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The best cycling computers can give you a lot of data to both track your ride and your performance. However, all units are not created equal. So what’s the best cycling computer for you?
Full mapping and navigation functionality may mean you will need a larger and more expensive cycle computer, with a more sophisticated display.
Those interested in data like heart rate, cadence and power will need connectivity to peripheral sensor devices; fortunately the days of cables and wires are over and even the more modestly priced units will have wireless capabilities as standard. Paired with one of the best cheap smart trainers it’s a great way to ramp up your indoor training without spending a fortune.
If you want more detail on what to look for in a cycling computer and suggested alternatives, head to the buyer’s guide at the bottom of the page. Alternatively read on for our pick of the best cycling computers we’ve tested and links to more detailed reviews.
Best cycling computers
Anyone wanting to join the data squad with a Garmin, but struggling to justify the expense of the high end versions will be pleased to know that the Edge 530 now mirrors the Garmin Edge 830, but without the added expense of the touchscreen, which for some, including our reviewer, is no bad thing.
The buttons and system set up aren’t quite as good as the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, but considering it packs all the performance of the larger Edge 830 and most of the Edge 1030 it’s a highly desirable cycling computer.
For size and functionality it’s hard to find anything on the market that’s quite as good.
Read our full review of the Garmin Edge 530 here.
Now owned by SRAM, Hammerhead makes the Karoo 2, which works a bit differently from other cycling computers, with the ease of use and responsiveness of a smartphone that other cycling computers can’t match.
That starts off with an Android operating system rather than something proprietary and Hammerhead releases regular updates to its software, so it’s likely to be futureproof. It’s also more fully integrated with your smartphone.
The touchscreen is also much more smartphone-like. It’s super-responsive and you can pinch to zoom and, like a smartphone, navigate quickly between screens via shortcuts. The Karoo 2 is also quick to charge via its USB C port.
You can read our full review of the Hammerhead Karoo 2 here.
The ability to charge the Edge 1040 Solar via the sun is quite the attention grabber. Garmin says the Power Glass™ solar charging extends battery life up to 42 minutes per hour in battery saver mode, giving you up to 45 hours of battery life in what it describes as “demanding use cases” and up to 100 hours in battery saver mode.
It’s worth nothing that this is based on an assumption of a continuous 75,000 lux conditions during daytime rides. Essentially that means consistently bright sunshine that you may well enjoy during summer rides but, depending on where you live, are less likely to experience during the cooler seasons. Naturally your expectations should match the amount of cloud cover.
The Garmin Edge 1040 Solar also features a revamped user interface that we found to be far easier to navigate that other Garmin models. The home page feature customisable data fields so you can easily scroll through your recent activity history, training schedule, weather forecast and more. You can also use the ‘glances’ feature to view data such as your recovery time.
Other interesting features include the Power Guide, which generate a pacing strategy for your chosen route to help you best manage your efforts. Naturally all this tech doesn’t come cheap, but if you’re after an all singing, all dancing cycling computer you’re unlikely to be disappointed.
The Wahoo Elemnt Roam brings what we know and love from the Elemnt Bolt in a slightly larger format. Function and compatibility wise the Roam covers all the basics as well as phone communication alerts, live tracking, and structured training, to name but a few.
It’s the best rival for the more pricey Garmin Edge 830, but doesn’t get a touchscreen, which is actually a benefit for some riders who ride in wet weather and find this feature far from ideal. The three main control buttons are well sited too, at the bottom of the unit’s face; they’re large and easier to use than the small side-mounted buttons of many cycling GPSs.
The battery isn’t as long lasting as some of the other computers’ claimed times, but it’s a handful of extra hours over the Bolt.
Read our full review of the Wahoo Elemnt Roam here.
We absolutely loved using the Garmin Edge 830 and were impressed by its design and excellent touchscreen. For those reasons, we added it to the Cycling Weekly’s Editor’s Choice Awards.
At first glance, it’s tricky to tell the difference between the Edge 530 and Edge 830, both taking a similar sized profile and display screens. The biggest deals functionality-wise are that the Garmin Edge 830 gains a touchscreen and you’re also able to amend and create a route directly on the unit, while you’ll need to sync with your phone or computer with the Edge 530.
With a significant amount of data, capabilities and compatibility, you have a whole suite of analysis at your fingertips, which will probably be more than most bike riders ever need. But if you’re the kind of rider who likes to change things up on the fly, it’s hard to beat.
Our full review of the Garmin Edge 830 will tell you more.