Thanks to the numerous advancements made in technology over the last decade, hundreds of innovative electronic fitness gadgets make an appearance on the market each year, from pedometers to heart rate monitors and finally to the bike computer. While the use of an Android or iPhone to collect your data during a ride has gained some popularity, using a bike computer can still make a lot of sense for the cyclist who is serious about their training.
Bike Computer Buyer’s Guide
Before you decide to purchase a bike data device, ask yourself a few questions: What type of information do you need to obtain for your training and how do you plan to use it? How much are you willing to spend to get all the features you need? What functionality is important to you?
If you want to monitor your stats and progress as you ride, in order to get fit or to train for a race, you have a few options. Your first option is the bike computer, which is a sport specific device that mounts on a bike. These devices are weatherproof, equipped with touchscreens that utilize pressure activation, include low profile mounting and are less likely to become damaged in the event of a crash, compared to fragile smartphones.
Another option is a fitness monitor such as a GPS watch. Some of these watches are equipped with a bike mode and can be mounted to your bike with the purchase of an adapter. These devices are more prone to damage in the event of an accident and they’re so small it can be easy to leave one behind during a ride.
The last option is a smartphone. Some cyclists choose to purchase a cycling app and use it instead of a bike computer. While a smartphone offers a large and easy to read screen and can provide mapping options and data display and capture, they also require a mounting bracket. Smartphones also aren’t weatherproof which means they can’t be used on rainy days, a big downside for many cyclists. You also run the risk of totally damaging your phone if you crash.
If you’re a serious cyclist, then you’ve probably decided to go with a bike computer. These devices feature several options regarding how these models deliver information.
The magnetic models consist of a magnet that’s attached to a wheel spoke that rotates past sensors that are attached to a fork. These bike computers feature a longer battery life with no need to regularly charge the battery before each use. They’re also pretty cheaply priced, but, unfortunately, they don’t feature GPS functionality.
GPS bike computers use a satellite receiver to convert GPS signals into cycle data. These models feature more data options and the data can be transferred to your PC. This type of model can also be easily swapped between different bikes. However, these models usually cost more and need to be charged before each ride.
Transmission Options for Bike Computers
There is also a variety of types of data transmission options, some of which are super convenient while others can be a hassle to use. Models that are wired utilize a magnetic sensor that uses a wire to transmit the signal to the handheld device. These models are much cheaper, smaller and lightweight. However, this type of bike computer is not swappable between bikes and the transmission wire can snag on brush or clothing and get ripped out.
Wireless models utilize a magnetic sensor equipped with a signal transmitter. The GPS sensors are wireless. These models are usually sleek, easy to install and feature no wires. They are also more expensive, especially models that are equipped with GPS and heavier.
With a wide range of bike computers to choose from, you’re bound to run into several features, most of which are pretty appealing. However, there are some standout features that will definitely come in handy as you train and these features can help you to narrow down your choice of a bike computer.
If you ride your bike in the dark a backlight feature will make the display screen viewable in many different types of lighting conditions.
Battery life will also be an important feature to keep your eye out for. GPS models are equipped with rechargeable batteries that usually have a life of eighteen to twenty hours. If you use your smartphone with a cycling app you can expect only a few hours of battery life. A magnetic model will use a couple of watch batteries and can last a couple of years.
Purchasing a model that’s equipped with multiple data screens can help you to stay organized and on task. Some models may restrict data to a signal screen which can be limiting. Models that allow the use of multiple data screens are usually customizable so you can choose which type of data goes on each page. As an example you may want to keep your heart rate, calories burned and speed all on one page, while another page features information regarding your route and any key locations you have notated.
Is the way the data is transferred important to you? Do you want to transfer data to the manufacturer’s website, an app, a software program or fitness site? Models that are equipped with GPS can cater to this.
Do you want a model that allows you to purchase different types of mounts? The use of additional mounts is available for units that are equipped with the multi-bike function. These mounts can be positioned front and center of the handlebar, which can be a huge benefit for riders losing near distance focus. Mounting the bike computer in this manner also means you’ll spend less time with your eyes off the road.
Some bike computers, usually costly GPS models, will allow you to swap between two or three other bikes. This is perfect for households with more than one cyclist and it’s a great way to save money.
According to consumers, a dedicated bike computer is much more reliable and accurate than using a smartphone app. You may initially think that using an app is much cheaper than purchasing a bike computer that is until you have to spend hundreds of dollars to replace your phone after you drop it during a ride.
The cost will, of course, be a major factor when it comes to the model you choose, however, we recommend saving up to invest in the model you really want, one that’s equipped with the transmission capabilities, size design and features you need and want.
Garmin Edge 800 Bike Computer Review
The Edge 800 bike computer by Garmin is a consumer favorite that’s equipped with 160 by 240 pixels for an excellent viewing experience and a pressure activated screen that allows you to still easily navigate through the menu even if you’re wearing gloves. This model is our top rated product thanks to the backlit color display, temperature feature, calorie counter, the large range of maps and heart rate monitor. Most consumers noted that this device was very accurate and provided data that allowed them to plan out challenging bike routes, easily. This model is also compatible with a variety of GB discoverer maps and TOPO maps which include the easy to follow turn by turn directions, which can also be used when walking or driving. The Garmin’s Bird’s Eye satellite is available in high res, providing very detailed images. This bike computer also allows the user to create their own routes on their desktop for a highly customized training experience. Online you can also download other user’s routes for an exciting new challenge and save them to your profile to be used on your next ride. Once you’ve completed a ride you can plug the 800 into your desktop and analyze the ride data in order to learn how you performed and what you need to work on including distance covered and average speed. With such rave reviews regarding this model’s performance and ease of use, you can to see why this model was rated number one.
Polar V650 Bike Computer Review
The Polar V650 bike computer is a device that’s equipped with GPS and a full-color touchscreen. It also features new mount models, one that is specifically targeted for time trial or triathlon races and the other is a simple rubber mount. This device utilizes a pressure activated touchscreen which means you can still easily navigate through the user’s menu and data screens even if you’re wearing bike gloves. The design of this model is pretty simple and almost elegant. Equipped with a total of four sports profiles including road, MTB, indoor and other. These profiles allow the user to control the activity controls for a more customized biking experience. The front of the device is equipped with an LED headlight that allows you to be more visible to drivers and other cyclists but isn’t quite bright enough to navigate the terrain with. This device supports Bluetooth sensors, so it has the ability to connect to other cycling sensors. Consumers loved the accuracy of the built-in heart rate feature and the ability to plan your own routes and share these routes with other users. With the obtained data this device will transmit this info to the Polar site and use this information to determine the impact of your workout including calories burned, average speed and distance covered. This is another model that rated well with consumers, due to the ton of features, model accuracy and ease of use.
Garmin Edge 810 Bike Computer Review
The Edge 810 by Garmin is a fun to use bike computer that’s equipped with GPS and pairs with your smartphone using Bluetooth technology, transferring this date to Garmin Connect, the manufacturer’s cycling community. Because this model allows you to choose from a variety of metrics to monitor including temperature, speed, distance traveled, time during a ride and altitude, you can create and plan more challenging rides based on the results of your previous ride. This is a device that’s designed for the serious cyclist or the avid rider that’s interested in losing some weight or building endurance. This model is compatible with ANT sensors which detect heart rate, pedal power, and pedal cadence, allowing you to get a more realistic view of how you handled your last ride. The 810 is equipped with a brightly lit display screen that’s highly viewable in any type of lighting conditions. The 810 weighs in at just two pounds, allowing the rider to easily stow the model when not in use. The accuracy of this device is pretty impressive compared to other models of bike computers in this price range. The battery life, when fully charged provides as much as twenty hours per charge.
Garmin Edge 500 Bike Computer Review
The Edge 500 by Garmin is a small lightweight model that is equipped with a ton of features including a calorie counter, temperature and heart rate monitor. It also contains eight customizable features per page, allowing the user to choose forty-one options to fill up three pages worth of riding data for the ultimate tracking experience. Unfortunately, the 500 doesn’t allow you to mark down key locations and doesn’t display the route you’ve traveled in real-time, even though it features a satellite connection. After your ride, the route will show up once you have uploaded the info onto the Garmin community website. This is a downside for many users, who prefer to view their route in real-time. If the lack of a mapping function isn’t a big deal to you, then jump on this lower priced model that allows you to customize your riding experience, unlike other models in this price range.