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  1. #1
    Cat 5 field stuffer bbeasley's Avatar
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    GPS Wars, Who Will Win?

    It's going to be interesting to see how the GPS wars play out. Phone vs device who will win? So far I've found phones do everything okay, but not great.

    In another thread this package was mentioned. Seems like great competition to the current batch of bike specific computers.

    I picked up a Garmin 800 for $209 delivered, thanks to a heads up from a BF thread, and bought a $40 heart rate strap. I don't care about cadence but to compare the sensor would add another $60... so $309 all in. 309 (and that was a great deal) vs 148 assuming you have an iPhone 5, I think they'll sell plenty of those at that price difference.

    The often mentioned issue of phones flying off of bikes doesn't bother me, there are just as many anecdotal stories of Garmins being ejected as phones. I do think the battery life is a big deal but one that will get solved quickly. My Macbook Air has ~4 hours of, real life, battery power. I understand the newest ones are up to 8 hours and the Macbook Pro's up to 12.

    I've got two deal killers that keep me from using my phone. First is rain, my Garmin has been drenched with no ill effects. I wouldn't want to put my iPhone through that and the current phone rain coats look hideous and I can't imagine actually using the touch screen with one on but who knows? I'm unwilling to carry extra stuff in case of rain, no little plastic bags or rain coats. Like the battery issue I think this one will get solved.

    My second deal killer, while very personal, is aesthetics. I find a phone way too big to live on a bike and the mounts I've seen just make this worse. I'm sure there are plenty of folks who don't care about this.

    For me, currently Garmin has a slim lead over using a phone. If I was Garmin, and all the rest, I'd be nervous indeed.

  2. #2
    Senior Member MattFoley's Avatar
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    I don't think it's Garmin vs. phones....I think it's Garmin vs. other manufacturers that see an opening to beat Garmin at their own game. I hate to generalize too much, but I know very few "serious" cyclists (as in, people that spend more time on the bike than just about anything else, not just "roadies") that use their phones to track their rides and just about every cyclist I know uses a Garmin of some sort. Personally, you'd have to pry my Edge 800 out of my cold dead fingers before I start using a phone for a bike computer...So I think there will always be a market for dedicated cycling computers. Garmin, however, could lose their edge (pun intended) if they don't start innovating. The latest round of devices was a step in the right direction, but if they don't start focusing on keeping their products fresh (screen resolution is a major issue they need to work on), they're seriously vulnerable to competition.
    Cars man, whyyyyyy?!?!?!?!

  3. #3
    Cat 5 field stuffer bbeasley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MattFoley View Post
    I don't think it's Garmin vs. phones....I think it's Garmin vs. other manufacturers that see an opening to beat Garmin at their own game. I hate to generalize too much, but I know very few "serious" cyclists (as in, people that spend more time on the bike than just about anything else, not just "roadies") that use their phones to track their rides and just about every cyclist I know uses a Garmin of some sort. Personally, you'd have to pry my Edge 800 out of my cold dead fingers before I start using a phone for a bike computer...So I think there will always be a market for dedicated cycling computers. Garmin, however, could lose their edge (pun intended) if they don't start innovating. The latest round of devices was a step in the right direction, but if they don't start focusing on keeping their products fresh (screen resolution is a major issue they need to work on), they're seriously vulnerable to competition.
    Yes, good point! I'm a roadie and ride with other like minded folks. Like you said there are no phones in that crowd. I think the screen resolution and battery life issue go together.

    Are the phone apps a stepping stone to devices like Garmins? I went from phone app to Cateye wired to Cateye double wireless to Garmin 800.

    I'm very passionate about my 800. My one suggestion to Garmin would be to make the little pop up messages readable. Even though I need reading glasses I can read the Garmin quite well other than these pop up messages, I got no shot at reading them.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Street Pedaler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MattFoley View Post
    I don't think it's Garmin vs. phones....I think it's Garmin vs. other manufacturers that see an opening to beat Garmin at their own game. I hate to generalize too much, but I know very few "serious" cyclists (as in, people that spend more time on the bike than just about anything else, not just "roadies") that use their phones to track their rides and just about every cyclist I know uses a Garmin of some sort. Personally, you'd have to pry my Edge 800 out of my cold dead fingers before I start using a phone for a bike computer...So I think there will always be a market for dedicated cycling computers. Garmin, however, could lose their edge (pun intended) if they don't start innovating. The latest round of devices was a step in the right direction, but if they don't start focusing on keeping their products fresh (screen resolution is a major issue they need to work on), they're seriously vulnerable to competition.
    ^^^^This. Plus, and this is simply my opinion, as "smart" and capable as smart phones are becoming with each new product, it's been my experience that they just can't do "everything" well, yet. A smart phone with a GPS is 100 other things before it gets to actually being a GPS. I just don't feel they're as accurate a GPS as a dedicated GPS unit. I'm also a Garmin 800 user but I use an iPhone to record mileage on an app that I use. The iPhone mileage is ALWAYS different from that on the Garmin. Sure, this could mean the phone is more accurate but the mileage on the phone will vary from ride to ride over the exact same course but sometimes as much as 1/2 a mile over a 20 mile distance. This difference gets more exaggerated the farther I ride. I use the phone ONLY for the app mileage. The Garmin is what I use to rely on for recording my ride data. Right or wrong, it's always, at least, consistent.

    I just believe that every tool has it's strong points and weak points so it becomes a matter of right tool for the job. Again, just my opinion based on my own experiences. YMMV.

  5. #5
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    I have a Garmin ForeRunner 610 running watch (it has a bicycling mode as well which I also use) and have the Wahoo Fitness iPhone 4 bike case (this provides water resistance, shock resistance, and easy mount system and an ANT+ radio to talk to sensors). Currently I use a Combo Speed/Cadence sensor and a heart rate monitor - I may consider a power meter in the future if I stick with cycling long term.

    I am moving toward iPhone 5 as my next phone and had a quandry since I wanted to keep my ANT+ sensors and there's no good solution for ANT+ radio while mounted on the bike for iPhone 5.

    A company called 4iiiis has a solution that I'm investigating called the viiiiva heart rate monitor - this is a bluetooth smart HRM strap that also acts as an ANT+ gateway - receiving the ANT+ data from the other sensors and passing it through to the iPhone (4S or 5) as bluetooth data... early reviews are that it works very well, and it will allow me to ditch the 4S and move to the iPhone 5.

    For me, I agree that the iPhone on the bike is a bit larger than idea... for this there is still the possibility of using the Wahoo RFLKT - a bluetooth display/control pod that is about the size of a Garmin 500/510 (a little smaller I believe) - that mounts on the handlebars so you can stash the phone away. This has the added benefit of ALSO extending battery life significantly since the phone's display can remain off.

    Ultimately, the market is likely to be large enough that there will be several "winners" as everyone has different "must have" features.

    For me, the biggest must haves are

    1) long battery life - I solve this today with an external battery pack for the iPhone 4S - which will also work with the i5 - I can ride all day and still have battery left - even with the display on all the time.
    2) Complete computer independence. I have become spoiled by the Wahoo ANT+ radio/Garmin watch integration. I can download all workouts from my watch to my iPhone and upload them to the various online services (garmin connect, map my ride, strava, runkeeper) that I use as well as archive the raw data at Dropbox and then view the results on dedicated iPhone/iPad apps

    Until there is a bike computer that allows #2 I'll probably stick with the smartphone option.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Street Pedaler View Post
    ^^^^This. Plus, and this is simply my opinion, as "smart" and capable as smart phones are becoming with each new product, it's been my experience that they just can't do "everything" well, yet. A smart phone with a GPS is 100 other things before it gets to actually being a GPS. I just don't feel they're as accurate a GPS as a dedicated GPS unit. I'm also a Garmin 800 user but I use an iPhone to record mileage on an app that I use. The iPhone mileage is ALWAYS different from that on the Garmin. Sure, this could mean the phone is more accurate but the mileage on the phone will vary from ride to ride over the exact same course but sometimes as much as 1/2 a mile over a 20 mile distance. This difference gets more exaggerated the farther I ride. I use the phone ONLY for the app mileage. The Garmin is what I use to rely on for recording my ride data. Right or wrong, it's always, at least, consistent.

    I just believe that every tool has it's strong points and weak points so it becomes a matter of right tool for the job. Again, just my opinion based on my own experiences. YMMV.
    Just curious, as to measuring distance do you have a speed sensor on your bike and paired to the Garmin 800 or is the distance from the Garmin strictly from the GPS?

    I've found that the Garmin FR610 watch will ONLY calculate speed/distance from the speed sensor if you have it paired - the GPS is only used for tracking location and creating a map. This is because ANY GPS track - even Garmin's (which are VERY accurate) will be less accurate than the simple math of circumference x # of rotations that you get with a speed sensor.

    Having said that, the Garmin's GPS is almost certainly more accurate than the iPhone's, but ANY GPS is likely to have roughly .5 to 1.5% inaccuracy and over a relatively long course that can add up. This discrepancy is exaggerated at lower speeds and on a course that turns more (per distance covered) so it is usually more of a problem for running than cycling, but it is still there when cycling.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Street Pedaler's Avatar
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    Wombat, yes, I use the Garmin Speed/ Cadence sensor and you're absolutely correct about inaccuracies. Like I said, I won't SWEAR to the absolute accuracy of the Garmin over the phone, but the Garmin is at least consistent. The iPhone, not so much.

  8. #8
    Senior Member volosong's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MattFoley View Post
    ... Garmin, however, could lose their edge (pun intended) if they don't start innovating...
    Back in the day, Magellan was the big player. They had the market pretty much to themselves and even though their devices were expensive, (as all new technology is), the cost was within reach of small businesses, (but outside "normal" people, unless they were rich playboys or something). Then, something happened. Other companies started innovating while Magellan rested upon their laurels. The result? They are now a bit player who produce inferior, bug-laden software wise, receivers that offer no advantage over competitor products.

    On phones vs. dedicated GPS receivers... I teach a class every year at the local community college called "Map Interpretation and GPS". It is focused mainly for our GIS, (geographic information system) and Fire Tech students. I do NOT allow them to use their phones, mostly because there are still many areas without cellular telephone coverage. A GPS phone won't do anyone a lick of good if there are no cell towers within range. Away from urban areas and major interstate and intrastate highways, cellular phone coverage is spotty at best.
    Deut 6:5

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  9. #9
    Senior Member digibud's Avatar
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    I want my phone for emergencies. I don't want to run the battery dead on a 5 hr ride after I start with a half dead battery. If my GPS dies it's no big deal but I see my phone as an important safety device in the event of an accident of any kind. In the winter it's particularly critical.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by volosong View Post
    On phones vs. dedicated GPS receivers... I teach a class every year at the local community college called "Map Interpretation and GPS". It is focused mainly for our GIS, (geographic information system) and Fire Tech students. I do NOT allow them to use their phones, mostly because there are still many areas without cellular telephone coverage. A GPS phone won't do anyone a lick of good if there are no cell towers within range. Away from urban areas and major interstate and intrastate highways, cellular phone coverage is spotty at best.
    While this may have been true at one time and/or of certain phones... it is not true of any iPhone from at least the iPhone 4 or later (and I believe at least the iPhone 3GS).

    iPhones will use cell towers to get a "quick hit" of location, but they don't rely on that data for location - and if the app that is requesting the location data is written properly, it WILL use real satellite-based GPS reception for location.

    The following discussion at Apple's support forums lays this out better than I ever could.

    https://discussions.apple.com/thread...art=0&tstart=0

  11. #11
    Senior Member Roosterbird's Avatar
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    I read that Garmin is coming out with an android based device, sounds really good - http://garmin.blogs.com/pr/2013/06/g...with-wifi.html
    these features will probably enhance Garmins other devices soon.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by volosong View Post
    A GPS phone won't do anyone a lick of good if there are no cell towers within range.
    Not true. Many smartphones, like the iPhone, have real GPS receivers built-in. And there are apps that will download all of the map information you might need while you have a network connection. As long as you make sure the necessary maps are downloaded on the phone (and the battery is sufficiently charged), you shouldn't have a problem...

  13. #13
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wombat94 View Post
    iPhones will use cell towers to get a "quick hit" of location, but they don't rely on that data for location - and if the app that is requesting the location data is written properly, it WILL use real satellite-based GPS reception for location.
    I think you guys are talking about two different things - the phone will still record your position from GPS but you can't use it to do anything (like look at a map) if you are out of range. Try it out - stick your phone in "no data" mode and turn on strava or something. You'll get track data.

    As for computer independance, I believe the new garmin 810 and 510 will upload using your phone as a data connection, if that's what you want to do. I personally don't care - I have to connect to my computer to get my power data into the power analysis program of my choice.

    Are there any phone based cycling apps that will record power data from an ANT+ power meter?

    Of course, last but not least if I clobber my garmin it was a $200 "investment" but my phone would be more along the lines of $600 if I had to buy a brand new one.

    Put me in MattFoley's "pry it out of my cold dead hands" camp with respect to dedicated cycling computers.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by wombat94 View Post
    Just curious, as to measuring distance do you have a speed sensor on your bike and paired to the Garmin 800 or is the distance from the Garmin strictly from the GPS?

    I've found that the Garmin FR610 watch will ONLY calculate speed/distance from the speed sensor if you have it paired - the GPS is only used for tracking location and creating a map. This is because ANY GPS track - even Garmin's (which are VERY accurate) will be less accurate than the simple math of circumference x # of rotations that you get with a speed sensor.

    Having said that, the Garmin's GPS is almost certainly more accurate than the iPhone's, but ANY GPS is likely to have roughly .5 to 1.5% inaccuracy and over a relatively long course that can add up. This discrepancy is exaggerated at lower speeds and on a course that turns more (per distance covered) so it is usually more of a problem for running than cycling, but it is still there when cycling.

    I have the Garmin FR305 watch. It will display speed based on GPS but in general instant speed is pretty bad. I also have auto lap set for 1 mile. Average speed over the current lap is actually pretty good. I know what you mean about the inaccuracies. I bought the watch originally for running and all of my races show a little bit long (the only one that showed up a little short ended up moving the start line back to the other side of the intersection the next year when they certified the course). Some of that is due to not following tangents but some of it inaccuracies in the technology. When I download the maps and zoom in, I can see the problems. Weak GPS signal can also cause inaccuracies. You mostly hear about it in big cities but it also happens on a heavily tree lined trail I travel.

  15. #15
    Senior Member MattFoley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
    I think you guys are talking about two different things - the phone will still record your position from GPS but you can't use it to do anything (like look at a map) if you are out of range. Try it out - stick your phone in "no data" mode and turn on strava or something. You'll get track data.
    Well, you can get offline maps, and on Android devices, Google Maps lets you cache maps to use offline, so there is SOME functionality without a data connection. But IME, phone GPS units tend to be much less accurate than dedicated GPS units, particularly if they don't have wifi or a phone tower to help fix the position. So for a GIS-type application, or for use in the backcountry, I'd definitely stick with a dedicated GPS unit....add in issues like durability and battery life, and it's not even a debate.
    Cars man, whyyyyyy?!?!?!?!

  16. #16
    Senior Member CACycling's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
    I think you guys are talking about two different things - the phone will still record your position from GPS but you can't use it to do anything (like look at a map) if you are out of range. Try it out - stick your phone in "no data" mode and turn on strava or something. You'll get track data.
    On my wife's phone (LG Phoenix), GPS works just fine with data turned off (we don't even have a data plan for her phone - yes, I'm cheap). I downloaded the California map (via WiFi) and the GPS app does its thing even when we are out of range of cell service.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
    I think you guys are talking about two different things - the phone will still record your position from GPS but you can't use it to do anything (like look at a map) if you are out of range. Try it out - stick your phone in "no data" mode and turn on strava or something. You'll get track data.
    As I said, if the app is designed for it, then the phone can be fully functional. There are many apps for car navigation that have the complete road map of the US resident on the iPhone and don't have to have a live data connection. I use TomTom USA, but Garmin and Magellan both have options as well. I know there are also hiking apps that have the ability to have trail maps and/or topo maps. If there are not biking apps yet, than there certainly could be ones that have at least as much map data as the Garmin 810 to be loaded to the phone and/or the loading of maps in and around a GPX route or cue sheet to the device if overall storage usage is a concern.

    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
    As for computer independance, I believe the new garmin 810 and 510 will upload using your phone as a data connection, if that's what you want to do. I personally don't care - I have to connect to my computer to get my power data into the power analysis program of my choice.
    The 810 and 510 are a half step in the right direction. They allow real-time location data to be streamed THROUGH a phone to the Garmin live tracking service via a Garmin app, but they do not allow the downloading of completed activities to a smart phone wirelessly. It is possible to download activities from them to an Android tablet via USB cable, but since I'm an iOS person that option doesn't work for me.

    Hopefully Garmin will allow this in the next generation of devices, but unless some other manufacturer DOES start pushing them on features, I'm not holding my breath.


    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
    Are there any phone based cycling apps that will record power data from an ANT+ power meter?
    There are many apps on the iPhone that support ANT+ power. Wahoo Fitness is the leader in the low-level connectivity of exercise sensors to the iPhone and they have released a free SDK that is used by most fitness apps. Wahoo uses this to ensure that their own equipment (which is what they sell to make money) has wide support. The benefit of this is that since their hardware is standards based (ANT+ or BTLE) their SDK works with nearly any manufacturer's equipment as well.

    Here's a link to their website that shows the currently available iPhone apps with bike power support.

    http://www.wahoofitness.com/Apps/App...wer-90-CL.aspx

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roosterbird View Post
    I read that Garmin is coming out with an android based device, sounds really good - http://garmin.blogs.com/pr/2013/06/g...with-wifi.html
    these features will probably enhance Garmins other devices soon.
    Interesting device, but in terms of this conversation, it doesn't appear to offer anything compelling because the price is too high, the device is at least as large as the iPhone and it is behind the times on some of its technologies. Though it does have ANT+ built in, there's nothing in the press release on the blog about cycling related features that I saw in a quick skim. Also, it has Bluetooth but only 3.0, so no BTLE for wider sensor compatibility.

    At a $699.00 price point in the US, I don't see any reason to consider this over an iPhone with the additional sensors necessary to make it work its best as a bike computer. Considering the base cost of the iPhone as a sunk cost already, I could totally trick out the phone for ultimate cycling/exercise connectivity, including sensors not included in the Monterra's price, for a lot less.

    Part of Garmin's problem is that they have four distinct divisions (marine, auto, sports and outdoors) all creating their own devices with little crossover between the divisions, and what some people really want is a jack of all trades (or at least most trades) device. It looks like the Monterra is from the outdoors division - much like the Garmin fenix - so I'd expect that the sport/cycling features will be minimal at best.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by bbeasley View Post
    I've got two deal killers that keep me from using my phone.
    In addition to the two you've mentioned, I find that the screen on my iPhone 5 (and the iPhone 4 before it) is a bit difficult to read in direct sunlight; it's just too glossy. My Edge 800 isn't perfect by any means, but I do find it noticeably better than the iPhone.

    My second deal killer, while very personal, is aesthetics. I find a phone way too big to live on a bike and the mounts I've seen just make this worse. I'm sure there are plenty of folks who don't care about this.
    If you really want to use your iPhone, take a look at the iPhone accessories from Wahoo Fitness particularly the Wahoo RFLKT and Wahoo Key. They Key is an ANT+ receiver for iPhone 4/4S, so your phone can record data from your ANT+ HR, speed/cadence, or power sensors. The RFLKT (a.k.a. Reflect) is a bike computer-sized remote that allows you to keep your iPhone tucked in a jersey pocket. I haven't used any of these products, but if you already own an iPhone they're much cheaper than a Garmin Edge...

    If I was Garmin, and all the rest, I'd be nervous indeed.
    Agreed. GPS is becoming a commoditized technology: it's available in cameras, smartphones, bike computers, cars, etc. and the list of applications is growing rapidly thanks to readily available GPS chips. It feels to me like Garmin's Edge bicycle computers have the edge in accuracy, for the moment, but the programmable nature of iPhone and Android smartphones means that those platforms can innovate much faster than Garmin can with their single-purpose devices.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Jarrett2's Avatar
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    How far do you go on 5-6 hour rides?

  21. #21
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    I just start strava on my phone, then put it in my butt bag. No ill effects there.
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    50-60 miles on 5-6 hour rides, mainly becuase of regroups and food breaks. other wise it would be more.
    half centuries-3 metric centuries-2
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  23. #23
    Senior Member CommuteCommando's Avatar
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    I prefer device over phone. Am starting to get disillusioned with Garmin.
    As much as you paid for that Beemer [Mercedies, Audi, Escalade], I'm surprised it didn't come equipped with turn signals.

  24. #24
    Senior Member mtalinm's Avatar
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    i was talking w/ the ceo of strava and his take is that phones are the future except among hardcore athletes...and even among them, many people love the instant feedback of wrapping up a ride and seeing how they did rather than having to find a computer to tether the Garmin to, doing the lengthy upload, etc.

    I still do the Garmin thing, but mostly so I can see the stats as I'm riding. once had a blackberry go flying thanks to a faulty mount, not interested in that agan.
    Trek Domane 4.5 (commute/distance), Specialized Roubaix (climber), Xootr Swift (winter/travel), Trek Soho (around town)

  25. #25
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bbeasley View Post
    The often mentioned issue of phones flying off of bikes doesn't bother me, there are just as many anecdotal stories of Garmins being ejected as phones.

    The only stories I've heard of flying Garmins were older style Garmin mounting systems. I've heard good things about the modern style like that on my Garmin 500.

    Plus the Garmin came with a supply of extra o rings, plenty of them. I'm still on my first set of o rings after one year and 8 months. I do however inspect my o rings periodically for wear and damage.

    I suspect if modern Garmin systems fly off, it's user error.

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