Best cycling computers: GPS units for routing and training

cycling computer, image Dan Gould
(Image credit: Daniel Gould)

It's rare to see a cyclist riding without a cycle computer on their handlebars these days. However, all units are not created equal – so which are the best cycling computers?

At their lowest, bike computers start from around the cost of a takeaway pizza, but they can cost up to half the price of a decent bike, but as you might expect, the available features differ dramatically the more you spend.

Synonymous with the Garmin Edge bike computer range, the best cycling computers will give you all the data you require on a ride, GPS navigation and many offer a high level of riding data. 

While there is merit in choosing one of the best smartwatches for cycling, which will give you many metrics, having a specific cycle computer will make it much easier to see while on the move. 

If you just want to know how far you rode and how fast, a basic cycle computer may be all you need. It will be smaller, lighter and usually have a longer battery life than a pricier option. You may even find that a wireless cadence cycling computer will meet all your needs at an affordable price point. 

It is possible to have a GPS for cycling. Mapping and navigation functionality usually means you will need a larger and more expensive head cycle computer, with a much more sophisticated display. Those interested in data like heart rate, cadence and power will need connectivity to peripheral sensor devices.

Gone are the days of cables and wires. Even for the more modestly priced GPS for cycling units will have wireless capabilities as standard.  Most wireless cycling computers will use Bluetooth Smart as well as ANT+ to connect to external devices for a complete smart cycle experience. 

Best cycling computers

Garmin 1030 Plus

(Image credit: Wiggle)

All-singing, all-dancing model that's best at everything

Specifications
Dimensions: 58mm x 114mm x 19mm
Touchscreen: Yes
Colour display: Yes
Display size: 3.5in (88.9mm)
Weight: 124g
Battery life: 24 hours
Compatability/ features : Power, dynamic performance monitoring, sync training plans, lights, Live tracking, bike alarm, + many many more
Reasons to buy
+Slick setup+Good touchscreen+Impressive battery life+Wealth of features and capabilities 
Reasons to avoid
-Not a cheap package

The range-topping Edge 1030 Plus extend Garmin's top model's capability off-road. It's the same size as the 1030, the biggest device Garmin makes, but with its black bezel and grey case it is in line appearance-wise with the rest of the Garmin range.

In terms of navigation, garmin are one of the best in field. Increased mapping capability is the biggest update on this cycle computer, with your home region coming as standard.

This wireless bike computer features far-improved navigation which allows turn-by-turn even off-road, clearer mapping and a much improved touchscreen that allows you to pinch and zoom the map, just like on a mobile phone making it possibly the  the best cycling sat nav out there. .

Unusually, setup is one of the highlights and this update also takes its cues from mobile phone tech: via Intelligent Activity Profiles, the 1030 Plus ports across the activity data from your previous Edge 830 or 1030, so no more having to program data fields and no need to ride the bike to make sure it all works properly. 

It's exactly like setting up a new iPhone, with the whole process taking less than three minutes rather than half an hour. If you didn't have another Garmin unit, it will use data from Garmin Connect. We thought this was the best update from Garmin for quite a while.

Other than is incredible user friendliness, the Gamin Edge 1030 Plus is over flowing with features and capabilities, from messaging and safety features, road and off road navigation and even syncing training plans and receiving nutrition and hydration alert. 

It's an incredibly smart cycle computer, like having a mini coach on your bars every ride, but you do have to pay for the privilege. 

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt Best cycling computers

(Image credit: Wiggle)

Best cycling computer to rival Garmin 520

Specifications
Dimensions: 3.05" x 1.86" x .84"
Touchscreen : No
Colour display : Yes
Display size: 2.2 in
Weight : 2.4oz / 68.38 g (Claimed)
Battery life: 15 Hours (claimed)
Compatibility / features: Power, GPS Navigation, Call/ text/ email, 15 county maps, SoS, Workouts, + more
Reasons to buy
+Costs less than a Garmin 520+Aerodynamic design+Good battery life+Numbers easy to read on screen+Comes with 15 country maps+Strava Live enabled+Significant features & compatibility 
Reasons to avoid
-You can't see the LED's in sunlight-Requires a smartphone

We are big fans of Wahoo's cycle computers for their ease of setup and bombproof software. According to Wahoo, the Elemnt Bolt's sculpted case and out in front mount cut through the air with 50-percent less resistance than other cycle computers, an added bonus if marginal gains are your thing.

The data screens on this wireless bike computer are all set up via a Smartphone, so while it's unlikely these days to not own one, it's worth bearing in mind if you don't. Assuming you have one, the Wahoo app is very good and on test we found it to be really user friendly, making the Elemnt Bolt a really easy cycle computer to set up and get going with.

The readability of the cycling sat nav mapping left a little to be desired due to the black and white screen. If the mapping function is more your thing, then the Wahoo Elemnt Roam might be more up your street as it really is a great navigation computer.

The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is packed full of features and functionality, and we think it's a great rival for attention of the Garmin Edge 520, with more mapping areas and a host of smart cycle features , but not quite the same detailed colour screen or graphics. 

Garmin Edge 1030

(Image credit: Wiggle)

Best cycling computer with large screen and vast functionality

Specifications
Dimensions : 58 x 114 x 19 mm
Touchscreen: Yes
Colour display : Yes
Display size: 58 x 114 x 19 mm; 88.9 mm diagonal
Weight: 123 g
Battery life : up to 20 hours (Claimed, not using all features)
Compatibility / features: Power, dynamic performance monitoring, sync training plans, lights, Live tracking, bike alarm, + many many more
Reasons to buy
+Screen size+Vast functionality and features +Multiple compatibilities 
Reasons to avoid
-Over all unit size -No touch and pinch screen zoom feature

You name it and the wireless cycling computer that is the Edge 1030 has it, offering everything from comprehensive cycling sat nav mapping, to data analysis, all the way through to the ability to see communicate with electronic groupsets and even other Garmin Edge 1030 devices.

While this cycle computer does perform better than the Edge 820, the touchscreen pinch and zoom Garmin navigation feature solely reserved for the Garmin Edge 1030 Plus version, meaning that this GPS for cycling computer requires you to navigate + and - buttons on the screen, a feature that takes some getting used to after using any regular smart phone. 

The wealth of features, functions and compatibility makes the Edge 1030 an excellent cycling computer, and all but the same as the Garmin Edge1030 Plus, acting as a really smart cycle coach and spewing out significant data from it's analysis before, during and after your ride.    

Ultimately, unless you need all these features and or need a mahoosive screen with which to see it, it's probably suited best to those who race, and the rest of us are better served with a less pricey cycling computer such as a Wahoo or a Garmin Edge a bit lower down the ranks. 

Garmin Edge 530 Best cycling computer

(Image credit: Wiggle)

Best Cycling Computer for significant data for a mid range price point

Specifications
Dimensions : 1.9" x 3.2" x 0.8" (50 x 82 x 20 mm)
Touchscreen: No
Colour display: Yes
Display size: 2.6"
Weight : 75.8 g
Battery life: Up to 20 hours (claimed)
Compatibility / features: Power, sync training plans, lights, Live tracking, bike alarm, + more
Reasons to buy
+Intuitive to use+Access to as much data as you could ever need+Customisable thanks to Connect IQ
Reasons to avoid
-Size/tactility of buttons-Lack of in-depth navigational features

For any one wanting to join the data squad with a Garmin, but are struggling to justify the expense of the the high end versions will be pleased to know that the Edge 530 now mirrors the Garmin Edge 830, but without the added expense of the touch screen, which for some, including our reviews, is no bad thing. 

The buttons and set up system isn't quite as good as the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, but considering it packs all the performance of the larger Edge 830 and most of the Edge  1030 it's a highly desirable cycling computer. 

For size and functionality it's hard to find anything on the market that's quite as good. 

Garmin Edge 830 Best cycling computer

(Image credit: Wiggle)

Best Garmin Cycling Computer for on the move re-routing.

Specifications
Dimension : 1.9” x 3.2” x 0.8” (50 mm x 82 mm x 20 mm)
Touchscreen: Yes
Colour display: Yes
Display size : 2.6"
Weight: 79.1 g (claimed)
Battery life: Up to 20 hours GPS training mode (claimed)
Compatibility/ features: Power, dynamic performance monitoring, sync training plans, lights, Live tracking, bike alarm, + many more
Reasons to buy
+Touchscreen works well+Good size+Good screen
Reasons to avoid
-Software still isn't faultless

We absolutely loved using the Garmin Edge 830 and were impressed by its design and excellent touchscreen. For those reasons, we added it to the Cycling Weekly's Editor's Choice Awards. 

At first glance, it's tricky to tell the difference between the Edge 530 and Edge 830, both taking a similar sized profile and display screens. The biggest deals functionality wise is that the Garmin Edge 830 gains a touch screen and you're also able to amend and create a route directly on the unit, while you'll need to sync with your phone or computer with the Edge 530. 

With a significant amount of data. capabilities and compatibility, you have a whole suite of analysis at your fingertips, which will probably be more than most bike riders ever need. But if you're the kind of rider who likes to change things up on the fly, it's hard to beat. 

Garmin Edge 130 Best bike computer

(Image credit: ProBikeKit)

Best Garmin Edge computer on a budget

Specifications
Dimensions : 4.1 x 6.3 x 1.6 cm
Touchscreen : No
Colour display: No
Display size : 27.0 x 36.0 mm; 1.8" diag (45 mm)
Weight: 33 g
Battery life: Up to 15 hours (claimed)
Compatibility/ features: Power, lights, live track, GPS, navigation, text messages
Reasons to buy
+Small size looks great out the front of a bike+Crisp, easy-to-read screen+Buttons not touchscreen+Top-end features
Reasons to avoid
-Bit of GPS lag at times

We acknowledge this buyers guide is looking very much like a best of a Garmin cycling computer guide, but it just goes to show the brand's domination in the field, with the Garmin Edge 130 not acceptation, having gained a Cycling Weekly Editor's Choice Award. 

The Edge 130 is stripped back and simple, yet a very capable cycling computer. Using buttons instead of a touchscreen, it's easy to set up and changing data fields is a breeze to do, even on the fly.

It can pair with ANT+ and Bluetooth accessories like heart rate monitors, cadence sensors and power meters. It is a device that would suit those who want to push their performance, chase Strava Live segments and train, but don't need the top-end features offered at greater prices.

Wahoo Elemnt Roam Best bike computer

(Image credit: Wiggle)

Best cycling computer for switching from trail adventures to road racing

Specifications
Dimensions : 3.5"x2.3"x0.7" (89mmx54.4mmx17.8mm)
Touch screen: No
Colour display: Yes
Display size: 2.7" (68.6mm
Weight : 93.5g
Battery life: Up to 17hrs (Claimed)
Compatibility/ features: Integrates with smartphone app for turn-by-turn navigation, Bluetooth communication for text/call alerts, speed/distance/time/elevation, structured training
Reasons to buy
+Cheaper than its rivals+Stylish and easy to use+Route-planning is intuitive.+Great for off road adventures+Data features 
Reasons to avoid
-Can be tricky to reroute on longer routes. -Battery life shorter than rivals

The Wahoo Elemnt Roam brings what we know and love from the Elemnt Bolt, with a slash of colour. Rather than turn the saturation up to 11, Wahoo has only used colour where needed to bring attention or create contrast between specific things on scree; it's particularly well used on the mapping and workout screens. 

Speaking of mapping, the Wahoo Elemnt Roam also get's a map upgrade from the  Bolt which covers the whole of North America, Europe, Asia, Sceania and South America, allowing for pre-planned and automatic rerouting ( including a take me to feature), both road and off road. 

Function and compatibility wise it covers all the basic's as well as phone communication alerts, live tracking, and structured training, to name but a few.

It's the best rival for the more pricy Garmin Edge 830, but doesn't get a touch screen, which is actually a benefit for some riders who ride in wet weather and find this feature far from ideal, and the battery isn't as long as some of the other claimed times, but it's a handful of more hours over the Bolt. 

Cateye Quick Wireless Cycle Computer

(Image credit: Tweeks)

Best cycling computer for simplicity

Specifications
Dimensions: 93.5 X 54 X 36mm
Touchscreen: No
Colour display: No
Display size: TBC
Weight: 24g
Battery life: Aprox 1 yr (based on one hour a day use)
Compatibility/ features : Tracks distance, speed, elevation, pace indicator and time
Reasons to buy
+Well set out and easy to read screen+Simple to use+Visually attractive
Reasons to avoid
-No ability to record data externally-Limited functionality

Tested alongside a Garmin Edge 530 and it mirrored the more powerful unit digit for digit in terms of speed and distance accuracy. Not bad for such a simple and relatively, in the scheme of things, cheap unit. 

It’s also easy to read at speed and the out-front position puts it neatly in the field of view. And as with all of Cateye’s simple computers, the battery life is measured in years rather than hours.

With the delightful simplicity, you do limit functionality and there isn't any compatibility beyond the wireless speed transmitter. But if you are looking for a neat and simple cycling computer and don't need connected features, the Cateye Quick is accurate, reliable, and best of all looks really cool. 

Lezyne Super GPS

(Image credit: Wiggle)

Best cycling computer for top-end functionality for a fraction of the price

Specifications
Dimensions : 70.6mm (W) x 48.16mm (L) x 26.0mm (H)
Touch screen: No
Colour display: No
Display size : 32.6mm (W) x 39.8mm (L)
Weight: 60g (Claimed)
Battery life: 28hrs (claimed)
Compatibility / features : Power, Phone notifications, GPS navigation, offline maps and rerouting, structured workouts
Reasons to buy
+Value for money+Use of app to setup the device+Full connectivity+Easy to read screen
Reasons to avoid
-Outdated design-The navigation system is tough to, er, navigate-No out front mount in the box

The Lezyne Super GPS stands out because of its astonishing value for money. For a fraction of the cost of a Garmin, you get all the same connectivity and a lot of the training features as the Edge 510.

The savings are made in the design, but the Lezyne Super GPS is perfectly functional and the black-and-white screen and buttons just serve to boost battery life. It's not as slick as the Wahoo Elemnt Roam or Bolt, but the Lezyne device can also be set up via its companion app, making it another user friendly device. 

Bryton Rider 420 E cycling computer

(Image credit: Wiggle)

A cycling computer packed with features for a reasonable price

Specifications
Dimensions : 9.4 x 9.4 x 4.57 cm
Touchscreen: No
Colour display: No
Display size : 2.3" /5.8cm
Weight : 227g
Battery life: 35-hours (claimed) 12-14hrs riding (tested)
Compatibility / features : Power, GPS Navigation, text alert,
Reasons to buy
+Great value+Easy to set up and use+Looks good+Battery life is impressive
Reasons to avoid
-Button placement-Navigation without mapping detail

Bryton's Rider 420 is the computer you'll find mounted on the handlebars of the Israel Start-Up Nation team, and it's one of the brand's more budget-friendly options. The fully-featured head unit supports every sensor under the sun and provides advanced data metrics like normalized power and TSS.

While it doesn't have a colour screen, it can offer turn-by-turn directions, though without a base map you are just following a black line on a blank screen. Device setup can be done on the device itself, or through the companion app, which isn't totally intuitive but still works pretty well. Best of all, with a 35-hour battery life, it will outlast most other computers on the market.

With around 77 available data fields, it's Comparable to the Garmin Edge 130 or the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, but isn't exactly a fair fight as for the price saving you do loose maps and user friendliness, but if your on a tight budget, it's a fair price for a functional unit.   

What to expect from entry level GPS cycling computers 

The most basic cycle computers are generally available from about the cost of a takeout lunch, (or even cheaper if you do a bit of shopping around). Of course, for this sort of money your computer isn't going to be packed full of functionality.

The very cheapest bike computers will measure the basics such as your speed and cadence (and from these calculate things like your averages speed and average cadence), taking these figures from speed and cadence sensors located on the bike frame, to which they are connected using wires.

best cycling computers

Pay a little bit more, and you can upgrade to a wireless cycling computer, which will connect to your speed and cadence sensors without the need for having unsightly wires running all over your frame. These sorts of computers are probably the best option if you're on a budget and aren't worried about uploading your rides to Strava or doing any serious, structured training.

In general, just less than a triple figure price tag will give you even more choice cycling computer wise, and they will begin to offer more functionality, although in general, unless you get one of a deal, it's unlikely that these models will go quite as far as being a true GPS enabled unit.

In general, you've got two different types of bike computers that are considered entry level price range wise. First off you've got units that are similar to cheaper models, but offer a little more functionality, such as the ability to connect with a heart rate strap using Bluetooth or ANT+, which will allow you to do more serious training and to calculate the calories that you've burned.

The other option is a so-called "smart" cycling computer. These computers not only connect with bike sensors using Bluetooth, but can also connect with your smartphone to piggyback its GPS function. This means that you can use them as GPS computers, tracking your ride to upload it to Strava when you get home. Just make sure your phone is fully charged when you leave the house.

What to expect from entry level GPS cycling computers 

An entry-level GPS unit will be great for getting you going with tracking your rides, and possibly other features. You can often find bundle deals with a heart rate monitor and/or cadence sensor, which might push the price up slightly, but work out more cost effective than buying items separately. 

At this price point, manufacturers prioritize ease of use, small size and low weight – usually well below  3.5oz/ 100g.

The GPS unit will typically track your ride statistics such as distance, time, speed and lap times but will not provide navigation. Most units will pause automatically when you stop moving and resume when you restart and provide ANT+ connectivity for external sensors.

Ride data is typically displayed in two or three rows on a black and white screen. There may be the option to specify which data items and how many rows are displayed, but one of the selling points of these devices is that you turn them on and start cycling without needing to delve into complex configuration options, so personalization tends not to be a priority.

The GPS may also allow you to set alerts when you have reached a target value such as having ridden for a pre-specified time. You can get virtual competitor functions, so that you can see how well you are doing compared to previous rides of the same route.

You may even find that you are able to save, download and sync the data with some of the best cycling apps of the brand's own on-line platform, so you are able to keep a log of rides and times and keep a record of your cycling achievements and performance. 

What to expect from a mid-range GPS cycling computer 

Spend a bit more and you will start to get additional functionality in your GPS. Mid-level units can often bundled in with a heart rate monitor or cadence sensor, but will also have a high level of compatibility, so will be capable of displaying and tracking data from existing hardware you have, including any power data. 

best cycling computers

The Bryton Rider 40 is a mid-range unit emphasising training plans

A mid-range unit will usually be larger with a larger screen which can display more data, often in colour. Data storage capacity will probably also increase. The unit may be controlled by buttons or a touchscreen, and many mid-range units add mapping and navigation functionality. Some will have base maps preinstalled, or that can be downloaded while others may only support breadcrumb trails.

Because of the way in which GPS satellite triangulation works, altitude data calculated from GPS is less accurate than positional data. Thus higher-spec units will often add a barometric altimeter to increase recording accuracy for height and rate of ascent.

best cycling computers

The Garmin Edge Touring provides colour mapping

Many mid-range units now include Bluetooth synchronisation to a smartphone, meaning your computer will show you calls and texts on screen, and other data from the phone, such as weather alerts. Some computers send data back to the phone, so it can transmit ride progress data to the internet, where people you allow can view it, and let you upload your rides without the need for a USB cable.

What to expect from high-end GPS cycling computers over 

The arms race in high-end cycle computers continues and manufacturers seem to be announcing new top of the range features every few months. These products come in at almost have the price of a decent road bike, or more and weigh around 7oz/ 200g and may come packaged with a heart rate monitor strap and a cadence sensor.

Best Cycling Computers

The more expensive GPS computers will offer turn-by-turn navigation and a host of other features. 

(Image credit: Future)

At this price point, you should expect a colour touchscreen, mapping, turn-by-turn navigation, and advanced training features and integration. This may include WiFi connectivity for data transfer, route suggestions, and the ability to share a route with your ride companions. It's kind of like a phone, to be honest.

These higher-end computers are likely to have integration with other devices and applications. Most will connect to electronic drivetrains, show Strava Live Segments and allow for workouts to be synced directly from third-party apps like Training Peaks or Today's Plan.

Best cycling Computers

The Garmin Edge 1030 does everything but ride your bike for you. 

(Image credit: Future)

There was a time when battery life was an issue on these computers with their large screens, but now you can expect about ~20-hours of run time. These higher-end units will all have access to multiple positional satellite constellations like the Russian GLONASS, Chinese BeiDou, and the EU's new Gailelo network.

Cycling computer connectivity and analysis

Even basic cycling GPS units allow you to download data post-ride to the manufacturer’s ride recording site. These sites support ride analysis, training plans and social interaction, as well as upload to Strava, Training Peaks or other third party sites.

best cycling computers

Manufacturers' ride analysis sites provide mapping and ride statistics

Manufacturers’ sites vary in sophistication and user-friendliness. Analysis options will be richer, of course, if you have used peripheral devices such as a cadence sensor to capture extra data.

The alternatives to cycling computers

If you don’t want to buy a cycling-specific GPS, other options are available. Modern smartphones will have a GPS chip built into them. This may not be as precise as the chip in a dedicated cycling GPS but should still allow you to track your position with reasonable accuracy. You can download free activity tracking apps from the Apple Store or Google Play to log your rides. There are many of these such as MapMyRide and Endomondo, although the most popular of the lot is Strava.

You can either put your phone in a pocket or buy a mount that attaches to your bars or stem, like a Quadlock or Rokform phone mountreview , both are good examples of how to mount your phone on the handle bars safely.

If you use your phone beware of water, as most are not water-resistant. Battery life may be an issue too, especially if you want to use your phone’s display to see your data while you ride.

best cycling computers

The Rokform is one of a number of smartphone bar mounts available

If you are going to carry your phone, another option is to use its GPS capability to collect ride data, which is transmitted via Bluetooth to a bar-mounted display unit. 

This allows you to keep your phone out of the way and turn off the screen whilst still being able to see ride statistics. Display units will usually also show data collected from peripheral devices via ANT or Bluetooth.

best cycling computers

Garmin Vivoactive is a GPS-enabled smartwatch

GPS enabled sports watches are also popular among triathletes and mountain bikers.  Our page on the best smartwatches for cycling gives you the full lowdown on weareble fitness trackers that are great when riding. 

These allow you to track activity across different sports and may allow ANT+ connection to peripheral devices too. Most come with a bar mount, so that you can use the watch attached to the bike or on your wrist.

Cycling computers in summary

However much you want to spend and however much data you decide to record, a GPS unit will enhance your ride by leaving you a permanent record of where you have ridden, when and how fast.

It will give you the option to delve further into your performance and the tools to improve and broaden your cycling experience. You will be able to share ride data with friends, compete against others and improve on your personal bests.