Best Bike Computers: Plan Your Ride and Monitor Your Performance
Improve your navigation capabilities with these bike computers
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BY Norah Tarichia / LAST UPDATED ON February 21, 2020
Cycling is a fun and inexpensive way of getting to and from work. If you are planning to cycle complex long-distance routes for sport, you can use a bike GPS computer to track your progress. You also won’t have to worry about getting lost. Consider using any of the options in our buying guide.
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Benefits of Bike Computers
- A great alternative to using your smartphone. A biking computer accommodates for the same needs that your smartphone would on a biking trip. Time, trip distance, and GPS are all available features on a biking computer. With a bike computer, you can hide your phone and not risk it getting damaged on the journey. There are many bike computers that pair with smartphones, which connects them to Bluetooth and allows for accurate GPS maps—all while saving battery life of your smartphone since the features are displayed on the computer screen.
- Convenience. Biking computers are meant to be mounted on your bike and always be in plain sight. This means you don’t have to stop between intervals of time just to know where you are headed or what time it is. There are also types of bike computers that come with a touchscreen feature. This increases convenience and allows the rider to access their data faster.
- Personalized for biking trips. Features and applications of biking computers can be personalized to fit your needs on the journey. Whether you need to know the weather, time, or location, all features are adjustable. With long battery lives, you will have access to all the features you need no matter how long or short your trip is.
Types of Bike Computers
Smartphone pairing biking computers are newer advancements in technology that allow a biking computer to pair with your smartphone via an app on the phone that communicates through Bluetooth. The computer will be able to run using the sensors of the smartphone while saving screen time and battery life on the smartphone.
Wired Cycling Computer
Wired cycling computers wire around the frame of the bike and often attach to the front spokes in order to mount the sensors that will calculate and track movement.
Wireless Cycling Computers
Wireless cycling computers carry out the same functions of a wired computer, but without the wires. Wireless biking computers use sensors that connect to satellites for GPS functionality. These are easier to transfer from bike to bike but are often in a more expensive price range.
CatEye was founded in Japan in 1954 with the intention of accommodating for the safety of cyclists worldwide. As the leading manufacturer of cycling computers, CatEye also sells other cycling products such as headlights, safety lights, reflectors, and other biking accessories. One of their bestsellers is the CatEye Strada Wireless Biking Computer.
Wahoo Fitness was founded in 2009 as a fitness technology manufacturer. Under different brands, they sell products such as cycling trainers and heart monitors. Under the ELEMNT family, Wahoo Fitness produces various cycling computers. One of their bestsellers is the Wahoo Cadence Sensor.
Founded in 1989, Garmin is a technology company that creates navigation systems. They specialize in the innovation of cycling technology that incorporates and prioritizes GPS technology. One of their best sellers includes the Garmin Edge GPS Cycling Computer.
Bike Computer Pricing
- Under $50: Bike computers in this price range include a basic speedometer with mileage computations and tracking.
- $50-$100: This price range typically includes basic sensors and may have features such as magnetic sensors, cadence sensors, and wired computers.
- $100 and above: These are high-end computers that often have GPS systems. They often offer wireless or smartphone pairing, which operates through applications running on Bluetooth.
It is important that biking computers are mountable so that the biker can see where they are going and track their progress as they are riding without having to stop. Most bike computers are mountable.
Long Battery Life
Biking computers are meant to last longer than the typical smartphone. They are designed for durability and reliability on the trail.
Biking is a sport that endures all weather conditions. Bike computers are usually weatherproof and made to withstand rain, dust, and even the harshest of drops.
- Interference. When it comes to satellite-communicating bike computers, keep in mind the vehicles around you. On the road, there may be interference from other cars and users that can hinder the computer’s performance.
- Product Features. Keep in mind that not all biking computers are equipped with a GPS feature. Some are meant for tracking distance or keeping track of time and weather only.
- Charge. Just because the battery life is meant to outlast typical smartphones does not mean that it always will. Make sure you are always prepared and have your computer charged and ready to go.
Best Bike Computer Reviews & Recommendations 2020
- Read the user manual so you have a rough idea of the full potential of the unit. Consult an online manual on how to update the software and use the mapping functions.
- Buy a non-slip cover for your bike computer. Ensure that the cover doesn't stretch out the mount or block the buttons.
- Dismount the bike computer if you plan to leave your bike unattended for a long time. It may get stolen.
- Share the live feed of your cycling routes with your friends or family. It will help them track you in case you get lost.
Q: Will rain damage a bike computer?
A: Not every bike GPS is designed to withstand the rain. That's why you need to buy a waterproof design, which is typically Ingress Protection-rated, or IP-rated. Such a device can withstand a light downpour, dripping sweat, drink spills, and a water splash. However, most of these gadgets cannot survive a heavy downpour. You should check the weather forecast for the day to plan ahead.
Q: Is a bike computer better than a smartphone?
A: A smartphone can have a GPS chip built into it that can help you track your position. However, it may not be as accurate as a cycling GPS, which also lets you upload your ride information to the cycling website Strava and monitors your heartbeat. Also, a smartphone’s battery may drain faster than most cycling computers, which have a battery life of over eight hours.
Q: How does a bike computer measure distance?
A: The bike computer typically comes with a magnet and a sensor that attaches to the spokes and the fork, respectively. It then uses the frequency of the wheel rotations and the diameter of the wheel to calculate the average speed, time, and distance covered. More advanced gadgets use satellite tracking to locate your position and determine the speed and distance covered.
Our top pick for the best cycling computer is the Garmin Edge GPS Cycling Computer. It’s an advanced navigation system that connects you to other cyclists.
If you are on a tight budget, you can go for the CAT EYE Padrone Wireless Bike Computer. It’s one of the cheapest bike computers on the market.