July 16, 2021
Advances in technology mean gadgets are always getting better, faster, and ideally more convenient. From CDs and DVDs to streaming, and flip phones to smartphones, most changes have been welcomed. But there are some things—like cycling computers—that may have been better before, when life was simple, and so were our accessories.
In the 90s, cycling computers were a no-frills, easy-to-use tool. A black on white LCD display, which told us how far we rode, how fast we were going, and not much else. Many modern cycling computers try to compete with, or keep up with smartphones, connecting a rider to what is happening in the world outside their ride. For some, this is great; for others, all the pops-ups and notifications are a distraction to pedalling.
When you first try the Garmin Edge 130, you may be transported back to the 90s. Free from over-complicated, hard to use devices, you may enjoy the simplicity—now available without the mess of wires and lining up magnets during set-up (thank you GPS).
Kept in navigation mode during a ride, this device tells you just enough, thanks to the straightforward Garmin user interface. When you need to access different functions, there are simple buttons and gestures to get you around the operating system. A breeze to figure out, it will only take about a minute to learn how it all works.
As you would expect for a device at this price point and size, there's no touch screen, but the interface is intuitive, so you don't really miss it
By default the Edge 130 boasts 10 customizable views, each with a maximum of 4 data fields that you can flip between during a ride. You get to set which stats you want to see and when, depending on the type of rider you are. Some won't use this at all, but if you like to tweak and customize, this is a godsend.
Cyclists spend so much time, effort and money lightening their bikes and gear, slapping on a heavy bracket with a bulky, heavy unit seems counterproductive. This is the key reason we love the Garmin Edge 130: it is tiny, light, and unobtrusive. At just 40 x 61 x 17mm, and 33 grams, it takes up hardly any space and adds almost no weight.
The stripped-down, simplified interface means a lot less processing power and hardware, which means it doesn't have to be huge. It is, however, both waterproof and well-designed. It may be simple, but it looks good, and we can all admit that matters.
Garmin have been making top of the line navigation and GPS tools for a long time, and it shows. This little bike computer does exactly what it needs to, with the kind of economy of features that we love. The Garmin Edge 130 gives you all you need on the connectivity front: the bluetooth lets you easily connect to your smartphone, which in turn can relay any important notifications if you need them.
If you like to build your own routes in external services like Komoot or Ride with GPS, you can easily import your GPX data into the 130 through Garmin Connect. Simply export from your favorite route service, upload to Garmin Connect and sync to the device. This ease has saved our butts numerous times on a few bikepacking trips over the past 6 months.
While in navigation mode you don't get things like landmark information or any deep mapping information, like where to stop for groceries. Some might see the lack of mapping data as a drawback, but we have always preferred exploring.
The Garmin Edge 130 will give you all the information you need or want, it just won't slap you in the face with it.
Battery life claims are a lot like gas mileage: the figure that's advertised is rarely what you get. That's been our experience here. The Garmin Edge 130 marketing materials boast of a remarkable 15 hours of battery life, but we have maxed out at 9 or 10. The 15 hours may be a lab based number under optimal conditions and minimum use. But that's not really what you get in the real world.
But, if you ride with a spare power bank (as most of us do), it's no big deal. A trick is to keep the unit unpaired from your phone to push the battery life as far as it will go. This does limit some features, but when you are focused on riding, you won't notice. Roadies who are worried about weight will love the size of the unit. Even with a spare battery, it's still lighter than most of the oversized (and complicated) models.
If you love high tech gadgets with all the features (and then some), this is not the bike computer for you. If, however, you just want to get back to all the reasons you love cycling and have all the basic navigation and ride data you need, you will love it. This unit is simple, but it does everything you need without “plugging” you in to yet another device.
A big part of why we ride is to get out and get away from all the distractions of modern life, and the Edge 130 makes that possible, without sacrificing the good stuff. It's small, it's light, and even technophobes can figure it out fast. Which also lets you spend more time on the road and less time studying the manual.
The Garmin Edge 130 is sold at a great price point while still delivering all the quality you would expect from a Garmin. All things considered, this is one of our favourite modern bike computers, because it is so much like it was in the good old days.
Barry has been cycling and creating digital products around the world for 20+ years. He was a design leader at IDEO, IDEO.org and Nike’s Innovation Lab.