Garmin has been hard at work it seems with the recent launch of the Edge 1040 Solar and Edge 1040, their pinnacle performance, and navigation GPS cycling computer. At $750 and $600, they are not in the budget for most cyclists who are simply looking to track their rides and explore new routes with the help of a reliable navigation head unit. This is where the Edge Explore series comes in and the most recently upgraded offering the Explore 2. What has been a commuter/ touring computer gets some upgrades on the second version that may lure many cyclists, beyond those that consider themselves “casual” riders.
The Garmin Edge Explore 2 most notably has added the ability to pair and record power data, something the first generation was lacking. Along with that, the computer has a 3″ color and touchscreen display, something that even the performance-oriented Edge 530 doesn’t offer. The screen has high contrast for easy viewing in any light conditions but does lack an ambient light sensor. The most notable feature is the mapping with ride-type-specific maps. Garmin has been the standard for navigation and this unit doesn’t disappoint.
Garmin is going to have two models of the Explore 2, one that is sold stand-alone with the classic and basic rubber strap mount. The unit will not have power pins (like the performance-oriented Edge 1040, 830 and 530) and is not Edge Power Mount compatible. They will however have a bundle deal, the Edge Explore 2 Power Mount Bundle. This unit does have the power pins on the back of the device allowing full compatibility of the host of external power options that Garmin offers.
Garmin has for some time now moved to the USB-C charging and communication port, something we really like. The battery has a claimed life of 16 hours and offers a battery saver mode. The Explore 2 has ANT+ and Bluetooth but lacks Wi-fi connectability. This means pretty much every sensor type is compatible. Garmin is targeting the recreational or leisure cyclist but there are enough features that cyclists of all levels would be happy.
There is no hiding it, like the Edge 1040, the Explore 2 is a large unit that does remind us of strapping our mobile phone to the bars. For some that might be a bit silly and too big, but it has been great when navigating traffic or unfamiliar roads and trying to follow a route. The added convenience of having a touch screen means that it’s easy to swipe from data fields to maps and back. Navigation with the Explore 2 has been spot on. The best part and something that most other brands struggle with is rerouting. If you take a wrong turn or have to detour around something, the Garmin never seems to miss a beat and offers up an updated route.
This is a truly underrated feature as most will route you in circles trying to get you back to the location you went off course. In the real world and from our experience, that is not ideal and leads to a confusing experience. The Garmin also does a great job of highlighting dangerous corners or busy streets and intersections without being obnoxious. This allows you to focus on riding safely and prepared for the road ahead.
We are most excited to see support for power meters. Some might think that this is silly for a “recreational or leisure cyclist” but power is the best way to accurately track calories on a bike. It is also a feature that has historically been very expensive but companies like Stages, 4iiii, Rotor, SRAM and even Garmin have made huge advancements in allowing the cost of entry to come down. In many cases like the new Lauf Siegla gravel bike, every model is offered stock with a power meter. The power data that the Explore 2 offers is far more limited than what you get on the performance computers but more than enough for most. You can have live power, average power, 3s average power, lap power and max power numbers as well as Kilojoules.
For us, the biggest miss is that the Explore 2 doesn’t support Strava Live Segments. It does however allow you to sync with Strava for upload and has Strava routes. This means you can’t race for PRs or the top KOM/QOM on a favorite segment live, but if you put down the effort on your ride, you will be rewarded when you are done. This is a miss if you ask us because some of the most involved and active users on Strava are the less competitive. Strava has turned into more of a social platform for the active so not having full Strava support surprises us.
Since the unit is not performance-oriented it also lacks structured workouts and shifting support. Overall from our experience, those are features that very few riders of all levels use. The 3″ colored touchscreen is great and for comparison, the 1040 is 3.5″, 830 is 2.6″ and 530 is 2.6″ but not a touchscreen.
At the end of the day, we have been using the Edge Explore 2 for a few rides and have been really surprised at how many features it offers for $300. We would consider ourselves performance riders and use power on almost every ride. The Explore 2 doesn’t offer us the normal data fields that we would use like normalized power and normalized power lap but does offer 3-sec average which we always use.
Not having Strava segments is a bummer but sometimes those can be annoying so we haven’t missed them too much. The fact that the Explore 2 can’t connect to our home wifi and uploads without any added effort is annoying. Many computers claim to have wifi but need the app running on your phone to work. The Explore needs the app and something that the other Edge devices can do automatically. It is slower than wifi but gets the job done and has been more reliable than other brands that require significantly more user fiddling.
If you ask us this is a great option for those that need or want solid navigation and want it big and clear. The unit is easy to set up and there is no app needed on your phone to get it customized and going. Overall we set up our unit in less than 10 minutes and were able to make quick data field changes during a ride. Garmin has a list of other features the Explore 2 supports and while we have never used it much the Climbpro feature when using a route was a fun way to manage our effort on a climb.
With two options available, most won’t need the power pins that allow you to run an external battery or utilize the new Power Mount. The Explore 2 is compatible with the Varia line of Garmin products that allow you to monitor traffic approaching from the rear with radar. This is a great safety feature for many and something that we think will only grow in popularity over time.
No matter if you consider yourself casual of performance, the Edge Explore 2 offers plenty of computer for most. Sure it doesn’t have all the training support for the committed racer but the navigation is spot on. The addition of power data is awesome and we can overlook the fact that we don’t have the full spectrum of data points to obsess over mile after mile. At $300 you have to decide if Strava live segments and added performance data on a smaller non-touchscreen of the Edge 530 is better, or if the larger and touch-compatible version of the Explore 2 is better. In reality, they are both so much better than anything we had 10 years ago that you really can’t make a bad choice.
- Navigation that works
- Large color touchscreen
- Limited power meter support
- Only some of the Strava features
- Edge Explore 2 $299.99
- Edge Explore 2 Power Mount Bundle $399.99 (with included Edge Power Mount)