When it comes to cycling computers, there are so many models on the market that it can be hard find the right one. We researched the top models before selecting 11 to test and compare side by side. We tested each model for an extended period on different styles of bikes, terrain, and in variable weather conditions. From the flatlands to the mountains, paved and gravel roads to singletrack, each of these computers got put through its paces as our testers analyzed their design, features, and performance. Each model was rated on several criteria to find out which is the easiest to use and setup, has the best and most useful features, water resistance, and more. Whether you need a computer for training, navigation, or just keeping track of your rides and stats, we hope this detailed review helps you find the bike computer that suits your needs and budget.
The Best Bike Computers of 2018
This summer we added two new cycling computers into our review, and in the process, we found a new award winner and reconfirmed our previous impressions of our competitors. Garmin's flagship model, the Edge 1030 impressed our testers with its seemingly endless array of features and excellent navigation capabilities, taking home our Top Pick for Features and Navigation Award. While it didn't take home any awards, we also tested the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT MINI, a small, versatile, and interesting computer that can be used on its own for basic functions or paired with your smartphone for GPS tracking and some connected features. Our previous award winners remain, with the Garmin Edge 820 as our Editor's Choice Award winner, and the Lezyne Micro C GPS as our Best Buy. Read on to find the model that suits your needs and budget.
Best Overall Bike Computer
Garmin Edge 820
After reviewing the 2018 options, the Garmin Edge 820 still takes the cake, with a staggering list of features and an intuitive interface, cementing its spot as our Editors' Choice winner. It's GPS and GLONASS enabled for accurate navigation with turn-by-turn mapping and a color touch screen with iPhone-like usability. (The tap and swipe functionality is a huge improvement over the previous model.) It's packed with features, but the standouts are audio prompts, 16G of memory, and e-mail alerts. The Edge 820 is one of the only contenders that has an incident detection system, which notifies your contacts in the event of 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. Perhaps 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. The small size, lightweight, and wealth of features make the Edge 820 our favorite bike computer.
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's 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 your 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 broad 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 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 or Edge 1030. It doesn't have the dizzying array of performance metrics found on Wahoo Fitness' ELEMNT BOLT or the maps found on the Garmin Edge 1030, 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's 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 on your bike and ride.
Read review: Cateye Strada Slim
Top Pick 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 at $600 it is the most expensive model in our test. 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, it's also physically large, with an intuitive user interface that uses the large color touchscreen and three tactile buttons. This is the most advanced and fully featured cycling computer money can buy, and the winner of our Top Pick for Features and Navigation Award. The Edge 1030 was a certainly a contender for our Editor's Choice Award, but in the end, testers felt they preferred the slightly smaller, more streamlined, and somewhat simpler Edge 820.
Read review: Garmin Edge 1030
Top Pick for the Data Hungry Cyclist
Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT
One of our highest rated GPS enabled cycling computers 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 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 touchscreens, but external buttons can be nearly as good when they are executed well. The Edge 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's the compact, sleek, fine-tuned training tool you've been waiting for to replace or upgrade your Edge 500.
Read review: Garmin Edge 520
Analysis and Test Results
There are plenty of reasons to ride bikes, and at OutdoorGearLab most of us cycle to improve and maintain our fitness or shed a few accumulated winter pounds. If that's not why you ride, at least it's a nice side effect of having fun on the bike. Adding a cycling computer to your riding routine can provide you with quantifiable information to help you reach your fitness or training goals. We also recommend you check out our Smart Bike Trainer Review.
What was 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 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 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 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 great fitness tracking 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.
To see how the cycling computers in our test compared in terms of value, we've compared both price and performance for all options. It so happens that the more expensive units typically scored better. 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 the price of the higher performing models. Our Top Pick-winning ELEMNT BOLT is a top performer and scored as well as models that cost significantly more.
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. Our highest scoring products are the Garmin Edge 820, winner of our Editors' Choice award, Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT, Garmin Edge 1030, and the Garmin Edge 520, winners of our Top Pick awards.
We took a number of factors into account when rating the ease of use, 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 these factors, we feel the user interface and ease of navigation are the most important. Below is a breakdown of each area, and analysis of product performance.Interface
When we say interface, we mean the method by which the user interacts with the device. Are buttons used, a touchscreen, or both? How easy is it to navigate through menus and functions? Our highest scoring products are the Garmin Edge 820 and Edge 1030 which are controlled 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 Edge 820's touchscreen is used to navigate between pages of preselected data during a workout, as well as 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 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 tactile buttons work when executed well, although we found that the touch screen of the Garmin Edge 820 and Edge 1030 is superior to the button only interface. The Lezyne Super GPS Enhanced and the Micro C GPS are controlled by buttons only, but the buttons are a bit less user-friendly than those on the competing Garmin Edge 520 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.
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 Edge 820, due to speedier scrolling by using finger swipe motions as opposed to 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 the Garmin Edge 1030, 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 Garmin units in our review, the Garmin Edge 1030, Garmin Edge 820, and Garmin Edge 520, must be turned on by pressing the power button. Once powered on, the user selects from Activity Profiles, and the unit needs 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 1030, 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 relatively 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 for most riders.Charging and Battery Life
All of the contenders we tested use some sort of battery for power. The Cateye Strada Slim, Cateye Velo 7, Planet Bike Protégé, and Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT MINI 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 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'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 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, ELEMNT MINI, 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 1030 is claimed to be 20 hours, while the Edge 820 and Edge 520 is claimed at 15 hours, which we found to be reasonably accurate.
The Edge 820 and Edge 1030 have a Battery Save mode that can help extend battery life by shutting the screen down while continuing to record data. Using the Battery Save mode intermittently, we were able to extend the battery life of the Edge 820 beyond 15 hours. 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, we found the Magellan Cyclo 505 to have a relatively short battery life and we were only able to get around 10 hours of use on average from a fully charged battery. We were especially surprised by the inadequate battery life from a bike computer that is geared toward the touring crowd.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 models, Lezyne models, 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 Ally V2 app, 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, such as 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 1030, 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 these devices are easy to set up for wireless data transfer.
The Garmin Edge 1030, Edge 820, and Edge 520 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 with more features require 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 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.
One factor to consider is whether the computer is wired or wireless. Only two of the models we tested are wired and those are the least expensive and basic models. For some of the wireless computers, setup is as simple as attaching the quarter turn mounts to the handlebars and turning the unit on. The more feature-rich models like the Garmin Edge 1030, Garmin Edge 820, Lezyne Super 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.
The GPS enabled computers all use a smartphone app, and putting the app on your device and pairing with your computer is essential to fully take advantage of the connected features and for some of the setup. For example, all of the setup for the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT is done through the well designed and intuitive ELEMNT app. On the other hand, the majority of the setup of the Garmin models is done on the computer itself. For detailed information on product setup, see our in-depth individual product reviews.
Bike computers range from simple to 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 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 820 follows close behind in the feature department. Both models have too many features to mention here, so be sure to check out the full reviews for a more detailed description of these advanced cycling computers.
Connected features are those that work through a connection to your smartphone, typically through the computer's 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 takes it to another level, with Group Track, weather, device to device transfers, and rider to rider messaging. Both the Edge 1030 and the Edge 820 also have a unique Incident Detection feature that notifies 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 and the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT have pretty good navigation, but the Garmin Edge 1030 and Edge 820 are the most capable computers in this regard. The Edge 1030, for example, has a large color screen, preloaded maps, a course creator, round-trip routing, Strava routes, turn by turn directions and audio prompts.
Cycling computers are also great training tools and many of them have features designed to help you achieve 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 the Edge 1030, Edge 820, Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT. 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 quantifiable training information that is essential to improving performance. Some computers also have the ability to 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. 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.
Many of us at OutdoorGearLab participate in numerous different styles of cycling. 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 Garmin Edge 1030 and Edge 820 receive high marks here, followed closely by the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT and Garmin Edge 520. The Edge 1030 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 is also great in this regard. 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 1030, Edge 820, and Edge 520 also have Activity Profiles allowing you to customize data fields, pages, and alerts for different types of rides, such as road, gravel, and mountain, or 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 user friendly. 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 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, 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 need 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.
— Jeremy Benson & Curtis Smith