The Best Bike Computer 2021
The Best Bike Computer 2021 is looked at here across a range of types of cyclists and what they need their cycling computers for. There are also recommendations for every price bracket.
Here are several rider categories and, hopefully, you might fit yourself into one of them. Please don’t take all the descriptions of the types of cyclists too seriously…THAT is a bit of fun, BUT the recommendations ARE SERIOUS.
WEEKEND/GROUP RIDER - Garmin Edge 530 - 95%
MOUNTAIN BIKER / TRAIL RIDER - Lezyne Super GPS - 85%
WANNABE CYCLIST - Wahoo ELEMNT - 95%
COMMUTER - Bryton Rider 420 - 80%
BEST BUDGET BIKE COMPUTER (Sub £/$/Eu100) - None Recommended - 1%
THE NAVIGATOR - Hammerhead Karoo - 90%
BIKE-TECH GURU - Garmin Edge 1030 (Plus) - 90%
BEST 100-250 BIKE COMPUTER (£/$/Eu) - Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt - 95%
RACER/PROPER CYCLIST - Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt - 95%
TRIATHLETE - Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt - 95%
BEST BIKE COMPUTER over £/$/Eu250 - Garmin Edge 530 - 95%
THE GIFT - Garmin Edge 530 - 95%
OVERALL WINNER - Skip to the end 😉 - 95%
If you want to do your own research then the 3 key training features you should look for as a minimum are GPS, Heart Rate support, and Cadence support. Other key features cover
- Navigation – for explorers and those who want a BikeNav and those who want to follow simple routes
- Durability – for MTB or commuting usage
- Barometric Altimeter &/or Digital Elevation Map – for those who are concerned with metres climbed
- Power meter support – for serious training
- 3rd Party Workout Support and structured interval support – for very serious training
- Aesthetics – for the love of beauty
- Connectivity to other people – for the love and care of others (and making sure you beat them)
- Connectivity to other services eg weather, STRAVA, TrainingPeaks – for the love of the 21st Century
- Connectivity to WiFi, apps, sensors eg Di2, PMs or Varia – for the love of tech, pure and simple
OK, enough already, let’s see how they all stack up.
Garmin Edge 530 – the best bike computer for a group rider
Pretty much everyone you know owns a Garmin. And if they don’t own a Garmin, they don’t own a bike.
You have to buy a half-decent Garmin so as not to embarrass yourself in front of your mates. Your group kit matches, so your ‘cycling head unit’ needs to match as well.
As a group of cyclists, you might stick to known routes but sometimes you want to venture further afield and need some navigational input and sometimes the rest of the group don’t keep up with you and it would be nice for them to know where you are as they try to catch up. It would also be handy for your partner to know how far from home you are and that you are currently not stopped at a pub to, ahem, “fix a puncture”.
You get the Edge 530
Mapping functionality is good, though the more advanced stuff is trickier with buttons than a touchscreen. And live tracking facilities will help the rest of the group find you as well as keeping your nearest and dearest informed as to your whereabouts.
Actually the Edge 530 is a very powerful and extremely competent device. And the key thing for use in 2020 is, it will finally have got the early bugs all fixed. Your cycling buddies might have the supposedly fancier Edge 1030 or Edge 830. But your 530 will mostly do everything they can and your buttons will work in the rain, unlike their touchscreen.
I know you’re going to ignore me and get the Edge 1030 because of all the new Q4.2019 features but, hey, in 3 month’s time I’ll be saying “I told you so” because then there will be a Edge 1030 Plus and you will have an old model and will therefore ‘have‘ to sell your 1030, whereas the Edge 530 will not be be replaced until 2021.
Takeout: Even if the Edge 530 can’t do what you want, there will likely be a Garmin CIQ app that can be installed.
Alternative: An alternative to a Garmin best bike computer for WEEKEND RIDERS could be Sigma Rox 12 mainly because it has excellent navigation and great strava integration
MOUNTAIN BIKER / TRAIL RIDER
LEZYNE ENHANCED SUPER GPS – the best bike computer for a trail rider
You CAN often get a decent Lezyne for less than $100 onlin. Sorted.
OK neither of us are Nicolas Vouilloz but we still want a device that won’t fall apart at the sight of either a splash of rain or distant tree root.
We are also not to be insulted by our tarmac-bound, 2-wheeled brethren. We do have power meters. Yes really. We even know what GPS is…honest! But we draw the line at ridiculous rear RADAR lights; a real light has 6000 lumens and costs more than your neighbours ‘so-called’ mountain bike (scoff, scoff).
The 2019 Lezyne range are all suitably similar with a high number of functions and a good accompanying app but, crucially, Lezyne computers have great mounts and sturdy construction. The latest Lezyne models are generally larger with rotating screens…if that’s your thing.
However, the ENHANCED SUPER GPS just edges the win over its siblings as it has: GPS+GLONASS for all that pesky tree cover; a barometer; wide sensor support and 24-hour battery life. AND A GREAT PRICE.
As a guide, if the Lezyne supports ANT+ and Bluetooth SMART devices as well as power meters then, broadly speaking, it’s going to be a well-featured device.
The Lezyne range of trail computers ARE confusingly similar. This chart to the right might help, perhaps avoid the MINI and MACRO. Prices now are EVEN LOWER than when this was first put together and there are some other names like MEGA thrown in to confuse us.
WAHOO ELEMNT – the best bike computer for a wannabe cyclist
You know what your FTP is. Heck, you know what it was this time last year too. Indeed, you never tell anyone your FTP as FTP stated as “w/kg” is more meaningful. You will almost certainly do races of some sorts – be they triathlons or time trials or something else involving hills or lots of tight, fast corners. You have probably had some moment of self-imagined glory and stood on a podium or two at your local village fete. (This is probably me I’m describing, BTW; humour is intended…not offence)
You will either; have a coach; think you are a coach; or have downloaded a free coaching plan off the internet. You will probably have a good crack at following that plan and train seriously for extended periods in the year until work or life gets in the way to give you an excuse for why you did not quite do as well in the race as you stats predicted.
If you haven’t got a life you will probably have sufficient time to plan all of your structured workouts into a digital format and your device will, most certainly, need to let you follow these digitised workouts. Naturally, this will probably involve linking to both a fancy power meter; as well as to a fancy indoor trainer; as well as to TrainingPeaks so your real, or imaginary coach can also look at your data.
The device will also need to show your bragging-rights metrics: STRAVA is a must but so are your in-ride power-based achievements.
Obviously it will display NP. Obviously. Sigh. C’mon people. OBVIOUSLY
What a stupid thought. Buying a cycling computer that cannot show NP. And yes I checked, the ELEMNT can show NP-lap and IF and 3s-, 30s-avg power and other exciting, non-power stuff too. You know? like those things you don’t really understand but still display like muscle oxygenation and pedal smoothness balance – even though you only have a single-sided crank PM (single-sided is perfectly fine, don’t panic)
There is a polite WAHOO nod to ‘live tracking’ but that’s about it, I’m not sure it works properly a year past its introduction. The peripheral ‘brake light’ and RADAR accessories are now SUPPORTED…YAY. ALL the stuff that a ‘proper’ wannabe cyclist needs IS there but where the WAHOO also ‘wins’ is in the sheer usability of the novel interface – most of what you have to do next is only a button press or two away and NOT nested in the depths of a complex menu system.
DETAILED REVIEW: WAHOO ELEMNT Review
NOTES: The Wahoo Elemnt BOLT is pretty much the same as the ROAM but a bit smaller.
BRYTON RIDER 420 – the best bike computer for a demanding commuter
There are different kinds of commuter. Some of you will see commuting as part of training; others will see it as light exercise; others will see it as a chance to sneak a few STRAVA segments; others will just want to record the proof to your partner that you left work and went straight home.
You can install STRAVA or the WAHOO app on your smartphone and that should be good enough for most people. So my advice is to do that.
I’m seeing a commuter’s bike computer as one which is cheap and which can easily be detached/attached to your bike. It’s got to be durable and it’s got to cover the ability to log miles to your STRAVA totals. What comes next, for me, is the tricky bit as the commuter’s bike computer has to be able to connect to your bike sensors and for some of you that will be no sensors and for others it will include Varia lights and your power meter. Some of you will also want to own several bike computers for different purposes and others will want just one commuting-specific purpose.
Yet I have to recommend ONE device for all of you #Tricky. And my recommendation does NOT do all of the above.
Alternatives: There are offerings from Lezyne and others that may well even come in cheaper than the Bryton 420, certainly cheaper at sale times. Although most of these will have less functionality than the Bryton. If you wanted a smaller-format solution compared to the Bryton, then a Polar M460 is a little cheaper and still supports a (BLE) power meter and even has a little front light on it ;-). The benefit of the Polar is that their FLOW platform is notably superior to Bryton’s – perhaps you have other devices on the FLOW platform, like a running watch, and if so a single-vendor solution for all your devices is probably a wise move.
BEST SUPER-BUDGET BIKE COMPUTER (Sub £/$/Eu100 ish)
I have some reservations for this price category for several reasons
- I don’t know all the products well enough, there are a few brands I’ve never seen a device from on ANY bike…ever. And I’ve seen a lot of bikes.
- Sale prices can suddenly take a much better bike computer into this price category trumping any recommendation I might make.
- Many of the Sub100 devices are 1990s-looking in terms of the case format, screen quality and I am not keen to recommend one of those. Yet I appreciate some of you just want to record time, distance and speed – almost anything will do that (HINT: even your smartphone running STRAVA)
BUT you REALLY CAN get a gem. You REALLY CAN get a discounted Lezyne for WELL under Eu/$/£100 and THAT WILL SUPPORT A POWER METER. You might not need power meter support that but that ability is an indication that the device will do a lot of other stuff that you will probably find useful.
Look for a discounted Bryton, Polar, Sigma or Lezyne model that’s normally over £/$/Eu120 and heavily discounted. One day soonish a Garmin Edge 130 will hit this price point. You know what to do.
HAMMERHEAD KAROO – the best bike computer for navigation
The Navigator knows that they revel in getting lost in strange and unusual places. So a bike computer has to do MUCH MORE than simply let them follow the route that they created or grabbed earlier online – most devices can do that fairly well. Yes, the navigator needs map intelligence ON the bike computer to enable the creation of routes and re-routing when lost, simply getting that from a connected smartphone is NOT enough.
Again the complexity of a recommendation here is great as there are many nuances to bike navigation. For example, covering trail route intelligence, having a large and readable screen, round trip route creation, high-quality mapping, free global mapping, POIs and more besides.
- The Hammerhead Karoo has the best platform for the workflow of navigation and some of the best aspects of route creation, it also has a built-in SIM
- The Sigma Rox 12 is the best for live navigation
- The Garmin Edge 530/830/1030 have the best route creation from their popularity/heatmaps data; boosted with 3rd party CIQ apps, it wins for trail routes too.
The usability of the Karoo sways the choice of winner for a Navigator in my eyes. But it is FAR from the perfect solution for all navigators, check the review to allay or reinforce your fears.
HAMMERHEAD KAROO: Check Price or ORDER HERE (Coupon: the5krunner10)
Garmin Edge 1030 (Edge 1030 Plus Q2.2020) – the best bike computer tech
If cycling computers could make a latte you would want one which could put a RAPHA logo in the milk on the top. You want every bell, whistle and foghorn that it is humanly possible to have. You already have N+1 bikes, where N is an infeasibly large number.
You have a garage but there is no car in it because…it’s full of bike stuff
Perhaps you marvel at the possibilities of the tech (I do) or enjoy playing with it and learning ‘stuff’. Perhaps you are in some way feature-competitive with your cycle-tech buying buddies. You would certainly be an adopter of new technology and might enjoy reading or commenting on blogs like this, or similar to this.
You probably wouldn’t mind too much if some of the features didn’t quite work the first time and would be happy to trust the manufacturer to eventually fix it. Don’t get me wrong, you would still write a critically-stern email to Garmin support bemoaning the cost of the item in the full knowledge that they won’t even read it. But you would still have your latest Edge on your handlebars the next day despite having pretended to Garmin support that it really was unusable and could you “have a replacement unit that wasn’t a refurbished unit, please?” in the hope that some imagined hardware problem has secretly been rectified by the Garmin factory on the 3rd day of production.
The ‘latest Garmin’ is the device you would always buy next. You might have previously bought the Edge 810 then the Edge 1000 then ‘upgraded’ to the Edge 820. You don’t really need me to tell you that you will buy the Edge 1030. Let’s face it, you’ve already got one, haven’t you? You’re just reading this to make yourself feel good 😉
The Edge 1030 is a large, colour touchscreen format cycling navigation unit. It’s fully compatible with every sensor known to cycle-kind from your TACX Neo to your MOXY Muscle Oxygen sensor to all your power meters, obscure arm-worn heart rate monitors and imminent Vector Air (cDa stuff).
ALTERNATIVE: Garmin Edge 830 Review. The Edge 830 is similarly functioned to the Edge 1030 & 530 and in a slightly smaller format.
BEST 100-250 BIKE COMPUTER (up to Eu/£250/$300 ish)
Wahoo Element Bolt (below)
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt (below)
WAHOO ELEMNT BOLT – the best bike computer for a proper cyclist, triathlete and the 100-250ish price point
You could buy the ELEMNT or ELEMNT ROAM instead of the BOLT as they are nearly identical apart from the BOLT being a smaller format and the ROAM having better navigational competencies and a colour screen
The ELEMNTs tick all of the common boxes that a proper cyclist needs ticking. I’m talking about data metrics as well as usability boxes. So, as I semi-jokingly talked about it incorporating the NP metric (above), that was to illustrate the depth of metrics available. The screen does lack in resolution when following a route BUT that is MORE than compensated for by clarity & readability across many light conditions. Whilst you might like the idea of a touchscreen, the BOLT’s buttons are VASTLY superior and will work in the cold when you are wearing gloves AND work in the hot when your sweat lands on the device.
It has had some serious creative design going into it with a unique button-controlled, zoom-down facility on each data screen and a super-simple setup just to name two nice quirks. LEDs can also be configured to tell you which zone you are in at a glance; a number could too but the LEDs don’t take up any of that valuable screen real estate.
Finishing up for the RACER, I know that quite a few triathletes, me included, seem to have moved towards a bike computer on the bike for the stats in the right place and then using the tri-wrist watch as the recording device for the bike leg. It does make some sense to do that if you are using a TT bike/aero bars so this recommendation would also hold true for pure bike TTs where hitting that target effort level is key. The BOLT has a neat pin retaining mechanism to avoid loss or theft whilst left unattended on your bike in transition (I’ve had two attempted thefts). Avid readers will also remember that the BOLT claims to be more aero than any other cycling computer (seriously) and it may well save you half a watt…or so.
It looks sweet. And it works reliably in my experience to deliver everything I need it to…now it even supports Varia lights.
BEST BIKE COMPUTER over £/Eu250/$300 ish
Garmin Edge 830. Effectively it’s the Edge 530 with a touchscreen, see below.
Garmin Edge 530, see below
Garmin Edge 530 – the best bike computer…period regardless of the price bracket
The GIFT is a tricky one for you. Your best bet is to know what brand the recipient of your generosity prefers rather than just blindly buying what some online reviewer (ahem) has recommended being the best bike computer. Also, find out if they are currently happy with that brand or not. Try asking the following question to the intended recipient, “You’ve got the Garmin Edge 810 haven’t you? Doesn’t <our mutual friend, Jo> have one of the newer ones? the 835 isn’t it?“. That subtly checks what they currently have as well as mentioning a product that doesn’t exist (the 835) when they correct you, hopefully, they will correct you with the model they have been eyeing up for themself 😉 Crafty.
Failing that convoluted process, just buy the Edge 530 as it is the overall winner. I’m loathed to use the phrase “value for money” and the word “Garmin” in the same sentence but you get the most functions for a not too unreasonable price with the Edge 530. Early buyers of the Edge 530 (like me) might be surprised that it has won when we found its buttons didn’t work and that it still has bugs. Indeed so.
Let’s assume Garmin has fixed the buttons (they have) and are committed to ironing out the remaining bugs (they are).