When the Giant NeosTrack bike computer and I were thrown together, it soon turned into a tempestuous relationship. Love would turn to hate and then turn back to love again in the space of a few button pushes.
On unboxing the NeosTrack it was love at first sight. The unit is stylishly simple and doesn’t look like a mobile phone (which I feel is a good thing, for reasons I can’t explain). It weighs just 79g, measures 9cm by 5.3cm, and is slim enough to feel elegant and aerodynamic on the bike.
The box comes with an out-front bar mount and a stem mount held in place with elastic bands. The unit attaches to the mounts using a twist-locking system similar to Garmin units, but not the same size, so it is not compatible with Garmin mounts.
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It was simple to set up, and within minutes of opening the box we were taking our first ride together. Which is when the first problem arose.
The NeosTrack doesn’t have a touch screen, which is not a problem in itself (indeed, I’ve never got on too well with Garmin’s pressure-sensitive touch screens), but the buttons on the side of the unit proved fiddly to use.
They are small and close together, and I found that I couldn’t press the upper-right button to scroll through screens without gripping the edges of the unit. As I did so, the unit unclamped from its mount and I came close to dropping it on the road.
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This happened several times during the ride, and I soon learnt that it was best to find the screen I most wanted and stick to it. It’s not the easiest machine to control while on the move.
Having fallen out of love with the NeosTrack by the end of my first ride, I was soon rekindling my passion when I investigated the data options.
The NeosTrack will connect easily to most sensors such as power meters and heart rate monitors with ANT+, WiFi and Bluetooth options. It will then record any number of variations on speed, time, distance, power, gradient, cadence, etc, as well as more advanced training concepts such as TSS, FTP and pedalling smoothness.
The unit will display six screens of data with up to ten data fields per page, configured however you like. I found that any more than six data fields per page became difficult to read while riding (although that may say more about my eyesight than the NeosTrack’s legibility) and that three sets of figures per page worked best.
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When I set off on a ride, the unit would generally be quick to pick up a satellite signal and, from what I could tell, the data that the NeosTrack generated was always accurate and reliable.
Once I’d downloaded the accompanying phone app, I could happily wade through rivers of numbers, checking my uphill average heart rate and five-minute peak power figures, along with route maps and colourful graphs.
The more I played, the more the data nerd in me was back to a state of infatuation with the NeosTrack. As a number-crunching machine, it is up there with the best.
Sadly, my heart was broken once again when I came to use the NeosTrack as a navigation device.
Creating a route for the NeosTrack proved tricky in the first place. The phone app has a route-planning facility on it, but once you plug in your start and finish point, it will only offer up three options, with no way of adapting the route to your preference. If you don’t like the options you’re given, too bad.
You can upload routes created through third party systems, but even then they are not easy to follow once you get riding.
With a monochrome screen and fairly clunky graphics, the best the NeosTrack can do is to offer ‘breadcrumb trail’ navigation. That is, a dotted line on the screen suggests which general direction you want to be heading in, but it can’t show where you are on a map.
I found it very difficult to follow, especially in built up areas where I was never certain which road it was suggesting I go down.
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After a few wrong turns, I quickly gave up trying to use it for navigation at all, and reverted to using my phone whenever I wanted to check my route. Perhaps if I had stuck with it, I might have learnt how to interpret the NeosTrack’s squiggles, but in these days of Google Maps it just seems very unsophisticated.
There were other niggles with the NeosTrack as well? Why did I have to press three buttons to get it to stop recording a ride? Why did it take so long to transfer the data by Bluetooth to the phone app?
And why is the disc within the mounts not compatible with other brands so I can still use my favourite mounts? (Bizarrely, we had a Giant bike in for test, which came with an integrated Garmin mount that, thanks to the lack of compatibility, would not accept the Giant bike computer.)
Just when it looked as though the NeosTrack had displayed too many foibles for me to want to dump my regular Garmin, it revealed its greatest asset.
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I just couldn’t get it to run out of battery power. After a single charge, I used it on several rides, and each time I turned it on, it still seemed to have an almost full battery.
Giant claims a 33-hour battery life for the NeosTrack, and I’m certainly not going to dispute that. It just seems to run and run and run.
Like many partners, the Giant NeosTrack may not be perfect, but it is a very reasonable price, and if you are the kind of rider who cares more about collecting data than finding your way around a route, then it could become a welcome travel companion.