The new Garmin Edge 1040 represents a big step forward for the depth of capability of bike computers. It isn’t perfect, though, and it also comes with a big jump in pricing. We’ve been using one for a month already, including on some huge rides, to figure out if it’s worth the hefty investment.
For all the ‘smart’ features – and there are many – the headline is a simple one to grasp: massive battery life. The Edge 1040 is claimed to deliver up to 35 hours in ‘demanding use’, with every feature active, or twice that in ‘battery saver’ mode. I rode the route of the longest ever stage of the Tour de France, 482km, for the new issue of the magazine (Rouleur 112, out June 14) and after being on for nearly 18 hours, and 15 hours of riding with navigation, it told me at the end that it still had 53 per cent remaining. That’s astonishing.
The real breakthrough is the 1040 Solar version. Its entire ‘Power Glass’ screen is a solar panel. The dark sections at the top and bottom provide 100 per cent collection and it can gather solar energy at a rate of 10 per cent through the display itself, gaining over 40 minutes of charge per hour in bright conditions. Garmin claim up to 100 hours of ride time. That may not sound relevant to all cyclists, but imagine the benefit to bikepackers and ultra-distance racers. We haven’t yet used the 1040 Solar, so we’ll report back on its real-world effectiveness when we have.
Packed with new features
The Edge 1040 is packed with features intended to help you get more out of your cycling. It’s like having your own sports director and coach on your handlebar everywhere you go. While the most experienced riders may not perceive a benefit, everyone else will find at least some of them to be helpful.
The new Stamina feature predicts your energy range at your current pace, just like the fuel range predictor in your car, based on what it knows of your power profile. It has to learn about you first, either over time or by you uploading to Garmin Connect at least four weeks of riding files. Stamina would be especially useful to help you pace, for instance, a long gran fondo that’s well beyond what you have done before. It’s an interesting tool and its predictions have generally been in line with my own judgements of my energies deep into long rides, though they would quickly be superseded by experience.
Your rides into the unknown will be further aided by the new smart nutrition alerts, which adjust for temperature, work rate and fitness, to tell you to eat or drink more frequently. It’s a useful step on from a simple 30-minute alert, but it fails to take into account the course length, which it will often know. You need to eat more per hour on a six-hour ride than you do on a one-hour ride. It’s a missed opportunity. Again, this is useful for anyone still learning how to fuel big rides, but probably not for veterans.
The Power Guide feature combines the device’s knowledge of your fitness, a programmed course, and your choice of intensity on a sliding scale, to advise you how to pace every section of a route. It gets granular, breaking the route into tiny sections, and it’s impressive to see it work. The advice it gives is solid.
The Climb Pro feature now combines with Power Guide to help you pace every section of a climb. The irregular gradients of Luz Ardiden showed it in action, advising I back off on the easier parts and punch it above threshold on the steeper ramps. Climb Pro also detects climbs on your programmed route, tells you when they’re coming up, their length and gradient, and displays a detailed breakdown of the profile, so you can’t get caught out by a steep kick near the top, such as the final kick up Tourmalet, for example, which is clearly highlighted. This is perhaps the most useful feature for experienced riders – it’s like having notes from a directeur sportif who has done a course recce for you.
Global mapping is included free with the Edge 1040. Navigation uses pre-loaded, intelligent maps with customisable levels of detail and contrast, clear instructions, a smart zoom for junctions and rapid route recalculations. The huge screen (unchanged at 89mm from the 1030) really helps when you’re following a route, as you can keep two data fields (customisable, of course) in view and still have a big map. Turn instructions are clear and always come in plenty of time, but it’s obsessed with rerouting you onto bike paths, even if they’re very short or poorly surfaced. If I programmed the route, I don’t want to be second guessed.
The sharp turn alerts are good, but riding my home roads around the Pyrenees proved they aren’t infallible. For instance, it failed to alert me about a couple of corners on the eastern descent of the Col du Tourmalet that I know frequently catch people out, yet it was keen to tell me about roundabouts. This is a great feature, but I’d hoped it would have matured now to the point that you can trust that the absence of an alert means no sharp bend.
Courses can be created and uploaded in a number of ways and the improved Course Creator in the Garmin Connect app is more helpful than ever at suggesting popular routes in your area. This is especially useful when riding somewhere new or discovering the best trails when you have just bought a gravel bike. Cleverly, you can add notes to a route for things like feed stations, climbs or even a risk of crosswinds. There’s your digital DS again.
Look and feel
The Edge 1040 looks and feels expensive, as well it might for the price. It’s more like a smartphone than ever and makes a Wahoo Roam look like an 80s calculator. The big screen and battery have a downside, though. The Edge 1040 weighs 126g, versus 97g for a Wahoo Roam and 69g for my old 820. This isn’t about being a weight weenie, and it’s a mere 3g heavier than the 1030; rather it’s to do with mounting.
I’ve found a 3D-printed mount was disconcertingly bouncy. While machined alloy mounts aren’t fazed, on bumpy descents the unit appears to be shaking on its central quarter-turn mounting point and asking a lot of those little tabs. They are metal now, though, so there’s no way they could snap. What’s more, this unit has stayed put at 80kph+ and over a bump that sent a bottle flying. The issue, then, isn’t that it’s likely to fly off, it’s that the wobbling doesn’t give you confidence that it won’t, and that’s arguably as important. The mounting needs to evolve.
There’s a new, scrollable home screen which you can configure with widgets such as suggested training session, weather, routes and more. At the same time as adding ever more flexibility and display options, Garmin have also thoughtfully made the Edge 1040 much easier to get started with. You can even import settings and paired devices from your old Edge, like swapping phones.
The Edge 1040 comes with an out-front mount, a standard mount, a tether, a cable (USB-A to USB-C) and a manual. A separate bundle option adds an HRM monitor and speed and cadence sensors.
To buy or not to buy
So, should you buy one?
If you won’t use any of the suite of smart features and simply want to record and display your speed, distance, heart rate and so on, then there is no point buying an Edge 1040. It would be like buying a Ferrari to drive to the shops. Equally, don’t feel that in order to justify one you need to use all of the features – because this computer is trying to be all things to all riders, it’s inevitable that virtually no one will use everything it can do.
On top of that, some of the features here feel like they’re one or two versions away from being brilliant, such as the smart nutrition and sharp bend alerts, and others feel like data in search of a question to answer, such as the live graphical display of recent power and heart rate. Others still are useless; I’m looking at you, Seated/Standing power analysis. It’s always wrong. But you can turn off all of these so that they don’t detract from your experience.
The sheer breadth of capability, the incredible battery life, the responsive touch screen and the near endless configurability make the Edge 1040 easy to recommend. No, it isn’t perfect and there’s even more functionality that we can look forward to, but in trying to make ‘the ultimate bike computer’ Garmin have arguably come the closest yet to making something even more important – every individual rider’s ultimate computer.
Edge 1040 £519.99 GBP ; €599.99 EUR ; $599 USD ; $999 AUD
Edge 1040 Solar £629.99 GBP ; €749.99 ; $749 USD ; $1299 AUD
Model, Weight, HxWxD (mm), screen size
Edge 1040, 126g, 118x59x20, 89mm
Edge 1030, 123g, 114x58x19, 89mm
More information at Garmin.com