The factors to evaluate your choice of cycling computer are many, but not difficult. Recreation or competition? Patient or impatient? Are you a gadget monkey that loves the idea of adding another connected device to your arsenal or could the data you seek be just as easily supplied by your current bevy of devices, wearables, or an app? What do you really want to garner from your bike metrics? How much money are you able or willing to drop on a cycling computer? As you answer each of these questions you will notice your options narrowing down to the best choice that will suit your biking needs. Read our reviews of the most popular models on the market.
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Top Bike Computers
Here are our #1 choices for both a low end and high end options.
Best low-end Bike Computer: CatEye Velo 7 Bicycle Computer review
Simple and Affordable
One of the main advantages of the CatEye Velo 7 is its simplicity. It is easy to install, coming in at about ten minutes flat for the installation. Unlike other models that might require a science degree to install and set up, this one prides itself on ease: in the mounting and in the actual usage thereafter. It can be mounted on your stem or handlebar using the universal bracket system. If you are going to be parked in a public place and would like to keep the computer with you for security purposes, it comes off quite easily and is easy to put right back on when you are ready to start riding again.
After spending hours with other bicycle computers troubleshooting the problems with the wireless connection, you may be glad to know that the CatEye Velo 7 is hard-wired and ready to go right away with a single-button operation. In fact, the tracking begins as soon as you push the button and start riding. It is truly that simple. Setting the clock and calibrating the tire size, if desired, is really all you need to do to get started. The directions that come with it are very clear, too.
You are able to keep track of riding time, distance, elapsed time, average speed, maximum speed and a real-time odometer. All of this from a single-button operation. If you are interested in getting very specific, you can either calibrate it to your exact tire size.
High Quality and Accurate
Although simplicity is a large part of its appeal, the Velo also does sophisticated things that you will appreciate, such as pausing when the cyclist pauses for rest breaks or stop lights and starting up again as soon as the cycling starts. Another advantage is how easy it is to read. The large numbers and easy-to-read display are great when checking data while riding. The only thing that would improve the display and its readability would be to include a back light for future models; this would make things a whole lot easier when riding as it starts getting dark or in the very early morning.
The accuracy of the distance and speed calculations is spot-on. Some riders have compared the CatEye Velo 7 data with the data of a different unit on the same ride and have found the two sets of data to be identical. This is another reason why this bicycle computer is such a great value: the accuracy of the data it tracks for you as you enjoy your ride. No one has money to just throw away and, with every purchase, it is important to make sure that you are getting the most “bang for your buck.”
The CatEye Velo 7 is a simple, easy-to-use bicycle computer that does many of the things that the more expensive units out there do, but at a fraction of the cost. There are many positive reviews on the internet about this bicycle computer and this offers evidence that this bicycle computer can be used with confidence.
The CatEye Velo 7 is best for basic to intermediate cyclists who wish to track basic data: riding time, distance, elapsed time, average speed, maximum speed and a real-time odometer. It does not calculate calories burned or heart rate, but it is simple to use and is very accurate. It gets a 4/5 from us!Click to See Latest Price
Best high-end cycling computer: Garmin Edge 25 Cycling GPS
Cycling is a wonderful way to relieve stress, enjoy the day, and stay in shape. But for the serious cyclist, who bikes and measures each mile to push themselves further or for the casual enjoy-er of cycling who only wants to leisurely have a spin around their own block, there’s a new tool that can’t be missed. The new Garmin Edge 200 GPS-Enabled Bike Computer is full of features for the professional cyclist, the casual cyclist, and every cyclist in between.
The Cyclist’s Electronic Toolbox
The Garmin Edge is small and attaches onto any bike with ease. Within this small device is a large treasure of more data than any cyclist could dream. It can be snapped onto the handlebars safely and then does the rest itself.
Among the many features of the Garmin Edge are its HotFix satellite tracking support and precise GPS coordinate system. With its powerful CPU, it can read elevation, your speed, and your location, combined with heart rate all at once to give a cyclist all the data they could ask for.
Whether the path takes a rider up the steepest hill or down an incline, the Garmin Edge will always let them know. Height and altitude are measure on the Garmin’s display to never let the cyclist have to guess when it comes to knowing exactly where they are in the world.
It’s never a mystery how much of a workout an individual is getting with the Garmin Edge. With its tracking, it displays calories burned, letting the rider know just how much they’ve done exactly that day. Third party ANT+-enabled visual displays show off all data on the screen in an organized and easy to look at and understand manner so riders can spend less time trying to understand data, and more time hitting the road and getting back to doing what they love.
Making Cycling Exciting Again
The Garmin Edge has the ability to make older cycling trails seem like new. With the Course feature, familiar trails can be optimized for the most workout. Simply using the Auto Pause and Auto Lap features of the system does all of the work for the cyclist and gives them what they need for the most enjoyable ride.
Knowing how to dress has never been easier thanks to the Garmin Edge’s Temperature readout. The same screen that shows all data about the ride shows the constant up to date temperature around you.
Along with the listed features above, the Garmin can track heart rate beats per minute and combine the data with calorie data for nutrition and exercise information.
Connecting to the Cyclist Network
One of the Garmin Edge’s greatest features however is the Cyclist Network. After a ride, the rider can take the device and connect it to their home computer. On this network, cyclists and enthusiasts can join together and share facts, observations and data from their rides to compare and compete with over the nation.
The Garmin Edge comes with the Edge 500, Bike Mount, AC Charger, USB Cable, Owner’s Manual on Disk, and Quick Start Manual to get any excited cyclist started with it in no time at all.
It’s easy to see how the Garmin Edge 200 GPS-Enabled Bike Computer can make any cyclist’s average, daily ride into a dream come true. No rider will ever be lost thanks to its satellite HotFix tracking, down to the altitude and exact location. The heart rate tracking gives up to date information per minute of exactly how many times the rider’s heart has beat, and uses that information along with its calorie data for the healthiest ride.
With all of this information there for any owner of the Garmin and ready to be shared with a single click on its Cyclist National Network, there’s no reason to wait, to make your ride the one you’ve dreamed of, every single day. We award the Garmin Edge 25 a full 5/5 stars.Click to See Latest Price
More information on Bike Computers
As technology advanced, so has the cycling computer. LCD displays have grown larger, offering more display options, and has progressed from tactile buttons to touch screen innovations. Like most things in the modern world, the days of cables are fading fast. Many of today’s models offer wireless data transmission between the sensors and head unit.
The one aspect that may get easier as technology progresses, but will never disappear, is the need to calibrate your device. Unit of measurement (kilometers vs. miles), tire circumference, and test runs over known distance courses to gauge calibration accuracy all need to be done for the most accurate and informative ride data.
Some of today’s offerings have more features than you may ever use. Some offerings available come with time, stopwatch, GPS, power output, current gear display, mp3 control, smartphone tethering, heart rate functions, customizable displays, altimeters, inclinometers, lap options, map displays, and even SD card slots for expanded memory to name a few of the available options. The only things limiting the functionality of your bike computer are your needs and your budget.
Recreational Cycling Computers
If the goal is to be a recreational, around town rider then affordable options abound that can track the basics like speed, distance, and time. Should the thought of adding yet another device to your already connected world not appeal to you, there are even models that connect to your smart phone so all that data is in your pocket and not bolted to your bike (although you can purchase mounts and associated hardware to mount your phone to your bike while riding).
We all know that some of us like the idea of showing off that expensive full featured cycling computer around town as a status symbol, however, there really isn’t any reason to drop hundreds, if not a thousand or more, dollars on a cycling computer to map and diagnose your joy rides or jaunts to work or the grocery store.
If the goal is to supplement your training with data that can help you improve your ride mechanics or meet and beat that personal best, then the higher end, full featured, GPS enabled cycling computer may be more in line with what you are looking for. With touchscreens and customizable displays you will be able to track numerous metrics that could provide valuable insight into your training regimen and where you need to focus your efforts in order to compete at a higher level.
Setup and Installation
Another factor to consider before purchasing is how much patience you have. A good rule of thumb is the more features your cycling computer has, the more time you are going to spend setting it up. If the thought of spending a few hours reading through manuals, making adjustments, applying sensors and wires (if wired), scrolling through menu options and calibration metrics to get the system optimized for your bike and your intentions sounds like an exciting weekend then the more expensive and feature laden options are right up your alley . However, if you lack the patience or time to commit to such things, there are many devices out there that you can clip on and be ready to go in a few minutes. A cycling computer that does not meet your needs and ends up sitting in a dark and lonely corner of the garage is a wasted investment.
Not to overlook the biggest dilemma of the 21st century connected lifestyle: battery life. As mentioned before, this will be a factor of feature load. Basic cycling computers run for the better part of a year, or longer, without having to change batteries or charge. Once you venture into GPS territory you will be charging your device on a more regular basis (read: daily). If you’re looking for multi-day rides with one of these be sure to bring a means of charging along with you. Most GPS enabled computers have a battery life ranging in the eight to fifteen hour range.
Ensure when shopping for your computer you take note of the battery, its expected life span, charging options, and if it’s removable/replaceable. Many lithium Ion batteries are built into the unit and cannot be removed. If your interest lies in long distance, multi-day rides or camping trips you may want to look for computer that uses standard button type (long lasting) or AA style batteries (easily replaced or purchased while out and about).
Alternative Fitness Computers
For many, the cycling computer may already be in your possession. GPS enabled sport watches (Garmin and Suunto especially) and smart phones provide the functionality of the basic cycling computer without adding more gadgets to your life. Accuracy and features may be limited with these options, however, for the budget-conscience – or those who just really do not want another device to keep track of – these may be better alternatives.
With the ever rising prominence of the smart watch, there will be the hybrid of the previous two rolled into one –albeit still another – device tracking your every move. The fitness wearable market is also increasingly adopting cycling computer tech to include with its pedometer and stair counting functionality. The new Fitbit Surge is a prime example of wearables moving into the multisport/activity realm.
Features vs. Price
The most common metric used to evaluate a cycling computer is price. What can you, the cyclist, afford? Online retailers have computers that will fit any budget. The price range for bike computers starts at around $10 and for a basic, push button, classic LCD display model and go all the way up to the $200 level and beyond. In the high end you can expect to have functions such as wireless systems with multiple trip counters, elapsed time functions, pace arrows, altimeters, heart rate, smart phone integration, data recording – in order to download to your computer and companion software/websites – for analysis, lap counters, temperature readings and in the top models also GPS enabled territory with customizable displays, altimeter and gradient monitoring, and multiple wireless sensors transmitting data simultaneously. Once you reach this range you are most likely looking for more than recreational use from your computer.
The most expensive models are GPS-loaded, wireless, touch screen, and loaded with functions inside of functions. Breaking down time into fully customizable calendars, intervals, and travel time to name a few. Calorie counters, outside temperature, average heart rate, actual and average speed, alarms, downloadable maps and much more to analyze and parse every bit of data from your ride into actionable intelligence in the quest to become a better rider. It comes down to you.