Best GPS Cycle Computer with Maps
Are you obsessed with numbers via marginal gains? Maybe you like to explore the world via two-wheels and you enjoy going off-roading.
Whatever the case is, you should consider getting your hands on one of the best GPS cycle computers with maps.
These small computers have changed the game in regards to riding and training.
Remember the old bike computers? The ones with wheel magnets?
How about an awards wiring system because those days are long gone.
Fast-forward, GPS computers have put the old computers to shame. GPS bike computers today are able to take data right from satellites flying above the planet.
Best of all, they do it without wires; But they still send data to bikes in an efficient manner.
In fact, many cyclists like to look over their numbers after they have done a ride and they enjoy uploading their computer’s data to Strava.
They love comparing the numbers from week to week. They also like to find new areas to cycle.
This is why not all GPS bike computers are on par, and there are dozens upon dozens to choose from. They range in prices as low as $100 or less, all the way up to $500 or more.
There’s no shortage of brands either, and this is why you can become overwhelmed when the time comes to buy a new GPS bike computer.
Don’t worry. We, at Ira Ryan Cycles, have put together important info that can help you out. It will help you make an informed decision on what bike computer you should get.
GPS Computers for Cyclists
There are three brands that standout of the crowd. This includes Garmin, Wahoo and Lezyne. All three brands sell high quality computers that come in many designs, features and budget options.
However, one stands out of them all. To be more specific, the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is the computer to make it to the top of the list. It has a slick design and the price is good. The features are top notch too.
What You Need To Know
There are two things to look for in a bile computer, with one being your budget and the other being features.
The more you’re willing to spend, the more advanced and the more features the computer will have. This isn’t always necessarily a good thing.
Things can become confusing quickly if you’re after something that is extremely simple.
On the other-hand, if you want complex data to look at, then you don’t want the bare basics.
There are so many features that a computer can have or don’t have.
Mapping and navigation are two things to look for when purchasing a computer.
Other things include battery life, display and interface, as well as data and connectivity. Each of those features are extremely important.
Generally speaking, GPS computers either fall into the mapping category or non-mapping category. Computers can be equipped with state-of-the-art GPS, while others only have bare basic features.
This may include and be limited to only displaying the ride data.
Do you enjoy exploring via cycling? If so, then you’ll love using a GPS bike computer that is able to do both mapping and navigation. Your entire cycling world will be changed.
Many computers will let users input a destination, and then the computer will pull data to create a route. Some computers let you use software to design your own course. That is the better option if you’re already out and about and cycling on a whim.
Computers that offer directions on a turn-by-turn basis will let you know when to turn and how long you have to reach your destination. This will drain your device’s battery life. Generally speaking, all computers will display basic data, such as time, speed and distance.
All reputable computers will offer Bluetooth tech or Ant+ tech, while some computers will offer both. This allows you to use third-party devices in conjunction with the computers.
This includes devices such as cadence sensors and heart rate monitors. In turn, you’ll have access to a whole wealth of data.
Bluetooth tech is great because your calls, email alerts and texts will be displayed to your computer. You do have to pair the computer with your smartphone.
However, some devices allow you to upload your ride to Strava, and this is thanks to the built-in WiFi they have. This means once you get back home, you can take that data and upload it to your device.
The truth is, more advanced GPS bike computers are serving up the data.
Whether it’s the device itself doing it or if it’s paired with a sensor, you probably won’t use all of it. However, do check your favored computer specs if you are after a specific feature.
The display will either have a colored screen or a black/white screen. In some cases, the black/white option improves contrast. A colored display will display greater details. It all boils down to budget and your personal preference.
The size of the screen is worth mentioning too. Generally speaking, the bigger the screen, the better it is for navigation and mapping. However, the larger the device, the more cumbersome it can be.
GPS computers allow you to choose how the data is arranged on the screen. You can choose which are the most important pieces of data, so you can find it quickly. It’s 100% up to you how to arrange it.
With that said physical buttons are found on most computers in order to operate the device. Touchscreen is available on expensive units.
Many people prefer to use buttons and not touchscreens because touchscreens can be ultra sensitive.
Choosing a GPS Computer for Your Bicycle
These days, there are so many features that makes the buying decision even harder.
You’ll probably be thinking:
- What features do I need?
- ANT+ or Bluetooth, perhaps both?
- How long will the battery last?
- Can it sync to my smartphone?
- Do I need the extra sensors like speed and cadence?
I know there’s a lot going through your mind. So let us, at Ira Ryan Cycles, break it down for you.
Here’s what you should look for in a bike computer.
1. Types of Bike Computers
Bike computers can be divided into 3 categories, with prices for each category increasing as the amount and level of features rise.
Basic Bike Computers
These computers are great for not only beginners but also those who know in advance that they don’t need complicated features.
These only have basic displays with speed, distance, ride duration and time. It’s unlikely they’ll feature much connectivity beyond USB support.
But again, it shouldn’t be much of an issue if you just need basic data.
A good basic one to begin with would be the Cateye Padrone.
Mid-Range Bike Computers
Those who desire a wider range of features will opt for a mid-range ones.
You’ll get a bigger display, a customizable color screen, navigation, connectivity options (BT, Ant+, WiFi), and instant upload to your favorite online applications such as Strava.
The Wahoo Element Bolt and Garmin Edge 520 Plus are some of the best value for money ones around today.
Premium Bike Computers
Created for riders who want the full suite of features akin to those found on a smartphone.
Premium ones take the features of mid-level computers and amplify them with advanced navigation, training modes, increased storage options, long-lasting batteries, sharper displays, bigger screens, and much more.
The Garmin Edge 1030 is probably the most feature packed bike computer available today.
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt Bundle
Mid to high end ones tend to come bundled with various accessories such as the heart rate monitor, speed sensor and cadence sensors.
These are optional extras.
But if you’re a data geek, you might want to seriously consider getting them.
These are usually ANT+ and/or Bluetooth compatible and will work with other brands since the ANT+/Bluetooth is an industry standardised technology.
3. Screen, User Interface and Ease of Use
Whichever model that you ultimately decide to buy will come down in large part to the type of interface you prefer and more importantly, how easy it is to use.
Some comes with fully customisable screens with various data fields while some aren’t. They also range from full touchscreen to button operated, with some having a hybrid of both.
It all boils down to your personal preference and how comfortable you’re with it.
4. Powerful Battery
In general, the more features, the less battery life it will offer.
If you opt for one with a large, dynamic and color screen with tons of connectivity options like the Garmin Edge 1030, then you can bet that it will run through its battery life faster than a basic model.
Basic ones with small monochrome displays may not look beautiful, but they get the job done when it comes to longer-lasting battery life.
Models like the Garmin Edge 1030 and Garmin Edge 520 Plus have a battery saver mode which helps prolong the battery life.
On the other hand, the Lezyne Super GPS is a high end bike computer that has a longest battery life, but without a touch and color screen.
5. Connectivity for Transferring Training Data
ANT+ vs Bluetooth Smart
Here is where your individual needs will really come into play. Wireless connectivity will either be a make or break feature depending on what you want to do with your ride data.
If you’re using apps like Strava or MapMyRide, or sensors like a power meter and heart rate monitor, then you’ll want to go with one that has ANT+ and/or Bluetooth capabilities.
The lower down you go price-wise, the less connectivity options you’ll get. The least being USB-connection only.
However, not everyone needs to share their bike data with friends, coaches, or on social media.
If that’s you, then not to worry, you don’t need WiFi, Bluetooth, or ANT+ connectivity, and will do just fine with a basic bike computer.
6. Mounting Option
K-Edge Garmin Out Front Mount
In recent years, a far more popular and sleek option is the aftermarket mounting systems that place your bike computer ahead of your stem.
They’re generally referred to as out-front mount.
These mounts are popular in large part because of their adjustability as they can be tilted up or down depending on your viewing preference.
The Garmin Edge 520 Plus, Garmin Edge 1030, Wahoo Elemnt and Wahoo Elemnt Bolt comes bundled with the out front mount, so you don’t need to get one separately.
7. Turn by Turn Navigation
One important question is, do you ever need the navigation functions?
If you’re intending to stay put on roads you know like the back of your hand, then you probably don’t need much, if any, navigation.
But, if you’d like to discover new roads, or like to create routes at home and upload them to your bike computer so that it can guide you along the route, then choosing a computer with an advanced navigation would be a no-brainer.
You might want to consider the Garmin Edge 520 Plus is navigation is an important feature you’ll use often.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.
Latest posts by Ira Ryan (see all)
- What is the Best Enduro Mountain Bike? - March 23, 2023
- How To Choose The Best Women’s Mountain Bike - March 23, 2023
- What is the Best Downhill Mountain Bike? - March 23, 2023
10 thoughts on “Guide: Choosing the Best GPS Computer for Cycle Touring”
Does a cheaper option exist?
Yes, a cheaper option exists.
As a matter of fact, your smartphone can be programmed to operate as a bike computer. The smartphone has become a popular choice for many commuters nowadays. Many cyclists now opt to have their smartphones with them as they ride.
The installation of apps such as Strava ensures that you can keep track of your current speed as well as time and riding distance.
Finding a reliable and secure phone mount is also crucial. It helps you to mount your smartphone onto the handlebars.
Is there a need for me to purchase speed sensors and cadence?
For a bike computer that doesn’t function using GPS, there is a need for you to have speed sensors. Cadence sensors are rather optional here.
Speed sensors. Going about the options that exist will inform you that the most premium ones accommodate both speed sensors and cadence. It is fantastic having them more so the speed sensors.
The GPS signals are used in the computation of your speed. Speed sensors play a vital role when you are riding in situations where GPS signals are not available. For instance, speed sensors can offer assistance in tunnels.
The speed sensor plays a vital part in the measurement of your speed. This is if you go for one without GPS functionalities like the Cateye Padrone.
Cadence sensors. Training to a particular cadence is the only situation that you will surely require a cadence sensor. Other than that, seeing how fast the spinning of your legs is going is fantastic, and that’s much of it.
Can the synchronization of my smartphone and bike computer make it possible for me to look at my training data?
Syncing to your smartphone is possible if it is Bluetooth enabled.
Installation of the companion app like Wahoo Elemnt, Lezyne Ally or Garmin Connect on your phone needs to be effected for this to be actualized.
The display of things such as messages and incoming calls happens once the sync is complete. This is important since there is no need for you to reach to your back pocket to find out who’s calling you mid-ride.
How do I go about syncing Strava with my rides?
For a bike computer with inbuilt WiFi connectivity and Bluetooth, Strava synching is nearly seamless nowadays. The initial setup period and viola will require that you link it to Strava.
The ride data is automatically uploaded after each ride that you complete. This is actualized through the Bluetooth connection within your smartphone or your home WiFi.
You will likely have to download it using USB to your computer in case you are working with the basic one. Manual upload of the .gpx or .fit file should happen thereafter.
Is it possible for me to use a bike on an indoor trainer?
Of course! For bike trainers such as the Garmin Edge 1030, Garmin Edge 520 Plus, Wahoo Elemnt Bolt and Wahoo Elemnt that back the ANT+ FE-C protocol.
FE-C is an acronym for Fitness Equipment – Controller. Apps and bike computers can communicate with fitness devices like a trainer because of this communication protocol.
While on a smart trainer, there are various things you can do using your bike computer:
Take a virtual course. Load your virtual course onto the bike computer once you are done with its creation on apps like RidewithGPS or MapMyRide. The route’s gradient will be mimicked once the trainer’s resistance is adjusted.
Take on a previous workout. Re-riding a previous course is also possible.
Carry out a structured workout. This is in certain cases referred to as the ERG mode. The adjustment of your trainer’s resistance is accordingly synced with the workout that you’ve loaded.
Go for a manual workout. The trainer’s resistance or power levels can be manually adjusted by using it as a controller.
Comments are closed.