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Garmin Edge 1030 review

14 Sep 2018
Verdict:

Vastly improved touch screen and scores of features, but mapping still leaves something to be desired

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£499.99
For 
• Much improved touch screen • Excellent third-part integration • 20-hour battery life
Against 
• Size • Expensive • Mapping in built up areas is a chore

There are three types of bike computers. Those that record; those that record and do some other stuff, and those that record, do some other stuff and operate like a satnav.

The Garmin Edge 1030 is the latter, Garmin’s most advanced Edge computer to date, and the feature list is vast.

Alongside the regular things you’d expect from an Edge unit are onboard ‘Training Status’ analytics from third-party software manufacturer FirstBeat, turn-by-turn mapping, Strava Live Segments and TrainingPeaks support, rider-to-rider messaging, ‘Trendline’ popularity routing and support for every sensor under the sun, with Garmin including Bluetooth Smart connectivity for the first time, alongside Bluetooth and ANT+.

Buy the Garmin Edge 1030 from Wiggle

The button positions have been moved compared to its predecessor, the Edge 1000, from the bottom-front of the device to the bottom edge, and the touchscreen has been vastly improved. The battery life is up from a claimed 15 hours to 20 hours and is now expandable via a separate Garmin ‘Charge’ battery pack, which clips in neatly underneath to add a further 24 hours’ operating time (at a cost of £119.99).

There’s a lot to get through here, and I’ll be totally honest, a lot that I struggled to get the most out of. Because that’s the other thing: There are three types of bike computer-touting riders. Those that want to record; those that want to record and go places, and those that want to record, go places and train and analyse things to death.

Functionality

I’ve always found the main selling point of a Garmin Edge is its use-ability and reliability. The things are pretty intuitive to use, have decent battery life and reliably do what they set out to do. The older units are also pretty robust – my Edge 500 and Edge 820 have bounced down the road several times (my fault, not the clamps’) and been deluged with rain and are still standing (the Edge 500 has spent a fair old time in the airing cupboard drying, though Edge units’ sealing has improved over the years).

Within a week of use, the Edge 1030 had done nothing to tarnish the good family name, although I wouldn’t care to drop it given the expanse of screen and svelte bezel.

Set up was a cinch, from creating rider profiles to connecting to the Garmin Connect app to pairing with power meters (Favero Assioma pedals, Garmin Vectors and Info Crank), and the battery life claims seemed true to Garmin’s words: 12+ hours of riding showed 34% life left, and I reckon on only needing to charge it every three rides, and even then, just to be safe.

The most obvious improvement, though, was the touchscreen. Basically, it works much more like a smartphone than my Edge 810 could ever manage, which would often get triggered by raindrops or display the insensitivity of a distant father under my perfectly normal finger swipes. Now, sideswipe scrolling between pages and tapping works, even in the rain. Less well than in the dry, but it works and I don’t swear so much as I once did.

The screen is much higher resolution than the Edge 810 as you’d expect (a computer now a generation old, having been superseded by the Edge 820), but is also a noticeable improvement on the Edge 1000. It is more higher res, brighter and slightly larger: 88mm diagonal versus 76mm, despite the 1030’s overall size and weight being almost identical to the 1000 at 58mm x 114mm x 19mm, and 123g.

I’ll concede those dimensions will be a turn off for some; mounted on the supplied out-front mount this is quite a piece, and those bottom mounted buttons not always that easy to reach – although during a ride they aren’t really needed. However, it can do enough to justify its size.

Feature packed

There is a lot you can do with the Edge 1030. From an analytics standpoint, third-party FirstBeat have lent their software to the Edge’s ‘Training Status’ pages, which calculates VO2 Max, FTP, watts per kilo, provides stress indicators in the form of ‘recovery time’ and ‘training load’, which tell you how long to wait between rides and whether or not your intensity over a seven day period is too high, a bit low or about right.

It’s basically like a little coach telling you if you need to work harder or rest more. Is it effective? I can’t dispute being told to rest for 26 hours between rides.

From a real-time training standpoint, the Edge 1030 can be synced up to TrainingPeaks, which will deliver training plans to the unit for you to carry out. Likewise, it syncs to Strava too, meaning you can import routes, and upcoming segments will be flagged up for you to try and beast it through (even if these aren’t segments you have ridden before).

Smartphone tethering is necessary during riding for Live Segments, and before you go out for Strava routes and TrainingPeaks plans, or of course downloading routes from Garmin Connect.

Rider-to-rider messaging is effectively a basic, pre-programmed text messaging service that works sending information over your phone network to another rider with either an Edge 1030 or Edge 520 Plus. So you can send out the pre-programmed message ‘Waiting’ to your Edge-tooled-up ride buddy, who can then respond with ‘Be there soon’.

These messages are stock and not edit-able, and the service only works if your mate has an Edge 1030 or 520 Plus, so make what you will of its usefulness. Though this could well become more of a ‘thing’ across Garmin units going forward, so I won’t be too hasty to judge.

Then, in my opinion, there’s the crucial reason why a rider would entertain buying an Edge 1030 over other cycling computers – the mapping.

The idea is the 1030 operates like a satnav. It has turn-by-turn directions, which can take you to points of interest or specific addresses. And it can do these things in two ways – as a straightforward A-B like in a car, or as a ‘give me a loop that runs A-A of a specified distance’.

So visit a new area and the Edge 1030 will generate three routes at a shot based on the distance you want to pedal, and will then proceed to direct you on a colour map with turn-by-turn directions, finishing where you started. If you deviate, it will take you back to the course. Compared to any Edge computer before it, this mapping looks like, well, a satnav next to a foldaway paper map with a rip down the middle.

Much, much better, and GPS signal seems to be picked up much more quickly too, the Edge 1030 connecting to both GPS (the US launched satellites) and GLONASS (the Russians). In built-up areas, however, things could still take a few minutes – noticeably slower than, say, my Apple Watch 2.

It’s a neat feature, and one that is in theory bolstered by what Garmin calls ‘Trendline’, where data from other Garmin users is aggregated to discern the most popular routes and roads, the theory being the popular ones are the best ones, whether that be for scenic reasons, leg ripping climbs or quiet safety.

So, how do these features play out?

Each to their own

In purely functional terms everything seems to work as it purports to, although in dense cities such as London, I found the A-B navigation lacked clarity. The screen is too small, or not high enough resolution to usefully depict the sheer number of roads, and there is no quick pinch-zoom feature on the touchscreen, as you’d get on a smartphone for example.

I have had better luck with the Mio Cyclo computers when it comes to using a bike computer as a satnav, although that unit is much clunkier in size. That said, in less populated areas where there are fewer roads, this isn’t an issue. The navigation and route planning work near flawlessly – so long as you pay attention.

Again, the efficacy of having something near your stem you have to look at to be directed in a busy city is dubious, and somewhat impoverished compared to having one earphone in with spoken directions as per a smartphone running Google Maps.

The bottom line with the Edge 1030, though, is do you need all the features? Do you use TrainingPeaks, do you care for racing Strava segments, do you have mates who have compatible units to message?

I am a rider that in the main answers no to most of those questions. I admire the Edge 1030’s abilities all the same, but after a brief play around I barely strayed beyond displaying the real-time basics, uploading my rides to Garmin Connect and Strava to have a vague pick through, and using the navigation on occasion.

I will not be alone in that I’m sure, and Garmin knows this, which is why it still makes stripped-down computers such as the Edge 20 and 25, or just somewhat smaller units with a bit less functionality and cost, such as the Edge 520 and 820.

There will, therefore, be loads of riders out there for who will be incredibly grateful for all the 1030’s cutting-edge features. But I just found it all a bit much and distracting from just wanting to ride my bike and keep a vague tab on how I’m doing, and have done, at any given time.

As an aside: The last point which occurs to me yet again, and which I level at all bike computers, is cost versus ability. You can buy an iPhone 7 for a £449 (yes, I’m ignoring the contract part, but bear with me), dozens of powerful Android phones for much less. This Edge 1030 costs £500.

An iPhone, or any smartphone, can do everything from navigation to actually paying for things in a shop to ordering new inner tubes from a website. It can do everything a bike computer can, and more. And Google Maps is frankly brilliant and improving all the time.

Both my iPhone and Edge 1030 will happily last for as long as I ever realistically ride. The iPhone can play me music at the same time as it directs me, I can watch a video on it if I have a ride-ending mechanical and have to take the train home (I found out the train times on the phone too).

Bike computers, currently, do none of this, yet cost the same, if not more than smartphones. What gives?

The arguments have always been, ‘But you don’t want to ride with you £500 smartphone in such a prone position in your handlebars; the battery life is poor; smartphones aren’t robust.’ But there’s nothing in a computer such as the Edge 1030 that seems any more robust than a smartphone – many of which are now waterproof – the majority of riders aren’t going to ride longer than eight hours at a time, which a smartphone battery can cope with just fine, and the money involved is the same. Or less.

Buy the Garmin Edge 1030 from Wiggle

I feel like the main reason has always been the idea your smartphone will get destroyed when riding, but even then, a ‘sacrificial’ smartphone could be purchased for £150, a data-only monthly contract can be obtained for a tenner a month, or if you don’t want the contract and can bare the faff, you could swap your SIM card between smartphone and ride phone.

But this is a tangent to the review in hand, which is of the Edge 1030 as viewed in the realm of bike computers. And in that realm, it is currently king. If you are a rider that needs a king, that is.

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