What’s the Best Cyclocomputer?

Once again last weekend, I started a ride without waking my cyclocomputer. It automatically goes into sleep mode if I’m stopped for about five minutes, and quite often, I’ll forget to hit the button to wake it up so it can continue to tote up my mileage and measure my speed and cadence.

It’s a bit bothersome, especially for someone as OCD as I am about keeping tabs on my cycling stats. But overall, I like the computer. It’s a nice Cateye V2C. It’s wireless, and it gets me the info I need — but not the info some of my friends expect from their computers.

So I wonder — What do you expect your cyclocomputer to do? How elaborate do we want it to get at collecting and storing data?

Some want a GPS unit that saves the whole ride, so it can be downloaded to a desktop computer and then followed interactively.

Some want a computer that measures heart rate in addition to speed and cadence.

Others prefer a minimalist approach, and just want to know how fast they’re going and how far they’ve gone. They don’t really care about all that other stuff.

And then there are those who have a love-hate relationship with their computers. That would include both of my guest posters, Jeff Hemmel and Don Blount. Jeff and Don have each used this space to rejoice in the “freedom” that riding without a computer gives.

But whenever I ride with my club, every person in the group has a computer of some kind attached to their handlebars. So — to repeat my opening question, what do you expect your computer to do? And if you’d like to describe the make and model of yours and its features, feel free to go ahead. That’s what comments are for.


  1. ha1ku says

    I don’t own one yet, and have been shopping. I wonder though if it’s a device that will cause me to develop a love/hate thing, like what has happened with my cell phone (e.g., “I wish I could get rid of this phone, but I keep it for emergencies.”)

    Right now, all I care about is speed and distance. If there is something that will help me get un-lost, that would be even cooler.

  2. says

    I have a Sigma BC1606L wireless with cadence. From the website, the features are

    Actual speed; Average speed; Comparison of actual and average speed; Maximum speed; Trip distance; Programmable trip section counter; Total distance bike 1; Total distance bike 2; Total distance bike 1+2; Actual cadence; Average cadence; Clock; Stop watch; Riding time; Total riding time – bike 1; Total riding time – bike 2; Total riding time – bike 1+2; Programmable time meter (countdown timer)

    I also wear a Polar heart rate monitor whenever I ride.

    Ideally I’d like a comp that combined all of the above + GPS and elevation profile, that I could simply plug into the PC once a week and upload everything.

    For me, it’s as much about having all the info I might want at my fingertips. Doing a 30@30 challenge or just a cadence ride, I want to know how I’m doing.

    I don’t like riding without it, and I’ve been known to turn around and go pick it up if I forget it.

  3. oldguy says

    I use the Garmin 405 gps watch. It came with a heart monitor strap. I bought the cadence/speed sensor for my bike. The wheel speed helps smooth out the GPS speed – which can be inaccurate depending on satellite constellation. I’m still experiencing elevation issues, so I’m looking for something with a barometer/altimeter to steady those out (Garmin 500 looks good).

    The features I look for are distance, speed, cadence, HR. I like having the elevation profile and mapping features. I like having the ability to upload to computer.

    I wish the calorie calculation was more accurate. In the current version of the 405 software it is a statistical calculation (weight, age, speed). Would like to see calculation based on actual effort (HR, speed, etc.).

    The only thing I don’t like is having the display on a watch–limited screen space and have to take hands of handlebar to see/change. I would like to see instantaneous cadence on a display so I could work on technique. Looking for a good on bike computer – again Garmin 500 looks promising.

  4. tracywilkins says

    My requirements of a bike computer are pretty simple. I want to know how fast I’m going, how far I’ve gone, and the total mileage on my bike. It’s also got to be simple to use and durable. The Cateye Enduro meets all those requirments quite well, and at less than $35 is economical enough that I don’t feel bad about owning 4 of them. By having the same computer on every bike, I eliminate the need to learn how to use different makes and models, and when my wife forgets how to reset hers, I can easily talk her through the process.

    With that said, I have the tandem set up a little differently. We use the Cateye on the stoker bar for Pam, and I have a Shimano Flight Deck for the captain because it has a nifty feature to show me what gear I’m in. It also shows me a virtual cadence, which is handy on the tandem since I’m having to manage the gearing to accomodate both of us.

    I also have a Garmin 305 which can be rotated between my three bikes if I have the desire to see more information regarding our ride.

  5. says

    We went the mimumum way, with Cateye Velo 5’s but I’ll be honest, I’ll work my way up to a Velo 8 as I really miss the “trip meter” and the “avg. speed” settings of the wayyyyy cheap digital BELL bike computer I had (yes, from Wally-Mart), it went NUTS after hitting 40mph down a very steep and long hill one day, never recovered.

    IF I was a rich cyclist, I’d love to get a meter that showed, all of the Velo 8’s functions and “altitude” too, those are wayyyyy out of our meger budget, rats!

  6. says

    I love my Garmin Edge 305. It’s very easy to use, and it’s packed withe features. There are no wires to worry about and it measures every metric I need including heart rate. The ability to program interval workouts into the unit helps keep me focused on riding rather than worrying about timing. The only real drawback is a poor calorie counter (you really need a power meter to get an accurate cycling calorie measurement) which vastly over-estimates calories burned.

    The biggest benefit is at the end of the day you can download all the info into Garmin Connect and Ascent which keeps track of everything. No worry about resetting an odometer or losing your totals when the battery runs out.

  7. says

    I’ve only owned the bare minimum cyclocomputer (speed, distance, average). I would like at least an Edge 305 so I can get heart rate, cadence, and feet climbed. Those are kinda pricey though.

  8. says

    So far, I’m in the minimalist camp. Just speed and distance. I wouldn’t mind adding a cadence measurement some day.

    But for now, I’ve got a cheapo Schwinn cyclocomputer that I bought at Meijer for about $20. It’s been great.

    I wouldn’t be able to handle a computer that you have to wake up. I’d never remember. My current model just wakes up automatically when the wheel starts turning again.

  9. DR says

    Cateye wireless is what I use for my standard info (avg. mph, cadence, miles etc) for the bike. A buddy of mine recommended to me Trimble Outdoors Allsport GPS software for the phone. It’s awesome. I pay about $40 a year for it, and it logs pretty much everything other than heartrate info. Satified my need for a $300 GPS so I can invest in some other bike upgrade.

  10. Cliff says

    Cateye ASTRALE 8

    I have one of these $30.00 monsters on all of my bikes. I don’t care for the wireless as the three that I used at one time or other went flaky.

    I covet one of the Garmin 705’s, and I do also use a Polar 750 but bottom line there is always an Astrale 8 on the bike, starts automatically and has cadence and a clock if I ever remember to set it correctly, can’t ask for more than that.

  11. says

    Mine is the $30 Planet Bike (Protege 8) model and it has “auto wake” which is nice, but other than that it’s bare bones model. I’d like to see one with an anomometer (or whatever the wind speed thingy is called) as I find things like wind direction and wind speed to be more important than temperature, etc.

  12. Tom Reingold says

    I own a lot of bikes, and I don’t want to move a computer from one bike to another. I’d love to log my miles automatically, but it’s too much to ask. So I buy cheap computers for $15 or under. None of them needs to be woken up with a button. They wake up when I move the bike.

    I get these cheap computers on Amazon or Nashbar or at Target. They work fine!

  13. Elis says

    I’ve used a variety of cyclo computers and kept breaking and loosing them (I commute in NYC so can’t leave anything on the bike) so I went a while without one but I find I ride a lot more and a lot faster when I have the motivation of knowing the #s

    So I’m trying something different. I have an Android phone (specifically the HTC Hero in my case) and picked up a variety of apps to use.. I’ve finally settled on CardioTrainer and Velox.

    CardioTrainer is a free app that uses the gps on my phone to track current, avg, highest speeds, estimated calorie burn, route and time and then saves all of that info, even allowing me to see it/share it online. It pauses when I’m still long enough which is great because I hate when stop lights pull down my average speed. I haven’t set up a handlebar mount for my phone yet (though I plan to) but the program can be set up to announce my speed/distance every so often. I can also set the program to track me when skiing or running (it uses the accelerometer in the phone as a pedometer). The app has 99cent add-ons available that for weight loss planning and for racing yourself/other’s time.. I’m thinking of picking up the race add-on so that I can race my past times home from work every day.

    I also like Velox as a simpler option, it shows speed, avg speed, highest speed, distance and elevation, elevation change.

    So far I’ve only used my phone a couple times to handle my needs but am excited about it as an option, esp since I can leave it in my pocket and hear announcements about speed/distance while commuting and there is no way I’d forget/loose my phone (damn thing has pretty much replaced the functions of my brain.)

  14. Edgar says

    I have the velo 8 now, but due to the hot weather in the country (Philippines), the plastic that’s attaching the sensor to the fork has become brittle. I’m planning to replace it with the strada, but at the same time I’m also thinking of going wireless.

  15. DoraeMew says

    I have a squad of VDO cycle computing (www.cycleparts.de) for myself, brother, girlfriend and colleague. They are VDO C2, C2 DS, X1 DW and 3pcs of X2 DW

    It’s value are great compare to CatEye with the same price range in my region (Thailand). IMHO, it can even outperform CatEye with double price!

    The DS and DW wireless VDO units are upgradable with Cadence sensor while you have to choose CatEye with Cadence from the beginning.
    They can be exchange between bikes whose install speed sensor from the same series.

    Interface design are also excellent. CatEye was also excellent before until they try to minimalist their design. CatEye outside design are now minimalist but inside are real pain to use and control.

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