Best Cycling Computer

computer

We spent over 39 hours researching and testing 15 different kinds of cycling computers and found that wireless connectivity, mounting options, and device screen and size were most important. Garmin Edge Bike Computer scored high marks in all categories and is our top pick. This device has a lot of features that made it really useful including live-tracking, weather updates, social network sharing and lots more. The screen measured about 2.6” and was a touch screen so we could find the information we wanted quickly. The rugged design is long lasting and durable and is available in different colors as well.


Jump to…


Introduction

If you are an avid cyclist and want to keep track of your ride data, you want to get a cycling computer. The image that comes to mind when you think of a cycling computer may be a laptop on the handlebars, but these amazing little units can be easily mounted to your bike easily without taking up much room at all.

They will provide an amazing amount of data about your rides as well as capabilities to do something with all that data such as uploading it to training software, sharing your rides on your social media channels and much more.

There are numerous types of cycling computers available on the market today. The three we have featured here are all excellent choices for the cyclist that takes their rides seriously and wants to keep track of their ride information. Even if you just ride for pleasure, you will enjoy the benefits and perks these devices provide.


Top 10 List

RankPictureComputerDisplay
(Inches)
Warranty
(Months)
1Edge 8102.6012
2
Edge 500
2.9212
3
Timex 615
1.3112
4
CatEye
2.1724
5
Planet Bike
3.94Limited Lifetime
6
Sigma
2.7536
7
Soongo
1.8012
8
Sigma 1609
1.1236
9
Junsd
3.546
10
Thorfire
1.5018

Garmin Edge 810 GPS Bike Computer

The Edge 810 from Garmin is GPS enabled and one of the best cycling computers you can buy.  It is the successor of the popular flagship Edge 800 and consumers have been chomping at the bit to get their hands on it.

From the outside appearance, it looks just like the Edge 800 but there are improvements to the Edge 810 that the consumer will truly appreciate including a much simpler operating process.

This cycling computer has a lot of features that consumers love.  These include live-tracking, social network sharing, instant upload, and even weather updates.

The simple interface and touch screen allows users to find the information they need quickly.  The screen measures 2.6” and is rugged and long lasting.  The color is customizable as well.

There are many items that this cycling computer tracks. These include market leading, comprehensive ride data that includes speed, distance, time, heart rate1, cadence2, elevation, power3, and location.  Users will enjoy the benefits of improved navigation with bike friendly routing that offers optional street and topography maps.  It also will support Garmin Custom Maps and BirdsEye Satellite Imagery.

One of the very popular upgrades that the Edge 810 has implemented is that users can pre-define as many as ten different types of bikes and five sub-categories.  The sub-categories are customizable with a selection of data screens.  Each sub-cat will offer users 5 screens of data with 10 fields on each screen.  This is in addition to workout, map, course, elevation and virtual partner screens.

The screen is very responsive, allowing users to use it with ease even when they have gloves on or their hands are wet.  It is the one stop product for cycling computers.


Garmin Edge 500 Cycling GPS

Garmin gives consumers another great choice for a cycling computer with the Edge 500 Cycling GPS.  This lightweight GPS-based cycling computer provides performance and is feature rich and loaded with data.

Users can track their distance, speed, location and elevation as well.  There is an ANT+™ compatible heart rate monitor to keep track of your heart rate along with a speed/cadence sensor that provides users with a detailed analysis of their ride.

Users can attach the Edge 500 to their handlebars thanks to the low profile mount. All you have to do is attach the Edge to that mount with a simple turn.

The sleek, lightweight design looks great on any bike you attach it to.  The display is very simple to read, so users can keep track of their readings during the ride.

Other tracking includes time, calories burned, and altitude along with climb and descent and records all of this so you can review it after the ride. There is also a barometric altimeter that will pinpoint any changes in elevation.

Another interesting feature of this cycling computer is the third-party ANT+™ enabled power meter that will display the user’s power output in watts while you are riding. This shows how hard the user is actually working, which is a valuable training feature for serious cyclists.

Enjoy a long battery life of up to 18 hours so users do not have to recharge constantly.  The Edge 500 includes a few other training features that are popular with consumers including a Courses feature that allows users to compare successive rides along the same route so they can track their improvements or weak points that need work.

There is also Auto Pause, Auto Lap and temperature readings as well.  The Edge 500 will even alert you if you are riding and the timer is not running so you don’t miss any important training data.


Timex T5K615 GPS Bike Computer

Timex is a well-known, trusted name in watches and because of their watch reputation, consumers love Timex GPS cycling computer just as much.

The Timex Cycle Trainer 2.0 is a GPS-enabled cycling computer that will track important data about your individual rides such as speed, distance, elevation, routes, and even heart rate.

Thanks to the ANT+™ technology, it will also track cadence and power.  For the serious cyclist, there is even tracking for temperature and live elevation and grade readings.

The rechargeable lithium-ion battery provides users with up to 18 hours of power for even long rides.  The display can be customized to the user’s preference and workouts can be uploaded to Training Peaks for easy, off cycle monitoring and comparing.

The Timex GPS cycling computer offers users the choice of 5 customizable screens and a convenient hands-free option with auto start, auto split, auto stop and auto resume.

The choices offered with those five customizable screens is the ability to offer 2 to 6 pieces of information about the user’s ride.  Orientation can even be changed to a landscape view.  Another popular feature is Timex’s trademark Indiglow light that makes looking at the cycling computer at night easy as well.


Summary

All three of these cycling computers offer users the ability to track many different pieces of information about their rides. If you are a serious cyclist, looking for a great training device, any one of these three will be a great choice.

All three of the choices above offer many different features including customizing, uploading to the computer and the ability to record many different facets of their training. It’s a personal trainer they can carry along with them.

Below is our buyer’s guide with even more detailed information about cycling computers so consumers can learn how to choose the right one for their needs and training preferences. With this information, all the different choices won’t seem overwhelming at all because you will know exactly what you are looking for.


Comparison Chart


Edge 810
View

Edge 500
View

Timex
615
View

CatEye
View

Planet
Bike
View

Sigma
View

Soongo
View

Sigma
1609
View

Junsd
View

Thorfire
View

Trail
Tech
View
Display
(Inches)
2.602.921.312.173.942.751.801.123.541.505.00
Distance
Indicator
Speed
Indicator
Elevation
Indicator
        
Power        
Heart
Rate
Indicator
        
Time
Temperature
Indicator
      
Warranty
(Months)
12121224Limited
Lifetime
36123661812

 


Buyer’s Guide

What is a Cycling Computer?

Cycling Computer1A cycling computer is a small device that is attached to your bike and is designed with the sole purpose of recording data and information from each of your rides. It is a perfect accessory for any serious cyclers who want to use cycling as a training/weight loss avenue. By being able to record this data, they can make adjustments to their training regimen and improve the performance and results of their rides.

Purpose

The most obvious reason to have a cycling computer is to record numerous important data about your ride. Some may just record this information out of curiosity but others, who are cycling for sport, use it as a training tool. If you want to use your cycling as a means of fitness training or even weight loss, having a good quality cycling computer will help you keep track of the information that can help you have a productive ride.

If you’re not looking for a serious training tool, but just want to track information out of curiosity or you want the social side that is offered with the ability most cycling computers have to engage in social media sharing, these cycling computers will still meet your needs as well.


What are Your Needs?

Before you start shopping for a cycling computer, you must know what kind of information you want to record and other pieces of information as well like what is your budget? What functionalities are important to you? Do you want it to have computer connectivity? Are you the only one who will be using it and do you have just one bike or multiple bikes?

All of these questions are important because it will determine the cycling computer that will best fit those needs. With the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to easily look through the choices and narrow the selections down to just those that fit your needs.


What Type of Rider Are You?

There are three basic types of cyclist that cycling computers can appeal to.  It isn’t written in stone but normally the type of information you like to record goes along with the type of rider you are overall.

  • Casual – The casual cyclist rides for pleasure and usually just wants to know distance, speed and time. They want to know things like how fast they rode? How far they rode and how long did it take to ride?
  • Enthusiast – An enthusiast could be a commuter or touring rider or just someone who likes to ride a lot. They tend to like information such as trip distance, total odometer, average speed and maximum speed in addition to the information that casual riders like to record.
  • Competitive – The competitive cyclist wants all of the above information along with cadence, heart rate, elevation gained and power output as well to track how hard they are working during their rides.

What to Look for in a Cycling Computer

There are several different points of interest when it comes to choosing the right cycling computer.  We have outlined these points below along with providing details about each of them.  These are the points that will narrow the selection field during your search.


Wireless Connectivity

There are three common types of connectivity that cycling computers usually offer: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ANT+. Each one has their benefits.

  • Wi-Fi – A cycling computer with Wi-Fi connectivity will be able to upload your ride data directly via a third party app such as Garmin Connector, Strava or Social Media. You will be able to do this whenever the bike is in range of any of the networks it has enabled.  It is not much use during the ride itself, but it good for after the ride.  Most cycling computers that are Wi-Fi enabled will also have either ANT+ or Bluetooth as well.
  • Cycling Computer2

  • ANT+ – This is a low powered wireless communications protocol and is a popular feature of many cycling computers. ANT+ was bought by Garmin. They kept the ANT+ system open access which allowed other companies to incorporate it into their products.  One of the huge selling points ANT+ has is that it works with a large selection of providers including Bryton, Quarq, SRM, Wahoo, PowerTap, CatEye and many more.
  • Bluetooth – The newest kid on the scene is Bluetooth Smart or Bluetooth Low Energy. Many cycling computer manufacturers are using Bluetooth as their main connectivity option.  Many companies including Garmin, Polar, Stages, Lezyne and others have the Bluetooth option along with ANT+.  One of the popular features of having Bluetooth is the many smartphones have Bluetooth Low Energy and if the user has a compatible app, the cycling computer can communicate directly with the phone with no adapters needed.

Device Size and Screen

Cycling computers are starting to get bigger just like smartphones have over the years.  Although users love the larger size which is easier to read and handle, it does take up more room on the bars or stem of your bike. Another option is to get a bigger out-front mount.  Where you want the cycling computer to go is an important question.

Some riders don’t care about having a streamlined look and they will be just fine with the mount and computer right there in front of them.  Decide whether you want the space or whether you like having the device right there where you can access it easily and look for the corresponding cycling computer that fits what you want.

Another important consideration is screen size and resolution.  If you want the smallest thing you can find, they have mini cycling computers but the screen is seriously tiny and that could make reading the data very difficult.  Ideally, you want to be able to just glance down at the screen briefly while riding and see what you want to see.  This is one of the reasons the out front mount is becoming so popular.

Another consideration is color versus black and white.  The only place that color really has any benefit is in the maps but otherwise black and white is more than sufficient.


Mapping and Navigation

Having on-screen mapping and in some cases, turn by turn navigation can really come in handy during a ride, especially if you are not in a familiar area.  Being able to see where you are at any given point during a ride can be a real motivation during training to keep going.  It is also helpful in seeing how sharp turns are so you don’t come flying around a corner and end up as someone’s hood ornament.

Turn by turn navigation is generally only offered with the higher end models. This feature is really beneficial if you are in another country riding or even in a new city.

Mounts

There are several different types of mounts available for cycling computers. The most popular mount is the quarter turn mount.  It is very small and out of the way and is easy to mount on your bike.  It is a secure mount that most cyclists enjoy using.  Most companies have a quarter turn mount.  A few of the other companies such as CatEye and PRO use a traditional clip in method.  To remove the computer, you’ll need to press in on a tab that is holding it in place.

There are three different places that most cyclists mount their cycling computers: On the handle bars, on the stem of the bike and out front on a special mount that places the computer just in front of the bars.  The out front mount tends to be the most popular since this puts the cycling computer in a great place to be seen during the ride with minimal if any issues.


Additional Features

Below we’ve listed some additional features that different models of cycling computers may have. These features can also influence the model you decide to purchase.

  • Backlit Display – This is a very useful feature if you ride in the dark, early morning or bad weather. It is much easier to read a back lit screen than trying to shine a light on it.
  • Battery Life – You want to choose a model that has a rechargeable battery that has a battery life of 20 hours or so. The more the better. Battery life is important so you don’t miss part of a ride.
  • Multiple Screens – There are many different options you have when it comes to screens. Many models offer multiple screens that the rider can customize to fit their specific needs. Other, less expensive models may have fixed screens.
  • Cycling Computer3

  • Data Transfer – If you want the ability to transfer your ride date to your computer, social media site or training software, you want to be certain to get a cycling computer that offers data transfer options.
  • Readability – Being able to read your data is very important. Having a cycling computer you can’t read while on a ride defeats the whole purpose of having one.  Look for displays that have larger fonts, backlit displays and easy to read fonts as well.
  • Multi-bike use – If your cycling computer has multi-bike functionality, this means you can save the data for 2 or 3 different bikes. This is good for the cyclist that may use different cycles during the training or for different races.  Multi-bike functionality is usually found on a higher end model.

Conclusion

The key to finding the right cycling computer is to know what features and functionalities are available in the different models. You also want to be certain of what your needs and preferences are so the model you purchase has the features and/or functionality you need.

Having all of this information makes reading the product descriptions and even more importantly, understanding what they mean, much easier. You will know exactly what the devices offer that you are considering and will be able to make an informed decision that you will be pleased with on your rides.

Resources

  1. Eyeskey – http://www.eyeskey.com/
  2. Suunto – http://www.suunto.com/