Review: Garmin Edge 520 Cyclocomputer

When I ride my bike, I’m looking to improve in some way on every ride. To help me with that, I have a Garmin Edge 520 cyclocomputer on my bike.

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This is a small but sophisticated computer that out of the box allows you to measure distance, speed, ride time and elevation with no external sensors required to do so. That’s because the cyclocomputer uses GPS and Glonass to track where you are and how fast you are moving. It will also display a rudimentary map that will allow you to know where you are. Plus it also has rudimentary navigation abilities to route you through a course that you can download to the cyclocomputer via the MicroUSB connection while connected to a Mac or PC. You also use the MicroUSB port to charge the cyclocomputer so that you can get up to 15 hours of battery life.

However, the real power starts to appear when you pair the cyclocomputer with any of a number of external sensors to get data. The sensors need to support the ANT+ standard for them to work which pretty much everything that you’d be interested in does. In my case, I use a heart rate monitor and a cadence sensor (so that I know how fast I am pedaling). My wife who has the same cyclocomputer takes it one step further by adding a speed sensor on top of the sensors that I have mentioned above. If you really want to get nerdy, you can add the sorts of sensors that pro cyclists use like this power meter that measure your power output when you ride. Or you can integrate it into the Di2 electronic shifting system that cycling components company Shimano makes. It will even integrate with Garmin’s cycling lights and action cameras.

In terms of the data that it collects, it will allow you to measure your performance on the bike in the same way that pro cyclists do. This allows you to really hone in on what you’re good at and what you need to work on. But if you’re not trying to be the next Chris Froome, you can leverage the fact that this computer will work with Strava in a couple of ways. Strava is a social fitness site where riders’ GPS files are compared by time over certain stretches of road. I use it myself and a I use an app called Garmin Connect on my iPhone (it’s also available for Android and Windows Phone) to automatically upload my rides to Strava when I am done. But the Edge 520 supports Live Strava Segments which are sections or road where you can set the best time among those who ride the same section of road. You’ll get a notification of when you are approaching a Strava Segment and relevant info such as best time, your friends best times, etc. This feature does require you to pay for a Strava Premium account, but you do get a taste of this feature for three months.

Garmin Connect is also useful to users of the Edge 520 in two other ways. First is that the cyclocomputer is capable of paring with a phone via Garmin Connect so that you can see the name and number when someone calls you as well as text messages of anyone who texts you on the computer. Though you cannot respond to it, it is handy as you don’t have to pull your phone out of your cycling jersey to see who is calling or texting as long as you pay attention to the road. That way you can decide to pull over and respond, or ignore it and keep riding. The other feature that Garmin Connect brings you is Incident Detection. The Edge 520 leverages its internal accelerometers to detect what it considers to be an incident such as a crash or you being hit by a car. It will then first put a message on the screen of the Edge 520. If this message is not cleared within a given time period then the Edge 520 will then send a message to a Bluetooth paired phone that will that will in turn send a message on to a list of registered contacts about the incident. It’s easy to set up and it will act as some extra piece of mind for your loved ones.

Gripes? Despite the fact that this computer supports both ANT+ and Bluetooth, the Edge 520 would not support pairing with my Series 2 Apple Watch to get heart rate info from it. Now, I can see this from a couple of angles. The first being that Garmin sells wearables of its own and they really don’t want to play nice with the competition which I can understand. The other side of this is that Apple is playing nice with lots and lots of fitness companies and Garmin needs to get into the game. Now I thought that I was an edge case (excuse the pun) with this gripe, but a quick Google search suggests that I may not be the only one out there that would like Apple Watch support to happen.

The Garmin Edge 520 is not cheap. It’s $400 CAD by itself. But you can get it in a bundle with a heart rate monitor, a cadence sensor, and a speed sensor for $550 CAD. It’s aimed at serious cyclists who want to gather all sorts of data about their rides. Thus if you’re someone who only rides on local cycling paths and enjoys the scenery, this isn’t the computer for you and I would suggest looking at one of Garmin’s lower end models. But if you do fit the use case that this cyclocomputer is aimed it, head to your local bike shop and pick one up today.

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One Response to “Review: Garmin Edge 520 Cyclocomputer”

  1. […] am without my iPhone 7 Plus. For example, when I ride my bike, my iPhone 7 Plus is connected to my Garmin Edge 520 cyclocomputer via Bluetooth specifically for the incident detection feature. Since Garmin cannot or will not make […]

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