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Published Feb. 1, 2021

If you’re an avid cyclist or mountain biker, you probably already know the value and importance of having a reliable and well-functioning bicycle computer. Bicycle computers can range from relatively simple gadgets that track your speed, distance, time, and odometer, to more complex and sophisticated units for serious athletes that can chart your cadence, heart rate, elevation, temperature, and more.

Continued advances in technology have even allowed for the inclusion of GPS tracking in bicycle computers, making them even more versatile and attractive to long-distance cyclists or those who may be riding in unfamiliar territory. Whatever your reason for wanting a new bicycle computer, Car Bibles has you covered with our top product reviews and buying guide. Learn exactly what you can get in a high-quality, high-tech bicycle computer to maximize your ride and get the most out of your training.

The Best Bicycle Computers

When it comes to the best combination of functionality, versatility, reliability, and price, we like the Cat Eye Padrone Wireless Bike Computer. It comes in seven fun color options and displays plenty of relevant stats, including current, max, and average speeds, trip distance, total distance, elapsed time, and clock. It also has a handy feature that allows you to manually set the odometer so that you don’t have to start over each time you replace the battery.

A conveniently placed button on the base of the unit lets you easily toggle through different settings while riding so you can pay attention to the road while altering the device’s function. A specially designed FlexTight bracket lets you mount, move, and adjust the computer easily by hand. This clever unit is also able to sense when you’ve stopped riding and will stop counting time and averaging your speed, which is a pretty cool feature. One drawback to this bike computer is that it can get disrupted by the use of a bicycle light when riding at night.

Key Features
  • Available in seven color options
  • Tracks seven separate stats
  • Odometer can be manually set
  • Pauses time and average speed while the bike is stopped
Specification
  • Brand Cat Eye
  • Model Padrone
PROS

Large and easy to read display

One-touch scroll through set-up

Easy to install and move

CONS

Bicycle lights can interfere with the unit function

Some concerns over poor customer service

Concern over the long-term reliability

The Bell Dashboard Cycling Computer is offered at one of the lowest and most competitive prices on the market, but that doesn’t mean it sacrifices anything when it comes to functionality. This compact computer is capable of monitoring up to 15 functions, including current, max, and average speed, pace, trip timer, trip distance, odometer, and more.

You can select from either a 12 or 24-hour clock format, kilometer or mile measurement, scan mode, sleep mode, and freeze-frame memory. This computer is easy to install and runs on two CR2032 batteries, which are included. It’s weather-resistant and easy to read. One thing we don’t love about this cycling computer is that the mounting ties and hardware don’t seem to be very substantial and allow for too much “play” in the unit when riding.

Key Features
  • Weather-resistant
  • Wireless communication
  • Features 15 functions
  • Requires two CR2032 batteries
Specification
  • Brand Bell
  • Model Dashboard
PROS

Super affordable

Easy to install

Lots of functions allow you to monitor many stats

CONS

Concern over long-term functionality

Mounting hardware is flimsy

Complaints that resetting some stats takes too long

When only the best will do and the price is no concern, you’ve got to go with the Garmin Edge 1030 Performance GPS Cycling/Bike Computer. This state-of-the-art touchscreen cycling computer features GPS and mapping capabilities unlike any other bicycle computer on the market. Features include a bike alarm, group messaging and tracking, a routable Garmin Cycle Map that outlines popular local riding routes, on-device route calculation with off-course recalculation, and much more.

For hardcore athletes, you can even monitor your VO2 max, heat and altitude acclimation, nutrition, hydration, and training load focus when paired with compatible sensors. This incredible unit also comes equipped with a personalized race day power plan from Best Bike Split. The computer has an impressive 20-hour battery life, and it works with the Garmin Charge power pack that can give you an additional 40 hours of battery life. The drawbacks to this high-tech computer are that it is much more complicated to figure out than other models, and it is quite a bit pricier.

Key Features
  • GPS and mapping cycling computer
  • 20 hours of battery life
  • Compatible with performance monitoring devices
  • Includes routable Garmin Cycle Map for route planning
Specification
  • Brand Garmin
  • Model Edge 1030
  • Weight 4.80 ounces
PROS

Customizable with many apps and widgets to monitor tons of stats

Allows you to connect with several riders during your ride to keep track of each other

Compatible with multiple riding apps

CONS

Quite pricey

Complicated to figure out initially

Can be distracting during a ride

The iGPSport GPS Bike Computer is popular because it’s an affordable and accurate GPS bike device. It features a high-sensitivity GPS receiver for live tracking, fast positioning, and instant upload of riding data for sharing. This tiny unit is also compatible with most brands of heart rate monitors. It’s also compatible with most cadence sensors and speed sensors that support ANT+ function.

This clever bike computer features automatic start, stop, and pause, sensing whenever you’re moving and when you’re not. A specially designed Out-Front bike mount allows you to quickly and securely mount, adjust, or move the computer without a lot of hassle. An automatic backlight turns on or off according to your area’s sunrise and sunset times. Unfortunately, there is no way to turn off the backlight function, which can be slightly distracting during nighttime riding.

Key Features
  • GPS capable bike computer
  • Features 14 different monitoring functions
  • Compatible with most models of heart rate monitor
  • Automatically starts, stops, and pauses
Specification
  • Brand iGPSport
PROS

An affordable GPS unit

Rated IPX7 waterproof to be able to withstand harsh weather conditions

Compatible with sensors that support ANT+ functionality

CONS

Cannot turn off the automatic backlight

Some issue with the reliability of firmware updates from the company’s website

Concern over poor customer service

Another highly affordable GPS bicycle computer, the Meilan M3 Mini GPS Bike Computer uses a high-sensitivity GPS chip that is accurate to within five meters and is supported by three different positioning systems. This allows the unit to automatically sense and set the local time as well. This is a super-compact computer, with only a 1.7-inch mono LCD screen, which can be difficult for some people to see. It comes equipped with a white backlight for nighttime riding.

The M3 Mini can be recharged easily using any charging cable that is compatible with a USB DC 5V port. It features eight hours of run time before needing a recharge, which is much less than some units on the market, but long enough for most recreational riders. You can monitor nine different stats with this computer, including riding time, current, average, and max speeds, speed comparison, current time, altitude, distance, and odometer.

Key Features
  • GPS capable unit
  • Monitors up to nine stats
  • 1.7-inch mono LCD
  • 8 hours of runtime on a single charge
Specification
  • Brand Meilan
  • Model M3 Mini
PROS

Affordable

Super compact

Easy to use

CONS

Display is too small for some people to read easily

Not ANT+ compatible with heart monitor, cadence, or speed sensors

Can’t upload data to any apps

We like the straightforward approach that the Planet Bike Protégé 9.0 bike computer offers cyclists. It’s capable of monitoring nine functions, including current, average, and max speed, riding time, trip distance, temperature, and time. It’s one of the few units on our list with a dual odometer for measuring different wheel sizes.

The four-line LCD allows you to monitor five pieces of data at a glance. You can switch data options just by tapping the screen, but be careful not to tap it too long, as this will automatically reset the computer’s stats to zero. It’s fully weatherproof for harsh temperatures or wet riding conditions. Please note that this is not a wireless computer. This computer is also one of the few that comes with a lifetime warranty.

Key Features
  • Wired computer monitors up to nine functions
  • Can view five pieces of data simultaneously
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Fully weatherproof
Specification
  • Brand Planet Bike
  • Model 8002
  • Weight 2.01 ounces
PROS

Easy to read display

Comes equipped with all necessary mounting hardware

Good value

CONS

Mounting hardware could be a little more substantial and secure

Some concern over the spoke magnet being jarred on bumpy rides

No GPS capability

The Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt GPS Bike Computer is a top-of-the-line aerodynamic bike computer that’s got all the bells and whistles. It features an accurate GPS locator and is compatible with third-party apps, such as Ride With GPS, Strava, Best Bike Split, Singletracks, MTB Project, and Komoot, allowing you to automatically download and upload ride stats and routes. It’s supported by four separate satellites, making it one of the most accurate units on our list.

This unit is IPX7 rated to be waterproof in up to 5 feet of water. It’s also got a very respectable 15-hour battery life on a single charge. It’s compatible with your smartphone to allow you to accept emails, text messages, and phone calls during your ride. You can even toggle between two, four, six, eight, or 10 curated data fields and choose from more 170 available data fields for the ultimate customization. A couple of drawbacks to consider are the fact that this unit is quite pricey and the screen isn’t colored like some other models.

Key Features
  • Fully waterproof GPS computer
  • 15-hour battery life
  • Integrates with third-party apps for uploading and downloading data
  • 170 data fields to choose from
Specification
  • Brand Wahoo Fitness
  • Model Elemnt Bolt
PROS

Very comprehensive, can track tons of stats

Super compact and lightweight

Highly accurate and sensitive

CONS

Expensive

No color screen

Can be complicated to figure out

Best Bicycle Computers Buying Guide & FAQ

When it comes to selecting a reliable and accurate bicycle computer, the task can be a bit daunting, what with all the available options, prices, functions, and set-ups to choose from. The following buying guide is intended to give you the clarity and confidence you need to be sure that you’re choosing the best unit for you that will do exactly what you want and need it to do, whether you’re a competitive athlete or a weekend recreational rider. 

The Advantages of Owning a Bicycle Computer

There are numerous advantages to owning a bicycle computer, but one of the biggest ones is that a properly calibrated bicycle computer allows you to easily track your distance, time, speed, temperature, and many other important statistics during your ride. This allows you to pace yourself or maximize your training, getting the most out of every cycling session. 

If you have GPS capability on your computer, it can help prevent you from getting lost on unfamiliar trails or streets. You can also use it to map out routes and trips for recreational rides or competition training. A lot of the GPS bicycle computers can communicate with a group of riders simultaneously, which also helps to add to the safety of your ride.

Bicycle computer working during a ride
Bicycle computers can track specific data that allows you to get the most out of every bike ride.

A bicycle computer comes with a permanent and more secure mount than many smartphone brackets. Using a dedicated bicycle computer will also help save the data and battery and allow you to stow your phone to keep it protected from rain or other damage.

  • Bicycle computers can track specific data that allows you to get the most out of every bike ride
  • Many of them have location data that can help authorities and family members find you in case of an accident or emergency.
  • Bike computers can also help you stay on track with time, helping to ensure you don’t run late for other activities.
  • Some bike computers can link up to your vital stats monitors to keep you aware of your heart rate, blood pressure, VO2 max, and other health indicators.

See our top recommendations for the best bike phone mounts.

Types of Bicycle Computers

There are a couple of different types of bicycle computers to choose from. The best one for you boils down to the amount of riding you do, the type of riding you do, and your personal preference. Each type has various pros and cons.

Magnetic Sensor Bicycle Computer

This is the most common type of bicycle computer on the market today. It consists of a magnet that is attached to one of the wheel spokes on your bike, usually on the front. The magnet rotates past a sensor attached to your bike’s front fork. Information is then sent to the bicycle computer’s display unit which is mounted on your handlebars.

This type of computer can keep track of the most basic statistics, like current, average, and maximum speed, distance, time, odometer, and temperature, but some higher-end models are also capable of monitoring cadence and a few other stats. 

These bicycle computers can range in price from extremely affordable to slightly pricey. They have long battery life and don’t need to be recharged. While most function wirelessly, some models are hardwired from the sensor to the computer. The drawback to these is that they may not be able to upload riding stats to third party apps and they don’t have GPS capabilities.

GPS Linked Bicycle Computer

This type of bicycle computer is much like a smartphone in that it utilizes cutting edge technology and satellite communications to convert GPS signals into cycling data and statistics.

Whereas magnetic sensor computers can be relatively simple, GPS computers can be overly complex and sophisticated. They can track and monitor numerous stats and data. You can connect them to any third-party apps to add even more information about your ride, like heart rate, VO2 max, blood pressure, inclines, elevation, and so much more. They’re the most comprehensive ride monitors on the market.

This type of bicycle computer is always wireless, making it easy to swap between bikes. They also offer many customizable screens so that you can closely monitor the stats that are most important to you. The drawback to this type of bicycle computer is that it can be far more expensive than the simpler magnetic sensor options. Figuring out how to use and navigate these computers can also be a lot more confusing than with a magnetic sensor computer.

And if you want to keep your souped-up bike safe and secure, you might want to consider some of the best outdoor bike storage sheds.

Features to Look for in a Bicycle Computer

There are a few features to look for in a high-quality, reliable bicycle computer that can come in handy on your rides and make a big difference in the user-friendliness and versatility of your chosen model. 

Battery Life

If you’re an endurance or long-distance cyclist, this is going to be key. The last thing you want is a computer that dies in the middle of a ride or near the end. Some GPS computers feature a battery life of up to 20-40 hours, while others will only last for 5-8 hours. Since magnetic sensor computers run on watch batteries, they can last for several years without needing to be changed.

Backlight

This is going to be important if you like to ride at dusk or in the dark. Some models come with automatic backlights that can’t be shut off though, so be sure to double-check before purchase if you want the option of having it manually turn on or off.

Readability

This is an important feature for cyclists who may need to wear reading glasses. What good is a computer display if the display is too small to easily read at a glance? Be sure you’re going to be able to see it quickly so that you won’t be overly distracted from the road while staring at your computer screen.

Data

Many bicycle computers offer multiple data screens and the ability to upload or download data to and from your unit. This can be super helpful for training, or it can be overly complicated for people who want a simpler approach that is easier to scroll through quickly. How many data screens do you need and how many stats do you want to monitor? You can easily integrate some of the best off-roading GPS units to your device.

Bicycle computer working during a ride
Bike computers don’t have to be expensive at all, there is a computer out there that will fit any budget.

Best Bicycle Computers FAQ

For those of you who may still have some burning questions surrounding the best bicycle computer, we’ve got you covered. We’ve scoured the internet to find the most frequently asked questions and have supplied our comprehensive answers to help give you even more clarity.

Q: Which bike computer do the pros use?

Professional riders tend to choose mainly Garmin or Wahoo to meet their needs. These brands are super high-end GPS units that can track every stat you can imagine. Professionals use this to create more rigorous training programs, give vital feedback on performance, and monitor nutrition, health, output, and much more during a race.

Q: Are bike computers worth it?

Since bicycle computers range in price from $10 to hundreds of dollars, you can find a computer to fit any budget. It’s very handy to be able to at least know how far you’ve ridden and what time it is so that you can stay on track during a ride. What’s more, with a more comprehensive GPS computer, preventing yourself from getting lost and being able to alert emergency aid in case of an accident or injury makes the purchase of a bike computer worth it from a safety standpoint.

Q: Why are bike computers so expensive?

Bike computers don’t have to be expensive at all. There is a computer out there that will fit any budget, no matter how tight. There’s a wide range of reliable bicycle computers that cost less than $20.

Our Top Pick

Now that we’re at the end of our buying guide, it’s probably easy to see why we chose the Cat Eye Padrone Wireless Bike Computer as our top pick. It comes in seven fun color options and displays plenty of relevant stats, including current, max, and average speeds, trip distance, total distance, elapsed time, and clock. It also has a handy feature that allows you to manually set the odometer so that you don’t have to start over each time you replace the battery. A conveniently placed button on the base of the unit lets you easily toggle through different settings while riding so you can pay attention to the road while altering the device’s function. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you decide to go with the versatile Cat Eye Padrone Wireless Bike Computer, the affordable Bell Dashboard Cycling Computer, or the top-of-the-line Garmin Edge 1030 Performance GPS Cycling/Bike Computer, you’ll appreciate being able to track important statistics and keep track of valuable metrics during your bike rides. Maybe having a great bicycle computer will even motivate you to get out there more often. Do you have a favorite bike computer that didn’t make our list? Let us know what it is in the comments.

Sources:

  1. Cyclocomputer – Wikipedia

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