When the folks at Garmin launched their new Edge 530 and 830 models a few months back (late 2019), they gave mountain bikers five reasons to be even more cheerful. At least five reasons that is…
By Sean Badenhorst
While I have recorded my training rides and races with a reasonable level of diligence over the years, I have usually had my GPS device in my pocket, preferring to ride (or race) by feel rather than be distracted by digital data on a small screen on my handlebar.
But the Garmin Edge 530 is the first cycling GPS device to measure and record mountain bike-specific data such as ‘Flow’, ‘Grit’ and ‘Hangtime’. Yep, it’s designed to measure ride difficulty (Grit), ride smoothness (Flow) and the distance and hangtime of your jumps! Seriously.
Actually, I blame a crash that resulted in my left knee being stitched up, on the Garmin Edge 530. On its maiden voyage on my handlebar, I was cruising on a smooth perimeter gravel road descent at Northern Farm scrolling through the device to see my how my Flow, Grit and Hangtime were looking after about 90 minutes of riding, when BAM! I’m twisting and flying and sliding along the road!
With my right hand pushing the buttons on the Edge 530 and my focus not entirely where it should have been, a flimsy bush branch caught my handlebar on the right and turned me against physics for a split second…
What was interesting about the crash is that it happened at 31kph and my bike lifted off the road surface for 1.56 seconds and travelled 13.42 metres. Yep, the jump-measuring feature measured it as a jump. To the centimetre. To the tenths of a second!
I have continued to ride with the Edge 530 over a few months and have got to know the device quite well. This from a guy that’s never really embraced performance measuring technology outdoors. Here are the five most significant features that relate to mountain biking (it also has ROAD, INDOOR and EBIKE modes).
Maps aren’t a new feature for the Garmin Edge line, as well as other cycling GPS device brands, but what sets the mapping features on the 530 (and 830) apart, is the new Trailforks integration feature. Trailforks has data on 224 003 trails in 109 countries, with 2 559 of them in South Africa.
The Edge 530 automatically detects when you’re on a Trailforks-loaded trail and gives you feedback on it, including directional prompts and IMBA skill grading. With most of our trails being well marked, it’s not essential, but a useful addition. You can also upload your ride data to Trailforks to improve/expand its network.
The Flow metric measures how well you’re maintaining speed on a trail. It tracks ascent, descent, and angle of turns and compares them to your speed. It gives an indication of how smoothly you are riding, and what sections of trail you could look to make improvements on. This is a great feature for XCO racers who are wanting to fine-tune their performance, allowing you to improve your Flow reading on the same course with repeats. If you ride on gravel roads mostly, your Flow reading will be lower as the bike is not angled as much as it is on as windy/twisty mountain-bike specific singletrack trail. The lower your Flow score, the better/smoother you’re riding.
Grit basically measures the difficulty of a ride. Like Flow, it also tracks ascent, descent and angle of turns and compares them to your speed. The longer the ride, the higher the Grit score as it’s linked to effort too. The more climbing you do, the higher the Grit score reads (assuming you’re putting in proper effort). The higher the Grit score, the more you suffered on your ride.
Example of my Edge 530 readings on the same XCO route at different intensities (see ave HR):
|Date||7 Jan||12 Jan||18 Jan|
That 12 Jan ride was my best of the three in terms of Flow and most efficient if you consider my Grit reading in relation to my ave HR. I recall noting after the ride how good it felt. Some days you just have better rides than other days on the same route.
Perhaps the coolest feature on the new Edge 530 is Hangtime! Using sensors, including a sensor that you attach to your front hub, Hangtime measures your jumps – the distance, the time in the air and speed at which you were travelling. As described above, it also measures your crashes (assuming your front wheel leaves the trail during the crash).
I have established that both wheels don’t have to leave the ground for the ‘Hangtime’ meter to activate. Some sudden-lift manuals activate it too (but not smooth-lift manuals). Wheelies don’t activate Hangtime. As you complete a jump, ‘Great Jump!’ appears on the Edge 530’s screen, along with a ‘beep’ with your jump stats. This remains on screen for around 5 seconds and is best to only examine AFTER your ride…
Sadly, bike theft and rider safety are two very relevant themes in South Africa. The Garmin Edge 530 allows you to set a bike alarm to alert your phone if your bike starts moving when you’re not with it (maybe having a coffee). The Garmin accident detection will alert your emergency contacts (with a GPS location) if it detects an impact (or sudden stop). I know this works because I had to cancel a 30-second countdown emergency alert to my wife when I finished a fast descent and skidded to a very sudden stop… A great feature if you ride alone.
Both the Edge 530 and 830 also work with Garmin’s Varia light systems, including the radar enabled RTL510 rear light. Not really something you’d use while exploring singletrack, but useful if you have to share roads with cars when getting to and from your singletrack fix.
In summary, the Garmin Edge 530 is the next iteration of the very popular Edge 520.
Some of the new features include:
- Increased battery life (from 15 hours to 20 hours)
- Increased screen size (by 13%)
- Significantly increased processor speed
- New WiFi connect option
- New ClimbPro – shows how much distance/elevation remains for each climb
- New MTB metrics – shows Grit, Flow and Jump data.
- New Trailforks maps already loaded to unit
- New ForkSight – shows MTB trail options ahead when you pause at a fork
- New Heat Acclimation – considers heat/humidity for performance/recovery metrics
- New Altitude Acclimation – considers altitude for performance/recovery metrics
- New Hydration/Nutrition Tracking – allows you to record food/drink consumption data
- New Hydration/Nutrition Alerts – recommends how many calories/water are/is required for preloaded route/ride
- New Bike Alarm – a theft deterrent that alerts you on your phone too.
“I think there’s a strong case to be made that the Edge 530 is Garmin’s best bike computer ever. Realistically – for $299 (R5999 in SA) – there’s nothing even close to this on the market. Even competitors $100 more can’t match these features.” – DC Rainmaker.
For a thorough, ridiculously in-depth review of the Garmin Edge 530, check out tech guru DC Rainmaker’s take here: https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/04/garmin-edge-530-cycling-gps-in-depth-review.html