BIKING

Best Bike Computer: Staying on Track

Best bike computers
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

Are your bike rides getting boring? Do you need to spice up your exercise routine somehow? Have you considered getting the best bike computer that you can find on the market, in order to change the way you feel about bike riding?

With the advent of GPS and running watches that have made it easier to track one’s progress while they exercise, there hasn’t been much in the way of devices for cyclists to use. Having a bicycle computer on your side can gather all of the data for you and ensure that you’ll have the means to gauge just how well you’re doing on each ride. The market has finally started to fill with different brand developers for bike computers, and choosing the right one might not be easy. That’s why we are here to help!

Your bike computer

With this article, you will learn all about the finest bike computer models, as we show you the most important features you should consider before buying one. We have also included reviews of the most wanted models on the market, so that you can choose the perfect model for your needs. Now, let’s jump right in!

Our top picks

Product NameWeightDimensionsLive TrackingSpecific FeaturesPrice
Garmin Edge 52011.2 oz6 x 6 x 2 inYesIn ride challenges, ANT+Check price on Amazon
Garmin Edge 8103.5 oz3.7 x 1 x 2 inYesSocial media sharing, weather updatesCheck price on Amazon
Lezyne Super5.12 oz6 x 2 x 9 inNoBluetooth, ANT+Check price on Amazon
Magellan 5054 oz7.7 x 5.4 x 2.6 inNoData recording, ANT+Check price on Amazon
Cateye Strada7.05 oz1 x 3 x 4 inNoLight, affordableCheck price on Amazon
Planet Bike Protege4.8 oz5.91 x 1.97 x 3.94 inNoLCD screen, lightCheck price on Amazon
Cateye Velo 74.16 oz1.9 x 3.2 x 4.3 inNoLarge LED screen, easy to useCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider Before Buying

When it comes to finding the best cycling computer, you may think they all work the same, but they don’t. Each manufacturer uses a different kind of sensor to record and provide you with the information that you’re looking for. They all work in different ways, with benefits and drawbacks that make some more suitable over others.

Recording your riding data is all well and good, but there are some features that can make all the difference for certain riders, especially those who want more versatility as they use their biking computers. Here are a few of the features you may want to consider when shopping for your cycling computer.

Sensor Type

Bike computers have different ways of collecting the data from your rides. Those ways include data sensors, and they can be:

Magnetic

A magnet is attached to a wheel spoke, which is rotated past a sensor on the front fork. The faster you go, the more it spins. In cases where cadence sensors are used, the magnet is attached to a crank arm while the sensor is attached to the rear stay.

Magnetic computer for bike

One great advantage of this is that it’s cheaper, so it’s perfect for those who are shopping on a budget. Magnet sensors also have a longer battery life, so there’s no need to replace the batteries often or to recharge them on a regular basis. One drawback, however, is that there is no GPS functionality, so you can’t see where you’ve been.

GPS

A satellite receiver is attached to the back in order to convert GPS signals into data. This allows for more data options, as it’s a more sophisticated piece of technology, and the information can be transferred over and saved to your computer.

That way, you have a way you can record and compare all of your rides in one place. Another great benefit is that it can be placed on any bicycle, so you can always have a record, no matter what vehicle you’re using.

In terms of disadvantages, GPS units tend to be a bit pricier, a little heavier, and they need charging on a regular basis so that the batteries don’t die in the middle of your ride.

Computer of bike

Magnetic sensors transmit data through a wire, which adds how cost-efficient they are, as well as making them much lighter. However, having a wire in the way means that there’s more to break, and they can sometimes get in the way while you ride.

Wired transmission also means that you can’t swap the sensor between different bikes. GPS sensors use wireless data, making them easier to install and have a cleaner look about them. They will add more weight to your bike, however.

There’s also the consideration of ANT+. This is only necessary if you intend to track your data through Strava, Training Peaks, or you’re working under a training coach.

This is because devices with ANT+ capabilities can track and record individual rides so that you can see just how well you’re doing and what areas you need to improve on. It’s really only beneficial for those who are interested in getting into competitive cycling.

Battery Life

Like every other electronic device, bike computers need electric current, meaning they need batteries. But, not all models have the same batteries and not all offer same working time.

Biking style

Look for rechargeable batteries with the longest run time. GPS units have a runtime of about twenty hours, while magnetic units can last for a couple of years. These are both comparable to using a cycling app on your smartphone, which may only last about five to eight hours.

Data Transfers

How do you want to get your data off of your cycling computer? Where do you want to store your data? Have you thought about that? Not all models offer the same types of data transfers and maybe the model you plan on buying uses type that is not convenient for you.

The more sophisticated models, make it easy for you to transfer the information that you need, either to their own software program or to any social fitness site you’re using to store your data. Just make sure you pick the model with the right type of data transfer.

Data Screens

Have you considered about how the computer will display the data? Will the one you choose offers the right type of data display, or will you have to get your eyes off the road if you want certain data to be displayed?

Bike computer in action

All of your data may be displayed on one screen, or you may have several screens you have to scroll through in order to see all your data. There may even be the option to customize your screens so that you’re only getting the data that you want to see.

Backlight

Cycling isn’t always done during the daytime, and you need some way of seeing your data without having to carry an extra flashlight with you. Backlit screens can make this possible when you’re riding in the evenings.

Bike computer

Furthermore, some models also offer the ability of adjusting the light volume. For example, if it’s too bright and makes focusing on the road in front of you hard, you can simply dim it down to the level that suits you.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Now that you know what to look for, here are a few products on the market that customers consider to be the best. This list may include some brands you’re not familiar with, or they don’t have all of the functionality that you’re looking for, but this list is designed to be a guide to help you find the right one that you’re looking for.

Garmin Edge 520 Bike ComputerGarmin Edge 520 Bike Computer

Price: Approx. $250

Weight: 11.2 oz

Dimensions: 6 x 6 x 2 in

Specific features: Provides in-ride challenges through the use of Strava life segments, tracks functional threshold power, cycling dynamics, and watts/kg

Best use: Biking, mountain biking

Description: With the purchase of the cycling Garmin Edge 520 Bike Computer, you’ll get the first two months of Strava Premium for free, and it’s the first cycling computer that’s compatible with their live segments.

Once you complete each segment, you’ll be presented with the current leader board so you can see where you rank against everyone else.

It can also be paired with a power meter or the Garmin app on your smart phone to provide you with even more data you can use to keep track of your times and distances. And the handy weather notifications keep you informed of the changes in the climate so that you’re not caught out in the rain.

This bike GPS also includes features such as live tracking, automatic uploads, notifications, sharing through social media, weather notifications, indoor and ANT+, plus a lot more!

PROS:

  • In ride challenges
  • Auto uploads
  • Live tracking

CONS:

  • Interface is complex
  • Buttons must be hard pressed
  • Start/Stop button is on the bottom

Related: The Mongoora Bike Phone Mount is a bike mount that is used for many phones and is affordable. You can rotate it 360 degrees and can choose your color. It also has a lifetime warranty.

Check the price on Amazon

Garmin Edge 810 GPS Bike ComputerGarmin Edge 810 GPS Bike Computer

Price: Approx. $500

Weight: 3.5 oz

Dimensions: 3.7 x 1 x 2 in

Specific features: Live tracking, instant uploading, ride-sharing capabilities, social sharing networks, weather updates, comprehensive data

Best use: Mountain biking, cycling

Description: With the added features of this cycling Garmin Edge 810 GPS Bike Computer, it’s a bit of a step up from the previous model. The screen is clear and easy to read, and the ability to customize it makes it a unique tool for each individual rider.

You can pore through and compare all your data, or you can focus only on the information that you want. It’s also one of the lighter models out there, so you won’t feel like your handlebars are being weighed down.

This cycling computer also allows you to pre-define up to ten different bikes so that you’re always getting accurate information, no matter what you’re riding on how you’re riding. Some of these categories include cross country, trail, race or road, just to name a few.

We love how easy it is to use!

PROS:

  • Live tracking
  • Heart rate monitor included
  • Easy to use touch screen

CONS:

  • Can freeze up
  • Interface seems clunky
  • USB can break

Related: The BV Bicycle Light Set is a great little set that has a headlight and a taillight. The headlight has 5 LED lights while the taillight has 3.

Check the price on Amazon

Lezyne Super GPS Bike ComputerLezyne Super GPS Bike Computer

Price: Approx. $140

Weight: 5.12 oz

Dimensions: 6 x 2 x 9 in

Specific features: Altimeter, heart rate monitor, Bluetooth, ANT+, measures cadence, lightweight, compact

Best use: Every day cycling, commuting with a bicycle

Description: If you’re looking for something that fits within your budget and is still lightweight, then the Lezyne Super GPS Bike Computer is the device for you. It’s simple enough for anyone to use, and it can transfer data easily onto your computer.

It does have some drawbacks, such as the lack of maps, there is no color screen, and it doesn’t record a wider spectrum of data, but it’s a good first biking computer for the casual cyclist.

Although it lacks a lot of the features that many of the other products on this list have, that can be seen as a bonus, as it’s easier to use and won’t confuse the cyclists with fancy data they don’t need. Users can even customize the screens and data that they see.

Overall, this is a great, affordable GPS for your bike, and it will make your cycling/fitness data collecting much easier, plus it will turn your rides into more interesting ones.

PROS:

  • Can be used with a heart rate monitor
  • Wireless
  • Speedometer and odometer

CONS:

  • Heart rate monitor not included
  • Inconsistent speed
  • Elastic bands can break

Related: The Acomfort Bike Rack is a bike rack that holds up to 110 lbs. It first nearly all bikes and costs under $30.

Check the price on Amazon

Magellan 505 GPS Cycle ComputerMagellan 505 GPS Cycle Computer

Price: Approx. $200

Weight: 4 oz

Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.4 x 2.6 in

Specific features: Provides info on cycling places of interest, provides complete USA road network, suggests different routes when entering distance and time criteria

Best use: Mountain biking, road trips with a bicycle

Description: This handy Magellan 505 GPS Cycle Computer is more colorful than you probably ever bargained for. The GPS maps are easy to read, showing clear details of where you’ve been, as well as providing color-coded graphs so you can track your progress.

When selecting a destination and inputting a time, the device will prove you with three different route options, along with information on their difficulty, amount of elevation, and the amount of unpaved road.

That way, you can take the best route that suits your riding style. It’s compatible with both Android smart phones and iPhones, allowing more users to benefit from this handy device.

Some of the other great features of this cycle computer include Bluetooth, ANT+, data recording (speed, cadence, heart rate), virtual sharing with other device users, large touch screen, connects to smart phone, and calling notifications so you will never miss a call.

PROS:

  • Surprise Me route feature
  • Shake-N-Share your route
  • Bluetooth capable

CONS:

  • Could stop holding a charge
  • Maps for USA only
  • Can freeze up

Related: If you are biking at night, the Oumers Bike Spoke Light can help others to see you. They fit right onto the bike spokes and cost under $10.

Check the price on Amazon

CatEye Strada Slim ComputerCatEye Strada Slim Computer

Price: Approx. $65

Weight: 7.05 oz

Dimensions: 1 x 3 x 4 in

Specific features: Lightweight, small, inexpensive, bright color

Best use: Biking, fitness data collection

Description: This is another non-GPS cycling CatEye Strada Slim Computer that has quite a large display for anyone to read. It’s a very affordable unit for those shopping on a budget, and provides the essential data that any casual cyclist would need.

It’s small, very lightweight, and has a wireless speed sensor so you won’t get tangled in any wires or suffer the risk of tearing the wire out. It records your speed, how long you’ve been biking for, and your total distance.

It doesn’t have any GPS functionality or much versatility, but for the price, it still has a lot of functionality.

You get your choices of black, red, or white colors and the screen offers a large display of your time and distance so you can see it well. While this cycle computer is fairly basic, we like it because there are no frills and gives you the basic information you need for a fair price.

PROS:

  • 3 color choices
  • Affordable
  • Slim design

CONS:

  • Sensor and receiver have to be within 60 cm of each other
  • Battery can be dead upon purchase
  • Can lose signal while riding

Related: The Joy Colorful Bicycle Bag is a bag that will hold a few accessories and has a clear pouch for your phone or cycling computer so you can use it in the rain.

Check the price on Amazon

Planet Bike Protege Bike ComputerPlanet Bike Protege Bike Computer

Price: Approx. $35

Weight: 4.8 oz

Dimensions: 5.91 x 1.97 x 3.94 in

Specific features: Provides essential data (speed, speed comparator, ride time, distance, average speed, max speed, clock, temperature, odometer), universal bracket for any bicycle, displays 5 pieces of data at once on an LCD screen

Best use: Biking, mountain biking

Description: Another affordable device, this cycling Planet Bike Protege Bike Computer has a lot of functionality for its price. It has a large LED screen that allows you to see up to five pieces of data at once, so you can see just how well you’re doing. It’s light and small, so it won’t weigh down or take over the space on your handlebars.

Despite its ease of use, it’s not very easy to set up initially. You’ll require something small to set up all the different features, such as your wheel size and miles, and that could be too much of a hassle for some people.

On the plus side, it is wireless, so you don’t have to fiddle with the hassle of a wire getting in the way. It mounts very easily to the handlebars, but does require a little bit of force to remove, so it’s advised that you be careful.

PROS:

  • 4 line display
  • Show temperature
  • Fits up to 31.8 mm handlebars

CONS:

  • Odometer can stop working
  • Temperature can be off
  • Mode button can quit working

Related: The Lycaon Bike Bell is a cool little bell you can attach to your bike. It has a loud ring and comes in many colors.

Check the price on Amazon

CatEye Velo 7 Bicycle ComputerCatEye Velo 7 Bicycle Computer

Price: Approx. $25

Weight: 4.16 oz

Dimensions: 1.9 x 3.2 x 4.3 in

Specific Features: Speedometer, easy installation, elapsed time, clock, large LED screen, affordable, very easy to use

Best use: Mountain biking, regular every day city cycling

Description: If minimalist is your style, the CatEye Velo 7 Bicycle Computer is the cycling computer for you. It’s super cheap, so if something happens to it the first time, it won’t cost too much to replace. You won’t have to worry about that, however, as this tiny device is quite durable.

It’s easy to set up on your handle bars, and you won’t have a hard time reading the large display screen. It has no GPS capabilities, and it does have a wired sensor, so you have to take special care of it while you ride.

However, it does it’s best to save on power: it turns on automatically when it sense movement, and then goes into power saving mode after ten minutes of inactivity. Installation is made a little more tedious with the use of the wired sensor, but you’ll get reliable data once you’re all done.

PROS:

  • Affordable
  • Wired sensor
  • Long battery life

CONS:

  • Hard to get on some bikes
  • Speedometer can malfunction

Related: The Ushake Water Bottle Cage is great when you take a bottle of water while you bike. Under $10, this 2 pack is made of aluminum alloy and is light.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

Having your own cycling computer can keep you abreast of your progress and show you just how well you’re doing. Going out for a casual ride? You can see just how far you’ve gone and compare it to your previous ride. Training for a race?

These handy devices can help you with that too, so you can ensure that you’re always improving. Even if you’re not itching to get that best time or go the farthest distance, it’s still interesting to see just what you’re capable of.

Choose your bike computer

If you’ve purchased any of these products before and have a story to share with us, please leave a comment below. Alternatively, if there’s a product not on this list that you’ve had great experiences with, please share those with us too. We’d love to hear from you and see what other great cycling computers we’ve missed out on

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Lee Williamson

    Couldn’t be happier with my Magellan 505. It has all the features and stats you could possibly need and displays them all on a vivid colour screen. I particularly like the ‘Surprise Me’ feature. Just put in the distance you want to cycle – or for how long – and the GPS throws out three ‘surprise’ routes for you to choose from. It’s a nice fun way to discover new rides. Convinced my brother and cousin to get one too. They’re both big Garmin fans, so it was a hard sell, but I think I’ve converted them!

  • Daniel Carraway

    When you talk of GPS, then that’s also synonymous with Garmin. I love this brand and no wonder there’s a lot of people who are also taken with it. The interface is clear and overall, it’s so user-friendly and easy to use.

  • Richard Taylor

    Can’t be doing with the complexities of Garmin and the like. I prefer a simpler, minimalistic bike computer, hence why I went for the Cateye Velo 7. It’s both easy to mount on the bike and easy to set up once mounted. It has all the statistics I’d like to see (distance, average speed, clock, speedometer and an odometer) without having to cycle through endless others to reach them. Whilst the other computers are no doubt impressive and would appeal to a lot of cyclists, I’m very happy with the one-button simplicity of the Cateye.

  • Daniel Carraway

    Good choice! As long as it fits your requirements, then that’s the best gadget for you. Glad to be of help since you’ve found out what you needed. The Cateye has a simple interface, but it gets the job done.

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