Riders today can fine-tune their performance in almost every way imaginable with the incredible features and convenience offered by the best bike computers on the market.
Cycling is fun and has lots of health benefits. And modern bike computers are extremely helpful in tracking your exercise statistics — not to mention your speed, distance, and course with a GPS cycling computer.
However, with the high volume of bike computers on the market today, choosing one can be overwhelming. We’ve put in the time to review several computers and created an accessible buying guide to help you choose the best bike computer for your riding needs.
Best Bike Computers of 2021
Best Overall: Garmin Edge 830 Sensor Bundle
You’ve probably heard of the Garmin Edge 830 ($500 with the sensor bundle), and for good reason. This cycle computer sports a full-color touchscreen display that makes all its technological capabilities feel even more impressive.
The Garmin Edge 830 stands apart from other bike computers on the market today because of its navigation features. It’s best suited for riders who want to use the touchscreen to build routes while riding, instead of planning the route ahead of time like you have to do with its sibling, the Garmin Edge 530.
It also has a larger and easier-to-read screen (2 x 1.7 inches) than some of its competitors. Therefore, it’s especially desirable to anyone who wants to track a multitude of data fields while in motion.
Both ease of mounting and ease of programming make this cycle computer one of the easiest to set up. It comes with a standard mount and an out-front mount. As for programming, most can be done on the Garmin Connect companion app. And what can’t be done on the app is easy to finish on the touchscreen display.
On top of ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity to help you track your calories and heart rate, the Edge 830 gives weather updates and has a “FIND MY EDGE” feature in case you lose it. And it even has a bike alarm that sounds if your bike moves while it’s parked with the alarm set.
- Battery life: 20 hours
- Pros: Touchscreen, easy setup, easy to build routes while riding
- Cons: Complaints of system crashes, expensive
Runner-Up: Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM
If you’re a dynamic rider who’s looking for loads of versatility, the Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM ($380) just might be the bike computer for you. It’s as suitable for road biking as it is for mountain biking. And it’s as rugged and durable as they come.
It has tactile buttons instead of a touchscreen display. Still, the companion app that connects your smartphone to this bike computer makes for an incredibly user-friendly device. The Wahoo ELEMNT Roam gets high marks for being super-easy and relatively quick to set up.
Most of the initial setup and settings are navigated through the smartphone companion app. This means that you rarely need to fiddle with the buttons on the actual computer except when flipping through data fields while riding.
Because you’re already used to your phone, this is a positive feature. However, if you don’t own a smartphone, or if you’re like me and simply don’t want to take your phone out on rides with you all the time, this might not be the bicycle computer for you.
The on-demand route navigation feature makes this a good choice for riders who love to explore. It’s also advantageous if you’ve moved to a new city, or if you see something cool on the map. Just choose a point on the map where you want to go, and this cycle computer will whip up some directions and take you there.
And in an emergency, you can turn on the live tracking app, and your location will be shared with whomever you choose, using your personal link.
The ELEMNT ROAM comes with an aero out-front mount.
- Battery life: 17 hours
- Pros: Waterproof, easy to set up and use, versatile, on-demand route navigation, battery life
- Cons: Smartphone necessary, no touchscreen
Best Budget: Lezyne Mega XL
An overall excellent bike computer, the Lezyne Mega XL ($200) can connect to ANT+ and Bluetooth accessories. It doesn’t have Wi-Fi capability, so if you need to stay connected, you’ll need your cellphone. The 48-hour battery life is probably owed to the lack of Wi-Fi, and we’ll take that any day over lugging around a bulky computer, a cellphone, and an external battery.
The versatility of the Mega XL is just another component that makes it a special cyclometer. It’s great for every style of riding, so whether you’re training to go pro or riding for pleasure, you’ll likely get your needs met by the Mega XL. What’s more, the battery life makes it a solid choice for those who plan to take their bike on overnight trips.
The Mega XL’s look and feel are similar to the other Lezyne models, with a black-and-white screen navigated by tactile buttons. If that makes you deduct points from this model, just keep in mind that setup and use are almost exclusively through the free, user-friendly companion app, Lezyne Ally V2. You can transfer and store info quickly and easily between your phone and the Mega XL, which gives it some extra points in our book.
We love this bike computer because it’s incredibly versatile and has a ton of features. It’s super-easy to set up and use, and it stands as a pretty affordable unit in the GPS cycling computer world.
This computer is a bit tall and uses a front mount.
- Battery life: 48 hours
- Pros: Long battery life, versatile, easy to use, excellent compatibility with the companion app, price
- Cons: No preloaded maps, no touchscreen
Best Mountain Bike Computer: Bryton Rider 450E
This computer is designed for mountain bikers and contains a specific GPS to accommodate this type of riding. It’s fully customizable with ANT+ and BLE heart-rate monitors. It can also be synced with Strava Live Segments, TrainingPeaks, and SelfPeaks both automatically and wirelessly.
Now, let’s talk about battery life. The battery on the Bryton Rider 450E ($180) is solid — up to 35 hours on a single charge.
This next feature is either a pro or a con — we’ll let you decide for yourself. The Bryton Rider 450E allows all your calls, texts, and email notifications to be forwarded to you while you’re on a ride.
The full global navigation satellite system (GNSS) makes real-time positioning extremely precise. And the altimeter even allows users to see the gradient profile of whatever route they’re on. It’s perfect for trail riding.
Each page on the Bryton Rider 450E allows the user to view up to 10 data fields, with a maximum of five pages permitted. That’s 50 data fields at your disposal at any given time, which should be more than plenty even if you’re tracking even the tiniest of details.
While turn-by-turn navigation is a feature on this bike computer, you’ll have to set your route before you get started. And it’ll only show you that exact route once you’ve begun. You can’t make any changes or re-route and be redirected midway through your ride.
All in all, this is undoubtedly the best bike computer for most mountain bikers and comes with a handlebar mount.
- Battery life: 32 hours
- Pros: Full customization and connectivity, outstanding real-time GPS, plenty of potential for data fields, superior battery life
- Cons: No re-routing, no touchscreen
Best of the Rest
Those who have a lot of data to track are sure to love the Garmin Edge 530 ($300). Superior in customization and connectivity, the Edge 530 satisfies riders of all types — from leisure riders to racers. The large screen (2 x 1.7 inches) is handy for riders who want to track their stats while in motion.
While it offers full-color maps and FTP tracking, the lack of a touchscreen on this bike computer makes using the turn-by-turn navigation features a hassle. This hassle centers on the fact that you can’t simply tap and zoom in.
To use the device, you’ll need to learn the functions of each of the seven buttons on the sides, which is do-able and tedious at the same time. The controls can make setting up a lengthy process for even the techiest of riders.
Wi-Fi capability allows automatic synchronization from the device to Garmin Connect, while ANT+ and Bluetooth allow for connectivity to external sensors. Additionally, excellent battery life (around 20 hours) from the internal lithium-ion battery keeps this one in the running to be the best bike computer on the market.
The Edge 530 is best suited for riders looking to record complete data about their ride, from time of day and weather all the way down to how much water they’re taking in. It’s also a big hit among dynamic riders — who love both road and mountain biking — because it offers a wide range of metrics that support multiple profiles within the same device.
This computer comes with two “flush” out-front mounts plus two O-ring mounts.
- Battery life: 20 hours
- Pros: Superior battery life, Wi-Fi, ANT+, Bluetooth connectivity, Android and iOS compatibility, tons of data fields, color-coded and extensive mapping, waterproof, large screen
- Cons: No touchscreen, difficult to set up
A strong standout computer, the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT ($230) is easy to set up and user-friendly. You can set it up straight from your smartphone screen. And the Bolt’s battery life (15-20 hours) gives even the Garmin Edge 530 a run for its money. And it’s a bit more budget-friendly than Garmin products while sporting many of the same features that keep Garmin in position as top dog.
The BOLT is Wi-Fi-capable and has ANT+ and Bluetooth connection capability so that you can use all your accessories. We love this bike computer for its ease of use. It’s pretty nice to be able to manage all your accessories from your smartphone!
It offers turn-by-turn navigation as well as Strava Live Segments. Another cool feature is the “take me anywhere” setting. This setting allows you to choose a destination on your phone, and the bike computer’s GPS will guide you there.
The screen on the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT allows you to see up to nine data fields per page. The downside to the screen is its lack of color. The black-and-white screen uses highlighted lines to guide you with the turn-by-turn navigation, and LED lights will blink to alert you if you go off route.
This unit can be mounted on either the handlebars or crossbar.
- Battery life: 15 hours
- Pros: Easy setup and use, Strava Live capability, aero design with integrated mount, waterproof, competitive price
- Cons: Requires a smartphone, black-and-white screen
Want to try out a bike computer and don’t want to shell out an arm and a leg for it? This one is for you. It’s an entry-level bike computer covering the basics such as time, distance, and speed, which is almost all leisure riders need.
It’ll give you some insight into whether you’re using a bike computer often enough to invest in a more expensive one. After a bit of riding, you’ll have a clearer picture of what bells and whistles you may want if you decide to upgrade.
On top of being budget-friendly, The CatEye Velo 7 ($25) is relatively simple to use. The interface shows two different data fields at once. One is always current speed, while a button allows you to rotate through other data fields including time, odometer, distance, and maximum speed.
One downside to this computer is that it’s a little challenging to set up because it’s not wireless. You’ll have to mount the sensor, then feed the wire up through the bike parts and onto the front-mounted base unit.
There’s only enough room in the computer’s memory to store one wheel size. This, coupled with the difficulty and many steps involved in mounting and dismounting this unit, should steer you away from planning to share this unit with your family and friends.
This small but mighty contender is a solid choice for trying out a bike computer on a budget. It comes with handlebar mounts.
- Battery life: 320 hours
- Pros: Inexpensive, easy to use
- Cons: Wired sensors (hard to set up), disposable batteries, no data storage
This bike computer packs a punch. It doesn’t come cheap at $600, but it’s one of the most advanced computers on the market today. There’s not much it can’t do. A 3.5-inch (diagonal) touchscreen display showcases all its bells and whistles and can be customized precisely to fit your preferences.
The Edge 1030 does all the essential functions like monitoring your distance, speed, and time. Still, it also connects to Wi-Fi along with ANT+ Bluetooth sensors. So you can keep track of all your riding stats, upload info through the Garmin Connect application, and even reply to text messages and phone calls using preset messages, all from your device!
An Incident Detection feature comes in handy in case of emergency. Your preset emergency contacts will receive a text and email with your name and location information if it detects an incident has happened.
With its superior navigation capabilities, the Garmin Edge 1030 is perfectly suited for both road bikers and mountain bikers. The cycle computer’s standalone GPS makes this a no-brainer choice for those who prefer to ride without their cellphone or in areas with no cellphone service.
Like the Edge 830, the Edge 1030 offers the ability to build routes by just pointing and clicking, then letting the turn-by-turn navigation guide you to your destination. Speaking of navigation, this computer has a microSD slot in the back, so you’ll never run out of maps and storage space.
The Garmin Edge 1030 is pretty simple to set up, with step-by-step directions on securing all the ANT+ and Bluetooth connections, navigation, and everything else you want to do. The programming is done on the handheld unit.
The Garmin Edge 1030 sports an extended out-front mount.
- Battery life: 20 hours
- Pros: Large color touchscreen, versatile, advanced navigation, standalone GPS, tons of features, external storage
- Cons: Bulky, potential to be slow if loaded with features, expensive
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Bike Computer
Type of Riding
There are a plethora of bike computers to accommodate every type of riding.
Do you use one bike consistently? Or do you rotate through several bikes? If you use several bikes, get a bike computer that allows you to create several profiles so you can use the same computer with any of your bikes.
Are you primarily a mountain biker or a road biker? That’ll help you choose between the Bryton Rider 450E and the other computers on this list.
No matter your preference, this buying guide covers GPS cycling computers that can accompany all riding styles.
If you’re new to road biking, make sure you check out this article on how to ride safely on the street.
Ease of Setup
Your device’s setup difficulty — or lack thereof — ultimately depends on how many features your computer has and how many you’re going to use. Understandably, a basic computer doesn’t take as much time to set up as a more advanced computer you plan to connect to a few ANT+ devices.
Setup also includes the physical attachment of your computer to your bike. Suppose you have more than one cycle and plan to mount and dismount your computer regularly. In that case, the Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM comes with both a standard mount and an out-front mount, making it a very versatile device. The CatEye Velo 7 computer takes a bit longer to set up because it uses a wired sensor, but it’s budget-friendly.
Both the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT and ROAM, plus the Lezyne models, are extremely user-friendly for setup. This easy setup is thanks to their respective companion apps on your smartphone to do all the programming then transfer it over to your primary device.
Touchscreen devices are also straightforward to set up, as that’s an intuitive task — just touch and go. Wired devices are not as easy to install, but beginners can do it if they read the directions.
Do you even need a navigation system? If usually ride on familiar roads, you probably don’t need navigation at all, and a basic cycle computer like the CatEye Velo 7 will likely suffice.
If you want to plan your own routes and even be able to go off track and be re-routed, you need a cyclometer with an advanced navigation system.
There are a plethora of potential extra features on the best bike computers. For example, you may appreciate the alarm feature on the Garmin Edge 830 if you plan on leaving your bike outside in urban areas.
Whereas riders who love to see their altitude while pounding up a hill might benefit from the barometric altimeter found on the Bryton Rider 450E.
Also, think about if you’ll want to pair any accessories to your computer. If that’s the case, make sure your computer has ANT+ and Bluetooth connection so you can easily track stats like heart rate and nutrition.
Finally, cyclists who plan to stay connected to friends and family during their ride are sure to enjoy the communication features on the Garmin Edge 1030. This GPS cycling computer can send preset messages to people in your contacts straight from the device.
What Does a Bike Computer Do?
A bike computer is a small, aerodynamically designed electronic device mounted on a bicycle’s handlebars. Its purpose is to record various data types about the user’s ride, such as tracking their speed and distance. Some can be so technologically advanced that they register the user’s heart rate, calories burned, and cadence (pedal rate). Professional riders use this information, along with analyzing certain variables like weight and wheel size, to efficiently fine-tune and improve their performance.
A commonly sought-after feature of bike computers is a global positioning system (GPS), which riders use to navigate popular or undiscovered routes. GPS computers can remove the hassle of stopping to deal with a cellphone for directions while biking.
Is a Bike Computer Worth It?
Wondering if you can get by with downloading a cycling app on your smartphone to record your riding stats? With bike computer prices suiting all budgets (ranging anywhere from $25 to several hundred dollars) and accommodating every type of rider, we think bike computers are definitely worth it.
But we’ve got all the information right here to help you decide for yourself.
Things to Consider
Smartphone Size & Fragility
Smartphones these days can be huge. And even though you might not plan on riding in the rain, you need to prepare for it. That means putting a waterproof (and shockproof) case on your phone, making it even larger.
Now imagine your phone: large, heavy, and expensive. Where are you going to put it?
Is your smartphone screen conducive to checking data fields intermittently (can you read the screen in the bright sun?) If you crash and your phone breaks, do you have a way to call for help?
You’ll find the best bike computer to be weatherproof and lightweight. What’s more, even the most expensive models don’t compare to the newest smartphones’ cost. They are designed to be mounted onto your bicycle with aerodynamic performance as a top priority.
The easy-to-read screen on a bike computer won’t leave you squinting to read in the bright sun. Plus, it doesn’t need a waterproof case, so the device’s screen and buttons are user-friendly, even with gloves on.
We think it’s best if your expensive smartphone stays packed safely and not mounted on the front of your bike.
Your smartphone screen is likely to use a ton of power by itself. So when paired with running navigation on a GPS, you might be sorely disappointed when your phone dies when you plan to ride for more than a couple of hours. To remedy this, you’d need to bring along a portable battery charger, adding more weight and wires to your trip.
Bike computer battery life is better suited for longer rides and won’t leave you high and dry if you need to make a call. Most bike computer batteries last a minimum of 15 hours, even with satellite navigation and ANT+ connections running.
You also need to consider the type of battery your device is going to need. Cheaper models like the Cat Eye Velo 7 use disposable batteries, which aren’t that expensive, but they produce waste. However, it’s much easier to pack extra batteries than to bring along clunky charging units — which you’d need with a rechargeable model — if you plan to go on a multiday ride.
The best bike computer is better suited for tracking and routing rides than a smartphone. This is because of its sturdy and aerodynamic design, battery life, GPS accuracy, and cost-efficiency.
Which Bike Computer Is Right for Me?
So, you’ve decided you want a cycling computer. But how will you choose the best bike computer to fit your unique needs?
Some questions you’ll need to answer to find the best bike computer for you are:
- What information am I seeking? Will basic information such as time, distance, and riding speed be sufficient?
- Or would I prefer to have more information or connect via ANT+ and Bluetooth devices to monitor heart rate, calories burned, and turn-by-turn navigation?
How Much Money Am I Willing to Spend?
There are certainly bike computers out there to satisfy all budget levels. You can spend anywhere from $25 for a simple computer to several hundred dollars for an advanced one. When it comes to bike computers, the more money you spend, the more features you get.
But suppose you don’t care about monitoring your heart rate while riding. In that case, you can probably go with a cheaper model bike computer that covers the basics. Once again, the best bike computer will be different for everyone, so consider what you need.
Will I Need a Turn-by-Turn Navigation Feature?
Using the GPS feature on a bike computer is much more accurate than using a smartphone with GPS.
While both devices use basic GPS, smartphone apps analyze data and positioning after it’s uploaded. Conversely, bike computers use GPS and GLONASS to give real-time data.
Bike computers can also use a barometric altimeter sensor to accurately track climbs, which is especially handy when mountain biking.
What Is the Best Garmin Cycle Computer?
Do All Bike Computers Have GPS?
Not all bike computers have GPS, but not every rider needs GPS. Remember, the best bike computer varies from person to person. Riders who stay within the confines of familiar roads and trails don’t necessarily need a GPS cycling computer.
Hopefully, now you’re equipped with all the information you need to make a solid choice on the best bike computer for your unique riding needs. We specifically designed our buying guide to be useful to both beginners and seasoned riders. So just focus on the facts, ask yourself the right questions, and don’t get overwhelmed.
There’s plenty of road to ride and fun to have — no matter what bike computer you end up picking.
- Encyclopedic Entry: Altimeter — National Geographic
- How to Ride your Bike Safely on the Street — Antranik.org
- How Does GPS Work? — NASA
- Top 5 Benefits of Cycling — Harvard
Have a favorite bike computer we missed? Let us know in the comments below for future updates to this article.