Mio Cyclo 505 HC review

We've had a love/hate relationship with the Mio Cyclo 505 in the number of weeks that we've been using it. Love because there's as much here as any cycling computer can offer these days and its full mapping and routes have come in handily plenty of times; hate because the high price is met with what we feel is sub-standard cable-tie fittings that can cause a variety of issues with securing the product and sensors to some bicycle frames.

As a relative newcomer to the cycling computer market, does the Mio Cyclo 505 HC - HC indicates it can monitor your heart rate and pedal cadence (essentially RPM) - match up to or indeed surpass the likes of the Garmin Edge 810 and similar competitors?

Setting up

There are three key components to the Mio Cyclo 505 HC: the GPS unit itself, the adjustable heart-rate monitor, and a cadence and speed monitor combination which use the pedal arm, spoke and rear bracket positions to obtain its revolutions per minute read based on both input and wheel rotation.

The GPS unit has a twist-lock system comprised of two opposing interlocking rubber sections which make for a tight fit. Pop these on the handlebars and the material feels as though it will stick fast - that is until the cable-ties come into play. These plastic pulleys - often known as make-shift movie handcuffs - do pull tight, but it's just not quite tight enough for all frame shapes and sizes; it's not the band-based system of the Garmin Edge series, for example. And this is a problem because bars on plenty of bicycles aren't of a constant diameter and not all will have the space to mount centrally. Our test bike's only accessible position was on a bend which didn't prove altogether fruitful, particularly when bounding around on cobblestones when the GPS unit then moved out of place. For a pricey, top-spec unit to lack a suitable method of adhesion is an oversight in our view.

READ: Garmin Edge 810 pictures and hands-on

Much the same can be said about the cadence monitor. The system works by a pedal-placed magnet that passes a rear-bracket monitor to generate a single rotational read; attached to a spoke on the wheel is a speed monitor which passes the monitor on the inside to read the wheel rotation. For this to work the magnet has to pass with close proximity, at 3-5mm. Not necessarily a problem after initial fitting - although some spoke formations on larger rear tyres will struggle with that proximity.

But, again, it's the cable-tie method which fails in its application: pedal arms just aren't consistent in diameter and the magnet can easily slip down or even around its initial position. We've pulled it double tight and there's not another notch available on the cable-tie, so although the fit appears to be tight, the sensor gravitates towards the thinner section of the pedal arm - which means it's then not placed to register each rotation. Some other manufacturers solve this by providing tape - something like the Polar RC3 GPS might not be perfect, but the tape sticks tight to the magnet. There's nothing stopping you buying tape for a tighter connection with the Mio system, but at this price all that stuff should be included in the box.

READ: Polar RC3 GPS Tour De France review 

With the heart monitor it's a far improved story. The elasticated garment can be size-adjusted and the clip-on monitor, which acts as the seal by using two poppers, reads the heart rate from two pads. Adjust it during use and the poppers can ping open, but set it up right first time and it's a decent and reliable monitor. The real-time heart rate also shows up on the GPS unit's screen if you want it, to give a visual marker of how hard you're working that indefatigable muscle.

On the go

Once everything's in place - assuming it firmly stays there - we've come to like plenty that the Mio Cyclo 505 offers. The purpose of a cycling computer is, typically, to give you on-the-go feedback and to provide the tools to help assess your progress in training. That data is available after a session to view on the device as well as being collated online afterwards. When it comes to real-time views, the Cyclo 505 sure does deliver the goods. The 3-inch screen is clearly visible in all kinds of light - we've tested it in blazing UK sun, as well as dimmer conditions - and while the resolution's not staggeringly high it outshines other competitor units.

The touchscreen display is divided into six colourful main sections - dashboard, navigate, history, surprise me, workout and settings - which, in general, are self explanatory. Dashboard is the main display, while other sections handle access to previous workout or set up navigation - or workout-based sessions with specific locations or goals. Feeling lucky? Then hit "surprise me" for a choice of on-the-spot routes.

The first Dashboard screen is best designed for navigating routes - the GPS Speed is displayed alongside average speed, distance and active time, while distance to next turn, maximum speed, calories burnt and percentage grade all follow in the next column. It's not possible to adjust the layout of the screen, but there's little else here we'd need to see.

The second dashboard screen was our set-up of choice: sensor speed, active time, percentage grade, heart rate, altitude and total ascent (per session) is shown. Again it's not possible to adjust the layout of the screen, and as both sensor speed and active time are twice the size of other data displays we think there could have been room for a click-and-drag-style personalised option too.

Tap over to the third dashboard screen and here's where the full map display lives. This is fairly rare for a cycling computer as it not only shows current location, but - and just like a car's GPS navigation - plotted route as long as you've set a destination, including turn alerts via a beeping sound (not full instructional voice). Zoom in and out using the plus and minus touch buttons and view route covered as shown by a red trail. It's possible to search by points of interest as well as addresses, although the system isn't as user-friendly as something like Google Maps - the post-code plotter, for example, requires that road name and house number are also entered which adds to the search time, and even then not all routes can be found.

Sticky situations

While many wouldn't necessarily find an ongoing use for a car-like GPS system on a bicycle, we made sure we tested it out to the max. And here's where the Cyclo 505 well and truly saved out bacon from time to time.

In one instance while cycling out in the unknown hills of Kent, a Pocket-lint cycling buddy got a front and rear puncture and didn't have enough tubes to change out both. Miles from anywhere a "rescue car" was sent out, but with no bicycle rack available there was no way that two bikes and three bodies would fit in. The solution was the Cyclo 505: we popped in the post code of where we needed to get to and we followed the route which was spot on for our needs.

 

Another time we were headed to a meeting in central London - a common occurrence for team Pocket-lint - but to an unfamiliar venue. In typical fashion we knew how to get almost all the way there, but the Cyclo 505's on-screen display helped us with cutting out the last-minute guesswork.

There is a caveat to that, however - sometimes the navigation isn't up to scratch. When heading to Foubert Street, London, the address wasn't fully recognised so the system sent us to what it considered to be the middle of the street. Only it wasn't the middle of the street. It wasn't the middle of anywhere so we opted for a smartphone map to see what had gone wrong.

 

Routes is another benefit. It's possible to record, save and import pre-defined routes. Whether from other Cyclo users who have uploaded online, or ones you've defined yourself. If you travel around outside of a typical route - say at the weekend for that extended ride - then finding that new scenic option, or a different challenge is an obvious benefit.

Show me the data

Once completed with recording a session, the History section brings up access to each of your workouts. Select a recording to view displays of active time, average actual speed, maximum speed and an associated graph over the route duration; min/max altitude, total ascent/descent with graph; average heart rate, min/max heart rate and graph; and a full plotted route to retrace your steps. Click "Go" and you can re-run a route, which - if you're miles away from the start point - will plot in the added route to get to the startline.

Away from the device all your data is saved in Mio's online system, MioShare, which you'll need to sign up to in order to get the most out of the product. No physical connection is required as the built-in Wi-Fi can be set up to ping data through your local network and into the system. Job done. Good though this wireless sharing is, the access point to the system - on a Mac at least - is tied to Safari only; there's no additional browser support, nor downloadable software unless you're running Windows. It's this which makes the system fall behind the competition, although we can't comment on the desktop software from our Mac-centric point of view.

MioShare acts as a hub for not only your own data but also for shared routes - it's a potentially good source to obtain new routes from throughout Europe - other territories will be provided for, but our review sample is Western Europe only. There are some good ones available to take a look at, strewn in among some lesser ones that we skipped over and here it's really down to the user-based to focus on delivering good content to one another. There's potential within this system, but it's underused in its current state and the online setup is less intricate and less populated than the well-established competitors such as Garmin Connect.

Verdict

The Mio Cyclo leaves us feeling torn. Despite the quality of the device and the sensor abilities, it's the sub-standard cable-tie method of attachment which fails to deliver. Pricey kit such as this - it's a pound shy of £470 shouldn't have overlooked such a fundamentally important aspect of the design in our view, as when parts slip out of view or sensors slide out of position it costs your training.

When everything is on point there's a lot to like - and here the Cyclo 505 delivers as much as you could want from a cycling computer. The touchscreen is responsive and visible in even bright light, while the real-time views see all bases covered. The lack of customisable screen set ups is one area for improvement, but one that didn't cause us any problems for our day to day cycling.

Where we found the Cyclo 505 really came into its own is with the things it can do that lesser cycling computers can't. Not everyone will want or need full mapping capabilities - but if you're a more exploratory cyclist then this system can get you from A to B with real-time navigation, while we found it helped us out of the unknown on a couple of occasions. When real life scenarios like that are advanced by technology it really made us warm to the Cyclo 505.

But as much warmth as we felt, and as chuffed as we were with the 505 HC when it was working to full effect, we continued to kick the cadence sensor magnet out of place due to its poor cable-tie attachment, and therefore got inaccurate data which became frustrating. This design oversight, a less preferable online data management system than some competitors and the huge price tag combine to leave the 505 HC a little short of the mark.



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