You’re Always on the Right Track with a GPS Cycle Computer
You rarely see old-fashioned maps these days. You’re more likely to see sophisticated GPS cycle computers, which don’t have much in common with the original bike speedometer. Training rides, cycling holidays, MTB adventures – GPS bike computers have lots of useful functions, helping you get to your destination. Read more
Bike Navigation in All Situations
Bike navigation is really versatile: you can follow pre-planned routes (and re-configure them along the way) or calculate a direct route home or to the nearest café. GPS bike computers can also track your routes, showing you when and where you’ve been and how fast you rode.
Most GPS cycle computers are robust and waterproof. You can fix a GPS cycle computer to your bike with a clip holder or rubber strap – to the front stem or handlebars, for example.
Plenty of satellites mean you can get a stable GPS connection, even in the thickest forest or deepest gorge – unlike with a smart phone. The illuminated display allows great visibility on the small screen – in the dark and direct sunlight. Some GPS cycle computers are even voice-controlled, so you can focus entirely on riding.
Cycle Navigation with or without a Map
When buying a GPS cycle computer, first decide if you prefer cycle navigation with or without a map.
Map-Free Gps Bike Computers
A GPS bike computer with no map display is normally cheaper and easier to use. This type of GPS cycle computer follows saved routes or “breadcrumbs“ – pre-determined route waymarks. You can use the displayed GPS position to check if you’re on the right route.
You also see a handy map, helping you navigate. You can use some of these GPS bike computers with apps like Komoot and Strava, for extra functions like route-changing. Popular map-free GPS bike computers are the:
- Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT BOLT
- Bryton Aero
- Bryton Rider for MTB
- Sigma Sport ROX 11.0
- Ciclosport Ciclocontrol HAC
- Lezyne Super Pro / Lezyne Mega XL
- Garmin Edge 130
GPS Bike Computers with Maps
These devices use digital topographical maps, giving you active, flexible navigation on your bike. You can adapt your route manually or automatically, circumnavigate obstacles and shorten/lengthen your route. You can also view your surroundings, identifying specific destinations like service stations, supermarkets and restaurants. Some even present you favourite mountain biking and road cycling routes.
GPS cycle computer with maps are usually more expensive. Here are some favourites:
- Sigma Sport ROX 12.00
- Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT ROAM
- Garmin Edge 820, 830 and 1030
What to Look out for When Buying a Gps Cycle Computer
You need to consider the following factors when choosing a GPS bike computer:
- with or without maps?
- battery runtime
- display brightness
- Satellite system connectivity
There are other factors – depending on what you want to use your GPS bike computer for. First you need to check what services the GPS cycle computer provides for your bike, keeping your budget in mind, of course. Memory space can also be important, plus the available maps.
You then need to consider how you operate the GPS cycle computer and if this appeals to you. Is it buttons or a keypad or do you control it via touch screen or even voice commands? Are smart notifications (SMS, calls, emails) possible, and is this important to you?
Depending on whether you’re a mountain biker, road or touring cyclist, maps should have the appropriate detail and scale. And check if free maps are available (e.g. OpenStreetMaps) or even pre-installed and whether points of interest can be selected or saved.
Many GPS bike computers also have a compass and/or altimeter or enable live segment tracking with Strava. Current traffic alerts can be accessed via a TMC module. And many models even have built-in automatic accident detection.
Many GPS bike computers can also assist performance measurement. Your heart rate is measured with a chest strap, and other performance data like calories consumed, Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and VO2max (oxygen uptake capacity) can also be measured. Upgrade your GPS cycle computer with more accessories like a cadence sensor or a watt meter.
Handheld Navigation Devices
For cyclists, walkers and runners who love exploring the wilderness or locating a few geocaches, special handheld navigation devices (e.g. Garmin GPS eTrex) are available They have pre-installed maps, show geocaches and are extremely robust. Displays are bigger and really easy to view, even in strong sunlight. Some models, such as the Garmin Montana, even allow you to take high-res photos with the built-in camera.
Bike Navigation – With Watch, Compass and Map
A useful alternative to a GPS bike computer – or back-up, in case the battery runs out – is a premium compass from a company like Silva or Suunto. And navigation-enabled watches with a GPS or compass function are also on the market. With the right holder, you can also use many of them as a GPS cycle computer. Advantages over a GPS cycle computer are low weight and easy multisport application. Here are a few popular models:
- Garmin (Forerunner, Fenix)
- Polar (Vantage)
- Suunto (Core, Traverse, 9, Ambit, Spartan)