Great question. And one I’m going to attempt to answer.
The purpose of this post is to give you an overview of the Garmin range of cycling GPS devices as we stand (ride?) here in the first months of 2016.
My aim is to give you an idea of what each Garmin Edge model can do, what features each one has, so that you can go down the list and identify the model that is most appropriate to your own requirements.
(Then you can persuade yourself that you do need the latest pedal stroke analysis feature, even though you don’t have a power meter, and buy the shiny top-of-the-range model.)
Fantasy Cycling (Purchases)
Long-time readers (and maybe some short-time ones) will recall that I own a Garmin Edge 510. It is entirely functional and does everything I need from a bike computer (and quite a lot more).
And yet […wistful music starts to play…] I can’t help fantasising* over a new shiny piece of Edge-bling attached to my handlebars.
(*Too strong a word?)
So I find myself keeping up to date with bike tech (not least via the stupendous DC Rainmaker blog).
And from time to time I share some of this ‘research’ with you (you lucky people). Let’s begin!
Before we look at which Garmin is suitable for you and your cycling needs, it’s worth noodling on a few (very) personal questions. Prepare to bare your sole.
(Yes, sole. Ah… sole.)
(I’m tired. I’ve been drinking.)
Okay, they’re not particularly personal. But they may be helpful questions to muse upon once we get to the list of Garmin choices later on in the post.
Do You Want a Bike Computer Or A Sports Watch?
You don’t have to buy a handlebar-mounted computer to get the benefits of a Garmin GPS device: to find out your speed and cadence; to record your ride and upload it to Strava; to get profane shouts of encouragement*.
(* I’ve emailed Garmin to suggest this feature, so expect it to be implemented in Q1 next year).
Some of the Garmin Forerunner GPS watches will link up to sensors on your bike to provide speed and cadence. The top of the range ones even link to the Garmin Vector pedals, allowing you to display and record your power output.
I should say, these watches are very much aimed at the ‘multisport’ (and therefore weird) end of the cycling spectrum. Forerunners, depending on the model, have a range of running and swimming features, which you may or may not need. But you will pay for.
And if you sport such a watch proudly ‘pon yonder handlebar, people might think you’re a triathlete. Which nobody needs…
Shiny New Thing Or Bargain Hunter
For all that technology progresses rapidly these days, the interaction of machine (bike computer) and soft tissue (you) is a pretty stable relationship. There is very little (that is truly useful) that a bike computer released in the last year can do, which one released 2-3 years ago cannot do.
Depending on the time of year, and the release schedule of new models, you can pick up a bargain on one of the older Edges. At certain times in the past year, great prices have been available on the Edge 810. Apparently the Edge 500 has been available at times from Aldi at a discount price.
So consider whether you need the absolute latest model, where you’re paying for the newness, or can manage with an older version at a lower price (or at the same price but for more gubbins*).
(* Technical term).
Are You Sure You Want A Garmin?
Silence thy wicked tongue, evil serpent.
But as the devil’s advocate, I am duty bound to point out that other companies make bike computers and GPS devices.
About a decade ago, Polar were the leading heart rate monitor / running watch maker. Whilst they had a range of bike computers, Polar were late to the GPS party, until fairly recently not making it an integral part of the product (i.e. you had to buy a separate GPS transmitter that you secreted about your person).
Lezyne, makers of sexy mini-pumps (of which I am an owner), have also recently starting selling GPS devices.
In fact I saw them at the Birmingham Bike Show, and I thought they looked very smart (certainly they are very small). Worth looking at if you want the features of the Edge 20/25/500 (plus a few more) at a similar price point, in a newer product package.
In that same bracket, you might also want to look at bike computers by the likes of Cateye and Wahoo (who do a computer, the RFLKT that basically takes data that is being captured by your smartphone and…. er… reflekts it onto a handlebar-mounted device).
Still, you came here to worship at the church of Garmin (you did!), so let’s stop the blasphemy.
[Mont kneels on the cold hard concrete floor of his
service course garage and enters a trance-like state]
“Remember, to purchase an Edge, you must … become the Edge.”
[Mont starts to receive ANT+ power data straight into his brain]
(I mentioned the drinking, right?)
Life On The Garmin Edge: Which Model Is Right For You?
So I’ve ordered this list in terms of features, starting with Edge that only has the very basics. Then, as I move down the list, I try to note the features that are added.
My aim is to help you work out which model meets all your needs, without overpaying for extra features that you’ll never use. In an ideal world, you would go down the list until you’ve found the model that fulfils all your requirements, stop right there and buy it.
Sadly, Garmin has not provided an ideal world. Because this is a mix of older and more recent models (so not ordered by ‘newness’), the price doesn’t exactly correlate with the feature list. In order to get the best value, it might be worth going to the next Edge down on the list and paying less for more.
Also, you’re a human and therefore subject to human frailties. You won’t stop at the model that just does the job, you’ll look at the one below to see what extra you get.
And then the one below that.
Eventually you will decide that the Edge 1000 is the absolute minimum you need to satisfy your requirements. Plus a pair of $$$ pedals with integrated power meters. Plus a pair of ‘head up display’ sunglasses….
Anyway, that list.
The Edge 20 was released in June 2015, alongside the Edge 25. This is very much your basic bike GPS. Which is very much what you might want.
It’ll measure and show you your speed and distance whilst on the
hoof ride, and record the route for you to update to the ride analysis app of your choice (Strava, MapMyRide etc.). It’s also small and light and lasts for around 8 hours (according to Garmin) before you’ll need to recharge it.
What it doesn’t have is ANT+ connectivity. So it can’t take in data from other sensors around your bike. Clearly that’s fine when it comes to speed and distance – the Edge 20’s GPS gubbins calculates that for you. But it won’t connect to a heart rate strap or a power meter. If that doesn’t bother you, then parfait.
Nor does it have Bluetooth, so connection to your computer (to upload your ride data) is via a USB cable (which also recharges it).
It does have the ability to provide some navigational help, but it’s GPS waypoint navigation (sometimes called a ‘breadcrumb trail’*) rather than true turn-by-turn road navigation that you get on car sat navs and some of the top end Edges.
You can create a route on your computer, using Strava, Bike Route Toaster or whatever, upload it to the unit (again via that trusty USB cable) and then follow the instructions whilst out on your ride.
(* It’s worth noting that breadcrumb navigation is also found on some of the more expensive models, such as the Edge 510, which I own. It may not be true sat nav – it won’t recalculate if you take a wrong turn – but this style of navigation has been more than sufficient for my bike-based needs).
If this sounds like just the cycling GPS device for you, you can buy it here.
The Edge 25 is the same (small) size as the 20. The key difference between the 20 and the 25 is that the latter can communicate wirelessly with, er, things.
The 25 can pick up data from ANT+ speed and cadence sensors and from ANT+ heart rate straps. It can also, via Bluetooth, link up with your smartphone in order to upload ride data to Garmin Connect and to provide ‘Live Tracking’ (so stalkers loved ones can track you in real time from the comfort of the sofa).
What the 25 cannot do, though, is use its Bluetoothery to pick up data from sensors that use Bluetooth Smart to communicate. This feels unlikely to be a problem – ANT+ sensors tend to be easier to get hold of anyway and any inherited heart rate straps are likely to be ANT+ (or some esoteric Polar ones that won’t work with anything) – but something to be aware of.
All of which is a long-winded prefix to saying, if you use an indoor (or ‘turbo’) trainer, you’ll want to go with the 25 over the Edge 20. Clearly, since you’re cycling on the spot, the GPS-calculated speed and distance calculations on the Edge 20, are useless.
On a similar tack, if measuring your cadence (the speed at which you revolve the pedals) is important to you (and it probably should be), then you’ll want the Edge 25 and a cadence sensor (of which the best option is likely to be the Garmin combined speed/cadence sensor).
Again, if this sounds like just the ticket, then the Edge 25 is available to buy here.
Edge 510 (and the 500 for that matter)
I own the Edge 510 and have been very happy with it (here is my long term review of it).
It has a host of features over and above the Edge 20/25 and has many of the more recent features present on the Edge 520 below.
And I still love this Garmin promo video, which I think describes my perfect life:
But (and this is written with heavy heart), I’d suggest that a new Garmin purchaser looks to the Edge 520 (or even the Edge 25), rather than the 510.
Whilst Garmin continues to update the software on the 510, it appears to have stopped selling it. It is clear that focus from the firm is very much on the 520 and the 1000.
(For what it’s worth though, the discussion on the additional features in the Edge 520 section below, largely apply to the Edge 510, except where noted).
The Edge 520 was released in July 2015, replacing the Edge 510 (eventually, as mentioned) and occupying the mid point of the Edge range.
Hardware wise, it is a larger unit (compared to the Edge 20/25 – in the world of the tablet-like smartphone it’s still pretty small) with a colour screen. Whereas the 510 went down the touchscreen route, the 520 has reverted back to having buttons on the side and no touchscreen.
Whilst the Edge 20 and 25 have a fairly limited set of vital features, Garmin has taken a Jackson Pollock-style splattergun approach to feature packing the 520. It is more than capable of fulfilling the needs of a professional cyclist (subtext: so I’m sure it’ll be powerful enough for you).
As well as the de rigeur speed/cadence sensors and heart rate straps, it can pick up ANT+ data feeds from power meters and communicate with Shimano’s Di2 electronic gear system, amongst other things.
Increasingly relevant, given the rising popularity of ‘smart’ indoor/turbo trainers, the 520 supports ANT+ FE-C trainer control – it can control the resistance on the turbo, in line with whatever training programme you’ve programmed or uploaded.
(Note that this is one of the key differences with the Edge 510, which does not support the FE-C protocol – in other words, the Edge 510 cannot control your indoor trainer).
Like the 20/25 (and the 510), the Edge 520 won’t receive data from Bluetooth Smart sensors (e.g. a Bluetooth Smart heart rate strap), but like in the case of the 20/25, I doubt this will cause you too much of a problem.
What it can do on the Bluetooth front is communicate with your smartphone. Over and above the usual syncing/upload feature, it can show text and call notifications on the screen, whilst you’re out on the road.
The 520 has a whole raft of software-y features, that aim to support your training. Cycling Dynamics analyses the data coming in from Garmin’s Vector pedals (the expensive ones with in-built power meters…) in order to help improve your pedal stroke.
The 520 will attempt to estimate your VO2 max. It will also tell you how long you need to recover before your next ride.
If you’re a Strava user (and a particular sort of Strava user), one of the most important recent additions to the Edge range (which is available on the 520, 810 and 1000, as well as the 510), is (are?) Strava Segments.
You can identify your ‘favourite’ segments and your Edge device will alert you mid-ride as you approach them, provide ‘motivating visualistion’ (the ‘Come On You Fugger’ screen), and then, as soon as you finish the segment, show your result versus previous times, your friends and the current KOM/QOM.
Finally, and we’ll deal more with navigation in the Edge 1000 section, the 520 allows you to upload maps to help see where you are.
Importantly though, it still uses the GPS coordinates/’breadcrumb’-style navigation seen on the Edge 25 (and on my Edge 510). The 520 doesn’t ‘understand’ what is on the map as such, it just allows you to see the wiggly line plotted agains a map background, to help you work out where you are.
To be honest, and as I’ve mentioned above in the context of the 510, it’s hard to see past the 520 if you’re a reasonable serious cyclist in the market for a Garmin.
As we’ll see below, the main difference with the 1000 (and 810) is on the navigation front. For my money, that would not be sufficient to persuade me to spend the additional moolah on the higher spec model.
If you buy that argument, then you can buy that bike computer (which is the Edge 520) by clicking here.
So the Edge 810 was released simultaneously with the 510 at the start of 2013, as part of Garmin’s first foray into smartphone-connected cycling GPS devices.
It’s still for sale though Garmin (it’s there on their website) but given that the 510 isn’t anymore, you’d say the 810 would be the next model for upgrade.
(That said, and as I’ve noted before, Garmin does have a good record for supporting older models with software updates, long after they’ve gone out of production, so it’s not the most important criteria in selecting your Edge model.)
Whereas the 520 (510/500) is able to direct you along a series of preloaded GPS coordinates and display a sequence of turn instructions as and when you reach that point in the route, the 810 offers something much closer to the navigation that you have on your smartphone or in a car navigation system.
The 810 ‘understands’ that there are roads and junctions, and different ways of getting from A to B, rather than simply following a series of pre-ordained points on a map. It can therefore update a route in the event that you go off course or you find your way blocked by an unfortunately situated snowdrift (or something…).
As a predecessor to the 520, it uses an ‘antiquated’ touch screen rather than the newer model’s high-tech non-touchscreen approach (!!).
(I’ve never had a problem with my 510’s touchscreen so I wouldn’t let this factor into your buying decision.)
The final (rather esoteric) ‘fact’ to mention about the Edge 810 is that it only uses American satellites in order to position itself (globally). ‘GPS’ strictly only refers to the US government-run system. There is also a Russian one (‘GLONASS’), a European one and a Chinese one (wu knew?).
The Edge 810 only communicates with GPS, whereas the 520 and 1000 (and even the 510) also use the GLONASS system. This might make the 810 marginally slower to lock on to your position, but probably not something that should weigh heavily on your buying decision.
The Edge 1000 is top of the tree in the Garmin Edge family. It was released in mid-2014 and remains very much at the front of the queue in terms of receiving software fixes and new features.
Like the 810 (and the 510), it features a touchscreen. Like before, I wouldn’t let that sway your buying decision
It improves upon the smart(er) navigation on the Edge 810 by allowing you to plan routes on the 1000 device itself. You can select a destination, and stop off points on the way, and the 1000 will calculate a route. You can also input some parameters (ride length, time and the like) and it will suggest some round trip routes that you might like to follow.
In my mind, perhaps because of all the features it purports to have (and probably does have), I always think the 1000 is going to be massive.
I’m always surprised therefore when I see it in the flesh (in the electronics?) and remember that it’s not actually that big. It’s quite a bit smaller than your modern smartphone (certainly the latest iPhones). I certainly cannot see it causing such an aerodynamic drag on your performance that you would want to favour a smaller-sized device.
That all said, the 1000 has the largest screen in the Edge range. Which is quite useful for those navigational features mentioned above. In fact it has an additional 57,6000 (count ’em) pixels over the 810.
(Though to put things into perspective, the Edge 1000 has a screen measuring 240×400 pixels. The iPhone 5 (not one of those jumbo ones) screen is 1136×640.)
There are a few features on the (newer) 520 that still haven’t quite made it to the 1000 (though apparently they’re imminent). Most notably that’s the ability to control compatible ‘smart’ turbo trainers (via ANT+ FE-C) plus FTP tracking, ‘calculating’ VO2 and Garmin’s recovery advisor.
Basically, if you want your bike GPS device to have all the latest features (once the ones mentioned above are added in) plus the most sophisticated navigation features in the range, or you want an Edge with 4 digits rather than 3, then the Edge 1000 is for you.
And if it is for you, you can find out more, and purchase it, by clicking here.
Edge Explore 1000
So far in the list, I’ve gone through the Edges in order of additional features – with the Edge 520 you get all the features on the 25 plus these further whizzbangs and goombahs. This also maps to a higher price at each level.
The Edge Explore 1000 sort of turns that on its head. It’s like an Edge 1000, but with a few features taken out (mainly the ones to do with performance and training) and marketing that positions it at the touring cyclist.
Specifically, it doesn’t allow you as many custom pages of data fields (speed, power, cadence, etc), the structured workouts go, Strava Segments are ditched, plus some of the other software features aren’t there either. All of which saves you about $50/£50 in RRP terms.
If the navigation features are a key part of your buying decision, and you can’t see yourself using some of the Edge’s training/performance-oriented whoopsies, then the Edge Explore might be for you. If it is, you can buy it here.
If the Edge Explore 1000 turned my rising feature list/price approach on its head, then the Edge Touring sends us spinning into a dizzy heap. Or something like that.
The Edge Touring is to the 810 what the Explore is to the Edge 1000. So it’s a stripped down version, focused on ze maps.
There is a Touring Plus, that does seem to record ANT+ data (so will connect to a suitable HR strap or cadence sensor), but this could well be discontinued by Garmin (it’s not on the Garmin website). It’s still available to buy though.
What is definitely the case is that neither device will link up with your Garmin Vector pedals (in case you’re considering pairing some heart-stoppingly expensive power meter pedals with a GPS device targeted at the touring gentleman or gentlewoman).
It is also significantly cheaper than both 1000 variants though. On an RRP basis, it’s about half the price. And if ‘half the price’ floats your boat, then I’d be honoured if you would click to buy it here.
Phew, He’s Only Garmin Done It
Well, if you’ve made to the end of this brain dump, I salute you.
I should say, most of the links above are affiliate links. If you click through them (generally to Amazon) and buy something, I get a small commission. And all the small commissions pay for my hosting, email list and (if I can get a few more clicks) my monthly subscription to Eurosport…
If you do buy something through one of my affiliate links then I thank you from the bottom of my bracket.
Finally, if you already own and love one of the Garmin Edge devices (or indeed any sort of bike computer, GPS or otherwise) please do share your feedback in the comments section below. Any recommendations or advice is gratefully received by me and all the other readers (reader?) of this post.
Until next time, safe cycling!