Garmin Edge 520 Review: The Cycling GPS Trainer We have Been Waiting For
Garmin’ Edge series provides a variety of digital cycling partners in form of GPS devices. They include the Edge 25 for recreational riders, the Edge Explore 1000 for adventurers and the new Edge 820. For bike riders who want to up their performance, whether for personal goals or competitive racing, one of the most popular GPS devices is the Garmin Edge 520.
Garmin Edge 520 price when reviewed: $249.99
An Overview of the Garmin Edge 520
Since the Edge 305 and 500 devices were released several years ago, Garmin has come back with updated iterations of its GPS cycling devices. But the Garmin Edge 520, released in July 2015, makes the largest improvement yet over its predecessors. It defines what a modern training GPS device should look like and once again establishes Garmin’s position at the bleeding edge of training technology.
As you will see in our comprehensive review, the Garmin Edge 520 comes loaded with an impressive range of great features for use, not only in cycling, but also in various other forms of training, including yoga. Cycling enthusiasts will especially love the inclusion of Strava Live Segments and the added performance metrics. They also get the opportunity to use third party maps, meaning you can get something more detailed than the base map that comes preinstalled in the Edge 520.
Overall, this is one of the best trainers for riders in the market. It combines the most important metrics, a user-friendly experience and increased flexibility in regards to compatibility and connectivity to create one of the best cycling partners you can get for your money.
Design and Mounting
The Garmin Edge 520 features a nice compact design. It is smaller compared to the Edge 1000 and 510 but around the same size as the Edge 500. Unlike several other Edge devices, including the 1000 and 810, the 520 does not include a touch screen. Instead, it fills up the edges with buttons, making for an easier experience especially when cycling.
There are 7 buttons in total; ENTER and BACK on the right edge, START/PAUSE and LAP along the bottom edge and POWER/BRIGHTNESS and UP/DOWN along the left edge.
Some users have complained that the button configuration – Enter and Up/Down buttons on opposite sides – makes for a bit of an awkward use even when using both hands.
Overall, the design is exactly what you would expect from Garmin; sturdy, hardy and quite rugged. The device itself has an IPX7 waterproof rating, making it ideal for use in all weather including heavy rain.
To attach the Garmin 520 to your bike, there are two mounting options provided along with the device. You can use the popular out-front mount or the lesser-used stem mount. The front mount usually provides the best GPS reception, useful if you plan venturing into some remote areas with the possibility of reduced reception quality.
Setup and Use
Setup is roughly similar across most Edge devices. You will be prompted to enter basic information including height and weight. Once that is set, you wait for a GPS connection and then select your training profile. For faster and more stable connections, the Garmin Edge 520 has both the basic GPS and the more advanced GLONASS satellite systems installed.
The training software is fairly easy to use with plenty of customizable options and a quick learning curve. If you have used previous Edge devices, then getting on with the Garmin Edge 520 will be a piece of cake. The display consists of a high-contrast color screen, ideal for use even in bright sunlight. The location of the start and lap buttons at the bottom gives the rider easy access to them when on the track.
If you need additional metrics other than those built into the 520, make sure that any external ANT+ sensors are connected before you start your ride. Selecting, connecting and calibrating sensors is pretty easy. Without the sensors, the only metric you will get are speed, distance and elevation gain.
The device comes with a mini USB cable for charging and wired uploads. You can also upload via Garmin Connect when the device is connected via Bluetooth to your Smartphone.
Garmin Edge 520 Quick Specs
- IPX7 Waterproof rating.
- Approximately 15 hours of battery life with GPS on and 20 hours with GPS turned off for indoor training.
- 2.3 inches of high resolution display.
- Measures 49X73X21mm
- Weighs around 60 grams or 2.1oz.
- Uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
1. Strava Premium and Live Segments
This is the biggest thing to come along with the release of Garmin Edge 520. The Live Segments integration introduces a fun and competitive aspect to your riding by letting you compare your performance to that of top riders in a specific Strava segment.
The device warns you as you approach a starred or popular segment, giving you 200 meters or so to prepare yourself. By default, it will switch to screen displaying the fastest time of athlete you follow. If there is no one among those you have followed who has ridden that segment, it will switch to a comparison against your previous performance.
You can also choose to compare your performance against the KOM (King of Mountain) or QOM (Queen of Mountain) of that specific segment. The KOM and QOM abbreviations simply signify the male or female leader of a segment.
During the segment, the screen will tell you the amount of distance left to go and the amount of time you are behind or ahead. As soon as the segment is complete, the results are immediately calculated and displayed. The results shown are provisional.
This is because the device does not sync while you are out training. Only after you upload the results will you really find out whether you have beaten the KOM/QOM and have snatched the crown.
Note that Strava Live is only available on Strava Premium. Luckily, the Garmin Edge 520 comes with a free 2-month trial after which you have to pay a monthly fee to continue accessing Live Segments. If you do not own a 520, you will be happy to know that Garmin also updated the 1000, 510 and 810 with Strava Live.
2. Training and Performance Metrics
The foundation to any training device is the metrics. The quality and range of metrics determine how effective the device is in boosting athletic performance, be it cycling, running or swimming. For the Garmin Edge 520, the best performance and training metrics are delivered when the device is connected to ANT+ sensors.
As mentioned earlier, without the sensors connected, the 520 provides basic metrics of speed, elevation gain and distance. For a more performance-oriented riding experience, ANT+ sensors are a must.
What exactly is ANT+?
ANT+ is a wireless protocol developed by Garmin and used in a wide range of fitness devices. Garmin’s Edge devices exclusively support fitness devices that use this protocol. Thanks to the fact that ANT+ is the most commonly used wireless platforms by fitness gadgets, you will have no shortage of devices to connect to the Edge 520.
Depending on what ANT+ device you connect to the Garmin Edge 520, you can keep track of a variety of things including heart rate, temperature, weight and training intensity. Unlike previous Edge devices, the 520 is able to wring much more useful information from these numbers. For instance, it can give you your VO2 Max from your heart rate reading. VO2 Max is linked to training capacity and athletic endurance.
The device can also measure the intensity of your workout, compare it against the time spent and advice you on how long you should take to recover. When connected to a power meter, the 520 will calculate Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and watts/kg. FTP is an important measure of cycling power and capability while the power to weight ratio (Watts/Kg) indicates cycling performance. For a longer read on these two terms, follow these guides on cyclingweekly.co.uk and roadcycling.co.uk and
The 520’s menu allow for easy management of connected sensors. You can customize the menus to show the only data you deem necessary to your workout.
To make the Edge 520 as user friendly as possible, Garmin provides a wide variety of connectivity options. Equipped with Bluetooth 4.0, the device easily and quickly connects to your Smartphone. Through this connection, you can receive call, text and email alerts on your Edge 520. You can also set your Garmin Edge 520 to relay weather updates received on the Smartphone.
You can also connect to a variety of ANT+ fitness gadgets from smart scales to heart rate sensors. This greatly increases the amount of metrics you can track on your Edge 520 beyond the distance, speed and elevation basics.
For satellite connection, the Edge 520 is equipped with the GLONASS system alongside the ordinary GPS system. GLONASS is a Russian-based satellite navigation system, essentially the Russian version of the Global Positioning System (GPS). What the Edge 520 lacks is Wi-Fi connectivity. In the Edge 1000, Wi-Fi is used to upload collected data through Garmin Connect. But with other upload options available on the Edge 520, users will certainly not miss Wi-Fi.
One other connectivity feature that is not used much is Live Track. With this feature, you can connect to your internet-enabled Smartphone and invite other people (via email) to view your progress on a map. This is helpful when you are out riding alone and you want to keep friends and family in the know regarding your whereabouts.
Maps are a big deal for Garmin Edge devices. They help riders plan their courses and determine their position along a specific route. For earlier Edge devices, Garmin only included basic maps that were highly limited in detail.
The Edge 520 comes with a huge mapping improvement. Riders can use the base map, though it is still pretty poor in terms of detail. You will find most roads, even in a well known area, missing. Fortunately, riders are not limited to just using the base map. For more detail and accuracy, you can download third party maps onto the Garmin Edge 520. A good place to source the maps is Openstreet, which provides highly detailed community sourced maps. Downloading a third party map is an easy job. Here is a helpful guide on how to go about it.
You might want to be careful about how large of a map you download. The Garmin Edge 520 does not include a slot for an SD card. This means that you are limited to the internal memory made available to the user, which is around 54MB.
While you cannot fit an entire’s country’s map, this memory capacity is enough to download maps for areas as big as Paris or Washington DC. A good idea is to download the map for where you plan to ride that day. You will still have enough memory space left over to store your riding data. But you will have to keep deleting stuff after uploading it to prevent your memory from filing up.
Price and availability
Alternatively, you can get the bundle for $399.99. This includes the main device, a heart rate monitor, a cadence sensor, a speed sensor, 2 mounts, a Mini USB cable, a tether and manuals.
Garmin Edge 520 price when reviewed: $249.99
One of the Best Cycling Computers for Your Money
The addition of Strava Live Segments is undoubtedly one of the best developments from Garmin. Even better is the fact that it has been added to a variety of other Edge devices, not just the 520. Strava Live makes huge improvements in how riders train and measure their performance. It also introduces a whole new level of fun in your cycling routine.
Other features, notably the ability to use third party maps and increased metrics, turn the Edge 520 into one of the best cycling computers you will ever come across. It works well for most types of riders with a particular lean towards performance-focused athletes. In many ways, the Edge 520 is the cycling trainer we have been waiting for. It puts so much information and power in the rider’s hands, for more effective riding performance.
On a final note, Garmin recently launched a predecessor to the Edge 520. The Edge 820 has almost similar features with a few incremental developments. They have also launched the Edge Explore 820 for riders more interested in adventure than performance.
Have you used the Edge 520? What is your experience? If you have anything else to add to the review, feel free to leave your comment below.
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