Bike computers for serious riders
So you've got the carbon frame, you've purchased the Lycra leggings… Now it's time to crunch the numbers
Into your pedal-powered machinery? That means you've invested in a sleek, feather light bicycle with all of the Shimano trimmings and now you're looking add some serious statistics to your favourite rides.
A cycle computer offers just that and more. It's an effective training tool, the motivation to push harder during the weekend race or simply a piece of kit that reveals the top speed you reached as you played commuter chicken on the journey to work.
Some also function more like car satnavs, with directions and points of interest. Generally, however, the GPS is just to tell you how far and fast you've travelled, rather than to tell you to turn left at the next no left turn sign, then go straight on through that red light, you naughty cyclist, you.
Today's pick of GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled beauties means the era of unsightly wires have largely been committed to the history books (though, like David Brent's Cuban heels, you can still get them) and the data collected from each cycle is arguably the most accurate and in-depth it has ever been.
In addition, most of the big name cycle computer manufacturers now offer a number of online services, which allow avid riders to upload data, plot routes on a map, store workout calendars and create detailed training plans free of charge.
So, for those seeking numerical enlightenment, it's worth feasting your peepers on our pick of the best cycling computers. They'll sate even the most fanatical thirsts for statistics.
Garmin Edge 520
Yes, you could go and spend extortionate amounts (well, 440 quid) on Garmin's Edge 1000 model but its smaller sibling does a great job for about half the price.
Okay, so you don't get the built-in Garmin Cycle Map navigation but who needs GPS when it's just you and the open road (and you've got a phone smuggled in your jersey pocket)?
The less expensive Edge 520 has the stat-heads covered, providing data on pretty much every aspect of a ride. It goes beyond simple speed, distance and altitude readouts and throws in a clever VO2 assessment when used in conjunction with ANT+ heart rate monitors.
It can even hook up to Garmin's Vector 2 power meter pedals (£749.99, ouch) and offer detailed analysis of pedal stroke.That sort of thing matters to folk training for a race that lasts five hours, where they want to save every ounce of energy they have, rather than waste it on poor form.
The unit itself is fairly unassuming but takes up little space on the handlebars and comes with a variety of clamps, so you can get the perfect fit. Setup takes a matter of minutes and it's a doddle to add cadence and speed sensors to your bike for even more detail. Although note this is viaANT+only; it's not Bluetooth compatible.
A touchscreen interface is shunned for old-school buttons but this actually works better when riding, with less chance of accidentally hitting the wrong menu prompt when traversing a rough stretch of road or terrain.
Inside the unit there's GPS and GLONASS satellite chips for precise location services, while the addition of Strava Live Segments will please competitive folk looking to beat local records. Those with Strava Premium accounts simply synchronise it with the device and marvel as it offers live comparisons of the segments you've tackled.
Surprisingly, the sheer weight of tech in this device doesn't impact the battery life, which is an impressive 15 hours between charges. Its only minor downfalls are the lack of turn-by-turn navigation (the included base maps are only useful for a vague sense of direction) and the still lofty price tag, but this is a fair reflection of its professional apparatus status.
£240 | Garmin
This handsome fellow received a Red Dot Design Award for its sleek exterior but thankfully it packs the brains to match its chiselled features.
Unlike the previously mentioned Garmin unit, Polar opts for a touchscreen interface. We prefer buttons here, but it is nice and responsive and features large menu buttons that are difficult to accidentally prod when out and about.The 2.8-inch high-resolution backlit screen makes it easy to read at all times of day and it's smartphone-esque functionality is extremely user-chummy.
However, to accomodate that, the unit has swollen to 62x105x16mm, which is a lot larger than the Garmin.
Features wise, the Polar V650 records just about every metric a cyclist could ever need: actual speed, altitude, calorie burn, heart rates (via a Bluetooth monitor) and speed and cadence read-outs via Bluetooth monitors, which are either bundled into the pack or can be bought separately.
There's no ANT+ connectivity here though, which will likely annoy those that already own speed, cadence and heart rate monitors with that tech built-in.
The V650 can be a little slow to pick up satellites and a lack of Strava integration could be frustrating to some but Polar's own Flow software, which is free to sign up to online, works as a good training tool and keeps track of each ride, as well as churning out endless graphs of data.
Again, the Polar doesn't offer turn-by-turn navigation but OpenStreetMap compatibility means it can be a great navigational partner if you can be bothered to load the thing up with routes before heading out.
Regardless, clever touches, such as a front LED that automatically turns on when it gets dark, makes this one of the most thoughtfully crafted models on the market. The Bluetooth and touchscreen make it feel more modern than the Garmin, although both may put off more long-in-the-tooth road warriors.
£175 with heartrate monitor, £150 without | Amazon
Mio Cyclo 505
Both a cycle computer and a cycle satnav, there's not much the Mio Cyclo 505 doesn't do. In fact, it offers up so much information, most regular riders won't even scratch the surface of its gadgetry potential.
Connectivity is key to its competence, as the Cyclo 505 synchronises via ANT+, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to control and interact with a whole host of items. A load of Android and iOS smartphones functionality can be controlled through the unit, it will connect with almost every speed, cadence and heart rate monitor around and it can even hook up to Shimano's ludicrously pricey Di2 electronic gearing system to display gear selection and remaining battery life.
On top of the typical cycling data, a big draw of Mio's unit is the turn-by-turn mapping and in that respect, the Cyclo 505 acts like the satnav found in your car. Erm… except it gets things wrong much more frequently. The routes can often involve lots of weird diversions and it sometimes suggest turns that can get you in trouble with the law - presumably because map updates aren't frequent enough. Still, its a handy companion for those who regularly find themselves completely lost and it will get you home without an embarrassing trip around the M25.
Finally, the 'Surprise Me' feature is a nice touch, as it suggests a few random loops based on your location and the amount of time you fancy spending in the saddle. But don't be 'surprised' if those routes aren't anywhere near as good as the ones you've got stored in your brain.
It's not quite as satisfying to use as the Garmin, nor as good value as the Polar, but the breadth of features of this Mio are hard to argue with.
Lezyne Super GPS
Easy-to-use doesn't begin to describe how technophobe-friendly this diminutive device is, as it shuns layers of stats for the most important details via a crystal clear and customisable interface.
Data nuts can upload and analyse rides via Lezyne's Roots website, which harnesses the power of Google Maps to plot journeys and crunch stats.
Unfortunately, the simplicity of this machine means it doesn't connect to Bluetooth or ANT+ devices - not even a heart rate monitor - but it will automatically sync to Strava as you ride.
But while it drops points purely for its lack of connectivity, that shouldn't necessarily put potential buyers off. the Lezyne Super GPS not only has a hilarious name, it also does the basic stuff well and gives the sort of readouts that most casual cyclists really care about (distance travelled, speed, time on the bike etc.). For the price, that's not bad at all, although the following app/phone case combinations offer even better VFM, of course…
Abvio Cyclemeter app with Shocksock Bike Mount Case for iPhone 6
Pair this smartphone sock with the Cyclemeter iOS app and it becomes very difficult to justify shelling out on an expensive computer, unless you really don't want to use your smartphone, or you're hankering after detailed information provided by ANT+ enabled smart pedals and various other monitors.
Cyclemeter does support Bluetooth gear, and the app includes an awful lot of neat features,which even Strava can't match, including automatic stop detection, earphone remote compatibility and voice announcements.
There's no website log-in required, you can store years worth of ride information with little impact on internal storage, while bar and pie charts can be created for workout statistics.
Shell out for a £7.99 annual fee to upgrade to the 'Elite' version, and you also get Apple Watch and Health integration, compatibility with Strava, MyFitnessPal, RFLKT and more.
The Shocksock, meanwhile, is a neat and inexpensive way of safely carting around your iPhone 6 or 6S. The neoprene casing is water-, dust- and dirt-proof, while the plastic screen cover makes it easy to prod the touchscreen into life, mid-ride.
Case £14 |Amazon
Strava with Biologic Android Bike Mount
Strava, for iOS and Android is the best known cyclists' app on the market, allowing riders to not only track rides (distance, altitude, time, speed) but also compete with others via the brilliantly addictive Segments.
The premium service then adds personalised coaching tools, live feedback and even more data. Although the monthly price for this has recently gone up to £5.99, if you subscribe annually, it's still the same £44.99, saving Strava addicts £26.89 per year.
We suggest you team it with the Biologic Android Bike Mount, which fits a number of smartphones thanks to a selection of snug fitting liners, including the Galaxy S, LG Optimus 2X and HTC Sensation.
As well as a weatherproof case, there's also a welded touch-sensitive membrane so you can use your phone whilst keeping it safe from the elements. The mount pivots so you can use the phone in portrait or landscape mode.
Case and liner £35 |Amazon