Bike computer recommendations?
April 23, 2016 9:39 PM   Subscribe

My bike computer is flaking out (on 2 different bikes!!). Apparently the one I bought 10+ years ago is no longer made. Any recommendations for a replacement?

I have 2 bikes that both have a Trek Incite 6 bike computer. Both purchased circa 2005. No similar models appear to be made now. Both are flaking out - best I can tell, the wire leading into the mount is the issue; the computer itself is fine on both, but reads erratically or not at all, depending on how I jiggle the wire. The computers were cheap, reliable, and removable (don't like leaving hardware on the bike when I lock it). They were also simple. I don't need much; I just like knowing time, speed, and distance. These are street/trail bikes for everyday or off-road riding (my road bike has a newer system, plus cadence meter if I want to seriously train, don't need that on the other 2 bikes). Looks as if everything has gone wireless now. Unsure about that - doesn't that just mean a 2nd battery to change? Not wedded to Trek, all my bikes are actually Specialized, I just liked that the computers weren't that expensive - especially considering I need to buy two (or maybe 4 - my wife's two bikes have the same computer, purchased at the same time, they are probably nearing end of life too!!)
posted by caution live frogs to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Smartphone apps? Strava, mapmyride, runkeeper, etc. all have good free apps that will record the data you seek plus a lot more, you don't have to buy anything else, and you're probably going to be bringing your phone anyway.
posted by disconnect at 9:53 PM on April 23, 2016

Wireless does indeed mean a second battery to change, but it eliminates the most obvious fail point (the wire, as you've discovered). Unless you're going for a GPS-based model, where you don't need a wheel sensor at all. I haven't tried any of those yet but I'm considering this one since it seems to be sturdy and cheap for GPS (I saw it for the same price a couple other places -- I think it's been discontinued.)

If you don't want a GPS-based computer, this is a good, sturdy one (in my experience, anyway) and it's been around for years so you can probably find it cheap (under $50). The thermometer's even reasonably accurate (except in strong direct sunlight, which gives a higher reading.) A bit difficult to get it out of its mount when you want to reprogram it or change the battery, though. There are probably cheaper more recent models that'll work fine, too.

The main benefit of using a bike computer instead of (or in addition to) a smartphone app is that it's got a display you can see throughout your ride (instead of having to keep your phone lit, draining your battery, if it'll even let you do that). It's nice to have a clock, speedometer, and odometer in sight. Though if you want to have your phone visible, this thing is a good way to do it.
posted by asperity at 10:33 PM on April 23, 2016

I'm also shopping around for one (and will be watching this thread closely!) but in the meantime I love the Strava app + a Quadlock case and mount for my phone. I have speed, time, distance and heart rate (Bluetooth to my Wahoo Tickr heart rate monitor) and a map. The battery does drain pretty fast if you keep the screen on, but it's pretty easy to turn on when I want to see the numbers.
posted by third word on a random page at 1:25 AM on April 24, 2016

if you're looking for something small without GPS, i have this one which does distance, speed, time, temperature. it's been reliable and the battery has lasted a couple of years now. however, the catch on the mount isn't terribly robust and removing it every time i leave the bike somewhere it a bit of a drag, so i am wondering about changing to a watch that tracks this information too. trouble is that kind of functionality in a watch comes only with GPS which means expensive and low battery life - the new garmin vivo-fitness might be the best option, when it's released.
posted by andrewcooke at 5:03 AM on April 24, 2016

oh, and there's this beautiful thing.
posted by andrewcooke at 5:04 AM on April 24, 2016

I just saw a rec for this wired one's reliability -- it might be more what you're after. That said, on the battery issue: I don't usually have to replace the batteries on either the computer or the sensor more than every year or two on my wireless one. IKEA sells the right batteries (CR2032) in a cheap multi-pack so I now have enough for, like, forever.

FWIW I usually don't bother removing the computer when I'm locked up. Mine's scuffed up from having had the weight of the bike resting on it when I'm doing wheel things without a repair stand and it'd require removing the sensor and spoke magnet to be useful anyway. Headlight's a different matter, so that usually comes with me. If I get a fancier computer I'll have to start removing that, too.
posted by asperity at 8:41 AM on April 24, 2016

Bicycle computers seem to be a bit disposable in that they are out of production by the time that they break.

I use Strava to track the route, kW, etc. on my phone.
I use a wristwatch to track time.
The bike computer handles speed and distance.

I could use an expensive all in one unit but I like the idea of not having a big investment if the computer fails or walks off.

My commuter uses a wired Cateye
My road bike uses a wireless Cateye

The wired batteries last about 3 years. The wireless lasts about 2.

If I had to do it again I would go with wireless. It makes tire changes easier, cleans up the appearance, and is easier to adjust. The downside is that it needs to be adjusted more and has it's own battery.
posted by pdoege at 8:41 AM on April 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I use the Mapmyrun app on my smart phone which tracks everything (speed, distance, altitude, etc.) and saves it all to the cloud so you have it forever. You can set it to voice reporting to tell you when you hit certain mileage, speed per split - or not. I can view current speed, etc. using this clear holder/mount thing. It doesn't drain the phone battery much (I do 1-2 hrs bike rides). Nerdy looking though... I have the paid version but there is a free version too (ads and commercials).
posted by j810c at 1:59 PM on April 24, 2016

I have an inexpensive VDO M3 wired computer for my commuter. It's perfectly fine for telling me how fast I am going, and how far I have gone, which is all I really want from it.

For road and mountain biking I have a Garmin 705. It was top of the line probably close to 8 years ago now. It's still going strong and I find it works extremely well, but I don't use it everyday. I'm super impressed with how robust it is, though were I to buy a new one, I would probably get the model down from the top end.

I love all the data I get from the Garmin, and you'd probably enjoy that as well. But if you're putting it on an everyday bike, I would go for an inexpensive wired computer.
posted by Sleddog_Afterburn at 3:14 PM on April 24, 2016

Thanks all. Think I'm going with the CatEye wireless for my everyday ride... and (unless I can cobble together 1 working one from the parts of the 2 broken Trek ones) may end up buying the same thing for the trail bike... or, the cheaper wired version, so I don't end up mad I bashed the more expensive one into a rock or tree when I inevitably crash while mountain biking!
posted by caution live frogs at 2:41 PM on April 25, 2016

I don't think OP is looking for a phone app or a GPS solution. Both are overkill for the basic use case s/he's outlining, which I think is best addressed with the sort of device s/he's trying to replace.

I'm not sure if anyone still sells models that have a wire that runs up the fork from the sensor ot the head unit, but the good news is that the wireless ones seem to still last absurd lengths of time on the same little coin cell batteries the wired models used.

I've got 2 of the basic wireless Specialized models -- one on my commuter/utility bike (which used to be my only bike), and the other on my wife's bike. When I was riding that bike 100+ miles a week, the battery still lasted over a year.

The models have changed names since we bought ours, but this one at $36 looks like the ones we have. The mounts on ours allow you to slip the device off pretty easily, which is handy for unattended locking or serious cleaning.
posted by uberchet at 2:43 PM on April 25, 2016

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