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.