I have previously reviewed the Garmin Edge 1000 which is arguably the best bike computer on the market, or at least it was until the 1030 came out. However, at an RRP of £499, it is worth about 50% of my actual bike and is a bit over the top for my needs and most other casual road cyclists.
I should point out that the 1000 is currently available for £279.99 on Amazon which is an absolute steal, and I wish I had bought it myself at this price.
The Garmin Edge 520, on the other hand, offers many of the features most cyclists want but in a smaller size and significantly lower price. Its RRP is £279.99, but you can generally get it for around £175 in Amazon sales.
The fundamental features are just the same as its more expensive brother; you get full GPS tracking, maps, dozens of data fields, access to Garmin connect, and the ability to pair a multitude of sensors. It can also connect to your phone for notification and automatic syncing.
This is not a wholly dumbed down device though; you still get some features that comparative riders will like such as Strava Live Segments, FTP testing, Di2 integration, a VO2 Max calculation and recommended recovery time.
The most apparent differences between this and the Edge 1000 is that it is a lot smaller, there is no touchscreen, and no Wi-Fi.
Mounting the 520 is quite simple, there is a decent out in the front mount that was easy to install and allows you to clip the 520 on and off instantly and securely.
Setting up the Edge 520 is a bit more cumbersome than the 1000 due to its clunky buttons, but the layout is quite intuitive. Initial set up doesn’t take much effort at all, and if you don’t customise things you can be tracking your cycle in a couple of minutes.
Unfortunately for me trying to get the phone to work with my Blackberry KEYone proved to be temperamental, I was able to go through the pairing process but then they devices didn’t connect for my first ride, then on my second ride, they decided to connect after 90 minutes.
This is quite disappointing but not the end of the world for me, I find the Garmin Connect App to be a huge battery drain on my phone when connected to my Forerunner 235, so I generally leave them unconnected.
If you opt to do things via USB like me, then syncing your activities is very simple as well as installing the various apps from Garmin. I find the only decent apps are data screens, but your mileage may vary.
You can set up your activity profile for multiple data screens then customise each one. I quite like a lot of core data so I have my main screen set up either with 8 or 10 segments. This includes time, ride time, calories, average speed, current speed, distance, lap distance, heart rate, and direction.
If you have one of the many optional sensors, you can use other cycling dynamic accurately such as power and cadence.
The core functionality works as you would expect, and I think a lot of people wouldn’t notice the difference between this or the much more expensive Garmin Edge 1000. All the main stats are tracked accurately thanks to the dual-satellite system of GPS and Glonass.
The maps function is not quite as good as its bigger brother, the screen isn’t really cut out for detailed navigation, and sometimes the maps can be blank. It is still a comforting feature to have though. I have been riding in the Forest of Bowland before and completely lost all phone signal for miles, so having some form of GPS map that works helps quite a bit.
At the end of your ride, you get a summary of your stats including calories, VO2 max, and recovery time. I am a bit sceptical about the accuracy of V02 max and recovery, but they work as a decent guide on the level of exertion and the progress you are currently making.Recovery and VO2 estimates require you to pair up a heart rate monitor, but you can pick up cheap Bluetooth ones off eBay or Amazon.
With Strava dominating the sports tracking apps at the moment it is good that you can have all your rides automatically synced here.
The three companies I have tried out with sports tracking devices include Wahoo, Suunto and Garmin. Out of these three Garmin comfortably ahs the best app, Wahoo was reliant on Strava, and the Suunto App looks great, but I just found accessing all your data to be less user-friendly. The data in the Garmin connect app and website is easy to digest and gives some great information about your ride.
The Garmin states a 15-hour battery life; I have not put this to the test as I always plug it into USB to sync when I finish a ride, and make sure it is charged before leaving. It comfortably lasted 3+ hours without too much battery drain, and I can’t imagine it running short on even the longest of rides.
I am a little disappointed with the Bluetooth issues I had, but overall this is a good GPS bike computer with built-in maps. If you don’t need any form of maps then there are cheaper options such as the Garmin Edge 25, and this may be a better choice for casual riders as it is considerably less expensive.
Based on RRP this makes a much more sensible investment for the vast majority of people than the Garmin Edge 1000. However, at the time of writing the Edge 520 has hardly any discount selling for £229.99 on Amazon whereas the 1000 is heavily discounted at £279.99. Based on this I would highly recommend the Garmin Edge 1000 over this.
Garmin Edge 520
Product Name: Garmin Edge 520