These days there are a dizzying number of options when it comes to cycling computers, so we went ahead and filtered through them for you. After researching 28 of the top models, we selected nine to put through rigorous testing. For an extended period, we tested each model on a variety of bikes, terrain, and in varying weather conditions. From hills to flats, pavement to single track and everything in between, we used and abused these models, scrutinizing every aspect of their performance in the process. We rated each model to discover the level of water resistance, what features it came equipped with and how easy they were to use. We hope our detailed comparative analysis helps you make a more informed decision if you're in the market for a bike computer.
The Best Bike Computers
Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Bike Computer
Garmin Edge 820
After reviewing the 2017 options, the Garmin Edge 820 takes home the cake, with a staggering list of features and an intuitive interface, cementing its spot as the Editors' Choice winner. GPS and GLONASS enabled for accurate navigation with turn-by-turn mapping, it boasts a color touch screen with iPhone-like usability. (The tap and swipe functionality is a huge improvement over the previous model.) It's chock-full of features, but the standouts are audio prompts, 16G of memory, and email alerts. The 820 is the only contender that boasts an accident alert system, which notifies contacts if you are in a crash. The 820 also maintains the features found on the old 810 model, including speed, power, and heart rate when connected to ANT+ sensors. Best of all? Garmin managed all of this while shrinking the unit's size. (It's now the same size as the Edge 520.) With many other features, reading the full review is a good idea. If you are looking for the pinnacle of cycling computer technology, this is it.
Read review: Garmin Edge 820
Best Bang for the Buck
Lezyne Micro Color
Our Best Buy Award goes to the Lezyne Micro C GPS. While it is far from the cheapest product we tested, it is among the least expensive GPS enabled models and offers the most features per dollar and bang for the buck. Lezyne is still a relatively new player in the cycling computer market, but their new Year 10 (2017 Model Year) line is bringing them ever closer to the competition. The Micro C GPS offers connectivity for both Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ sensors with a vast range of performance metrics available for display. Smartphone integration is integral to the design and functionality, and Lezyne's Ally V2 app is straightforward and user-friendly. It also features incredible turn-by-turn navigation and call and text notifications when paired with a compatible phone. A simple four-button user interface is easy to master but does not offer the fluid navigation of the touch screen found on the Edge 820. It does not have the dizzying array of performance metrics found on Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT or the maps found on the Garmin Edge 820, but for $160 there is nothing else on the market that offers the level of functionality and versatility of the Micro C GPS.
Read review: Lezyne Micro Color
Best Buy on a Tight Budget
Cateye Strada Slim
While the Lezyne Micro C GPS takes our Best Buy award, we recognize that $160 is not a small investment. Also, many cyclists have no desire to post their rides on social media or compete for KOMs on Strava. Most of us don't work with a coach, and we may not need to track years' worth of ride data for analysis. You just like to ride! The goal of data collection for you is to satisfy your curiosity and challenge yourself to go a bit further on the next ride. If this describes you, then take a look at the Cateye Strada Slim, winner of our Best Buy award for the Casual Cyclist. It is a simple wireless computer that tracks speed, distance, and time. No GPS, data downloads, or firmware updates. It turns on and off automatically when movement is detected, so all you need to do is get out and ride.
Read review: Cateye Strada Slim
Top Pick for the Data Hungry Cyclist
Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT
Our second highest rated GPS enabled cycling computer is the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT. This contender is full of features that all cyclists will enjoy and offers data and performance analytics that the most obsessed data hungry cyclists will love. Wahoo Fitness may not be the most recognized name in GPS cycling computers, but that is likely to change with their well-designed and integrated line of ELEMNT devices. The ELEMNT BOLT falls in the middle of their range of three different models and offers all of the features you could ever ask for, and plenty you probably didn't even know about. This device is enabled to four different satellites for the utmost GPS accuracy, pairs with both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart sensors, and offers Live Tracking, Strava Live segments, and excellent navigation features through the well designed and user-friendly ELEMNT app. Everything is fully customizable through the app to display the data that is most important to you and believe us when we tell you that there is virtually every bit of data you have ever wanted to collect and analyze available. We were very impressed with the ELEMNT BOLT, and we think you will be too.
Read review: Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT
Top Pick for Strava Addicts and Racing
Garmin Edge 520
The Edge 520 is a more utilitarian version of the Edge 820. Garmin sticks with a tactile button interface rather than a touchscreen. We love touch screens, but external buttons can be nearly as useful with well thought-out functions and positioning. The 520 is GPS and GLONASS satellite-enabled and uses the ANT+ sensor protocol for connectivity with an array of sensors including power meters, heart rate, speed and cadence. Performance metrics such as Estimated VO2 Max, Recovery Advisor and FTP Tracking and Testing will help you to get the most out of your training. While you do not get turn-by-turn mapping, the Edge has the memory capacity to load detailed maps of your primary riding area, allowing you to zoom in and see your position and surrounding streets. Smartphone integration is excellent with call, text, and email alerts displayed on the screen. If you are a dedicated athlete or weekend warrior who takes your training and KOM hunting seriously, this is the product for you. It is the compact, sleek, fine-tuned training tool you have been waiting for to replace or upgrade your Edge 500.
Read review: Garmin Edge 520
Analysis and Test Results
Most of us cycle to improve our fitness or shed a few accumulated winter pounds. If that's not why we ride bikes, it's a nice side effect of having fun on the bike. A cycling computer can give you quantifiable information to help you reach your fitness goals. We also recommend you check out our Smart Bike Trainer Review.
Once the tool of only the pro cyclist, the bike computer has come a long way in the last 30 years. The Avocet 30 was released in 1985 and quickly found its way onto the bars of many professional cyclists' bikes. Avocet provided a way for cyclists to accurately track speed, distance, and time of a ride. Tracking training data was of particular importance to the professional cyclist, but over time these gadgets have found their way onto a much broader range of users' rides. If you just started cycling, you'll probably notice that many riders have some type of cycling computer on his or her handlebars.
Mounts that attach your phone to your handlebars are better than ever. They allow multiple attachment styles at numerous price points. The downside to phone mounts is that most phones are massive compared to a bike computer. The upside is that many great apps are either free or very reasonably priced. Check out our bicycle phone mount review and the Top Rated Quad Lock which allows your phone to attach and detach from the bars in seconds.
Hover over the dots below to see how different bike computers faired in our value assessment. With only one exception, the more expensive units typically scored higher. Neither of our Best Buy winners, the Lezyne Micro and the Cateye Strada scored particularly high. But both give you the basic info for less than half of the higher performing models. Our Top Pick-winning ELMNT Bolt was also a great value and $100 less than the only computer that scored higher.
Ease of Use
Using a bike computer when riding and training add another step to your ride preparation, but should not be a hindrance to enjoying your ride. This is our most heavily weighted rating metric because it is the one that is likely to affect you the most. The three highest scoring products are the Garmin Edge 820, winner of our Editors' Choice award, and the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT and the Garmin Edge 520, both winners of our Top Pick award.
We took into account a multitude of factors, including startup time, charging and battery life, touchscreen or button interface, screen navigation and ease of uploading workouts to web-based tracking services, and smartphone integration. Of all of these factors, we most heavily weight the user interface and ease of navigation. Below is a breakdown of each area, and analysis of product performance.Interface
By interface, we mean the method by which the user interacts with the device. Is it easy to navigate through menus and functions? Are buttons used or a touchscreen? Our highest scoring product is the Garmin Edge 820. You control the 820 with buttons and a touchscreen. Power on and off, start/stop workout, and lap use the buttons. The lap and start/stop buttons are located on the lower portion of the case, putting them closest to the rider, for easy access when doing intervals or other training.
The touchscreen is used to navigate between pages of preselected data points during a workout, and for all setup, menu functions, and navigation. The Garmin Edge 820 has a capacitive touch display, similar to what is used on most smartphones so that most users will be right at home. In contrast, the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT uses only buttons, but the quantity, function and layout of the buttons are excellent, making navigation simple and intuitive.
External buttons work when executed well. However the touch screen of the Garmin Edge 820 is superior to the button interface. The Lezyne Super GPS Enhanced and the Micro C GPS also has a button-only interface, but the buttons are a bit less user-friendly than those on the competing Garmin Edge 520. The Cateye Velo 7 and the Cateye Strada Slim both require a paperclip or other implement to press small reset/program buttons located on the back of the computer to access setup menus, making them the least user-friendly models we tested.
Menu layout differs between the Garmin Edge 820 and Garmin Edge 520. Both have color screens with an intuitive flow, but the navigation of each unit is designed appropriately around the button or touchscreen interface. Overall, navigation is faster on the 820, due to speedier scrolling by using finger swipe motions rather than tapping buttons to move through data screens.
The Lezyne Micro C GPS has a small color screen while the Lezyne Super GPS does not have a color screen and is a bit harder to see, particularly in low light. Navigation of both the Lezyne Super GPS and Micro C GPS is simple, but not as intuitive as the Garmin Edge 520. Both Lezyne devices have only four buttons compared to the seven on the Garmin Edge 520, so some of their buttons perform dual functions, making it a bit less intuitive to use. Navigation is relatively quick to master on the both the Super GPS Enhanced and the Micro C GPS because they have fewer features to navigate through than either the Garmin Edge 820 or 520.
The faster, the better right? We think so. Less time waiting for the unit to start up equals more time to ride. The non-GPS enabled Cateye Strada Slim and Cateye Velo 7 start up automatically when movement is detected. This is an excellent feature — there is nothing worse than realizing you forgot to turn your computer on when you are halfway through a ride… kind of makes you feel like it never even happened. The two Garmin units in our review, the Garmin Edge 820 and Garmin Edge 520, must be turned on by pressing the power button. Once powered on, select from Activity Profiles, and Bikes and the unit need to acquire a satellite signal. Sounds like a lot, but with frequent use, this only takes 30 seconds or so. The Lezyne Super GPS Enhanced and Micro C GPS are also turned on and off with a power button and both start up within only a few seconds. Wahoo Fitness' ELEMNT BOLT takes a little longer to power up, but the 25 seconds or so it takes has yet to ruin anyone's day.
The Garmin Edge 520, Garmin Edge 820, the Lezyne Micro C GPS , the Lezyne Super GPS, and the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT are all GPS and GLONASS satellite-enabled, so satellite acquisition is quick and painless. The ELEMNT BOLT also claims to use BEIDOU Galileo and QZSS satellites for even more accuracy. The Edge 820 is the fastest to load the home screen, followed by the Super GPS and the Edge 520, both of which take the same amount of time. In summary, the startup of the GPS-enabled computers takes a bit longer than those without GPS, but it is somewhat negligible, and the wait is worth the benefits.Charging and Battery Life
All of the contenders we tested use some sort of battery for power. The Cateye Strada Slim, Cateye Velo 7, and the Planet Bike Protégé all utilize 2032 disposable coin cell batteries. The Cateye Strada Slim employs two, one in the head unit and one in the wireless speed sensor. In contrast, the Garmin units, the Lezyne units, the Magellan Cyclo 505 and the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT all use built-in rechargeable batteries.
Which option is better? We prefer rechargeable batteries for a few reasons. There is less waste, and if we kill the battery, a trip to the store to purchase a new battery is not required. That said, 2032 lithium batteries are not that expensive and can be bought for less than $1 each online or will run you $2-$3 at most retail stores.
The Cateye Strada Slim, Cateye Velo 7 and the Planet Bike Protégé claim battery life to be one year or more. We got four months of use out of the Cateye Strada Slim, and about the same out of the Cateye Velo 7. This was with an average of 10-14 hours a week of ride time, so it is entirely feasible that many users would get a year or more with moderate use. The Garmin units we tested all utilize rechargeable lithium ion batteries and come with wall chargers, but can also be charged with included USB to Micro USB cables that come with the units. Charge times from a complete discharge are around two hours for all of the units. Battery life for the Edge 820 and Edge 520 is claimed at 15 hours, which we found to be reasonably accurate.
The Edge 820 has a Battery Save mode that can help extend battery life by shutting the screen down but still recording data. Using the Battery Wave mode intermittently, we were able to get 20 hours out of the 820. The Lezyne Super GPS has an impressive 24-hour run time, using a rechargeable lithium polymer battery that can be recharged with the included micro USB cable using a laptop or USB wall adapter. The Super GPS is the clear winner when it comes to battery life. On the other end of the spectrum, the Magellan Cyclo 505 has a relatively short battery life; we were only able to get around 10 hours of use on average from a fully charged battery. We were surprised by the inadequate battery life from a computer that is aimed more at the touring crowd than any other user group.Data Transfers and Smart Phone Integration
Transferring data from a cycling computer to a data tracking website is one of the core functions of these devices. The Garmin Edge 820, Garmin Edge 520, the Lezyne Super GPS Enhanced, the Lezyne Micro C GPS, and the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT all can store on the device and then transfer ride files to web-based applications. Garmin uses the Garmin Connect platform, and Lezyne the GPS Root platform, while Wahoo Fitness uses their ELEMNT app. Data transfer can be done via the included Micro USB cable to a laptop with an Internet connection using both Garmin and Lezyne computers.
More commonly, data is transferred via smartphone applications, either Garmin Connect, Lezyne Ally V2, or the ELEMNT app. The devices can be set to auto upload ride data following completion of a ride via Bluetooth to their respective web-based services. The Garmin Edge 820 and Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT are Wi-Fi enabled and can transfer ride files via Wi-Fi connection. All the Garmin, Lezyne, and Wahoo Fitness devices can be set up to auto sync with Strava as well, via Smart Phone Applications. When it comes to data transfers the Edge 820, and ELEMNT BOLT have a leg up on the Edge 520, Super GPS and Micro C GPS with Wi-Fi connectivity, but all five devices are easy to set up for wireless data transfer.
The Garmin Edge 820, and Garmin Edge 520 both use Garmin Connect to pair with a smartphone. The Garmin Connect application is slightly more cumbersome to use than the Lezyne Ally V2 application used by the Super GPS and Micro C GPS, and Wahoo Fitness' very user-friendly ELEMNT app. Strava segments are more accessible to set and more customizable with Lezyne Ally V2 and ELEMNT than Garmin Connect. All the platforms have their idiosyncrasies, but we like the ELEMNT app the most, followed by the Lezyne Ally V2, and lastly Garmin Connect.
All of the models we tested require some setup. Setup should factor into your purchase decision, but keep in mind that more complex products require a bit more time investment up front, but for the most part, this is a one-time or occasional hassle. How difficult a computer is to set up is largely dependent on how many features and accessories the unit has or is capable of using. So you may notice that the units that score high in our features metric conversely score a bit lower on setup.
Additional factors to consider include whether the computer is wired or wireless. Setup is as simple as attaching the one-quarter turn mounts to the handlebars and turning the unit on. The more feature-rich Garmin Edge 520, Garmin Edge 820, the Lezyne Super GPS, The Lezyne Micro C GPS, and the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT score slightly lower due to the increased time required to configure additional features and to pair compatible accessories. In contrast, the Cateye Velo 7 and the Planet Bike Protégé 9.0 received lower scores due to the hassle of routing and securing wires and issues with setup screen navigation. The Cateye Velo 7 and the Planet Bike Protégé 9.0 also both require the use of multiple zip ties. For detailed information on product setup, see our in-depth individual product reviews.
Bike computers range from simple too extremely complex. When it comes to features, we focus on features that you can use. It should come as no surprise that the Garmin Edge 820, winner of our Editors' Choice award, is also the most feature-rich unit we tested. The Edge 820 is GPS enabled, ANT+ accessory compatible, Bluetooth compatible, has a touchscreen, and is one of four contenders we tested with turn-by-turn navigation capabilities. It also has a range of performance metric functions such as functional threshold power, recovery time indicator, and stress score. Also, it has a unique incident detection function that senses a crash using accelerometer and GPS data.
The Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT is a close competitor in the features competition with many of the features of the Edge 820 minus the touch screen and color screen. The Garmin Edge 820, Garmin Edge 520, Lezyne Super GPS, Lezyne Micro C GPS and the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT are Bluetooth-enabled and can communicate with your smartphone to receive text, email, and phone call notifications when paired with a compatible IOS or Android device. With Garmin computers, smartphone integration allows exciting features such as Live Tracker, which will enable people whom you invite to view your ride as it occurs on the Garmin website.
Lezyne also offers a similar feature called Live Track, as does Wahoo Fitness. This connectivity also allows for instant wireless uploads of ride data to Garmin Connect, Lezyne Ally V2, and the ELEMNT app. A wealth of useful features place the Garmin Edge 820 on the top step of the podium when it comes to features. The Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT follows close behind, with the Garmin Edge 520 coming in third. We have a full breakdown of all of the class-leading features the Garmin Edge 820 employs in our full product review.
In contrast to the tech-heavy, feature-laden Garmin and Lezyne units, we tested the Cateye Velo 7, Cateye Strada Slim, and the Planet Bike Protégé. These units offer more primary data collection, without the help of GPS and ANT+ accessory compatibility. Although these units are lower scoring, they still provide reliable data collection for time, distance, and speed.Social Data Tracking: Strava
Strava is a web-based service that allows users to upload workout and ride data from a host of different devices, including Garmin, Magellan, Lezyne and Wahoo Fitness. Strava also offers free applications for most smartphones, which allow you to use your phone as a ride-tracking device. Strava is equal parts social forum, workout tracking software and constant passive-aggressive competition, with the heart of the experience being whatever you choose it to be. Segments are user created and consist of selected portions of a ride, anything from a two-hour climb to a 10-second sprint, and journeys are tracked using the GPS on your smartphone.
The start and end of a segment are GPS coordinates, and your time on a given section is calculated by Strava using the GPS ride files you upload to the site. In July of 2015, Strava began offering a new service called Strava Live to Premium Members (Premium Membership costs $6 per month or $59 for a year). Strava Live was released in conjunction with the new Garmin Edge 520 and is also now available on the Garmin Edge 820, and 1000, with a free firmware update from Garmin. The Lezyne Super GPS Enhanced, Lezyne Micro C GPS and the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT are also compatible.
Strava Live loads segments of your choice, or ones selected for you by Strava, onto your Garmin device, via Garmin Connect. So to utilize Strava Live, you need three things: a Strava Premium account, a compatible device, and a Garmin Connect, Lezyne Ally V2, or ELEMNT account. The chosen segments can be uploaded to the device by connecting to Garmin Connect via your smartphone, or by a USB cable connection to your laptop. If you are using the Lezyne Super GPS, Micro C GPS, or Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT, the segments can be individually selected and loaded via the Lezyne Ally V2 or ELEMNT app respectively.
Once the segments are loaded to your device, you will also have information about each section including the KOM (fastest time), as well as your PR (personal record time). While out riding, as you approach the beginning of a segment your device will prompt you with distance alerts such as (500ft) to the start of the trip.
Once you cross the starting point, the device will display a massive "GO!" on the screen. The screen will then display your PR time for the segment as well as "distance to go," and either "time ahead" or "time behind." At the conclusion of the segment, you will be notified if you achieved a new KOM or PR for the segment. While you in no way need Strava Live to enjoy a ride or get a good workout in, it can be a great training tool. It might just give you that extra needed motivation to push a bit harder and achieve your goal. We also acknowledge that it can be annoying, mainly if you are out doing a recovery ride and the goal is actually to ride slow. The good news is you can easily disable Strava Live in settings, even while you are riding. Some people will love it some will not, but it is indeed an excellent option to have if you own a Garmin Edge 820, Garmin Edge 520, Lezyne Super GPS, Lezyne Micro C GPS or Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT.
Many of us at OutdoorGearLab participate in multiple different styles of cycling. A road ride today can easily lead into a long backcountry epic on the mountain bike tomorrow. So, versatility is important to us and likely to you as well. Ideally, we want to purchase one cycling computer that can be used on all of our bikes.
The Garmin Edge 820 receives high marks here, followed closely by the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT and Garmin Edge 520. The Edge 820 takes the top spot due to its unique mapping functions, making it ideal for riders embarking on a long touring ride, or adventure on unknown roads. The Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT slides in a close second to the Garmin Edge 820. The ELEMNT BOLT comes preloaded with detailed maps, has routable mapping functions and excellent navigation features.
The Lezyne Micro C GPS is also a very versatile bike computer, with a compact profile and easy to use "x-lock" mounts. It can be swapped between bikes and used to track data for any riding. Its versatility is only hampered by the lack of detailed maps, but it will provide turn-by-turn directions in conjunction with a smartphone.
The Garmin Edge 820, and Garmin Edge 520 also have Activity Profiles allowing you to customize data fields, pages, and alerts for different types of rides, such as training vs. racing. All of the Garmin models in our test group are also compatible with a multitude of ANT+ accessories that allow you to have speed and cadence sensors mounted on multiple bikes, and only move the head unit between bikes. These features make using the same device for different bikes and types of riding much more comfortable. In contrast, the Cateye Velo 7 has a wired speed sensor, making it difficult to move between bikes.
The Lezyne Super GPS and Micro C GPS, as well as the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT and the Magellan Cyclo 505 also deserve a nod for their compatibility with both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart Sensors. This allows you to pick and choose sensors from a variety of manufacturers. Versatility is essential; it not only makes life easier but can also save you some money. For details on how each product stacks up, we'd recommend browsing our product reviews.
Even if you don't intend to ever venture out on your bike in the rain, sooner or later you may find yourself caught in an unexpected shower. For those of you on a serious training program, you'll almost certainly be training or racing in inclement weather at some point. So what's going to happen to your expensive gadget when it gets wet? Well, hopefully, nothing. We feel that water resistance is a critical feature of a quality bike computer.
All of the Garmin Edge models, the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT, and the Magellan Cyclo 505 are rated IPX7 for water resistance, making them our highest ranked products in this category. The IPX rating system is a European standard that assigns rating protection numbers for electronics. IPX7 rated devices can withstand 30 minutes of accidental submersion in one meter of water. While the Lezyne models do not carry the IPX rating, they are "highly water resistant" and can withstand intentional submersion in water.
We had no issues with water damage on any Garmin, or Wahoo Fitness units we tested, despite riding in the rain and snow, and some less than accidental immersions in the name of science. All of the other products we tested claim to be "water resistant" but do not conform to any universal standard. Lower scoring products such as the Cateye Velo 7 and the Planet Bike Protégé 9.0 allowed some water to permeate the battery compartment during testing.
The type of computer you buy for your bike may vary depending on your cycling goals and endeavors. Recording the distance of your ride and obtaining quantifiable information for fitness reasons is possible on almost every contender in this category. GPS technology, smartphone integration, sensor compatibility, and social data tracking are just a few things to take into consideration while on the hunt for the best computer for your bike. From simple to complex, your options are numerous. We hope this review helps you find the product that best fits your needs.
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.