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Versus: Compact, Affordable Mapping GPS Units from Garmin and Lezyne

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I became obsessed with numbers when I got my first cyclocomputer. Not a GPS, by the way. An old Cateye. Magnet, wire, zip ties, the whole nine. I was stacking a lot of road miles at the time, and miles became all that mattered. I’d do a couple laps around my neighborhood if I wasn’t at a nice round number by the time I got home. Then, I started paying attention to average speed, looking down every five minutes to make sure it wasn’t dropping. It was too much. Eventually, I had to cut the cord (and the zip ties), but it felt like I was throwing The One Ring into Mount Doom. My numbers … My precious numbers…

Lately, though, I’ve reluctantly revisited the small-screen. Some recent fires in my local mountains have forced me into unfamiliar territory and, as I’m connecting or constructing new loops, I need help finding my way. There are some buttoned-up apps like Gaia GPS that make a phone into a better device for course-finding than even full-sized (and full-priced) touchscreen receivers. But I don’t want to ride with either on my bars. I just want some basic on-screen mapping capability. What I’m looking for should come in a small, cheap package, which narrowed the field to just two traditional bike-mounted options. The Garmin Edge 130 Plus and the Lezyne Super Pro. 

So, why did I pair these two? At $200, the Edge 130 Plus is $50 more than the Super Pro. Dollar for dollar, Lezyne’s $200 Mega C should be the perfect opponent. But that’s a larger, full-color device. I opted to match features, not cost. Both the Edge 130 Plus and the Super Pro have single-color, 45mm (diagonal) displays, they both use both GPS and GLONASS satellites, and both have customizable data fields and can show alerts from your phone. But most importantly, both have on-screen mapping.

To set some expectations here, these devices offer far more features than I will ever use, mostly related to training. And though the battery life on the Lezyne tends to be longer than the Garmin, I’ve had both last well over 11 hours with no problem. If there’s any accuracy difference between them, it’s minor enough that I didn’t notice or really care. That stuff is not what this is about. The purpose of this review is to compare the experience of using each of these devices to take you somewhere you’ve never been without getting lost.

Garmin Edge 130 Plus

It’s easy to see the extra $50 in the Garmin. It is lighter and more compact. And though it looks like it has a smaller screen, both devices have the same active display size. And the display itself is more crisp. It’s like reading a Kindle, not a graphing calculator. Though, on that note, the backlight is not as bright as the Lezyne. It was rare, but when a shady spot and dark sunglasses combined, I had a hard time making out some details, especially at speed. 

The buttons have a light touch, which is nice given that you’ll be touching them while riding a bicycle one-handed. Though I strongly suggest you never try and record a ride with the Edge 130 in your pack or pocket. Although starting a ride requires not one, but three deliberate presses of the record button, accidentally tap the pause button just once while on a ride, and it will stop recording and eventually shut itself off. Fortunately, being a Garmin, there are countless aftermarket mounts, so you should have no trouble finding a way to mount it that works for you, while Lezyne’s mount options are limited. And you can tether it to your bar through a lanyard loop, another perk the Lezyne doesn’t offer. 

As you’d expect, given its fit and finish, the Edge 130’s function is polished. But sometimes in ways that didn’t feel intuitive, starting with actually getting a route onto the device. Garmin’s and Lezyne’s route-planning apps have limited trail databases, which is why most of us use third-party apps like Ride With GPS, Strava or Trailforks to create routes. But instead of “manually” transferring a route (usually a .GPX file) into Garmin’s management app, it’s done through the magic of syncing. In the case of Strava and Ride With GPS, there’s a direct connection you can toggle on and off to automatically put routes into your Garmin database once you’ve “starred” (Strava) or “pinned” (RWGPS) them. Trailforks, Komoot, MTB Project and others require what I guess is you’d call a fourth party app to “broker” the syncing. I eventually figured it out, but all that automation just doesn’t feel all that … automatic. There’s always the option to drag and drop a GPX file from your computer to the device, but it needs to be plugged in via a compatible USB cable. 

Once you’re loaded, Garmin’s polished interface takes over again, Multiple routes can be sent to the device, and selected natively at the trailhead without even touching your phone. And once you’re up and running, that high-definition screen makes for a confidence-inspiring trail of breadcrumbs in front of and behind your little black arrow of an avatar. There’s no way to upload any worthwhile background map to see the trails around you, but that’s not really in the cards for this sort of device. You know if you’re on course or if you’re not. 

If you lose track of your heading, getting it back involves the familiar game of moving a few feet in a direction and allowing the map screen to correctly reorient itself, and it reacts no faster or slower than the Lezyne. But the solid line behind you and the hollow line ahead of you on the Garmin are easier to make sense of at various zoom levels than the dotted track of arrows Lezyne uses to point your way.

Speaking of zoom, the Edge 130 has another clear advantage over the Lezyne. Though it took some creative button-assignment gymnastics, you are able to scan left, right, up and down over your course for a closer look at a specific section, or to zoom out and see its full scale and where you are in it. The Lezyne is far more limited in its ability to browse your breadcrumbs in the device. Honestly, though, if you really need information beyond what the breadcrumbs are able to tell you, it’s probably time to stop and see what your phone’s offline mapping app has to say. 

The Edge 130 has a feature that some may find encouraging, some may find soul-crushing. At the bottom of the climb, a screen pops up that gives you a visual breakdown of the slope you’re facing, constantly updating where you are on it. I recommend turning off the feature that automatically swapps to this screen at every climb, but it’s nice to know you can browse the menu to find it.

Once the ride is done, the Edge 130 handles uploading routes to Strava similarly to how it handles downloading routes from it. It all happens automatically, which was an annoyance for me. I don’t want to publish every ride. Or maybe I knew I’d want to crop it before it went live. Or most importantly, I wanted to give it a clever name. Garmin has no way of allowing you to easily intercept and shape those uploads. 

Upload methods, though, are small potatoes compared to what may be the most important fact of my experience with the Edge 130, and something I can not say about my experience with the Super Pro. I was able, without needing to peek at my phone’s offline app, to do 100% of my unfamiliar rides needing only this tiny screen.

Lezyne Super Pro | $150

My first modern GPS device was a Lezyne, which may explain my steep learning curve with Garmin’s systems-integration approach to usability. Getting a route into the Super Pro is done in a rather old-school way. Lezyne’s GPS Root website is the desktop portal to get under the hood of  their devices. There’s an “upload” tab where routes can be saved to your profile, which are then reflected in the mobile app. Rather, there are two upload tabs, with training-focused uploads front and center on the dashboard, and route uploads kinda buried in the “device features” drop-down, for some reason. Fair enough, though. I download a .GPX file to my computer and upload it to GPS Root. It works the same way, no matter where you’re getting your routes. There’s integration with Komoot if you want that automatic experience, but unlike the Garmin, it’s not the only way to wirelessly get routes onto the device.

Though there are still a couple extra steps that don’t feel streamlined. The routes on GPS Root stay in the cloud until you sync them with your phone, so I had to remember to tell my phone to download the route before I left cell service or there’d be no way to send it to the device at a remote trailhead. And unlike the Garmin, every ride has to be started on the phone. There’s a “Route Start” option in the device’s navigation menu, but there’s no intuitive way of knowing which route I was starting. So, you have to pair the device with the phone, open the route in the app, push go, and watch for a prompt to come up on the device. After that, the phone can be turned off completely if I wanted.

Once I was up and running, the mapping experience on the Lezyne was what I’d call adequate. The dotted arrows that represent your course can get a little jumbled in twisty sections, but that never resulted in any confusion on the trail, and zooming in by holding the “enter” button for a second would give me the closer look I wanted if I ever really needed it. But again, the zoom feature on the Garmin is more advanced. There’s a limit to how far I could zoom out, and if I wanted to get a sense of how far I was from the start, sometimes I couldn’t get a wide enough field to even see it. And there’s no way to scan up, down, left or right. You’re always in the center of the map. It was only ever for curiosity or comfort that I needed anything more than what the screen was telling me, but that has meant reaching for my phone on rare occasions.

Of course, most of the time, I’m just using the Super Pro to record rides where I’m in familiar territory, and since I got over my data addiction, I’ve always felt a little silly having a mapping GPS on my handlebars in my backyard. So, I often keep the Super Pro in my pack because the amount of force it takes to push the buttons, and the need to hold the lap button for a second to end a ride, means I’ve never lost a ride like I have when stowing the Garmin in my pack. Maybe that’s a narrow use case, but it’s worth mentioning. Also worth mentioning is that there are far fewer mounting options for Lezyne than Garmin. Once you do get it on your bars, it does take a little more thought and force to navigate the menu when the buttons have that kind of resistance, but it’s worth it knowing I won’t have any rogue keystrokes. And anyway, the only button I regularly pushed on a ride was the backlight which, again, is measurably brighter than the Garmin’s, and more finely adjustable if you don’t need it that bright.

With the ride finished, uploading to Strava was, again, not automatic and does take several steps. If I haven’t had the app open, I needed to re-sync the device, and then upload the ride to Lezyne’s cloud before I could then share on Strava. But for me, this is a positive, not a negative. I was able to see my ride before sharing it and, most importantly to me, I was able to name it. 

So? Apple or Android?

If I had to sum this up, I’d say that, if you’re the kind of person who admires Apple products for how well integrated their apps and devices are, and you take advantage of that integration whenever possible, you’re a Garmin person. But if you’re an Android user who prefers to be more hands-on with how your phone’s functions work together, you may get along with a Lezyne.