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Mio Cyclo 505 review

26 Oct 2016

A long term test of Mio’s all-singing, all turn-by-turn directing Cyclo 505 bike computer shows it can compete with the best.

The Mio Cyclo 305 was one of the first products we ever featured in Cyclist. It was 2012, Wiggo had just won the Tour, and it was good. The 305 had a proper colour touchscreen way before any other manufacturer, and made an excellent fist of directing you places and connecting to ANT+ stuff. But it was about the size of a bar of soap and a tad clunky.

Two years on, and a massive firmware update later, the Cyclo 505 was born, and it’s this unit that’s been my go-to device ever since. And here’s why…

How it stacks up

You could be forgiven for thinking the Cyclo 505 is a bit ‘touring bike’, and indeed it was – and in some cases is – marketed as such. But after extensive use, and the aforementioned update, I think it’s much more than that.

Firstly, it’s pretty svelte. At 61 x 103 x 19.6mm and weighing 129g it’s no Garmin Edge 820 (73 x 49 x 21mm, 68g), but it’s on a par with the Edge 1000 (58 x 112 x 20mm, 115g). Secondly, it has all the functionality of those units and then some. It displays every data field under the sun, from right-left power balance and pedalling efficiency to barometric altitude and road gradient; it syncs to your smartphone for call and message alerts when riding; it auto uploads data via Bluetooth or WiFi to Strava (although you need to have enabled the option in MioShare, Mio’s equivalent to Garmin Connect) and it can control your music from dashboard buttons, although we’d hasten to add riding with headphones is dangerous, kids.

Battery life is between 8 and 12 hours even when paired to various devices (concurrent power meter, heart rate strap and smartphone pairing sees the lower end of that spectrum); the Cyclo 505 contains a protocol that allows it to connect to some models of turbo trainer to control resistance and log sessions, and it will display Di2 shifting information based on pre-set cassette configurations or custom inputs (eg, it will tell you you’re now turning 53x16).

Yet the jewel in the Cyclo 505s crown is none of these things. It’s the mapping, which exists to provide turn-by-turn directions, like a pared down version of a car satnav. Punch in a street name, postcode or point of interest and it’ll happily take you there. You can choose to automatically avoid major roads, unpaved roads or find the nearest bike shop. You can also download and follow pre-planned routes in GPX form, manually choose to avoid certain roads (eg if you know there’s road works), and ride Strava Live Segments – it will alert you when a segment is coming up so you can get your game face on. It also has a ‘Surprise me’ function. Put in how far or how long you want to ride for and it will design a route in seconds based on your current location.

Of that latter point the function has limitations. If you’re in central London and ask for a 30km loop the Cyclo won’t present anything memorable, but that’s not it, that’s central London and the uninspiring, busy roads. But if you’re in unfamiliar countryside things get a lot better; even in known territory the Cyclo can present hitherto unknown roads.

It’s certainly an interesting function, but it’s the satnav abilities that have kept me coming back to the Cyclo. Despite the same resolution screen as an Edge 1000 (240x400dpi), the Cyclo’s screen is just that much clearer thanks to the Mio software. It’s top-down 2D, but for bike speeds and roads it’s good enough, and road names can even be made out fairly clearly for that extra bit of tying together your surroundings and the Cyclo’s virtual rendering.

Admittedly it does struggle on occasion in densely populated areas. When loads of roads are packed in together it can be hard to make out the occasional turning, but should you miss yours it will quickly re-plan the route, and besides, I still find a great deal more clarity in the Cyclo 505 touchscreen than in anything else I’ve used, bar a car satnav.

If there are annoyances it’s over the two navigational modes – ‘car’ and ‘bike’. ‘Car’ will always take the shortest route, whereas ‘bike’ will avoid major roads. Great if that’s the M3, but less so if you’re on a quiet B road and the Cyclo prompts you to start winding through an estate. On the plus side, it has a good handle on cycle routes, such as down canal towpaths or one-way streets, but if there was some hybrid mode between the two, quick but non-major road safe, that would be ideal.

Should you buy one?

The answer is it rather depends on what kind of riding you do. If you never do A to unknown B routes, nor want to follow your own GPX pre-planned routes nor need to navigate around new places, then the answer is the Mio Cyclo 505 is probably overkill. But then I’d say the say about the Garmin Edge 1000.

However, if you want a device for logging and displaying data day to day, plus the added benefit of the above, the Cyclo is currently as good as it gets. There’s still room for improvement, but as it stands its mapping is the best in the business, and the rest of the features are plenty enough for even the most tech or data obsessed rider. 

Verdict: Takes mapping and real-time navigation to a whole new level while doing everything you’d expect of a cutting edge bike computer. Has its foibles, but overall a reliable, intuitive device you’ll struggle to live without. 


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