Cycling Computers may be one of the most complicated and feature-rich devices that we use in our everyday lives. None of them measure larger than 6 square inches, with some of them being smaller than 2 square inches, but all of them normally have 20 or more different features. If there was a feature/size ratio for gadgets, Cycling Computers would definitely come out on the top. This may make them very useful when you are out on a ride, but it also makes it hard to decide which one to buy when you want one. In the following sections of this Cycling Computer buyer’s guide we highlight the most important features of a cyclometer that you should consider before you decide to buy one.
Display and Readability
The display is perhaps the most important part of just about any Cycling Computer. The display unit is almost always mounted on the handlebar or the stem of the bike. This way the rider can glance at the screen to read the latest reading even when riding, be it their current speed or the distance they have come in this trip. Display sizes vary from a one square inch screen to about 1.6 inches by 1.9 inches screen. A larger screen size is not the only factor that influences readability – the font size too should be large so that the numbers displayed can be read from an arm’s length away. Another aspect of readability is whether the Cycling Computer comes with a backlight.
Even the largest Cycling Computer displays cannot show all the metrics on the same screen, so a rider has to often cycle through different pages to read all the metrics. This is done by pressing or clicking one of the buttons attached to the display unit. In some devices, the surface of the display unit itself serves as a touch interface which can be pressed to cycle through different metrics. The important part here is that the buttons or interface should be large and accessible enough so that they can be used even when wearing gloves or in cold. Some devices have their buttons on their sides, whereas for others they are on the top or bottom edges.
The primary function of the Cycling Computer is to act as a speedometer, measuring the current speed of the rider. Two other basic functions that are derived from this metric are trip distance and average trip speed. The there are metrics such as total distance, total time, average speed, temperature, auto start and auto stop and clock that are available in almost every Cycling Computer.
Some more advanced features found in cyclometers include:
All GPS Cycling Computers can report altitude. However, their accuracy is lower than barometric altitudes that are found in some devices.
A cadence meter measures the cadence speed of a bike. Measured in rounds per minute (rpm), cadence speed refers to the number of rotations made by the crank per minute. Cadence speed is an important metric for professional riders, and others who want to keep track of their pedaling speed.
Heart Rate Monitor:
A heart rate monitor is usually strapped to the body of the rider, and then connected wirelessly or using a wire to the cyclometer, which will display the heart rate measured by the meter.
A power meter is a lot costlier than any of the other meters mentioned here because it measures the actual power expended by the rider as they ride. This power reading can be an invaluable training tool if you are an athlete or a professional biker.
The more advanced and higher-end devices can be connected to a computer to do a number of interesting things with their data and information. The course file can then be displayed on the device when the user is out on a ride. Other devices allow you to keep track of your rides and trip on the computer.
Sensor-based or GPS
This is one of the fundamental distinctions of the Cycling Computers available in the market right now. The sensor based cyclometers work by directly measuring or number of rotations of the wheel per second, whereas GPS driven devices use navigational satellites to track the user’s location and speed. Sensor based devices are cheaper, though the accuracy of both the types of devices is almost same.
Wired or Wireless
When the sensor that measures the rotations of the cycle’s wheel is connected to the display unit using a wire, it is called a wired cyclometer. However, note that GPS devices are also called wireless, so you have to be sure about what kind of wireless device it is before you get one.
Mounting and Installation
The ease with which a cyclometer can be installed is a big factor in their usability. Some Cycling Computers require more from their users than others in their installation. An example is the Schwinn 20-function Cycling Computer that requires a minimum distance of just 1 mm between the sensor and the magnet, which can be difficult to achieve. Sensors based on GPS are the easiest of the lot, and do not require any installation at all. Every sensor-based cyclometer requires the user to feed it with the circumference of the wheel so that it can use that measurement to calculate the speed from the number of rotations per minute measured by the sensor.
When you want a cheap Cycling Computer, you can get one for less than $20. At the higher end are the GPS devices from Garmin, if you are willing to spend $150 to $350 for one.
When you are out riding, you not only want to go as fast as you can, you also want to know how fast you are going, and how far you have come. Our minds automatically seek new information about our environments, and the speed and distance information about rides is perhaps the most interesting things about them, apart from the ride itself. Once you start using a Cycling Computer, you will instantly see the difference. This cyclometer buyer’s guide should help you get the right cyclometer for your bike, so that you do not have to take wild guesses about how far you have come in your trip at any point.
Check out the 9 Best Cycling Computers on the market right now:
1. Garmin Edge 500 Cycling GPS
2. Trail Tech 75-300 Silver Vapor Computer
3. Shanren Raptor 2.4GHz Wireless Bicycle Computer
4. CatEye Strada Wireless Bicycle Computer CC-RD300W
5. Planet Bike Protege 9.0 9-Function Bike Computer
Case size: 40mm x 55mm. Measures current speed, ride time, average speed, and trip distance. Includes dual odometer (for 2 wheel sizes), clock, and thermometer. Fits 25 to 31.8 mm handlebars; limited lifetime warranty.
6. Sigma Sport BC5.12 Wired Bicycle Computer
7. Cateye Velo 9 Cycling Computer
8. Zonore Bike Computer Original Wireless Bicycle Speedometer