Garmin have established themselves as the GPS bike computer market leader offering a range of user friendly, stylish, innovative and intuitive products.
The lightweight, compact Garmin Edge Explore 820 was launched in 2016 along with the Edge 820 with the Explore version on test designed specifically for the cycle touring market.
Whilst the two 820 models look almost identical and share many of the same features such as the hi-res 2.3" colour touchscreen display, Bluetooth Smart for bad weather alerts and incoming calls, HRM compatibility, GroupTrack (allows tracking of other Garmin users within your group), LiveTrack (allows friends and family to track you), and WiFi uploads, there are a number of key differences.
The most important of these is that the Edge Explore 820 is substantially cheaper than it's sibling. By dropping roadie-specific, performance-oriented features such as FTP estimates, VO2 max data and Strava Live integration from the Edge Explore 820, Garmin have come up with a more affordable unit that provides touring and adventure cyclists with exactly the features they require, and no more.
In terms of set up, the Edge Explore 820 is pretty straightforward. Both the standard and out front mounts are quickly and easily assembled and feel secure when in place. Once you're set up and ready to roll, the Edge Explore 820 is intuitive to operate, meaning you won't have to spend hours reading manuals before hitting the road. The touchscreen is responsive even when wet and although Garmin claim it can be operated with gloves, we did find it a little tricky at times.
Navigation-wise, it's not half bad. The pre-loaded Garmin Cycle Maps provide you with a choice of routes and bike paths, points of interest, elevation data and the ability to search using an address. The only problem we encountered was that the screen is a tad on the small side so found ourselves having to zoom in a lot to get an idea of where we were.
When it comes to adventure specific GPS cycling computers, one of the key considerations for users is always going to be battery life. The 15 hours of power supplied by the Edge Explore 820 is ok, but the addition of the optional battery-save mode takes it into a different category. The ability to extend battery life by up to 50% will be absolutely key for anyone heading out on longer rides and overnight trips.
Of all the features on the Edge Explore 820, the one that stood out for us was Incident Detection. Basically, when the unit thinks you've crashed it will text a pre-selected mobile number warning them of your plight. We often find ourselves riding solo in the wilderness which can be concerning for both ourselves and friends/family at home so knowing that we had Incident Detection on board would offer a lot of reassurance all round.