Review: Garmin Edge 1030 – The Fully Featured GPS Cycling Computer

garmin edge 1030 review

It’s the successor to the popular Garmin Edge 1000, the 1030 arrives with a host of new features, a much larger screen, a longer battery life along with the ability to extend it even more through an external battery pack (with a neat integral mount). To top it all off, it boasts improved connectivity thanks to some pre-loaded IQ apps. But what’s how does it stack up for the average cyclist… is A$749 for the head unit or A$849 for the bundle a wise investment? In the review I will look at the key features and deliver the insights you need to decide.

 

So what is different?

If I reference the shiny new Edge 1030 to my much loved Garmin Edge 520, the obvious difference is that the new one HUGE. The top model Garmin GPS cycle computer succeeds the Edge 1000 and I will use that model as a better comparison for the physical specs. The new 3.5” screen (8.9cm diagonal) is HUGE (did I mention that already?) so an upgrade from the Edge 1000 gives you an increase from 240×400 pixels to 282×470 and retains the pin sharp graphics. The overall size gets a boost from 51 x 90 x 20mm to 58.4 x 144 x 19mm, like the trend in smart phones, bigger is meant to be better… not like the old days where electronics was getting smaller. But because a lot of cyclists are weight weenies, Garmin has ensured that the upgrade has only cost 9 grams which brings the payload for the Edge 1030 up to 123 grams.

The battery life is listed at “up to 20 hours” and for long distance cyclists can be extended for a further 24 hours through the fitment of the Garmin ‘Charge Power Pack’ accessory. The external battery pack can be purchased in a bundle ($849) or separately ($189) and connects directly to the supplied out-front handlebar mount and locks securely without requiring any extra cables, nice!

The Guided User Interface on the 1030 is a step-up from the button driven and complicated nested menus of my old 520. At times, some of the steps feel back-to-front but on the whole, operating the unit is intuitive. The ability to alter the size and layout of the data screens for a set number of fields was a welcome surprise as well as the dizzying array of available metrics.

Two new features interested me particularly; the preloaded IQ apps that allows cycling routes (such as Strava) to be directly loaded to the device and the Training Status metrics.I was also looking forward to trying out the Route Generator based on the data uploaded by the multitude of Garmin users throughout the globe. The Training metrics rely on the preloaded TrainingPeaks® app and to be useful really requires a Power Meter.

There are other new features, but these two are the ones that caught my eye and would be used, so I’ll spend more time on these and how the Garmin Edge 1030 really works for an everyday cyclist.

 

Touchscreens – useful or gimmicky ?

In my journey as a cyclist I have progressed from really basic wired speedos and onto the Edge Family (305, 500 and 520), the capabilities and development in technology has been huge. Prior to reviewing the 1030, all of my computers have been button operated. I have always felt that the cycle computer brands have struggled to get the desired mix in of number of buttons, their placement and the operation to make every user truly happy.

Touchscreens are ubiquitous in smart phones, tablets and small portable computers and the full colour interactive devices with the ability to load apps have also started to compete with the more tradition cycle computers. Garmin, Magellan and Polar have offered touch screens on their top model cycle computer and other brands such as Cateye, Lezyne, Bryton and newcomer Wahoo are yet to play with with the big boys in this respect.

As my first foray into the world of touch screen cycle computers, the initial setup for the 1030 was a good demonstration on how good a buttonless world it can be. The touch screen allows on the fly zooming, & re-centering of maps and even changing data fields far more easily than ever before. Under the hood, Garmin have switched from a resistive to capacitive screen technology in an attempt to improve the ability to work functionally in the rain. The change vast improvement and brings it closer to the experience of a modern smart phone… when it works. Let me explain.

garmin- edge 1030 touchscreen

Capacitive screens rely on electrodes to use the conductive properties of objects (rather than pressure in a resistive screen) or fingertips (in this case) to complete the function required, such as a swipe to a new screen or select a function via icon. The downside to this is that cyclists tend to wear long fingered gloves in winter and unless your long fingered gloves are conductive, it can be near impossible to achieve the desired screen change – something I found out in the middle of a ride. Changing the screen sensitivity (you can choose from High, Medium or Low) will help this but won’t solve it.

On top of the $749 price, you can then add the purchase of conductive long fingered gloves. If you are fussy like me and have a preferred brand then you may start ask yourself if you can really get the most out of this premium cycling computer. As a side note – if you are prepared to DIY, you could modify your winter gloves with conductive thread.

 

Navigation – the best bits (mostly)

For most of my cycling trips, I know where I am going. Occasionally I venture to new places, this is where the navigation capabilities, delivered through the large, crisp, full-colour screen is the bees knees. The display (when compared with my old 520) allows you easily see the route and the turn by turn directions are easy to follow. I usually set up the navigation screen with two bits of ride data – ‘Course Point Distance’ (how far to the next turn/change) and ‘Distance to Destination’ (how far to go till I get to the end). I also discovered that there is the ‘Ascent Remaining’ data. I imagine that this is useful for the unexplored mountainous rides as a good pacing tool to make sure you don’t bonk, or at least see how much more suffering to endure before the coffee stop! Trouble is, you can only have two fields on the map page. This has me baffled because the size of the screen, even with four fields there is still leaves ample room for a viewable map in my opinion.

Thanks to the IQ Strava Route app, it is painless to convert rides on Strava so that they can be downloaded to the cycle computer and used to as a route. When I tested this, all of the turn by turn directions came though fine and there is no need to connect the Edge 1030 directly to a computer. One neat feature of loading rides from Strava, the ‘privacy’ border setup in Strava is observed. The route starts at that privacy border intersection. Even the routing from your current location to the start point of a ride was faultless.

garmin strava route

The same clever usability however can’t be said for Garmin Connect. This online application also allows an existing ride to be converted to a route. To then load the ride onto the Edge 1030, you need a cable connection between the unit and the computer. The real problem is that the course point data isn’t transferred. On the course I selected, although the route elevation trace was correct, it estimated the total ride ascent as 16,180m (instead of 731m actual). Other mapping and course generation programs such as RidewithGPS require premium membership and hooking to the computer via cable. I actually expect more from the a  flagship product at this price point would be disappointed as a buyer once I started to encounter these problems – especially as competing brands do this quite well.

 

Trendline Popularity Routing

When navigation first appeared on cycle computers, they followed the lead from car navigation. The map data was the same and it assumed that the rider was on a one-way trip and would pick a destination, like a driver. The navigation attempted to prioritise cycle friendly routes but the reality was that the most suitable cycle trips needed to be manually curated and a lot of cyclists do round-trips and return to their origin.

The latest generation of smart phone apps are improving on this, as has the Garmin Edge 1030. If you are in a location where you don’t quite know the best routes or just want to try something different, you can get the Garmin to come up with a route (or several) for you. It is easy and you begin by selecting key points to include and whether you want to ride a loop. Simply follow the options on each menu and hit the ‘Search’ button.

garmin route

garmin zoom

I wanted to generate a 100km loop from home. The Garmin delivered 3 different options ranging from 135km through the hills, 106km through a different hills route, or a 110km route down south. I like the ability to view the map of the route as well as a terrain plot and total route ascent. Whilst the navigation worked fine, the downside is that there is no course point data or routing chart which means that there is no indication as to whether the next turn is 500m away or 15km. This meant that I was constantly looking at the unit to see if the next turn was coming up (the audible warning help, but sometimes you ask why it is beeping).

The routes that I tested from the generated trips sometimes included bike tracks, which is makes sense as the routes are generated from popular user routes. I would like to see the option to pick route type (easy/hard) or type of road, as there are some roads that I don’t consider to be very good for riding due to traffic conditions/volume. Despite a few short-comings, it is a nice feature which lets you discover new routes and gives you a head-start if you are cycling in new locations.

garmin 1030 trendline route

garmin edge 1030 iq strava

 

Backlighting & the auto sensing feature

One of the gripes that I have with my old Garmin Edge 520 is the legibility during dawn/dusk & night rides. It either required an overhead street lamp or a double button press to get the screen I was on to illuminate.

The Edge 1030 is leaps ahead in this department with its ambient light sensor (top left hand corner). This auto-adjustment of the brightness is an optional function and if you want to reduce battery usage you can turn it off. My family commitments mean that a lot of my rides are at dusk/dawn and this feature alone is so useful and convenient that it is a major asset. I hope to see this trickle down to the smaller Garmin 530 and 830 when they are released.

I don’t know what the impact on battery life is, but I would gladly charge the unit more often so that I can see the display easily regardless of the light levels.

garmin edge 1030- gps cycle computer

 

Battery life – 20 hours expandable to 44 hours

During my testing time I wasn’t able to push the Garmin Edge 1030 to the full 20 hours but think I was fairly close. Following the first charge I tallied about 13 hours of riding (some route following and auto backlight function turned-on with some dusk rides). Add to this a few hours getting the unit set-up, modifying the screens , loading routes from Strava and a firmware update to v3.50. After this, I had 25% of battery life remaining so the claimed 20 hours runtime appears reasonable. I assume most riders will recharge their cycle computer frequently for peace-of-mind and 15 hours runtime is a good target to then recharge.

If you want a longer runtime, the Edge 1030 can be seamlessly connected with the Charge Pack accessory. I didn’t have a Charge Pack to try out. This accessory has featured prominently in Garmin promotions for this computer but at a glance, the $100 upgrade (or $189 purchased separately) seems like an expensive upgrade.

Most riders are able to recharge regularly so will be well served with the by the 1030 alone. But the travellerd and endurance riders with limited access or ability to recharge, the Garmin Edge 1030 is suddenly much more useful and versatile. The Charge Pack becomes an accessory with a very neat and robust mounting option that is designed to be an integral part of the Edge 1030 and Out-Front mount combination.

 

Training Status Metrics – data galore

I’m not a data nerd when it comes to cycling. I prefer to just go out and ride, I haven’t even used a HR or cadence monitor for the last 5 years. But when the Edge 1030 arrived it was bundled with items (as well as a speed sensor) so there was no escaping the reality of how hard I was, or wasn’t working !

garmin 1030 navigation metrics

The pre-loaded extensive metrics suite (using the preloaded TrainingPeaks app) is a great way to visually represent some of the key metrics that are measured during your efforts on the bike. To take full advantage of this capability, you really need a power meter (of course Garmin would recommend their own Vector 3 pedals for this). These metrics are recordable and displayable to an extent on most of the GPS enabled bike computers available today. The difference is that on the 1030 the metrics are available on the large colour display; the clear graphical interface is so easy to view and use that you could argue that you can run an entire professional training program directly through the Edge.

There is also the capability to take the information and start developing your own training programs, taking notes of the Stress Scores, power zones, recovery times etc in order to improve the fitness and gain a competitive edge. Other apps (many with free tier usage) provide the ability for more personalisation from race day apps to weather alerts, in other words the bells and whistles to allow the data orientated cyclists to collect and use their ride data exactly the way they want.

 

Other useful tidbits

A few more perks built into the units range from ‘useful’ to hmmmm… okay. One of the more useful ones is the ‘Crash Detection Alert’ function that utilises your phone contacts to send a message to nominated people in the case of an accident. I found it a bit clunky to setup (requires setup on the 1030 and Connect App). It’s a feature you hope you never need, but is nice to know is there if need be.

garmin out front

Another perk is ‘Rider to rider messaging’ – to me, this falls into the hmmmm… okay category as it is currently only capable of messaging from 1030 to 1030, the messages are pre-determined and the circa 20 available messages are not customisable. I understand where they are going with it but if I need to message other riders, I am not going to scroll through a list of generic messages while riding, I am going to stop and send a text message or whatsapp message which doesn’t depend on the brand of device of the recipient.

As you would expect, you get bluetooth connectability which is a must-have for bike tech as it provides a far great ability to ‘connect’ than ANT+. If you have a Strava premium membership there is a goodie as you are able to easily see the segments while you are riding. If you feel like a winner you can go for some PRs or KOMs. An SD card slot also allows you to store a wealth of extra data, it can accommodate up to 64GB which is a lot of riding.

 

Is the 1030 worth the ‘walk up’ value?

I will use the word ‘invest’ rather than ‘buy’ because $749 is a considerable amount of money. If you want decent GPS navigation (and not merely recording) there are only very few options. The Edge 1030 delivers navigation capably in an attractive, albeit large package. You could use your smart-phone for navigation however the phone apps are far less likely to deliver clever and suitable trips which the Edge does so well by collating other popular rides.

The size and clarity of the screen make the 1030 a decisive step up from the Edge 800/1000. The feature list is impressive, particularly for data nerds and serious competitors who will stop at nothing for metrics. The Edge 1030 is boasts ‘versatility’, from crash detection to ambient light sensor and extensive compatibility. Competing brands now have to playing catch-up, they simply don’t yet match the extensive feature list of the flagship Garmin cycle computer.

garmin routing

However your own needs have to be evaluated, I mentioned that I hadn’t used a heart rate monitor or speed sensor in years so my demands for data is fairly minimal. If you don’t need navigation and don’t need a large format display or extensive array of training metrics, a smaller cycle computer could be the better option. My crystal ball suggests that Garmin Edge 820 and 520 are due for upgrades soon and we should see an Edge 830 and Edge 530 which will borrow many of features from the big brother but at a lower price point.

I enjoyed the features and was impressed with the clear and legible screen. But the touch screen and my ‘winter glove’ problems hold me back from becoming an ‘investor’. I ride a lot with long fingered gloves and so am very picky. A lot of people like touch screens but I’m not one of them. I got too many touches instead of swipes, taps not recognised, or slightly misjudged taps that annoyed me.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to like about the Edge 1030 such as the auto-backlight option which is brilliant, I am just not the right investor for this stock. But if it is right for you, the Garmin Edge 1030 GPS cycle computer is a complex and feature rich unit that is really leading the bunch.

Further specs and details from Garmin for the Edge 1030



Alternative Text
About The Author

is a recreational cyclist that with an extensive background in Mechanical/Manufacturing engineering, and hence have a habitual need/desire to embrace "reasoned innovation". He loves being different, hence his bikes; the Volagi Liscio2 and Cinelli Nuovo SuperCorsa.

Comments are closed.