The Best Bike Computer Review

We geared up in the rain, the snow, and the cold to test eight of the most popular bike computers on the market, side-by-side. We clipped in for training workouts, long rural rides, and jaunts around the city.

We tried to get the most use out of each computer, testing them on set-up, ease of use, battery life, weather resistance, amount of features, and best application. We checked their functionality on the bike with screen size, interface, display modes, and navigation. For more details on how to choose the right computer for you, read our Buying Advice article.

If you are an avid cyclist looking for a tool to help take training to the next level, or a beach cruiser interested in how long the morning rides have been, our testing has found the best computer for you.

Also check out our Dream Bike Gear List. For a complete list of our favorite bike gear.

Read the full review below >

Review by: David Mackey ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab April 20, 2013

Top Ranked Bike Computers Displaying 1 - 5 of 8 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Garmin Edge 810
Garmin Edge 810
Read the Review
Video video review
Strava
Strava
Read the Review
Video video review
Garmin Edge 200
Garmin Edge 200
Read the Review
Cateye CC-RD300W Strada Wireless
Cateye CC-RD300W Strada Wireless
Read the Review
Video video review
Sigma BC1609 Cadence
Sigma BC1609 Cadence
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award    Best Buy Award   
Street Price Varies $400 - $500
Compare at 6 sellers
$18
Compare at 1 sellers
$130
Compare at 5 sellers
Varies $63 - $70
Compare at 4 sellers
$110
Compare at 1 sellers
Overall Score 
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User Rating Be the first to rate it
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67% recommend it (2/3)
Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Number of features, screen size, touch screen works with gloves, quickly finds satellites, mounting options.App on phone, intuitive, social aspect, range of features, KOMInterface, ease of useEasy set-up, wireless, small size of computer and large numbers, two distance featuresCadence, mounting system
Cons Screen resolution, limited Bluetooth capabilitiesTouch screen (no gloves), options while riding, phone exposed to elements, no auto stop optionScreen resolution, no heart rate, no cadence, button placementOnly two modes displayed at one time, no ‘back’ button - must cycle through all modes to get to the one you wantOnly two modes displayed at one time, unmarked buttons, difficult instruction guide, wires
Best Uses The Edge 810 is best suited for athletes interested in tracking a wide range of data to analyze performance and athletic progression.General bicycle ridingThe Edge 200 is a basic GPS computer for cyclists wanting accurate maps of their rides.Bike commuting, moderate training, all-around ridingBike commuting, moderate training, all-around riding
Date Reviewed Mar 16, 2013Mar 16, 2013Mar 16, 2013Mar 16, 2013Mar 16, 2013
Weighted Scores Garmin Edge 810 Strava Garmin Edge 200 Cateye CC-RD300W Strada Wireless Sigma BC1609 Cadence
Ease Of Use - 40%
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Ease Of Set Up - 20%
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Features - 30%
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Water Resistance - 10%
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Product Specs Garmin Edge 810 Strava Garmin Edge 200 Cateye CC-RD300W Strada Wireless Sigma BC1609 Cadence
Dimensions 5.3 x 5.3 x 2.6 inches 4.9 x 2.4 x 0.3 inches (iphone 5) 1.9 x 0.8 x 2.7 inches 1.8 x 1.2 x 0.6 inches 4.5 x 1.5 x 5.5 inches
Display Size 2.1 x 1.4 inches 3.5 x 1.9 inches 1.4 x 1.1 inches 1.0 x 0.75 inches 1.06 x 1.1 inches
Battery Type Lithium Ion iphone Lithium Ion CR2032 CR2032
Battery Life 15 hours 8 hours 14 hours 1+ years 1+ years
Cadence Sensor? y (gsc10) y (bluetooth, ant +) n n y
Heart Rate Monitor? y ant+ y bluetooth n n n
GPS enabled? y y y n n
Touchscreen? y y n n n
Extra Features Power, Garmin Connect Power, Strava web site Garmin Connect

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Strava
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Garmin Edge 200
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Sigma BC1609 Cadence
$30
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Sigma BC 1009 STS Wireless
$46.50
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Planet Bike Protege 9.0 Wireless
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Bell F12
$15
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When purchasing any kind of gear, you want to make sure that you are getting what you pay for. Certain items provide quality and reliability at a very affordable price, while others charge way too much for way too little in return. For a product like bike computers, price and performance ranges drastically. We looked at many different models, from highly detailed GPS training tools, to the most basic bike speedometer. Here are the characteristics we analyzed:

Ease of Use
It doesn’t matter if a computer has the most features in the world, if you are not able to easily find what you are looking for then the computer is worthless. Functionality is a top issue, and we evaluated this category on how easy it was to set up, computer interface, visibility, and reliability. We made sure it was easy to use while in the saddle, and not just while clicking around on a break.

The set-up of each computer was partially assessed by how long it took to get from opening the package to being ready to ride. This included physically installing the computer to the bike as well as choosing preferences and adjusting the interface. The STRAVA app came in at the top of the pack, in under 5 minutes, only requiring a download and a quick log-in. The Sigma BC1609 Cadence computer took the longest to set up at 45 minutes, which involved running two sets of wires for the speed and cadence sensors. Both the Garmin Edge 810 and the Edge 200 quickly attached to the bike using industrial strength rubber bands, but took a little longer to personalize riding options.

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Wires protruding from the speed sensor of the Sigma 1609 on the front fork.
Credit: David Mackey

We tested the computer interface on each computer for ease of use while riding. We switched modes, assessed visibility of information, and recorded the interaction needed with buttons or screens. Both the Garmin Edge 810 and the STRAVA app excelled in this area. Each offers a large display for multiple data points and quick viewing, and a touch screen for on-the-go ease of use. A notable issue while riding with the Garmin Edge 200 was the difficulty in compressing the buttons to switch screens. The rest of the computers were relatively similar in this category while riding

We also looked for reliability issues by testing the computers side-by-side. We compared speed, distance, time, and elevation against each other, with the control being a GPS computer with a good satellite connection. The Planet Bike Protégé 9.0 ranked lowest in our testing, consistently having issues with distance and speed. Both the Sigma 1009 and Sigma 1609 were consistent with each other and the GPS in speed, time, and distance.

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Winter riding with the Sigma 1609 (left) and Sigma 1009 (right) bike computers.
Credit: David Mackey

The overall top scoring computers in this category went to our Editor’s Choice Garmin Edge 810, and the Top Pick STRAVA cycling app. Both are GPS-enabled, and shone brightly in intuitiveness and ease of use. The Protégé 9.0 ranked lowest due to reliability issues, although the screen size and display were better than many of the other basic computers tested.

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The Best Buy winner Cateye Strada, Editor's Choice winner Garmin Edge 810, and a bike light (for safety!) ready to test and ride.
Credit: David Mackey

Features
The amount of features you want in a bike computer can vary, depending on the type of riding you are doing. Not everyone needs to know the wattage, heart rate, and cadence in a specific section of a ride. Just like some people want to know more than how fast they are currently going, how long it has taken, and how far they have traveled. For this category, we tried to rank according to the functional features a computer brought to the table. If a company claims that having a twelve-hour clock or 24-hour clock are two separate features, as the Bell F12 did, we feel that you should know. In addition, if the number of features fills a small book and can be continually adjusted with software updates such as the Garmin Edge 810, that is also worth noting.

There are five common metrics between every computer we tested. We were able to judge these features head-to-head in how well they functioned and how easily they were displayed. We then took into account any extra features a computer offered, such as elevation, cadence, and PC connectivity. The following breakdown of features will help guide your decision-making.

Every computer we tested recorded
  • Speed
  • Distance
  • Time
  • Average speed
  • Maximum speed

GPS-enabled computers – the most accurate speed calculation, map of course, elevation
  • Garmin Edge 810
  • Garmin Edge 200
  • STRAVA smart phone application

Heart rate monitor capabilities
  • Garmin Edge 810 – ANT+
  • STRAVA smart phone application – Bluetooth

Bike computers with cadence
  • Garmin Edge 810 – with added GSC 10
  • STRAVA smart phone application – with Bluetooth-enabled third party components
  • Sigma BC1609 – wired sensor (included)

Wireless bike computers
  • Planet Bike Protégé 9.0
  • Garmin Edge 810
  • Garmin Edge 200
  • Sigma BC1009 STS
  • Cateye CC-RD300W Strada
  • STRAVA smart phone application

PC Connectivity/Analyzation software
  • Garmin Edge 810 – Garmin Connect
  • Garmin Edge 200 – Garmin Connect
  • STRAVA smart phone app – STRAVA.com

We tested to make sure that the claims surrounding each computer lived up to what we actually experienced. In the case of both the Sigma BC1609 and the Sigma BC 1009 STS Wireless Bicycle Speedometer, their claim of PC compatibility seemed exaggerated since purchasing an additional adapter with software was necessary to use in this manner. It seems like Sigma was using that claim more for marketing than as a viable feature.

The Garmin Edge 810 was the clear winner in the Features category with a range of functions from heart rate to on-screen navigation. The Edge 810 is the full-featured, top of the line bike computer from Garmin and will handle everything you need. The Bell F12 bike computer ranked at the bottom of the list in the features category being the most basic speedometer with the fewest features.

Something to keep in mind is that the batteries on the GPS devices need to be recharged on a regular basis. It depends on the ride, but is usually after every third or fourth time out. The rest of the computer batteries will last well over a year with regular riding.

Attachment Method
The way that the computer system attaches to a bike affects the way that you interact with both the computer and your bike. It makes a big difference if you have just a computer on the bars, or wires, sensors, and magnets to install. It can affect how you clean your bike, where you ride, and how often you have to replace components of a computer. If you have to zip-tie wires along your fork, down tube, and bottom bracket to connect the sensors to the computer, like the Sigma BC 1609, there is more room for error and way more frustration in the set-up than a mount with two quick rubber bands attaching the computer to the stem, like with the Garmin Edge 200.

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The mounting system for the Sigma 1609.
Credit: David Mackey

While evaluating attachment method, we looked at where the computer sits on the bike, what accessories need mounted (spoke magnets, speed sensors, crank sensors), what tools are needed, and the size of the computer and sensors. Both the Garmin Edge 200 and the Edge 810 had the best mounting system, which involved a mount and two industrial strength rubber bands. The most cumbersome attachment method was with the Sigma 1609, which required running wires down the fork and down tube.

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The cadence sensor of the Sigma 1609 (left) next to the Garmin GSC 10 (right).
Credit: David Mackey

The Best Computers for Different Riders
When testing the computers, it was important to keep in mind the areas where different computers excel, and where each one best fits in the realm of cycling. The computers on our chopping block catered to three distinct riders:

Advanced Athletes – These computers are serious training tools for cyclists that need as much data as possible to monitor their training. These computers can track heart rate, cadence, and power. Cyclists have access to detailed reports of each ride, including point-by-point elevation and average speeds that correlate to a topographical map.
  • Garmin Edge 810
  • STRAVA smart phone application

Intermediate Cyclists – These computers cater to a wide range of riders that want to keep track of the basic metrics of a ride. These computers do not track heart rate or power, but some have cadence, one has GPS, and some are wireless.
  • Cateye Strada
  • Garmin Edge 200
  • Planet Bike Protégé 9.0
  • Sigma BC1609
  • Sigma BC1009

Leisure Riders – This computer has the very basic features and is not made to withstand repeated rides in the elements, but will be the least expensive computer for the casual user.
  • Bell F12

Within each riding category, the computers fit the needs differently. We would reach for the Edge 810 over the STRAVA app any time on race day. For both every day road cycling and bike touring, the Cateye Strada holds its own. For cyclists who would like a map of their ride but do not need heart rate or cadence, the Garmin Edge 200 is a good choice.

The Bottom Line

Editor’s Choice

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Climbing statistics are a swipe of the screen away.
Credit: David Mackey

Our Editor's Choice Award goes to the Garmin Edge 810, a do-it-all GPS bike computer that handles anything you throw in its path. It gives you all of the information you want from a computer, while having a range of functional training features you wouldn’t normally expect. The Edge 810 offers phone connectivity, navigation, and more physiological metrics than you can shake a stick at, as well as the ability to sync your data with the Garmin Connect website or even the STRAVA website.

Best Buy

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The Cateye Strada holding up in snowy conditions as we cruise.
Credit: David Mackey

The Cateye CC-RD300W Strada Wireless Bike Computer takes OutdoorGearLab’s Best Buy Award for being the simplest, most affordable, and easy to use basic bike computer. It does not offer the range of training features that come with the Garmin 810, but is significantly less expensive, and still provides 8 separate functions. The Cateye Strada also has an attractive slim profile and is easy to set up.

Top Pick

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The screen that displays while riding with STRAVA.
Credit: David Mackey
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The STRAVA feed lets you see activities of friends.
Credit: David Mackey

The Top Pick award goes to the STRAVA app for being a unique bike computer alternative. If you have already shelled out the cash for a smart phone (and continue to pay for the monthly service), we highly recommend downloading this free app. It provides almost the same number of features as the most advanced bike computers without requiring the purchase of another device. Using the GPS of your phone, STRAVA accurately tracks your ride while recording key metrics. You can also link to third-party components via Bluetooth or ANT+. In addition to these features, STRAVA adds an engaging social aspect to your ride, allowing you to share activities with friends through the website. A no-brainer to try this free app.

David Mackey
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