Bicycle Computer Guide
I want to...
Do the basics - track my speed and distance
Do the basics and monitor my pedaling
Train and monitor everything I can
Help with my trip, commute or route planning
Tracking Speed and Distance
Tracking speed and distance is something that almost all cycling computers can do. The basic models usually have a mount that receives information from a transmitter which is mounted to the fork. The transmitter will read how many times a magnet mounted to the spoke passes by and relay that information back to the computer. Most computers will include an odometer, trip distance and basic speed readings.
Some transmitters relay the information back to the computer via a wire, others can transmit wirelessly. Wireless computers are generally easier to install, but usually cost a little more. They are particularly popular among trail riders, since there is one less wire to possibly snag on something.
Popular Wired Speed Computers:
CatEye Strada Wired
Vetta VL110 Wired Speed
Sigma Sport BC 509
Popular Wireless Speed Computers:
CatEye Strada Wireless
Sigma Sport BC1609 STS Wireless Computer
Planet Bike Protege 9.0 Wireless
Measuring cadence can help you find an optimal gear and reduce fatigue. Essentially, having cadence is just like having a tachometer - they both measure RPM (revolutions per minute), and if you're registering high RPM's, you'll want to shift to a higher gear to make it easier on your legs. For an in-depth review of cadence and gearing, read this article.
Cadence computers are available both wired and wirelessly. Cadence is picked up from the rear of the bike, and some models also pickup speed from the rear wheel. This setup will allow you to use your computer on an indoor trainer.
Popular Wired Cadence Computers
CatEye Strada Cadence
Popular Wireless Cadence Computers
Sigma Sport BC 1606L DTS Wireless + Cadence Cycling Computer
Vetta V100 Wireless speed & cadence
Computers that can be used on indoor trainer
CatEye Strada Cadence
Computers for Training
No matter what you're training for, there's probably a computer that can help you track your progress. Cadence is probably the most popular feature to track, but heart rate and altitude functions are also popular. Some computers even let you download information to your computer for more in depth tracking.
Popular computers with heart rate
Popular computers with altitude
Sigma Sport BC 2209 MHR Cycling Computer
CatEye Adventure CC-AT200W
Computers that download to your PC
Sigma Rox 9.0
Garmin Edge 500
Computers for Trip Planning
If you're a regular commuter, use your bike more often than your car, or are planning a tour and don't want to carry large maps, there are computers that can help. Garmin has many GPS-enabled computers, some with maps that will give turn-by-turn directions or way-point maps and coordinates of your route. CatEye also has a Commuter Computer, which will tell all-kinds of useful information, like your estimated time of arrival.