The Garmin Edge 530 has been an excellent choice for mountain bike riding as well as training with the help of a power meter.
Together with the Garmin Connect app, it has the features I was looking for, from ride data, to training programming, training guidance and long term performance metrics to solid navigation capability, with little left to be desired.
This is my review in detail of the Garmin Edge 530 with an emphasis in mountain biking.
GARMIN EDGE 530
This image shows its overall physical aspect. It has 7 buttons in total.
On the top left-hand side is the Power button and below it, there are 2 buttons to Scroll Up/Down in the different screens you may be using. On the right-hand side, it has the Enter/Select button and below is a Back button. Finally at the bottom, there are the Lap and Start/Pause/Stop button. The charging port access is located between these.
Yeah, too many buttons and it takes a while to get used to them but after a few days, it is easy to remember where each is and what it is for. I shall say that they are sometimes hard to feel and make sure that they were pressed, especially with gloves on.
One very nice feature is that you can add a lanyard for added safety. Though the mounts feel very secure and tight enough to hold the device, having the lanyard gives some peace of mind when mountain biking.
On the back, there is the locking mechanism to fix it to the mount.
The screen is large enough to fit data fields that can be easily seen for the most part. But, as the screen is shiny and reflects the light, it is hard so see clearly when the sun rays reflect. I have seen comments that adding a mate screen protector helps to minimize this, but I have not tried any yet.
The included sensors in the device are the GPS, Accelerometer and a light intensity sensor that controls the screen brightness to save battery and improve visibility in darker conditions.
The battery life is specified at up to 20 hours and I can say it has been very accurate. I charge the battery about weekly, with 10 to 12 hours of riding, and it usually still has about 40% remaining. No worries about battery drainage during a ride.
It has an IEC 60529 IPX7 water proofness rating, that should be enough for Mountain Biking.
Out of the box, it came with 2 mounts. One that extends to the front of the handlebars, which is aimed at road bikes, and one mount for MTB handlebars, attached with elastic bands.
With the mount that extends to the front, the Garmin Edge 530 is in a position where it is easy to give it a glimpse while riding, but I felt it was too exposed for mountain biking, which does not happen on a road bike due to the hoods.
I ended up getting a Mountain Bike mount that attaches to the handlebar and puts the device on top of the stem.
There are third party options as well like this K-Edge aluminum stem mount that takes the place of one of the spacers and the device ends up located in a similar position as above
SET UP & RIDE DATA
It is known that Garmin’s user interfaces are kind of complex and it takes some time to get used to it. Add 7 buttons to the equation, and there definitively is a learning curve to go through. Fortunately, once you finish the customizing it to your needs, changes may be few and apart, and you will now be used to the interface.
All the set-up process is done directly in the unit, without needing a cell phone app, unlike other brands. I would say they complement each other but the device can work independently.
The Garmin Edge 530 displays ride data based on profiles. There is the user profile with information such as weight, height, gender, age and so forth that you must fill in. Then there are Activity Profiles that allow to customize the data you want to see depending on the type of riding you do. Out of the box, mine had a Mountain Bike, a Road and an Indoor Training profiles already defined. Of course, you can modify or delete them as well as create your own ones.
In each activity profile, several screen types may be added and can be: data, compass, virtual partner, Cycling dynamics, ebike metrics, STEPS metrics, Segment screens.
Within a Data Screen, there are Data Fields, with some of them showing data only if the corresponding external sensors have been added for them to show. There are dozens of them that are grouped in categories as follows:
- MTB Performance
- Cadence (sensor required)
- Heart Rate (sensor required)
- Power (sensor required)
- Cycling Dynamics (sensor required)
- Indoor Trainer
- Connect IQ
The MTB profile includes 2 metrics named Flow and Grit. Per Garmin Connect, “Flow measures how well you maintain speed during your mountain bike ride”. And Grit “measures the difficulty of a mountain bike ride.”
Adding or editing activity profiles is done through the settings menu.
DURING THE RIDE
As you start the ride, you will have access to the screens and data fields you programmed for the selected profile
through the Up/Down buttons
AFTER RIDE DATA
Upon finishing a ride, the Garmin Edge 530 will display several summary screens with data fields such as time, distance, speed average and maximum speed, elevation, MTB performance (in an MTB profile) and heat and height acclimatization. Depending on the external sensors you may have added, the corresponding fields will be shown for power, cadence, heart rate, nutrition and hydration information such as calories burned, estimated sweat loss, fuel consumed and so forth.
You can also see the map of the ride, elevation profile, lap data in case you marked them, the training effect with which overall performance is also measured, training load, time in training zones, both heart rate and power and segment data in case you have activated them.
A long collection of data that can help to improve your performance.
Press the save ride button and an Activity file is created in the unit and uploaded to Garmin Connect for further review.
In my opinion, one of the greatest features the Garmin Edge 530, and the Edge series for that matter, has is long term performance metrics that allow to monitor whether you are improving, without the need of third party platforms or applications. All is there in the device and the Garmin Connect App.
The Garmin Edge 530 and Garmin Connect, both the app and the desktop version have great training tools and options, from planning to executing and check results.
From the planning perspective, there are several options, such as
Workouts. These are structured interval training sessions in which you set a series of intensities to be sustained for certain amount of time. Intensities can be based on power or heart rate either by means of zones or specific targets you want to get to.
Training Plans. Garmin Connect has prebuilt training plans that you can customize to your goals. Cycling wise and at the time of writing this post, there are 6 training plans, 5 for road and 1 for MTB. You can select a range of weeks, hours per week available and once you are done, the app will build a plan for you, load it in a calendar and send it to the device. Then the Garmin Edge 530 will be able to guide and monitor your training sessions and eventually assess your progress. Great tool.
Courses. Routes that you can design with your training goals in mind. Is it time for a long ride with climbs? Take the route planner and build that route making sure it has the distance and climbing goals you have. Or you can convert an activity file into a course and use it to measure your progress in a certain route, maybe the one for a race you plan to attend.
Segments. They are sections of roads or trails that are used to break speed records. Mostly known in Strava, but the Garmin Connect App has the option to create and send them to the device, so that you and your friends can take challenge to make the fastest time. I have set up several and use them often to see how much progress I am doing with my training.
Calendar. In the calendar you can also add Events, Goals and Workouts manually. An event could be a race or an important ride you are planning. Goals allow to plan targets for a ride based on distance, time or calories that you plan to do for a certain time frame. And you may add planned workouts as described above and build your own training plan.
All types of training options are synchronized and uploaded to the Garmin Edge 530 where you can access them by means of the Training Menu, where all the options are displayed in these sub menus
- Training Plan
- Indoor Trainer
- Intervals (that you may customize in the device as well)
The device also allows to set-up training targets based on distance only, distance and time as well as distance and speed and also, to use and activity or a course to race against it.
As you can see, there are plenty of training options you can use to improve your riding and further enjoy the outdoors.
In the What I wish I knew when started training with power series you can see some detailed samples on how I use some of these features.
YOUR RIDING HISTORY
See your riding and training history. Each ride is stored in the device as an Activity (they are also transferred to Garmin Connect) with all the details you saw when finishing a ride and get the summary. The ride history includes its basic data summary with time, distance, speed and other data fields. Then there is the map, elevation profile, laps if you recorded them, the ride training effect, that is the main energy system that was improved, heart rate and power zones. If you passed through a segment, you may see the time it took for you to complete them.
The Totals option is interesting as you can see the overall cumulative data including total rides, total time, total distance and total calories
and also has the same information for each profile you have created/used.
RIDE AND PERFORMANCE STATISTICS
This is in my opinion where the Garmin Ecosystem stands out. Following your progress and improvement through the several reports available is very accessible. Maybe the only one missing to make it perfect is the PMC curve when training with power.
Training Status. This is the main performance statistic used to measure your training over time. It is based on the load calculated for each session. In the app, you can see a time chart showing your progress as well as comments and suggestions on what to do to continue improving. There are also recommendations on how many hours to rest before the next session.
If you are using a power meter, you can see your FTP performance and the power curve for the last month, three months or 12 months.
These performance trends are more detailed in Garmin Connect where there are some other charts and tables that are worth looking at. Remember, this is an ecosystem and should be used like that to take full advantage of all the features.
There are several navigation options that you may use.
Courses. These are routes, either from a GPX file you got or from a planned one created with Garmin Connect or another third party application. Once selected for riding, the device will guide you from the course start to the destination as you can see in our post 5 Steps to Follow a GPX track with a Garmin Edge 530.
Locations. They are points of interest that you have saved on the unit so that you can follow a route or course to them. This is one area where the Garmin Edge 530 has some limitations as it does not contain Points of Interest data base and search capabilities in the map. There are 2 options to save a location in the unit: your current position while on a ride or by browsing the map and select a point to be saved as a location. The map browsing option may be a bit cumbersome with all the buttons presses needed to move around the map.
There are 2 workarounds to create and send locations to the device. One of them is through Garmin’s Basecamp free software. You can create waypoints in the software, connect the device to your Desktop computer and send the waypoint which will be stored as locations. One disadvantage with Basecamp is that you should have a Garmin map loaded in it to get full detail to mark waypoints.
The second option is an IQ application called Sendpoints. It is installed in the device and your cell phone. In the cellphone you open Sendpoints and do a search for points of interest based on Google Maps. Once you find what you are looking for, tap on it and a map will open so that you can confirm it is what you are looking for and then press SEND.
You get a 4 digit code that you have to enter in the Sendpoints app in the Garmin Edge 530 by going to Menu/Connect IQ/Sentpoints and enter the code. A confirmation screen will show and now you can find the Point of Interest in the Saved Locations option in the navigation menu.
MTB Trail Navigation. This option uses a connection to your Trailforks account and displays trails in your area, depending on the type of account you have.
Browse Map. Similar to the Locations saving option by browsing the map, you can select a place on the map to ride to but without saving it as a location.
The Garmin Edge 530 has built in connectivity with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Each allows for several options as listed below
- Bluetooth: Activity uploads to Garmin Connect, Assistance, Audio Prompts, Bike Alarm, Connect IQ downloadable features, Course, segment and workout downloads from Garmin Connect, Find my Edge, Group tracking, accident detection, live track, messaging, file transfer to other devices (among edges, courses, segments, workouts), notifications and weather updates.
- Wi-Fi: Garmin connect for activity uploads; workouts and training plans; software updates
Sensors allow to gather data not build into the device and display it in the corresponding data fields of your profiles. The compatible sensors that can be added are:
Cadence Sensor. Allows you to know how fast you are pedaling. In my experience, a cadence sensor is a great training tool. Power meters measure cadence as well.
Speed Sensor. Though distance and speed can be calculated from the GPS signals received by the head unit, they are subject to errors and inaccuracies, especially in mountain biking where we often ride in tree covered areas. When you add a speed sensor, both speed and distance related data is gathered from the sensor and not the GPS, increasing the accuracy.
Power Meter. Measure the power you are applying in your rides. Adding a power meter changes your training to another level. Check our posts in the Training Category for more on Power Meters.
Heart Rate Monitors. Gauge your heart rate performance during a ride. A valuable tool for training.
Sensors can be connected using two types of signals: BlueTooth and/or ANT+. I have seen that the Garmin Edge 530 connects them through ANT+.
There are other types of sensor connectivity that I have not used related to wireless shifting and ebikes. If you have any of them, check the user manual for details.
As you have seen through the posts in this blog, I use a lot of Garmin Edge 530 screen shots. This is a nice built-in feature that you can activate by going to Menu/Settings/System/Display and activate the screen capture option. A confirmation screen is shown. Once activated, upon pressing the POWER button, a capture of the current screen you are in is made. To turn it off, you should follow the same path as when turning it on or, a simpler way is to double press the POWER button and a prompt asking to stop the capture will show.
Screenshots are saved in a folder of the same name in the unit and can be downloaded by connecting the device to a desktop and access them as a USB device.
Garmin Connect can be described as a fitness tracking application. The Garmin Connect applications both in cellphone and desktop are a major part of the Garmin Edge 530 environment. Though the unit can be used independently for the most part, they are a complement that allows to get all the potential of this device.
You will have to create an account in Garmin Connect which I suggest you do as soon as you get your device.
These are some of the features you should give a look in Garmin Connect at the beginning:
- Track your Daily Activity
- See your Activity History
- Check your Performance Statistics
- View or build your training programming, including Plans, Workouts, Courses and segments
- Add the Gear you use so that it can be assigned to your activities. More than one bike? Identify each and set the default one.
- If you have more than one Garmin device, add and manage it from the app.
- Enter your user settings, some of which are used as part of the performance trends calculations.
The Gamin Connect broad features and functions deserve their own review, which we plan to do.
In my opinion and after using other training watches and bike computers, the Gamin Edge 530 has proven to provide the most of all of them. For the most part, there is no need to go out of the Garmin Connect environment to use the unit to its full potential, maybe with the exception of the PMC curve to have a full power based training plan progress tracked. Fortunately, it is easy to load the training file to programs such as Golden Cheetah to get that type of analysis (and more). It would also be nice to have a Screen Movie Capture as the new Wahoo Elemnt BOLT V2 has. Would allow to make interesting videos on Power Training and Navigation. Maybe sometime…
There are some aspects that are not to my liking. As mentioned, screen visibility is not good with bright sunlight as there are lost od reflections that block the screen.
Also, the buttons are not really friendly to press, especially when using gloves. Eventually you get used to it.
I really recommend the Garmin Edge 530. It will be a very good long time investment. If you do not like the idea of pressing buttons, you may opt for the Garmin Edge 830 that has touch screen and adds full featured address and point of interest search.