Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Bike Computers

Thursday March 18, 2021
Photo: Ryan Baham
When we approach our testing for bike computers, we consider two primary areas: practical cycling application and company claims. That means we need to conduct a good deal of research on each cycling computer to look at the claims and then get out there in the field to see if those claims are good and judge whether or not the features actually matter to the average rider. We do our best to end up with a boildown of each bike computer. Some of the higher-end cycling computers have dozens of features that just don't matter for most riders, but look very impressive under a features section. Simply enumerating the main features and casually dropping "More than 47 features" just doesn't add up to a good device. We sort through all of that and see how practical these are out on the road.
One of the best parts about testing computers is hunting for all the...
One of the best parts about testing computers is hunting for all the local categorized climbs to compare the data.
Photo: Andrew Crook

The bike computers in our review are tested side-by-side on the same rides to get good one-to-one comparisons. We push the heck out of them and try to put them through all the worst situations we've had as well as the most common problems. We also go through complaints and actively investigate them for validity, workarounds, and company solutions to evaluate the make-or-break weight of the issues.

Sometimes, we forget to take computers off the bike when driving home in the rain… And sometimes corners are taken too fast and a Garmin contender on an out-front mount saves a set of carbon handlebars from a tree.
Some aspects of computer testing are more fun than others.
Some aspects of computer testing are more fun than others.
Photo: Jeremy Benson

Did we mention we don't baby the equipment?
Looks pretty water resistant to us.
Looks pretty water resistant to us.
Photo: Jeremy Benson
We spend months scrutinizing every detail of each computer, everything from attachment to user interface, and evaluate all available features to determine their usefulness in the real world. A feature that gives you the difficulty and duration of an upcoming climb and its segments makes tons of sense for riders in mountainous or hilly areas. A Floridian will maybe never use it, especially if they're within 15 miles of the coast in South and Central. A San Franciscan will adore it.

Many of the products we tested are compatible with ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart accessories, and we used a wide range of sensors, including heart rate monitors, speed, cadence, and power meters from Quarq and Powertap during testing. When you go to buy a product we've reviewed, you can be sure that it has been put through the wringer, and evaluated on the basis of head-to-head, real-world comparison.
Dubbed "The Fred Console;" how else are you going to get good...
Dubbed "The Fred Console;" how else are you going to get good side-by-side data? At least we didn't have a cup holder, mirror, and streamers...
Photo: Ryan Baham