The Joys of Quantification, Part 1: Which Garmin-Compatible Mount Should You Buy?

07.24.2014 | 12:22 pm

I love looking down at my bike computer. Love it.

I know, I know. I should be looking around, at the great outdoors and stuff. But sometimes I just can’t stand the thought of taking in another majestic mountain range. I find myself rolling my eyes at picturesque valleys and burbling streams.

There are times, quite frankly, when the thought enduring yet another waterfall makes me want to scream. 

But staring at my Garmin 510 never gets old. The speed! The time! The elevation, grade, and total ascent!

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My heart leaps, just looking at that rich mine of information, all there for the seeing.

Garmin’s done a good job of making a suite of GPS devices for bikes. As I’ve written before, I’m a big fan of the Garmin Edge 500, and next week I’ll be writing a long-term review of the Garmin Edge 510.

But whether you use a Garmin Edge 200 (the entry-level model) 500, 510, 800, or 810, you’re going to need a way to put that GPS on your bike — a GPS mount. 

There are a lot of different kinds out there, and not all of them are equally awesome. But I’ve been using some of the most popular ones for a while, and think I can give some good guidance for which ones you ought to use.

The In-The-Box Options

To their credit, Garmin ships a pretty darned good mount with the GPS you buy: a light, round little disc that you put on your stem with a couple of the included tough-but-stretchy O-rings (several are included, with different lengths to match different stem circumferences).

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The GPS twists on (or off) with a quarter turn, and you’re ready to go:

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The problem with this mount is that, as the Garmins get bigger, this mount has a tougher time holding the GPS in place. With the 500, I never noticed the GPS drifting to one side or another. With the 510, a rocky ride will make the mounted GPS slide to one side or another.

Some Garmins — the 510, for example — also come with a mount that sticks out beyond the bar:

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For road bikes in particular, this type of mount is fantastic: you don’t have to look down as far to see the GPS when the mount puts your computer further forward.

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(For mountain bikes, this kind of mount is a bad idea; they put your GPS in too exposed a place for when crashes happen.)

But of all the mounts in this blog post, this is the only one I recommend strongly against.

Why? Because it damaged a very expensive GPS. One time, when The Hammer was descending and went over a cattle guard using this mount with her Garmin 510, suddenly her GPS flew off her bike, tumbling to the road. 

To Garmin’s credit, the strong casing prevented the GPS from being broken altogether. It’s a little banged up, but still works.

However, the interface to the mount was damaged. Take a look at the left side of the disc — the tab has broken off:

IMG 9311

This broken-off tab means that The Hammer’s GPS no longer sits as securely on any mount. 

Did this break happen because of the GPS or the mount? I don’t know for sure, but both are broken in the same place, and both are from Garmin…and I’ve never had this happen with any other mount on a Garmin GPS. So for myself, I’m swearing off this particular mount forever.

For the Road: Bar Fly 2.0

Instead of the Garmin mount, I am now using the Tate Labs Bar Fly 2.0 as the mount on our road bikes:

IMG 9301 

Honestly, I have nothing but nice things to say about this mount. It goes on very easily with just a single bolt tightening down a plastic clamp — so no worries about damaging your carbon bar, and it’s simple as can be to adjust the viewing angle of the GPS. 

Then the shape of the mount means that whether you’re using a smaller Garmin (a 200 or a 500) or a larger one (the 510, an 800, or an 810), it’s going to fit without any adjustments made to the mount. Pretty elegant.

NewImage
Same bike, same mount, different-sized Garmins. A 510 on the left, a 500 on the right. 

And Tate Labs has done a great job with the product material: it doesn’t seem to be wearing down the tabs on my GPS very quickly at all. 

Finally, if you’re using a Shimano or Campy electronic shifting setup on your road bike, the Bar Fly 2.0 has a place to put the shifting module out of site on the underside, a nice tidy place for that little black box.

By way of full disclosure, the guys at Tate Labs sent me one Bar Fly 2.0 to try out. I liked it well enough that I’ve bought additional ones for all of the road bikes in the family.

Two Great MTB Mount Options

On your mountain bike, you don’t want to have your GPS sticking out past the handlebar; it’s just not a good idea to lead with an expensive piece of electronics. There seems to be agreement that a mount that puts the GPS over your stem is a reasonable compromise between visibility and protecting the GPS.

There are two mounts that I think are just about perfect, and the fact that they arrived at their solution in different ways is pretty awesome.

Bar Fly 3.0 (MTB)

Before I say anything else, let me say this: someone at Tate Labs needs to hire a guy to name their mounts. “Bar Fly 3.0 (MTB)” is just terrible. They should have named it Bar Fly MTB Mobius:

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Or something like that. 

Boring name aside, this is a fantastic mount, using the same thinking that makes the Bar Fly 2.0 great (good plastic, one-bolt fastening to the bar, fits any Garmin) and turning it around so the mount is over the stem:

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You can’t tell it from this photo, but this puts the mount above the stem cap and faceplate hardware, so that any size Garmin will mount on, no problem. Here’s The Hammer’s 510:

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You can see that with the super short stem The Hammer (correctly) runs, the 510 wouldn’t fit with Garmin’s mount on the stem. It fits — no problem — with the Bar Fly

K-Edge Stem Mount

K-Edge has a couple of different mounts that go around the top of your steerer tube, fastened down by your top compression cap: 

IMG 9294

Replacing a 5mm spacer, this mount has a couple of pretty fantastic advantages. First, it takes up no real estate on your handlebar at all, so if you’ve got a GoPro or a phone mount that needs to mount on the handlebar on both sides of the stem, you’re still in business.

Next, since this sits above your stem, your GPS is going to fit, no matter how short your stem.

And finally, with the adjustable version (like the one shown in the photo above), you can adjust the viewing angle by loosening a bolt. 

Designed and made in Idaho by cycling gold medalist Kristin Armstrong’s family, these  K-Edge mounts — made of machined aluminum — are far and away the coolest-looking GPS mounts out there. 

This is the GPS mount that The Hammer has on her singlespeed, and she loves it. Enough so that I’ve bought one (the one on The Hammer’s bike was sent to us no charge) for my own new singlespeed, though I’ve bought the less-expensive non-adjusting version:

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All in black for me, of course. If I could have things my way, there is no bike product that would not be available in straight-up black, with no color accents allowed, with the exception of white and silver.

The adjustable version of this mount does have one pretty significant drawback: price.  $39.99 MSRP (and a street price of $35.99) is a lot to pay for a mount, no matter how cool and shiny it looks. 

PS: My next post will be a review of the Garmin Edge 510, now that The Hammer and I have been using it for about a year. Spoiler: I don’t like it as much as I like the 500.

29 Comments »

  1. Comment by ScottR | 07.24.2014 | 12:41 pm

    Glad to see I’m not the only one obsessing over Garmin mounts – I really like the Barfly 2.0, and for bikes with cross levers I’ve also liked the similar SRAM mount (sometimes you just need to go over or under your cables…)

    As I added a ‘between the arms’ water bottle on my tri bike, I’ve played around with mount options and other tweaks more than I have in the rest of my life combined – thank goodness I was able to pick up some stuff from a triathlete garage sale here locally.

    I also love my 500 – I got it when Garmin was offering a nice rebate as the 510 initially came out. Just from a budget perspective, staying a generation behind can keep you pretty happy.

  2. Comment by blair | 07.24.2014 | 1:15 pm

    Spacer? At the top of the stem?

    Slam and cut, man. Unless you have the foresight and know you’ll be accessorizing there…

    nb: I’m totally enamored with the stock Garmin mount. Fits perfect, works perfect, and there’s no leverage to it, so it can’t work vibrate itself loose and slip down over time (I have a Cycleops on my MTB that loves to droop, and when it isn’t drooping it’s making me stare at it wondering if it’s drooping…).

  3. Comment by TK | 07.24.2014 | 2:36 pm

    Am I the only one who is interested in seeing the type and order/location of other people’s GPS data fields? It is like a window into another person’s soul.

    Your wish will be granted on Monday. – FC

  4. Comment by UpTheGrade, SR, CA | 07.24.2014 | 3:22 pm

    My lowly bike computer, not a GPS, went bananas today and roughly doubled my speed reading. While I knew it was lying, I still felt good having it tell me I was doing 55mph!! If only it were true.

    I run Strava on my android smartphone to record my ride data, which works great but is not viewable during the ride, and the battery cannot last for a double century. I would definitely get a Garmin if it didn’t cost more than my bike.

  5. Comment by Chris | 07.24.2014 | 3:25 pm

    I have the BarFly on my Road rig and I love it.

    I have one on my MTB as well. I’d thought about the possibility that a wreck would do bad things to my Garmin and/or mount, but I just decided that I wouldn’t wreck in such a way. It’s worked so far.

    I’ve got the Garmin mount on my TT rig. It works great, but it looks far too chunky.

    @TK – I know what you mean. The first picture with 8 datapoints gave me a headache.

    The main screen of my 500 has 5 measurements. No picture, so just have to imagine:

    Power (Full width across the top)

    Current Speed | Distance

    Heart Rate | Cadence

    I put the ones I most commonly look at at the top/bottom edges, that way I can see them in a glance. The two in the middle are fluff, really; I rarely look at them and it takes a while for my eye to really focus in on them.

    The only reason I have 5 instead of 3 is because I can’t stand the 3-line layout and the text is too big in the 1/2 layout.

  6. Comment by Scott Gilbert | 07.24.2014 | 3:26 pm

    I love my K-edge bar mount for my Garmin 500! Secure and hasn’t worn out the bottom of the Garmin with nearly a 5 rides a week year of use.

    Hope it’s OK I put your name in there — you were anonymous, but I’m pretty sure that’s by accident. – FC

  7. Comment by Corrine | 07.24.2014 | 4:48 pm

    I love my Garmin 500, also. Only drawback, the battery doesn’t last 18 hours any more and it seems like I keep doing these endurance rides that take me longer! So I can’t record all of those rides. I guess I just have to get faster!

  8. Comment by djconnel | 07.24.2014 | 6:22 pm

    One issue is the Garmin ahead mount is, as far as I know, the only one which comes with an adaptor for 26 mm handlebars, which I find more comfortable. And part of the motivation for a forward mounting point is safety: when looking at the computer the road ahead remains more prominently within peripheral vision, and the change in focus needed to see the computer is less.

  9. Comment by Doug (Way Upstate NY) | 07.24.2014 | 6:40 pm

    I got a Barfly 3.0 for my mtb a month ago. Love it so far. Real test will be Sunday. Equipment torture ride.

  10. Comment by MattC | 07.24.2014 | 6:55 pm

    sheesh….you are all pretty fancy-schmancy w/ your 500s/800’s/510’s, & 810’s! (I bet you all have “smart-phones” too). I’m still liking my couple-year-old 705 that I bought when I was in England (and was in desperate need to be able to find my rental-car after all day rides). I made my own aluminum flat-mount that clamps in the stem-cap gap (a bit of careful torquing required to get it right) and puts my 705 out in front just like the bar-fly or 510 mount, only it was free (a good price for SURE).

    I made a duplicate for my MTB and love it’s placement out in front where I can actually see it…and as w/ Chris, I’ve just decided not to wreck (at all, let-alone ‘in such a way’) and also it’s worked great for me thus far.

    Boy oh boy…ya’ll and ur fancy new stuff…I bet you even have indexed shifting too (just being facetious now).

  11. Comment by Jeff Helm | 07.24.2014 | 8:10 pm

    Don’t forget the Garmin Touring GPS. I have had mine for about 5 months and it has been great. It is a basic unit to track your ride, give you a route from point A to point B and costs about $280. I used it to ride from Coppell Tx to Austin Tx and back. It kept me on safe roads and only put me on gravel once for about 1/2 mile. The battery life does suck, but you can get a Astro Mini external battery on E-Bay for $25 that will keep your Garmin working for a least 16 hours. It is about the size of a BIC lighter. Hopes this helps.

  12. Comment by Doug (Way Upstate NY) | 07.25.2014 | 5:11 am

    Hey Elden, Are we going to talk about power meters too? If you are a fan of too much information, you gotta have a power meter!

    I should totally start a Kickstarter to buy a power meter. – FC

  13. Comment by Dima | 07.25.2014 | 5:40 am

    Crap! I read about Hammer’s damaged Garmin and then few minutes later took mine off charger and same thing happened to it when I touched that spot. Weird.

    Mine was trusty old 500 though. Still sad :/

  14. Comment by Dima | 07.25.2014 | 5:50 am

    Here it is: i.imgur.com/MJ5qyUr.jpg

    I used standart kit mount for about 4 years, by the way, wanted to buy K-Edge for it.

  15. Comment by Jeff Bike | 07.25.2014 | 9:02 am

    I use a Garmin 500 (ebay $269 about 18 months ago), love it. I use the stock out of the box mounts (I’m cheep)and love them. Set up for the MtBikes is on the stem. On the roadie I use an extender bar and that is a good place for my bike bell also.
    I ride the Leon Creek Greenbelt Pathway a lot. The bell is much easier than saying on your left all the time, especially when your out of breath. Do any other FF use a bell?

  16. Comment by SteveB | 07.25.2014 | 10:09 am

    @JeffBike – I don’t use a bell, but I’ve ridden with people who do – I think its a great idea if you ride bike paths a lot.

    I have an edge 500 – its been very dependable. Barfly mounts have worked for me. I used the original in-box mounts for a while, but the rubber band attachments seemed pretty sketchy to me – I feel much safer with the barfly mounts.

    @UpTheGrade – you can get a battery extender from Amazon or the like that will double your run time or more – lots of choices out there.

  17. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 07.25.2014 | 10:21 am

    I’m still riding with old Cateye bike monitors, spoke magnets and all. My days of obsessive bike geeky-ness are past and I just basically need miles and average speed for my records (both of which are going steadily downward). I’m trying to get motivated for more riding and maybe a new toy would help – I took notes on this post, and I await your reviews on the Garmins, I have not done any research on them at all.

  18. Comment by Dan O | 07.25.2014 | 12:19 pm

    I have the k-edge.
    It’s completely worth it.
    Plus it comes in colors.

    A friend saw mine and he got one after one look at mine.

  19. Comment by MLB | 07.25.2014 | 12:52 pm

    My old Garmin 305 works just fine, problem is I cant see a thing on the screen without my ready glasses on. No, I haven’t worn them while riding…yet. 7 or 8 fields on a single screen? No way.

    The Bar Fly mount is cool. Now if they could extend it out a foot or so so I can focus on it?

  20. Comment by TK | 07.25.2014 | 1:12 pm

    I go with 7 fields on my Garmin 305 main screen.

    Speed is at the top all alone, then a bunch of other stuff beneath it. Not sure why I have speed at the top, since it really isn’t that useful to know while I am riding. I should probably replace it with calories so I know when I’ve biked long enough to eat another piece of pie (or Dunford Bakers donut).

  21. Comment by berry | 07.25.2014 | 2:49 pm

    I bought the Sram mount from Amazon – looks like the standard Garmin 510 one, but was a lot cheaper, I think it was about $14. I use that on the road. The plastic doesn’t seem too ‘hard’ so I’m not terribly worried about my tabs, though I do try to check. I use the stock Garmin 500 mount on my MTB, though that barfly one looks really interesting.

  22. Comment by Chuck | 07.25.2014 | 3:11 pm

    I used the out front mount that came in the box with my 510 initially. It was fine but wanted something a little more bling so I bought the k-edge. I also have a k-edge gopro mount and I appreciate that they somewhat match.

    As for the computer flying off the mount…that’s what the lanyard is for. I always loop it around my bars when I remount it. So even if the tab breaks the computer isn’t going anywhere.

  23. Comment by Cat_Rancher | 07.26.2014 | 4:14 pm

    For a while, I was using the “2 Big-Ass Rubber Bands” mount on my bike. The bike shop guys used to laugh at me about it. (among many other things I’m sure) I had rubber bands coordinated to my bike frame color and everything! They laughed until they tried to take them off. I eventually got a nice bike mount thingy so I could fit in with the cool kids. Any day now they’re going to call me to ride with them, I just know it.

  24. Comment by MattC | 07.26.2014 | 4:35 pm

    2 TK (and every other ‘aging’ cyclist with declining reading-vision), I have OPTX stick-on bifocal lenses in all my riding (and driving) sunglasses. They are half-circle shaped lenses you order in whatever magnification you want. They are pre-shaped to fit on the inside of a lens (sunglasses, regular glasses, safety glasses, you name it). You can trim them to shape with sharp scisors, but be careful and make sure before you cut. I now have 4 sets of 2x’s (upped from 1x about a year or so ago) and with those I can even read the tiny maps on my Garmin 705, let-alone the 8 data fields I have on my screen. Here’s a link…they are a bit pricey (the link below is even cheaper than I paid: $30 for 2 sets) but you can simply pull them out of any glasses and move them to another set.

    http://optx2020.com/p-38-hydrotac-stick-on-bifocal-2-pair-offer-available-for-consumer-purchase-only.aspx

  25. Comment by MattC | 07.26.2014 | 4:35 pm

    oops…that “2 TK” I led off w/ was supposed to be “@ TK”…missed the shift key.

  26. Comment by Kevin | 07.27.2014 | 3:59 pm

    The Barfly is great for the road bike. I took off any cycling computer on my mountain bike and feel much more free without it. I don’t feel the need for a computer or GPS on the mountain bike, plus crashing and thrashing on the mountain bike was not good for any computer that was mounted in any fashion. Just me, but I like riding unconnected on the mountain bike.

  27. Comment by ScottS | 08.1.2014 | 9:09 am

    Bought a Barfly 2.0 on your recommendation. It arrived yesterday and it rocks! You should have mentioned that it grips the Edge, at least my Edge 800, MUCH more securely than the stock Garmin mount. Now I can see my Edge more easily and I don’t have to worry about losing it either. Win-win!

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  29. Comment by Rob Sneddon | 08.28.2014 | 9:09 am

    Sorry to be a barfly pooper folks but had same problem as Hammer with my 810 flying off and breaking both tabs on mount and Garmin. Now I can’t get it fixed because Garmin don’t answer the phone (last attempt 30mins of music and no answer). is there any other way of repairing the Garmin 810 quarter turn tab?

 

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