High performance racing bicycle technology and technique
Computers GPS - Magellan Cyclo 505
Monday, September 14th, 2015

 

Magellan Cyclo 505

 

Josh Ross

 

Keen to add some navigation to his do-it-all bike Josh tries out the Magellan Cyclo 505.

 

I’ve been very happy with my Wahoo Fitness RFLKT. It doesn’t cost too much and I like it from a technology standpoint. It makes sense to me that you’d leverage the phone in your pocket to work as a cycle computer instead of duplicating it’s features. The RFLKT isn’t without fault, though. I rode with it for a few months before I initially wrote about it, without issue.

 

But soon after I wrote about it, I did begin to have little issues pop up. Wahoo was very responsive, with excellent customer service, but it was still frustrating. First, I got a new jersey and started putting the phone in the centre pocket. Turns out you can’t do that because it will occasionally lose connection with the RFLKT. Then I ran into issues sometimes with the phone closing the Wahoo Fitness app if I was also using navigation.

 

The Magellan Cyclo 505 is a neat looking unit

The Magellan Cyclo 505 is a neat looking unit

 

To solve this, I’d need to restart the phone and everything would begin to work again. Then I had the RFLKT refuse to turn on at two separate races. In each instance, it turned out the battery was dead. Unfortunately, I got no warning it was getting low and since it’s such a pain to change the battery, I probably wouldn’t have been able to fix it before starting the race, even if I’d had spare batteries with me. Luckily, the phone could still record the data, so I was only without a heads up display.

 

But after the second time this happened, I wanted to see what else was out there. Aside from the little issues I’d had with the RFLKT, still overall a great piece of gear that I am happy to recommend in certain situations, the one big thing that I wanted was turn by turn directions. The only way to get that with the RFLKT is to buy a subscription to Ride With GPS. I also wanted to get notifications from my phone, a seemingly obvious integration for the RFLKT, although that was a bit less important.

 

When I looked around I found one product that really seemed to solve all my wants and needs while at the same time offering both bluetooth and ANT+ sensor support. On paper, the Magellan (Mio outside the US) Cyclo 505 is pretty much the perfect cycling computer. It’s got turn by turn directions, BLE and ANT+ support, a nice big color screen, a long battery life with a rechargeable battery, excellent integration with Strava, wifi route uploads and all of it for less money than some of the competition.

 

I was very excited to try it out and pretty much wanted to shout from the mountains that it’s better than a Garmin! Now that I’ve been using it for a while it’s time to report how it holds up in real life.

 

When I got the unit, I turned it on and plugged it into my Apple computer. There was software available for OSX, and it did a few firmware updates without issue. I was also able to connect my Strava account and get a Mioshare account setup. The Mioshare account is not something I’ve used much at all, but that’s actually a good thing. It’s through this account that you link Strava and once you’ve done that, you can just use Strava. I have no need for anything beyond what Strava provides, so I appreciate this approach.

 

The Magellan Cyclo 505 main screen

The Magellan Cyclo 505 main screen

 

I then spent an hour figuring out how to set up the screens on the unit itself. The screens are customisable but not anywhere near as customisable as they are on the RFLKT. I prefer to have multiple screens with only a little bit of info displayed larger. Most of the time when I’m riding, what I want to see is primarily the cadence then the speed and heart rate. After that, I’m less concerned. Time and distance is nice to see so I don’t lose track of time, but I’d prefer to keep these fields pretty small. Then, when I’m racing, I need cadence, speed, average cadence, average speed, heart rate, and distance.

 

The available options didn’t allow me to set it up quite like I am used to. I ended up with more data than I probably need and the important fields are not as large as I’d like. It’s not bad, though. It is definitely useable and while I would never have called out current grade as something I needed, I have come to find it rather useful. It’s nice to know if you are actually fast or are in fact, on a slight downhill.

 

I already had BLE sensors, so I shelved the sensors that came in the box and went for a ride. Everything seemed to work fine. The next test I tried was navigating to an address. My team rides on Wednesday evenings and despite having ridden to the same meetup place a bunch of times, I’m always a little unsure of the best way to get there. This seemed like a great test.

 

During the setup, I had played with the settings for the navigation. I said I prefered major roads, I prefered cycle routes, try to avoid unpaved roads, and allow cobblestones. One of the big things I wanted to test was how it would respond to the need to reroute. Often I know better than mapping software what the best way to go is up until a certain point and it’s there that I’ll start letting the software lead me. I need something that isn’t constantly going to tell me to turn around.

 

On this point, the Cyclo does pretty good. It reroutes quickly enough, and it doesn’t constantly tell you to turn around. I found that it did have me taking a rather ridiculous route, stick to a cycling friendly street then on to the main street then back to the cycling friendly street, when it’s much more direct to just take another street a block over.

 

The Magellan allows you to set your navigation preferences, keep off the dirt, but head for those cobbles!

The Magellan allows you to set your navigation preferences, keep off the dirt, but head for those cobbles!

 

But overall, I’ve been pretty happy with the turn by turn navigation. I like the way it displays the map and gives you a countdown to the next turn, but only if it’s getting close. And the beep it gives to alert you that there is a turn coming up is very helpful. It’s not by any means perfect, but neither is Google maps, what I consider to be the best out there right now and it will certainly get you where you need to go.

 

This test did reveal a big issue, though. The Cyclo 505 lists compatibility with BLE sensors as a selling point. In fact, it’s one of the things I initially thought was a killer feature. Connecting to BLE and ANT is a degree of future proofing that nothing else on the market has. As soon as I turned on the navigation, though, the Cyclo would drop my BLE sensors.

 

When I questioned Magellan about this, it turns out that while the Cyclo can connect to BLE sensors, they have not done any testing of any sensors and don’t seem to really have plans to. Effectively, this means that the 505 is not compatible with BLE sensors despite having the hardware ability to do so. For most people, this probably isn’t going to be an issue. Most people are going to be using ANT sensors and won’t even notice that BLE doesn’t work. It’s also possible that whatever BLE sensor you have does work. I doubt this, though, because I’ve seen the GPS/BLE issue pop up before with the RFLKT and I think it’s an issue that needs a firmware fix.

 

You also probably don’t want to purchase something like a BLE power meter without knowing for sure it’ll work with your 505. I think this is a big miss, but ultimately the future proofing is still there and you can use ANT sensors without issue. I switched to the Magellan heart rate strap that was included and found it to be quite nice, even a bit more stable of a connection than the previous one I had.

 

I did not end up using the included speed/cadence sensor, though. I really like to keep the bike looking as clean as possible, and I have a cadence magnet stuck to the inside of the pedal bolt. The included speed/cadence sensor wouldn’t have worked with that setup. I went and looked at the list of compatible sensors and found a Motorola unit, the more traditional type with the arm, for only $20. Once I got it set up, it worked great.

 

Setting it up turned out to be another weak spot for Magellan, though. The first time I called the Magellan tech support line, I called because I was suddenly worried I wouldn’t have a way to record rides on the trainer. The answer is that you can and it’s actually rather simple. Unfortunately, the tech support was terrible.

 

The Magellan has a seperate setting for indoor sessions

The Magellan has a seperate setting for indoor sessions

 

They looked up a walk through, then gave me the wrong names for things they wanted me to select next, and generally seemed confused at simple questions. Thankfully, it was an easy answer and with a little bit of (bad) help from tech support, I was able to figure it out. When I was having trouble connecting the new sensor, it was a more complicated problem and tech support was much worse.

 

This time, I decided to try the online chat. I spent an hour trying to have them help me during which they spent most of the time attempting to have me reset the unit, despite the fact that I kept explaining I didn’t want to do that right before a ride. It wasn’t that I wouldn’t have done it, but they had no idea what was happening or why and were just suggesting I reset the unit.

 

At one point, they suggested I should back it up, and I said I didn’t realise you could do that but was happy to do so. After probably 15 minutes of them checking things and me asking questions, it turned out you can only back up the rides, which I don’t need to do. I don’t have any on the unit as they delete after being uploaded to Strava. You can’t back up the setup for the hardware.

 

In the end, they asked one really useful question about 5 minutes before I ended the chat because
of time constraints. What they asked is how I knew the new sensor was connecting. The problem was that it appeared the new sensor was connecting but not working. As it turned out, after I got off the line, the issue was that the Cyclo was holding the old unit connection and wouldn’t connect to the new one. Even when I took the battery out of the old one, it didn’t seem to make a difference.

 

Once I noticed that it was still listing a BLE sensor, I was able to fix it by walking down the block with the new sensor and the Cyclo and searching for the new sensor while well out of range of the old one. The initial suggestion of resetting the unit probably would have worked, but it wasn’t the issue at all and would have meant another hour or so of configuring the unit again.

 

What would be beneficial is the ability to delete sensors from the Cyclo instead of only pairing a new one. Also better tech support would be welcome. Now that I’m using ANT sensors and I’m not asking anything of tech support, I’ve stopped running into issues.

 

I keep the backlight on but at it’s lowest setting which allows me to see it in the shade or tunnels, but the battery lasts plenty long enough. I’ve not had issues with the touchscreen while using gloves. I’ve successfully used its turn by turn navigation to get places, and the show me a route feature seems to offer good suggestions.

 

The wifi upload is really fantastic. It’s not automatic, something I was hoping it might be, but it’s one button to upload when I come home and as soon as it’s uploaded, it’s on Strava. I wish the included out front mount was actually more out front, but it’s been fine, essentially the same as what Garmin gives you and there are alternatives you can find.

 

The magellan Cyclo 505 allows you to customise what your screen displays

The magellan Cyclo 505 allows you to customise what your screen displays

 

By selecting, or creating, an indoor trainer profile it will work well to record trainer rides but I’ve always found the outdoor recording to be accurate and I’ve never experienced any kind of error, or delay, with connecting to satellites on startup. I have also been happy with the connection to my phone and the ability to know if my wife is trying to reach me.

 

Overall, I think a few speed bumps aside, this is a great option and especially compared to the competition. The big one, of course, being Garmin. So how does it stack up to the Garmins? The Garmin 510/520 doesn’t have any real routing capability at all. The Garmin 810 does have the ability to do navigation, but it comes with no maps. It’s not impossible to put them on, but it’s something it can’t do out of the box. The Garmin 1000 is the unit the Cyclo 505 really competes against, but the 1000 is $200 more for the bundle.

 

The Garmins have a variety of features that the Magellan doesn’t but most of them aren’t things that you’ll use or need. For example, the Garmin 1000 can do segment leaders through Garmin Connect, but Magellan just syncs to Strava with one button. Strava does a better job and way more people use it. I prefer that solution.

 

The Garmins do have a couple of features that I miss having, though. They have the ability to race yourself or someone else, virtually. Different models have different levels of this, and I’m not sure I’d actually use it, but it sounds interesting.

 

Then the other big features they have, that I definitely do wish the Magellan had, is the ability to share your location with people. I’d love to have an easy way for my wife to see where I am on a ride and the Magellan doesn’t have that. Plus, the newly announced live Strava segments is a very nice feature, although it does require a Strava Pro account.

 

The bottom line here is that aside from a couple of features, the Cycle 505 does more and costs less than the competition. It’s not actually compatible with bluetooth sensors, and the tech support is really bad, but most people aren’t going to try to use BLE sensors and if I hadn’t been trying to use alternate sensors, I likely wouldn’t have been trying to contact support. I think this is a good buy and I’m excited to try it out with a few other accessories in the future.

 

Magellan

 

 

Compare prices and buy cycle computers/GPS units from:

Handsling CEXevoMotor Insurance for Cyclists
HSC Ceramics

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