How to Choose Bicycle Computer & Speedometer | Buyers Guide 2022
Bike computer is a great way to keep track of your riding data and record it for future use. This amazing bike accessory not only monitors your speed, distance, and time but also provides you the flexibility to connect your bike sensors to give you additional info about your riding techniques.
Because of its amazing benefits, if you want to install a bike computer but don’t have enough idea about this accessory, then we are here for you.
We are saying this because, in this article "how to choose bicycle computer", we have discussed the nitty-gritty to assist you in understanding every aspect of this device and helping you to find the best one according to your needs.
How to Choose Bicycle Computer: Everything You Should Know
- How to Choose Bicycle Computer: Everything You Should Know
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Which Type is More Accurate?
- Do I Need Cadence and Speed Sensor?
- Can I Sync the Bike Computer to My Smartphone to View My Training Data?
- How Do I Sync My Rides to Strava?
- Can I Use a Bike Computer on an Indoor Trainer?
- If My Battery Dies, Do I Lose My Ride Data?
- My Bike Computer Doesn’t Work Anymore. What’s Wrong with It?
- Wrapping Up
Benefits of Riding a Bicycle with a Computer. Why You Need a Cycling GPS?
Even though the concept of having a cycle with a computer might seem a bit unrealistic to many, you cannot deny the fact that this computer offers a set of extraordinary benefits to the riders when they are on the road.
Some of the most notable benefits of riding a bike with a computer are:
Keeps your Smartphone Safe
One of the reasons you use your smartphone while biking is to use different fitness apps or listen to music or just keep track of the time. But when you have a computer on the bike, it eliminates the need to use a smartphone and helps you keep it safe in your pocket or bag.
Moreover, because your smartphone remains safe and sound, you can also use it in case of any emergencies without any difficulties.
Won’t Drain Your Smartphone Battery
Another benefit is that it doesn’t use up your smartphone's power.
As you are not using the phone for any additional purposes, its battery doesn’t drain as quickly, and therefore, the charge remains intact for any emergency purposes.
Offers a Handful of functions for Bicycling
To make your riding more enjoyable and effective, bicycle computer often come with basic cycling functions like measuring distance, time, and speed so that you can always know how efficient your ride was.
Depending on the bike's price and model, these also offer more advanced functions like temperature, heart rate measurement, and calorie burn to make your cycling session even better. Now that you know the different benefits of a cycling computer let’s discuss why you need a bike GPS while riding your bicycle.
When you are riding a bike and have a GPS, the GPS helps the bicycle computer measure your speed in real-time without attaching a magnet to the spoke and a sensor to the fork leg.
The GPS can also record the routes you have ridden to help you plan your next session easily.
How Does a Bicycle Computer Work?
The mechanism of a bicycle computer is super easy and simple. It uses three components: a magnet, a sensor, and the processing unit to successfully collect and show your cycling data.
While the speed sensor is mounted on the front fork of the cycle, the magnet is attached to a spoke on the front wheel to track data precisely. The magnet passes in front of the sensor and uses that information to read other data.
The sensor can be both wired or wireless; however, the process of reading data is the same. On the other hand, GPS computer use GPS information to measure your cycling data.
Types of Data Devices
You can use several types of devices to read your cycling data. Some of the most common devices that you can use are:
Don’t get confused by the name; a bicycle computer is a sport-specific device that is mounted on your bike to track your riding data.
It is more preferable with riders because this is compact, waterproof, and stays put on the bike no matter how intense you ride.
Moreover, this accessory is less likely to get damaged even when you get involved in an accident.
When you don’t have a cycling computer yet, you still want to count your riding data; you can always use your GPS sports watch instead.
Mount your GPS watch with the bike mode on the handlebars using an adopter and track your data effortlessly. The benefit of using your watch as a fitness monitor is that it enables you to use it for various activities.
However, using your expensive watch as a fitness monitor exposes it to damage and might destroy it altogether.
You can also use your GPS-enabled smartphone to run a cycling app and keep track of your riding data. Even though this might seem a very good idea, the reality is far different.
Mounting your phone on the bike is not convenient. It might slip off easily, causing the phone to break. Moreover, as your phone screen is always on, the battery runs out super quickly, causing the phone to die sooner than later.
Types of Bicycle Computer
Similar to other bike accessories, bicycle computer also comes in different types so that you have the flexibility to choose the one according to your needs and preferences.
As the name suggests, the analog cycling computer doesn’t have any digital features. It shows different cycling metrics in an analog form, much like how time is shown on a classic watch.
It is not easy to read and bike riders often find it difficult to understand their progress data. Even though this type of analog bike speedometer was once super popular, they now take up a very small percentage of the market.
This is not convenient and user-friendly- it is expensive, bulky, and less functional than its digital counterparts.
Basic Wired and Wireless
Basic wired or wireless computer are the most popular ones available in the market right now. These computers gained such popularity and are used by most riders because they provide more functions and convenience than analog ones.
These tiny computer usually track cycling data like speed, average speed, max speed, distance, time, and odometer. Some advanced models can also monitor your heart rate and calories burnt for more convenience.
GPS (with ANT+) Enabled Computer
GPS (with ANT+) enabled cycle computer mostly the high-end ones and are intended for pro riders and expert cycling enthusiasts.
The main advantage of this type of bicycle computer is that it used GPS to track your route not to get lost while riding. They can also be used to pair up your cycle with apps like Strava and compare your time to other riders and get motivated.
Additionally, as these computers are ANT+ compatible, they can be linked to external cycling gadgets more fun and convenient.
Many riders prefer to use their smartphone to track their different cycling data. While it is an easier way, using a smartphone comes with its own set of drawbacks.
Even though your smartphone can store a handful of fitness apps to make your cycling even more enjoyable, it has a short battery life and might die on you before you finish the riding.
Moreover, to use a phone on the bike, you need to buy additional components like a bike mount and a waterproof casing, which might increase your overall cost.
Types of Sensors
Cycling computer uses different types of sensors to collect your riding data. We have explained these sensors in detail to understand how they work and which is better for you.
Magnetic sensors are one of the most popular sensors used in bicycle computers. This is because they are generally cheaper, have longer battery life, and eliminate the need to recharge the computer regularly.
A magnet is attached to the wheel spoke that rotates past a sensor attached to the front fork to collect your cycling data in a magnetic sensor system. One drawback of this sensor is that it doesn’t offer any GPS functionality.
GPS sensors are becoming more popular with each passing day because of the services and the high-end vibe they provide.
It uses a satellite receiver to convert GPS signals into ride data and provides more options to make it more effective. GPS computers can easily be transferred from one bike to another without much hassle.
However, these are heavier, need regular recharging, and are mostly on the high-end side.
Types of Data Transmission
In addition to choosing the type of sensors, you also have the flexibility to choose the type of data transmission you want for your bicycle computer. You can choose from either of the below according to your budget and preference.
The wired bicycle computer uses a magnetic sensor with a wire to transmit the bike's necessary signals to the display unit. It is popular among riders because wired bike computer relatively cheaper, simpler, and lighter. But this has some disadvantages that make it unflattering to many bikers.
The most prominent drawback is that the transmission wire can often get caught and rip out, imposing the riders to a higher risk of accidents.
In a wireless, the signal is transmitted to the display monitor using a magnetic sensor with a signal transmitter.
They are getting more popular among riders because the wireless computer is GPS-friendly and, as no wire is involved, they are extremely safe. However, to use a wireless computer on your bike, you have to count a handsome amount of money.
Features Should You Know About Bicycle GPS
There are some important features that you must know about a bike GPS before buying one. Knowing these features would help you to find the best one without any difficulties.
Screen, User Interface
One of the most important parts of a bike GPS is its screen and the user interface it offers to the users. If the screen is not big and clear enough, how will the riders interpret their data?
Manufacturers offer both black and white and color screens to provide choices to their customers.
While the black and white screens are classic and more budget-friendly, the color screens can make your navigation much easier by making streets and points of interest more visible and easily identifiable.
On the other hand, touchscreen displays can make using the computer much easier. With just a few touches, you can set your route or visit other functions effortlessly to enjoy the best from the computer.
Rear Wheel Sensor
Another important part is the rear sensor. This advanced sensor is attached to the rear wheel of a bike frame to detect magnet movement.
When the magnet passes once per rotation of the wheel, this intelligent sensor detects it successfully. It helps the computer to track the distance you have traveled by counting the number of rotations of the wheel. This sensor can also calculate your speed from a distance against the lapsed period.
A bike with a GPS-enabled computer is very helpful, especially for the ones that are professional or have a particular goal to achieve. This advanced cycling computer will also help you to set pace alerts to make your riding even more effective. The pace alert allows you to set the pace you want for your cycling and alerts you when you are not in your set range.
Multiple data screens for Speed
Most bicycle computers will provide you data on speed averages and maximum speed while you ride. To view this data conveniently, you will need a display screen supporting and protecting multiple data in a single monitor easily.
Bluetooth and ANT+
Nowadays many bicycle computers come with Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity for pinpoint accuracy. ANT+ is an open-access platform used by many GPS-enabled bike computers to increase the connectivity of their devices.
This advanced technology helps you to connect your cycle computer with a speed sensor, a heart rate monitor, a cadence sensor, and a power meter so that you can monitor your ride date in real-time.
Similarly, Bluetooth connectivity acts as a communication path between these sensors and your cycle computer's monitor. The advantage of using Bluetooth over ANT+ is that Bluetooth is a common technology in smartphones and hence, it can transfer data easily.
Besides precise accuracy, this connectivity is also important if you want to use the bike computer on an indoor bicycle trainer.
An integrated clock helps you to keep track of your time. It is a super convenient feature and eliminates the need to look at your watch or smartphone to see the time frequently.
Heart rate/pulse monitor
Many advanced, high-end cycling computers now come with a heart rate monitoring system to track your pulse rate during the riding.
If you want to enjoy this feature and measure your heart rate in real-time and record it for later fitness training, choose a device with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity.
Similar to the heart rate monitor system, some advanced models also offer a calorie counter to count the total calories used from the start of your ride.
This advanced counting system will give you real-time statistics about your calorie consumption and a total at the end of your riding session.
If you are not using a wireless computer, the mini USB could be useful for you. This aspect of the device helps you to transfer data from the bike to other devices easily.
Moreover, with the help of a USB port, you can also recharge the battery effortlessly.
A stopwatch is a great addition, especially if you want to train on the bike. This will help you to time yourself on a certain section.
Even though it might not seem to be an important aspect, a backlight feature promises to offer additional convenience to the riders, especially if you are riding at night.
A backlight speedometer will allow you to read the display more easily in the dark.
This amazing aspect helps you to go through your paces with mini-sessions of exertion and recovery.
Freeze frame memory
A freeze-frame memory is a special feature that enables you to capture your display's snapshot for later use.
Important Factors to Consider When Buying a Bicycle Computer
Buying a cycling computer is not as difficult as you might assume. In fact, it is pretty effortless and straightforward if you know what to look for.
Let’s discuss the important features you must consider when buying so that you can score the best one according to your needs.
The accuracy of the device's data is very important because you make some serious decisions based on this.
Suppose the data provided is not accurate enough. In that case, you might end up making some serious mistakes and that’s why while buying, don’t forget to make sure that it provides extremely accurate information.
Ease of Use
Before making your purchase, one of the most important things you must check is the usability. If you do not find it easy to use, then it’s best to skip it and find the one user-friendly.
The bike computer is a battery-operated device; it must check the battery before making your final call. Having a powerful battery is extremely crucial as it determines how well the device performs.
Some expensive, higher-end models come with batteries that last for years and save maximum power when you are not riding, whereas more affordable ones incorporate short-span batteries. We would suggest you choose the model carefully to enjoy the best service.
When shopping, pick up the one that offers you excellent readability, especially when riding at night.
If the screen is too small or the numbers on the monitor are not clear enough, then the purpose of having a cycling computer is not fully served and you won’t get the full benefit from the device.
One important feature that you must consider while buying, is its ability to resist water.
When you are riding outside, you never know when it is going to rain, or a passing car splashes water or mud on you and that’s why, to save your device from getting damaged, choose the one that comes with a good degree of waterproofing.
A water-proof feature will not only protect the device from damage but at the same time, will also prolong its lifespan.
Navigation and Maps
Another essential feature that you must keep in mind while choosing, is the quality of navigation and maps it offers to its users. Most computers nowadays offer some form of mapping and navigation.
However, the ones that provide turn-by-turn navigation on a detailed map should be your only choice as it gives you accurate guidance as to what the next turn is and helps you understand what the road ahead has.
However, it would be best to keep in mind that GPS mapping and navigation are only found on the more premium and high-end cycle computers. You, unfortunately, cannot enjoy this advanced feature on any budget-friendly one.
Automatic data upload
If you want to use fitness apps for your rides and instantly share your ride data with these apps, then look for an automatic data upload feature on the device.
If you are shopping for premium quality speedometer, don’t forget to look for the multi-bike option.
This amazing GPS feature allows you to switch between multiple bikes and allows you to store different information from each bike into a separate folder so that it’s easier for you to understand which data was acquired by which bike.
Compatibility of Sensors
Many modern computers use digital wireless connections like ANT+ or Bluetooth to connect to sensors and other devices wirelessly.
If both the devices don’t have the same connectivity technology, you won’t transfer data easily.
To connect it with your other smart devices, you must make sure that all your devices are compatible before making your final call.
Even though smartphone connectivity is not as important as other features on our list, don’t hesitate to look for this aspect when buying.
When you synchronize your phone with the speedometer, you enjoy conveniences like push alerts for texts, calls, emails, and even Instagram notifications so that you don’t need to take the phone out of your pocket or bag every time it beeps.
Garmin Connect™ is a one-stop source for health and fitness data. If you are using a Garmin bicycle computer, then make sure that you have this app to track your riding activities in real-time. You can also use this app to connect with your peers for competitive riding.
Strava Live Segments Integration
If you have a competitive mindset and want to have fun, you must choose a bike computer with Strava Live Segments Integration. This amazing feature will tell you the exact timing of the segments.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Type is More Accurate?
The dedicated GPS bicycle computer is more accurate and reliable between a smartphone with GPS and cycling app and a bike computer. If you have the means, then use the bicycle computer rather than other devices.
Do I Need Cadence and Speed Sensor?
If your cycling computer is not GPS enabled, you will need to install a speed sensor to monitor your ride's speed.
On the other hand, a cadence sensor is optional. If you are training to a specific cadence, only then you will need this sensor.
Can I Sync the Bike Computer to My Smartphone to View My Training Data?
Of course, you can. If your bicycle computer supports a Bluetooth connection or has Wi-Fi, you can seamlessly connect it with your smartphone to enjoy the best experience ever.
However, to sync your phone, you need to install the appropriate apps that go with the computer brand and model.
How Do I Sync My Rides to Strava?
Syncing your bike to Strava is super easy. If you have a bicycle computer with built-in Bluetooth connectivity or Wi-Fi, you just need to link it to Strava during the initial setup phase and you are all set for your rides to your Strava.
Can I Use a Bike Computer on an Indoor Trainer?
Of course, you can use on an indoor trainer for more convenience. A cycle computer is best fitted for a trainer that supports the ANT+ FE-C protocol, a communication protocol developed to pair up with fitness equipment, such as a trainer.
If My Battery Dies, Do I Lose My Ride Data?
The good news is that you won’t lose any of your ride data even if your battery dies. You can either recharge or replace the battery and run the computer again without losing any ride data.
My Bike Computer Doesn’t Work Anymore. What’s Wrong with It?
There might be several reasons your bike computer is not working. Some of the top possibilities are:
The rear wheel sensor might have been knocked out or removed from the position. If you have a magnetic one, don’t forget to check the alignment and gap between the wheel sensor and the spoke magnet.
Another reason your computer might not be working is because of the battery. If you have a magnetic wired or wireless model, there are higher chances that the battery has run out, and hence, the computer has stopped working. Try to replace the battery if it is more than 2 years old.
The bike computer might stop working if it is not engaged correctly in the mount. Take it off and turn it on again to see if it works or not.
However, remember that this process applies only to wired models.
If you are using a wired computer, don’t forget to check the wire first. The wire may have come loose from the mount or have torn and the computer from working. If the wire is faulty, you might need to replace the cycling computer.
Bicycle computer can undoubtedly make your bike riding experience even better and enjoyable.
If you are a bike enthusiast and you have the means, then you should install this additional accessory in your cycle to experience the best riding sessions ever.