cycling computer, image Dan Gould

The best cycle computers: a buyer’s guide

A cycle computer will enrich your ride by keeping a record of where you have been, when and how fast. We round up the best cycle computers on the market

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 cycle computers?

At their lowest, cycle computers start from below £20, but they can cost up to £450 – as you can expect, the available features differ dramatically.

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

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Mapping and navigation functionality usually means you will need a larger and more expensive unit, with a much more sophisticated display. Those interested in collecting other data – heart rate, pedalling cadence and power – will need connectivity to peripheral data collection devices.

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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 external devices.

>>> Should you use your phone as a cycling computer?


Best cycling computers

Here’s our pick of the best cycle computers. With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ 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.

Cateye Quick Wireless Cycle Computer

Cateye quickwireless computer

Read more: Cateye Quick Wireless Cycle Computer

  • What it does:  tracks distance, speed, elevation, pace indicator and time
  • RRP: £45
  • Review score: 10/10
  • Pros: Well set out 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 really 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 cycle computer and don’t need connected features the Cateye Quick is accurate and reliable and best of all looks really cool.

Buy now UK from Tweeks for £44.99
Buy now US from Moosejaw for $64.99


Polar Vantage M

Polar Vantage M multisport watch 

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 analisis
  • 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.

Buy now UK from Wiggle from £229.99
Buy now US from Polar from £279.95


Garmin Edge 25 GPS cycling computer

Read more: Garmin Edge 25 cycling computer review

  • What it does: GPS device, tracks distance, speed, time, elevation and heart rate and cadence with ANT+ sensors
  • RRP: £139.99
  • Review score: 9/10
  • Pros: minimalist, easy set-up
  • Cons: short battery life, some could prefer bigger screen

The Garmin Edge 25 is one up from the bottom of Garmin’s GPS range, but it is probably the best basic option for new riders as it will connect with a heart rate monitor.

Impressively, it can connect to both standard GPS and the more accurate GLONASS satellite, and despite its size, it doesn’t skimp on connectivity – featuring both ANT+ and Bluetooth.

Buy now UK from Leisure Lakes Bikes for £139.99
Buy now US from Moosejaw for $199.99


Garmin Edge 130 GPS cycling computer

Read more: Garmin Edge 130 review

  • 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
  • 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, and is even possible on the fly.

It can pair with ANT+ and Bluetooth accessories such as 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.

Buy now UK from Wiggle for £137.95
Buy now US from  Amazon $199.95


Wahoo Elemnt Bolt

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt best cycling computer

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt cycling computer

Read more: Wahoo Elemnt Bolt review

  • 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
  • Review score: 10/10
  • Pros: aerodynamic, good battery life, comes with maps
  • Cons: requires smartphone, lights don’t show in daylight

We rate Wahoo’s devices very highly, largely for their ease of setup and great software. The Elemnt Bolt’s USP is its aerodynamic body, which claims to be 50% more slippery than others on the market.

The data screens are all set up via a Smartphone, so you can’t be without one if you plan to invest in this unit. Happily, the app is very good and we found it to be really user friendly – though the readability of the mapping left a little to be desired.

If the mapping function is more your thing, then the Wahoo Elemnt Roam might be more your thing.

Buy now UK from Wiggle for £184.99
Buy now US from Alpine Trek for $249.99


Lezyne Super GPS

Read more: Lezyne Super GPS review

  • 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 drivetrain
  • RRP: £199.99 Review score: 8/10
  • Pros: value for money, good accompanying app Cons: no mount included, navigation tough to use

The Lezyne Super GPS is standout because of its astonishing value for money. For a fraction of the cost of a Garmin you get all the same connectivity and 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.

Buy now UK from ProBikeKit for £154.99
Buy now US from Amazon from $149.99 


Mio Cyclo 210

Mio Cyclo 210

Read more: Mio Cyclo 210 GPS Cycle Computer review 

  • What it does: GPS with speed/distance/ time etc, with navigation wizard on board for satnav style navigation. Strava connectivity, but no heart rate or power data connectivity
  • RRP: £199.99
  • Review score: 8/10
  • Pros: Good touchscreen and graphics
  • Cons: Bulky

Getting started with the Mio Cyclo 210 is very easy: turn it on and you have just six menu options and configuring screens is easy.

The model includes a Navigate function which is detailed, accurate and easy to use, and includes many footpaths and bridleways as well as roads.

You don’t get connectivity to peripheral devices, although the MioShare app lets you manage your stats on a computer and automatically upload your data to Strava.

Buy now UK from Amazon for £189.99


Polar V650 GPS Bike Computer

 

Polar V650 bike computer

  • What it does: GPS, OpenStreetMap, route guidance, smart coaching feedback and power and HR data via Bluetooth. Customisable screen, with indoor, mtb and road profiles. Barometer with real time VAM and sensor compatibility and Strava live Segments
  • RRP: £189.50

The Polar V650 GPS Bike Computer packs a lot of features in for it’s £189.50 price tag. GPS navigation uses OpenStreetMap and allows for routes to be uploaded, with guidance. Smart coaching provides feedback immediately after rides, and also calculates training load and rest requirements.

Compatible with power, specifically Training Peaks, Rotor, Stages and Strava, including Strava Live, heart rate data and other sensors via Bluetooth Smart. The fully customisable 2.8″ colour touch screen, allows your to see only the data you need from either indoor, mtb and road rides.

Buy now UK from Wiggle for £189.50


Garmin Edge 520 GPS cycling computer

Garmin Edge 520 cycling computer

Read more: Garmin Edge 520 GPS cycling computer review

  • What it does: GPS. Tracks distance, speed, time, elevation and heart rate and cadence with ANT+ sensors. Basic courses and routes and smartphone connectivity, tracks FTP with power meter, basic courses/routes
  • RRP: £239.99
  • Review score: 9/10
  • Pros: Lots of metrics, fitness tracking, good screen size
  • Cons: Basemap limited for navigation

The Garmin Edge 520 really kickstarts Garmin’s bonafide training devices. It’s capable of measuring your Vo2 Max, conducting FTP training and much more. It’ll also assess your riding and give you recovery times based on your efforts – and it includes Strava segment tracking.

You can also upload routes from Strava or Garmin Connect, although it can’t create routes on the device itself. In many ways, it’s similar to the Garmin Edge 820, although it’s better because it doesn’t have the buggy touchscreen.

Buy now UK from Wiggle for £185
Buy now USA from Amazon for $279


Garmin Edge 530

Read more: Garmin Edge 530 GPS cycling computer review

  • 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
  • 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 stats, with the more powerful Edge 8 and 10 devices the popular choice among those seeking navigational assistance at their handlebars. However, with the Edge 530, Garmin has upped its capabilities, bringing it closer to the range topping models available.

In fact, it’s so capable, it may leave riders wondering if they’ll ever need anything more advanced at all.

Buy now UK from Wiggle for £232.69
USA Buy now from JensonUSA for $299.99


Garmin Edge 830

Read more: Garmin Edge 830 GPS cycling computer review

  • 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
  • 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 very impressed by its design and excellent touchscreen. For those reasons, it landed itself a spot on our Editor’s Choice list for 2019. Garmin are now coalescing around a distinctively ‘Garmin’ design. The two latest devices – the Edge 830 and 530 – are nye on identical, and they have 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.

Buy now UK from Wiggle for £309.99
Buy now US from Dell for $399.99


Garmin Edge 1030 GPS cycling computer

Read more: Garmin Edge 1030 review

  • What it does: As per 1000, plus rider to rider messaging, Preloaded Garmin Cycle Maps (and turn by turn navigation) Battery pack option.
  • RRP: £499.99
  • 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.

UK buy now from Wiggle for £413.99


What to expect from cycling computers under £100

The most basic cycle computers are generally available from about £15 (or even cheaper if you do a bit of shopping around). Of course, for this sort of money your cycle computer isn’t going to be packed full of functionality.

The very cheapest cycle 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.

Strava

Basic computers won’t have the option to let you upload rides to Strava

Pay a little bit more (from about £30) and you can upgrade to a wireless cycle 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 cycle computers that begin to offer a bit more functionality, but still can’t quite go as far as being a true cycling GPS unit.


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In general you’ve got two different types of cycle computer 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 another wireless protocol, 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” cycle computer. These computers not only connect with bike sensors using Bluetooth, but can also connect with your smartphone to use your phone’s 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 cycling computers GPS cycling computers around £100

An entry-level GPS unit will typically be priced just over £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 prioritise ease of use, small size and low weight – usually well below 100g.

Cateye_stealth_50_cycle_computer_r

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+ peripheral connectivity.

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Ride data is typically displayed in two or three rows of monochrome text. 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 personalisation 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 may 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 cycling computers GPS cycling computers around £200

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

bryton40

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. Many mid-range units add mapping and navigation functionality. You can buy GPSs which major on this functionality, although others still just support breadcrumb trails.

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

garmin_edge_touring-630x420

The Garmin Edge Touring provides colour mapping

Many mid-range units now include Bluetooth synchronisation to a smartphone. This allows alerts to be displayed on the GPS when an incoming call, text or e-mail is received. Other data from the phone, such as weather conditions, may also be displayed on the GPS. Some cycle 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 needing to connect to a computer.

What to expect from cycling computers GPS cycling computers over £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 £400 or more and weigh around 100 – 120 grams. Most will come packaged with a heart rate monitor strap and a cadence sensor.

IMG_213581-e1416242619165-630x492

Bryton’s 60 model has a colour touchscreen

At this price point, you should expect a colour touchscreen, mapping, turn-by-turn navigation and many connectivity features. This may include WiFi connectivity for data transfer, route suggestions and ability to share a route with your ride companions. Some are adding Strava-like segment functionality. There’s often a microSD slot to allow you to store data on your GPS beyond that which can be held by the internal storage.

Expect more integration with other devices and applications in future such as Shimano’s Di2 to allow control of the unit without taking your hands off the bars and Strava to give you segment information.

Garmin-Edge-1000-630x419

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

With their large displays and rich functionality, battery life can be an issue with some top-end units. Once the EU’s Galileo GPS satellites are commissioned, it is likely that devices will become available which use this GPS system too, potentially putting further strain on the battery.

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.

Screen-Shot-2015-02-27-at-12.54.00

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 cycle 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 accurate 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.

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You can either put your phone in a pocket or buy a mount which attaches to your bars or stem. These normally have a clear plastic zip up sleeve on top, so that you can see your data as you ride. 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.

IMG_24922-websize-630x420

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.

>>> Rokform phone mount review

For those triathletes among you, a GPS enabled sports watch may be a better option. 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.

vivoactive_3600x2400_300dpi.0

Garmin Vivoactive is a GPS-enabled smartwatch

Our latest GPS watch reviews

Garmin Epix

Garmin Epix watch

 

Read More: Garmin Epix Review

  • RRP: £419.99
  • Review Score: 8/10

With a price tag north of £400 you should expect a lot from the Garmin Epix watch, and that’s what it delivers, offering all the conceivable data that any multi-sport athlete could ever want.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer level of functionality on offer, but once you get the hang of it, the touchscreen is easy to use and the amount of data at your disposal should help to make you a better athlete.

Buy now UK from Amazon for £333.74
Buy now US from Amazon for $469.99


Polar V800

polar v800 gps watch

Read more: Polar V800 GPS Review

  • RRP: £349.50
  • Review Score: 7/10

The Polar V800 is more than just a sports watch, it is also designed to double as an activity tracker, meaning that it send you reminders when you’ve been sat behind your desk for too long.

It’s also great for really serious athletes training day after day as it will track your recovery to help you know when it’s time for a day off.

Buy now from Amazon for $372.85


Cycle 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.