I'm not a GPS kind of guy. For years, my Strava account was nothing but a way to turn other peoples' red squigly lines into my own epic daydreams. Then, I linked up with a fellow L.A. local who had been stringing together distant trail networks that I once thought were islands joined only by the Angeles Crest Highway. It opened up a new world of big rides. Problem is, I have a terrible sense of direction. I could follow someone through an intersection a dozen times, but when I'm alone I might as well be in the labyrinth from … well, from Labyrinth.
Riders like me need a GPS unit with mapping capabilities. Unfortunately, riders like me probably wouldn't want to pay a lot for one, so we might turn to something like Garmin's bare-bones Edge 25. It allows you to upload a GPX route, so you'll have a trail of breadcrumbs to follow, but there's no pre-loaded map to lay those breadcrumbs on, denying you valuable context and orientation. Plus, it's got only an 8-hour runtime, the screen is about the size of a nickel, it's not multi-color, and it still goes for $170.
That's why there's competition in the world of GPS units. Lezyne has been chipping away at Garmin's monopoly for years, and I think the Mega C might carve out quite a chunk of followers.
The $200, 50 millimeter x 77 millimeter x 27 millimeter unit can display breadcrumbs, allows for downloadable maps, can run for up to 32 hours and uses a color display the size of about three nickels. It's also got all the features below, as well as a few others too nerdy to list, including connectivity with heart rate monitors and power meters as well as customizable training goals. I did not test those features. I mean, come on.
- Weight: 73 grams
- Runtime 32 hours*
- Screen Size: 34 millimeters x 45 millimeters
- GPS and Glonass satellite tracking
- Water resistant
- ANT+ and bluetooth connectivity
- Barometer and accelerometer
- Lezyne X-Lock Mount
Initial setup on the Mega C is primarily done on your smartphone. There's no reading flow charts and no holding buttons down for three seconds. Setting time, units, language and text size, as well as pairing down and selecting which of the far-too-many available data fields you want to see feels as familiar as setting any other preference on your smartphone. I got up and running on my wits alone, quite a feat for any piece of technology.
Setting up the offline navigation features on the Mega C, on the other hand, is a little taxing, and there are a couple ways to do it. Downloading a given area's offline map is plenty simple, but I got a navigation walk-through at Lezyne's headquarters, and I still needed a YouTube how-to video when I did it at home. The simplest method is making a route on the Lezyne app, but that's more of a roadie feature. You probably won't find your trails on its map. And if you do, they almost surely won't be identified. You'll need to use a service like ridewithgps.com to plot a course and create a .gpx file. You download the files to your home computer (yes, you'll also need one of those), and you can either plug the unit into the USB port (that too), and drag and drop the .gpx file into the Lezyne GPS as if it were a thumb drive. Or, once you’ve logged into your (free) account in Lezyne’s website, there’s a tab that will take you to your routes, where you can upload any that you create to your account. Lezyne offers tutorials on these, so you won’t need a visit to the headquarters and you won’t need to use this rather wordy review as a guide. Whichever method you choose for uploading, when the phone app is paired with the device, it'll appear under the "routes" tab on the device’s navigation screen. Select it and hit go. Phew …
On the mapping screen, you'll see exactly what you would hope. If you've downloaded the area's offline map to the device, some roads and major trails will already be visible, and your route will be highlighted and direction of travel will be indicated. The refresh rate is a little slower than your phone's GPS, and although the Mega C features an accelerometer to detect change in heading, I usually needed to travel in a given direction for a few feet before the orientation would update. But that only came up at confusing multi-trail intersections, and never took more than a few seconds to figure out. The only thing I found lacking actually happens to be on the Lezyne programers’ to-do list for the next firmware update. Right now, there’s no audible off-course notification. When on the navigation screen, a text block pops up telling me to turn around, but even with the speaker turned on (which I far preferred turned off) there was nothing to alert me if I missed a turn. But I always knew how long a given trail was and about when a turn would be coming up, so a quick glance down would tell me what I needed. And again, the next update will add off-course notifications as an option.
My only other complaint when navigating with the Mega C is the narrow field of view offered by the map's zoom feature. Though the "path" screen always scales to your entire ride, it's truly just the path. No other trails or roads. On the map screen that did have surrounding trails, I often couldn't pull back far enough to see where a trail fork might lead. If I had to bail out of a ride by taking a road toward civilization, I'd have to turn to my phone to see if it went where I wanted to go. But that's the kind of decision that justifies a moment of reflection anyway, so I can deal.
The rest of the more standard GPS features work just as I hoped. The Mega C includes a barometer for more accurate elevation tracking, and its screen can show you anywhere between two and 8 data sets, though I found 3 to be the sweet spot. The home screen displays battery life of the unit itself as well as that of any bluetooth-connected devices. That includes your phone, and it was nice to know when it was running out of juice so I could shut it down and save enough power for a call once I found cell service again.
The Mega C is also compatible with Strava Live Segments if you’ve got a Strava Summit account. As long as you sync the segments from the Lezyne GPSRoot app, they’ll pop up as you enter them, whether or not you’re in cellular data range. If you are in range, the Mega C can display incoming emails and text messages. Of course, you can turn that feature off, and even control how long the notifications stay on screen. If you've never ridden with a device that could do this, it has a counterintuitively calming effect. Instead of feeling a vibration in your pocket and wondering who's on the other end, you can immediately see if it even matters or not. For anyone lucky enough to ride during a work day, I think it's a must.
For anyone who rides their entire work day, that 32-hour run time needs an asterisk. Without the screen's backlight, that's likely pretty accurate. But even in the daytime, the backlight makes it significantly easier to read, though it has to be on a bright setting to make a difference. That's adjustable in the app, but it significantly shortens the battery life. On one indulgent 10-hour ride, I came close to draining the Mega C's reserves.
Lezyne uses its own mounting interface on all of its GPS units. It's fundamentally similar to that of the Garmin, and it actually feels much more robust, though your choices are much more limited. Out of the box, the Mega C comes with a rubber-band-affixed bar mount. But if you wouldn't rubber-band $200 to your handlebar, I'd recommend the standard bar clamp mount for $16. Unfortunately, that's only available in a 31.8-millimeter clamp size. Lezyne also offers the $40 Direct X-Lock mount, which can also mount a light or camera and gets fastened behind your stem's handlebar clamp bolts. Now, I haven't had any issues with my Direct X-Lock system, but it makes me nervous. Perhaps the most crucial bolts on my entire bike are the ones that hold my bar to my stem, and I'd rather not give them any other jobs to do. But all the load-bearing hardware is steel and aluminum, and the protruding bits have been designed to break away before the stem bolts see any damage. Nevertheless, Lezyne recommends you replace your bolts in the event a crash causes any damage to the GPS or the mount, so you should carry some spares if you’re planning on using this mount. If not, K-Edge offers an offset stem mount option if you’ve got$50 and a couple millimeters of steerer tube to spare.
So now, I think I’m a GPS guy, and I’m a bit surprised. They all seemed to imply that their users were paying too much attention to things far less important than the ride itself. But without being overbearing or overpriced, the Mega C’s mapping capability will make your ride better, and it does a fine job acquiring and displaying data. It can also help you sort out your training zone or, better yet, it can get you out of your comfort zone.