I can tell you exactly when I began to dislike the Garmin 810: it was as I took the left-hand turn that leads you towards Hampton Court Bridge, and the treacherous thing froze. It did exactly the same thing the following week and the next (each time I was following the course of my regular training ride), then it stopped picking up both the speed/cadence and heart rate sensors. A hard reset didn’t work, so back to Wiggle it went. And behold! A new one was delivered to me which, two months later, hasn’t had any of its predecessor’s conniptions. Bless you, Wiggle, and your staggering profits which allow you to mail me a replacement package worth £430, no questions asked.
Whenever I tell someone I have an 810, three things invariably happen. Firstly, seasoned Garministas are mildly amazed that you don’t need to attach it to a computer because it will upload your ride as soon as you finish, thanks to the magic of Bluetooth and an app on your phone. Secondly, they scoff at my enthusiasm for enjoying the company of the virtual partner, which tracks your progress on a saved course against a previous attempt. And thirdly, they’re not at all impressed when I tell them the live tracking facility, which is also linked to my phone, allowed Jen to follow my progress as I cycled up some mountains in France as part of the Challenge Vercors. Giving your wife or partner details of your location in real time is not, apparently, a very good idea.
Even though I’ve now got an 810 that works, there’s still a lot I don’t like about the thing. It doesn’t show up on my MacBook’s desktop when I plug it in, and it takes ages to eject. Setting up the screen configurations, or ‘training pages’ as they are clumsily known, is a fiddly business. Irritatingly, the app can’t be activated if my phone is locked (although it could before I updated to iOS 7). And although I’ve made a lot of tweaks to the set-up, I can’t for the life of me remember how I did them – such is the counter-intuitiveness of the user interface.
I think Garmins should be like iPhones: simple devices that anyone can pick up and use. Instead, the options open to you are buried amid a stack of headings and pages. I had never used a Garmin before, so I was surprised at how low-tech they appear: the jerky animations, the primitive icons, the bleepy eight-bit fanfare whenever you finish a ride. Perhaps Garmin isn’t inclined to drastically improve the design of their devices because, in the world of sports-orientated satnav, it is practically the only player in the game.
But the main thing I don’t like about the 810 is what it says about me. I’m dreaming of a time when Google Glass takes all the visual information crammed on that plastic pebble a foot below my face and puts it in front of me, which is where it should be. I’m hoping that the tracking facility is improved so I can see, without having to fish my phone out of my pocket and check my email while riding, when people I know are riding in the same vicinity as me. Neither of these wishes even occurred to me before I clicked “buy” on Wiggle. Now I am, essentially, excessively annoyed about living in the present when I should really be grateful that little devices such as the 810 have replaced bulky, laminated maps taking up space in our jersey pockets, and helped reduce the endless stops and self-inflicted misdirections. They’re a turn for the better.