Looking for a cycling computer
April 2, 2009 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Cycling computer - I recently started cycling (road biking) and have slowly been gearing up. I usually use RunKeeper, an iPhone app, while I ride to track info, but it's useless during the ride since it's in my back shirt pocket. I'm looking for a traditional bike computer to look at while I ride. I'd like the wireless kind, since my wife swears by her's. What are your suggestions?
posted by Argyle to Health & Fitness (18 answers total)
Best answer: I use a Sigma DTS 1106, which is a nifty little thing I got as a present. When I first installed it, it could be a bit temperamental in picking up the wheel sensors, and the instructions are in rather idiosyncratically translated English (from German), but it's a great little thing and pretty cheap.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:05 AM on April 2, 2009

Best answer: Frankly, I'd suggest using the same brand as your wife's. That way, if one craps out, you can scavenge parts or borrow.

That said, clean-sheet, the sigmas are pretty nice. Most wireless won't reach as far as the very top of an aero bar, though - found that out the hard way.
posted by notsnot at 9:05 AM on April 2, 2009

Best answer: FWIW, I have one of the Shimano FlightDeck computers, and I think it's great for what it does. It integrates very well with brakes/shifters, and can be controlled without having to move your hands away from the bars. It covers the essentials -- distance, speed, , but the only real additional features it brings to the party is a graphical display of which gear you are in, which can be helpful but certainly isn't necessary.
posted by mosk at 9:06 AM on April 2, 2009

Best answer: I've also had good experiences with Sigma computers.
posted by box at 9:15 AM on April 2, 2009

Best answer: I like my Polar which integrates the cycling computer with heart rate. Polars are spendy, however, and you may not want heart rate monitoring. For a basic wireless, I was always happy with my Cateye.
posted by The Michael The at 9:20 AM on April 2, 2009

Best answer: Yet another vote for the Sigma line, though I have never used their wireless products. I have several of their wired devices, and they are bomber.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 9:25 AM on April 2, 2009

Best answer: Are the wireless kind more expensive? Is expense a concern? I have to say I've bought several low-end Cateyes of this model. They are cheap, easy to install, not so expensive you'll be mad if some one rips it off were you to stop somewhere and leave it the computer on the bike (I have had one ripped off -- stupidly I locked up downtown outside a concert venue once). I've never had any trouble with them ... and it has *just* enough features for me and no more. Of course, I don't worry about things like cadence and the like -- it is almost entirely a clock with speed / distance tracker for me. I'm can't imagine Cateye's wireless models are less good.
posted by R343L at 9:41 AM on April 2, 2009

Best answer: I've had several of the low-end wired Cateye computers, they all work fine (until you switch front wheels, which is true with all the devices). I'd recommend wired just because it's another battery you don't have to worry about; once you have the location nailed and tape it down, the wire can't snag on anything.

If you want your entire ride history recorded for posterity, the high-end Polar models record speed, distance, heart rate, and altitude; you can dump all the data to your computer, and look at the pretty graphs. They're silly-expensive though.
posted by meowzilla at 10:12 AM on April 2, 2009

Best answer: From my former-bikeshop-employee/cyclist boyfriend:
"My advice is unless he trains by heart rate to stay away from a heart rate integrated computer. I like my Sigma 1160. The new Cat Eyes look ok. Stay away from vetta wireless. The most important training feature on a bicycle computer is cadence, most cadence speed double wireless units are $50-100."
posted by sciencegeek at 10:35 AM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I know it's not wireless but I love this CatEye, mostly because it's small and mounts (without tools) on the stem. I don't like a lot of stuff on my handlebars and a light takes up enough space there.

A bit of advice, also - don't become a slave to your bike computer. Ride at least one ride a week without paying a bit of attention to it.
posted by pdb at 11:06 AM on April 2, 2009

Best answer: I stopped using cycle computers and started using GPS units like the Garmin Forerunner. You can get them relatively cheap, you can use them on any bike, and they offer a ton more information (maps, altimeter, etc). I upgraded my original Garmin 201 to a Garmin 301 (because it has a HR monitor). I think I paid $120 for it, which was roughly the same price as a wireless cycle computer with altimeter at the time.

The 201/301 use a velcro strap that I just put around my handlebars (so I can move it from bike to bike.

The bike specific models have mounting brackert.
posted by monkeystronghold at 11:24 AM on April 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips so far. That Shimano one that shows gear positions is sex-ay! My wife rides with Polar and swears by using a heart rate monitor. The Sigmas and Catseye seem simple & elegant.

Anyone think the Garmin 705 is worth it?

Do you all think heart rate monitor is generally useful? My understanding is that it's a good way to maintain a sustainable pace, regardless of overall speed/terrain.
posted by Argyle at 11:31 AM on April 2, 2009

Best answer: Hey not to burst your gadget-buying bubble, but have you considered using another iPhone app that is more suited to whatever features you want, like, The Bike Computer and a mount for your bike?
There are a number of other mounts and pieces of software for the iPhone as well.
posted by TimeDoctor at 11:57 AM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It depends on how much you want to spend.

You can get a nice little Sigma computer for $20-30 that will give you all the ride data you'd need.

For $100-200 or so, a Shimano Flight Deck incorporates well with your 105 group and they even offer a heart rate strap now.

If you're willing to pony up the $500 for the Garmin 705, it's a spectacularly awesome device. It's a totally customizable computer that you lets you track and display almost any kind of cycling data imaginable, and then it adds mapping and GPS on top of that. I've used one on every ride for over a year now and it's easily transfered to other bikes since it figures out speed from satellites instead of sensors on your bike.

I've barely scratched the surface of downloadable maps and the turn by turn directions (that even avoid major highways to make biking easier), but a couple months ago I did a big 50 mile ride through a strange part of Portland I wasn't familiar with, and I was able to find my way through the entire ride by downloading it off mapmyride.com the night before.

The Garmin takes a bit of noodling and customization to get it all right though, so if you do end up getting it, drop me a line and I'll help you set it up.
posted by mathowie at 12:07 PM on April 2, 2009

Best answer: Cateye Astrale 8 gets my vote and personal use.

Does a clock, current speed, max speed, avg speed, cadence, trip distance, total distance, elapsed time.

Had a simpler Cateye before it, but wanted cadence. The Astrale 8 has been on my handlebars for maybe 3 years. Don't think I've changed the battery. It is fully wired, though, but has lasted me 5,000+ miles.

For tracking, I just hand-write my data and put it on We Endure website.

I'll save the question of "What good is measuring cadence?" or "What good is measuring heart rate?" for another time.
posted by fijiwriter at 2:44 PM on April 2, 2009

Best answer: Ditto the recommendation for the Cateye Astrale. That said, why just not have a computer? For several years I didn't have an odometer/speedometer on my primary racing bike, just a wristband heartrate monitor that I mainly used for training, and also as a time piece so I wouldn't be late for races and rides.

If you want to go the HRM route, Polar's F series range from ultra basic to as many bells and whistles you care to pay for. Ultimately, gauging your effort according to HR is ok, but it's still not a reliable indicator of the body's work. Some days your HR will be higher than others.

There is almost no reason you would need a Garmin, unless you have extra money lying around. Call me a retrogrouch, but whatever happened to the skill of map reading?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:19 PM on April 2, 2009

Best answer: seconding mathowie about the garmin 705. absolutely love it. i bought it for my longer weekend rides, but ended up liking it so much that i keep stats on my daily ride to work and monitor my cadence, heart rate, etc.
posted by SeƱor Pantalones at 1:10 AM on April 3, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice! After more online research (and talking with my wife) I'm going to get one with a heart rate monitor. I'm going to touch them for real at the local bike store chose between the Cateye, Sigma, or Polar, most likely based on ease of use. The Garmin looks superb, but I'm going to start simpler for now.

As far as why not ride without one, here is my simple andecote. A few weeks ago I went on a 30 mile ride/race and missed a turn. Not knowing how far I had traveled, I rode on down the river path until I figured out my mistake. It turned my 30 mile ride into a 37 mile one. ;)

I've going to give out a bunch of best answers since you all helped.
posted by Argyle at 6:59 AM on April 3, 2009

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