Bike Computers

The days of wired computers relaying limited data have gone. Now it’s all about satellite navigation, wireless transfer and ease of use

How we tested

After getting them out of their boxes, each bike computer was assessed for the number of features it offered, the size of its head unit, size of its sensors and for its appearance. Ease and flexibility of set-up was then considered, along with how intuitive the operation of the bike computer was. Each computer was then taken out on a ride around a route of known distance to check its accuracy and see how well it performed out on the road, as well as to test its susceptibility to interference. And in case of unpredictable weather, we also tested out ease of use of each bike computer in the pouring rain, as well as when wearing thick winter gloves.

Cateye V2c

$143.00

www.probikekit.com

CatEye has been one of the market leaders in bike computers for years and, if you’re looking for a traditional spoke magnet and sensor set-up, their products are always worth considering. The V2c gives you cadence monitoring for under $150 and, with the speed and cadence sensors integrated and mounted on your chainstay, you can also use it on your turbo for training in the winter. If you’re a complete weight weanie you might find the sensor a little bit on the bulky side, but it’s about par for a combined unit. Also, unless you buy an additional sensor for $75, you won’t be swapping it from bike to bike. Set-up is a reasonably simple operation and the head unit can be mounted on either your bars or stem. The digits on the three-data-field display are just about big enough to read. The buttons, although small, are front mounted and located with decent distances in between, to prevent gloved-handed mispressing.

Verdict: Versatile computer with cadence and only a couple of minor niggles. 82%

Velomann S1.39

$155.00

www.chickencycles.co.uk

Setting up the Velomann is a reasonably easy job, and both the head unit and the sensor are decent enough to look at and not too bulky. Once out riding, the screen size is okay with the main speed data field very visible and the three others clear enough. Four buttons does seem a bit over the top, though, considering that many computers manage with just one, and the two front-mounted buttons in particular are too close together. For features it ticks plenty of boxes, including a barometric altimeter, a thermometer and a time-based training goal mode. It also comes with a wired PC dock, but the data you can get from it isn’t much beyond what the head unit gives and it’s not Mac compatible. Performance is really good, though, without any syncing issues, and the three-year warranty it comes with is impressive. However, we’d probably lose the PC dock, spend $25 more and get the V1.28 with heart rate monitoring.

Verdict: Some good points but other models in the range are a better bet. 76%

Bryton Rider 20

$175.00

www.cellbikes.com.au

Coming in at under $200, the Bryton Rider 20 brings the benefits of GPS at a price that’s affordable to all. With no speed sensors or wheel magnets to worry about, you just fit the rubber-band-secured twist-lock to your bars and stem, and you’re good to go. Swapping between bikes only takes seconds, too. Satellite acquisition is quick and, even in wooded or built-up areas, interference is minimal. The three data fields are a good size but the three front-edge-mounted buttons are a little fiddly to use and are a bit too close together. Once home you can upload your ride using the free Bryton Bridge software and USB cable that doubles as a charger, and data crunch to your heart’s content. It’s slightly annoying that the USB connector isn’t a standard design but it does glean some points back by being Mac compatible. The Bryton is also ANT+ enabled and, for an extra $75, you can get a compatible heart-rate strap.

Verdict: not without faults but GPS for under $200 has to be applauded. 86%

Mio Cyclo 305 HC

$545.00

www.paligap.cc

Going head-to-head with the mighty Garmin Edge 800, Belgium-based sat nav manufacturer Mio give you full mapping, cadence and heart rate monitoring, plus a touch screen like the similar Garmin package. A seemingly tempting offer one might think, but the first thing that’ll immediately put off any performance-oriented rider is its size and weight. It’s 156g compared to the Garmin’s 98g, while the 120 x 66mm versus 92 x 53mm external dimensions only give you a marginally bigger screen. There’s no way you’d race with it on your bars and its bulk even bugs you when training. All its navigation and training features work really well, including the clever ‘Surprise Me’, which is great if you’re bored of doing the same old training routes. And the whole system is very intuitive. You can also share and analyse your rides using Mio Share but, unforgivably, it’s not Mac compatible.

Verdict: Great to see some competition for Garmin, but just too bulky. 70%

Garmin Edge 500

$399.00

www.garmin.com

If you know where you’re riding, the compact Edge 500 is for you, saving you $150 on Garmin’s top-end model, the Edge 800. This package gives you the GPS head unit, speed/cadence sensor and heart rate strap. The stem or bar mount clamps on in seconds thanks to two rubber bands, and the speed/cadence sensor requires just a couple of zip ties. As well as measuring cadence, the sensor means you can use the unit on the turbo. Swapping the head unit from bike to bike is effortless, although you wouldn’t want to be messing with the sensor, but you can buy an additional one easily. All the satellite and training functions work brilliantly and you can customise three screens with up to eight data fields. The buttons could be more accessible but, with so much data on screen, you won’t do much in the way of scrolling on the go. Once home you can download your workout information to Garmin Connect and analyse or share your ride.

Verdict: Small, perfectly formed, all-in-one training and racing package. 97%

Polar CS500+

$399.00

www.polaraustralia.com.au

Setting up the CS500 involves six zip ties, a spoke magnet and some rather crude tape for the crank magnet. It’s not a massive job but you won’t want to swap it from bike to bike regularly (or purchase another set of sensors). Both speed and cadence sensors are compact and streamlined and the head unit gives you the stem or bars option. The head unit has a massive display with three really good-sized data fields, the single red button is unmissable and syncing is seamless. As you’d expect from Polar, the heart rate monitoring features are excellent and the WearLink strap is still probably the comfiest around. You’ll need to spend extra for a Data Link stick for computer connectivity. Although the CS500 isn’t compatible with ANT+ power measuring devices like SRM and PowerTap, Polar has beaten Garmin to the power pedal punch. But you’re paying for what you are getting.

Verdict: Powerful tool but you’ll need to fork out extra to maximise its potential 80%

PRO Scio Alti

$119.00

www.cellbikes.com.au

Although the head unit of the Pro Scio Alti might look a bit dated and boxy, it’s not a bad computer at all. It definitely delivers on functions, if not on form. The speed sensor is compact, easy to fit with a couple of zip ties and has a quick-release bracket. You receive a choice of mount for the head unit: a still-secure but easy-to-swap rubber band-based one that allows bar or stem mounting, as well as a lower profile zip-tie stem mount. The computer has all the functions and recall you could need, and the three-data-field display has decent-sized, easy-to-read digits. An integrated barometric altimeter gives you ascent and grade data, but you’ll need to remember to recalibrate the bike computer on days when the weather is erratic, otherwise you could get false readings. The thermometer is a useful tool for warning of potential ice on the roads. The two large rubberised buttons are easy to use, and positive enough to operate when wearing winter gloves.

Verdict: Decent enough computer but could do with a styling makeover. 78%

Garmin Edge 200

$149.00

www.garmin.com

If you just want to know how far and fast, GPS giant Garmin’s most basic unit is a simple joy to install and use. Two bands secure the head unit to your bars or stem, acquisition is wonderfully slick and then you’re good to go. Swapping the computer from bike to bike is a matter of just a few seconds. The four-field fixed-data display is clear, even in the worst weather, and the rubberised buttons are nice and easy to use, even when wearing thick winter gloves. Once home you can download to Garmin Connect to receive ascent data and other ride stats, and you can use the data for social media racing, too. The Garmin uses a standard USB and one charge gives you 14hrs plus of battery life. Not being ANT+ enabled there’s no scope for bolting on heart rate monitoring or cadence, but if you want 100% reliable and super convenient speed and distance monitoring in a very neatly designed package, look no further than this budget offering.

Verdict: Simple, easy and convenient. Great entry range choice 81%

Blackburn Atom SL 5.0

$56.99

www.blackburndesign.com

For under $60 the Atom delivers all the basic bike computer functions, plus has the added bonus of a barometric altimeter and a thermometer. Fitting the speed sensor is a simple job with a couple of zip ties and, although it’s a bit on the large side, the truncated shark-fin shape is a nod to aero styling. The head unit can be bar or stem mounted and the Velcro system means that removal and switching between bikes is easily done. We do have some concerns surrounding the Atom’s long-term durability, though. The three-data-field screen is okay but, although the main field is large enough, the supplementary two are a little on the small side. The buttons are also a bit too small and fiddly to use. The altimeter is a useful tool for identifying how much climbing you’ve done on your ride, but for accurate readings over a long session, you’d have to recalibrate the Atom at known points to compensate for changes in air pressure.

Verdict: Sensibly priced basic computer with useful added functions. 81%

Knog NERD 5

$55.00

www.knog.com.au

From Australian manufacturer Knog, the NERD 5 strips the bike computer right down to its very basics. Current speed, clock, trip distance, trip time and odometer is the total package on offer here. The styling is super simplistic and some might even say cute, quirky or childish. Both the head unit and speed sensor are encased in pleasantly tactile silicone rubber and are available in a choice of five colours. Fitting of the sensor requires no zip ties and is only a two-second job. Similarly, the head unit is hooked onto your bars in the same hassle-free manner. The two-data-field display is big and clear and, as the whole unit functions as a button, toggling between screens is super easy, even when wearing the thickest of winter gloves. To be honest, for most data-obsessed triathletes it’s probably a bit too simplistic, but for your commuting hack or as a robust option for mountain biking, simple can sometimes be the best option.

Verdict: Not for serious training but ideal for daily commute. 82%

Overall verdict

Try as they might, bike computers without GPS can’t compete with GPS-enabled devices

As we alluded to in our introduction, the old spoke magnet and sensor bike computer is really starting to feel a bit dated. Testing confirms this but, for traditionalists, there are some decent ones on test The CatEye offers reliable and turbo-friendly speed and cadence measurement, the Blackburn is great value for money and the Knog is ideal for your day-to-day hack bike. But they don’t come close to the versatility and convenience of GPS.Take the really strong Polar CS500, for example. To bring it up to the Garmin 500’s speed, you’d need to buy the Data Link stick and even then you’re tied to using it on one bike. For a two-bike set-up you’re looking at the Garmin with an additional sensor. It’s a no brainer. Of the GPS units on test, the Mio would be good for touring but is too bulky for performance riding. The Bryton is a great package and, especially if you bolt on a HR monitor, offers great value for money and just takes it from the ultra-simplistic Garmin 200. Top of the pile by a long way, though, is the Garmin 500. It looks like a big spend but it’s really worth it, and it takes the test by a GPS measured mile.

 

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