Canadian Cyclist


 

January 4/16 19:42 pm - Review: Lezyne Bike GPS


Posted by Editor on 01/4/16
 

Showing my age greatly, my first experience with GPS was when I was in graduate school for geography. The department was able to borrow a military issue GPS unit for a brief period of time to show the students. It fit in a backpack and it had a 2+ metre tall antenna. You also had to stay still for a couple of minutes for it to take a reading. My, how times have changed. I can't even remember how many smartphones back I go with built-in GPS. GPS is now everywhere.

The bicycle world has paid attention to these trends and there are many information systems that one can mount on a bike and gather data way beyond what we could have done only a few years ago. Lezyne, a maker of quality bike accessories (see Lezyne Pump and Lights reviews), has introduced 3 models of GPS. They are the Mini, Power and Super. They will gather a wide array of information about your riding. You can then download your data to your own web page on the Lezyne site. More about that aspect in a little while.

 

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I tested the Mini and the Power [note: the Editor tested the Super, and his thoughts can be found at the bottom]. My usual GPS unit is a Garmin Edge 810 that I have had since late 2013. The Mini and the Power are much, much smaller than the Garmin. The big difference is that the Garmin has onboard turn by turn maps for you to view. The Lezyne models don't have this feature. I have to say, though, that I rarely have the maps live on my Garmin because it eats up battery life and I think that it is more important to watch where you're riding rather than staring at the GPS. The Lezyne computers store your location, so all you have to do is download your latest session and you can see where you went, plus a lot more.

Before I get into more details of how they perform, it is best to look at the respective features of the Mini and the Power. Mounting them on a bike is really easy. There is a bracket Lezyne calls the X-Lock that can be mounted on either a handlebar or a stem using elastic bands. You get a variety of bands sizes to work with whatever you have for a handlebar or stem. One of the nice features is that you press the unit down into the bracket and then twist it into position. It locks in and it is very secure. I really like this aspect.

As to the data gathering, there is a lot collected. Here is what is listed from the Lezyne website (www.lezyne.com):

Mini GPS
• Moving time, ride time, elapsed time
• Distance: Current, Trip Total, Trip 2, Odometer
• Speed: Current, Average, Max.
• Elevation: Ascent, Descent, Current
• Laps
• Temperature
• Time: ride time, clock
• GPS signal strength
• Battery life indicator
• Semi-customizable display: 2, 3 or 4 fields
• Manually choose bottom field, or set to auto scroll

Power GPS
• Heart Rate*: Current, Average, Max.
• Cadence*: Current, Average
• Power* (6 data display options)
• Speed: Current, Average, Max
• Distance: Current, Trip Total, Trip 2, Odometer
• Time: Ride Time, Clock
• Laps
• Elevation: Ascent, Descent, Current
• Calories
• GPS signal strength
• Battery life indicator
• Connected devices icons
• Semi-customizable display: 2, 3 or 4 fields

* Requires compatible sensor

Both of the units come with a USB connector cable to enable you to download your rides. As well the Power has the ability to connect to your Smartphone via Bluetooth. A caveat though. I couldn't use this feature. I have an Android smartphone and you need a minimum of Android 5 to work with it. I'm one generation of Android shy of that. That's too bad, as you can receive text, call and email notifications on the Power if you do have it synced. If you have an iPhone you won't have this problem. The other aspect is that with the Power's Bluetooth capabilities you can sync it to Bluetooth heart rate monitors, speed/cadence sensors and power meters. You don't get that ability with the Mini. Both Lezynes will work with programs such as Strava though.

Battery life is excellent. They use Lithium polymer batteries that give 10 hours on the Mini and 22 hours on the Power. The USB data cable does the recharging.

I also like how you can customize what you see. You can have it automatically scroll through the information or you can chose what data you want to see all the time. You can even choose whether or not you want to display 2, 3 or 4 fields of info. I liked being able to fine tune that. The display is also large enough to take a quick glance at without having to really concentrate. That is the one weakness with some computers - the data is there but it is really small displays.

The Garmin has been on my bike for a couple of years now and it is mated to a Bontrager Interchange Ant+ Speed sensor. My first ride with a Lezyne was with the Power. This was early October. There is some significance to the time of year which I will explain below. I did notice that the Lezyne Power GPS had wildly fluctuating speed being reported. Both were set up with the same wheel circumference, rider stats, etcetera. The data gathered was as follows.

Garmin
Time - 1:37:42, Distance - 19.9km, 12.23 km/h avg., Ascent 199m, Descent 185m

Lezyne Power
Time - 1:37:32, Distance - 18.7km, 11.5km/h avg., Ascent 168m, Descent 169m

That was quite a difference between them. I would trust the Garmin more for distance and speed than the Lezyne. The reason is that it is using a wheel sensor while the Lezynes aren't. I also note that the Garmin is from late 2013. There have likely been advances to hardware technology since then that the Lezyne's have. Still, that's a pretty significant variation in data gathered on a short ride.

So I decided to go all techy. I started to do rides with 4 different units on the bike. It looked kind of ridiculous but I was really curious about how things would compare.

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Too much tech?

 

The Garmin and both Lezynes were joined by a VDO MC 1.0 wireless computer. It was, up until the acquisition of the Garmin, my go to computer. I did have a sensor issue with the VDO (special battery in the sensor) so it was absent for one ride and replaced by an old Cateye Strada wired computer on another. I gathered all of the data in a spreadsheet. Some observations follow.

 

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Speed/Distance - The VDO and Garmin are closer to each other in the October rides. The Lezynes aren't. The reason for this is the leaves on the trees. The Lezyne speed was fluctuating wildly, especially underneath maple trees. It isn't the leaves themselves. It is the moisture within the leaves. Dense cloud cover will do the same thing as the leaves. One section of the Credit River Trail north of Burnhamthorpe Road caused them fits. I think their accuracy improved a lot once the leaves dropped from the trees by November. Certainly more open country or even pine trees would yield more accurate results with the Lezynes.

Altitude - I don't really trust any of them. I have a proper hand held Garmin GPS and the altitude is all over the place unless you stand still. Obviously standing still is not possible with the GPS on the bike. I've never really believed the altitude on the VDO due to its use of barometer - too prone to error based on temperature and air pressure fluctuations. If you want even more radical results there is something on the Garmin Edge that would produce even more skewing. Once you download the ride to Garmin's site you can enable altitude correction where it rejigs the altitude based on mapping elevations in their database. Those results are always lower than any of the other elevations reported, especially with the Lezynes. I don't know which ones to trust. I didn't use these corrected elevations in my comparison. What I do like is that the results on the Lezynes for altitude are pretty consistent with each other. That is good as far as I'm concerned.

Calories - Even though I loaded in the same data (gender, weight, age, wheel circumference, etc.) they all come up with different results. I personally don't believe in any of them.

If you have any experience with a Garmin you know that you can see your ride overlaid on a Google Map on your Garmin web page. Same thing with the Lezyne. If anything I like the Lezyne web site better. They call it GPS Root. Once you've created an account, then all you have to do is open a browser, log in, connect your Lezyne GPS, turn it on and then click upload on the web page. You name your ride and in just a few seconds the ride is up. You also get plots of speed, elevation etcetera. I like this aspect a lot. This is a really great way to compare rides and keep your data organized. This is dead simple easy to use and so far I haven't found any issues along the way. They have really done their homework to make a beautiful and frustration-free interface.

PHOTO

 

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Ride is from October 25th

(LARGER versions of photos)

 

Living with the Lezynes for a few months did produce a few issues. There have been a couple of software updates for them. One update caused the Power to lose all of its programming of stats. The same update on the Mini didn't cause any issues. On one ride the Mini lost connection to satellites and stopped gathering data. I didn't notice for about 5 minutes. The spot where it lost connection was easy to find on the map. It was just after passing under a 4 lane road (essentially a big tunnel) on a paved bike path. The path is sort of in a small valley (an oversized ditch about 5 metres deep) with houses on each side. I'm not sure what happened as the other computers didn't have any problems.

I'm not a huge fan of nested menus on electronic devices. I have one sports watch that is sitting in a drawer because it only has two buttons that require multiple moves to even change the time. The Mini has 3 buttons and the Power 4 buttons. They have set it up in a very simple way and it works well. Tip of the hat to them. By the second ride I didn't even have to refer to the online manual to navigate through the features.

The suggested retail price of the Mini GPS is $189.99, the Power GPS $229.99 and the Super GPS is $259.99. Compared to the Garmin, these units are very affordable. With the Mini you have just about the smallest GPS unit available in the marketplace today. I'm not quite as sure with Power. I'd like to be able to tie it to an Ant+ device because they are affordable [the Super model has this option]. Even though the Power can link via Bluetooth to a decent number of Bluetooth sensors and monitors, these are, by and large, expensive. They are coming down in price but they're not quite there yet. For a list of compatible Bluetooth and Ant+ devices see Here

Overall these things (all of them, not just Lezyne) are toys. They aren't recording what I would call truly accurate data in any respect. They give you an idea of what you did and the map of the ride on the respective web sites are neat but these things aren't measuring to the metre in any respect. It would be the same as claiming accuracy on the GPS on your phone. It just isn't there.

What you can do is compare things from ride to ride which is important. If you are interested in going full geek you might want to check out this article about the overall problems with GPS measurement - Why Every GPS Overestimates Distance Traveled.

Still, I really like what Lezyne has done. These are simple to run units that function very well. The price is good too. That's always a plus. I'm used to the Garmin website, but after a couple of months of side by side use I think I like the Lezyne website better. For a first crack at GPS and info gathering they have done an admirable job. Which one would I buy of the two? I would take the Mini. It weighs all of 29 grams, its battery lasts for 10 hours and it can store 100 hours of rides. What's not to like? Lezyne has done a fine job with these units.

To view all of the Lezyne products visit www.lezyne.com.

Editor's Note: Unlike Mike, I am not a geography major with a fetish for GPS units - before trying the Lezyne Super, my GPS experience was restricted to my phone and my car unit. So, this makes me a good test subject for a new user. The Super is identical to the Power in size, weight, display, buttons, etc. Where it differs is twice as much data storage (400 hours as opposed to 200), and it can connect to ANT+ devices, while the Power is only compatible with Bluetooth Smart. Realistically, the only reason to upgrade from the Power to the Super is if you have an ANT+ heart rate, cadence or power unit.

I found setup to be very easy, and I definitely like the ability to choose which pieces of data to display. I did not use a sensor since the units don't come with one. Personally, I consider this a bit of a failing - I understand that many people may already have a sensor from their list of compatible ones, but I think it should be an option. Without the sensor I could not test the power or heart rate functions.

I couldn't do the data comparison between various units that Mike could, but on my regular ride routes it seemed to relatively consistent for measured distance, so that allowed me to do ride comparisons, which is likely one of the most common things people like to do.

The website is excellent, and shows that Lezyne has recognized that this data interface is an important part of the package you are buying.

Review by Mike Badyk

 

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