The Best Bike Computers
Best Overall Bike Computer
Garmin Edge 830
After weeks of side-by-side testing and fiddling, the Garmin Edge 830rose to the top and took home our Editor's Choice Award. This computer has a vibrant touchscreen and a few basic tactile buttons for controls. It's straightforward to scroll around and select options. The interface and menus are well-organized, making them relatively intuitive and user-friendly. It seems less affected by water interference than other touchscreen devices, making it a little more practical to use in inclement weather. It also has a laundry list of useful features. A good portion of them are native to the device, but one of the biggest strengths is in the Connect IQ store, where you can find all sorts of third-party apps to download and improve the functional range of the device. It's a cool development that opens up a lot of possibilities. While it's a great GPS bike computer for roadies, it also has a lot of support for mountain biking, trail riding, and other off-roading. It's a robust device that most of us would be happy with for years.
There are a few things to think about with this computer, though. This level of features and performance comes at a premium and this is one of the most expensive models we tested. We found that it had some infrequent but annoying issues while in navigation mode, which can be a pain if you're in dodgy, unfamiliar territory (and you probably are if you're in navigation mode…). Lastly, it would occasionally have difficulty pairing with our smartphone. Regardless, we still feel it's a top-notch device that earned every bit of its award.
Read review: Garmin Edge 830
Best Bang for the Buck GPS Enabled Computer
Lezyne Micro Color
Our Best Buy Award goes to the Lezyne Micro C GPS. While it's far from the cheapest product we tested, it's among the least expensive GPS enabled models and offers the most features per dollar and bang for your buck. Lezyne has constantly been growing and improving their line of cycling computers, bringing them ever closer to the competition. The Micro C GPS offers connectivity for both Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ sensors with a decent range of performance metrics available for display. Smartphone integration is key to the Micro's design and functionality, and Lezyne's Ally V2 app is straightforward and user-friendly. It also features turn-by-turn navigation and call and text notifications when paired with a compatible smartphone, and it can even do Strava Live segments for training or to snag that elusive KOM. It is impressively small and lightweight and punches way above its weight and size class in terms of performance and features.
A simple four-button user interface is easy to master but does not offer the fluid navigation of the touchscreen models. It also lacks the maps found on the more expensive competitors with larger displays, nor does it have the dizzying array of performance metrics found on Wahoo Fitness' ELEMNT BOLT or the maps found on the Garmin Edge 1030. If you're on a budget and don't require maps or the most advanced training features, there's nothing else on the market that offers the level of functionality and versatility of the Micro C GPS at this price.
Read review: Lezyne Micro Color
Best Buy on a Tight Budget
This is going to be your best option if budget is a real constraint, and you're just looking to get the basic numbers: average speed, current speed, time, miles. It's a no-nonsense bike computer that gives you the basics, and it's really a cool looking device. Truthfully, most basic bike computers look clunky and dorky with their toyish head unit and messy wires, but this thing is wireless, sleek, and elegantly designed. It has just a few buttons with only a few functions, so it's hard to get lost in navigating the device. Setup is as easy as attaching the speed sensor and magnet and entering some basic data. To start it, you might need to hit a button to wake it up if it's been sitting for a long time, but it's basically a set it and forget it bike computer. When you start rolling, it starts recording.
As we said, it's a really basic computer for folks that just want the necessary numbers, so it's not going to have fancy functions or give you in-depth data or analysis. It is not GPS enabled, so you can't track your routes or use it for navigation, plus there's no way to transfer your ride data to something like Strava or a third-party tracker, so it'll need to be done manually. That suits a lot of riders just fine, but for those that want a little more functionality, you'll need to look a little higher up the line for a more advanced, GPS-enabled, computer.
Read review: Cateye Quick
Best for Features and Navigation
Garmin Edge 1030
The Edge 1030 is the top model in Garmin's range of cycling computers. This is truly an impressive product that is packed with more features than any other model we tested. This advanced cycling computer comes at a price, however, and it is the most expensive model in our test by far. That said, if you're looking for a computer that can do absolutely everything, it has you covered with all the training, navigation, and connected features you could ever possibly need. Connected features like text and call notifications, Live Track, Group Track, Incident Detection, and auto uploads just scratch the surface of the ways you can use the device with a Bluetooth connection and the Garmin Connect App. Navigation is on a whole new level, with maps, turn by turn directions, round-trip routing, course creation, and more. It is also bursting with training features, like Strava Live segments, training status, structured workouts, and ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart sensor compatibility. Not only is the Edge 1030 big on features, but it's also physically large, with an intuitive user interface that uses the large color touchscreen and three tactile buttons.
The Edge 1030 was undoubtedly a contender for our Editor's Choice Award, but in the end, testers felt they preferred the slightly smaller, lighter, more streamlined, and somewhat simpler Edge 830. All of the 1030's excellent features necessarily create complexity and reduce user-friendliness. There's so much going on with the Edge 1030 that most users will barely scratch the surface of its capabilities, and we feel that most users will be just as happy while spending significantly less money. It's also worth noting that while this is a fantastic GPS cycling computer, the setup, specifically the programming, is less user-friendly than the competition due to the Garmin Connect companion app.
Read review: Garmin Edge 1030
Best for the Data Hungry Cyclist
Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT ROAM
The Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT ROAM shakes out to be one of the most versatile models we tested. No, it doesn't have a fancy touchscreen, but you'll never have issues playing around on the screen when it's pouring rain (or sweat). And when the weather's not rainy, you can use the connected ELEMNT app on your phone's touchscreen to do whatever you need to do. The well designed and user-friendly app is one of the main reasons we liked this GPS bike computer so much. The head unit is easy enough, but having it connected to the robust mobile app, which functions as an extension of your computer, is just brilliant. Setting up screens, reviewing data, and navigating is incredibly simple, and there are data screens for just about anything you can think of, which is why it won our Top Pick for Data Hungry Cyclists Award.
As great as this GPS bike computer is, it's not all roses. There can be some trouble getting it connected to the mobile app, limiting some of its practicality until it's connected. It's definitely an advanced device, so it might not be for everyone. Folks who aren't tech-savvy may have a harder time operating it. Overall, it's a hardy GPS bike computer with robust functionality that especially suits explorers, mountain bikers, roadies, and any rider who loves their data.
Read review: Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT ROAM
Best for Battery Life
Lezyne Mega XL GPS
The Mega XL is one of Lezyne's newest models in their growing line of GPS enabled cycling computers. As its name suggests, it's bigger than the other models in their range, and that includes both the display and the battery life. With a claimed battery run time of up to 48 hours, the Mega XL blows the other models in this test out of the water for battery life, making it one of the best options for super endurance riders, bike packers, and bike touring. It's also unique in that it can be used in either landscape or portrait orientation, depending on your preferences. One of our favorite aspects of the Mega XL is the easy setup that is facilitated by the very intuitive and user-friendly Lezyne Ally V2 companion App. It uses both GPS and GLONASS satellites for accuracy, and it can be paired with compatible ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart sensors. It has a wealth of training features, including Strava Live segments, performance analytics, and the ability to do structured workouts through TrainingPeaks and Today's Plan. Like the other Lezyne models we tested, the Mega XL doesn't come with preloaded maps, but you can quickly and easily import maps from the app or the GPS Root website to the device, which can be used for offline navigation. Smartphone integration is solid with text and call notifications, Live Track, and wireless data transfers.
One of our biggest gripes with the Mega XL is the user-interface in the form of four multi-function buttons. It works, it's just not as straightforward as some of the other models we tested with touchscreens or better button layouts. The display also can't quite match the vibrant color displays found on the Garmin bike computers, but it is relatively clear, bright, and easy to read regardless. Otherwise, testers were quite impressed with the features and performance of the Mega XL, especially considering the asking price.
Read review: Lezyne Mega XL GPS
Why You Should Trust Us
Jeremy Benson is the Senior Mountain Bike Review Editor at OutdoorGearLab and a competitive gravel and mountain bike racer based in South Lake Tahoe, CA. Whether training for racing, testing bikes and equipment or riding for fun, Benson spends significant amounts of time in the saddle on his road, gravel, and trail bikes each year. Tracking his performance in the pursuit of amateur racing dominance is one of his many obsessions, and he is intimately familiar with cycling computers as a result. A self-proclaimed "gear nerd," Benson has been testing and reviewing cycling gear for OutdoorGearLab for over three years. Benson also received input from bike racer Curtis Smith. Smith spent many years racing road, mountain, and cyclocross bikes and used cycling computers religiously to track his performance while training. Smith resides in South Lake Tahoe, CA, with his wife and family and can often be found riding two-wheeled contraptions on the roads and trails in the area. Benson and Smith are also joined by Ryan Baham. Ryan resides in Southern California, where he has the opportunity to ride bikes year-round while testing all manner of road cycling gear and running gear for OutdoorGearLab.
In addition to staying up to date on the most recent product releases, our team spent hours researching the best cycling computers to incorporate into this review. After selecting the best new models, we spent countless hours fiddling with each one to test their smartphone integration, connectivity, features, and user-friendliness. After programming and playing with each competitor, we took to the roads and the trails to test each model for accuracy and to see how well those features and functions actually work in the field. Our field testing is also supplemented with hours of testing the user-friendliness of the companion apps, user-interface, creating routes, and dunking each computer in water.
Related: How We Tested Bike Computers
Analysis and Test Results
There are lots of reasons to ride bikes, and at OutdoorGearLab some of us cycle to improve and maintain our fitness or shed a few accumulated winter pounds, while others train to try and stand on podiums throughout the race season. Whatever your reasons for riding, adding a cycling computer to your riding routine can provide you with quantifiable information to help you reach your fitness or training goals, navigate, or compete or socialize on apps like Strava.
Related: The Best Bike Trainers of 2020
What was once the tool of only the professional 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 created 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 user's handlebars. If you've just started cycling, you'll probably notice that many riders have some type of cycling computer attached to their bike.
Related: Buying Advice for Bike Computers
Mounts that attach your phone to your handlebars are now better than ever. They allow multiple attachment styles at various price points. The downside to phone mounts is that most phones are massive compared to a bike computer. The upside is that many excellent fitness tracking apps are either free or very reasonably priced. Top-rated models allow your phone to attach and detach from the bars in seconds.Related: The Best Bike Phone Mounts of 2020
Often, the more expensive units typically score better, and neither of our Best Buy winners (the Lezyne Micro Color GPS and the Cateye Quick) scores particularly high from a performance standpoint. Still, both give you the basic info for less than half the price of the highest performing models. Our Top Pick-winning Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT ROAM is a top performer and scored nearly as well as models that cost significantly more. It is important to note that the non-GPS enabled units score significantly lower than their GPS enabled counterparts due to their more basic designs, features, and functionality.
Ease of Use
Using a bike computer when riding or training adds another step to your ride preparation, but we don't feel it should be a hindrance to enjoying your ride. Ease of use is our most heavily weighted rating metric because we believe it's the one that is likely to affect you the most. Unsurprisingly, the Garmin bike computers are well represented here. Our highest scoring products are the Garmin Edge 830, winner of our Editors' Choice award, Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT ROAM, and Garmin Edge 1030, winners of our Top Pick awards.
Several factors were taken into account when rating ease of use, including startup time, charging and battery life, user interface(touchscreen, buttons, display), screen navigation and ease of uploading workouts to web-based tracking services, and smartphone integration. Of all these factors, we feel the user interface and ease of navigation on the device are the most important. Below is a breakdown of each area, and analysis of product performance.User Interface
When we say interface, we mean the method by which the user interacts with the device. Are buttons used, a touchscreen, or both? What is the size of the display, what info does it show, and is it easy to read? How easy is it to navigate through menus and functions? Our highest scoring products are the Garmin Edge 830 and Edge 1030, which are controlled with a touchscreen and a simple button layout. The basic functions like power, start/stop workout, and lap are controlled by the buttons. Thes buttons are intuitive to use and have a user-friendly layout that makes them easy to use while riding.
External tactile buttons work when executed well, although we found that the touchscreens of the Garmin Edge 830 and Edge 1030 are superior to the button only interface. The Lezyne Micro C GPS and Mega XL are controlled by buttons only, but the multi-function buttons are a bit less user-friendly than those on the competing Garmin Edge 520 Plus or Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT. 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.
The menu layout differs between the touchscreen Garmin Edge 830 and Edge 1030 and the button interface Edge 520 Plus. All 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 Edge 830 and 1030, due to speedier scrolling by using finger swipe motions as opposed to tapping buttons to move through data screens on the Edge 520 Plus.
Navigation of the Lezyne Mega XL and Micro C GPS is simple, but not as intuitive as the Garmin models. All of the Lezyne devices have a four-button interface compared to the seven on the Garmin Edge 520, and all of their buttons are multi-function, making it a bit less intuitive to use. Use of the buttons is relatively quick to master on all of the Lezyne computers; it just takes a little practice. The screens vary in size between all of the Lezyne models as well, and while they are relatively easy to read, they can't quite match the vibrant color screens of the Garmin bike computers.
Faster is better, right? We think so. That means less time on the side of the road hopping around and stomping because the computer isn't cued up and you're amped up (or desperately trying to overcome your inner sloth and every second wasted is another second closer to going back inside and eating something rich in carbs, fat, and salt). The non-GPS enabled Cateye Strada Slim and Cateye Velo 7 computers 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. The Garmin bike computers in our review, the Edge 1030, Edge 830, and Edge 520 Plus, must be turned on by pressing the power button and they all take several seconds to power up. Once they are on, the user selects from Activity Profiles, and the unit needs to acquire a satellite signal. It sounds like a lot, but with frequent use, this only takes 30 seconds or so. All of the Lezyne models are also turned on and off with a power button, and both start up within only a few seconds. Wahoo Fitness' ELEMNT BOLT and ELEMNT ROAM take a little longer to power up, but the 25 seconds or so that it takes shouldn't be a day ruiner.
All of the Garmin and Lezyne models, as well as the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT, are GPS and GLONASS satellite-enabled, so satellite acquisition is relatively quick and painless. Sometimes GPS is acquired almost instantly, while other times, you'll have to wait for a few seconds. The ELEMNT BOLT also claims to use BeiDou Galileo and QZSS satellites for even more accuracy. The Lezyne computers are the fastest to load the home screen, followed by the Garmin bike computers and the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt. In summary, the startup of the GPS-enabled devices takes a bit longer than those without GPS, but it is somewhat negligible, and the wait is worth the benefits for most riders.Charging and Battery Life
All of the contenders we tested use some sort of battery for power and all other things being equal, we feel that longer battery life is better. The Cateye Quick, Cateye Velo 7, and Planet Bike Protégé all utilize disposable and replaceable 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, Lezyne, and the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT models all use built-in rechargeable batteries.
Which option is better? We prefer rechargeable batteries for a few reasons. There's less waste, and if we kill the battery, a trip to the store to purchase a new battery is not required. That said, coin cell batteries are not that expensive and will only set you back a few dollars. Plus, you can always take a few spare batteries on an extended tour where you'll be away from reliable outlets for days on end.
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 bike computers we tested all utilize rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and come with included USB to Micro USB cables. Charge times from a complete discharge are around two hours for all of the units. Battery life for the Edge 1030 and Edge 830 are claimed to be 20 hours, while the Edge 520 Plus is claimed at 15 hours, which we found to be reasonably accurate.
The Edge 830, and Edge 1030 have a Battery Save mode that can help extend battery life by shutting the screen down while continuing to record data. This feature helps you extend the battery life assuming you don't need to see what is on the screen. The Lezyne Mega XL GPS has an impressive 48-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 Mega XL GPS is the clear winner when it comes to battery life.Data Transfers and Smart Phone Integration
Transferring data from a cycling computer to a data tracking website is one of the core functions of the GPS-enabled devices. The Garmin models, Lezyne models, and the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT all can store data on the device and then transfer ride files to web-based applications. Data transfer can be done via the included Micro USB cable to a laptop with an Internet connection using both Garmin cycling computers and the Lezyne computers.
The Garmin Edge 1030, Edge 830, and Edge 520 Plus use Garmin Connect to pair with a smartphone.
Ease of Setup
All of the models we tested require some setup. Setup should factor into your purchase decision, but keep in mind that more sophisticated products with more features need a bit more time investment up front. Thankfully, for the most part, this is a one-time or occasional hassle. The difficulty of setting up a computer is mainly dependent on how many features and accessories the unit has or is capable of using and how many of those features you intend to use. You may notice that some of the units that score high in our features metric conversely score a bit lower on setup.
Setup includes the physical attachment, and the computers we tested come with different styles of mounts. All of the GPS enabled computers come with a similar style of standard quarter-turn mount that attaches directly to the handlebar or stem. The Garmin Edge computers and the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT ROAM come with both a standard mount and an out-front mount that extends the computer out in front of the stem in the optimal position. The inclusion of more than one mount style is an added value and makes swapping the computer between bikes much quicker and easier.
The Cateye Quick was also really outstanding here. Its wireless design makes it super simple to throw onto your handlebars, tighten the sensor to your fork with the accompanying magnet on a spoke, tap in a few data points (wheel circumference and units of measurement), and start rolling. The total setup is about 5 minutes if you're screwing around and didn't read the instructions.
Bike computers range from simple to extremely complex. When it comes to features, we focus on the features that you can use. It should come as no surprise that the Garmin Edge 1030, winner of our Top Pick for Features and Navigation award, is also the most feature-rich unit we tested. The Edge 1030 is GPS enabled, ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart accessory compatible, has a touchscreen, and has a wealth of training, navigation, and connected features. Our Editor's Choice award-winning Edge 830 follows close behind in the feature department. Both models have too many features to mention here.
Connected features are those that work through a connection to your smartphone, typically through the computer's companion app. Examples of connected features are text and call notifications, activity uploads to fitness tracking apps, and Live Tracking. Most models of GPS enabled computers have these more basic connected features. The Garmin Edge 1030 and Edge 830 take it to another level, with Group Track, weather, device to device transfers, and rider to rider messaging. The Edge 830 adds in even more features like hydration and nutrition tracking. All of the Garmin Edge models also have a unique Incident Detection feature that can be enabled to automatically notify your contacts in the event of a crash.
Many of the computers we tested have navigation features that are intended to help you find your way on a ride. Maps, turn by turn directions, and routes are examples of these. GPS enabled units like the Lezyne Micro C GPS have pretty good navigation, but the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT ROAM, Garmin Edge 1030, Edge 520 Plus, and Edge 830 are the most capable computers in this regard. The Edge 830, for example, has a large color screen, preloaded maps, a course creator, round-trip routing, Strava routes, turn by turn directions, and audio prompts. The ELEMNT ROAM also has a large color display, which isn't quite as vibrant as the Garmin models, and it's not quite as user-friendly. Still, it has a lot of horsepower and all sorts of navigational capabilities.
Cycling computers are also excellent training tools, and many of them have features designed to help you work towards your fitness and training goals. Strava Live was introduced with the Garmin Edge 520 and is a feature that Strava Premium members can use. This feature takes your chosen Strava segments and provides prompts before, during, and after those segments so that you can monitor it as you go. Strava Live is now available on all of the GPS enabled computers in this review. Most GPS enabled computers are also compatible with ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart sensors to monitor heart rate, cadence, speed, and power. Sensors provide the user with real-time quantifiable training information that is essential to improving performance. The Garmin Edge 520 Plus is an outlier that is only compatible with ANT+ sensors. Some computers can also program workouts or upload them from other apps like Training Peaks.
In contrast to the tech-heavy, feature-laden Garmin, Wahoo Fitness, and Lezyne units, we tested the Cateye Velo 7, Cateye Strada Slim, and the Planet Bike Protégé 9.0 Wireless. These units offer more primary data collection, without the help of GPS and accessory sensor compatibility. Although these units are lower scoring, they still provide reliable data collection for time, distance, and speed.
Many of us at OutdoorGearLab participate in all sorts of cycling disciplines. A road ride today can easily lead into a long backcountry epic on the mountain bike tomorrow and possibly a gravel grind the next day. 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 Lezyne models can create up to five bike profiles for different bikes and types of cycling. Within each profile, you can customize the data pages to display the most relevant information for the activity at hand. The Garmin Edge models also have numerous activity profiles that are customizable for different types of rides, including indoor cycling.
Versatility is about more than just different activity profiles; it also includes mapping and navigation capabilities. Some computers are better for simply tracking your ride and posting it to Strava, while others are powerful navigation tools that can create routes and help you explore new trails and roads. The Garmin Edge units have the most robust mapping and navigation features, particularly the Edge 1030 and the Edge 830. The Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT ROAM also comes with preloaded maps and offers most of the navigation features of the Garmin units.
The Lezyne computers offer the least in terms of navigation and mapping, although the Mega XL is an improvement over previous models with preloaded maps and the ability to import maps for offline navigation.
The Lezyne computers, the Edge 1030, as well as the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT 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 never intend to venture out on your bike in the rain, sooner or later, you may find yourself caught in an unexpected shower. People on a serious training program will 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. Therefore, we feel that water resistance is a critical feature of a quality bike computer.
All of the Garmin Edge models and the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT ROAM 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 also withstand intentional submersion in water.
We had no issues with water damage on any Garmin bike computer, 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 Quick and the Planet Bike Protégé 9.0 allowed some water to permeate the battery compartment during testing.
We spent the majority of this review looking at the aspects of bike computers that we felt were most relevant to cyclists. For our performance measures, we focused on ease of use, ease of setup, features, versatility, and water resistance. This gave us a good basis to quantify differences between the bike computers for a more thorough comparison and evaluation. The scores for each evaluation were derived from a mixture of testing out in the field and a ton of research for each cycling computer, looking at performance and function claims and potential lapses in performance. We're confident in our subsequent analyses and recommendations. If you've gone through our entire overview and you're ready for a few more details on individual bike computers, go ahead and scroll back up to the top and look through the reviews for any products that caught your eye along the way or a top-scorer from one of our metrics.
— Ryan Baham, Jeremy Benson, Curtis Smith