Garmin Cycling Computers: The Complete Guide

Garmin Cycling Computers: The Complete Guide

Cycling GPS computers are essential for any serious cyclist.

Not only do they provide basic data such as speed and cadence, they help avoid wrong turns and frustration.

For those with power meters, they’re also a necessity for visually displaying power readings while riding. It’s Garmin who lead the way in cycling GPS computers.

With a vast array of models available to suit every rider, there’s no reason to look anywhere else.

Below, we take a look at the mid and higher end of Garmin’s range.

 

Garmin Edge 520

 

Tired of missing out on that KOM by a matter of seconds? This could be the device for you. See where you stand with live Strava segment tracking, so you know when to put in that final push for a KOM.

Sitting in the middle of Garmin’s Edge range of cycling GPS computers, the 520 is feature rich without crippling your bank balance.

All the standard features you’d expect from a GPS device are there. Including speed, cadence, elevation, and heart-rate/power when connected to the compatible ANT+ devices.

The addition of some pretty innovative new features like Strava live segments support are the real reason to get excited about the 520.

Regardless of your level of cycling prowess, the Garmin Edge 520 is packed full of features to make your riding more enjoyable. The device will appeal to competitive and performance-focused cyclists, as well as more stat-obsessed casual riders.

 

Better Climber than your Friends? Prove it with Strava Live Segments

The Edge 520 was the first cycle computer to be compatible with Strava’s live segment functionality. This might sound gimmicky to some, but it really is an excellent motivational tool and adds plenty of fun to those long club-runs.  

You’ll be surprised by how easy it is to use. Simply star a segment on your Strava profile, and the Edge will automatically tell you when it’s about to start, its length, a best time (this can be yours, a friend’s, or the KOM/QOM) and live tracking of your current performance in relation to that time.

Seeing your friend’s name pop up on screen alongside their best time does wonders for tired legs, and takes the guess work out of beating them for top bragging rights. This feature works very well and is a welcome addition.

 

Next-level Training with Advanced Metrics

Packed with all the usual features, including Garmin’s highly-accurate dual satellite GPS system, it’s in the advanced features where it starts to shine. Hook your Edge 520 up to an ANT+ power system, such as Garmin Vector pedals, and you’ll unlock a wealth of functionality for the stat-obsessed rider.

Your wattage is measured and analyzed in a huge variety of ways so you can focus on getting the most out of your training. Real-time, 3/5 second, normalized, left/right balance; it’ll even tell you your time seated versus time in the saddle.

The Edge even offers an built-in FTP test, as well as tracking of your power to weight ratio; this is ideal for the performance minded cyclist and allows for excellent progress tracking. Add a heart rate monitor to the equation, and you’ll have all the stats you could wish for with VO2 max estimates and post-ride recovery times.

 

Key Features

  • Compatible with Strava live segments, offering challenges during rides
  • Connects with any ANT+ power meter & HR monitor: track FTP, cycling-specific V02 max and more
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Pair the device with ANT+ compatible indoor trainers
  • High-accuracy GPS
  • Connects to compatible smart phone for auto-uploads, live tracking, smart notifications and more
  • Map guidance (holds up to 100 routes)
  • Battery life of up to 15 hours
  • Ships with speed/cadence sensor & mounts

 

Negatives

A slight word of caution on the Garmin Edge 520. To get the most out of its startling level of functionality, you’ll need to cough up for Strava’s premium service. This only effects the use of live segments and you then get the added benefits of some great extra tools from Strava for a very reasonable price.

Some may see the lack of a touchscreen as going backwards. However, anyone who’s ever had trouble changing back to their map screen in the pouring rain will appreciate the advantages of buttons. For some, this may be a significant advantage over more expensive models.

 

Conclusion

The Garmin Edge 520 is a feature-packed little unit with pretty much everything a cyclist could wish for in a computer. In addition to the standard functions, Garmin have introduced an array of exciting new ones.

The introduction of live segments is particularly interesting, and the wealth of power-based performance metrics will turn the heads more serious riders.

 

Garmin Edge 820

 

Looking for all the features of a flagship device, but without the huge price tag that comes with extra gimmicks? The Edge 820 is the one for you.

The Edge 820 sits below the 1000 and 1030 in Garmin’s range of performance-focused computers. Essentially, it’s just a stripped down and smaller version of these units.

Despite this, it still packs in more features than anyone but the most stat-obsessed rider will ever use. This makes it a great option for serious cyclists who don’t have the money to spare for the extra gimmicks of true top-of-the-range equipment.

The unit has all the features of the 520 version, including advanced performance metrics, and Strava Live Segments, but adds some useful new features including Grouptrack and WiFi connectivity.

It also comes with a touchscreen which automatically adjusts brightness to suit lighting conditions. While the addition of a touchscreen will be welcomed by some, it’s a little on the small side compared to the 1000 series and can be tricky to use in wet conditions.

 

Keep tabs on your buddies, with Grouptrack

New for the Edge 820 is Grouptrack, and extension of Garmin’s LiveTrack feature; this allowed friends and family to track you through a computer, via GPS.

The introduction of Grouptrack means gives you this same visibility from the cockpit. This makes meeting up with your fellow riders a breeze and helps avoid MIA situations on unfamiliar roads.

As usual, the caveat here is that this feature requires everyone in your group to be using a LiveTrack compatible computer. All devices also need to be connected to a smartphone running Garmin Connect, with Livetrack switched on.

It’s an extremely useful feature, but seems it seems unlikely that everyone in the peloton be switched on at all times.

Key Features

  • Fully compatible with Strava Live Segments
  • Connects with any ANT+ power meter & HR monitor: track FTP, cycling-specific V02 max and more
  • Full connectivity with ANT+, Bluetooth and WiFi
  • High-accuracy GPS
  • Connects to compatible smart phone for auto-uploads, live tracking, smart notifications and more
  • Trendline routing
  • Advanced map navigation
  • 16-hour battery life
  • Touch screen display
  • Livetrack, Grouptrack, Incident Detection

 

Negatives

As with the rest of the, full functionality is only available with a subscription to Strava Premium. The touchscreen is a bit on the small, which makes it tricky to use at times.

 

Conclusion

It’s a great unit, but do the extra features really justify getting this over the Edge 520? Possibly not. It sits in an awkward position in the range, and serious riders may be tempted to splash out on the flagship 1030 instead; it’s larger and vastly improved touchscreen being a big draw.

That said, it is a great compromise between the cheaper 520 and the pricey 1000 series computers.

 

Garmin Edge 1030

 

Want the best, most feature-packed cycling computer that money can buy? Look no further than the Edge 1030.

Sitting at the very top of Garmin’s range of market-leading GPS computers, the Edge 1030 boasts pretty much every feature you could imagine. Although pricey, it’s a no-brainer for the performance-hungry cyclist with money to spare; the Edge 1030 is the only cycling computer you’ll ever need.

Of course, the 1030 does everything that the 520 and 820 can do. This includes Strava Live Segments, advanced metrics, and map guidance. Where the 1030 rises above the pack is in the smaller and less obvious touches.

This new flagship model adds to the already great connectivity of the 820. It includes built-in WiFi, as well as a new rider to rider messaging feature. This allows the user to send prewritten messages to fellow riders.

A quick message to say ‘I’ll catch up soon’ or ‘I’ve got a flat’ would certainly makes things easier in training rides.

The caveat here is that this only works if everyone has a Garmin Edge. If you’re serious enough to have this kind of equipment, it’s likely that the people you’re riding with will be too.

The Edge 1030 is for serious racers looking for the best computer that money can buy.

 

Large and vastly improved touchscreen means easy operation, even in the wet

Even on Garmin devices, touchscreens have always proven to be a major irritation. The biggest complaint being difficulty operating the screen in wet weather, or while wearing gloves.

A few drops of rain causing your device to prematurely save (or even discard) your recording mid-ride can be a real nuisance.

‘Why can’t my Garmin screen just work like my iPhone?!’ is a cry often heard following a tough winter club run. Well, according to Garmin, a significantly reduced battery life makes this impossible.

It’s a great credit to Garmin, that with the 1030 they’ve managed to vastly improve screen functionality while, at the same time, increasing the new Edge’s battery life.

While buttons are a more reliable option, an intuitive touchscreen makes setup very easy in comparison. Changing simple settings using buttons can feel like a real chore, due to the amount of presses required.

In contrast, swiping through screens with the 1030 is a breeze; simply swipe left or right to switch between screens, or up and down to scroll between widgets.

The screen can display a whopping 10 fields of data per page, and easy customization makes it easy to get your perfect display.

 

Just ride, with super-smart navigation and ‘Trendline’ routing

While navigation still isn’t quite up there with Google maps and a smart phone, the Edge 1030 is the leader in terms of dedicated cycle computers. It features highly detailed maps, along with turn-by-turn instructions and even warnings for particularly sharp bends.

Like the 820, the Edge 1030 includes trendline routing to speed up route selection. The upgraded ‘popularity’ routing, makes it even easier to pick a route and ride.

Select a start and end point, and the Edge will plan a route based on the most popular roads used by other riders. While this feature is useful, it does tend to send you down some pretty busy roads which are not ideal.

 

Key Features

  • Fully compatible with Strava Live Segments
  • Connects with any ANT+ power meter & HR monitor: track FTP, cycling-specific V02 max and more
  • Full connectivity with ANT+, Bluetooth and WiFi
  • High-accuracy GPS
  • Connects to compatible smart phone for auto-uploads, live tracking, smart notifications and more
  • Improved Trendline popularity routing
  • Most advanced map routing on a cycling computer, including turn by turn guidance and sharp corner warnings
  • Vastly improved battery life of over 20 hours
  • Large 3.5in touch screen display; easily operated in wet conditions or with gloves
  • Livetrack, Grouptrack, Incident Detection, and rider-to-rider messaging

 

Negatives

As with the Edge 520 and 820, full functionality is only available with a subscription to Strava Premium. For anyone able to afford to splash out on this top of the line model this is a non-issue.

Conclusion

The Garmin Edge 1030 is the most feature packed cycling computer ever made. It does everything you could want from a computer. The best that money can buy.

 

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