I pay a lot more for my carrier subscription but I'd do that anyway and when my contract runs out the phone still remains a viable bike ride logging machine -- even without cellular connection.
    Most dedicated cyclists still use Garmins or equivalent for good reasons but for casual users and people on a budget I am sure the smartphone will take over. I am not too surprised by the OP's opinion.

  14. #14
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    Hard to believe

    It's hard to believe all you say is true, particularly since you just got it and you are unfamiliar with it. I especially find it hard to believe you can't upload activities to Garmin Connect. But all too often people buying GPS units have unrealistic expectations. Some of it is your own fault, e.g. dimensions and weight could be ascertained before purchasing.

  15. #15
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    Dedicated bike GPS done wrong

    Quote Originally Posted by chuck_za View Post
    You're right, I will spend more time on it. I was up half the night due to a misbehaving two year old and that contributed to the lengthy post. I'm not holding my breath, but will give the unit more of a chance.

    Having said that, part of the reason for the post is that I was hoping someone at Garmin would pick it up and have a good read at it. We have the ability now to make things more flexible/customizeable and easier to use (as smartphones have proved) and I see no reason this cannot be applied to GPS.
    First, the Oregon 450 is not a dedicated mtb/cycling GPS. It can be used as such, but is not as easy to use as an Edge series GPS.

    If you only want one GPS for hiking, bike, car, the Oregon is fine, and very customizable. If you can figure it out.

    I have the Oregon 450. Used it on the bike for a while. Prefer my Edge 305, mostly because it is a Bike Computer with GPS capabilities, not a GPS with a cycling computer display screen.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by AZ View Post
    One word, unrealistic expectations.
    Twenty years ago I got my first cellphone. It was a clunky user unfriendly thing. Today I have a phone that runs Android, it is easy to use and fully customizeable. Twenty years ago I bought my first GPS. Today I bought a new one. It has a colour touch screen, but for the rest, is pretty much the same... Do you get my point?

    Bet you $50 that if the GPS industry doesn't catch on within a year or two, Samsung (or someone else) will be making a fully customizeable user friendly GPS running on Android and Garmin will be selling maps only...

  17. #17
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    Dedicated bike GPS done wrong

    Quote Originally Posted by borabora View Post
    I love my Garmin 500 but if I were Garmin I'd be worried. Smartphones are eating the world. I look at my Garmin 500 while I ride for various bits of info but the most important (to me) analysis happens after the ride when I log the ride on Strava. I could get all that with a $50 Cateye on the bar and my phone in the pocket running the free strava app (or one of the many alternatives).
    My phone has a 1080p display, a quad-core processor, 64 GB of storage, it connects at incredible speed to the cellular data network and calculates position using both the US and the Russian GPS systems. There is *no way* that Garmin could offer me similar functionality for the ~$130 this phone cost me (including cost of 32GB microSD card). I know, I pay a lot more for my carrier subscription but I'd do that anyway and when my contract runs out the phone still remains a viable bike ride logging machine -- even without cellular connection.
    Most dedicated cyclists still use Garmins or equivalent for good reasons but for casual users and people on a budget I am sure the smartphone will take over. I am not too surprised by the OP's opinion.
    What kind of battery life do you get while using your phone as a bike computer?

    I have no desire to own another smartphone or pay for the required service plan.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by chuck_za View Post
    Twenty years ago I got my first cellphone. It was a clunky user unfriendly thing. Today I have a phone that runs Android, it is easy to use and fully customizeable. Twenty years ago I bought my first GPS. Today I bought a new one. It has a colour touch screen, but for the rest, is pretty much the same... Do you get my point?

    Bet you $50 that if the GPS industry doesn't catch on within a year or two, Samsung (or someone else) will be making a fully customizeable user friendly GPS running on Android and Garmin will be selling maps only...


    Just what I want, a phone/gps that does both of those things half assed and with battery that lasts 3 hours.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by borabora View Post
    I love my Garmin 500 but if I were Garmin I'd be worried. Smartphones are eating the world. I look at my Garmin 500 while I ride for various bits of info but the most important (to me) analysis happens after the ride when I log the ride on Strava. I could get all that with a $50 Cateye on the bar and my phone in the pocket running the free strava app (or one of the many alternatives).
    My phone has a 1080p display, a quad-core processor, 64 GB of storage, it connects at incredible speed to the cellular data network and calculates position using both the US and the Russian GPS systems. There is *no way* that Garmin could offer me similar functionality for the ~$130 this phone cost me (including cost of 32GB microSD card). I know, I pay a lot more for my carrier subscription but I'd do that anyway and when my contract runs out the phone still remains a viable bike ride logging machine -- even without cellular connection.
    Most dedicated cyclists still use Garmins or equivalent for good reasons but for casual users and people on a budget I am sure the smartphone will take over. I am not too surprised by the OP's opinion.
    I think you got my point. Expect a lynch mob to come knocking...

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan4jeepin View Post
    Wow that was long.

    Garmin connect allows you to save someones activity as a course and send to your device. Then all you have to do is tell your Garmin you want to follow the course. I think you need to spend more time using the Garmin before you give up on it. I love my edge 500 and wouldn't go back to trying to use a phone.
    For some reason, it doesn't work on the Oregon 450, which is part of my gripe. See https://forums.garmin.com/showthread...ect-amp-Oregon You will see some of the convoluted ways users are trying to get around this problem.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wherewolf View Post
    It's hard to believe all you say is true, particularly since you just got it and you are unfamiliar with it. I especially find it hard to believe you can't upload activities to Garmin Connect. But all too often people buying GPS units have unrealistic expectations. Some of it is your own fault, e.g. dimensions and weight could be ascertained before purchasing.
    Feel free to read https://forums.garmin.com/showthread...ect-amp-Oregon . You are absolutely right and I should have paid more attention to physical dimensions and weight. I really just expected more from an industry leader...

  22. #22
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    What cell phone do you own that you're using to make a comparison to this gps with?

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by borabora View Post
    I love my Garmin 500 but if I were Garmin I'd be worried. Smartphones are eating the world. I look at my Garmin 500 while I ride for various bits of info but the most important (to me) analysis happens after the ride when I log the ride on Strava. I could get all that with a $50 Cateye on the bar and my phone in the pocket running the free strava app (or one of the many alternatives).
    My phone has a 1080p display, a quad-core processor, 64 GB of storage, it connects at incredible speed to the cellular data network and calculates position using both the US and the Russian GPS systems. There is *no way* that Garmin could offer me similar functionality for the ~$130 this phone cost me (including cost of 32GB microSD card). I know, I pay a lot more for my carrier subscription but I'd do that anyway and when my contract runs out the phone still remains a viable bike ride logging machine -- even without cellular connection.
    Most dedicated cyclists still use Garmins or equivalent for good reasons but for casual users and people on a budget I am sure the smartphone will take over. I am not too surprised by the OP's opinion.
    Again its all about expectations. If all you are looking for is an average speed and means to upload your data to Strava you are correct. But do you have topo maps on your smart phone? Can you download GPX tracks to it so you can use it to navigate? (while Im sure you can do some/all of this on a smart phone this is where the GPS's shine) What happens if you are out on a multiday ride? How will you charge your phone? I purchased my GPS because I was getting into endurance races. I can easily download and modify GPX tracks in topofusion, download to the Garmin and take my Oregon out on a 2 day ride with an extra set of AA batteries.
    “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did." Mark Twain

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by chuck_za View Post
    For some reason, it doesn't work on the Oregon 450, which is part of my gripe. See https://forums.garmin.com/showthread...ect-amp-Oregon You will see some of the convoluted ways users are trying to get around this problem.
    So a convoluted way is to plug your Garmin into a computer, open windows explorer, click on the Garmin and drag a GPX file into the GPX folder? Wow I must be getting old. I guess the new norm must be to just ask your device to transfer files wirelessly and let the "magic" begin.

    Maybe people think using a key to unlock your car is convoluted these days as well.
    “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did." Mark Twain

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by chuck_za View Post
    Feel free to read https://forums.garmin.com/showthread...ect-amp-Oregon . You are absolutely right and I should have paid more attention to physical dimensions and weight. I really just expected more from an industry leader...
    You do realize the Garmin Oregon 450 was released in Nov 2009, 4 years ago !!! Its under their discontinued section on the Garmin site. How good were the smartphones 4 years ago? I actually have the same unit Oregon 450t and I have zero issues getting GPX files onto the unit.
    “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did." Mark Twain

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