Bike Computer Buying Guide

Bike Computer Buying Guide

Cycle computers or Speedos can tell you a vast array about your ride these days. All can tell you how far you've travelled and usually how fast you're going. As the RRPs increase there are far more functions.

  • Cadence - How many rpms your crank and pedals are doing.
  • Average speed – Shows your average speed for that journey.
  • Maximum speed – Shows the fastest speed you have managed on that journey.
  • Trip distance – Distance covered in that journey.
  • Odometer – Distance covered since you installed the speedo.

This is just a few of the functions. There are many more available on computers made by the likes of Cateye, Sigma and VDO. Many of these also upgrade from being a wired unit to a wireless unit at around the £20 mark.

The more cycling you do, the more you will want to know about your ride statistics. There are some great brands out there that offer a well-priced and reliable computer for bikes. Brands include again the likes of Cateye, VDO and Sigma to name a few. Many of these start at around £12 for a basic model.

As you start to get to the £50 mark the function list grows. Cadence is a function many want on their cycle computers. This function tells you how many revolutions per minute you turn your chain set. Many use this as a form of training in low gears in the winter. The higher your average cadence the faster you will be. Altitude functions also start to appear around this price point. Knowing your total climbing is especially satisfying after a particularly hilly route and can also come in handy if you are using the speedo to train on a turbo (static) trainer.

As technology has improved though basic cycle computers have reached a new level. Altimeters, wireless cadence and heart rate monitors are now available in various combinations from most brands. Some even double up as pedometers. Just put your heart rate strap on and put the computer in your pocket or on the wrist strap. These have been developed as so many people are now entering triathlons and want their performance for both bike and run on just the one computer. As you continue to increase the spend, the bike computer is able to transfer the history and information onto your PC or Mac. You can then plot your improvements on graphs and manage your training more effectively. These higher priced functions are connected by either Bluetooth or ANT+ for accuracy. The units can then also be connected to other training devices like turbo trainers or even Apps on your smart phone or tablet.

If you really get serious about your cycling, the next step is a GPS unit. Most famously for bikes you have brands such as Garmin and Mio. Both brands offer cycling specific GPS units that can start from as little as £80. At this price you can't usually see a map on your screen but the unit will plot a map out once the ride has been uploaded to a PC or Mac.

The functionality, like with the standard speedo, offers more functions. Functions that will help you to plot your route, offer you routes dependant on how much time you have for your ride, training schedules and many more.

Pretty much all GPS unit are wireless as again they will use Bluetooth and ANT+ for connectivity and of course they have Global Positioning System (GPS) for the tracking and mapping. This is a satellite mapping program consisting of 24 satellites in orbit around the Earth. Initially used only by Militaries around the world but now available to the public since the 1980s. It is this system that enables all tracking whether it be on your GPS unit, your smartphone, tablet or car.

So whether you want to see how many miles you commute or if you are more interested in improving your 10-mile time trial a computer or GPS unit could be just what you need for your days out cycling.

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