Stages Dash L50 GPS Cycling Computer: An Update
Some info about the big Stages Dash Update and a particular use case.
It hasn’t been long but my Stages Dash article needed an update. I do the best that I can to deeply understand all the products I write about. I try to check out every use case and figure out how everything works. All that pales in comparison to what it’s like trying to answer questions from someone who wants to buy something. Late one night I got a message from a riding friend asking for cycling computer buying help.
This friend of mine has a Garmin head unit, but he’s tired of it. He’s tired of the poor battery life, and he wants a better screen. He spends a lot of time riding an O.P.E.N. UP in the back country, and he wants great mapping. At this point, I knew the Stages L50 was the right unit for him, but it was going to take some convincing.
First, we started with a size comparison. There was concern that the L50 was too large, but side by side, there is very little functional difference. The L50 is a bit wider if held in portrait mode next to the Wahoo ROAM. When it’s actually mounted on a bike, it’s likely going to be in landscape mode. Mounted in landscape, the L50 is wider but shorter. No matter how you look at it, there’s not much functional difference in size between the two.
The Wahoo approach works really well when you want to follow a dot on a map and don’t need anything else.
After addressing that concern, we moved on to discussing how the two units handled the map screen. Coming from Garmin, he wasn’t expecting the Wahoo approach. One of his main wish list items was being able to handle getting off track in the backcountry. This is actually an interesting point of comparison because the two units work so differently to solve the same problem. If you are not following a course, then the Stages approach is going to work better.
Wahoo does not let you pan, and there is little detail on the map screen. Wahoo pushes the user to the companion app if you need to check the surrounding area. Then, even in the companion app there’s less detail than what you get from Stages. Alternatively, if you are following a course, then the ROAM would do its best to reroute you if you are off course. If that works, then that is likely a win. If it doesn’t, then again, the Stages approach of having the information available would be more useful. Wahoo is also missing points of interest.
The Stages approach gives more flexibility when things don’t go according to plan.
The last issue that we took a look at was battery life. When I wrote the first review, I didn’t mention battery life. The reason for that had to do with what I knew was coming. In previous testing, I had managed about 9 hours of battery life with the screen on auto brightness, all my sensors connected, and occasional map viewing. In other words, normal usage. Compared to the 17 hours that the Wahoo ROAM gets, that wasn’t anything to write home about. That all changed when the Dash 2.0 firmware landed.
The Stages Dash L50 and M50 received a big update that more than doubled battery life.
Stages Dash 2.0 firmware update brings a few small changes, but the star of the show is a drastic increase in battery life. Run everything like I was previously, and the runtime has gone from 9 hours up to somewhere between 12 and 14 hours depending on how much you are viewing the map. Switch to the metered power mode—backlight will dim by 50% after 30s of inactivity, waking to your normal brightness setting when a button is pressed—and you can expect somewhere between 14 hours and 17 hours of battery life again depending on how much you are viewing the map screen. That pretty much brings parity with Wahoo, but Stages actually has another trick. If you switch to low power mode—backlight will turn off after 10s of inactivity, waking to your normal brightness setting when a button is pressed—your battery life can extend as long as 23 hours.
I always shy away from outright saying that one product is better than another and I’m going to do the same here. Different people have different needs and that’s why it’s great to have healthy competition. This is a very specific use case, but it’s one that will likely resonate with a lot of people. If you need detailed maps, and you need the ability to use them without a phone, then the Stages L50 is an excellent choice. Similarly, if you could see yourself needing up to 23 hours of run time from your cycling computer, Stages Dash L50 can now meet that need.