Cycle computer for a nerd?
June 4, 2011 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Fat nerd gets mountain bike. Fat nerd wants to nerd out with his derp out by having the nerdiest cycle computer on the block, but I don't know where to start.

Not much special snowflake here. I don't really care about heart rate meters all that much unless anyone has a compelling reason why I should. I'm mostly looking for cycle computers that'll talk to my other computers -- preferably one that can map my rides while displaying speed and has a desktop application that will run on Mac so that I can store rides in KML or another format and compare them over time so that I can see if I'm riding faster or not.

I did look at the various iPhone solutions, but GPS/data doesn't work very well where I am half the time and I have a tendency to be riding in areas with water and don't want the iPhone to take a dunk.

Please share what you know... I'm not in a decent cycling community at the moment, and I'm not a serious mountain biker ... no trade magazines with pages of reviews, so I really have no one else to ask. I don't have a lot of friends with the same interests (the mountain bikers are all RAWR LET'S GRIND SOME STUMPS, and the road bikers keep calling me "fatty mc dougnut tires"), so it's pretty much my non-computing girlfriend and I.
posted by SpecialK to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
"Nerd out with your derp out" has 0 google matches, you win.

My buddy has a Garmin bike computer, I know he had a Garmin Edge 705 but he's probably upgraded since then, he always wants the latest toy. They're expensive and do all kinds of GPS and heart rate tracking and computer connection and all that stuff. Looks like they have Mac software for it.

I'm happy with a Topeak Panoram V12 at a small fraction of the price.
posted by and for no one at 2:33 PM on June 4, 2011

Does fat nerd also have a fat wallet?
posted by zen_spider at 2:34 PM on June 4, 2011

I can't speak to the computing aspect, but I hear you about the lack of community feeling. My husband ekes out a living buying old yard sale bikes and fixing them up, so we always have heavy vintage old things that honestly, are kinda awesome to ride. We both ride to lose weight, mostly for fun, and we're not either mountain bike people or Gonna Shave My Legs to Save Weight people. (Check out my road bike! It's old and rusty and I love it!) But our friends are all "blah blah blah aluminum is superior check out my carbon fiber thing!"

So if you ever want to geek out about the bike no one else in the world will care about, memail me!
posted by kpht at 3:47 PM on June 4, 2011

I have a Garmin 705 and like it quite a bit. I'd get a Garmin 500 if I were getting one today, though. Both will work with Garmin Connect (my page) or Strava for route sharing and display. If you're on a machine with no driver support (like Linux), the Garmin unit will act like a USB drive you can copy the tracks from (as .gpx files).

Also, re the road bikers you met: Fuck those guys. Post on and see if you can't find someone more pleasant to ride with.
posted by pmdboi at 4:47 PM on June 4, 2011

Though you're a ways off from Houston, you might try contacting the staff at West End Bicycles; they're likely to know of some open-minded biking groups in the Lone Star region.

As for nerdity, go all-out and get yourself a rack for the rear of the bike. At the very least, you could strap on a milk crate with some bungee cords, or for a bit of cash, you could throw on some pannier bags. Either way, you'd be able to carry trail maps, a repair kit or even some rain gear if the weather changes on you. (You'd also have cargo room for running simple errands as well!)

Full Disclosure: I've also got pontoon tires on my ride as well - it makes drifting through gravel and light snow all the easier.
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:04 PM on June 4, 2011

how 'bout one of these?
posted by compound eye at 6:08 PM on June 4, 2011

Garmin's 500 and 800 are the latest generation models. I have the 500 and it's great. The 800 has a big display and shows maps, turns, etc. For trails I think it's probably not worth the extra money.

If you want to really nerd out drop a couple thousand dollars to get a power meter and record your second-by-second energy output in watts.

And then you can drop a few hundred bucks on a next generation of Android phone that has ANT+ connectivity so it can communicate with your speed/cadence sensor and the head unit and automagically upload your position to the interweb like big tour riders.
posted by GuyZero at 7:06 PM on June 4, 2011

Well you sound pretty set that you don't want to buy an iPhone app, but just in case you change your mind, check out the Otterbox Defender series. Don't be put off by the $50 price tag - I just got one on Amazon for $30. Also you can get a bike mount for it.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:58 PM on June 4, 2011

Hello from a fellow bike geek! The Garmins are the drool-worthy cyclometer. The only way to go nerdier than that would be to start measuring your power in watts, which is completely possible. If you're lucky, you can end up like Captain Dashboard.
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:13 PM on June 4, 2011

so we always have heavy vintage old things that honestly, are kinda awesome to ride.

I've developed a new appreciation for heavier bikes and platform pedals recently, after pulling the clipless pedals. Now I ride a lot more, and run more errands on the bike, and it's more fun.
posted by mecran01 at 9:02 PM on June 4, 2011

If you're going for Nerd cred, you could just build something out of an Arduino.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:56 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you want a bicycling-specific device, I'll second the suggestion to get the Garmin Edge 500 or 800, depending on whether you want a map while you're using the device, and you want navigation, or you just want to track what you do and upload data later.

If you want a more general-purpose device, you can get bike mounts for other GPS units. One participant on a mailing list I follow recommends the Garmin Oregon series. It's larger and heavier than the bike-specific Edge series, but it has a bigger screen and longer battery life.

I have the Edge 800 and like it quite a bit. If having a precise speed indication matters to you, consider getting a speed or speed/cadence sensor. Even at its most accurate, the GPS speedometer fluctuates a little, and if you're riding in the woods, it can fluctuate a lot as the GPS accuracy declines.

You can see the kind of data generated by the Edge (or any other cycling GPS) by taking a look at one of my recent rides (both links go to the same ride on different sites):
posted by brianogilvie at 7:57 AM on June 5, 2011

@pmdboi: Your link to your dashboard at Garmin Connect takes people who aren't you to a login page, or to their own dashboard if they're already logged in to Connect.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:59 AM on June 5, 2011

Ah, so it does! This should be the right link.
posted by pmdboi at 11:03 AM on June 13, 2011

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