Breaking the Garmin Hold: Lezyne Super GPS

Breaking the Garmin Hold: Lezyne Super GPS

When the original Lezyne GPS units were introduced, at a certain level I didn’t care how they functioned, so long as they did function and didn’t die on an annual basis. I’ve owned four Garmin GPS units and only one of those never got sent back to Garmin to be fixed after suffering the GPS equivalent of sad Mac while on a ride. Some of these failures resulted in outcomes that included no GPS data on a two-week trip to the Alps. What this points to is that a single brand’s Achilles heel became an outsize concern when examining other brands.

So the mere existence of the Lezyne GPS units was a positive enough development to cause me to cheer.

Then came the actual use of the unit. Operation was simple enough, though with four buttons there were opportunities to screw up and hit the wrong button if you were going hard and unable to think clearly, though for the most part, its operation is straightforward enough.

What did trouble me almost immediately was the fact that unlike most competing GPS units, the screen showed four lines of data no matter what. It’s nice to have four pieces of data you can review whenever you want. However, sometime in my 40s I began needing reading glasses. The numbers were small enough on the Super GPS that I had trouble reading them at times, particularly on rough or dirt roads. As to the text that tells you just what piece of data you’re looking at, which was displayed in something like 6 point type, that was hopelessly impossible to read. I needed to either have the arrangement of data memorized, or the number needed to show an obvious value.

Frustrating as that was, my original Super GPS unit has performed flawlessly, continuing to operate just like the day I opened the box. You never really appreciate reliability until you’ve suffered through a product with poor reliability.

Then Lezyne introduced a revamped GPS. The big change is that you can now choose from a selection of different screen layouts. Whether it’s one big number, one big number and a smaller one, three numbers or four, you now have the ability to choose a different screen layout for each different screen, and you can choose up to five different screens.

The array of functions offered with the Super GPS is, like nearly every current GPS unit, dizzying. In addition to all the usual, speed, distance, time, elevation and lap functions you are accustomed to seeing, it offers a complete suite of power functions to view, from current and max to things like your FTP and left/right balance. Click here to see a list of the full set.

Functionality has been expanded to include seamless integration with both Today’s Plan and Training Peaks, for those who use their GPS as a tool to guide a disciplined training program.

Lezyne’s pricing is such that they’ve managed to put pressure on both Garmin and Wahoo. The Super GPS alone is $149.99. With the heart rate monitor the price increases to $189.99, while the “loaded box” with a heart rate strap and speed sensor is only $229.99. By comparison, the bundle for Garmin’s 520 goes for more than $100 more. And while the Garmin 25 was positioned to be a less expensive competitor, it features shorter battery life, fewer functions and, worse, no ability to automatically upload rides upon arriving home. I mean, with a battery run time of up to 24 hours for the Super GPS, it is one of very few units that a 24-hour racer could use and finish with a single, seamless file, rather than two or three different files uploaded for multiple units.

I’ll admit that I’m not wild about receiving text messages while I’m on a ride. When I’m out, I want to be left alone. Nevermind the fact that I can’t read the text when it arrives.

Live Tracking is something that Lezyne offers on its own, so you don’t have to sign up for Strava premium. While the mapping functions aren’t as sophisticated as you may find with a unit like the Wahoo Elemnt, the Super GPS will give turn by turn navigation, and its rare that I encounter a rider who needs much more than that. I mean, as long as I don’t get lost, I’m pretty happy.

But what if you’re not moving? The Super GPS has a trainer mode that will allow you to record a workout even if you never leave the garage.

Honestly, one of the things I like best about purchasing any GPS unit from Lezyne is the collection of videos they include to help you learn your way around each of the more complicated features. Given just how bad most technical writing is (said by a technical writer often brought in to edit the work of other writers), producing a video that can show you exactly what to do is pretty genius.

Given all that the Super GPS does and what it runs price-wise, I can say that this is proof positive that some aspects of cycling have improved while actually dropping in price. This is just the sort of product I can recommend and know that nearly anyone will be completely satisfied with it.

Final thought: antidote to the cycling arms race.

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  1. Andrew

    Have been considering, as I too have had my share of bricked Garmins. My big issue is that I have nice metal K-edge Garmin mounts on all 3 bikes, and I don’t really feel like buying a computer that won’t fit them. I can’t believe Lezyne can’t make their mount compatible.

    1. NIk

      The questions about mount compatibility is interesting. There seems to be a solution:

      Wahoo’s devices are also incompatible with Garmin mounts, except that you can make it fit by cutting a tiny bit of plastic off a Garmin mount and suddely a Wahoo Elemnt fits in the Garmin mount. If they are so similar, I wonder what made it necessary to make them incompatible ? I’m not a patent expert, but if it was patent protection of the Garmin mount, surely it would take more than making one plastic piece 0.5mm wider to circumvent the patent ?

      As Patrick with his love for metaphors would phrase it, Wahoo has been “as evasive as an NSA director in a congressional hearing” about this point, producing pure gibberish when asked to explain.

  2. Jeff

    Padraig – Garmin lost me a few years ago when they refused to replace my Fenix 2 watch with a new unit. The screen kept freezing and it would just shut off and reboot over and over again. I can deal with minor product glitches here and there, but at least stand behind it. Don’t send me refurbished units that have suffered the same fate as mine and tell me everything is fine. With that rant out of the way, I did the same thing you did and ordered the Super GPS when my Garmin 705 had run it’s course. I had a few minor complaints with features, such as the inability to set up more than one bike, but I emailed them and they assured me it was coming with a future software release. Sure enough, it did. Reliability and battery life are excellent as you mentioned. I would highly recommend to anybody tired of dealing with Garmin.

    Andrew: Lezyne uses rubber bands to attach their mounts. It isn’t sexy, but it works, and you can affix it anywhere on the handlebar or stem. I had them send me a few extra for all of my bikes.

  3. peter

    To take care of your problem with reading the small print on your computer, take a look at Hydrotack Optx 20/20 stick on bifocals that come in different strengths and adhere to the inside of your sunglasses by surface tension. They are easy to remove and clean and if you change sunglasses, you can transfer the bifocals.They cost about $20 a pair.

  4. Kevin Collings

    Lezyne’s computers seemed like my perfect solution until I saw that they require a phone connection for route navigation. Being able to load a tire route on a device, shut off my phone (or at least Bluetooth), and not worry about spotty cell coverage in remote areas is top on my list for a bike computer.

    1. Author

      In the latest software update they now allow you to download regional maps, so that your phone does not have to be linked to your GPS.

  5. Alan

    It’s nice to see alternatives but I don’t agree with all the Garmin bashing. I’ve found Garmjn bike computers and watches reliable and functional, if not pricey.

    1. Author

      Your success with Garmin notwithstanding, this isn’t unsupported bashing. Just look at the number of comments in this space about dead Garmin units.

  6. Bil Danielson

    I’ve owned and used Cateye, then went to a Garmin 520 . 520 was wrecked and lost in a race, so I opted for the Lezyne Super GPS. It worked pretty well with great battery life, but digitally crumbled before my eyes due to leaking in water. All the while I missed some of the slick connectivity and Strava integration of the 520. So I then tried Giant’s Neostrack due to its price point and battery, but sent it back due to its confounding connection to WiFi issues and uploading files (used it for a week and had enough of swearing at an inanimate object). I bit the bullet and just started using the G 1030.. Man, it just flat out works better on multiple levels. Yes, it’s pricey, but if you re into data, or like me race off-road gravel or marathon xc it’s golden. With bike computers you definitely get what you pay for imho.

  7. Aar

    I agree that Garmin bike computers have their reliability and consistency issues. They are too big (or small) and clunky. Their software/firmware updates change too much functionality in too many unpredictable ways. The company can push support back to poorly written documentation but they give you technical support for the life of the unit.

    If cellular coverage independent mapping is on your “must have” list, there is only one game in the US. Further, they back it up with excellent sensor connection options. While phone pairing is finicky, it is not necessary for device functionality – unlike many others on the market. I just ordered my 3rd Garmin unit. Got 4 years out of each of the first two without hardware replacement of either. I hope I have similar luck with the Edge 1030.

    Yes, Magellan offers similar functionality but I’ve never seen one anywhere.

    1. 32x20

      I like the price point and functionality of the Lezyne unit, but have gone Garmin for my and my wife’s GPS units for the reason you mention: mapping independent of cell service. The ability to use OSM maps on Garmin headunits has been very helpful when out exploring new places and trail systems. If Lezyne (or Wahoo) had that functionality I’d seriously consider their offerings.

  8. Lucien Walsh

    on the other hand, I’ve rapidly come to rely on Varia to tell me what’s happening behind me on the mix of urban/suburban roads I ride. So for the time being, I must remain in the Garmin camp!

  9. Fuzz

    I’ve been a Garmin guy since I bought my first GPS unit for my car, and then a 305 for my bike. But when the battery on my 520 started fading fast after only 3 years, a friend convinced me to try an Elemnt Bolt. The bolt uses a user’s phone for all the heavy lifting that was always so tedious on my 520. It’s been a lot of fun so far. Using the phone makes my Garmin 520 feel like a 10 year old car nav by comparison.

    My only complaint so far is that the margin of error for the turn my turn routing is not large enough, so the unit often tells me I’m off route, when the map screen clearly shows that I am not.

    And while my unit as been otherwise flawless, one buddy had two infant screen failures, and another had GPS errors. Both were able to easily return their units, and so far the newer ones have been good.

    I do wish Wahoo provided more data for my Di2. So far it’s just gear info and battery level, and the battery level info is tedious to access. My 520 by comparison provided everything I could even want to know about the di2, including synchro shifting and trim adjustments.

  10. Les.B.

    Seems to me the ideal bike computer would be the simplest to implement.

    Start with a smartphone. It already comes with internet access, GPS, accelerometers.
    Design a cycling app that includes the availability of a zillion parameters, whatever anyone would want. Give complete freedom for screen layout.

    With only that you got a problem of battery life, as the phone screen is a power hog, plus these displays are not sunlight-friendly.

    So what you do is bluetooth data from the phone to a custom color LCD display (as used on cycling computers) which is readable in daylight and is miserly with power.

    Seems to me that is simpler than designing all these functions inside a dedicated device. People already have a powerful computer on their person. Use that.

    1. fiddlythings

      Les.B. – Like the Wahoo RFLKT was? Unfortunately, I think their implementation of the idea had too many flaws.

    2. Author

      The Elemnt Bolt is the next generation of that concept. I’ll be getting to it soon.

    3. Rick

      If you are happy with a smartphone then that choice is open to you, and considerably cheaper than using buying a gps. I am moving in the opposite direction, having struggled with the less than perfect integration of 3rd party products with smartphones for a number of years. For example do a google on “Huawei Strava” and read comments from all the frustrated people who have experienced their Huawei “power management feature” switching off the gps mid ride when it thinks the phone is in standby. I had similar problems a few years back with a HRM being switched off by my Motorola phone a couple of minutes into a ride. My motivation in buying a cycle computer is in part to get away from the dependence on a collection of bits from different manufacturers which work in theory, but fall over when I buy a new phone or update Android version.

  11. Stephen Hasper

    Thanks for a helpful article. I am looking at the Wahoo Element and Lezyne Super (Garmins seems to expensive) but very undecided. I currently just use Strava premium but want to change to a system mounted on my handlebars so I can see time, speed, etc. It is important that my wife can track my mountain bike rides as I usually am alone. Does either unit actually give the specific location like the Strava Beacon feature? Also with Lezyne Super GPS i am concerned about the syncing to my phone. Will this run down the phone battery like when I use Strava now? It seems to me linking to my phone is not ideal. Thanks much for any help.

    1. Author

      Wahoo offers a feature similar to the Strava beacon through its Elemnt app. While the Elemnt Bolt uses the phone for its GPS signal, the full Elemnt and the Lezyne Super GPS are both standalone GPS units. So far, the Elemnt is my favorite GPS on the market.

  12. Rick

    Padraig, you have published misinformation on the Bolt. A cursory glance at the Wahoo website would have confirmed that both the elemnt and bolt, contain their own GPS sensor, and only the wahoo mini relies on the GPS sensor in the phone. You are incorrect in statements you have made about the bolt.

  13. andrew

    im planning to get a Lezyne GPS. i have a question about the save function. when you need to turn off the gps (you need to sleep for 8 hours) can you turn it on and continue the “saved” ride and just “end” it once the ride is done? our ride is mostly touring / bikepacking.

    1. Author

      I’m unaware of any GPS units that will allow you to turn a GPS off and then back on and then continue a ride. When I’m touring, I just make each day a separate file.

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