Ride further, faster and track your bike rides and fitness levels with our favourite cycle computers from Garmin, Wahoo, Cateye and Mio
Cycle computers are a key component in any cyclist’s arsenal of equipment. Whether you’re looking to gauge how far you’ve ridden, track fitness gains or compare your performance to millions around the world on sites such as Strava, you need to invest in a bike computer.
Just like your bike itself, however, there’s a computer for every budget. Basic units cost little more than you might spend on a mid-ride lunch stop at your favourite country pub, while the most advanced will easily set you back the cost of a Michelin-starred meal for two.
Deciding which is the right option for you is about more than just your budget, though. It helps to know what you need and what you don’t, the features and technologies on offer, and the cycle computers out there that meet those needs and give you the most bang for your buck – however much you have to spend.
Here we’ll take you through the main features to look for when shopping for a new cycling computer, then we’ll run through a selection of the best options out there for budget, mid-range and high-end cycling computers, and explain what each of them offers.
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How to choose the best cycle computer for you
How does a bike computer measure speed and distance?
The most basic bike computers on the market use a magnet attached to a spoke on your wheel and a sensor fixed to your fork. Based on the frequency of wheel rotation and the diameter of your wheel, it can then work out basic information such as your current speed, maximum speed, recorded time, distance covered and average speed – normally for both a single ride and overall. As long as you enter the circumference of your wheel (and tyre) correctly, this can give very accurate results.
More expensive models add satellite tracking into the mix, so use satellites to locate your position and calculate your speed and distance covered. This is the ideal, hassle-free option for most types of riding, and allows you to upload your rides to fitness-tracking apps such as Strava. It can be less reliable where there’s a lot of tree cover or tall buildings about, though, as it will struggle to maintain an accurate GPS lock on the satellites overhead. This is why pricier models tend to support both GPS and GLONASS satellite networks, so have more satellites with which to accurately pinpoint your location.
Are there any other features to think about?
Even mid-range bike computers these days typically do without wires altogether and instead use wireless connectivity, typically using either the Bluetooth or ANT+ standards. This opens up mapping and GPS navigation features – you can upload pre-planned routes, for instance – and allows the computer to connect with your smartphone, computer and other devices.
Cycle computers with ANT+ and Bluetooth also open the door to third-party sensors that allow you to record other metrics such as power (how many watts you’re putting out), heart rate and cadence (the number of revolutions your crank makes per minute).
- Cadence is measured with a magnet/sensor combo attached to the pedal crank and chainstay, but heart rate and power both require dedicated sensors. This is a useful metric to help ensure that you’re pedalling as efficiently and smoothly as possible.
- Heart-rate monitors come in watch-style or chest-strap types. Chest-strap types are generally more accurate, however, and are much less likely to lose signal when the going gets rough, or fast. These start at around £20.
- Power meters are much more expensive. These start at around £300 and work their up to and over the £1,000 mark. These measure how much power you’re putting out, and come in various forms – cranks, pedals, or hubs. Each has their own benefits, which we won’t get into here, but suffice to say most of us just don’t need one – heart rate is a good enough indicator of effort levels for non-pros.
Do I need a wireless bike computer?
For basic duties, no. Wired bike computers are generally cheap, tough, and have better battery life than models that rely on wireless communication. If you just want an idea of how far you’ve ridden and how quickly, you don’t need to spend much – well, as long as you don’t want the GPS tracking required for properly uploading rides to Strava.
One point worth mentioning here is that if you’re looking to use your bike on an indoor turbo trainer, the magnet and sensor on your stationary front wheel will be useless. You’ll either need to rely on the speed sensor in your turbo trainer, or attach the sensor and magnet to the rear wheel – which, while possible with a wired model, will be very fiddly.
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The best cycle computers you can buy in 2023
1. Cateye Velo Wireless: Best bike computer under £50
Price when reviewed: £28 | Check price at Amazon
Cateye has been making bike computers for longer than most, and in the Velo Wireless it provides all the features you need in an entry-level wireless computer in a package that’s easy to set up and use.
The Velo uses a simple, slick-looking magnet that fits easily on rounded or bladed spokes, and a small radar signal pops up on the screen to show when the magnet is being read by the sensor.
Given its budget price, bells and whistles are understandably thin on the ground, but if you want a bike computer that does the basics flawlessly and is good to go practically straight out of the box, look no further.
Key specs – Touchscreen: No; Turn-by-turn navigation: No; Claimed battery life: Approx 1 year (1hr use per day); Size: 37 x 16.5 x 55.5mm; Weight: 26.4g
2. Garmin Edge 530: Best GPS-equipped all-rounder
Price when reviewed: £260 | Check price at Wiggle
Brand new from Garmin, the Edge 530 is the most complete bike computer you can currently buy under £300. Along with an all-new processor that delivers lightning-fast route calculation, its main headline features are Garmin’s Trailforks off-road mapping and new MTB functions that score trail difficulty, assess your riding skills and even keep count of your jumps.
But it’s not only good news for mountain bikers; the Edge 530 also focuses heavily on the minor details of your training, notifying you when it’s time to eat and hydrate, as well factoring heat and altitude acclimatisation into recovery advice. Rider safety is also paramount on the Edge 530, with Garmin’s Incident Detection (which notifies pre-determined contacts of your location in the event of an emergency) and a pin-protected bike alarm that alerts you if your bike is being moved when you’ve made a cafe stop.
Despite having a new larger 2.6in screen, Garmin promises an impressive 20-hour battery life from this compact, aerodynamic, colour screen unit. If you can’t justify the price, the Edge 520 Plus forgoes many of the above features but delivers excellent value with a saving of almost £100.
Key specs – Screen size: 66mm; Touchscreen: No; Turn-by-turn navigation: Yes; Claimed battery life: 20 hours; Size: 50 x 82 x 20mm; Weight: 75.8g
3. Mio Cyclo 210: Best bike computer under £150
Price when reviewed: £119 | Check price at Amazon
If you’re after a cycle computer that focuses on navigation and you don’t mind going without health-tracking connectivity, then Mio’s Cyclo 210 could be for you. The Cyclo 210 comes with the entirety of Europe already loaded and ready to explore, which makes it ideal for cycle tourists or those who favour long-distance journeys.
The Cyclo acts similarly to GPS in a car, whereby you can enter any address in Europe, select the amount of traffic you’re happy with, and it will direct you to your destination. If you encounter any unforeseen obstacles and have to alter your route, don’t fret: just like an in-car GPS, the Mio will autoroute as you ride. It’s also worth noting that it has an SD card slot, so if you want to stretch your horizons beyond Europe, you can add more maps to the device as you see fit.
Another neat feature we like is the “surprise me” function, which generates a route at your chosen length from your current location, although it’s worth mentioning that this can suggest rather strange routes from time to time.
Key specs – Screen size: 3.5in; Touchscreen: Yes; Turn-by-turn navigation: Yes; Claimed battery life: Up to 10 hours; Size: Not given; Weight: 154g
4. Garmin Edge 1030: Best premium GPS bike computer
Price when reviewed: £500 | Check price at Garmin
If money is (just about) no object, you’ll find it hard to top the Garmin Edge 1030. Resembling a cross between a smartphone and a car satnav, the Edge 1030 puts a near-endless array of features at your fingertips, beautifully rendered on its 3.5-inch colour touchscreen.
It taps into Garmin Connect data to recommend popular routes, provides turn-by-turn navigation complete with navigation alerts and info on points of interest, and even lets you chat to others in your group with rider-to-rider messaging.
Rides can be uploading automatically to Garmin Connect, and apps, widgets and updates downloaded via Wi-Fi, and plenty more besides. Impressively given everything the Edge 1030 offers, Garmin claims a battery life of up to 20 hours or double that with an add-on power pack.
Key specs – Screen size: 3.5in; Touchscreen: Yes; Turn-by-turn navigation: Yes; Claimed battery life: 20 hours; Size: 58 x 19 x 114mm; Weight: 123g
5. Wahoo Elemnt Roam: Best-ever Wahoo bike computer
Price when reviewed: £179 | Check price at Evans Cycles
The Wahoo Elemnt Roam is the most advanced bike computer from the fast-growing American brand yet. In particular, Wahoo has improved its navigation capabilities, so it now offers automatic rerouting and directions to the start of routes to supplement its existing excellent on-device route generation. The computer also automatically adds turn-by-turn directions to routes imported from other sources, which is a handy addition if you prefer to plan routes on Strava.
The Roam also adds a dash of colour to Wahoo’s usual monochrome interface, making mapping and training programmes clearer and easier to follow. It has strips of LEDs alongside the top and left edges of the screen, too, which alert you to notifications and can be customised to display other metrics such as speed, heart rate or power.
As you’d hope with a name like Roam, the new Wahoo device has solid battery life, lasting up to 17 hours between charges.
Key specs – Screen size: 68.58mm; Touchscreen: No; Turn-by-turn navigation: Yes; Claimed battery life: Up to 20 hours; Size: 89mm x 54.4mm x 17.8mm; Weight: 93g
6. Garmin Edge 830: Best value Garmin GPS computer
Price when reviewed: £300 | Check price at Decathlon
If you want the full Garmin cycle computer experience delivered in a more affordable, if somewhat compact, package, then the Garmin 830 is the one for you. Although it’s essentially just a smaller version of its older brother, the 1030, the Garmin 830 still boasts a whole host of features. On the GPS front, these include the usual live tracking and route planning plus onboard re-routing. It also provides live segments via Strava and has great safety features such as ‘Incident Detection’ and a pin-locked bike alarm. The device will even tell you when you need to eat and drink as you ride.
If you’re worried that the battery life will suffer due to all these nifty features, don’t be; the 830’s battery will last up to a respectable 20 hours on a single charge.
Key specs – Screen size: 2.6in; Touchscreen: Yes; Turn-by-turn navigation: Yes; Claimed battery life: 20 hours; Size: 50 x 20 x 82mm; Weight: 82g