The 7 Best Bike Computers for Road Cyclists in 2018

In today's data driven world, a bike computer is almost a necessity for any cyclist.

Bike computers of today not only display your current speed, distance and duration but there's much more to it nowadays especially if you're a geek. The features can be anything from navigation to structured training and controlling the smart trainers.

Read More : 7 Things to Consider Before Buying A Bike Computer

The number one question is always, which is the best bike computer?

My answer is, it depends on your needs. There are those basic ones that cost less than $100, mid-level and premium ones that go as high as $500+.

Here are some of the best bike computers available today.

Best Basic Bike Computers for the Budget Minded

1. Planet Bike Protege 9.0

Planet Bike Protege 9.0 Bike Computer

If you want a simple and basic cycling computer, the Planet Bike Protege 9.0 ticks all the boxes.

It gives you all the critical data you need - current speed, ride time, distance, average speed, max speed, time, and temperature.

It's compact, lightweight design ensures it will easily fit anywhere along your stem (so riders with short stems need not worry), and if you happen to lose or damage yours, it's inexpensive price won't leave you smarting for too long.

>> Available at : Amazon

2. Cateye Padrone Digital Wireless

Cateye Padrone Digital Bike Computer

Cateye is the brand that started it all when it comes to bike computers. In fact, there's a chance that your first bike 20 to 30 years ago came with a Cateye hooked to the handlebars.

Cateye bike computers have changed a lot in recent years. With the release of the Padrone Digital, Cateye pushes its beginner bike computer into a fairly luxe territory.

Featuring a best-in-class large screen that makes your ride stats really pop out, the 3-row display can show four different data sets allowing you to toggle various bits of your ride information or keep them all onscreen at the same time.

>> Available at : Amazon | Wiggle | Chain Reaction Cycles | ProBikeKit

Best Bike Computers for the Money

1. Wahoo Elemnt Bolt

Wahoo Fitness Elemnt Bolt Bike Computer

With the Elemnt Bolt, Wahoo focused heavily on delivering a bike computer with a simple, elegant screen.

Notably, it's one of the first bike computers to be designed with aerodynamics in mind. Previously, bike computers were a bit on the boxy side until Wahoo and others began to streamline their designs using wind tunnels.

Featuring Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity, the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt seamlessly pairs with your devices, creating a frictionless experience from ride to home to upload. Best of all, you can set up your displays directly from your phone in under 2 minutes.

As an added bonus, the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt also comes with a free 60-day trial of Strava Summit subscription.

>> Available at : Clever Training | Chain Reaction Cycles

2. Garmin Edge 520 Plus

Garmin Edge 520 Plus Bike Computer

Garmin is the pioneering company behind navigation devices that are so popular nowadays. The name Garmin has become synonymous with bike GPS devices.

The Garmin Edge 500 bike computer set an early standard for cyclists more than 7 years ago. Now, the Garmin Edge 520 Plus picks up where that heritage left off.

The main difference between the Edge 520 and 520 Plus lies in the advanced mapping, turn-by-turn navigation and performance/training features. It has a full suite of connectivity options (Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi), a large color display, and a longer battery life of up to 15 hours.

On the training side of things, the Garmin Edge 520 will monitor specific VO2 max levels when you sync it with your power meter or heart rate monitors. It'll pair right up with your favorite training apps such as TrainingPeaks.

>> Available at : Amazon | Clever Training 

3. Lezyne Super GPS

Lezyne Super GPS Bike Computer

The Lezyne Super GPS foregoes the flash and color of the Garmin Edge 520 to deliver a feature-rich bike computer that is packed with all of the latest computer features.

Apart from all of the basic features you've come to expect in a bike computer, the Lezyne Super GPS can pair with any Bluetooth or ANT+ sensors, and is fully compatible with electronic groupsets.

Pairing the Lezyne Super GPS with the Lezyne Ally V2 mobile app enables it to display messages, calls, and turn-by-turn navigation.

Notably, the Lezyne Super GPS is built with the advanced Glonass GPS chip which gives best in class accuracy and data recording. In terms of battery life, Lezyne hits it out of the park with 24-hours of juice.

>> Available at : Amazon | Wiggle 

Best Bike Computers for the Tech Geeks

1. Garmin Edge 1030 Bundle

Garmin Edge 1030 Bike Computer

Without mincing words, the Garmin Edge 1030 bike computer can only be described as the Ferrari of bike computers.

Featuring a massive 3.5" screen that rivals your smartphone for display capability, the Edge 1030 delivers a sharp viewing experience that excels in rain or shine.

Using the Garmin Connect and Garmin Cycle Map apps, you can pull data from billions of miles of user data or get turn-by-turn directions. Or you can create your own routes, upload them to the Edge 1030, and get lost without actually getting lost.

And, with all of the aforementioned features, the Edge 1030 delivers anywhere from 20 to 40 hours of battery life depending on the battery mode you chose.

>> Available at : Amazon | Clever Training | Chain Reaction Cycles

2. Wahoo Elemnt

Wahoo Fitness Elemnt Bike Computer

The Elemnt is simply a larger version of the very popular Elemnt Bolt.

Designed for simplicity and ease of use, the Wahoo Elemnt is in some ways the antithesis of the Garmin Edge 1030.

Featuring the same amount of power but none of the eye-candy, the Wahoo Elemnt is the swiss-army knife of bike computers directed solely at riders in need of a practical device.

Featuring all-in-one connectivity (Bluetooth, ANT+ dual-band tech), it easily pairs with any sensor or device you have with ease. All of your performance metrics can be viewed and monitored in one quick glance with the elegance of Wahoo's LED Quicklook Indicator system, located at the top and left side.

If the flash of other bike computers pushes you away, the Wahoo Elemnt might be exactly what you're looking for.

>> Available at : Amazon | Clever Training | Chain Reaction Cycles

7 Things to Consider Before Buying A Bike Computer

Bike computer these days come with so many features that makes the buying decision even harder. You'll probably be thinking:

  • What features do I need?
  • ANT+ or Bluetooth, perhaps both?
  • How long will the battery last?
  • Can it sync to my smartphone?
  • Do I need the extra sensors like speed and cadence?

I know there's a lot going through your mind. So let me break it down for you.

Here's what you should look for in a bike computer.

1. Types of Bike Computers

Bike computers can be divided into 3 categories, with prices for each category increasing as the amount and level of features rise.

Basic Bike Computers

These computers are great for not only beginners but also those who know in advance that they don't need complicated features.

These only have basic displays with speed, distance, ride duration and time. It's unlikely they'll feature much connectivity beyond USB support. But again, it shouldn't be much of an issue if you just need basic data.

A good basic bike computer to begin with would be the Cateye Padrone.

Mid-Range Bike Computers

Those who desire a wider range of features will opt for a mid-range bike computer.

You'll get a bigger display, a customizable screen with color, navigation, connectivity options (BT, Ant+, WiFi), and instant upload to your favorite online applications such as Strava.

The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt and Garmin Edge 520 Plus are some of the best value for money, mid-range bike computers.

Premium Bike Computers

Created for riders who want the full suite of features akin to those found on a smartphone.

Premium bike computers take the features of mid-level computers and amplify them with advanced navigation, training modes, increased storage options, long-lasting batteries, sharper displays, bigger screens, and much more.

The Garmin Edge 1030 is probably the most feature packed bike computer available today.

2. Bundles

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt Bundle

Mid to high end bike computers tend to come bundled with various accessories such as the heart rate monitor, speed sensor and cadence sensors.

These are optional extras. But if you're a data geek, you might want to seriously consider getting them.

These are usually ANT+ and/or Bluetooth compatible and will work with other brands since the ANT+/Bluetooth is an industry standardised technology.

3. User Interface and Ease of Use

The bike computer you ultimately decide to buy will come down in large part to the type of interface you prefer and more importantly, how easy it is to use.

Some comes with fully customisable screens with various data fields while some aren't. When it comes to operating the bike computer, they range from full touchscreen to button operated, with some having a hybrid of both.

It all boils down to your personal preference and how comfortable you're with it.

4. Battery Life

In general, the more features a bike computer has, the less battery life it will offer. 

If you opt for a bike computer with a large, dynamic and colorful display with tons of connectivity options like the Garmin Edge 1030, then you can bet that it will run through its battery life faster than a basic model.

Basic bike computers with small monochrome displays may not look beautiful, but they get the job done when it comes to longer-lasting battery life.

Models like the Garmin Edge 1030 and Edge 520 Plus have a battery saver mode which helps prolong the battery life.

5. Wireless Connectivity

ANT+ vs Bluetooth Smart

Here is where your individual needs will really come into play. Wireless connectivity will either be a make or break feature depending on what you want to do with your ride data.

If you're using apps like Strava or MapMyRide, or sensors like a power meter and heart rate monitor, then you'll want to go with a bike computer that has ANT+ and/or Bluetooth capabilities.

The lower down the totem pole you go price-wise, the less connectivity options you'll get. The least being USB-connection only.

However, not everyone needs to share their bike data with friends, coaches, or on social media. If that's you, then not to worry, you don't need WiFi, Bluetooth, or ANT+ connectivity, and will do just fine with a basic bike computer.

6. Mounting System

Mounting system preferences are highly personal. I'd recommend that you take the time to look at popular mounting system configurations before deciding on the computer that suits you best.

Something to take into consideration here is your stem length. The shorter it is, the less possible it will be for you to mount your bike computer atop the stem, especially one with a larger screen such as the Cateye Padrone.

K-Edge Garmin Out Front Mount

In recent years, a far more popular and sleek option for mounting a bicycle computer has come with aftermarket mounting systems that place your bike computer ahead of your stem.

They're generally referred to as out-front mount.

These mounts are popular in large part because of their adjustability as they can be tilted up or down depending on your viewing preference.

The Garmin Edge 520 Plus, Edge 1030, Wahoo Elemnt and Elemnt Bolt comes bundled with the out front mount, so you don't need to get one separately.

7. Navigation

Choosing a bike computer is all about first determining what your current needs are and future needs.

One important question is, do you ever need the navigation functions?

If you're intending to stay put on roads you know like the back of your hand, then you probably don't need much, if any, navigation.

But, if you'd like to discover new roads, or like to create routes at home and upload them to your bike computer so that it can guide you along the route, then choosing a computer with an advanced navigation would be a no-brainer.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do I need the cadence and speed sensors?

It depends on your needs and the type of bike computers. 

Speed sensors. If you look around, most premium bike computers come bundled with cadence and speed sensors. These are nice to have especially the speed sensors.

The bike computer computes your speed using the GPS signals. The only time the speed sensor comes into play is when you're riding in areas without GPS signals such as through tunnels.

However, if you're using a bike computer without GPS capabilities, then the speed sensor is critical to measuring your speed.

Cadence sensors. The only time you'll really need a cadence sensor is if you're training to a specific cadence. Otherwise, it's a nice to have to be able to see how fast your legs are spinning, and that's just about it.

2. Can I sync the bike computer to my smartphone?

You can sync the bike computer to your phone as long as they support Bluetooth. 

For this to work, you'll also need to install the companion app such as the Garmin Connect, Wahoo Elemnt or Lezyne Ally on your phone.

Once synced, the bike computer can display things like incoming calls (useful to know who's calling your mid-ride without taking your your phone from the back pocket) and messages.

3. How do I sync my rides to strava?

Strava and Garmin Connect

These days, synching to Strava is almost seamless if the bike computer has Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity built-in. You'll need to link the bike computer to Strava during the initial set up phase and voila.

Each time you finish your ride, it will automatically upload the ride data when it's connected to your home wifi or via your smartphone's Bluetooth connection.

If you're using a basic bike computer, you'll probably need to download it to your computer via USB, and then manually upload the .fit or .gpx file.

4. Can I use a bike computer on a trainer?

Yes you can for a bike computer that supports the ANT+ FE-C protocol such as the Garmin Edge 520 Plus, Edge 1030, Wahoo Elemnt and Elemnt Bolt.

FE-C stands for Fitness Equipment - Controller, which is a communication protocol developed for bike computers/apps to talk to fitness equipments, such as a trainer.

You can use your bike computer to do several things on a smart trainer:

  • Ride a virtual course. You can create the course on apps like MapMyRide or RidewithGPS, load it onto the bike computer. It'll then adjust the resistance on the trainer to mimic the gradient of the route.
  • Ride a previous workout. You can re-ride a course you've ridden previously.
  • Ride a structured workout. Once you've loaded the workout, the bike computer will sync with the trainer to adjust the resistance accordingly. This is sometimes referred to as ERG mode.
  • Ride a manual workout. You can use the bike computer as a controller to manually set the trainer's power/resistance levels up/down.