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Monday, October 7, 2019

The 6 Best Bike Computers for Every Riding Style and Budget

bike computer
Ian Slack

Bike computers come in a variety of different packages with various trackable metrics offered on each. Picking the right one for your riding style is crucial, and sorting the differences between models can be confusing. Here’s what you need to know.

What to Look for in a Bike Computer

Before you start looking for a bike computer, think about the types of riding you do and what information you want to have. That’s your baseline for deciding on options and how much to spend. For example, are you a casual rider who just wants to know speed and distance, or are you planning to use lots of sensors like a heart monitor and power meter? Do you want turn-by-turn navigation on a big display? Generally, the more you spend, the more options you can expect, but you may not want or need all the available bells and whistles.

Beyond ease of use, when evaluating mid to high-end bike computers, a primary consideration is how data is collected and then how it’s exported and presented. Sensors like speed and cadence (pedaling speed) can connect by ANT+ or Bluetooth. You want to make sure the device you choose is compatible with the equipment you plan to use with it.

Then, to see your data, you’re going to want to connect to your phone or computer over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Manufactures such as Garmin offer apps and websites where you can review and analyze your data. Garmin Connect, for example, integrates with the company’s devices and also lets you do things like set goals to track your body weight and daily hydration. So, in addition to thinking about what kind of riding you do and what data you want, consider what you’re going to do with the data when you get it and how easy it’s going to be able to analyze it in a useful way.

In the budget bike computer category, you can go even cheaper if you pick old-school wired computers, but our choices here are both wireless. Stringing wire all over your bike is ugly. Not only that, wires can get caught on things and ripped out. The electrical contacts under the computer mount often get corroded by sweat, and then you have connection issues.

Best Budget Bike Computers: CatEye Padrone and Sigma BC 14.16

You can expect a few core features in a budget bike computer, like speed, distance, and elapsed time. Some do more than others, and because there are so many options in the budget range, it’s essential to do your homework, compare features between models, and read reliability reviews. We’ve picked two with solid reputations.

CatEye Padrone

CatEye Padrone bike computer
CatEye Padrone CatEye

If your needs are simple, it’s hard to go wrong with the CatEye Padrone. CatEye started making bike computers in the early 80s, and while it now produces high-tech products too, it’s never abandoned reliable budget basics.

CatEye markets an entire range of computers under the Padrone name, so it can be a little confusing. But the entry-level model includes these features:

  • Large and easy to read screen
  • Current, maximum, and average speed
  • Total distance, elapsed time, and clock
  • Automatic pause when stopped

Another perk is with no GPS to power, the replaceable batteries last about a year!

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