Data is a huge part of modern cycling training. It can help you track your workouts over the course of a season, get stronger and faster, and help you navigate routes – not to mention share your rides with cycling friends. A bike computer allows you to take advantage of information about your speed, power, cadence, and location in real-time, making this one of the most useful gadgets you can add to your bike handlebars.
With the ubiquity of bike computers among cyclists, though, have come a lot of options. From simple bike computers that serve as a display for your connected devices to complex computers that synthesize information as you ride, there is a huge variety of bike computers available to cyclists. With that variation in features also comes a lot of difference in price, so that there’s a bike computer for cyclists on any budget.
In order to help you choose the best bike computer for your rides, we’ll take a closer look at what goes into these data devices, including the features you can choose from and why they’re important. Then, we’ll use this information to dive deep into reviewing the eight best bike computers of 2019.
How to Choose the Best Bike Computer for Your Ride
When it comes to choosing the best bike computer for your ride, the proliferation of bike computers offers a lot of options but also a lot of difficult decisions. Thankfully, understanding the most important features that manufacturers have introduced into bike computers in recent years can make deciding what you need – and what you don’t – easy.
Perhaps the best place to start with choosing a bike computer is figuring out your budget. Bike computers range widely in price, from budget-friendly computers that you can slowly add devices to over time to high-end models that come with all the bells and whistles built in.
On the budget end of the spectrum, it’s easy to find bike computers that cost less than $25 and offer plenty of functionality for recreational cyclists. If you’ve got more money to invest in your bicycle, premium cycling computers can run between $75 and $150 depending on the exact features you want.
Perhaps the biggest differentiator between budget and premium bike computer models is how they connect to your devices. Basic, inexpensive bike computers will rely heavily on wires to connect to devices like a cadence sensor or power meter, as well as require a USB connection to save your workout data to your computer.
Higher priced cycling computers will include wireless connection options, offering Bluetooth or ANT+ to pair with wireless sensors on your bike. That’s a major advantage for racing, since any unnecessary wires can get in the way and reduce your bike’s aerodynamics. Plus, these bike computers can usually connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth or even WiFi in order to allow you to upload and share ride data as soon as your workout is finished.
Another major difference between basic and premium bike computer is whether or not they are equipped with a GPS antenna. Most computers without a GPS can still track your speed and distance using a sensor on your rear wheel, so you don’t necessarily lose a ton of information by not having this capability.
However, GPS is often slightly more accurate and many high-end GPS-equipped bike computers use the GPS to provide navigation as you bike. For long-distance cyclists who like to explore new routes, having a GPS onboard can save a lot of time spent trying to navigate your route. With a GPS, you can also get elevation data – which won’t otherwise be available through your bike computer.
- Fitness Modes
While many cyclists might be content to ride freely or come up with their own workouts, some premium cycling computers also have built-in workout modes or allow you to input a custom workout and track it on your computer. This is particularly helpful for training in intervals on the bike, since you can monitor your progress through the workout right on your bike computer’s screen.
The most obvious difference between cycling computers is the display. The size of the display can vary from tiny to enormous – while a larger display is generally preferable, keep in mind that there are some aerodynamic considerations to a larger screen if you’ll be racing with your bike computer. Displays also differ in whether they offer color or are black-and-white only, and in whether they are touchscreen or controlled by buttons on the sides of the computer.
- Battery Life
Most bike computers offer plenty of battery life, so this is hardly an issue. But keep in mind that you’ll often get better battery life from less expensive computers with fewer features – GPS connectivity in particular can drain a bike computer’s battery. Most inexpensive cycling computers only need the batteries replaced once a year, while high-end computers may need to be recharged via USB after just a few rides.
- Mounting Options
Typically, cycling computers come with a mounting kit that offer one or more options for fixing them to your bike. There are two primary spots where bike computers are mounted – on the stem, or in front of the stem on the handlebars. Premium cycling computers now typically offer mounting out in front of the stem, since this puts the computer slightly further away from your eyes and doesn’t require you to change body positions to read the screen.
The 8 Best Bike Computers of 2020 – Compared and Tested
1. Cat Eye Padrone Wireless Bike Computer – Best Non-GPS Bike Computer
This modestly priced bike computer from Cat Eye is the perfect choice for cyclists who want accurate speed and distance information, but don’t want to spend a fortune on a GPS-enabled computer. The computer has a huge, easy-to-read screen that makes is simple to check your speed and distance while riding hard. However, keep in mind that there’s no backlight for early morning or evening rides.
The computer comes with a universal speed sensor, which works whether you’re riding a standard road bike or a 29-inch mountain bike. Better yet, the speed sensor recognizes when you’re not moving – and pauses your workout recording automatically. Still, the sensor itself is somewhat large and hard to fit on an aero front fork, so depending on your bike setup you may need to replace the sensor unit.
Using the computer while riding is easy thanks to a simple button on the bottom of the unit that rotates displays. The only thing to watch out for is that it’s easy to accidentally reset your trip mileage if you press the reset button on the top end of the display.
- Large screen
- Relatively inexpensive
- Comes with speed sensor
- Automatically pauses workouts when stopped
- No backlight for evening rides
- Speed sensor is hard to fit on aero forks
- Easy to accidentally reset trip mileage
2. iGPSPORT GPS Bike Computer – Best Budget GPS Bike Computer
This GPS-enabled bike computer from iGPSSPORT comes packed with features for a surprisingly low sub-$100 price tag. The GPS tracks your speed and distance, as well as records your route so you can upload it after your ride to your favorite mapping software. For uploads, the computer is Bluetooth-enabled and the .fit files it produces can be uploaded directly to Strava or MapMyRide via the iGPSSPORT app.
Better yet, this bike computer is equipped with ANT+ connectivity. That means you can connect most heart rate monitors and cadence sensors for even more information about your ride – and view that information in real-time on the screen.
The 2.2-inch screen isn’t huge and is somewhat packed with information, but most riders will learn quickly which numbers they need to look at when riding. The battery is rechargeable via USB cable and lasts for up to 40 hours – so you never need to worry about the computer going dead in the middle of a long ride.
- Surprisingly inexpensive for GPS bike computer
- Bluetooth-enabled for data upload
- ANT+ connectivity
- Battery lasts up to 40 hours
- Screen can be crowded with information
3. Bryton Rider 530 GPS Cycling Computer – Best Data Display Options
This high-end cycling computer from Bryton is designed for athletes who want to track everything about their ride and have that data at their fingertips in exquisite detail. The large 2.6-inch display is fully customizable – riders can choose up to display up to 12 different data types on a single page, and up to seven different display pages are available. The high resolution of the screen even means that you can display a line-drawn map of where you’ve ridden.
The cycling computer is equipped with several useful connectivity tools. First, it offers Bluetooth to connect to the Bryton app on your phone, from which you can program in a route and get turn-by-turn navigation during your ride or upload your ride data to Strava. The computer is also equipped with ANT+ sensors to connect to a heart rate monitor and cadence sensor – and the computer can be purchased in a bundle with these sensors. Finally, Shimano Di2 users will love that they can track their shifting and gearing with bike computer using the optional D-fly accessory (sold separately).
The computer offers a 29-hour battery life, which is very impressive given the size and information available in the display. Plus, it’s IPX7 waterproof, so you never have to worry about rain in the middle of your ride.
- Highly customizable data pages on display
- Bluetooth and ANT+ compatible
- Can be connected wirelessly to Shimano Di2 shifters
- 29-hour battery life
- IPX7 waterproof rating
- Turn-by-turn directions work only for rides mapped using Bryton app
- D-fly accessory is sold separately
4. Lezyne Mega XL GPS Bike Computer – Editor’s Choice
This massive GPS bike computer from Lezyne is designed for athletes who want to track everything about their ride – and share their ride data in real-time. The 2.7-inch screen can be oriented horizontally or vertically, and riders have the option to program in up to 10 different data displays per page on an unlimited number of pages. Furthermore, the computer has far more data options than most competing bike computers – for example, when paired with a power meter via ANT+, there are six different data displays for power alone available. The computer also has a built-in altimeter and barometer and can pair with SRAM eTap or Shimano Di2 electronic shifting systems.
This bike computer is also highly capable for navigating new routes. It comes pre-loaded with a set of US and global base maps, and you can import .gpx files from any software via USB or the Lezyne phone app to display turn-by-turn directions. On the road or trail, you can also design a route in the Lezyne app to start navigation mid-ride.
Bluetooth connection to your phone also offers some very unique options. The Lezyne computer will display text messages and phone calls on the computer screen. Plus, you can enable live tracking to share your ride data and location with friends and family in real-time.
Finally, the Lezyne cycling computer comes with a set of preprogrammed workouts, and you have the option to design and import your own structured workouts using the Lezyne app.
- Large 2.7-inch screen can be horizontal or vertical
- Tons of data displays, including altimetry and barometry
- Connects with electronic shifting systems
- Excellent navigation features with stored base maps
- Real-time live tracking via Lezyne app
- Support structured workouts
- Battery life up to 48 hours
5. SY Bicycle Speedometer and Odometer – Best Budget Bike Computer
This basic and low-cost bicycle computer from SY is the perfect choice for cyclists who want speed and distance information, but don’t need any long-term record of their workouts. The bike computer comes with a simple speed sensor, which it uses to give current, average, and maximum ride speeds as well as ride distance. However, keep in mind that there is no way to transfer data off the computer – you’ll need to write it down manually and clear the device between rides.
The computer screen is very small, but this isn’t an issue given that the data display is relatively simple. A backlight comes on automatically when riding between 6 pm and 6 am, which is helpful for using the computer in dark conditions. However, the backlight does reduce the battery life – even though this is a non-GPS bike computer with a small display, the battery lasts just one year.
The computer is easy to install and works with almost every bike. However, electric bike users may have some trouble finding an appropriate spot for the speed sensor.
- Very inexpensive
- Simple display is easy to read
- Automatic backlight
- Easy to install
- Surprisingly short battery life
- No way to transfer data to long-term record
- Small screen
6. Cycloving Wireless Bike Computer – Best Large Computer Display
This inexpensive wireless cycling computer from Cycloving offers a best-in-class 2.8-inch display, which makes it easy to keep an eye on your stats as you’re riding. The data display options are relatively simple since this computer is not GPS-enabled and does not have ANT+ connectivity to additional sensors. That said, it will show speed, distance, and temperature, as well as keep a life-long odometer.
The main problem with this computer is that the huge display eats through battery. That problem is made even worse by the fact that the display has a built-in backlight, which is great for night riding but takes a ton of energy. The battery can be recharged via USB cable, but the computer needs to be reprogrammed every time the battery dies – and that takes upwards of five minutes thanks to the cumbersome touchscreen controls. Worse, even if the battery doesn’t die, the unit does not have an off switch and so the battery must be removed after each ride. Which, in turn, means the unit needs to be reprogrammed every time you ride.
Still, this computer works well for shorter rides, and having a temperature sensor is a nice added feature compared to competing budget-friendly options.
- Large 2.8-inch display
- Built-in backlight
- Temperature sensor
- Cumbersome touchscreen controls
- No way to turn off without removing battery
- Needs to be reprogrammed before every ride
7. Garmin Edge 520 Bike GPS – Best Computer for Tracking Power
This full-featured cycling computer from Garmin is a tried-and-true favorite among cyclists. However, since it has the Garmin brand name, expect to pay a significant premium for the computer.
The cycling computer can track your speed and distance using either GPS or an included speed sensor – the latter is particularly useful if you find yourself on the trainer for most of the winter. In addition, it pairs seamlessly with Garmin power meters through ANT+ connectivity and offers unique data like functional threshold power and cycling dynamics. Of course, you can also use the ANT+ connection to pair with a heart rate monitor and cadence sensor for additional data.
This computer uses Bluetooth to connect with the Garmin smartphone app, which can then be used for a variety of extra functions. The computer will display texts and calls to your phone, as well as indicate when you’re coming up on Strava segments. You can also share and receive routes and upload your ride data quickly to Strava or Garmin’s own tracking logs.
This computer is easy to use and program, with well-spaced touch-sensor buttons around the frame of the screen. That said, the screen itself is somewhat small at around 2.2 inches, and the battery life is very limited at a maximum of 15 hours.
- Included speed sensor for trainer rides
- Functional threshold power and cycling dynamics when paired with power meter
- Displays texts and calls from smartphone
- Easy to use and program
- Battery life is short at just 15 hours
- Small 2.2-inch screen
8. Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT GPS Bike Computer
This high-end cycling computer from Wahoo Fitness is the perfect companion for goal-oriented cyclists. It is compatible with a wide variety of cycling social platforms, including Strava, Singletracks, and Best Bike Split, and Komoot, so you can easily follow segments and create and share routes. Better yet, when riding a segment the computer will give you information about how much is left and offers a “Final Push” function to help you beat your goals.
The computer is large with a 2.7-inch display and is equipped with ANT+, Bluetooth, and WiFi connectivity so that you never have to plug it in except to charge it. Data display screens can be fully customized from the ELEMNT phone app, and WiFi connectivity allows you to more rapidly upload ride data and download maps for riding new routes. Furthermore, LED lights around the edges of the screen can be used to give you at-a-glance information about power, speed, or even texts and calls incoming to your phone.
Perhaps best for year-round riders, the ELEMNT computer connects to KICKR- and SNAP-enabled indoor bike trainers. You can program the trainer to mimic your power output during an indoor route and the trainer will automatically adjust resistance. The computer also works with electronic shifting systems from Shimano and SRAM.
The only downside to this computer is that the navigation can be difficult to follow, and you won’t be rerouted if you make a wrong turn. Also keep in mind that although the battery will last a full day, you’ll need to recharge it between longer rides.
- Compatible with wide variety of cycling platforms
- Segment tracking to push goals
- LED lights offer information at a glance
- Large 2.7-inch screen
- Compatible with KICKR- and SNAP-enabled indoor trainers
- Navigation can be hard to follow and won’t automatically reroute
Frequently Asked Questions
Cycling computers and the data they provide are increasingly popular among cyclists because they are relatively inexpensive and offer a huge degree of insights in your training. In addition, adding a cycling computer to your bike can help you navigate routes, share ride data with friends, and conduct complex interval workouts.
With the best bike computer, you can become a stronger, more informed cyclist and push ever closer towards your goals. Thanks to our review of the eight best bike computers of 2019, it’s easy to find the right bike computer for your riding season.