A love letter to my 12-year-old Garmin

You don't throw something out unless it's broken, right?

Garmin 800 showing Dirty Reiver info
Muddied but unbowed after this year's Dirty Reiver event
(Image credit: James Shrubsall)

This article is part of a series called ‘A love letter to…’, where Cycling Weekly writers pour praise on their favourite cycling items and share the personal connection they have with them. 

The below content is unfiltered, authentic and has not been paid for.  

Call me a sentimental old fool (because that would be exactly what I am), but me and my old Garmin Edge 800 GPS are a partnership that is still going strong. Not as strong as we once were, admittedly, as a new 830 model has recently encroached upon our relationship.

For good or for bad, I do tend to run my kit till it cries 'no more!' and gives up the ghost; and it was starting to feel like my old 800, while not exactly kaput, was having a think about digging out the white flag.

But I still have it, and I won't be getting rid of it, and indeed I still use it. We have a lot of history after all. Our first ride together was on our wedding day (me and my wife, not me and the Garmin) back in 2011 – an innocuous 13-mile pootle on a local disused railway line with my best man, just to take the edge off the nerves. 

Since then, oh, the adventures! Mainly adventures around Surrey and within a 10-mile radius of my house, but adventures nevertheless. There have, of course, been plenty of farther flung escapades, where it has always been there to remind me of my (usually rather disappointing) performance in a non-judgemental way – simply giving me the figures without any hint of a raised eyebrow or sly grin. (To be fair, this goes for most cycle computers).

James & Steve Shrubsall on the Rebellion Way, Norfolk 2023

Checking out the stats on the Rebellion Way in Norfolk

(Image credit: Future / Andy Jones)

Put simply, my Edge 800 has always just done exactly what I wanted it to do. The touch screen still works perfectly and was always a major 'pro' in my eyes – whenever I've reviewed button-controlled GPS units, it's something I missed instantly. There was also its compatibility with Ordnance Survey mapping. I had the entire UK loaded up inside it on a tiny SD card and always used that far more than the Garmin mapping that came with it.

I've heard plenty of moans from others who 'upgraded' to newer models in the 800 range only to be disappointed with the results. Perhaps there's something going for the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' adage eh, though I realise that's way out of step with modern capitalism. Perhaps it should be amended to 'if you're broke, but it ain't, don't fix it', because these things are not cheap after all.

It was a recent tour around Norfolk that finally prompted me to do my bit for the economy and splurge some cash, after seeing the bright, colourful screen on my riding buddy's Edge 530 (which is the same as the 830 but lacks the touch screen), and getting peeved with the 800's dwindling battery life – not helpful on long touring days in the saddle. Perhaps clunkiest of all in this age of first-world problems, the 800 also requires plugging into a computer to upload rides. Who has the energy to do that after three hours on the bike?

Nevertheless, my 800 is still with us, going strong, and it comes out to play every now and then. It seems only fair.

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