Best Bike Computers – Buyers Guide and Cycling Computer Reviews
With the advancement of technology, cyclists have many exciting options at their disposal in terms of a cycling computer. These devices enhance rides by showing and tracking statistics of speed, distance, and time. Nowadays, computers are incredibly intricate as it provides power, heart rate, and GPS functionalities. There are many versions out on the market that are customizable for each type of rider, starting from the beginner up to the competitor.
Below, we’ve identified the best cycling computers for every type of rider, from the novice to professional:
- Cateye Stealth Evo+
- Magellan Cycl 315
- Polar V650
- Garmin Edge 520
- Garmin Edge 800
A few factors to think about when considering a cycling computer is to figure out what type of rider you are. There are many functions, features, and connections each device is paired with for every cyclist.
Whether you are a novice, professional, or in the middle, there is a cycling computer that fits your state. For the beginner, one may want to consider a simple cycling computer to start. Look out for the basics and see if additional features appeal to you. Most computers can determine speed, distance, altitude, and time traveled.
Riding enthusiasts may want to consider items that come with more features such as a GPS. This helps long distance riders in navigation and points out gas stations along with pit stops. These middle-tier devices can also measure heart rate and be paired with Strava to see results of their rides.
If you are a competitor and looking for something advanced, there are considerations below too for that. Higher end cycling computers provide an array of metrics such as power and cadence levels while providing live updates with a navigational guide and map. Although the numerous data fields may not be necessary, it is beneficial for riders looking to maximize metrics to push past their current boundaries with each ride.
As hinted above, cycling computers can be very simple to high tech. Make sure when you choose a device, it matches what you are looking to utilize. Just remember, these devices can be as fancy as you want, but will that useful to you?
There are many simple devices that track speed, distance, and your lap times, while others fit riders looking for certain features. Heart rate may be a deciding point as some may want to watch out for that when riding. Certain riders may need this feature to maintain certain heart rates for their personal health. In terms of this, there are also gadgets befitting proactive riders.
Cycling computers may also be as advanced and overstuffed with more metrics than what you’ve asked for. One example is that GPS as riders get a map of their surrounding area along with route guidance to their set location. Additionally, they can measure your power level, in kW or cadence level, as you ride along your route. More advanced devices can mark out the averages within power along with the peaks during your journey. Other neat features to consider are the work-out orientated ones.
When choosing a fitness computer, one must consider if they are tying this in with their routines. There are specific features on these gadgets that aid a rider in that aspect. This includes a connection to Strava and being able to track and compare your results to others on your list. These computers may include built in workout presets that you can create. This helps with reaching goals of burning calories, maintaining lap times, or just meeting a specific power requirement on a course. Everything is customizable, and some riders even use this feature to help with races.
Connection to external devices is another factor to consider when choosing your cycling device. One important detail is to see if your cycling computer supports ANT+ or Bluetooth devices. This includes power meters to heart rate monitors connected during a ride. At the moment, ANT+ compatibility dominates the market as there are more devices using this connection type. Some companies started adapting to Bluetooth, and that may not pair at all if you have existing ANT+ devices.
In terms of statistics and platforms, there are reporting systems to consider when your device is connected to a computer. Cycling companies have their own platforms in diagnosing a trip and providing measurements during each interval. Our tip is to make sure you are comfortable with the platform and layout your device uses. The key is to look for something comfortable and simple enough to determine data you want, after uploading information to your computer. There are also 3rd party platforms to consider such as Strava. It is one of the most commonly used databases to compare and check up with your friends in terms of statistics. Each cycling computer has their own method of uploading onto Strava and may utilize live or manual uploads after a trip.
Taking all these tips into account, we’ll go over our recommended cycling computers at each level to find the best one for you.
Cateye Stealth Evo+
The Cateye Stealth Evo+ is part of a longstanding tradition of cycling accessories produced by the company since 1954. Their first cycling computer was produced in 1981, and Cateye has continued creating new technologies to fit all riders.
This device is an entry level computer which provides many measurements including, power, balance, heart rate, cadence, speed, time, and elevation. This unit utilizes buttons to adjust and switch between menus. It provides 3 measurements per page and has ANT+ capabilities to connect to other devices. The Stealth Evo+ can record up to 2 trips and has an estimated battery life of 10 hours.
Like other companies, Cateye has their CatEyeAtlas App to record and view your cycling trip. It is also compatible with Strava and Training Peek platforms for further analysis. Although the device is a great all-in-one starter computer, it does have some flaws.
One of the main downfalls in this device is the actual battery life and limited information per screen. When connected to all ANT+ devices, battery life is anywhere from 4-5 hours in actual. The limited measurements per page may also be a hindrance for riders who want more information to be displayed at once. Lastly, the computer has difficulty uploading data to Mac OS’s as it is not streamlined.
Overall, the Cateye Stealth Evo+ is a great entry-level device that can measure numerous amount of information while being an affordable option for the masses.
Magellan Cyclo 315
The Magellan Cyclo 315 is a full color 3” touch screen cycling computer. The company was founded in 1986 and is one of the leaders within the GPS industry.
The computer is preloaded with detailed maps in the U.S. It contains up to 35,000 cycle lanes and 5,000 tracks including points of interest such as shops and pit stops. The Surprise Me option is a feature that gives riders optional routes to select from. Just configure the time or distance, and the computer will generate 3 different routes.
The computer is also very versatile with its ANT+ and profile customizations. It can be paired with over 130 ANT+ sensors including Shimano’s Di2 shifting system. Cyclo’s screen can generate up to 4 metrics per page while riding. There are also 6 profiles a cyclist can create depending on their equipment setup. Although the unit is versatile, it does have some weaknesses in its system.
The Cyclo has some connectivity and support issues. It was first launched in 2014, and the company has not created many updates since. The device cannot be recognized with anything above a USB 2.0 port, and the base-map is only updated to 2015. Due to the lack of upgrades, Magellan’s ride App does not work for most customers as support has ceased.
Otherwise, the Magellan Cyclo 315 is a great device for riders that desire something more than the standard device. Luckily, it is compatible with Strava so users can review their journey there.
The Polar V650 is a Finnish cycling computer that was created in 2014. Their device features a color touch screen with award winning designs. In addition, the computer comes with a heart rate strap and handlebar mount.
The interesting fact about the V650 is that it connects to other sensor devices via Bluetooth. By now, most devices have both ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity, but Bluetooth sensors are still not as common. The V650 provides an all-inclusive GPS device that contains detailed features such as heart rate, power, and cadence. Each page displays up to 6 metrics to oversee during trips. Also, it incorporates multi-profiles for different setups and road types. A neat feature is the LED safety light at the top of the computer which is built for emergency situations.
A few indicators to point out is the device’s Bluetooth sensor. There are not as many Bluetooth metric devices compared to ANT+. Customers may have fewer options to choose from and cannot utilize older ANT+ sensors. Also, one of the biggest flaws is the battery life as the device only lasts up to 10 hours, making it difficult for longer rides.
In the end, Polar’s V650 is a great device for individuals that cycle constantly, desiring all the bells and whistles of a cycling computer. The limited battery life sets the device to work better for half day journeys and is not the best for competitive riders.
Garmin Edge 520
Garmin is the dominant force in GPS cycling computers, and the Edge 520 is its latest device. The American company has always generated its products towards the professional rider, giving an array of measurements.
The device is strictly ANT+ and includes 7 buttons around the edge of the computer to navigate through menus. Its Bluetooth capability can provide automatic uploads and notifications from your smart phone. The Edge 520 has a whopping 15-hour battery life and displays up to 5 statistics per page.
What makes this device stand out is its Strava Live compatibility and extended fitness metrics. Not only do updates automatically upload, but others can track your progress in real time. You also receive notifications when you reach a route, taken by friends, as it displays the distance and time for competitive purposes.
Another intriguing feature is the recovery menu and the VO2 oxygen measurement. The device can track and determine how long it will take to recover from the workout before starting another one. The VO2 Max measurement shows the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilize in a session.
Only a few features make the Edge 520 difficult for an owner. The analog buttons limit computer placement as you want to comfortably reach all buttons. The GPS map is also not very detailed and lacks the inclusion of some streets and tracks.
Overall, the Garmin Edge 520 is a nice-sized device packed with advanced features for the professional rider that seriously tracks their metrics.
Garmin Edge 800
Garmin’s Edge 800 is the cream of the crop as the device features a color touch screen that resembling the iPhone user interface. The computer includes a temperature measurement while providing more accurate figures at the end of a ride. Also, The Edge 800 displays up to 10 statistics per screen while providing a total 15-hour battery life for all day journeys.
One of the greatest features is the 800’s GPS system. It can be toggled between a 2D or birds-eye-view perspective with directions at every turn. The map interface is detailed and easy-to-use, providing satellite images of the surrounding areas. The 800 also features desired points of interests such as gas stations to convenience stores for breaks. Garmin’s map is perfect for navigating through streets or on bike paths in scenic areas.
A few side effects to note are the glitches and off-roading maps. Garmin developed this product over 4 years ago, and each update provides a few bugs when connecting to applications. There is also a lack in off road maps as most routes have not been integrated into Garmin’s system. Lastly, the device is a bit pricey for users even in professional and competitive use as it retails above $600.
In conclusion, the Garmin Edge 800 is a great top of the line device. It includes more metrics than one will ever need while boasting a great GPS mapping system. Battery life is long enough for all day rides as this computer will be great for training and competitive use.
As depicted above, there are many types of cycling computers that can accommodate all riders for specific purposes. Our recommendation is the Polar V650 as it is the best cycling computer for its price. Polar continues to update its applications, and the device can support many important metrics such as heart-rate, cadence, and power levels. It’s GPS is clear and simple to follow with Polar’s street by street guidance system. Lastly, it is compatible with Strava platforms while its Flow web service can display metrics of each ride flawlessly. The world of cycling is vast, and one of these cycling computers makes the perfect companion on your next journey.