The Edge series of GPS units from Garmin runs from the diminutive “20” which has only the most basic features, up to the “1000” that rocks a 3-inch color touchscreen. Tested here, the Edge 520 is right in the middle of the line, retailing for $300.
While the Garmin Edge 520 may be small – approximately 2x3x1 inches – it doesn’t skimp on features. It has a 2.3-inch full-color screen that is easy to read even in direct sunlight. The integrated battery will last you up to 15 hours, and the 60g weight won’t slow you down.
In terms of technical features, the Edge 520 has:
- Barometric altimeter
- IPX7 water rating (suitable for rain)
- ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible
The Edge works with a multitude of sensors from Garmin and other brands including: heart rate, cadence, power meters, and stationary trainers. If you pair it with your phone, you can get text and call notifications on the screen while you ride, assuming you’re carrying your phone along with you.
You can get really nerdy with the 520 if that’s your thing. Set up workouts beforehand so you know when to go hard and when to rest. Create alarms for distance or time goals. Race a virtual partner. If you’re a Strava Premium Member you can link to your Garmin Connect account for live segments. With that feature enabled, segments that you have starred in your Strava account are linked to the device. When you’re out riding and get close to a segment, a popup notification will let you know it’s about to start. Once you’re on the segment, you’ll get live feedback to see how you stack up.
Should you want people following your every turn, the Edge 520 is also compatible with Garmin’s Live Tracking feature. Before you start your ride, you can send out a unique link that will allow whomever you send it to to follow you in real time. It’s a cool feature for friends and family that may want to know how you’re doing during a race, for instance.
Garmin uses a “quarter turn” mounting interface. Simply put the back of the unit into the mount and rotate it 90 degrees to lock it into place. It’s easy to use and feels solid. Garmin includes multiple mounts in the box: two that attach to your stem or bar via large o-rings, and an out front mount. The out front mount is an arm that attaches to your bar and extends forward. It works well on road bikes, but puts the Garmin in a precarious position for mountain biking, where crashing is inevitable. My unit came with an elastic lanyard that was handy for leashing it to the bike. Having broken my old Garmin after it flew off in a wreck, I appreciated this accessory.
If you can use a smartphone, you can setup the Edge 520 – at least in the most basic terms. Delving deeper into some of the 520’s capabilities takes a little more effort. You can set up multiple workout profiles, which is handy for different bikes or ride types. For instance, on a training road ride, I want lots of info – speed, time, distance, heart rate, cadence, elevation gain, etc. But during a mountain bike race, that stuff is not as helpful. Plus, it’s hard to read a bunch of data fields when your heart rate is approaching 180 BPM and you’re going cross-eyed. I set my unit up with profiles for rides on the stationary trainer, road rides, mountain bike rides, and races. Before you start each ride, you can pick the appropriate profile.
Changing the layout of the screen is a fairly simple affair. First choose how many fields you want displayed on a page, and then select your desired fields. You can have multiple pages that you scroll through, so the stats can be as packed in as you’d like. The process can be tedious, but it’s not difficult.
To make the most of your Garmin, you’ll need to sign up for a (free) Connect account, which is Garmin’s fitness community. Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to also download the Connect app to your smartphone. This makes uploading rides a breeze when the Edge is paired to your phone via Bluetooth. The Connect interface is slick and easy to use, both on the desktop and via the mobile app. I didn’t spend a ton of time with it though since I’m on Strava. I linked my Strava account so that rides from Connect were automatically synced to that website as well.
I spent countless hours over the past winter in my basement riding the trainer. For those that have done this, you know how much you sweat when you’re stationary. It’s gross. A lot of that sweat landed directly on the Edge 520. I’ve also ridden with it for hours in the pouring rain and in the mud. It’s seen temperatures over 100 degrees in direct sunlight. It’s been covered with all manner of sports drinks during races. Functionally, it still works as new. Aesthetically, it’s a little beat up. The screen has its fair share of scratches, so you may want to cut a custom screen protector if that kind of thing bothers you. Apart from some cosmetic damage, I don’t have any concerns with the durability of the Edge.
If you’re looking for a GPS for navigation purposes, the Edge 520 won’t cut it for you. It’s really more a tool for training and tracking rides. For getting lost – and then finding your way back – you’ll need one of the Edge models focused more on navigation, like the Edge Touring ($250) or the Edge 810 ($400).
On the flipside, the array of features on the 520 may be overkill if you’re only looking for the most basic of information. For that rider, a smartphone running Strava or a similar app may suffice. Or, if you’re worried about damaging your phone, check out the Edge 20. It costs $130 and is about the size of a watch face, but provides the most pertinent stats.
The only real annoyance I had with the Edge is probably not even Garmin’s fault. When I first started using the Edge, it would automatically pair with my iPhone as soon as I turned the unit on – this is assuming my phone’s Bluetooth was enabled. There was nothing else I needed to do. I could head off on my ride with my phone in my pocket and get text/call alerts while on the road or trail. When I was done riding, I’d stop the ride, save it, and it would automatically be uploaded to Garmin Connect and Strava. Easy! However, after an Apple iOS update, this was no longer the case. Now, I have to turn the Edge on, pull out my phone, and open up the Connect app to get the two to pair. Sure, it’s not that big of a deal that I’m missing text/call alerts, but it is a bummer that it’s not as seamless as it was. Perhaps future updates will resolve this problem.
The Edge 520 is easy enough to setup, is durable, and has more than enough bells and whistles to keep all but the biggest data nerds satisfied. I like the small form factor, bright screen, and secure mount. It works with just about every accessory or training tool you can think of, from power meters to heart rate monitors. It has everything I’ve ever needed out of a GPS and more. At $300 it isn’t inexpensive, but if you’re serious about your training, it’s a solid investment.
Thanks to Garmin for providing the Edge 520 for review