I’ve had the Magellan Cyclo 505 since some time in March (2015) and as of this writing have used it to keep track of 887.97 miles; most of my rides since acquiring the feature-rich GPS unit. My first Cyclo 505 report is here, on this blog, and two others are here, at Bike Tires Direct.
What the Cyclo 505 does well, it does really well. The maps have been reliable and their information makes sense and coincides with what I know of the geography, having lived in and explored it for some years. (However, if you’ll keep reading through the end of this post, you’ll find out how the Cyclo 505 sometimes fails to make sense of the reliable information it contains) The Cyclo 505 records and categorizes basic ride data (average MPH; fastest speed; calories burned; ascent; descent; distance covered) of the sort that interests me. The unit’s WiFi feature connects with the home network without problem, and I use that feature almost every day. Map and software updates are easy when the unit is connected to the computer by USB cable. The unit’s battery life has always been more than adequate for two or three of my typical rides before needing recharge, and it recharges pretty quickly plugged into the wall socket adapter that came in the package. The unit’s screen almost always responds as expected when touched and, even when slightly dimmed to save battery power, is readable in direct sunlight; it brightens up when touched for better visibility as needed. Handlebar mounts have proved secure on bumpy, rutted tracks, a couple of minor crashes, and normal road use. The Cyclo 505 unit is a little thicker but otherwise smaller and lighter than my old Iphone 4.
The Bad and the Not So Good
In the category of Not So Good falls the fact that the Magellan Cyclo series wasn’t developed in partnership with the people at Abvio and therefore does not categorize, store, report information as usefully as the smartphone Cyclemeter app.
In the category of Not So Good is the not-visually-interesting black and white case that houses the unit’s touchscreen and functional bits. The Cyclo 505 doesn’t look like something from either the Marvel Comics or DC Comics universe. On the other hand, its looks don’t beg passersby to steal it if left on the bike while I’m off the track for a moment watering the foliage.
In the category of Not So Good is also where I locate the many arcane map symbols found in the Cyclo 505’s included Open Street Maps. Honestly, I think some bat-guano smoking, native Klingon speaker came up with most of them. The same kind of people who like to say, “Goblet,” and who also talk about their “craft.”
Now for the Bad – the Magellan Cyclo series ships with a Surprise Me feature that, according to the Magellan Cyclo series website allows the user to:
“Input distance or time and Cyclo will provide up to 3 routes for the rider to select. Each route will show elevation gain and difficulty. In a new city or just want to try something new Cyclo’s Surprise Me is perfect for the competitive cyclist training for a sportive or recreational rider looking for a graded loop.”
Here are a couple of company screenshots showing the Surprise Me feature in action:
Here’s a video explaining the feature’s functionality: https://youtu.be/AH5L0raAeM4
Sounds great, doesn’t it? I thought so, too. Only on my Cyclo 505, it doesn’t work very well. The first four or five times I tried it, entering in parameters by the amount of time I wanted to spend riding or the number of miles I wished to ride, the Surprise Me feature failed from two-and-a-half to seven miles into each ride, beeping and flashing a message on the screen with a checkered flag telling me I’d arrived at my destination when only a minute before, the unit displayed 27 miles remaining in my ride. It would sometimes also fail with the message that I’d “arrived at the track,” whatever that means. Huh? Total crap except for the other features I use seem to function normally.
I finally thought I’d send the unit back as broken, but the problem, in my estimation is a software problem. My guess is that the unit I bought on sale from Bike Tires Direct back in March of this year was an early iteration of the model – first generation hardware. When I got the unit, I immediately updated its software/firmware and maps. This was well before I attempted to use the Surprise Me feature. I think that subsequent versions of the units operating system – its software – call for hardware that isn’t present or is present in earlier form in the unit I’ve got, which likely breaks the Surprise Me feature’s intended functionality. I wrote a gripe about the broken feature at Bike Tires Direct before partially solving the problem after calling Magellan’s customer support number.
In a last ditch effort to avoid sending back the Cyclo 505 as defective, I looked at the Magellan product support website and read through a bunch of FAQs, finding one that only tangentially spoke to an issue with the Surprise Me feature. Because my Cyclo 505 is still under warranty, I telephoned to the customer support call center.
My call was answered by a polite and helpful youngish sounding man whose accented but good English possibly indicated Indian subcontinent origin. After obtaining the Cyclo 505’s particulars – serial number, software version, and so forth, then (I could tell he had one of the Cyclo units because I could hear its distinctive, honk-like beeping) we attempted to reproduce the problem. But, because neither of us was out on a ride, we could not. The customer service rep suggested that, before trying the Surprise Me feature again, I delete the desired bike profile and create a new profile for the bike in use.
A couple of days later, I did so, and the Surprise Me feature worked much better. Not flawlessly, but better; the feature continued to beep and flash messages declaring I had reached my destination, but the map, itself, at the same time showed the projected route along which I was riding. As I continued to ride the suggested route, ignoring the Cyclo’s beeping and messages for a hundred or so yards, the device quit beeping and quit printing to screen its arrival message.
The routes chosen by the device were scenic and along roads I’d heretofore not ridden. I enjoyed them. I used the feature two or three times in this way, but it’s again getting worse.
I hope I’m not going to have to delete my bike profiles and replace them with new ones every so often to keep the Surprise Me feature borderline working.
Over the weekend, on Saturday, I requested a two-and-a-half hour ride at about 14 mph and the Surprise Me feature presented three routes from about 20 to 25 miles. I chose a 23 mile route that took me through familiar country and was not super hilly, because I was tired from the several rides I’d taken during the week. Oddly, the Cyclo 505 took me through long abandoned lanes on a disused military reservation and there became confused. I wasn’t too freaked out because I know the area and welcomed a chance to ride grassy, dirt and gravel lanes, deep ruts and low spots ponded from the the previous night’s storm.
First, the Cyclo wanted me to turn off the main highway to my left, then, when it imagined I’d ridden past the turn-off it’d just informed me was six tenths of a mile ahead, it wanted me to turn off onto a lane to my right. So, I did. I tried, for the sake of experimentation, to faithfully follow the device’s on-screen instruction, turning where it said it turn, turning around when it said I was going in the wrong direction, etc. The unit’s software was completely ferhoodled – possibly the United States Government is using something that confuses personal GPS units. Maybe the signal-confuser is intended to perform another function, entirely, and only by accidents exacerbates the Cyclo 505’s Surprise Me feature weakness? Actually, that’s the most likely explanation I can think of for the bizarre and conflicting directions the unit gave me during this portion of my ride.
Here are a few snapshots of from this portion of my ride – usually taken when I’d stopped to check the map and directions against what I observed around me and already knew about the area:
That last image above right I knew from environmental sounds was one I’d ridden before on the Bridgestone, and I had a pretty good idea where it would come out, so I proceeded down it, ignoring all subsequent Cyclo 505 beeps, warnings, and directions. I’d grown tired of the experiment by this time and wanted to get on with my ride. The photos below show where I came out on a paved road.
I finished my ride after this point without further problems from the Magellan Cyclo 505, which halfway confirmed my theory about the exacerbation of the unit’s Surprise Me feature problems on (not off-limits) government land through which it initially tried to route me. Here’re some pictures from the rest of the ride – except that last one – that’s my Jamis Supernova, the Wonder Horse, leaned up against the berm pictured above.