January 27, 2014
A great GPS unit for riders less bothered about navigation and mapping than they are about stats.
Garmin’s original Edge 500 was the GPS unit for riders who didn’t need maps and turn-by-turn navigation, but wanted more functionality than the cycle computer-like Edge 200. This new 510 is like that 500, but with ‘added socialness’. It’s all about connectivity these days apparently, and the 510 will talk to your smartphone via Bluetooth and allow lots of cleverness.
What the 510 won’t do for you is navigate. There are no slots to be able to add OS maps or whatever; just a USB slot for charging and downloading. Interestingly, it is the only computer in the Edge range that also uses the Russian GLONASS system as well as the American GPS. This gives it twice as many satellites to call on and a claimed 20% reduction in the time to get an accurate fix. This was borne out in use, with very quick location acquisition even among buildings in town. Once it’s located itself it will then spit out a map co-ordinate for pinpoint navigation on a paper map.
The 510 will work (for up to 20 hours) as a stand-alone unit, recording and displaying your choice of things like distance, calories, time, altitude gained, with less-common options of things like sunset/sunrise times, temperature and rate of ascent. It can also pair with your phone to allow you to back up your rides to the phone and the Garmin Connect website. There’s also a ‘Live Track’ option, where your live position will be plotted on a map on the web, allowing a select (or not so select if you wish) group of people to follow your progress. In terms of navigation on the unit, it will plot a reference-less breadcrumb trail of where you’ve been on the screen, which is only really handy for finding out if you’ve completed a loop, or if you’re close to that bit from earlier. Without a paper map, it’s not something you could navigate from that well.
As a GPS-enabled bike computer though, the 510 has been very reliable. It’s quick to find where it is and the touch screen works well, even with gloves. There’s a ‘swipe to change screen’ function which can take a while to get used to, but the important on/off and stop/start/lap functions are physical buttons. The phone app has its glitches and crashes occasionally, so relying on that, plus a data connection (and battery power) wouldn’t be recommended for live tracking on big mountain adventures. For closer to home tracking live on the web though, it seems to work fine – and might be good for 24 hour pit crews wanting to track riders on a lap, or wondering whereabouts in the woods your other half has got to, for example. It’s best to see the 510 as a very good training aid (there’s a heart rate monitor version too, plus training menus on the device), which will accurately and quickly plot your progress.
Overall: A great GPS unit for riders less bothered about navigation and mapping than they are about stats. A good training aid and, depending on how connected you want to be, a worthy way of getting your exploits out there.