Is A Bike Computer Right For You?

Why You Need Bike Computer

Bicycles, for the most part, have remained relatively simple since their creation. The same can’t be said for their accessories, however. Bike computers have come a long way over the last several years, and although you can still purchase basic units that offer core functions, there are now more choices than ever, with lots of advanced capabilities.

At first thought, a bike computer may seem like a bit of overkill in the grand scheme of things, but the truth is that they have functions that can appeal to any level of cyclist, right down to the most casual riders.

Below we’ll go over who can benefit from bike computers, and some of the main uses they can offer.

Wait...What Exactly is a Bike Computer?

The term “bike computer” may be a bit misleading, especially in terms of what the simplest versions offer. Also known as a cyclometer or cyclocomputer, a bike computer is a device that performs certain tasks and functions that can provide you with an array of real-time data, tracking, navigation, and more.

Bike computers are almost always affixed right onto the handlebars, serving as a sort of display like you have in a car. Some models may be worn on the wrist like a watch.

The earliest versions of bike computers provided basic data such as trip distance and a speedometer. More advanced bike computers can provide GPS tracking, monitor heart rates, communicate with other riders, and more.

Placement of Bike Computer

Regardless of what it offers, if it’s an electronic device that provides you with riding information, it’s a bike computer. Any type of rider can benefit from using one, although not all riders need the same functions.

Determining what bike computer to get for yourself depends on what kind of rider you are, and a few other factors as well. Let’s start with first determining what kind of rider you are.

Casual

Casual or recreational riders include those that ride for leisure and entertainment, and may only get out once or twice a week, or even just on a few weekends per month. While fitness may be goal as well, casual riders often need just a basic bike computer with some simple information such as a speedometer, timer and trip distance.

Enthusiast

Cycle enthusiasts ride often during the week, and maybe even daily as part of a commute, or high-level fitness regimen. These riders often log a high amount of miles at one time, and might need to keep track of a handful of data points. In this case, a slightly more advanced bike computer that can track average speeds and specific checkpoints or laps is often necessary.

Competitive

Professional and competitive cyclists need to keep track of a number of details that include everything we’ve already mentioned, and additional information such as cadence, heart rate, overall power output, and more.

Bike Computer With Navigation

Advanced bike computers that have to be used in conjunction with other accessories are needed for this type of rider. Competitive cyclists on long training rides may also want navigation and weather apps on their bike computer. Ride data can often be transferred to other devices as well.

How do Bike Computers Work?

Bike computers rely on two main methods to collect and transmit your ride data.

The simpler bike computers use magnetic sensors that are used to calculate speed and distance. In this instance, a sensor is placed onto a spoke on the front wheel, and another sensor is placed on the fork. Each time the wheel turns, the wheel sensor passes the fork sensor, which determines your speed and mileage.

If you are calculating power output, the same method is used on the rear of the bike, with one sensor being places on the crank arm, and one on a rear frame stay.

Advanced bike computers use GPS technology. While you will still need rear sensors to track power output, the GPS can determine your speed from a satellite in space, just like with a car or boat version. GPS bike computers almost always have navigation technology as well.

Choosing the Right Bike Computer for Yourself

In addition to determining the type of rider you may be when shopping for a bike computer, there are some other factors to consider.

Advanced Bike Computer
  • Information - Think about the actual information and data that you are in need of. Do you need to monitor your heart rate? Or do you simply need to see how fast you are going, and see how many miles you’ve traveled? This can greatly affect your choices.
  • Cost - Bike computers vary greatly in terms of cost. The most basic computers can be found for under $50, but if you need anything beyond basic functions, you may need to spend two or three times as much.
  • Extra Features - Additional functions may be a priority for you as well, or you may just simply prefer them instead. This can include data transfer, communication features, fitness app compatibility, etc.

Other Considerations

Here are a few other options and features to keep in mind when shopping for a bike computer.

Battery Life

Simple bike computers usually have a fairly long battery life, as they are often powered by small batteries that offer hundreds of hours of use. The more advanced a bike computer is, the less likely it is to hold a charge.

If you loathe having to worry about charging batteries all the time, make sure the computer you’re looking at has a satisfactory battery life for your needs.

Various Bike Computers

Backlight

If you’re riding at night, simple bike computers that have screens similar to calculators are probably not going to cut it. Look for models that have sufficient lighting on the screen.

Mounting

Attaching a bike computer onto your handlebar is common, but if you need to frequently view it, you will need a unit that can be mounted further in front of you, so you can keep your eyes on the road better.

Conclusion

By now you should have a firm grasp of what bike computers can offer for your riding needs, and how to choose one that’s right for you.

With the right model and the right price, you can easily add a very useful accessory to your bike that can provide better insight into your rides, whether you hit the road daily, or just every once in awhile.

This post was last updated on June 5th, 2018 at 01:56 pm

About the Author Max Shumpert

Over the last few years, I’ve taken my love of the outdoors, hiking, skiing, trekking and exploring to the next level by starting this site. I started a bike shop in Denver, CO, and have seen amazing growth over the last few years. Getting paid to do what I love has been a dream come true for me. That’s also what led me to start BikesReviewed.com. In my shop, I spend a large amount of time helping people find the perfect bike for them and the style of biking they’re going to be doing. It only made sense that I expanded my reach and got online, making it possible for me to help people all over the world. If biking and staying fit is your priority, too, you’ve come to the right place.

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