Have you ever heard of bike computers or cycling computers? If you are a cycling enthusiast, maybe you have heard of cycling computers. The popularity of bicycle computers has increased with the development of performance measurement software such as Strava which provides data and statistics for active cyclists. Unlike most other sports, the progress of long-distance cycling and the incremental improvement is not easy to track accurately. That is why the latest computers and software are needed to visualize your increased ability while cycling, and the use of a cycling computer is now a necessity, especially in the modern cycling community.
A bicycle computer displays accurate and real time information about speed, distance, travel time, etc., usually attached to the handlebars or stem of your bicycle. Of course, the benefits of cycling computer technology are not only needed by experienced and aspiring cyclists, commuters and bicycle sports hobbyists also need the benefits of a bicycle computer because of features such as connectivity with smart phones, navigation assistance, weather information, as additional features of the bike computer’s ability to provide detailed data about your ability to ride.
Types of Cycling Computers
Cycling computers have two different types of sensors, and of course each sensor has its own advantages and disadvantages.
This sensor is a magnet attached to the spokes of your bicycle wheel which rotates and passes through the sensor mounted on the front fork. For the cadence sensor, a magnetic sensor is attached to the rear holder and to the crank arm of the bicycle.
Pros: this sensor is cheaper and the battery lasts longer, you don’t need to recharge it regularly.
Cons: there is no GPS function in this sensor.
This sensor converts the GPS signal by using a satellite receiver to become your travel data.
Pros: Data easier to exchange between bikes, more data options and can be transferred to a computer, customizable screens.
Cons: Needs to be refilled regularly, is heavier and of course more expensive.
Cycling computers also have two types of data transmission and usually depend on the type of sensor used.
Cables are used by magnetic sensors to transmit signals to the display unit.
Pros: cheaper price, lighter and quite simple to install.
Cons: Transmission cables can get caught or torn, this risk is especially greater on mountain bikes than on road bikes, they are usually not interchangeable between bikes so not a good choice for those of you who have more than one bicycle.
GPS sensors are basically all wireless, magnetic sensors use a signal transmitter to the display unit.
Pros: very easy to install, no hassle with cables, easy to transfer to another bike, cleaner appearance and no risk.
Cons: the unit is heavier, and the price is certainly more expensive, especially units that use GPS sensors.
Apart from being distinguished by the type of sensor and connectivity, cycling computers are also divided into three types according to the increasing number and level of features.
For those of you who are beginners in the world of cycling, a basic computer is the beginning of your learning, the features provided by this computer are also very simple. The basic types of cycling computers provide some basic views such as speed, distance, duration and ride time. Usually there is also no other connectivity outside of USB support, of course this will not be a problem for those of you who only need basic data. Basic cycling computers priced between $15 – $60.
In this class, cycling computers provide more features such as a larger screen display, usually a color and customizable screen. There are several connectivity options such as BT, Ant + and Wifi, navigation features and an instant upload option to your favorite applications such as Strava. Basic cycling computers priced between $65 – 100$.
Premium cycling computers have all the features of a mid-range computer and amplify these features with training modes, advanced navigation, a sharper display, bigger screen, more storage options, more powerful and longer battery life, etc. Premium class computers are commonly used by cyclists who want a complete range of features like those on smartphones, and of course the premium class price is the most expensive compared to other types.
Actually, what kind of cycling computer do you need? As with anything else about cycling, you better match your budget with the features you prioritize. A cycling computer that has a GPS navigation map, interval timer, color touch screen and a lot of connectivity, of course, requires you to spend more than the compact type with a cycling computer unit that uses buttons, black and white display and basic training metrics.
Regarding navigation, some premium cycling computers are equipped with GPS chips, access to satellite networks such as GLONASS even have base maps pre-installed and allow you to create routes and courses directly on premium devices. On the one hand, many budget-friendly cycling computers do not have a basemap but still provide ‘continuous links’ navigation. This unit will display your route as the line you have to follow.
The touch screen and color may not be something that is mandatory for you, it is great fun to intuitively scroll through the metric pages or maneuver maps, but if you are wearing gloves with full fingers or the weather is raining, this screen will not function as advertised. Color screen also will not affect the overall features, color only plays a lot in the navigation base map, instead of looking for a color screen, you are more assisted by a black and white screen that looks good in direct sunlight. Make sure your cycling computer screen is well-adapted to sunlight and is well lit for cycling at night.
Features supporting third-party applications such as Komoot, Strava Live Segments are not always only available in premium units, you can find Strava Live Segments features and drivetrain integration in middle and lower class units.
Once again the choice depends on your needs and the suitability of your budget, don’t buy wow features that you don’t need and end up becoming mere expensive accessories on your bike.