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Bike Computers: A Way to Get Best Training, Navigation and Fitness

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In the world of cycling, where precision and performance matter, a bike computer has emerged as an indispensable tool for riders of all levels.  

This compact device, mounted on the handlebars, serves as a comprehensive companion, elevating your cycling experience to new heights. 

Whether you’re aiming to enhance your training regimen, explore new routes, or monitor your fitness progress, the bike computer offers a wealth of features designed to optimize your ride. 

In this article, we delve into the myriad benefits and functionalities of this remarkable device, uncovering how it can revolutionize your cycling journey.

What is a Bike Computer

Bike Computer

A bike computer is a device designed specifically for cyclists to track and display essential information during their rides. It typically mounts on the handlebars and provides real-time data such as speed, distance traveled, time, and sometimes heart rate and elevation. 

Advanced models may also include features like GPS navigation, power output measurement, and compatibility with smartphone apps for data analysis. The bike computer helps cyclists monitor their performance, set goals, plan routes, and analyze training sessions. 

It enhances the cycling experience by providing valuable metrics and functionality tailored to the needs of cyclists on the road or trail.  

Our Top 3 Picks for the Bike Computers

With a vast array of bike computers available today, making an informed decision can be overwhelming. To simplify your selection process, we’ve carefully curated a list of the top 3 bike computers, empowering you to navigate this complex market with confidence. After rigorous evaluation, we’ve handpicked the three best bike computers that perfectly match your specific needs and preferences. Whether you’re a tech-savvy rider, a casual cyclist, or an adventurous explorer, we’ve got you covered. Our top 3 picks embody innovation, quality, and satisfaction, ensuring you’ll find the perfect companion for your cycling adventures.

Last update on 2024-02-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Features an Entry-Level Non-GPS Bike Computer Provide

Entry-level bike computers can usually be found at a price point equivalent to a takeout lunch or even cheaper if you shop around. Naturally, at this price, the computer won’t be packed with advanced features.

The most inexpensive bike computers primarily measure essential metrics like speed and cadence. They derive these measurements from sensors located on the bike frame, connected to the computer via wires. 

Using these figures, the computer can calculate average speed and cadence. Such bike computers work best for indoor cycling.

By spending a little more, you can upgrade to a wireless cycling computer, which eliminates the need for unsightly wires running across your bike frame. These computers are a great option if you have a limited budget and don’t require features like ride uploading to platforms or engaging in structured training.

In general, for just under a triple-digit price tag, you’ll have a wider range of cycling computer options available. These models will offer increased functionality, although unless you stumble upon a great deal, they might not fully qualify as true GPS-enabled units.

Features an Entry-Level GPS Bike Computer Provide

An introductory GPS unit serves as an excellent tool for tracking your rides and potentially offering additional features. 

You can often find bundle deals that include a heart rate monitor and/or cadence sensor, which may slightly increase the price but prove more cost-effective than purchasing these items separately.

Manufacturers prioritize ease of use, compact size, and lightweight construction for GPS units in this price range, typically weighing below 3.5oz/100g.

The GPS unit generally records ride statistics such as distance, time, speed, and lap times, but it does not provide navigation capabilities. Most units automatically pause when you come to a stop and resume tracking when you start again. They also offer ANT+ connectivity to connect with external sensors.

Ride data is typically displayed on a black-and-white screen in two or three rows. While there may be options to customize the displayed data items and the number of rows, these devices are designed to be user-friendly without the need for complex configuration. Personalization is not a top priority.

The GPS unit may include alert settings to notify you when you achieve specific targets, such as reaching a pre-set time duration. Some units offer virtual competitor functions, allowing you to compare your performance to previous rides on the same route.

Features a Mid-Range GPS Bike Computer Provide

By investing a bit more, you can unlock additional functionality in your GPS device. Mid-level units often come bundled with a heart rate monitor or cadence sensor and boast high compatibility. This means they can display and track data from your existing hardware, including power data, if available.

Mid-range GPS units are typically larger in size, accompanied by a larger screen capable of presenting more data, often in color. They also tend to offer increased data storage capacity. 

These units can be controlled either through buttons or a touchscreen interface, and many of them include mapping and navigation capabilities. Some may come with preinstalled base maps or allow for map downloads, while others may only support breadcrumb trails.

Due to the limitations of GPS satellite triangulation, altitude data calculated from GPS signals tends to be less accurate than positional data. Therefore, higher-spec units often incorporate a barometric altimeter to enhance recording accuracy for altitude and ascent rate.

Many mid-range units now feature Bluetooth synchronization with smartphones. This enables the GPS device to display incoming calls, texts, and other phone data, such as weather alerts, on its screen. 

Some GPS devices even transmit ride progress data back to the phone, allowing it to be shared on the internet with authorized individuals and facilitating ride uploads without the need for a USB cable.

Features a High-End GPS Bike Computer Provide

The competition among manufacturers of high-end cycle computers remains fierce, as they frequently introduce new cutting-edge features. 

These top-tier products often come with a price tag close to half the cost of a decent road bike or even higher. They can weigh up to 7oz/200g and may be bundled with a heart rate monitor strap and a cadence sensor.

At this elevated price point, you can anticipate a color touchscreen, mapping functionality, turn-by-turn navigation, and advanced training features and integration. This may include WiFi connectivity for seamless data transfer, route suggestions, and the ability to share routes with fellow riders.

These premium-grade computers are highly likely to integrate with other devices and applications. Most will connect with electronic drivetrains, display Strava Live Segments, and enable the synchronization of workouts directly from third-party apps such as TrainingPeaks or Today’s Plan.

Battery life used to be a concern for these computers due to their large screens, but now you can expect approximately 20 hours of runtime. These high-end units are equipped to access multiple satellite constellations for positioning, including the Russian GLONASS, Chinese BeiDou, and the EU’s Galileo network.

How Easy is Bike Computer to Set-Up

Setting up a bike computer can vary depending on the specific model and brand. However, in general, modern bike computers are designed to be relatively easy to set up. Here is an overview of the typical process:

1. Mounting

Start by securely attaching the bike computer to your handlebars or stem using the provided mount. Ensure that it is positioned in a convenient and easily readable location.

2. Sensor Installation

If your bike computer requires external sensors, such as a speed sensor or cadence sensor, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to install them on your bike. These sensors usually attach to specific areas of your bike, such as the wheel hub or crank arm.

3. Power On

Turn on the bike computer by pressing the designated power button or following the manufacturer’s instructions. Some models may automatically turn on when movement is detected.

4. Initial Setup

The bike computer will prompt you to configure basic settings such as language, measurement units (e.g., miles or kilometers), and time/date.

5. Sensor Pairing

If your bike computer supports wireless connectivity, you may need to pair it with external sensors. Follow the instructions provided with your computer to initiate the pairing process and ensure that the sensors are detected.

6. Personalization

Customize the data fields that are displayed during your ride. Most bike computers allow you to select the specific metrics you want to see, such as speed, distance, heart rate, or power.

7. Additional Features

Explore the settings menu to access advanced features such as navigation, training modes, or connecting to smartphone apps. Depending on the model, you may need to install and configure companion apps on your smartphone for extended functionality.

8. Calibration

Some bike computers, particularly those with sensors, may require calibration for accurate measurements. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to calibrate the sensors, such as entering the wheel circumference or performing a spin-down calibration for a power meter.

9. Testing

Take a short test ride to ensure that the bike computer is accurately tracking your data and displaying the desired metrics. Make any necessary adjustments or fine-tuning based on your preferences.

How to Use Bike Computer for Analysing Ride Data

Even entry-level cycling GPS units offer the capability to download ride data to the manufacturer’s dedicated ride recording site and phone app. These apps facilitate ride analysis, training plans, and social interaction, although the quality of functionality and user interface may differ among them. 

In case the manufacturer’s site lacks certain features, you can still upload your data to platforms like Strava, Training Peaks, or other third-party sites.

Naturally, the analysis options become more extensive if you have utilized additional peripheral devices like a cadence sensor or power meter to capture supplementary data. This allows for a more comprehensive evaluation of your rides.

Reasons You Need a Bike Computer

Here are some compelling reasons why you might need a bike computer:

1. Speed and Distance Tracking

Bike computers accurately measure your speed and distance traveled, giving you real-time feedback on your performance. This information can be useful for tracking your progress, setting goals, and monitoring your training sessions.

2. Navigation Assistance

Many bike computers come with GPS functionality and mapping capabilities. They can help you plan and follow routes, ensuring you stay on track during rides. This is especially beneficial if you frequently explore new areas or participate in long-distance cycling events.

3. Elevation and Gradient Data

Bike computers with altimeters provide valuable information about your elevation gain, descent, and the gradient of the terrain. This feature is particularly useful for cyclists who enjoy climbing or those training for mountain biking races.

4. Heart Rate Monitoring

Some advanced bike computers support heart rate monitoring through compatible sensors. By tracking your heart rate, you can gauge your exertion levels and optimize your training intensity. This feature is beneficial for both fitness enthusiasts and competitive cyclists.

5. Training Metrics and Analysis

Bike computers often offer advanced training metrics, such as power output, cadence, and pedal efficiency. These metrics help you analyze your performance, identify areas for improvement, and track your training progress over time.

6. Performance Goals and Challenges

Bike computers can set targets and challenges based on your previous rides or predefined goals. These features motivate you to push yourself further, compete against your own records, or challenge friends and fellow cyclists.

7. Safety Features

Some bike computers include safety features like built-in lights or accident detection systems. These additions can enhance your visibility on the road and provide an extra layer of protection during your rides.

8. Data Synchronization and Analysis

Most bike computers allow you to sync your ride data with compatible smartphone apps or online platforms. This enables you to analyze your rides in detail, track your long-term progress, and share your achievements with the cycling community.

9. Battery and Weather Data

Bike computers often display essential information like battery level, weather conditions, and temperature. These features help you plan your rides more effectively, ensuring you have enough battery life and are prepared for the prevailing weather conditions.

10. Motivation and Enjoyment

Beyond the practical benefits, bike computers can enhance your overall cycling experience. The ability to track your progress, achieve goals, and analyze your performance can be highly motivating and make your rides more enjoyable.

Reasons You Don’t Need a Bike Computer

While a bike computer can be a useful tool for many cyclists, it’s not a necessity for everyone. Here are some reasons why you might not need a bike computer:

1. Cost

Bike computers can range in price from relatively affordable to quite expensive, depending on their features and capabilities. If you’re on a tight budget or prefer to keep your cycling setup simple, investing in a bike computer may not be a priority.

2. Simplicity

Some cyclists enjoy the simplicity of riding without the distraction of numbers and data. If you prefer to focus solely on the experience of cycling and don’t feel the need to track metrics or analyze performance, a bike computer might not be necessary for you.

3. Smartphone Apps

Many cycling-related smartphone apps offer similar features to bike computers, such as GPS tracking, speed measurement, and route planning. If you already use a cycling app that fulfills your needs, purchasing a separate bike computer may be redundant.

4. Maintenance and Setup

Bike computers require installation, setup, and occasional maintenance, such as battery replacements or firmware updates. If you prefer to minimize the number of accessories or devices on your bike and enjoy a more streamlined riding experience, foregoing a bike computer can simplify your setup.

5. Privacy and Sharing

Some cyclists prefer to keep their rides private or don’t feel the need to share their data with online platforms or communities. If you’re not interested in sharing your ride information or participating in virtual challenges, a bike computer may not be necessary for you.

Buyer’s Guide to GPS Bike Computer

When choosing a GPS bike computer, it’s essential to consider various factors to ensure you find the right device that meets your specific needs. Here’s a buyer’s guide to help you make an informed decision:

1. Navigation or Tracking

One of the main considerations when selecting a GPS unit is whether you prefer it to provide google maps and navigation during your ride or if you simply want it to track your ride and provide data for post-ride analysis.

In general, GPS units with navigational features tend to be more expensive due to the inclusion of built-in maps, additional storage, navigation software, and often a larger screen to accommodate all this information.

Tracking GPS units, which focus on ride data collection, are more popular and widely sold than those with navigational aids. For most riders, the priority is to have real-time ride data with the option to perform detailed analysis after completing the ride.

However, tracking GPS units usually provide less detailed navigational information and often rely on “breadcrumb” navigation. This involves displaying a simple line on a blank screen for you to follow rather than offering intricate map details.

2. Connectivity

When bike computers are linked to phones and other sensors, they often offer a plethora of features. These include receiving alerts for incoming calls and text messages, real-time tracking that allows your riding companions or family at home to monitor your location, and even displaying the gear you’re using with electronic drivetrains.

Bluetooth and ANT+ enabled cycling computers can establish connections with external sensors, allowing you to pair them with devices such as heart rate monitors, cadence sensors, speed or power meters, and more. This opens up a wide range of possibilities and can enhance your training regimen.

Most high-end cycling computers seamlessly integrate with third-party cycling apps like Strava, TrainingPeaks, and Komoot, ensuring smooth data sharing and compatibility.

Moreover, some cycling computers have WiFi capability, enabling automatic ride uploads without the need for Bluetooth connectivity once you return home. This streamlines the process of sharing your ride data.

3. Bicycle Computer Training Functions

Cycling computers play a significant role in training by connecting to power meters or heart rate monitors, offering real-time data on power output or heart rate during rides.

Choosing between heart rate and power training entails considering the advantages and disadvantages of each method and assessing which approach suits you best.

In addition to providing live readings from external devices, certain cycling computer brands claim that their devices can utilize this data to determine metrics like VO2 max and FTP (Functional Threshold Power). They may also offer insights into recovery time and training load.

Many bike computers now provide the option to load workouts and training plans directly onto the device, simplifying structured training. These plans can be accessed through brand-specific software (e.g., Garmin Connect for Garmin computers) or through apps like TrainerRoad and TrainingPeaks.

While some features on cycling computers are specifically marketed as training tools, they can also enhance the overall riding experience for those who simply ride for enjoyment. These features include alerts indicating the remaining distance of a climb and live Strava segments that introduce friendly competition against others or one’s personal bests.

4. Bike Computer Mount Option

An often overlooked but crucial aspect to consider is how the cycling device attaches to your bike. Most bike GPS units can be attached to either the handlebar or stem. Generally, the more popular the brand, the wider the range of mounting options available.

Garmin stands out as a leader in this area, offering numerous aftermarket mount options that allow you to precisely position the device on your handlebar or stem according to your preference.

Both Garmin and Wahoo utilize mounts that rely on a quarter-turn twist-lock mechanism to securely hold the computer in place. This design allows for easy installation and removal, making it convenient when stopping at a shop or café.

Out-front mounts are a popular choice as they position the cycling computer in front of the handlebar, providing better visibility while riding. These mounts also create a streamlined look by aligning the computer flush with the handlebar, appealing to those with aesthetic considerations.

5. Screen Size and Display Type

As a general guideline, larger screen sizes on cycling computers tend to offer easier readability. With a larger screen, you can display more information without the need to scroll to another page.

However, it’s worth considering that larger units can be cumbersome, potentially cluttering your handlebar and adding extra weight, which might not appeal to weight-conscious riders.

For performance and general riding purposes, the Garmin Edge 820, with its 2.3-inch (5.84 cm) screen, has become a benchmark. Most newer devices are around this size or even larger. If you prefer a compact option, I would recommend considering the Garmin Edge 130 Plus, which offers a truly diminutive design.

When it comes to using a cycling computer for routes and navigation, screen size and resolution become more crucial. Being able to clearly see waypoints and your desired route is essential, so a screen size of 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) or larger is advisable.

Color displays have become more prevalent, providing easy readability, especially when detailed maps are involved.

While some cycling computers still utilize greyscale screens, as they can be more readable in bright light, the trend seems to be shifting away from this. Recent devices like Wahoo’s latest Elemnt Bolt suggest that greyscale screens may become less common in the future.

Touchscreens are also becoming increasingly standard on newer devices. They simplify the process of navigating menus and selecting desired data, enhancing user convenience.

6. Mapping

In the early days, GPS cycling computers provided turn-by-turn navigation through a snail trail (also known as a breadcrumb trail).

Snail trails were limited in terms of information since they were displayed as a single line on a blank screen without detailed landmarks or surrounding roads. However, they still provided a decent sense of direction and often alerted you if you deviated from the intended course.

Nowadays, many cycling computers come pre-loaded with comprehensive maps that resemble topographic maps. These maps offer detailed information about roads, landscapes, features, waypoints, and amenities. 

This feature is particularly beneficial for bikepacking adventures but also proves valuable when cycling in unfamiliar areas, whether on holiday or close to home.

It’s important to note that maps often cover specific territories. For instance, the Garmin 1030 Plus includes pre-loaded maps for Europe and North America in the UK, but you may need to download maps for other regions.

Numerous computers allow you to synchronize courses from route-building apps like Ride With GPS or Komoot. In some cases, you can even drop a pin on the computer’s map, and it will automatically calculate a route to that location, simplifying navigation further.

7. Battery Life

Are you in search of a cycling computer that can handle long rides, multi-day adventures or provide uninterrupted usage without the need for frequent recharging?

If any of these scenarios resonate with you, it would be worthwhile to consider a cycling computer with reliable battery life. While many computers claim a battery life ranging from 15 to 20 hours, it’s important to note that actual battery performance will vary depending on usage.

To extend the battery life for extended durations, you can explore external battery expanders that can boost the power capacity of your cycling computer. This can prove especially useful when embarking on exceptionally long rides.

Alternatives to GPS Bike Computers in the Market

Although this guide primarily focuses on GPS units, it’s worth noting that there are viable alternatives to GPS cycling computers, including GPS watches and smartphones.

1. GPS Watches

Several top cycling watches are capable of recording your cycling data, similar to GPS cycling computers. One advantage is that they often include built-in heart rate monitors. However, it’s important to note that these watches typically lack the extensive mapping and navigation capabilities found in many cycling GPS computers.

If your activities extend beyond cycling, such as running, swimming, or participating in triathlons, GPS watches offer versatility across multiple sports. 

Nevertheless, a notable drawback is their smaller screen size. Therefore, if you intend to keep the device mounted on your bike, opting for a cycling-specific unit would be a more suitable choice.

2. Smartphones

Smartphones are a convenient option if you prefer navigating urban areas without investing in a dedicated cycling device or if you want to explore GPS navigation and ride recording on a trial basis.

With the availability of cycling apps like Strava, smartphones can be utilized as a practical alternative to cycling computers, especially for casual riding.

To ensure the safety and stability of your phone while cycling, numerous handlebar mounts and cases are designed specifically for smartphones. However, it’s important to note that these mounts and cases may offer less waterproofing compared to cycling-specific computers. 

Nonetheless, if waterproofing is a concern, keeping the phone in your pocket or pack remains a viable option for collecting ride data.

Best Bike Computers to Go For in 2023

1. Garmin Edge 1040 Solar 

Garmin Edge® 1040 Solar, GPS Bike Computer with Solar...
  • Advanced GPS bike computer combines superior navigation, planning and performance tracking, cycling awareness and smart connectivity.Control Method:Application.Special Feature:Bluetooth.
  • The Power Glass solar charging lens extends battery life, giving you up to 100 hours in battery saver mode or up to 45 hours in demanding use cases; during daytime rides, it adds up to 42 minutes per hour in battery saver mode and up to 20 minutes per hour in demanding use cases (assuming continuous 75,000 lux conditions during daytime riding)
  • Find your way in the most challenging environments with multi-band GNSS technology that provides enhanced positioning accuracy
  • Simplified setup and a streamlined interface make it quick and easy to access the information, courses and tools you need and even adjust data fields right from the Edge device or from your paired smartphone
  • Classify your strengths as a cyclist, and compare your cycling ability to the demands of a specific course, when paired with your compatible sensors, so you can focus your training and improvement in the right areas

Last update on 2024-02-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The attention-grabbing feature of the Edge 1040 Solar is its ability to charge via solar power. Garmin claims that the Power Glass solar charging extends battery life by up to 42 minutes per hour in battery-saver mode, providing up to 45 hours of battery life in demanding use cases and up to 100 hours in battery-saver mode.

It’s important to note that these figures are based on the assumption of continuous bright sunlight conditions, specifically 75,000 lux during daytime rides. This level of brightness is typically experienced during summer rides but may vary depending on your location and the season. 

Therefore, it’s essential to set your expectations accordingly, taking into account potential cloud cover. The Garmin Edge 1040 Solar also boasts a redesigned user interface that offers improved navigability compared to other Garmin models. 

The home page allows for customizable data fields, allowing you to easily scroll through recent activity history, training schedules, weather forecasts, and more. The ‘glances’ feature enables you to quickly view data, such as recovery time.

Additionally, the Power Guide feature is worth mentioning, as it generates a pacing strategy for your chosen route, helping you optimize your efforts during rides. Naturally, all these advanced features come at a higher price point, but if you’re seeking a comprehensive and feature-rich cycling computer, the Edge 1040 Solar is likely to meet your expectations.

Pros

  • Smart pacing features
  • Excellent GPS accuracy
  • Intuitive user experience
  • Solar recharging capability

Cons

  • Premium performance comes with a higher price tag
  • Optimal functionality requires the use of a power meter

2. Wahoo ELEMNT Roam

Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM GPS Cycling Computer + Speed/Cadence...
  • Includes Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM GPS cycling computer with 2.7" Gorilla Glass display and color screen along with automatic route downloads and workout uploads when synced with cycling apps.
  • Comes with Wahoo RPM speed and cadence sensors that provide real-time cycling data with dual-band Bluetooth and ANT+ technology.
  • ELEMNT ROAM has on-device turn-by-turn navigation and can automatically generate prompts for routes from GPX, TCX files etc.
  • RPM sensors easily install on bikes with no magnets needed and have LED lights for instant connectivity and RPM feedback.
  • ELEMNT ROAM shares live tracking link and has 17 hours of battery life while RPM sensors are waterproof up to 5 feet.

Last update on 2024-02-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Wahoo Elemnt Roam offers everything I appreciate about the Elemnt Bolt but in a slightly larger form factor. It covers all the essential functions and features, including phone communication alerts, live tracking, and structured training capabilities, among others.

When compared to the pricier Garmin Edge 830, the Elemnt Roam stands out as its strongest competitor. One advantage it has is the absence of a touchscreen, which is actually preferred by riders who frequently encounter wet weather conditions and find touchscreens less than ideal. 

The three main control buttons are strategically positioned at the bottom of the unit’s face, making them more user-friendly compared to the smaller side-mounted buttons found on many cycling GPS devices.

While the battery life may not match some of the other computers’ claimed durations, it still offers a few additional hours compared to the Bolt.

Pros

  • Abundance of data features
  • Excellent for off-road adventures
  • Intuitive route-planning capabilities
  • More affordable than its competitors
  • Stylish design and user-friendly interface

Cons

  • Battery life is shorter compared to rivals
  • Rerouting on longer routes can be challenging

3. Garmin Edge 130 Plus  

Sale
Garmin Edge® 130 Plus, GPS Cycling/Bike Computer,...
  • Simplified, rugged design with 1.8” display that’s crisp and easy to read in sunlight or low-light conditions
  • Get training guidance by syncing structured indoor or outdoor workouts to your device from the Garmin Connect app or other apps, including TrainingPeaks and TrainerRoad
  • Improve your fitness with dynamic performance insights such as VO2 max and heart rate (when paired with a compatible heart rate monitor), and manage your efforts during tough ascents with the ClimbPro feature
  • Know where you’ve been, where you’re headed and how to get back to start with turn prompts and a breadcrumb map
  • Cycling awareness features give loved ones peace of mind; get incident detection and assistance — which both send your real-time location to emergency contacts (when paired with a compatible heart rate monitor)

Last update on 2024-02-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This buyer’s guide may appear to heavily favor Garmin cycling computers, highlighting the brand’s dominance in the field. The Garmin Edge 130 Plus, which has earned a Cycling Weekly Editor’s Choice Award, exemplifies this trend.

The Edge 130 Plus is a stripped-back and straightforward cycling computer that doesn’t compromise on capabilities. With its button-operated interface, it’s easy to set up, and adjusting data fields can be done effortlessly, even on the go.

This device is compatible with ANT+ and Bluetooth accessories, such as heart rate monitors, cadence sensors, and top-quality power meters. It caters to individuals who aim to enhance their performance, compete in Strava Live segments, and engage in training without the need for premium features offered at higher price points.

Pros

  • Includes top-end features
  • Crisp and easy-to-read screen
  • Button controls instead of a touchscreen
  • The compact size adds an appealing aesthetic to the bike’s front

Cons

  • Mapping is limited to black and white
  • Utilizes a breadcrumb trail for navigation

4. Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt V2 

Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt V2 GPS Cycling/Bike Computer
  • ON-DEVICE TURN BY TURN NAVIGATION - The ELEMNT BOLT will automatically generate turn-by-turn prompts for routes and file types; including GPX files, TCX files, and routes imported from Strava, Ride With GPS, and Komoot. Top LEDs and audible cues let you know, at-a-glance, what your next turn is or if you've gotten off-course.
  • TAKE ME TO (ON-DEMAND ROUTE GENERATION) - Includes global maps. Take Me To allows you to create a route with turn-by-turn directions by simply selecting a location directly on the ELEMNT BOLT map page, using its pan and zoom, or by selecting from one of your saved locations. In the ELEMNT Companion App, enter a destination, address, or point of interest and generate a route with turn-by-turn directions and sync it to the ELEMNT BOLT via Bluetooth.
  • ANT+ RADAR INTEGRATION - Pair your ANT+ Rearview radar to your ELEMNT BOLT to get the real-time proximity of vehicles approaching you from behind. When paired with the BOLT you will see the vehicles represented directly on the computer’s screen and LED indications to alert you of cars approaching or if the channel is clear.
  • TRAIN WITH PURPOSE - ELEMNT BOLT is fully integrated with TrainerRoad, TrainingPeaks, and Today’s Plan. Quickly find training plans and execute structured workouts that you can ride outdoors or indoors on any Wahoo Smart Trainer. Your workout data is always automatically sent back to the apps, making it easy to set, track and achieve your performance goals.
  • AUTOMATIC ROUTE DOWNLOADS & WORKOUT UPLOADS - When synced with compatible accounts (Strava, Ride With GPS, Best Bike Split, Komoot, MTB Project, SingleTracks), your saved routes will be automatically & wirelessly downloaded to the ELEMNT BOLT. Completed rides will automatically upload to all authorized third-party accounts.

Last update on 2024-02-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

I highly admire Wahoo’s cycle computers for their user-friendly setup process and reliable software performance.

The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt has received notable upgrades, including increased memory and a color screen. Despite still utilizing button controls instead of touch sensitivity on its 2.2-inch screen, the newly designed convex buttons offer improved ease of operation, especially when wearing gloves.

Setup, smartphone pairing, and configuration remain remarkably simple, and the displayed data is clear and easily legible. While the LED array can assist with guidance, I found it to be less useful in practice.

Mapping and route management have also been enhanced, providing clear turn-by-turn navigation and ample onboard map coverage without requiring additional base map downloads. However, the navigation functionality may not always be flawless.

Additional features include structured workouts, seamless integration with Strava Live like a smart trainer app, smooth multisport transitions, and the recently added Summit Climbs, which provide gradient profiles for pre-mapped routes. The battery life lasts approximately 15 hours, and quick USB-C charging is available.

Pros

  • Good battery life
  • Aerodynamic design
  • Strava Live integration
  • Includes maps for 15 countries
  • Extensive features and compatibility
  • Clear and readable screen for data display
  • More affordable compared to the Garmin 530

Cons

  • Requires a smartphone for full functionality
  • LED visibility is compromised in direct sunlight

5. Garmin Edge Explore 2 

Garmin Edge® Explore 2, Easy-To-Use GPS Cycling...
  • Easy-to-use GPS cycling computer with 3” high-resolution, glove- and rain-friendly touchscreen that’s visible even in direct sunlight
  • Simple setup complete with preloaded road, off-road and indoor activity profiles that are ready to use right out of the box
  • Ride like a local, whatever your bike type, with improved ride type-specific maps that highlight popular roads and trails, searchable POIs and even eBike routing
  • See high-traffic roads directly on the map to help you stay aware as you ride and make informed choices for your route
  • When connected to your compatible eBike, receive navigation guidance and alerts based on your bike’s battery status, assist level and range

Last update on 2024-02-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Edge Explore 2 serves as a contrast to the feature-packed and solar-powered Edge 1040 Solar. Priced at less than half of the 1040’s cost, it targets riders who don’t require extensive performance metrics or outdoor structured workouts. It also lacks Strava Live Segments. 

However, it does support Bluetooth and ANT+ sensors, syncs with Garmin Connect (via Bluetooth as it lacks WiFi), uploads to Strava and other training apps, and provides smart notifications, group ride messaging, and incident detection, which are always useful features.

If you have been using a heart rate monitor and power meter, the Edge Explore 2 will provide post-ride ‘Highlights,’ including V02max (if applicable) and recovery time, which integrate into Garmin Connect when synced, enhancing your overall fitness data if you are tracking it.

While navigation is the primary focus of the Edge Explore 2, and it performs exceptionally well in this regard, training features are not neglected. During testing, I found it easy to set up, easy to use, and relatively affordable. 

Although it doesn’t offer an extensive range of options (e.g., only three activity profiles) or the latest version of ClimbPro, and it lacks an out-front mount in the package, overall, it delivers great value for the price.

Pros

  • Large and clear display
  • Outstanding navigation capabilities
  • Easy setup and user-friendly interface
  • Sufficient training metrics for most users

Cons

  • Out-front mount not included
  • Limited to three activity profiles

6. Bryton Rider 420 GPS Bike Computer 

Sale
Bryton Rider 420 Wireless GPS Bike/Cycling Computer....
  • Crisp 2.3” B/W optically bonded display. Crystal-clear viewing in sunlight and night riding.
  • Advanced follow track with Turn-by-Turn navigation and POI/Peak information. Supports 3rd party GPX/FIT routes and Route-Sync from STRAVA / Komoot / RideWithGPS
  • 35 hours battery life. 77+ functions & 5 satellite systems support for faster and stronger signal.
  • ANT+ / BLE heartrate, speed and cadence sensor compatibility. Supports ANT+ Power Meter and bike radar

Last update on 2024-02-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Bryton Rider 420 stands out as one of the most budget-friendly options from the brand. Despite its affordable price, this fully-featured head unit supports a wide range of sensors and provides advanced data metrics such as normalized power and TSS.

While it lacks a color screen, it does offer turn-by-turn directions, although, without a base map, you’ll be following a black line on a blank screen. Device setup can be done directly on the unit itself or through the companion app, which, although not completely intuitive, still functions quite well. 

The standout feature is its impressive 35-hour battery life, surpassing many other cycling computers on the market.

With approximately 77 available data fields, the Bryton Rider 420 can be compared to the Garmin Edge 130 or the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt. However, it’s important to note that it doesn’t offer the same level of maps and user-friendliness as its more expensive counterparts. Nevertheless, considering its budget-friendly price, it offers good value for a functional unit.

Pros

  • Appealing aesthetics
  • Impressive battery life
  • Great value for the price
  • Easy setup and user-friendly interface

Cons

  • Awkward button placement
  • Navigation is limited to breadcrumb trails

7. CATEYE – Quick CC-RS100W Wireless Cycling Computer 

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CATEYE, Quick Bike Computer - Wireless and Waterproof -...
  • Nail every ride: Measures your current speed, average speed, total distance, trip distance, and moving time; Your daily commute just got an edge
  • Sleek design: Integrated Out-Front Bracket and inverted LCD screen make it easy to glance and go; detachable head unit lets you remove and attach the computer easily
  • Functional and easy: Super accessible mode selection button; Easy-to-use menu screen to change settings; Battery indicator lets you know when you're low (after about 1 year or 6,250 miles)
  • Programmable odometer: Never lose your miles again; Simply input them after a battery change; Automatically starts and stops when you do
  • All in one kit: Includes everything you need to hit the road; Bracket, speed sensor, wheel magnet, and CR1616 and CR2032 computer and sensor batteries

Last update on 2024-02-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

When tested alongside a Garmin Edge 530, the Cateye Quick demonstrated comparable speed and distance accuracy digit for digit. This is impressive, considering its simple and relatively affordable nature.

The display is easy to read, even at higher speeds, and its out-front position ensures it remains within your field of view. As is characteristic of Cateye’s straightforward computers, the battery life is measured in years rather than hours.

However, the delightful simplicity of the Cateye Quick comes with certain limitations. It lacks compatibility beyond the wireless speed transmitter, and there is no GPS chip onboard, meaning you won’t have a record of your routes. 

Nevertheless, if you seek a compact and uncomplicated cycling computer without the need for connected features, the Cateye Quick delivers accuracy, reliability, and a sleek appearance.

Pros

  • Simple to use
  • Visually appealing design
  • Well-organized and easy-to-read screen

Cons

  • Limited functionality
  • No GPS tracking capability
  • Inability to export data from the unit

Bike Computers — Last Words

Bike computers have become valuable tools in the modern world, catering to both data enthusiasts and individuals who enjoy checking their stats. 

With numerous options available, it can be challenging to narrow down the choices and find a computer that aligns with your desired features and design. 

What may be the best computer for a professional rider might not be ideal for an average road cyclist, and vice versa. My focus is on meeting end-user needs and evaluating device performance accordingly. 

I hope that this review assists you in finding the perfect bike computer that meets both your requirements and budget.

Bike Computers — Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Should You Spend on a Bike Computer?

The price range for bike computers varies depending on the features and capabilities you desire. Basic models with limited functionality can be found for around $50-$100. Mid-range options with more advanced features typically range from $100-$300. 

High-end bike computers with advanced metrics, navigation, and connectivity options can cost $300 or more. Consider your specific needs, budget, and long-term usage to determine how much you are willing to invest in a bike computer.

How does a Bike Computer connect to Third-Party Apps?

Bike computers connect to third-party apps through wireless connectivity, typically using Bluetooth or ANT+ technology. These connections allow the bike computer to synchronize data with compatible smartphone apps or online platforms. 

Once connected, the bike computer can transfer ride data, including GPS routes, speed, distance, heart rate, and power, to the third-party app for further analysis, tracking, and sharing. 

Related:

Jacob

I am a passionate, adventurous cyclist and my biking philosophy is to have fun, I felt the need to share my knowledge and learn more about bikes. I always ensure I adhere to all road rules. I hope that you will give biking a try. It’s a great way to get fit and have fun.

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