HOW TO CHOOSE A CYCLING COMPUTER – BUYERS GUIDE

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While cycling, it’s convenient to have ride data, and statistics at your finger tips. All that data can help you know where you’re going (navigation), how much effort you’re putting in and how far you’ve ridden (just a handful of the many features). A cyclocomputer does all this and more – which is why you might want to consider one as your next purchase.

Picking the right bike computer for yourself does not need to be a daunting task. If one is aware of their riding needs and the parameters they would like to measure, it becomes quite simple.

WHAT IS A CYCLOCOMPUTER?

Cyclocomputers/Bike computers are battery-powered electronic devices that attach to your bike cockpit, displaying a wide range of information such as your speed, distance, trip time, and more.

With a cyclocomputer, more ride data is available to you than ever before. While the use of a smartphone to collect ride data is increasingly popular, a bike computer can still make sense for any rider, especially if you’re a data-hungry enthusiast who wants something more purpose built, compact and accurate.

WHAT KIND OF BIKE COMPUTER DO I NEED?

Before getting into the nitty gritties about the different kinds of cyclocomputers, let’s fully understand a few things about yourself:

WHAT KIND OF RIDER AM I?

Casual: Fitness oriented cyclists who usually just want to know the distance, speed, and time: How far have I ridden? How fast am I going? How long did my ride take?

Enthusiast: These riders, commuters and touring riders often like a few more options such as trip distance, total odometer, average speed, and maximum speed – maybe even heart rate tracking.

Competitive: cyclists who usually want all of the above plus features such as cadence, heart rate, elevation gained, and power output.

1. Basic computers

Most of the basic/entry-level cyclocomputers will generally come with the following features –

  • Speed – Average speed, Max speed and current speed
  • Distance – Total distance, Trip Distance
  • Time – Total trip time, Time of day, Interval lap timer

These bike computers are best suited for commuters, weekend leisure riders, and riders who are not too worried about the performance aspects of their riding but still like to be aware of basic statistics to an extent.

Most of these computers come in 2 types, wired and wireless. The wired ones are slightly cheaper than the wireless cyclocomputers. The wireless cyclocomputers, on the other hand, are more pleasing to the eye considering the fact that you wouldn’t be having an extra wire running from your fork to your handlebar

Wired: Magnetic sensor with a wire transmitting the signal to the display unit.

  • Pros: Cheaper, simpler, lighter.
  • Cons: Usually not swappable between bikes. Transmission wire can get caught and rip out, which is a higher risk on a mountain bike than a road bike.

Wireless: Magnetic sensor with a signal transmitter to the display unit. GPS sensors are intrinsically wireless.

  • Pros: Easier to install, no wires, cleaner look. 
  • Cons: More expensive – especially GPS units; heavier.

Examples of basic cyclocomputers – Cateye Velo 7, Cateye Velo 9 ,Cateye Quick (CC-RS100W) Wireless, Padrone+ (CC-PA110W) Wireless

2. Intermediate Cyclocomputers

If you are wanting to take your performance to the next level but are unsure of spending huge sums on a top-end cyclocomputer, there are many options available in the market to suit your needs.

Some of the additional features that these computers will pack in themselves (other than the features in basic cyclocomputers) are –

  • Calories burnt counter (approximate value)
  • Cadence
  • Second bike sensor recognition

Having a cadence (for the uninitiated, cadence is the measure of the rate at which you pedal while cycling. It is measured in revolutions per minute of the crank arm.) sensor greatly improves riding performance. Especially during long endurance rides where one would like to ride more efficiently, combining both the speed and cadence data will not only give you an idea of the pace you are riding at, but also whether you are riding at the right gear.

Examples of Intermediate Cyclocomputers – Cateye Strada CC-RD410W, Cateye Stealth 50 CC-GL50

3. Advanced Cyclocomputers

If you are one of those riders who are really serious about your training and have definite goals when it comes to getting better on your bike, getting maximum amounts of data on your rides can make the difference between being just good enough Vs. being the best. Most of the cyclocomputers in this category come with a multitude of additional features. Some of those are –

  • Elevation data – Total ascent, total descent, %gradient
  • Power data – Average power, Threshold Power, Max Power
  • GPS data to map out the route
  • Heart Rate data – Average/Maximum Heart rate, Heart Rate Zones

Training on Power is the most effective way to train and is used by professionals world over. However, for the serious enthusiasts, the cost can be a detrimental factor. In such cases, a cyclocomputer measuring heart rate is a very good substitute if one knows how to use it effectively and efficiently. Heart rate data coupled with cadence can give you a very good estimate of how you are riding on a given day based on your training routine.

The data obtained from these cyclocomputers can be Synced to your home computer/laptop for even further analysis and understanding of your ride.

Examples of Advanced Cyclocomputers – Garmin Edge Series

OTHER FEATURES TO LOOK OUT FOR

A handful of cyclocomputer features that will make a big difference to your overall riding experience. Some of them are a make or break set of features. Prioritize your requirements and decide on what is most important and beneficial to you.

Battery life: Magnetic units use 1 or 2 watch batteries, often a CR2032, which can last up to 1-2.5 years depending on usage. GPS bike computers use a built in-rechargeable battery with a life of up to 20 hours – it is rechargeable via a USB cable provided; smartphones using a GPS and cycling app last about 5 – 8 hours.

Multiple data screens: Data may be restricted to a single screen or several screens you can scroll through with the push of a button. Screen options may be fixed or customizable to prioritize what you want to see and when you want to see it.

Data transfer: Do you want to transfer data to training program software, website or a social fitness site? GPS models, including smartphones, cater to this. With wired computers that may or may not be possible depending on the model.

Readability: How easy to read is the screen data? Magnetic units have a fixed font size. GPS models may have an option to change the font size. A small font that is easy to read while stationary may be blurred by road vibration when on the move. Many GPS units also automatically vary screen brightness according to your surrounding lighting conditions.


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