First of all, what you should expect for a bike computer is a tool that will basically measure: speed, distance and time. From there, features vary a lot: multiple measurement units, heart rate, cadence…the list never ends! And the second most important thing, the way they deliver the information. There are 2 main types of sensors: MAGNETIC (magnet attached to a wheel spoke, which rotates past a sensor attached to the front fork) and GPS (uses a satellite receiver to convert GPS signals into ride data)
In order to choose the bike computer that will fit you best, you should know how you will use it. We have split bike riders into 3 categories:
BIKER LOVERS: if your perfect weekend will start with a morning cycling to get out of the city and enjoy the countryside and beautiful mountain landscapes, you belong to this category. Whether you like to ride solo, with family or friends, you cannot spend a week without practicing this sport, and if you do, you feel like something’s wrong! You are missing the adrenaline of the biking. In this case, you might wonder the above + your average speed, maximum speed or total odometer among a few features.
COMPETITIVE RIDERS: the category explains itself. You train for race competitions. You want to know your cadence, heart rate, elevation gained.
Following this category division, we can split into similar categories the type of bike computer you might want to acquire, depending on your needs.
FOR ENTRY LEVEL RIDERS
You enjoy cycling, it has become a new part of yourself, but you are still discovering it. The most appropriate bike computer for you will be an entry level one. These are the most basic units, and the smallest, lightest and with more long lasting batteries. These kind of bike computers will tell you how far you’ve gone, how fast you went and how long did it take you. For an entry level, we believe that it is more than enough. They are the cheapest in the market and what will fit you best. In the future, as you get more familiarized, you can upgrade to a complete model.
Within the entry level, you can have a more basic model, with a wired transmission, or if you want something a little bit more advance, you can get the wireless version. There are a few pros and cons.
- The wired ones will avoid transmission interference with nearby riders, while the wireless can suffer from it in specific conditions.
- The moment you start to add sensors and features, the wired ones will look messy. On the other side, if you go for wireless, you will always have a neat feeling on your bike.
- Water Resistant
- 2 unit measurement
- 2 users data recording
- Average/maximum speed, DST and DTM
- Backlit screen with large and easy-to-read data
- Speedometer and odometer
- Low battery indicator, calories counter, temperature detection, stopwatch and time recording
FOR BIKE LOVERS: you cycle a lot and you like to keep track of your activity and progress. You need more precision. Cadence (which is the rate at which a cyclist is pedaling/turning the pedals per minute, like the RPM of a car), is one of the important features for you. From there, you can look for as many more features as you’d like your bike computer to have. For instance, you might want as well share your activity on platforms such as Strava. In this case, you will need to swipe from the magnetic sensor to GPS. It will not only allow you to transfer the information to your phone/ Strava account, but it is also useful if you plan to swap it out and put it into different bikes, as the GPS system doesn’t require you to remove the sensors and magnets and to install them again on your other bike. If you are not interested in the GPS function, which is more advanced, but more expensive (technology comes at a price), you should focus on CADENCE (plus all the previous features of entry level bike computers).
FOR COMPETITIVE RIDERS: you have a very specific training routine and you want to check improvement in all possible areas to achieve your weekly objectives. You have to get to the race day on point, at 120% of your possibilities. You are most likely looking for a GPS bike computer that can give you the real-time map to easily locate you, as well as the summary of all your activity to compare from training to training. 2 important features that you cannot forget about when choosing your bike computer: heart rate and elevation gain. Other features you can consider are Estimated VO2 Max, Recovery Advisor, Bluetooth options, great mapping and data analysis, while it remains compact, light and with a sleek design.
ALTERNATIVE TO THE BIKE COMPUTERS
If you are now wondering whether you could use your Smartphone instead of a bike computer, the answer is yes, you can, but, read below to fully know the disadvantages of it.
There are nowadays many free apps for Android and IOS that can transform your phone into a cycling computer. However, there are a few reasons why, if you are considering a bike computer, you should rather go for it, instead of using your phone.
First of all, your phone, as advanced as it is, it won’t be a dedicated GPS device. Phones use Assisted GPS. The main difference is that phones are less accurate than the bike computers because they will need cell service of Wi-Fi to work and charge the map. If you really want to use your phone, you could always buy downloadable maps for your phone, but we still believe that it is better you buy a separate bike computer.
The other reason would be the battery life. Your phone will literary run out of battery in no time, as apps like Strava will drain the life out of your phone in a couple of hours.
A great and affordable choice is the Enkeeo Bike Phone Mount, which features 2.2-3.5 inches clamp to fit most of the existing phones out in the market. Its grip with rubbers will tightly secure your phone while leaving no scratches on your beloved bike!