LAST UPDATED: October 23, 2019
Best Bike Computers: Plan Your Ride and Monitor Your Performance
Improve your navigation capabilities with these bike computers
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON October 23, 2019
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
The Garmin Edge GPS Cycling Computer is great for on the go, whether you are riding competitively or recreationally. This product has features that allow you to communicate with other bikers while tracking your cadence and location. The most important feature is that the product is equipped with a strong communicating GPS so that you will never get lost.
This bike computer has a battery life of 15 hours. With that being said, you can enjoy all the features it has to offer, such as real-time stream feeds that allow you to keep up with other riders. This product can also be paired with your smartphone via the Trailfolks app.
While this computer is incredibly useful, there are parts you have to keep in mind. This product is more expensive and does not come with a touchscreen, which would ultimately be more convenient in the long run. It does not come with a charger, but a standard USB port will work. Also, it only displays local maps.
The CatEye Padrone Wireless Bike Computer is a great budget-friendly computer that gets the job done. Features include a basic speedometer that calculates distance, the time elapsed and current speeds. The computer is easily mountable and comes with a mount that extends, allowing for better biker visibility.
The screen of this product offers a large display, which is incredibly useful when biking in very sunny conditions where it is hard to see. When it comes to weather conditions, this product is weatherproof and protected from elements such as sun, rain, and dust. The sensor of this product is also incredibly strong, as it stops counting when you are not biking to give more accurate scores.
Because of the sensor, it needs to constantly be reset on new adventures. This can be a hassle, especially when you forget to reset the tracker and risk losing a new record.
The Wahoo ELEMNT GPS Bike Computer is a biking computer equipped with a GPS and smartphone pairing feature. Other advanced features include biker communication among areas, strong connectivity, and communication, which can be optimized through long battery life.
This product is widely popular among bikers and smartphone users. Since the product is smartphone-compatible, there are many apps that can be downloaded and personalized in order to maximize your enjoyment and experience.
One drawback is that this product is smartphone-compatible only. Therefore, you won’t be able to benefit much if you don’t have a smartphone or fail to bring it with you on your biking trips.
- 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.