Here’s an in-depth review of the Garmin Edge 520, a bike computer that has been widely hailed as the biggest leap forward in bike computers, ever. Read this review and decide if you agree! The Garmin Edge 520 will cost you around $300. Firts, here are the in-depth specs of what this bike computer can do.
|Right now (31 May) the top-of-the-range Garmin Edge 1030 GPS bike computer is on sale, reduced from $600 to $499 (you save $101).|
Garmin Edge 520 Technical Specs
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New Advanced Training Features in the Garmin Edge 520
This model introduces advanced performance and power analysis, including new Time in Zone, FTP (Functional Threshold Power) tracking, cycling-specific VO2 and recovery and cycling dynamics.
Here is a video that shows you how these advanced cycling metrics work:
Features of the Garmin Edge 520
The Garmin Edge 520 is a major upgrade on the Garmin Edge 510, and really on the entire Garmin range. It is GPS and Glonass-enabled and offers wireless transfers of your data to Garmin Connect (or Strava, which you can read about here). It is a rugged bike computer that will stand up to bad weather while your smart phone stays safe and dry inside your pocket or pannier. It will enable you to record your rides or runs, and also offer live tracking – which basically means your spouse can check where you are at any time. (I am not entirely sure this is a good thing.)
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What’s different about the Garmin Edge 520?
The Garmin Edge 520 is different in two key ways: it has way more features than the 510, AND it has gone back to button control, not the touch screen control. No one knows why it has gone back to the button control, as Garmin has not seen fit to share their reasoning with us mere customers. However, I personally prefer button control. Sometimes I find the swiping doesn’t work perfectly, and I can get quite irritable about that. Button control gives you complete control, all the time, and I like that. (It makes a nice change from the rest of my life!)
The Garmin Edge 520 also has a beautiful color screen, and has enhanced, excellent satellite acquisition power (just as good as the more expensive 810 and 1000 models). Finally, having handled every possible Garmin Edge computer, I noticed that the Garmin Edge 520 has a beautiful hand-feel – it feels very smooth, light, and high quality.
Satellite Acquisition on the Garmin Edge 520
The Garmin Edge 520 offers GPS (US) and GLONASS (Russian) satellite acquisition, which means that it has more satellites to choose from, and can lock in faster. I know that Garmin Edge bike computers with only GPS can be frustratingly slow to lock in, so this is important. GPS and GLONASS are different kinds of satellite systems – the GPS was developed by the USA, and the GLONASS is Russian.
Speaking to more satellites enables the Garmin Edge 520 bike computer to find a signal faster.
ANT+ connectivity in the Garmin Edge 520
The Garmin Edge 520 offers ANT+ connectivity. ANT+ is a wireless technology that allows your devices to talk to each other (like Bluetooth). When it comes to bike computers, this means ANT+ enables you to hook up the bike computer on your handlebars to a cadence sensor on your wheel, and a heart rate monitor around your chest. Plus a whole host of other devices, such as power meters.
This might not seem important to you today. But what if you decide you want a cadence and speed sensor or a heart rate monitor in six months’ time, and you’ve gone and bought a cheaper bike computer, so that the extras are not available without buying a whole new bike computer?
How Many Sensors Can You Connect to with the Garmin Edge 520?
This is an important advantage that makes the Garmin Edge 520 a great future-oriented investment. The Garmin Edge 520 can connect to an unlimited number of sensors. Why does this matter? Well, it would not matter at all if you own one bike and two sensors (say, a heart rate monitor and cadence sensor). But what if you have three bikes, and they all have their own cadence sensors? This could be a major problem for those with several bikes.
If you have several bikes and sensors, the Garmin Edge 520 will just detect which sensors you are using today, and communicate with those ones. This is a great technological breakthrough, and could save you tons of annoyance over the years.
Power Meters on the Garmin Edge 520
Garmin offers very sophisticated Garmin Vector 2S Power Meter Pedals to accurately measure how much power you put into your pedaling. These can communicate with ANT+ technology to some bike computers. Importantly, they can communicate with the Edge 520.
Garmin Connect Segments and Strava Segments with the Garmin Edge 520
The Garmin Edge 520 offers the ability to connect to real-time segments from Garmin Connect, Strava, and other apps too.
Read more about Strava here – it’s not just a training tool, it’s a database linked to an app, and it’s creating a huge body of knowledge about where cyclists really ride, based on heat maps. This information is being used to make better cycling routes for all.
To use your Edge 520 with Garmin Connect Real-Time segments, you create or find segments at connect.garmin.com, download them to your unit, and set up in-ride competitions.
These segments are really fun. You download the desired segment to your Garmin. Typically it’s a very short course that people like to compete on (virtually). As you approach the start of the course, the Garmin gives you a Countdown, and then signals “Go!” As you cycle along the course, the Garmin keeps you constantly informed on how you are doing. For example, you have 500 feet to go, and you are 8 seconds behind the segment leader – can you pump up the power and own the course? You can choose to compete against overall segment leaders, or against your own connections.
Strava segments essentially work the same way, but there are many more of them, and a bigger community of cyclists are using them. Many elite cyclists swear by Strava segments. Note however that you have to be a Strava premium user to download segments. That will cost you around $50 per year – worth every cent, in my opinion.
This video shows you how to use a Garmin Edge for bike training, including how to use segments.
Garmin Edge Remote Control Support in the Garmin Edge 520
The Garmin Edge 520 can be connected to a tiny Garmin remote control with three buttons. One is for marking laps; one is for scrolling between data pages as you ride; and the third can be programmed for a function that you find important. You can attach this remote control to your handlebars in the same way you attach your Garmin – and you don’t have to worry much about rain or batteries, because it is waterproof to 50 m and the battery should last for over a year.
Why would you want a remote control for your bike computer? Well, a remote control will be useful for cyclists doing intense biking (such as downhill mountain biking, or racing) who cannot safely remove their hands from the handlebars. The Garmin Edge Remote control will cost you an extra $50.
Shimano Di2 gearing information in the Edge 520
The transmitter will then transmit gearing data (privately) via ANT+ to your Edge 520. So you can see which gear you are in, displayed on your unit. This is an excellent feature for top-level athletes (and those who are trying to get to the top level).
What is the Point of Being Able to see Which Gear I am in?
You might ask (as I did), “What is the point of being able to see which gear I am in?” Well, this is obviously a feature for elite cyclists, not average cyclists. But for anyone, it is nice to know what gear you are in, and all the more so when you are using expensive electronic gears.
However, the point is that this information will give you a brand new metric to analyze! It could well give you ideas about how to improve your performance, if for example you identify that the reason you got tired at the halfway mark of your latest ride was because you had not shifted into the most efficient gear in good time.
Navigation with the Garmin Edge 520
If navigation is your primary consideration, then you should be looking at a Garmin Edge Touring or a Garmin 1000. There is a full review of the Garmin Edge Touring here. And there’s an in-depth comparison of the Garmin Edge 1000 here. However, if navigation is NOT your primary consideration, the 520 will be fine. The 520 comes with a basic map, and you can download extra Open Streets maps onto it, if for example you are going on vacation.
The Garmin Edge 520 does not offer the advanced navigation features of the Garmin Edge Touring or the Garmin Edge 820 or the Garmin 1000. On the Garmin Edge Touring and the Garmin Edge 820 and the Garmin Edge 1000, the turn-by-turn navigation directions are excellent. On both of them, you are alerted by beeps and a countdown when a turn is coming (as in, “Turn right onto Main St. in 55 feet”). As with a car GPS, your upcoming route is highlighted, and the unit will recalculate if you deviate from the route it has planned.
By contrast, navigation on the Edge 520 is limited to routes you have downloaded in advance, and it is a lot more primitive than on the Touring or the 820 or the 1000. You get breadcrumbs, turn notifications, and off-course alerts with both of them.
Indoor Training Options on the Garmin Edge 520
The Garmin Edge 520 bike computer can record indoor rides. Plus, the Edge 520 has quite a spectacular new feature – you can recreate recorded outdoor rides on your compatible indoor trainer. In other words, if you recorded a ride with a series of large hills, your indoor trainer can recreate that hilly ride by increasing resistance accordingly. I don’t actually use an indoor trainer, but if I did, I think this could add a lot of variety and fun.
Data Displays on the Garmin Edge 520
Data displays are just plain spectacular with the Garmin Edge 520. You have a very sleek and futuristic color display, and you can customize it to your heart’s content. You can have up to 10 fields per page and up to 5 customized pages, so you should be able to set up a configuration that suits you perfectly.
Garmin Varia Vision on Garmin Edge 520
The Garmin Varia Vision is the first in what is sure to be an explosion of new wearable technology – a HUD (Heads Up Device). In a nutshell, it enables you to look at information from your Garmin Edge bike computer or your Garmin Edge Varia radar – WITHOUT taking your eyes off the road to look down at your handlebars. The information is projected on a tiny screen that connects to the side of your cycling glasses, so that you can focus on the road all the time, and just glance over to the side to read your data.
The Garmin Edge 520 is compatible with the Garmin Varia Vision. You can read a review of Garmin Varia Vision here.
Bottom Line on the Garmin Edge 520
The Garmin Edge 520 is an excellent bike computer, just loaded with features.
This bike computer is perfect for cyclists who seriously want to improve their performance. For example, if you regularly cycle on three different bikes with various sensors and a heart rate monitor, this is the bike computer for you. And of course, if a power meter is an important part of your training, then this totally connected bike computer is made for you. Most importantly, if you are all about the data, this is the right bike computer. With the Garmin Edge 520, you have a very sleek and futuristic color display, and you can customize it to your heart’s content.
If you have read this far and decided the Garmin Edge 520 is the bike computer for you, please be kind enough to click on one of the links on this page. A small commission will then repay me a little for the many hours of research that I spent on this post (you will not pay a penny more). Thanks!
Note: if you do decide to go with the Edge 520, Amazon’s bundle deal is really good, offering the Edge 520, a heart rate monitor, a cadence sensor, a speed sensor, an extended out-front mount and a standard mount, for not a lot more than the base Edge 520.
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