For some people, cycling is all about getting on a bike, getting out into the great outdoors, freedom, speed and cakes.
For me, cycling is also about recording data. Not an excessive amount (I don’t – yet – have a power meter), but enough.
Enough data to see where I’ve been. How fast I’m going. Whether I’m climbing that hill faster than last month. How many calories I burnt*.
(*Which gets fed into the Sportive Cyclist cake consumption optimisation algorithm).
And to record data, you need a cycling computer (ideally with GPS). And my cycling computer (thankfully, with GPS) is my Garmin Edge 510.
And this is my review after two (count ’em) years of ownership.
Are You Looking For A ‘Current’ Bike GPS?
The Garmin Edge 510 is an old computer. Whilst you might be able to pick one up new, it’s not been superseded by two (count ’em) new Edge 5xx models.
So, if you’re looking for an up-to-date version of this bike computer, I would recommend the Garmin Edge 530:
Compact bike GPS offering high performance at a reasonable price. Intelligent route mapping, unlike the previous 520 model. Not touchscreen (but this isn't a dealbreaker for me).
Alternatively, if you’re looking to pay a little less money, I’d recommend the Edge 130:
An Edgy Relationship
I got the 510 as a present from my other half for my birthday in May 2013. The main reason for choosing it over other GPS devices available was a promotional video, which since seems to have been removed from YouTube.
The Edge 510 and 810 were launched to sort of replace the older Edge 500 and 800 respectively. ‘Sort of’ because the 500/800 continued to be sold and supported by Garmin for some considerable time, and indeed both are still available to buy now (although Garmin has stopped updating the firmware for them).
Some Observations Of A Physical Nature
Since you and I both worship at the church of the wind tunnel, let’s consider the size of the Edge 510 for a few moments.
Consideration over. Thank you.
The 510 is definitely larger than some (non-GPS) bike computers. It’s also a bit bigger than the old Edge 500 and the new Polar M450 bike computer. But it certainly doesn’t feel too big in my cycling cockpit (which you might call, ‘the handlebars’).
For size comparison, I would show you a photo of the Edge 510 next to my iPhone (which I think is a 5) but, er, it’s the iPhone that I take pictures with.
So I’ve taken some other size comparison photos:
A Casio fx-83MS scientific calculator…
A strange little (semi-religious?) vase…
For completeness, the (my) 510 weighs 82g, which is neither here nor there unless you have a 4% body fat ratio:
Finally, since this is one of the main differences versus its Edge 500 predecessor, the 510 has a colour touch screen. A key marginal gain there.
What Do I Use The Edge 510 For?
As alluded to above, I use my 510 to track each of my rides, and to record (hopefully) relevant data about them.
Like all of the Garmin Edge devices, the 510 is a GPS bike computer. It tracks where you’ve been, and how fast you’re travelling, using the
magic science of signals and satellites.
Unlike the 810, the 510 uses both American satellites (GPS) and Russian ones (known as GLONASS) for tracking porpoises (purposes). Depending on where you’re located, this might mean that it locks onto satellites quicker than a GPS-only device.
I have my 510 set to use both GPS and GLONASS (you can choose one or t’other, if you wish) and it seems to find the necessary orbiting objects quicker than I can get on my bike. Ypa!
High Five (Ten)
The Edge 510 is also blessed with a barometric altimeter. It uses this to tell you your current altitude, and the total amount you’ve climbed on a ride. There’s also a thermometer, to record…. temperatures you’ve encountered.
(It may or may not interest you to know that the barometric sensor is not temperature controlled – if temperatures (and presumably air pressure) change over the course of your ride, it will affect altitude readings. Plus, if you’re using Strava, or another ride recording app, chances are that they will recalculate the elevation data anyway, based on mapping data contained within their mysterious black boxes…)
Extra Sensory Reception
The Edge also picks up, and records, data coming in from other sensors, distributed liberally about your person, your bike and even your bathroom.
Provided the sensor is broadcasting the data via ANT+ (one of the two industry-standard wireless communication protocols*) and the Edge software can recognise the data type, the 510 will record/display it.
(*He says, Googling frantically.)
If you’re someone that likes to know what’s what with watts, the Edge 510 will cope admirably with power meter data.
Indeed, if you are blessed with the financial resources of a Russian oligarch (or perhaps you simply treat your cycling with the seriousness which it deserves), you can
strap onfit a set of Garmin Vector pedals (the ones with inbuilt power meters) and be able to see (things like) where in your pedal stroke you generate the most (and least) power
- display on your Edge screen which gear you’re in (assuming you have one of the Shimano Di2 electronic gear systems).
I think (think!) the Edge will even communicate with your (appropriately wireless and ANT+ enabled) bathroom scales to keep you up to date on how many kgs you’re planning to cart up today’s target climb.
The Edge 510 is a data collecting BEAST! … ahem.
Show Me The DATA
As well as recording all this data (for posterity), you’ll want to see some of it whilst you’re riding.
The Edge gives you loads of flexibility over how many screens you want to see (or scroll through) and what data is shown on each screen.
It appears that you can have up to 5 pages of data, with up to 10 items of data on each page. You can choose exactly what piece of data (from the, er, gazillions available) goes where on the page.
Here is a random page I’ve created to show what 10 data items looks like:
There are also additional dedicated pages for Courses, Workouts, the Map, Elevation and the Virtual Partner.
The Virtual Partner, if you set it up correctly with your target speeds, acts as a pacemaker when you follow a course:
Courses, workouts and mapping (or navigation) I deal with below, but here’s an example of how the elevation screen is displayed:
In summary, if you yearn to see a lot of numbers whilst you’re out on the bike, the Edge 510 will suit you to a tee.
That said, if you want to keep it simple, you can turn the majority of the pages off and just have the display your most vital statistics:
Look Mum No Wires
Another key difference between the Edge 510 (plus the 810/1000) and earlier models is its ability to communicate with a smartphone. Specifically your smartphone.
It does this via Bluetooth*.
(* Technical aside time: I believe the Edge 510 can only use the ‘old’ Bluetooth wireless protocol rather than Bluetooth Smart, the newer low energy version. It therefore can’t pick up signals from various fitness sensors (heart rate straps, power meters, speed/cadence sensors) that use Bluetooth Smart only – don’t say I didn’t warn you).
Assuming your smartphone has (old) Bluetooth (which pretty much every phone does), it can link to the 510 using the Garmin Connect app. This allows you to:
- Download data from (and upload data to) the 510
- Allow people (your partner, Dave Brailsford, law enforcement officials) to track your ride in real-time (i.e. whilst you’re out there on the bike)
- Find out the weather forecast
I’m more interested in the first of these features (mainly because no one is interested in watching my trundle around a course in cyberspace, and I’ve generally checked the forecast before getting on the bike).
As mentioned, the Edge 510 will sync your activity data without needing to crack out the USB cable. By way of an example, here is my ‘workflow’:
- Turn on Edge 510 – Bluetooth is already enabled
- Do my ride and press button to stop the clock
- Press ‘Save’ on the Edge’s screen
- Magic happens
- Ride data appears in Garmin Connect
- More magic happens
- Ride data appears in Strava
If I have reasonable mobile reception (i.e. 3G) or I’m within range of the home wifi, I can be on Strava and collecting kudos from
strangers cyber friends before I’ve even walked into the house.
In case it’s not clear from above, the Edge 510 doesn’t upload directly to Strava, it uploads to Garmin Connect.
You can then link your Garmin Connect account to your Strava account (as well as to MapMyRide and Endomondo, if that’s your musette, baby.)
The pipe works the other way as well. You can create courses and workouts using Garmin Connect and have them sent wirelessly to Edge 510 for you to follow.
If you watched the video at the top of the post, you’d see Dan Martin (of Cannondale-Garmin pro cycling fame) appearing to create and upload a route directly from his smartphone (made by Sharp – another team sponsor).
As far as I can work out, the ‘create’ part is not possible just using a smartphone (sensibly perhaps – I defy anyone successfully to create a mapped route on a smartphone without throwing said smartphone at a wall in furious frustration).
Instead you have to hit it old skool and use
an OS map a mouse and (whisper it) desktop computer (or a laptop…). You can use the Garmin Connect website (or ‘web app’ as it might be called) to create the route, then, if you want to keep things wireless, open the Garmin Connect app on your smart phone and send the route to your Edge.
(If you’re prepared to go wired, you can miss out the smartphone stage and just plug the Edge into your computer using the supplied USB cable and sync using the Garmin Express programme).
Whilst We’re On The Subject Of Routes…
I have a love-hate relationship with the Edge 510’s navigational capabilities.
Now in fairness, Garmin don’t claim that the 510 is the optimal tool for navigating on a bike. That would be either the Edge 810 or the 1000.
Whereas the Edge 810 and 1000 contain maps and can ‘understand’ them, the 510 simply uses a series of grid reference way points and draws lines between them. The map display is essentially just a line on a white background.
As you follow the route, the little arrow that denotes your position follows the line.
If you miss a turning, a warning will flash up to tell you that you’re ‘Off Course’ but it won’t recalculate a new route like a car GPS system would. You have to work out where the mistake was and backtrack until you hit the course again (or take a punt that you’ll be able to meet up with the route somewhere further down the road).
This bit generally works fine.
Computer Says… Nothing
Whether you’re using Garmin Connect to create and upload a route, or creating a route file using RideWithGPS.com (or similar) and uploading it to the Edge 510 manually (in the way I set out in this post and video combo), it seems somewhat hit and miss whether the Edge receives enough info to display all the turn-by-turn instructions.
Generally, the 510 will display turn notifications in sufficient time to allow me to slow down and make the turn. Sometimes though, it will simply miss out an instruction, I’ll not make the turning and I’ll go off course. Which is an ar$e (technical term).
However, I don’t think it is the fault of the Edge 510 per se (said the Garmin apologist). The issue seems to be in the quality of the route information uploaded to the Edge.
In the route file (and I think the .tcx file type seems to be best), there needs to be a series of cues (i.e. turns) for the Edge to display to you, the rider. If the cues aren’t in the file, the Edge won’t display them and you’ll suddenly find yourself having ridden down a hill that you now need to turn around and ride up.
I haven’t found the perfect route creating software… yet.
[Actually, maybe I have.
As I’ve been researching this post, I’ve been playing around with Bike Route Toaster, which appears to give you much more control over the amount of detail that goes into the route file.
I’m excited (little things…). I’ll do some more ‘research’ and revert back]
(Bread)Crumbs Of Comfort
So, if mapping and navigation on the bike are really important to you, you might want to consider the Edge 810 or 1000 over the 510.
On the other hand, if, like me, you mainly cycle in your local area and have only an occasional need for a bit of route guidance to keep you right, the Edge 510 will almost certainly do the job.
It’s Not All Work(out) Work(out) Work(out)
I’ve spent a long time (too long?) talking about routes and not so much about the other thing you can upload to your Edge 510: workouts.
These are a lot more straightforward.
Essentially, you can create a workout containing a series of steps, each step corresponding to a phase of your ride, e.g. 5 minutes warm up, 10 minutes spent in heart rate zone 3, 20km at power zone 6 (as I like to do…)
Whilst you can do this directly on the Edge device, it’s a sure fire way to spend a frustrating 15 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back. Easier to do it, once again, on the Garmin Connect website and upload it to the Edge later (either wirelessly via smartphone or wirefully via the USB cable).
Creating a workout on the Garmin Connect website is pretty straightforward. Clicking around for 5 minutes allowed me to create this proto-workout:
Then like this, once you’re up and riding it:
Useful stuff (said the cyclist who’s never used the workout functionality in anger…).
What Do You Get With The Edge 510?
The 510 comes with all the gubbins you need to safely attach it to your bike. Here’s a photo from when I ‘unboxed’ it:
I use one of the two plastic mounts in the middle of the photo, attached with a couple of the heavy duty rubber bands from the piles at the top:
The large plastic fandango at the bottom of the shot is an arm that allows you to position the Edge ‘out front’, for those that don’t like to look at handlebars directly, or who are very keen to adopt an aero position*.
(* Clearly you can experiment with the position that works best for you).
As alluded to earlier in the post, the Edge 510 comes with a short USB cable, that plugs in behind a weatherproof flap on the back of the device:
As well as using it for uploading/downloading data, the USB cable is used for recharging the Edge’s battery. It’ll do this whilst connected to the computer, or you can plug it directly into a power socket using one of those ‘plug ends’ (technical term) that comes with an iPhone (or via any other way of charging a USB device).
If, like me, you’ve gone for the Edge 510 with heart rate strap and speed/cadence sensor bundle, you’ll also get…. yes, a HR strap and a speed and cadence sensor:
Battery Life And Bugs (Now Deceased)
As an iPhone user (other smartphones are available), I’m used to batteries running down quickly when you use GPS and other power hungry functions. I’ve remained pleasantly surprised therefore by the battery life on the Edge 510. It can last a long time and for many rides without needing a charge.
The 510 has no problem recording a day-long sportive where Strava might run down your phone in 3-4 hours, and this is using both GPS and GLONASS, as well as keeping Bluetooth switched on.
I’ve also never had a problem with a freezing device or lost data, though I have seen the odd comment about this in forums going back a few years.
In the ‘early days’, it was important to check regularly that the 510’s software (or firmware, who knows?) was up to date. Garmin frequently updated things in the few months after launch, ironing out bugs and implementing improvements.
The updates are less frequent these days, but it is worth checking every now and again (I think updates have to come via plugging the Edge into your computer via USB and using the Garmin Express tool).
Some Concluding Remarks
I’ve been very happy with my Edge 510. I’ve recommended to other riders both here on the Sportive Cyclist blog as well as in ‘meatspace’ (er, real life).
I think it offers a good combination of price and functionality.
It’s hugely scalable – as and when you get new (ANT+) sensors (power meters, bathroom scales…), the Edge should be able to record and display their output.
Finally, it seems to be well waterproofed. Which is important.
And with that, I am away. I hope you found this review helpful. Do ask any questions in the comments.