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Monday, June 03, 2019

Garmin Fenix 5X Post Tour Review

This was my first bike tour with the Garmin Fenix 5X and it came through with flying colors, despite my failing to properly load Spanish maps into the device prior to the trip! At least part of the credit belongs to an app upgrade that occurred in the middle of the trip!

During the trip, Garmin upgraded Garmin Connect so you could now create a route on the smartphone and sync it directly to the watch, with no wires required. The route creation isn't the smoothest thing in the world (no undo button!), and it's a bit clunky (you're not tapping on roads, but sliding the map under a dot to indicate the next waypoint), but it's way better than trying to use say, RideWithGPS on a phone (and yes, I asked for the feature for the app a year ago, but RideWithGPS keeps thinking that people want the app to record a ride --- not me!), and even better, it uses Garmin's "Popularity Routing" feature, which should improve over time. (You have to be careful --- people like me would prefer climbing and scenery over flat route, and judging from how Garmin likes to route, most people don't have that preference!) I guess RideWithGPS has now lost me as a potential paying customer because this is more than good enough.

Sendpoints is an essential app when touring. I highly recommend that you install it on your Fenix. It lets you send an address to the phone without typing or creating a course, and use the onboard routing engine to get you there. (That one doesn't do popularity routing)  The big penalty is that unless you had the forethought to preload the locations you want, you'd have to stop your activity to run sendpoints in order to load the new location. So this might force you to break your ride in two. I don't expect this to be a problem (I don't particularly care about splitting tracks in Strava) My habit is tour book at the last minute when I know where we want to stay, so this would force me to stop the day's track after booking the hotel in order to use the device to navigate there.

The biggest issue is HRM. With the Vivoactive I never cared enough about the data to put the device on the bars. But for navigation, I wanted the Fenix 5X to be on the handlebars, and when you do that you obviously lose the HRM. Even worse, the HRM will just make up values by default instead of reporting no HRM. You'd have to manually turn off the HRM, which is too  much of a pain to do, since you'd just forget to turn it back on again when the ride's over. For touring, it's no big deal, and a minor glitch on what is otherwise an excellent product.

Amazon sells Refurbished units that come with a full warranty, and they're every bit as good as new units. I'd watch the price and when it drops below $400 I'd jump on the 5X. I thought when I first bought this unit I might end up with a bigger display for touring. Nope. This is as good as I need it, and I'd recommend this to any bicycle tourist with good enough vision. You won't regret it.

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