There is little doubt that Garmin are leading the market when it comes to cycle GPS computers; for several years now, they have produced products that have more functionality, usability and durability, than the majority of the competition.
The new Edge 520 is the latest "small GPS computer" to be released by the brand; aimed to sit at the top of the ladder of their cycle range, but alongside the larger Garmin Edge 1000 unit.
The Garmin Edge 520 Computer is made to excel as a racer and trainer's choice; providing extensive metrics on power, speed, cadence, environmental conditions, mapping, rider fitness testing, and much more besides. The unit is a mini data power house, and should provide the rider with performance analytics that will fulfil every requirement.
A compact, practical and easy-to-use design
Let's start with the basics - the unit design itself. The Garmin Edge 520 is a compact cycle computer, and mounts to the bike in the same way as all other modern Garmin units; using the simple quarter-turn mount. There are a plethora of mount options available for these now, but the Garmin Edge 520 comes with a stem/bar mount and an out-front mount, as standard.
Once mounted, the unit switches on with the power button - positioned as with most Garmin units, on the upper left hand side. Opposite this is the menu button, which allows you to change the settings and functions; and below that the 'back' button, which takes you to the previous screen. When you're actively using the unit for tracking a workout, you use the up and down arrow buttons to flick between dashboards, and the start/stop and lap buttons on the lower edge of the unit, to control your ride data.
In short, this is not a touchscreen unit - unlike the bigger brother Edge 1000. The thinking behind this, is that the screen on the compact Edge 520 is too small to be used effectively as a touchscreen; so buttons provide better functionality, especially when wearing gloves. The buttons have a firm and positive feel, and I have to admit I do actually prefer them to using the touchscreen on the similarly sized Garmin Edge 510, which the Edge 520 replaces.
More metrics than you can count
So what do you get in terms of data? The question should probably actually be "what do you not get in terms of data?" because the Garmin Edge 520 is a data-junkie's dream machine.
There are the basics: speed, cadence, HR, power, temperature, distance, barometric elevation, and calories burnt, etc. etc. etc. Where things get interesting is when you dive deeper into these metrics, and the second level analysis that the Edge 520 can provide…
For power readings, for example, this little unit excels... If you're using it with Garmin Vector Power Pedals, you get a whole load of feedback on power off-set, pedal efficiency, pedal stroke soft-spots, time seated vs. standing, and comparative leg power; all metrics that if used correctly, could really improve your pedal stroke. Dive into your post-ride power metrics, and you'll find analysis on FTP, Intensity Factor, TSS and even tailored training advice. Whilst my testing has only nibbled at this feast of data, and its capabilities; the potential is clearly there to give the rider an incredible amount of knowledge and insight.
Tailored training advice
Built off the back of the extensive power, speed and heart rate readings, the Garmin Edge 520 can offer you extensive training advice. You can test to see if you have recovered from your last session fully; to avoid the dreaded over-training syndrome. You can implement various fitness tests, to provide regular feedback on progress. You can even test yourself against yourself, using the Virtual Partner technology. This range allows you to build structured training sessions, to aid your progress.
Detailed colour mapping
The Garmin Edge 520 comes with a colour Base Map as standard; with the option to upgrade it to OpenStreetMaps with a simple internet download. The Base Maps is enough that if you upload a route to the device, you can follow the track on-screen with fairly good precision. What the Garmin Edge 520 won't do, is provide route suggestions or to-location navigation (that the Garmin Edge 1000 does do). I personally found that the Base Maps were good for general navigation on a route, and that the higher resolution screen made a big difference for this, over the older Edge 510 unit.
One of the biggest features pushed by Garmin with the Edge 520, is Strava Live Segment integration. This allows you to track your progress against Strava segments, using the mapping on the Edge 520. The unit will feedback as you approach, enter and finish any segment you have loaded onto the device; it will then tell you how your real-time pace readings, and overall result, compared to the current KOM. This could be a great motivational tool for the Strava addict!
Conclusion - A worthwhile upgrade?
So, is the new Garmin Edge 520 worth an upgrade over the Edge 510 that it replaces? In my opinion, yes it is.
The unit is smaller, yet easier to view; because of the higher resolution screen. It is smaller, yet more practical; because the buttons are better with full finger gloves. It is smaller, yet provides an incredible new feast of data and analysis, which could dramatically improve your training - if used correctly.
I'm a fan. This is a compact little unit, which makes no impression on your cockpit; but could make a huge impression on your riding. It provides the potential to boost performance, motivation and your ability to explore. Those three possibilities alone, make it a real winner.
View the Garmin Edge 520 GPS Cycle Computer at Wiggle