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by James Huang
June 4, 2018
Photography by James Huang
Garmin’s new Edge 130 packs a generous array of useful features into its diminutive case, but does without the laundry list of more advanced ones that many riders don’t ever use. It’s also very lightweight, sports a surprisingly big screen, and commands a relatively modest sum of cash.
The Edge 130 is far from the fanciest or most expensive model in Garmin’s deep catalog of GPS cycling computers. But I’d argue that it’s not only the most important Edge Garmin has released in recent years, but quite possibly also the best one overall for most riders.
Throughout Garmin’s long lineage of Edge GPS cycling computers, none seem to have as ardent a following as the Edge 500. First introduced in 2009, the compact model was aimed at performance-minded riders who wanted the convenience of a GPS-based computer, but one that was lightweight and had the ability to pair ANT+-compatible wireless devices such as power meters and heart rate monitors.
However, mapping functions on the Edge 500 were basically non-existent, and the monochrome LCD screen certainly didn’t provide as much visual sizzle as today’s full-color displays. Clearly, there was room for improvement.
Garmin injected an increasingly long list of functions into subsequent models, such as the Edge 510 and 520; Edge 800, 810 and 820; and the Edge 1000 and 1030. Though more feature-packed with everything from advanced navigation capabilities, to a huge list of possible data fields, smartphone connectivity, improved satellite receivers, and more, they also got much costlier, bigger, and most importantly, seemed less reliable over the long term.
The Garmin Edge 130 packs a relatively large display into its minuscule case, with up to eight pieces of data available on a maximum of 11 customizable pages.
It doesn’t take much online sleuthing to dig up plenty of accounts from aggravated Garmin users with buggy or bricked units, but somehow, the workhorse Edge 500 has somehow (mostly) managed to evade most of the major issues. It’s doubtful that Garmin has dedicated a disproportionate amount of support to this long-discontinued model, so the only logical reason left is that the Edge 500’s less-complicated firmware simply presented fewer things to go wrong.
Garmin’s model naming system would make the Edge 510 and Edge 520 (and the latest Edge 520 Plus) the intended successors to the Edge 500. However, the Edge 130 feels much more like the true descendant of that venerable workhorse.
Whereas the Edge 510, 520, and 520 Plus grew larger than the Edge 500, the Edge 130 is smaller and lighter, weighing just 33g without the mount, and measuring a tidy 41 x 63 x 16mm (the Edge 500 was 57g and measured 48 x 69 x 22mm). But despite the decrease in exterior dimensions, the LCD screen is nearly the same size at a comparatively generous 27 x 36mm, like one of those nouveau-riche McMansions built on a tiny plot of land.
A size (and screen) comparison of several popular GPS cycling computers. From left to right: the Garmin Edge 520, Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT Mini, Garmin Edge 130, Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT Bolt, and Lezyne Super GPS.
And just like the old Edge 500, the Edge 130 is operated with good old fashioned buttons instead of a touchscreen — five of them, in this case, arranged around the left, right, and lower edges of the case, and all rated to IPX7 levels of weatherproofing (basically, it’s fine to ride in the rain with this thing, but don’t go swimming with it).
Function-wise, the Edge 130 is expectedly richer than what the nearly-10-year-old Edge 500 offered, but still nowhere near as feature-packed as the Edge 1030. That unit offers a choice from 141 different data fields in addition to its advanced navigation, training, connectivity functions, plus third-party app compatibility that adds even more.
The Edge 130, on the other hand, limits the possible data field options to just 46, primarily centered around core functions related to speed, distance, time, barometer-based elevation, heart rate, and power. It won’t tell you how much time you spent seated vs. standing, your 30-second left vs. right power balance, or show your heart rate and cadence zones on a lovely full-color bar graph. However, that’s just fine since many riders don’t want or need that stuff, anyway.
Retail price is US$200 / AU$300 / £170 / €200 for the Edge 130 head unit alone. Bundled packages including a mix of speed, cadence, and heart rate sensors are also available, depending on region.
That said, the Edge 130 is hardly a stripped-down price-point model. In addition to the usual metrics already mentioned, units paired with smartphones running the Garmin Connect app will also get live Strava segments, on-screen notifications such as calls and text messages, the ability to follow preloaded courses and routes, weather alerts, and Garmin’s nifty LiveTrack feature, which allows selected friends and family to follow your location in real time.
The Edge 130 can also be paired with Garmin Varia accessories, such as the front LED headlight and rear-facing radar unit, and most other ANT+ or Bluetooth-compatible cycling accessory like power meters and heart rate monitors.
Garmin didn’t equip the Edge 130 with a touchscreen, but the menu navigation is so straightforward and intuitive that the physical buttons work just fine. And given the more limited selection of data fields relative to more complex Edge models like the 1030, it isn’t that much of a chore to scroll through the different options on the device itself.
Users can opt to see just about as much or as little information as they’d like, with up to 11 different screens that can be customized with up to eight pieces of data each. Running elevation graphs can also be displayed, along with a digital compass, weather forecasts, and a breadcrumb-style map (again, no legitimate mapping or navigation is provided, although you get turn-by-turn directions for preloaded routes).
Some riders might be put off by Garmin’s decision to use a monochrome screen, but the fact of the matter is that a full-color display simply isn’t needed. The Edge 130’s LCD screen is gloriously crisp and legible, even in extremely bright sunlight, so all of that information is easy to read at a glance. In fact, I found the Edge 130’s screen to be sharper and easier to read than the full-color display on the Edge 520.
Likewise, no one should get too upset that the Edge 130 doesn’t have a touchscreen. The pleasantly intuitive and straightforward menu structure works very well with the physical buttons, which are also more reliable and predictable, especially when wearing full-fingered gloves. The ones situated on the front edge of the case might be difficult to access with out-front computer mounts that place the unit very close to the bar, though; it would have been better to put them on the upper edge instead.
The location for the big Garmin logo is undoubtedly chosen for visibility, but in terms of function, it might have been better to put the two buttons on the lower edge up here instead.
The fact that every operation is performed on the device itself is bound to have its proponents and critics. Wahoo Fitness uses an app-based system for its ELEMNT line of computers, for example, and it’s certainly easier in many ways to use the larger screen and richer display on your smartphone, such as when trying to configure various data screens. That said, it’s a less arduous process on the Edge 130 relative to more complicated units such as Garmin’s Edge 1030; with fewer things to choose from, you just don’t need to scroll through as many pull-down menus with tiny little buttons.
Linking to a smartphone carries its own pitfalls, too. You can’t program an ELEMNT computer at all if you don’t have a phone paired, for example, and linking those advanced connectivity features introduces a whole host of complications and potential errors that are often due to the phone, not the computer.
Regardless, the Edge 130 is highly responsive. Unlike the original Edge 500, which was compatible only with the US-based GPS satellite network, the Edge 130 works with the GLONASS and Galileo systems. Combined with predictive satellite tracking, I found the Edge 130 to regularly lock on to its position within 5-10 seconds, whereas the old Edge 500 could sometimes be frustratingly slow to “find” itself. Claimed battery life for the Edge 130 is pegged at “up to 15 hours,” and in reality, I got pretty close to that when running without any paired accessories.
As much as I want to believe that Garmin has rid itself of any software demons with the Edge 130, a couple of glitches I noticed make me hesitant to celebrate just yet.
Weather reports didn’t always show up the way they should, and the Garmin Connect app didn’t always detect the device without some fiddling. Strangely enough, that old Edge 500 relied on a physical cabled connection to a laptop or desktop computer for post-ride uploads, not a fancy wireless link, and it always worked just fine. Go figure. Granted, this issue may be related more to the smartphone connection and/or the app, not the Edge 130 itself, but once again, the fact that a paired phone is required for some of the more advanced features introduces more possibility for malfunctions.
It seems logical that the Edge 130’s pared-down functionality relative to more advanced Garmin models should make it more reliable. However, there was still one instance I had where the unit got confused as to where it was. I had already left Wild Horse Circle several minutes before this message presented itself.
My Edge 130 also seemed to lose track of where it was briefly during one ride, where an alert popped up telling me that a certain segment was approaching. However, I had already left the area several minutes prior, but yet the Edge 130 told me that I was getting closer. This is another instance where the hiccup could be more related to third-party software than the Edge 130 itself, but it’s a little concerning regardless.
I am hardly a luddite when it comes to technology and bicycles, and I don’t subscribe to a less-is-more philosophy across the board. But there is a lot to be said to only having as much as you need, and not a lot more, when it comes to electronics. That seems to go double with Garmin’s Edge family of GPS cycling computers, which have certainly had more than their fair share of hiccups over the years. Every additional line of code introduces more potential for error, and few things are more frustrating than technology that doesn’t work as intended.
Garmin first showed off this simpler approach with the tiny Edge 20 and Edge 25 GPS computers that were introduced back in 2015, which provided little more than the absolute basics. Those units were arguably too pared-down, though, whereas this little Edge 130 feels just about right: not too big, not too small; not too complicated, not too simple. It’s the Goldilocks of Garmin’s range, no question.
If you’ve been faithfully holding on to your aging (and now, probably ailing) Edge 500, have faith: a proper successor has finally arrived, and hopefully it holds up as well over the long run, too. Time will tell.
Find out more about the Edge 130 at garmin.com.
The Garmin Edge 130 can tell you which direction you’re heading in, where you’ve been, and if you preload a course, where you’re going. Otherwise, though, there aren’t any proper mapping or navigation functions to be had here.
The digital compass can be very handy for trail use.
Elevation profiles are also available on the Garmin Edge 130.
On-board ANT+ and Bluetooth wireless functionality allows the Edge 130 to pair with a wide range of accessories. Shimano’s Di2 electronic transmission isn’t one of them, however.
If you so choose, you can get notifications for incoming text messages and phone calls, too.
The Edge 130’s monochrome LCD is extremely bright, crisp, and legible, even in intense sunlight.
When paired with Garmin’s rear-facing Varia Radar unit, the Edge 130 will provide audible and visual alerts for motor vehicles approaching from behind.
I like the simplicity of physical buttons relative to a touchscreen, but these two on the lower edge of the Edge 130 can be problematic as some out-front mounts can put the unit too close to the bar to access them.
The Garmin Edge 130 is impressively tiny. Here, it’s compared side-to-side with Wahoo Fitness’s ELEMNT Bolt (left).
The back of the Garmin Edge 130 features a micro-USB port, Garmin’s ubiquitous quarter-turn mount interface, and a small loop at the lower edge where a security lanyard can be attached if desired. Tucked safely in the center of the quarter-turn interface is the intake for the barometric altimeter.
The new Garmin Edge 130 (left) is substantially smaller and lighter than the old Edge 500 (right), but its screen is nearly as large (and far more crisp).