The craft and hobby of bicycling is one that is, by nature, pretty complicated. From selecting specific tires to body frames all the way to handlebar types, there is a choice to be made. However, once you make it past those choices you will be staring down the final points of customization: the bike computer.
The bike computer, otherwise known as the cyclo computer or cycling computer, is a device that mounts directly to a bicycle in order to transmit information to the rider. These are very popular on bicycles for riders that want to get the most out of their time on the road. So in order to find out if you fit the bill, let’s take a look at what these machines can really do and so you can select the best cycling computer for you.
Mudder Wireless Bike Computer
This bike computer, by Mudder, comes designed with 22 functions to help keep you on top of your game. Whether you need to know your speed, the distance you’ve traveled, or any other of the 20 extra functions–Mudder will keep you in shape. Waterproof design and a clear well-lit LED display will keep you up to date on all the info you need even when the weather doesn’t want to cooperate. This device is easy to install as well, with no excess wires running up your frame.
CatEye Velo 7 Bike Computer
CatEye is one of the leading producers of bicycle computers for hobbyists and elite riders alike. Their Velo 7 combines the ease of a simple bicycle computer with the powerful functions that passionate riders need. You can keep up to date on your average and max speed, your trip distance, your time, and your overall odometer. For under $20, you can’t beat this well-oiled machine.
Schwinn 20 Function Bike Computer
Schwinn is a name that even passing bicycle fans will understand. Their 20 function computer is backlit and fits tightly onto your handlebars. For just over $12 you will find yourself with a bike computer that inundates you with over 20 features. While it is not GPS activated, it does give you some pretty nifty information. You will have a calorie burning counter alongside all of the traditional speed and distance information that you need to know.
Garmin Edge 200 GPS Enabled Bike Computer
When simply knowing isn’t enough, opt for Garmin. This bike computer is GPS enabled to give you the latest and most accurate information while you ride. You don’t have to do any setup work. All you need to do is attach it to your bike and turn it on. Make sure to keep it charged and out of the weather and you will have the world of satellites alongside you as you ride. Pricier than the other options but almost infinitely more powerful.
Bell F20 Cyclocomputer
Bell makes slick devices that work. Rather than overloading you with promises, Bell would rather put something in your hands that functions. The F20 cyclo computer gives you an easy to install, weather-resistant, device that runs on a single battery for the hobbyist rider, there is no better option.
How do best bike computers function?
Before we turn this into a guide on selecting your first bike computer, we should at least have a firm understanding of how they work. Bike computers are not mere digital devices that are strapped to your handlebars as they have a little more going on than that. There are two important technical points that we need to confer.
1. Magnetic Sensing Ability
The magnetic sensing bike computer uses a reed switch attached to the front fork and a magnet attached to your wheel spoke. There is also a cadence sensor which has the seating placed on the rear stay and crank arm instead.
Basically, what this type of sensor does is give you a device that will stay charged longer and not run on any advanced digital technology. The downside, and it is a big one for some riders, is that there is no GPS.
2. GPS Sensing Ability
The second, and more popular style of the bike computer, is made around a GPS device. This device is strapped on to your bike handles. Information is beamed down from GPS satellites and then transferred to your monitor in front of you.
The information you receive is super flexible in that it can be then shipped off to a personal computer for record keeping. The downside is that these units are more expensive and often need to be recharged.
What can a bike computer do for me?
Now that we know how these computers work, in a roundabout way, we need to assess if they are something that will benefit us. In terms of information seeking, bike computers can offer riders unparalleled information.
A glance at the computer display will show you such important information such as how far you have cycled, what elevation you are currently at, what grade of incline you are riding, and so much more!
As we briefly discussed above, the different type of sensors will provide you with different kind of data. If you opt for the cheaper magnetic sensor then you will not be privy to the information that GPS-fueled devices can offer you
A magnetic sensing bike computer won’t have ready access to the weather nor will it be able to compile the data it records for analyzing on other devices. If these two devices seem too different to pick correctly, move on to the next step.
Assess what kind of rider you are.
A hobbyist basketball player shouldn’t drop $500 on a pair of Jordan’s when all they are going to do is scuff them up on the blacktop. A cycling hobbyist shouldn’t drop a ton of money on a bike computer that will give them more data than they want or need. Like in all commercial life situations, assess yourself before assessing the product.
1. Casual Rider
For a casual rider, you won’t need a bike computer that gives you super in-depth metrics. Typically you will want something that will churn out your distance, speed, and time. You want to know how fast you went, how long you rode, and how far you got. For a casual rider, the computer and bike should be simple and cheap.
2. Bike Enthusiast
If you are the kind of cyclist that needs to know just about everything, then opt for a device that gives you, even more, information. You will want to know your average and maximum speeds, have a running odometer, and so much more.
3. Competitive Biker
If you are the type of cyclist that plans to compete or ride seriously for a passion then you need all the information available. You can get bike monitors that offer you elevation metrics, heart rate analytics, and much much more.
Remember, the only way to get the product that you need is by knowing what you really are going to be doing with it. So use these guidelines above to accurately assess the style of riding that you plan to do. If you want to go out and ride four days a week for hours at a time then your needs will be different than those that plan to ride only once or twice a month.