How To Choose A Bike Computer – THE ULTIMATE GUIDE

As a cyclist, data is important if you want to improve. With the correct metrics, you can track all your performance data and improve your overall cycling capabilities. However, the bike computer is far more sophisticated and with newer models, they become even more important. You must understand how to choose a bike computer.

A good bike computer is a perfect option for those who are serious about cycling. They have a cycling-specific interface and offer all the metrics you will need. If you combine this with a GPS-enabled fitness tracker, you can even track your routes. Much like the dashboard on your vehicle, the bike computer is the dashboard for your bike.

Since it can be a complicated topic and beginners are often unsure about what they need to look for, you must make sure you understand these bike computers. We have done some digging to help you find all the information you would need to ensure that you have the optimal bike computer for your needs.

How To Choose A Bike Computer

Why You Might Need A Bike Computer

The bike computer can be expensive, especially some of the modern versions on the market. Before you make this investment, you need to understand whether you need one of these computers. The following reasons make a compelling argument that could sway you to choose the bike computer for your bike needs.

Data Capturing

You want to capture as much data as you possibly can when you are cycling. While this is not as important for the casual rider, those with more ambitious prospects might want to improve. The bike computer is designed to measure the cadence of the bike and speed. It will help you track weaknesses in your cycling ability and show you the strengths.

Power Tracking

If you have ever spent some time watching competitions like the Tour De France, you might have heard of the word power being used to describe some of the functionality of the riders. Modern bike computers can track your power output. This will help you understand how power is transferred from your pedals to the speed of the bike.

GPS Tracking

While not all bikes have access to GPS tracking with their computers, many of the modern versions will act similar to the dashboard on your motor vehicle, Having GPS tracking can reveal things like the incline gradients you are dealing with. Additionally, it can also give you an idea of distance and when you might need to push.

Garmin Edge 530 with Navigation
Garmin Edge 530 with Navigation

Convenience

One of the most important reasons that people might consider the bike computer is the convenience. While you can find hundreds of computers and applications for your mobile device, it does not allow you to check while riding. The bike computer offers exceptional convenience to make traveling easier and allows you to constantly check your data.

Keep in mind that not all computers are the same and you will need to dole out a few bucks more for some of the high-end options on the market today.

How To Choose A Bike Computer – Most Important Features To Consider

Every cyclist might have different needs and this means that one bike computer does not fit all. If you are just starting, you might get away with a cheaper computer that only tracks some of the basic features. However, the more advanced riders might need more data to work with. Here are some of the most important features to consider before buying a new bike computer:

Screen

One of the most important features that people often neglect is the screen. The screen will depend on your size and the larger your screen, the easier it is to see the data when you are traveling. You don’t want an oversized screen, as this could be heavy and bulky on your bike. The standard 3-5 inch screens will often work wonders.

Bike Computer screen size
Bike Computer screen size

When looking at the screen, we should also take into account the navigation of the screen. You might want a touchscreen device that makes operating the screen easier. This will allow you to navigate to the preferred settings while riding at a significant speed. The touchscreen feature is one that many people often overlook. 

Battery Life

The bike computer is something that needs a battery to operate. When you are traveling, it does not connect to any specific power source and this means that your battery life is important to ensure you don’t run out of battery while you are riding. You would want a device with a good battery life of around 20 hours, which includes the use of GPS features.

GPS Technology

Many cheaper bike computers, especially some of the older models are not equipped with GPS features. The purpose of the first bike computers was only to help track data and ensure a rider knows how they are doing. Modern bike computers feature GPS technology that makes them great at tracking distance and overall time.

Garmin is one of the leading brands when it comes to GPS technology and this makes their devices some of the very best on the market today. If you are looking for a high-end option, you should certainly consider the Garmin Bike Computer. It has incredibly accurate data tracking and they certainly lead the world in GPS tech.

Connectivity

Many people neglect to look at the connectivity of the bike computer and this could be a mistake. Bike computers can be complete, but if you want to monitor things like power output and cadence, you might need additional applications to be more accurate and complete when it comes to monitoring and tracking your data.

Bike Computer connectivity (Sigma ROX 4.0)
Bike Computer connectivity (Sigma ROX 4.0)

You should consider whether your device can integrate third-party applications. Some of the top brands will help you with text-based apps and other features that include safety applications. Ideally, you would also want to consider the overall functionality of the bike computer to enable you to add everything you need to make it operational.

Brands

One big decision you might want to make when buying a new bike computer is the brand you choose. There are a variety of brands and when you check any online store, you might find brands you have never heard of. It is best to stick to reliable brands. The following brands are some of the best brands you could choose:

  • Garmin: Garmin is one of the best brands on the market today. The manufacturer includes the best GPS technology and their devices have great accessibility to third-party applications.
  • Wahoo: Wahoo is a brand many people have never heard of. They are slightly cheaper than Garmin and feature some incredible designs.
  • Cateye: Cateye is one of the cheapest brands on the market today. These computers are black and white and they can track all the basics.

If you want a good high-end bike computer and you don’t want to pay the prices demanded by Wahoo and Garmin, there are a few other brands to consider. Lezyne, Bryton, or Sigma will be excellent options and they often have a color screen display. Unfortunately, they might not have all the exact features of the top two brands.

Durability

One feature often overlooked is durability. Cycling is a sport you can do year-round and you want a bike computer that can also live up to expectations. Having a water-resistant bike computer is imperative. We would recommend looking for an IPX7 rating for water resistance, which would mean it can be submerged in one meter of water for up to 30-minutes.

Durability and water resistant
Durability and water resistant

Additional Features

While these are some of the main features that bike computers should have or try to incorporate, there are a few additional features that could have an impact on the quality of your bike computer. The following features will be a great addition and you will need to incorporate them if you are looking for the best:

  • Weight: You don’t want a bike computer that is too big or too heavy. Most bike computers weigh between 60g and 130g. Depending on your performance and your purpose, you would want to keep the weight as low as possible.
  • Storage: Having internal storage allows you to store track routes and other important data. It is one of the best features for those that want to keep track of their metrics and ensure they improve.
  • Bike-Specific Metrics: Numerous metrics can often be great, but road cyclists and mountain bike riders might need different metrics. You should check whether you can convert or even program the bike computer for the specific journey and bike you have.
  • Smartphone Connectivity: With the new modern bike computers, you can readily find one with smartphone connectivity. This enables you to track all the data on your mobile device while receiving notifications from your mobile device.
  • Suggested Training Programs: Finally, the new feature that Garmin has integrated helps riders a lot. The suggested training programs will help you work out and give you metrics of pacing and other features.

Numerous additional features can be added through third-party integration. You should make sure the bike computer you choose can integrate these specifications. The better you integrate these specifications, the more your bike computer should be tuned to your own needs. Garmin is one of the best brands for these additions.

Mountain Bike Computer Vs. Road Bike Computer

One of the big questions we often face when it comes to features is understanding the features of the mountain bike and road bike computers respectively. Interestingly, you might not need all the same features in the mountain bike computer as you would for a road bike competition. However, we have identified some of the important features of each.

Mountain Bike Computer

The mountain bike computer is designed to be more durable and resilient. You want to make sure that it can endure the struggles of tough terrains and the weather. It might not have to give you the cadence figures, but you will need some form of GPS to assist in the distance traveled and the direction you are traveling. Here are the key features to consider.

  • Durability: Essentially, you will be taking on tough terrains, including gravel and other bumpy roads that could put significant strain on the computer. You want something with the maximum level of durability.
  • GPS: The GPS will be one of the main features you want in your bike computer. A good GPS will ensure that you can track the distance and the direction of travel. Those riding in the backcountry should enjoy the directions.
  • Speedometer: If you end up going downhill, it could be very dangerous and the speedometer will give you an idea of the speeds you attain. You want to remain in control of the bike and with speed monitoring, it should be easier.
  • Easy To Use: The display is often a feature people overlook. However, if you have been doing off-road trails, you might find that it is bumpy and will negatively affect your ability to use the computer. Having a touchscreen interface will make it much easier to navigate through the settings and features.
  • Battery Life: Unless you are riding on trails you have experience with, you might want to have a good battery life to prevent you from getting lost. Unfortunately, it is so easy to get lost with the wrong computer. 

Depending on your skills as a rider and the competition level you enter, you might need some more features. However, these are some of the basic features and you might often find the best use for your computer with these features.

Road Bike Computer

When it comes to the road bike computer, things tend to get more interesting. Road bike cycling stages are often longer and the competition is fierce. You could find yourself fighting in the mountains, or beating your opponent in an outright sprint. Here are some of the crucial features that road bike riders might need in their bike computer:

  • Power And Cadence: The power output is vital since it can be kept at a consistent level with your road bike. The more consistent you keep your power output, the less energy you will drain. It can also help to understand your power output when attacking. It is important to have access to the cadence and power output.
  • Calories: Energy expenditure is one of the most important things when it comes to road races. Since the races tend to be close to 200km, the rider should always be in control of energy consumption. Tracking your calories is one of the best ways to do it.
  • Speedometer: Once again, we have to look at the speedometer as an important part of the road bike. You will also be monitoring your speed and when you enter the final sprint, speed is important for the sprinters. The speedometer will be extremely valuable.
  • Weight: One of the most important features will be weight. The more weight you carry with your bike, the more energy is expended when riding. Professional road riders will want to keep their weight as low as possible to ensure they keep their energy expenditure in check.
  • Training Metrics: One of the most important parts of your bike computer is having a basic understanding of the overall metrics of the bike. You might need to fine-tune some of the specs to get the best performance.

The road bike can be slightly more complicated when it comes to the computer. While it is not as technical as the mountain bike, you want to look at the road bike computer in more detail. We would often recommend looking at some of the top-of-the-range options. It should help you in the end.

Benefits Of A Bike Computer

If you want to improve your cycling, the bike computer is the best way to track and monitor your data. These computers offer some excellent features and you should understand some of these benefits. If you buy a bike computer, the following benefits can be expected:

  • Data Tracking: One of the most important benefits is tracking your data. Once you have the data, you can use it as a reference point. The reference point can be used to improve and you will notice a performance improvement.
  • Navigation: If you have a tendency to get lost or you want to track your performance on a specific route or distance, the navigation makes it possible to track all these stats and information.
  • Training Peaks: if you are to figure out where you are the best and where you could be losing performance, the graph from these computers will enable you to check.

The combination of these features will lead to an improvement in performance and you should notice that with better accuracy, your performance will increase significantly. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Buying a bike computer is not that complicated when you know what you want and which features you need. There are hundreds of these computers from different brands and they all offer some value for your money. However, there are still a few unanswered questions that many people might have:

Are Bike Computers Worth It?

For a casual rider, the bike computer might not be worth it. However, professional riders might find plenty of useful features when choosing one of these options. They are designed for those who want progressive improvement.

Which Bike Computer Is The Best?

All these bike computers serve different purposes and they should all offer you great value for your money. However, the Garmin Edge® 1030 Plus GPS Cycling/Bike Computer is one of the top options on the market today. It should accommodate road cyclists and mountain bikers. This computer will offer you excellent value.

How Long Does A Bike Computer Last?

The bike computer can be one of the best assets. Fortunately, manufacturers do not design new bike computers each year, but occasionally, you might find a new release with great features. It could take some time to develop these new features, which means that if you buy one of the best models now, it should last you a couple of years.

We would recommend looking at the best models available to ensure you have all the metrics needed for a specific task. The top Garmin options offer a variety of features and they are often used in competitions like the Tour de France.

Which Bike Computer Brand Is The Best?

There are hundreds of brands on the market today. Each bike computer brand will have a variety of features. However, Wahoo and Garmin tend to be some of the best brands with the best features. Garmin is the leader of the pack when it comes to GPS technology and Wahoo tries to add the same features for slightly cheaper.

If you have the funds, we would recommend considering Garmin as the leading brand and buying one of their top bike computers.

How To Choose A Bike Computer Summary

A bike computer might seem like an expensive investment, but if you want to be the best, you might want to have the best technology to help you. Having a good bike computer will ensure you get all the information you need. We would love to see some of your comments and want you to let us know in the comment section if we missed any of your favorites.

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