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Bike computers are perfect for you, whether you want to explore new routes or prefer the simplicity of an analog watch. These devices use GPS satellites to track your location, determine your speed, and calculate your distance from your destination. Because there are no wires or magnets involved, you can rest assured that all the information displayed on your bike computer are accurate.
More advanced bike computers can also determine your cadence, power, and heart rate. Some also have the functionality to record your route which you can then upload to sites that help you evaluate your performance.
Best Bike Computers You Should Buy in [year]
There are several factors to consider when buying a cycling computer. Some of these are WiFi, smartphone connectivity, Bluetooth, sensor compatibility, and maps. We’ll talk about this later in this buying guide. For now, here are the best computers you should check out for 2018.
Lezyne Super GPS Bike Computer
Although Lezyne is a new player in the bike computer industry, it’s one of the best bike computers in the market at a fraction of the cost of famous brands. At only $150, the Lezyne Super GPS Bike Computer comes with mapping functions, GPS and Glonass navigation systems, and Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity.
Pairing the Lezyne Super GPS with its new Ally app unlocks various features to the device. Using the app, you can now create your own routes and use the computer’s turn-by-turn navigation feature to help you find your way.
Free roaming? Don’t worry. The Lezyne Super GPS Bike Computer also comes with a breadcrumb feature that maps your track so you don’t get lost on your way back. This bike computer also syncs with popular services like Strava and Training Peaks. Pairing with your phone means you get call, text, and email notification through the computer as well.
Garmin Edge 1030 Bike Computer
The biggest selling point of the Garmin Edge 1030 Bike Computer is its huge colored screen. This bike computer sets flush with your bar despite its size. It comes with preloaded maps from Trendline Popularity Routing which uses billions of miles of Garmin Connect ride information to guide you through the best routes — whether in the metro or offroad.
The Garmin Edge 1030 can also access third-party apps like Strava and Training Peaks. This biking computer also features Bluetooth connectivity and displays text, call, and email alerts from your phone. What’s even better is you can respond to missed phone calls or texts with prewritten messages through the device.
The Garmin Edge 1030 Bike Computer also lets you send a message to your fellow riders — making the perfect companion device for groups who love biking. Rider to rider messaging lets you send prewritten notes to your fellow rider’s Garmin Edge 1030. In just a few clicks, let them know that you have a flat tire or if they should go on without you. Too far ahead or too far behind? Your fellow riders can easily find you using Garmin Edge 1030 Bike Computer’s GroupTrack feature.
The Garmin Edge 1030 comes with an impressive 20 hours battery life.
Garmin Edge 520 Bike Computer
Another quality product from Garmin, the Garmin Edge 520 is a small, light, powerful, and reliable bike computer. It features everything a cyclist will need to ensure a comfortable, fun, and hassle-free riding experience.
Aside from the usual heart rate, speed, and cadence monitoring, the Garmin Edge 520 goes a step further by estimating your recovery time. Like other cycling computers featured in this article, the Garmin Edge 520 also offers in-ride challenges through Strava.
Some of the features of Garmin Edge 520 includes smart notifications, social media sharing, send/receive courses, automatic uploads, and weather updates. This device has an IPX-7 rating and stays on for up to 15 hours in between charges.
Lezyne Macro GPS Bike Computer
Lezyne is a dedicated cycling company and their passion for biking can be clearly seen in this bike computer. Like its Super GPS cousin, the Lezyne Macro GPS comes with the Ally app which provides various features including power meters, cadence and speed sensors, heart rate monitors, and of course, navigation.
The Lezyne Macro GPS Bike Computer last for an amazing 22 hours in between charges, making it the best option for those who love to bikepack or go on long rides.
CatEye Velo 7 Bike Computer
The CatEye Velo 7 Bike Computer displays all the stats a bike needs to improve his performance — speed (current, maximum, and average), trip distance, total distance, time elapsed, clock, and pace arrow.
The CatEye Velo 7 is also smart enough to detect stops. Instead of using GPS, this bike computer uses a wired speed sensor. What’s amazing about the CatEye Velo 7 Bike Computer is its battery life. Three years! You can install it and forget that its even there!
Despite its wonderful features, the CatEye Velo 7 Bike Computer is an entry-level cycling computer that’s great for those starting out. Simple and effective, this biking computer is the best option for those who are on a budget or are simply looking for basic solutions.
Meilan M4 Wireless Bike Computer
The Meilan M4 Wireless Bike Computer comes with a stunning 2.5” high-definition display that has three brightness levels. It uses Bluetooth 4.0/ANT+ wireless technology to connect with the sensors measuring your cadence, speed, driving time, temperature, calories, etc.
This bike computer comes with an IPX5 waterproof rating making it perfect for biking under the rain and snow. The Meilan M4 Wireless Bike Computer can be used for more than 80 hours without using the backlight. Thanks to its beefy 800MAH rechargeable battery.
Easy to use and instal, this cycling computer comes with 2 two special mount holders that are suitable for most mountain bikes, road bikes, e-bikes, and folding bikes.
iGP Sport Bike Computer
Small and lightweight, the iGP Sport Bike Computer tracks your speed, position, and distance wirelessly. It also comes with an IPX7 waterproof rating so you don’t have to worry when biking under the rain. This cycling computer can store up to 400 hours of riding files.
The iGP Sport Bike Computer has a backlight feature that turns on before sunset and turns off after sunrise without you touching any button. Easy to operate, this bike computer can be mounted on your bike easily with a standard mount that comes with package.
SY Bike Computer
The SY Bike Computer automatically wakes from sleep mode once it senses that you are moving your bicycle. This bike computer measures your speed, riding time, and distance — making it perfect for those who want to track their progress without breaking the bank.
The SY Bike Computer comes with a bright LCD display where you can view your stats with ease. Biking at night? Don’t worry, this cycling computer’s screen also has a backlight that turns on automatically when you press any of its buttons. Simple and easy to install, this bike computer is compatible to most types of mountain bikes and road bikes.
Bike Computers versus Smart Phones: Which One to Use?
Thanks to advances in technology, you can now keep tabs on your cycling data easier and more accurately. But many cyclists have a dilemma: should you use your smartphone in tracking your cycling activity or should you invest in a dedicated bike computer? Below is a quick guide to help you decide which one to pick.
Things to Consider When Choosing Between a Bike Computer and a Smartphone
Bike computers are great at tracking your speed, cadence, distance, location, and many more. But guess what, your phone can do it too! So, should you use a smartphone instead of a bike computer? Or vice versa? These factors should help you make the correct decision.
When it comes to price, cycling computers can range between $20 for basic units to a couple of hundreds for premium and feature-packed models. If you already have a smartphone with you, then you can track your cycling activity without any costs aside from your cycling app subscriptions (if there’s any) or if you, unfortunately, crash and damage your phone. Phone repairs can cost more than a basic bike computer. Keep in mind that if you want to use your phone, you’ll also need to invest in a quality phone mount and case to go with it.
For battery life, the type of activity that you will do will have the biggest impact on your purchase decision. If you are just a regular commuter with short commutes to and from the office or around the neighborhood, then you can use your smartphone. However, if you are a road cyclist or a century biker, having your phone on for at least 6 hours is not practical. You’ll never know when you’ll need your phone, so personally, I’d rather keep it charged by using a bike computer instead.
The road is harsh. While most bike computers are built like a tank to withstand the elements, smartphones are quite sensitive to wind, extreme temperatures, snow, and rain. Of course, you can always buy an all-weather phone case but keep in mind that this can increase the size of your device. Not to mention the touchscreen not being as responsive as normal use.
Obviously, smartphones are built to perform multiple tasks like internet browsing, taking pictures, answering calls, sending texts, reading emails, etc. A cycling computer, on the other hand, is made for a single purpose only — to track your cadence, power, speed, distance, and other essential metrics. In short, biking computers are more efficient in terms of form and function.
If you own a modern smartphone, expect it to be bigger and wider than your bike computer. Size matters as space on your handlebar are limited. The bigger your phone, the less space is available for your handlebar light, bike bell, or bike mirror. Also, if you are a bike racer, weight is important. Obviously, a smartphone together with its case and the mount will weigh more than a compact bike computer.
A smartphone app that tracks your cycling activity usually relies on GPS to calculate your speed, power, and cadence. On the other hand, a bike computer comes with various sensors that track your biking stats as accurate as possible. The only downside is that it’s quite complicated to set up initially. If you are a serious road cyclist who uses data to improve your ride, go with bike computers. If you are just a casual biker, a smartphone will do.
How Many Times You Ride
If you are just a casual rider who bikes once a week, then there’s no need to buy and set up a bike computer. However, if you are competitive and training for an event, a bike computer will give you the most accurate data to improve your performance.
So, which one is perfect for you? Should you buy a bike computer or just use your smartphone and any bicycling app you can find in Google Play or App Store (e.g., MapMyRide, Strava, etc.)?
The Smartphone is best for…
A smartphone is perfect for cyclists who don’t want to spend more money just to track certain metrics. This is for those who don’t obsess over data nor need instant feedback about their ride and performance. The smartphone is best for bike commuters and casual riders who hop on their bikes for just a few hours each week.
The Bike Computer is best for…
If you are a cyclist on a budget but need to track specific metrics like speed, distance, cadence, etc. Then you can buy a basic bike computer that suits your needs. You can also use this together with your smartphone to track additional data like location or if you need to use a map. A cheap and basic cycling computer is perfect for the occasional rider who goes on a road trip on the weekend.
If you are a serious and competitive cyclist, then it only makes sense that you get the best cycling computer around. Aside from allowing you to track certain metrics like speed, cadence, heart rate, etc., professional biking computers can also be linked to mainstream apps so you get instant and accurate feedback on your performance. High-end cycling computers also come with GPS functionality allowing you to use maps and certain features like rerouting and turn by turn prompts. These bike computers are weather-proof with plenty of juice to track an entire day’s ride.
Important Factors to Consider When Buying a Bike Computer
There are various types of bike computers on the market. How will you know which one is perfect for you? Consider these features.
Smartphone Connectivity – modern bike computers feature seamless connectivity to Android and iOS. Some devices offer push alerts for texts, calls, emails, and even Instagram notifications. There are also some bike computers that only allow post-ride uploads for your riding data.
WiFi – bike computers that can connect to your home WiFi is a great choice for those who want the convenience of uploading ride data automatically. By the time you’ve finished taking off your biking shoes, your ride information can be up on Strava for the whole world to see.
Bluetooth and ANT+ – currently, ANT+ is the most popular connection protocol when it comes to biking sensors (power, heart rate, cadence, speed, etc.). Bluetooth is starting to gain some traction as well. To future-proof your bike computer, pick one that connects using both (Bluetooth and ANT+) connectivity protocols.
Compatibility of Sensors – make sure you know what you are training with or for. For instance, some bike computers don’t have the ability to connect to power meters. If you need one, make sure that the device you pick is compatible.
Navigation and Maps – full-featured navigation is invaluable for those who want to explore new routes like these amazing bike trails in Arizona. Bike computers that have GPS can provide detailed maps including turn-by-turn directions. While those that don’t have GPS can only offer you breadcrumb trails so you can find your way back. Know why you are riding. If you’re the adventurer type, then a bike computer with GPS navigation is the best choice. If you just using your bike for commuting to and from work, a simple device should suffice.
Strava Live Segments Integration – Strava integration is a must have if you want to have fun and beat your friends’ biking times. This handy feature tells you exactly when the segment starts and ends.
Displays – do you really need a colored bike computer screen? Well, not really. Colored displays are only useful for complex navigation. If you are not planning to put yourself into such situation, then a greyscale screen is enough. Greyscale screens read better and easier too.
Touchscreen displays are also handy as they make navigating the app easier. However, they can get glitchy too especially when you are wearing gloves or when sprinkled with water. Experts suggest that you stay away from touchscreen bike computers — they just don’t mix well.
Bike computers are a great way to leverage technology to improve your biking experience and overall performance. Grab one of these biking computers now and see for yourself the difference they make in your day to day biking adventure.