Bike computers

garminOne of the rituals of biking I go through every time I come back from a ride is to unclip my cyclocomputer from its handlebar mount, and later enter all the data from that ride into an Excel spreadsheet I keep. I like to look at the data at intervals, to see if I’m actually making progress. Am I riding longer, farther, at a higher average speed?

I posted about my computer last year, after I put it on the bike. It’s a Cateye Strada Cadence, and I think it’s terrific. I’ve been most impressed by the accuracy of its mileage. It is a hard-wired computer, though, and the wires sometimes get in the way, especially when I’m mounting the bike on the car’s bike rack. I have a hunch that if I get a different computer at some point, it will be a wireless.

My previous computer was an Ascent Delta V. It was wireless, so was convenient. I liked the fact that I could “scan” the data, that is, it would display distance, average speed, top speed, elapsed time for a few seconds each, then advance to the next one. The Cateye doesn’t do that. No big deal.

I supposed the next step would be to move up to a GPS computer, like a Garmin 705. The bike routes I’ve seen displayed with Garmin data are pretty nifty. The expense of a GPS unit, however, is something the Noob household is not in a position to bear at the moment. So it’ll have to wait. Years, maybe.

What’s your preference? Is there a minimum set of functions each cyclocomputer should have? Or do we even need to care about the data they accumulate? And how much are you willing to spend to get that data?

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7 thoughts on “Bike computers

  1. I was a Polar guy before mine went kablooie, and then I replaced it with a Garmin Edge 305. It’s not the most current unit, but it works GREAT, and you can get refurbished units with a 1 year warranty on eBay for ~$200. I won’t go back to non-GPS computers, with their inability to link performance to geography. GPS is just too much fun!

  2. I’ll have to agree with 331. I love my 305. I don’t tend to mull over the data too much though. Really the basic functions that I require from a computer are time of day, miles ridden, and speed. Cadence is nice, although I don’t tend to use it much. Heart rate is nice but I make sure I don’t display it while I’m riding. I do like to use it to see my level of effort vs speed and rate of climb. But I’ve found that if I have it displayed then I’m likely to back off when I feel I can physically keep pushing. Obviously the 305 is overkill for my “basic” list…but hey, I’m also a technophile…and I do enjoy looking over my routes and having the ability to download new routes. The best thing about the 305 is that you can dump routes into in and you can easily download info to your computer. Sites like MapMyRide make owning a 305 even better! I personally wouldn’t go for the 705 unless you want mapping…I don’t really find that adds a lot of value unless you don’t plan a route a head of time. In other words if you tend to get lost :-)

  3. Speed, elapsed time, and distance are all I ever really look at (and average speed which is just speed/time). About 3/4 of my bikes don’t have cyclometers, but I like them on the commuters and mountain bikes. I actually have a couple of bikes I put together specifically for “dataless” rides, when I just want to ride and not worry about it.

  4. I’ve gotta echo the good comments about the Garmin Edge 305. I don’t use mine every ride, so I’ve still got a Cateye Enduro on all three bikes. It’s a pretty basic computer, but tough as nails and very reliable.

    I’ve never had an issue with snagging the computer’s wire on either my road bike or commuter bike. Have you wrapped yours around the front brake cable and routed it up that way? There’s a picture out on http://tracywilkins.wordpress.com/2009/02/25/what-a-great-day/ that somewhat shows how mine is done. I use a single zip-tie around the fork about 1/2 way between the sensor and the front brake, then just tightly wrap it around the brake cable up to the handle bars and it stays out of the way nicely.

    I find that I like the Garmin on routes I’ve never been on before so I can capture the GPS track and stats and occasionally load a new route from Bikely.com or MapMyRide.com into it to ensure I don’t get lost (although I’ve still been known to miss a few turns and have to circle back).

  5. I have been using a Cateye (wireless, no cadence) and recently got a 305. I wanted to add heart rate and climb data to my tracking logs. You can customize the display, zones (for HR and speed), and turn off the gps and strap it on a spinning bike if needed. The route capabilities are a bonus. It attaches securely to the handlebar. It does look a bit big (read dorky) when worn on the wrist

    I saw nothing in the 705 that, for me, justified the cost difference (the 305 with HR and bike mount was < $200 on Amazon. Adding cadence would cost an additional $40, IIRC).

  6. Thanks for the input. Maybe a Garmin 305 will be doable at some point. Tracy, I do have my computer’s wire wrapped around the front brake cable just as you describe. I think the problem is the bike rack itself, with my wife’s bike in it — too much stuff. Or maybe it’s me. Wouldn’t be surprised.

  7. I use my 305 on my road bike. It’s neat, but what makes it worthwhile is Ascent, a software package that tracks what you did. It is so much better than the included Garmin software it’s hard to believe. If you get a Garmin, get Ascent. It’s inexpensive and a worthwhile purchase.

    I love being able to see, on a map, where I went, and then play it back as an animation. You can also “send” the ride to Google Earth and watch your ride in 3-D. Be sure to turn up “exaggerate elevations” so you’ll really feel like you did something big!

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