Recently, my beloved four year old Garmin 500 began malfunctioning. The menu button seemed to be depressed into the head unit and would not allow me to properly change training screens, nor easily go into the menu. To be fair, I got great use out of the Garmin 500 in those four years. It saw numerous downpours, cyclocross races in snow, mud, sand and anything else you could through at it. So came the decision to give Garmin’s new 510 model a shot.
Right out of the box, I thought this thing is huge! It sits on the Bar Fly mount both higher and deeper than the 500. I’m patiently waiting the release of the new K-Edge mount in the next month to bring the 510 level with the bars. Although the unit is bigger, the screen itself is only marginally larger, unfortunately.
The biggest change with the 510 is the touch screen interface. I know what you’re all thinking; how is this going to work with gloved hands, or sweaty fingertips?! Luckily Garmin’s engineers used a tactile touchscreen and not similar to what you would find on your smart phone. It takes a slight push to depress the screen to change screen views or navigate through the menu. It takes a bit to get used to, but seemingly works okay even with those sweaty fingertips.
Setup on the 510 is pretty simple and straight forward as is on their other models. Bike profiles, activity profiles (screen / metric data) may even be simpler and faster to setup with the touch screen and the 510 allows you to add even more bike profiles, instead of the 500’s limited three bike profiles, for all those bikes in the garage! The biggest downfall I’ve found is the display style of the 510’s metrics. As shown in the photos above, the Garmin 500 (left) allocates about one third of the display to your top metric when five data fields are displayed, while the 510 has three out of five metrics at equal size. This becomes an issue during training (because you shouldn’t be looking at your data when you’re racing – just go, go, go!) when you want to glance down at your power or heart rate data and you can’t clearly see the numbers because they’re all the same size! I’ve been getting used to this, but it’d be great if Garmin could update their firmware to correct that.
Speaking of Garmin’s firmware, there has been some other bugs reported with the new 510 and 810 units, but they’re been working on correcting them. It is always a good idea to download the latest firmware once you purchase your new unit… otherwise you may have some headaches if you’re a data junkie with your elevation gained being (way) off or something along those lines. I’ve noticed the elevation issue to be more noticeable when using the direct bluetooth upload from the 510 to Garmin Connect. I typically use WKO+ training software, but had been trying out the direct upload to Garmin Connect for good measure. The head unit, Garmin Connect, and WKO+ all gave out different elevation gains for the ride, with WKO+ and the head unit being relatively close.
One feature that drew me towards the 510 was the Live Tracking. Using a smartphone with Bluetooth capability, you can sync you the two and allow for the Garmin Connect mobile able to send a link to Facebook, Twitter, or an email list so friends or loved ones can follow you on a map. Great in case you need help out on the road with a crash or mechanical. Your friends can also nerd out over your live power data if their bored at work too.
Overall, I like the Garmin 510. It has some extra bells and whistles that aren’t really necessary, but it’s a functional unit that has the capability of much more with future firmware updates from Garmin.
The Garmin 510 retails for $399.99, a fair amount over the $249.99 retail price of the Garmin 500 (computer only – no HR strap or cadence sensor) . Right now, if you’re looking for simple unit to interface with your HR monitor or power meter, I’d stick with the Garmin 500 – at least until Garmin decides to tap more into the Bluetooth capabilities of the 510 and does some firmware updating.
Both the Garmin 500 (bundle) and 510 are on hand at BelgianWerkx. Stop in and give them a look for yourself!
Patrick Brock is a BelgianWerkx sales associate, and Category 3 Cyclocross racer for My Wife Inc., CX Team racing across the Midwest. He is also USA Cycling Level 3 Cycling Coach and owner of Bike Science Coaching offering cyclists of all levels and disciplines custom training plans tailored to their needs. See bikesciencecoaching.com for more information.