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cycle computers, generally

Posted: 20 Jan 2019, 1:14am
by thelawnet
I've had a few.

Some thoughts:

* wireless computers are slightly less reliable
* pretty much all do speed, distance, etc.
* a bit more money will get you some or all of thermometer, barometric altitude sensor (IME this is useless on non-GPS models unless you can be bothered to re-calibrate it every time you ride with current altitude. With GPS, it should give you some incline values etc. which is reasonably interesting), smartphone links, power meter linkage, heart rate monitor, etc.
* some have GPS for capturing speed, etc.; this will kill the battery life (hours rather than months), but it gives you more data if you so desire
* some of the features of the more expensive cycle computers are potentially performed better by a smartphone, e.g., navigation, given the greater flexibility, updatability, etc.
* some phones do better than others on battery life and may not last as long as a dedicated GPS device
* bluetooth speed/cadence sensors are available to pair to smartphones, but may not be as reliable as a dedicated device
* as technology more expensive computers are likely to be unsupported and unwanted by most in a few years, so spending lots of money on one is a bit undesirable
* your smartphone is not guaranteed to be waterproof, and some can't cope with rain much at all. Computers otoh should be able to cope with weather.
* there are some cheap GPS devices using non-rechargable button batteries. To be avoided.

Cateye make:

* similar wired computers with or without cadence sensor (some models have backlight)
* standard wireless or the larger screen (2.1") Padrone (again, some have backlight)
* Padrone Digital (£72), which uses Bluetooth so can work with anyone's Bluetooth heart rate monitor, speed sensor, etc. No power meter for reasons of unnecessary product differentiation. Supplied speed/cadence sensor
* Padrone Smart (£33)/Smart+ (£58), which is similar to the Digital in that it is uses Bluetooth, but is not supplied with a speed/cadence sensor, and instead by default uses a Smartphone's GPS circuitry. They will automatically put your activities to third party sharing platforms such as Strava if you wish.

They have stopped making GPS computers, presumably on the basis that their 'Smart' computers can just mirror your phone.

Sigma sport have a rather more diverse selection of computers for those looking for wired ones You can get things like thermometer, altimeter (which IME is not very good, but never mind)

They make wired & wireless computers with largely the same functionality, so you can choose.

The Rox 7.0 (£100) is their GPS without sensor support, while the Rox 11.0 (£150) is the same thing with optional bluetooth sensors (speed/power/heart). The Rox 12.0 (£350) has navigation with OSM. There is Sigma data app/website which autosync to Strava etc if you want. As the Rox 7.0 lacks connectivity option, you will need to use a USB cable to get any data out of it. The 'Pure GPS' uses NFC, which won't work with every phone. The Rox 12.0 uses Wifi (not bluetooth) to connect to the Sigma website for data storage. The Rox 12.0 is essentially a smartphone, running Android, but there's no sim card. It's a bit odd as the Rox 11.0 DOES link to a Smartphone.

Lezyne make a large number of (only) GPS devices


Mini (£75)/Macro (£80) - no GLONASS (Russian GPS competitor), no barometric altimeter, or ant+. Has bluetooth + smartphone connectivity for all expected functions (calls etc). Mini has 1.25" screen + small battery, Macro has 2.1" screen & bigger battery. Has directional navigation but no map. Turn-by-turn routing is via an app or website that isn't exactly market-leading. No ANT+.
Micro (£80) - altimeter, same battery/screen as Mini. Adds ANT+
Micro C (£105) - colour Micro with added GLONASS
Super (£100) - same screen/battery as the Macro, same functionality as the Micro C
Mega XL (£162)/Mega C (£162)- Mega C has 2.2" colour screen, Mega XL has 2.7" rotating screen. Also the best battery life of any GPS on the XL, maps, as well as all other features from the Super/Micro C.

While all the devices have navigation, it is probably not very good at finding the best route, and links to Strava/Komoot routes are only via exporting a GPX, which is a clunky approach.

Garmin are best known, they have

Edge 25 £95 1.28" screen, small battery, has Bluetooth phone link, autosync etc. No power meter. (The Edge 25 is a few years old, the Edge 20 is the same but without even Bluetooth, it might be worth it if cheap second-hand etc.)
Edge 130 £145 1.8" screen, new device. It has some routing but it lacks the 'connect IQ' which makes it more cumbersome to follow a defined route from Komoot/Strava etc. Does have Strava Live and power meter compatibility.
Edge 520 £150. It's several years old, it's similar to the 130, but there are some spec differences including added barometric altimeter, missing from lower numbered models, the screen is also bigger 2.3".
Edge 520 Plus £220, it has the same form factor as the Edge 520 but it's updated to have maps & navigation, better battery, etc. The Edge Explore is better for navigation though.
Edge 820 £220/Edge Explore 820 It's from 2016, the Edge 820 is a touchscreen Edge 520. The navigation is a bit better than the Edge 520 Plus. The Edge Explore 820 is missing power meter, wifi, etc. and is now replaced by the Edge Explore
Edge Explore £200 - it's essentially a slightly cut down version of the Edge 1030 with some training features switched off to sell it to a different market. You get a 3" colour touch screen that's very specifically designed for cycle touring, so has maps, etc., but they don't let you use a power meter or do Strava live segments. You can connect all other sensors though. It's a replacement for the grossly overpriced Edge Explore 1000. It lacks an altimeter.
Edge 1030 £415 The ludicrously overpriced one. It does everything has all the routeing, etc., but surely you can find a cheaper one that meets your needs.

The Edge 1000/Edge Explore 1000 is still quite good, if bought at a saving to newer models, and has pretty much all the functionality of the 1030.

Very old Edge devices lack things like smartphone links so a bit outdated at this point.

Wahoo have three units, the Elemnt Bolt (£175) has a 2.2" screen and the Elemnt (£220) has a 2.7" screen. No touchscreen or colour, routeing is done via smartphone so it's less advanced then the top Garmins, but you do get all the support for power meters etc.

The Elemnt Mini (£70 - 1.8") is the same Bluetooth/Phone link concept as the Cateye Padrone Smart (also no navigation), but it comes with a speed sensor included. It requires sensors to support both ANT+ & Bluetooth to work, in theory it works with competing brands of sensor, but it may be difficult

My thoughts:

Sensors vary, essentially there are ANT+ only, Bluetooth only, or sensors that can do both. Cadence or speed is magnetless, combined sensors will use a separate magnet, which is something to potentially cause annoyance. Aldi have a bluetooth-only combined sensor for £7 ... 4204568400 but generally the going rate is around £20-30 for a speed or cadence sensor, £30-50 for combined. The different brands should be interchangeable provided your device supports ANT+ and/or bluetooth, as applicable

Heart rate straps are a bit more general as they are used by all kinds of fitness device; Garmin ones are likely ANT+ only whereas other brands probably have ANT+ & Bluetooth and are cheaper. 20 or so

IMO direct phone sync or wifi sync is a must - using a USB cable is a bit ridiculous in this day and age.

The Cateye Padrone Smart can be had very cheaply (£18 used) and with your phone and add some cheap sensors (bluetooth, not ant+). Unfortunately it lacks a backlight, but compared to a device with GPS built-in, the CR2032 batteries will last a long time. Obviously adding in a separate link (phone to computer) is potentially a source of issues, YMMV may vary on this as with anything else.

Of course a traditional dumb wireless or wired computer can do (models) vary speed, cadence, etc., and if you don't care at all about GPS logs, etc., then they are fine; however, the Padrone Smart with connected sensor(s) can also work 'offline' if you want to

Or you can put your phone on your handlebars with some kind of mount, this is a bit dodgy in the rain but you could always consider having both - i.e. a smartphone mount for when you need navigation, and a separate computer, smart or dumb for 'always on' routing.

For around £100 you basically get a separate GPS so that you can charge the GPS rather than your phone (my phone battery lasts a long time - yours might not), and if you can be bothered to upload a route to it then you should get a track to follow with turn warnings. The Lezyne Super is a bit better value for money than the Garmin 25 but the Garmin probably has a brighter screen in the sun. The Micro/Macro are only around £80 if you want the cheapest option.

If you spend any more than that you are likely looking at a Garmin or a Wahoo, I think perhaps Wahoo are due a new model as Garmin's 520 Plus & Explore seem to be intended to recapture lost market share. The Wahoo might be a bit more reliable, but YMMV. The basic problem IMO is that the full routing function of a top-end GPS is a bit much for a dedicated device, and a general-purpose smartphone is likely to have better hardware & software for less money. The Hammerhead Karoo & the Sigma Rox 12.0 are both Android-based but far more expensive than a comparable smartphone. In the end nothing is perfect.

Re: cycle computers, generally

Posted: 20 Jan 2019, 1:32am
by horizon
I do now have a smart phone (a work requirement) but this stays in the bar bag. In other respects I've given up even on the basic computer I had. I do like to record mileages and other info but a lot can now be done on the PC at home or the smart phone. I'm not anti-technology (see smart phone) but I just can't be bothered with the all the faff. I don't do Strava. Cycling does benefit from a bit of number-crunching if only to plan your journey sensibly but as in all areas of life, I think the technology is just running away with itself. A few paper maps, a watch and a compass is enough. And your smart phone really does the rest. I wonder of they'll be a sort of reaction against it and people will go "fixie" on monitors and the rest - a new super cool?

Re: cycle computers, generally

Posted: 20 Jan 2019, 1:54am
by thelawnet
horizon wrote:I do now have a smart phone (a work requirement) but this stays in the bar bag. In other respects I've given up even on the basic computer I had. I do like to record mileages and other info but a lot can now be done on the PC at home or the smart phone. I'm not anti-technology (see smart phone) but I just can't be bothered with the all the faff. I don't do Strava. Cycling does benefit from a bit of number-crunching if only to plan your journey sensibly but as in all areas of life, I think the technology is just running away with itself. A few paper maps, a watch and a compass is enough. And your smart phone really does the rest.

I agree on faff, though I think if things are sufficiently easy then it is ok. I use Strava on my phone, you start it when you leave and you stop it when you get back. This tells you how many miles you have done in the year or month or on a new chain or whatever, and you can look at the wrong turning you took or whether there was a flatter/steeper/safer route from the plot. And it's nice to see if you've got faster. I think it's reasonably straightforward. My bugbear with GPS computers is having an extra device to charge & remove along with the lights, phone, etc. And if the data capture is more faff than doing it via a smartphone app then that's a killer for me also.

When you're going along I suppose it's nice to know that you are doing 25mph in a 30mph zone or whatever it might be when there are cars behind you, and how far you have gone. It's not as important to me as navigation, as I often don't know the route. If you are trying some sort of training then doing a certain heart rate etc. will be better for certain purposes. You can see that directly on your phone with a bluetooth sensor, though probably for strict 'training' purposes then a device that shows these data is better. The complication with cycle computers comes with routing, which is not particularly good for bikes when compared with cars, as the problem is harder to solve as there is no one correct route. I think that car satnavs already died at the hands of apps, which are simply better, the goal then with cycle computer should probably be to work out how to get the output from the app onto the cycle computer and update it on the fly, and just forget the silliness of maps stored on cards & so on (why not just store them on your smartphone, if you must go off-line?). I think this is happening, more-or-less, but it doesn't seem quite there yet.

Re: cycle computers, generally

Posted: 20 Jan 2019, 9:16am
by francovendee
That's a comprehensive post.
After trying a wireless computer I went back to wired. In my experience none last very long. I'm currently using a cheap Lidl one that is now in it's 5th year.
I like to see how far I've been and what my current speed is but apart from these all the other functions are wasted on me.
For navigation I use a smart phone.
I gave up buying expensive computers after leaving a bike unattended and having it stolen.

Re: cycle computers, generally

Posted: 20 Jan 2019, 9:20am
by foxyrider
I've used everything from my watch strapped to the bars in stopwatch mode up to my current Garmin 520. Sometimes they've been a training / racing aid, others to record tour data, my phone is something different - it's a communication device not a navigation or recording thing.

Using some form of ride recorder can be an eye opener - ride distances are more accurate - rides i've done in the past have often been measured on maps and have been sometimes multiple miles longer or shorter than I thought!

As far as i'm concerned, the only faf really is charging when i'm away from home camping. Uploading the data is simple enough - at the end of the day it's not even essential to do.

I don't use the GP'S for navigation, I can manage to do that. Without aid for pretty much anywhere within a day ride from home and otherwise I take paper maps - I hate fixed routes and the tiny screens don't show enough to be useful. If I truly do get lost the map app on the phone is a get out of gaol card.

Maybe when I upgrade my phone next it could replace the Garmin if required but that's not on the list of features i'll be looking for.

Re: cycle computers, generally

Posted: 20 Jan 2019, 10:09am
by NickJP
Seeing that I'd be carrying it with me anyway, I use my phone. It has IP67 waterproofing (has survived quite a few rainy days so far), and I mount it on the handlebars with a Quadlock mount as my bike computer. For normal riding over roads I know, I use the LocaToWeb app, which besides recording the ride also allows my wife to track me in real time via the web if she wants.

For navigating over unfamiliar roads, I use Locus/ Brouter to create courses and provide directions. Battery life on the phone is easily enough for long days.

I did use a Garmin GPS a few years ago, but the quality of their software is terrible, and I gave up on them.

Re: cycle computers, generally

Posted: 20 Jan 2019, 10:25am
by LittleGreyCat
So far I've just used basic devices; wired, on reflection, are more reliable than wireless.
I did have a Lidl wireless device and when I tried to mount my SmartPhone in a waterproof case on the bars it went haywire. Strong wireless signal interfering with it, I assume.
I like to have speed and average speed displayed whilst riding because it gives me a clear idea of my pace - so some motivation to maintain an average speed throughout the ride. This is mainly for fitness motivation. Riding in a group helps, but when you are riding against yourself and the conditions it can tell you if you are being a little too lazy.
For longer rides, average speed, distance covered and time to destination is also useful information.

I tend to use MapMyRide on my phone (in a pocket) when I remember to turn it on at the start of the ride but I haven't got round to sorting out an effective waterproof mount. This lets me compare rides after the fact.

I splashed out on a Garmin Edge Explore because I wanted a programmable SatNav which could take routes calculated on a computer. This seemed the best option for price/performance. The Edge 1030 is all singing all dancing and costs about the same as a new bike. The Edge Explore screen size seems big enough (so far) for effective routing. I've only tried it on known routes but (apart form the usual SatNav traits of not always identifying which roads are major at junctions so you know if you are following the road or turning off) it seems to be fine.

Hopefully I will soon be trying it on longer unfamiliar routes.

On the subject of map and compass, yes you can navigate that way and many bar bags have a map pocket so you can see the map whilst riding, but on our social rides the map and compass brigade have a tendency to stop at junctions for the usual "are we here or one junction away?" discussions before going on or turning round. All part of the rich panoply of life but it is sometimes nice to get rolling and keep rolling. :D

As a backstop for these situations I have OS maps on my phone, but rarely need them to settle an argument. :lol:

So noting that dedicated devices are losing ground to "phone does everything" and also that I use my phone for specialised navigation (when towing a caravan) because the software to calculate routes which suit a caravan or Motor Home costs about £50 for the phone and a dedicated SatNav costs about £350 at the moment I still think that the Garmin "click on/click off" device suits my needs best. This year.

Re: cycle computers, generally

Posted: 20 Jan 2019, 11:21am
by SimonCelsa
Second time round the clock on my nearly 10 year old Halfords cheapie;

round the clock.jpg

The only fault so far is that at around 12000 miles or so the first digit 'disappeared' so it reverted 'back' to 2000 miles. Anyhow, over 20,000 miles and still alive so not bad for a tenner or so!! No need to pay big bucks for quality & accuracy!!

Re: cycle computers, generally

Posted: 20 Jan 2019, 12:31pm
by horizon
francovendee wrote:That's a comprehensive post.

+1 Thank you thelawnet! :D

I just wanted to add that it isn't just the technical/practical faff that bothers me but that the information that is produced by all these devices gets in the way of other thoughts. Some people thrive on this kind of information but I would rather think about life, landscape and the loneliness of the long distance cyclist. But I still support the idea that some information is both desirable and at times necessary.

Re: cycle computers, generally

Posted: 20 Jan 2019, 1:38pm
by thelawnet
LittleGreyCat wrote:So far I've just used basic devices; wired, on reflection, are more reliable than wireless.

This seems likely - at least we can say that if a wired device is not working then there is likely obvious physical damaged to the wire.

As far as wireless goes, there are three options:

Analogue - Cateye use 19 kHz

Digital - using 2.4GHz.
Ant+ was made by Garmin AIR
Bluetooth is version 4.0 but as I understand with all these standards there tends to be a draft and then people hurrying to implement and revisions along the way until things are some kind of fixed, by which point everything is implementing the next version

At any rate a traditional wireless analogue device is not really the same kettle of fish as a digital one, I'm not sure there is much to choose between Bluetooth and Ant+ excepting that ant+ can broadcast to multiple devices at once.

Obviously if something digital is not working, then it's a bit more involved - batteries, interference, dodgy device, pairing etc.

Re: cycle computers, generally

Posted: 21 Jan 2019, 12:24am
by The utility cyclist
My first computer was a Cateye wire job back in 1990 that served me well for a decade.
Had a couple of other units that were okay but have had a Raleigh w1 Echo for a very long time now, moved it over to the new daily about 9 years ago, In 14-15 years it's gone through three batteries, I don't bother resetting the miles on it, just start afresh each time, it's on just shy of 14,000 for the last period and maybe it'll be done this year ready for battery no.4! I think it cost me £8 off ebay. For VFM it's the best computer
The Sigma I bought recently has gone diffy, removed from the head unit briefly then failed to register the sensors, you can hear the tick so annoyed as when it was working it was great.
GPS wise, my first about 12 years ago was a large Magellen Meridian Hiking/Marine job that had a rather simple but effective bar clamp system, worked off 4xAAs, robust as anything and got decent life out of it with some quality rechargeable batteries, despite its memory limitations it was plenty fine for getting around on foreign soil.
Then bought a Magellen GPS tracker (does have a breadcrumb feature) that has ANT+ but you can swap it into a watch strap for swimming or running. It's a bit rubbish for looking at the screen as it's quite tiny unless you just have one, maybe two data points but then I use it mostly to record the journey and it's so easy to swap between bikes.
I also bought in 2017 a Teasi One3, paid £70 for a boxed once used unit, maybe not the smoothest map interface when fingering the screen but has great detailed maps, very good accuracy, on screen directions are easy to read and does everything that the big names do for a fraction of the price, run time is about 10-12 hours on a full charge running full nav.

Hoping what I have sees me through for another decade at least.

Re: cycle computers, generally

Posted: 21 Jan 2019, 1:11am
Mmmm ten years :)
I have three of these-
Ginormous digits that can be read easily.......totally w-proof.
Probaly bought between 93-96 at.........Halfords reduced to a fiver IIRC (2) one off ebay later.
Still use them on my tourer on rides in 2018, two mounts on the tourer just in case one batt goes down (boy scout :) )

One packed up a bout 2-3 years ago, one is now dodgey a bit, but they never steamed up and the rubber buttons did not perish either.
Auto start and stop so never need to remember to restart after a break.

If only I could buy another....10, wired of course.

Some stuff is made like that.

Re: cycle computers, generally

Posted: 21 Jan 2019, 6:54am
by Greystoke
That looks just like my Wilko wired speedo, cost c£8 a few years ago. Only issue is when the battery goes it resets the miles on zero.
Put some grease on the connections and the rain doesn't bother it either.

Re: cycle computers, generally

Posted: 21 Jan 2019, 9:14am
by reohn2
Sigma,wired,minimum functions for me,oldest one is nearly 20 years old totally waterproof and easy to use,reset and change the CR2032 battery.
The plus used to be they had the same fitting kit as Aldi's own Bikemate brand :) .

I always found Cateye used to malfunction in the wet unless I wrapped some cling film around them.

Re: cycle computers, generally

Posted: 21 Jan 2019, 7:39pm
Greystoke wrote:That looks just like my Wilko wired speedo, cost c£8 a few years ago. Only issue is when the battery goes it resets the miles on zero.
Put some grease on the connections and the rain doesn't bother it either.

Very reliable all in all.
But never failed in the rain.

If you drop most separate battery devices its common for the batt to disconnect.
But I am very careful when opening up speedos and watches not to let the batt touch my skin and thus corrode the contacts.

Yes I have had spedos that fall over for no reason, but the Tri-pro I found as good as they get.
No doubt other wired speedos of certain makes are equally reliable.