When I started riding a road bike in a serious way, I was a full-on Fred. I hopped on a borrowed road bike, donned some ill-fitting spandex shorts and decided that riding 60 miles in one day was a simple task that any former athlete could complete without an issue. Unfortunately, cycling is extremely difficult and I spent the day wishing a steak sandwich would manifest itself in front of me. Instead, I borrowed a couple of chocolate chip Clif bars and limped to the line with a new respect for the athletes of the Tour de France.
Much to the chagrin of my more responsible, even-keeled friends, this brutal day on the bike wasn't going to dissuade me — the suffering that inherently exists in cycling had me hooked. I quickly bought my first road bike, copped some clipless pedals and never looked back.
This was over 15 years ago. Since then, I've owned at least four road bikes, multiple mountain bikes and three or four commuter bikes. I've ridden my local century, competed in Leadville 100 qualifying races and even took on a steam train in a race from the Grand Canyon to Williams, Arizona. The only piece of equipment I've consistently used over the years? A GPS unit. After all these years and a handful of GPS bike computers, I've finally found the end-all-be-all GPS unit for cycling — the Garmin Edge 1040 Solar.
A GPS unit or bike computer is essential for getting the most from training and racing on the bike, providing essential statistics that not only help you keep track of your time and distance but ensure that you know your heart rate, cadence, effort and so much more. The Garmin Edge 1040 has covered all of this and more, making it the last unit you'll likely ever want to buy. After many miles together, here's what I think of it.
What's Good About the Edge 1040 Solar
Every Cycling Statistic Is Accounted For
As I mentioned before, I am a full-on bike nerd at this point. If there's a data point to be mined, I want to see it and I want to use it. The Garmin Edge 1040 provides all the cycling minutiae I'm looking for and, admittedly, even some that I'm not. Use Bluetooth to link up a power meter and a heart monitor and the Edge can do the rest. It's able to distill hard data into digestible insights that are easily monitored and put to use, both on the go and after you've completed your ride. My favorite data-adjacent feature on the Garmin is the multitude of options when it comes to customizing your activity profiles. You can choose from dozens of data points to display during your ride, meaning you have everything you need to know right at your fingertips.
Garmin Solar Is the Real Deal
I never have to charge this thing. Okay, not never, but very rarely. Once you've given it a full charge, you can head out and let the sun do the rest. Since you mount the Edge on or out in front of your handlebars, it is virtually always soaking up the sun's rays, meaning you get constant power. The result is up to 180 hours of battery life when using the lowest GPS setting and 45 hours when using the most demanding GPS setting. I'm not sure about you, but not many of my rides go over 45 hours. If you do like to go on ultra rides or bikepacking trips, you can set off without a charger and be confident that you'll have enough battery to get to your destination with no problems.
Turn-by-Turn Navigation Changes the Game
I've tried to utilize turn-by-turn navigation and mapping on my previous devices, but it was always a chore to get routes uploaded, maps updated and make sure I actually ended up going in the right direction. As a result, I was always forced to rely on my phone for directions. With the Edge 1040, though, you get a colorful 3.5-inch screen that, when paired with a pre-loaded route, gets you where you need to go with no issues. Your next turn is displayed in advance, alleviating the need for a last-second smash on the brakes as you try to cut the corner into that hard right turn you weren't ready for.
What's Not Good About the Edge 1040 Solar
I love to have endless features on my GPS unit. What this means, however, is that setup is no piece of cake. You can opt for a quick start, utilizing the presets that the Garmin comes with out of the box, but if you really want to get the most from your Edge unit, you need to spend some time fiddling with the settings, both on the unit and on your phone. This can be a tedious and frustrating experience because it's nearly impossible to really test out your new activity profiles and settings without actually taking the unit out for a spin.
It's Super Expensive
Bike computers don't need to cost an arm and a leg. You can hop on Amazon or any budget cycling site and find a computer that provides the basics for $60 or so. Want to go Garmin? The Edge 1040 Solar clocks in at a double take-worthy $750, making it one of the most expensive units on the market. Plus, you'll want to add on the heart rate monitor and other sensors to get the most from your device. This ends up being a pretty big barrier to entry, unless you're willing to open up your wallet.
If you're serious about cycling — or serious about data — you should buy the Garmin Edge 1040 Solar. Thanks to exceptional solar charging, the battery life is second to none. Comprehensive GPS tracking means you'll never be lost on a remote fire road. The Garmin app makes it easy to transition from road to gravel to mountain bike rides, allowing you to connect multiple devices across your entire stable and create seemingly unlimited riding profiles. I've trusted the Edge 1040 Solar to guide me on easy rides through Brooklyn and Manhattan along with complicated remote gravel rides I mined from the depths of Strava. Sure, a simple bike computer might give you speed, distance and time, but if you're really trying to excel on the bike and explore the far reaches of the tw0-wheeled world, the Garmin Edge 1040 Solar is a must-buy.