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 below £20/$30, but they can cost up to £519.99/$599.99 – and as you might expect, the available features differ dramatically.

If you just want to know how far you rode and how fast, a basic unit may be all you need. It will be smaller, lighter and usually have a longer battery life than a pricier option.

Mapping and navigation functionality usually means you will need a larger and more expensive head unit, 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 unit, wireless capabilities generally come as standard, and most computers now use Bluetooth Smart as well as ANT+ to connect to external devices.

Best cycling computers

Here's our pick of the best cycle computers. With each product is a ‘See more’ or 'Best Deal' link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.

Garmin Edge 1030 Plus

best cycling computers

(Image credit: Wiggle)
  • What it does: The all-singing, all-dancing flagship model that's best at everything
  • RRP: £519.99/$599.99
  • Review score: 10/10
  • Pros: Slick setup process; good touchscreen; impressive battery life
  • Cons: Pricey

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.

Increased mapping capability is the biggest update, with the US and UK region coming as standard. It 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.

Unusually, set-up 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.

Read more: Garmin 1030 Plus review

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt

Best cycling computers

(Image credit: Wiggle)
  • What it does: Integrates with smartphone app for turn-by-turn navigation, Bluetooth communication for text/call alerts, speed/distance/time/elevation, plus aerodynamic claims
  • RRP: £199.99/$229
  • Review score: 9/10
  • Pros: Aerodynamic; good battery life; comes with maps
  • Cons: Requires smartphone; LEDs don't show in sunlight

We are big fans of Wahoo's devices 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 headunits, an added bonus if marginal gains are your thing.

The data screens are all set up via a Smartphone, so if you're still using a Nokia brick phone, this is not the computer for you. Happily, the app is very good and we found it to be really user friendly.

The readability of the 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.

Read more: Wahoo Elemnt Bolt review

Garmin Edge 1030

Best cycling computers

(Image credit: Wiggle)
  • What it does: As per the older Garmin 1000, plus rider to rider messaging, preloaded Garmin Cycle Maps (and turn-by-turn navigation), battery pack option.
  • RRP: £499.99/$599.99
  • Review score: 8/10
  • Pros: Lots of metrics; fitness tracking; good screen size
  • Cons: Basemap limited for navigation

You name it and the Edge 1030 can do it, offering everything from comprehensive 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 it does perform better than the Edge 820, it's a shame to see the touchscreen (and some of the related software bugs) be carried over to the 1030. Ultimately, it's probably suited best to those who race, and the rest of us are better served with a Wahoo or the Garmin Edge 130. Garmin has also just released a 1030 Plus, which sees an improved chipset and Trailforks integration.

Read more: Garmin Edge 1030 review

Garmin Edge 530

Best cycling computer

(Image credit: Wiggle)
  • What it does: GPS, tracks distance, speed, time, elevation and heart rate and cadence with ANT+ sensors. Full navigation and smartphone connectivity, tracks FTP with power meter, compatible with Bluetooth and WiFi
  • RRP: £259.99/$299.99
  • Review score: 9/10
  • Pros: Intuitive to use; access to as much data as you could ever need; customisable thanks to Connect IQ
  • Cons: Size/tactility of buttons; lack of in-depth navigational features

The Garmin 5 series has historically been the more basic of the Edge GPS computers for those after performance-orientated data, with the more powerful Edge 8 and 10 devices the popular choice among those seeking navigation at their handlebars. However, with the Edge 530, Garmin has upped its capabilities, bringing it closer to the range-topping models available.

In fact, the only difference between the new Edge 530 and 830 is the lack of touch screen, it may leave riders wondering if they’ll ever need anything more advanced at all.

Read more: Garmin Edge 530 GPS cycling computer review

Garmin Edge 830

Best cycling computer

(Image credit: Wiggle)
  • What it does: GPS. Tracks distance, speed, time, elevation and heart rate and cadence with ANT+ sensors. Full navigation and smartphone connectivity, tracks FTP with power meter, compatible with Bluetooth and WiFi
  • RRP: £349.99/$399.99
  • Review score: 9/10
  • Pros: Touchscreen works well; good size; good screen
  • Cons: 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, it landed itself a spot on our Editor’s Choice list for 2019.

Garmin is now coalescing around a distinctively ‘Garmin’ design. The two latest devices – the Edge 830 and 530 – look almost identical, with the same black edging and bezel as the smaller Garmin Edge 130. They also have the same crisp and easy-to-read screen and layout design that we rated so highly on the smaller device.

Read more: Garmin Edge 830 GPS cycling computer review

Garmin Edge 130

Best bike computer

(Image credit: ProBikeKit)
  • What it does: GPS. Tracks distance, speed, time, elevation and heart rate and cadence with ANT+ sensors. Basic courses and routes and smartphone connectivity
  • RRP: £149.99/$200
  • Review score: 9/10
  • Pros: Good size; easy to read screen; buttons responsive
  • Cons: Navigation could be more user friendly

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.

Read more: Garmin Edge 130 review

Wahoo Elemnt Roam

Best bike computer

(Image credit: Wiggle)
  • What it does: Integrates with smartphone app for turn-by-turn navigation, Bluetooth communication for text/call alerts, speed/distance/time/elevation, structured training
  • RRP: £299/$379
  • Review score: 8/10
  • Pros: Cheaper than its rival (Edge 830); stylish and easy to use; route-planning is intuitive.
  • Cons: Can be tricky to reroute on longer routes; battery life shorter than rivals

The Wahoo Element Roam brings what we know and love from the Bolt, with a slash of colour. Rather than turn the saturation up to 11, Wahoo has only used color 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, Wahoo has upgraded the base maps which now allow for automatic rerouting.

Like its less expensive stablemate the Roam is set up using the Wahoo app, and sees a similar sculpted profile that flows seamlessly into the mount — initially, Wahoo had a faulty set of mounts that went out with the early Roams, this has since been rectified.

Read more: Wahoo Elemnt Roam review

Cateye Quick Wireless Cycle Computer

Best bike computer

(Image credit: Tweeks)
  • What it does: tracks distance, speed, elevation, pace indicator and time
  • RRP: £45/$64.99
  • Review score: 10/10
  • Pros: Well set up and easy to read screen; simple to use; visually attractive.
  • Cons: 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 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 going to be measured in years rather than hours.

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.

Read more: Cateye Quick Wireless Cycle Computer

Lezyne Super GPS

Best bike computer

(Image credit: Wiggle)
  • What it does: GPS. Tracks distance, speed, elevation and time, Strava live segments, ANT+ heart rate, cadence and power sensors, mapping and turbo by turn navigation, works with electronic drivetrains
  • RRP: £199.99 /$149.99
  • Review score: 8/10
  • Pros: Value for money; good accompanying app
  • Cons: No mount included; navigation tough to use

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 most of the training features.

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 Wahoo's but the Lezyne device can also be set up via its companion app.

Read more: Lezyne Super GPS review

Bryton Rider 420 E cycling computer

Best bike computer

(Image credit: Wiggle)

  • What it does: GPS with speed/distance/ time etc, navigation, smart notifications, structured training
  • RRP: £110/$130
  • Review score: 8/10
  • Pros: Great value; easy to set up and use; looks good; battery life is impressive
  • Cons: Button placement

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.

Read more: Bryton Rider 420 Computer review

What to expect from cycling computers under £70/$100

The most basic cycle computers are generally available from about £10/$15 (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 (from about $50) 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.

Between $50-$100 there are a lot of different cycling computers that begin to offer a bit more functionality, but still can't quite go as far as being a true GPS enabled unit.

Watch: what are training zones?

In general, you've got two different types of bike computers that sit in this price range. 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.

>>> Six areas of cycling tech crying out for standardisation

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 GPS cycling computers just over £70/$100

An entry-level GPS unit will typically be priced just over £70/$100, although if it is bundled with a heart rate monitor and/or cadence sensor the price will be higher. At this price point, manufacturers prioritize ease of use, small size and low weight – usually well below 100g.

best cycling computers

The Cateye Stealth 50 is a compact basic GPS-enabled cycling computer

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.

>>> 15 best cycling apps for iPhone and Android

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.

What to expect from GPS cycling computers around £160/$200

Spend a bit more and you will start to get additional functionality in your GPS. Mid-level units typically come in around the £160/$200 range and above, bundled in with a heart rate monitor or cadence sensor.

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 GPS cycling computers over £230/$300

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 HALO products come in at £500/$600 or more and weigh around 100g – 120g and may come packaged with a heart rate monitor strap and a cadence sensor.

best cycling computers

Bryton's 60 model has a color touchscreen

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

Garmin's Edge 1000 displays plenty of data and includes mapping and navigation

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.

>>> Best smartwatches for cyclists

You can either put your phone in a pocket or buy a mount that attaches to your bars or stem, like a Quadlock. 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 alsoshow data collected from peripheral devices via ANT or Bluetooth.

>>> Rokform phone mountreview

GPS enabled sports watches are also popular among triathletes and mountain bikers. 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.

best cycling computers

Garmin Vivoactive is a GPS-enabled smartwatch

Our latest GPS watch reviews

Polar Vantage M

best cycling computers

Read more: Polar Vantage M GPS watch

  • What it does: GPS trace, 24/7 activity across 130 sports, uploads, downloads, Heart rate, sleep, interconnection, training analysis
  • RRP: £249
  • Review score: 9/10
  • Pros: Compact easy to read' GPS Tracking; wide range of sports, wealth of data and statistics
  • Cons:No navigation or Strava Live; prone to scratching; short battery life, heart rate not always accurate.

Polar's Vantage M is a GPS enabled smartwatch that sees an optical heart rate sensor built into the underside of the case. It has activity profiles for over 130 sports, and of course cycling makes the list.

The screen is bright and full colour, showing key metrics that are customisable and has a built-in Bluetooth connection that can speak to your smartphone and peripheral sensors, including powermeters. As with just about every similar smart watch, it needs to be charged pretty regularly, but the Vantage M will give you about 30-hours before the battery runs out of juice.

Buy now UK from Wiggle from £202.92-£249Buy now US from Polar from £279.95

Garmin Forerunner 935

best cycling computers

Read more: Garmin Forerunner 935 review

  • What it does: GPS, 24/7 heart rate, uploads, downloads, sleep tracking, structured training
  • RRP: £389.99/$499.99
  • Review score: 9/10
  • Pros: Useful features; great for running and commuting; useful wearing metics
  • Cons:Clunky software

Garmin's Forerunner 935 does almost everything that its cycling computers do, but in a smaller lighter package that attaches to your wrist. There is an optical heart rate sensor on the bottom, however, the watch connects to both ANT+ and Bluetooth sensors, including power meters.

The watch has oodles of activity modes, each allowing or multiple pages of customisable data, and it will even sync workouts from Garmin Connect or third-party apps like Training Peaks or Today's Plan.

Buy now UK from Amazon for £327.94

Buy now US fromAmazon for$365.36

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.