First Impressions: Magellan Cyclo 505 GPS

Not so long ago, there weren’t many choices for GPS-enabled cycle computers. In the past couple of years, however, more companies have thrown their cycling caps into the bicycle GPS arena. One of the companies looking to capture a piece of that pie is Magellan, a 30-year-old company which boasts more than 200 GPS-related patents.


The 505’s main menu. Image courtesy of Magellan.

Designed for road, mountain, touring, and training, the Cyclo 505 is the company’s flagship cycling computer. Magellan offers the 505 in two flavors: the basic head unit ($379.99), and the HC bundle which includes heart-rate and speed/cadence sensors ($449.99). Both versions include out-front and pad-style handlebar mounts, and come preloaded with detailed road base maps and OpenStreetMap (OSM) crowd-sourced maps.

Power up the Cyclo 505 and you immediately notice the bright, crisp display. The 3″ transflective touchscreen is easy to read in direct sunlight, and there’s a configurable backlight for low-light conditions. Performing the initial setup consists of selecting your preferred language, setting the date/time, specifying units (imperial or metric), and creating a user profile (you can create separate profiles for different bikes). Changing or updating settings is quick and painless thanks to the 505’s simple, easy-to-navigate interface.

When evaluating GPS-enabled devices, one of the first things I test is how quickly they locate GPS satellite signals. Let’s face it–nobody wants to be that guy/gal who delays a group ride because they’re waiting for their GPS to get a signal. Thankfully, the Magellan does an excellent job of quickly locating satellites, even on cloudy or overcast days. And when riding in canyons or under heavy tree cover, I never experienced any loss of signal with the 505 (and reception seemed unaffected by power lines).

Magellan includes two mounts with the Cyclo 505–a circular, pad-style mount, and an out-front bracket. The former attaches with cable-ties (as opposed to o-rings), and is compatible with a wide range of handlebars and stems. Magellan’s out-front bracket will accommodate handlebars up to 31.8 mm in diameter, and can be reversed to position the head unit over the stem. Both mounts proved extremely secure, with no ejected units in several months of testing. If you prefer a sleeker mount, however, Tate Labs offers a Magellan-compatible version of their popular Bar Fly mount.

For the directionally-challenged (which definitely includes yours truly), the Cyclo offers a rich suite of navigation features. Enter an address, saved route, coordinates, or a point on the map, and the 505 will guide you with turn-by-turn directions. I tested the 505 with routes downloaded from MapMyRideMeetup, and RideWithGPS, and the Cyclo never steered me wrong (bad pun intended). Have you ever found yourself on a ride and in need of refreshments? The Cyclo comes pre-loaded with hundreds of points-of-interest (POIs) so that you can easily find–and navigate to–the nearest convenience store or bike shop.

One of the Magellan’s most innovative navigational tools is the Surprise Me feature. Specify an address, point on a map, or POI, and the 505 will calculate up to three routes to your chosen destination. The routes are displayed on the Cyclo’s built-in map, and include information such as total distance, max grade (in %), and total ascent (distance and cumulative feet/meters). And if you’re tired of doing the same old rides, the Surprise Me’s Loop option allows you to specify a distance or time (with average speed), and will present you with three route options. Magellan’s routing options also let you specify whether you want to avoid major roads, cycle routes/paths, unpaved roads, or cobblestones.

Three route options generated with the Surprise Me feature. Image courtesy of Magellan.

Three route options generated with the Surprise Me feature. Image courtesy of Magellan.

Thanks to the Cyclo’s WiFi connectivity, uploading your data only requires a couple of taps on the 505’s touchscreen. As a devoted Chromebook user, I really appreciate not having to rely on browser plugins or standalone applications to upload my ride info and metrics. Using Magellan’s online portal, you can also automatically synchronize with popular services such as Endomondo, Strava, and TrainingPeaks. Should the stock HR and speed/cadence sensors prove insufficient, built-in ANT+ and Bluetooth® Smart connectivity make it easy to pair the Cyclo with other devices (the 505 integrated seamlessly with wearables from Mio and Polar).

If there’s one area where the 505 falls short it’s battery life. Magellan claims a 12-hour run-time, but I found that eight or nine hours were the norm. Note that battery life will depend heavily on backlight use, screen brightness, and whether you’re using heart rate or speed/cadence sensors. For most recreational riders, however, the Cyclo will get you through a day’s adventure (especially if you take advantage of the auto power-off feature).

With a base price of $379.99, the Cyclo 505’s feature set matches–and often exceeds–competitors’ models costing much more. All that functionality doesn’t come at the expense of usability, either. I was able to configure and operate the majority of the Magellan’s features without ever consulting the manual (or google, for that matter). Both new and experienced riders will benefit from the 505’s turn-by-turn directions, and data nerds will appreciate the wireless connectivity and integration with services such as Strava.

Disclosure: Magellan provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.

Q&A with Rolf Prima Wheel Systems

Rolf Wheels got its start back in 1997 when founder Rolf Dietrich partnered with Trek to bring paired-spoke wheels to market. After the license agreement expired in 2001, Dietrich founded Rolf Prima Wheel Systems with three former Trek/Bontrager product engineers. One of those former Trek/Bontrager employees, Brian Roddy, would eventually become Rolf Prima’s owner. I spoke with Roddy at this year’s Interbike trade show, where we discussed Rolf’s wheels, gravel and adventure riding, and what the company has in store for 2016.

GRAVELBIKE: Do you think that disc-equipped gravel and adventure bikes will standardize on 142mm rear spacing?

Rolf Prima: We hand-build everything pretty much to order, so we build fronts as 9 mm, 12 mm, or 15 mm, and rears as 135 mm or 142 mm no problem. That said, the industry will probably coalesce around 12 mm thru-axles front, and 142 mm rear. I think everyone–the industry and customers, alike–really wants the proliferation of standards to slow down and stick so they know that their expensive bikes and components will be replaceable, serviceable, or upgradeable in a few years (instead of becoming obsolete).

GRAVELBIKE: Will the recent quick-release recall help speed up the adoption of thru-axles?

Rolf Prima: I’m not sure it will really have an effect on this. It is the fork and frame that dictate, and there are plenty of perfectly safe QR’s available for disc use.

GRAVELBIKE: Tubeless technology is mature and accepted in the MTB space, but road/gravel seems to be lagging behind. Is this due to tradition or technological limitations?

Rolf Prima: Yes, we’ve been hearing everyone talk about it for about 10 years, but when you ask people what they actually ride, they seem less interested. For mountain biking, everyone wants to ride really low pressure, but not pinch-flat on rocks, etc. So tubeless is about the only option for this. On the road, while many are riding larger tires and lower pressures–we are not talking really low pressure–so the pinch-flat issue isn’t a big concern. The wider rims help because in general you are less likely to pinch-flat at the lower pressures.  Also, while there are two predominant standards for MTB tubeless, there really isn’t one for road. There are systems, but not really a governing spec, which makes it a little more confusing for customers, shops and even manufacturers. I personally ride tubeless on my Co-Motion Disc brake CX Rex with our Aspin SL Disc wheels. I like it, but I can’t say I notice an improvement in ride feel with tubeless compared to innertubes.

GRAVELBIKE: What are some of the advantages to US manufacturing of wheel components? Disadvantages?

Rolf Prima: I think hub configurations are a great example of the importance of US manufacturing–short turnarounds, flexibility and reliability. When Shimano moved to 11-speed we beat them to market because we changed what we were making and stopped doing 10-speed as soon as 11-speed was imminent; same when Campagnolo went 11-speed. With axle configurations for disc brakes we can move quickly to adapt, and we can build to order. Bike shops and customers can get a wheelset built to any number of mix/match configurations. In this period of fluctuating so-called standards I think customers like to know they can get what they need–even if it is an odd configuration.

We also can do custom work right here in Oregon. Our Built on Demand program allows for customization of decals, hub color and even rim color on a handful of our models. We just started doing it and it has really been taking off in popularity.

This is all aside from what we think is really important. Everyone who puts a hand on the wheel or who had a hand in developing it or selling it; is a cyclist. We know what a wheel needs to be, and we make sure we have a process to deliver that. We all use the wheels, train, race, commute and get around.

GRAVELBIKE: What should gravel/back-road riders look for when shopping for new wheels?

Rolf Prima: The obvious part (yet often overlooked) is compatibility with the bike they have. If not getting a gravel-specific bike, check tire clearance so there are no surprises. Beyond that–reliability. I’m a back country person. I started in mountain biking, but I expanded into a lot of back country skiing, mountaineering and climbing. The one thing that is paramount to me is reliability and quality of my gear. In the back country, the last thing you want to mess with is equipment. I think a high-quality build on good parts is the best you can do–and that is what we strive for. We use these wheels and we are like everyone else, we want memories to be of the cool stuff we saw and experienced, not trouble with our gear.

Special thanks to Rolf Prima’s Brian Roddy and Brooke Stehley.