Bike computers are a staple of the triathlete’s gear armoury; in fact, they’re still omnipresent even when armed with a multisport watch. That’s because by sitting on either your stem or bars, they’re easily seen no matter what speed you’re riding at. Or they should be, which brings us onto one of the key areas – visibility.
What should you look for in a bike computer?
In general, the larger the screen size, the easier the info is to read, though pixelated digits or a small font often mean that’s not the case. This is key if you’re relying on your computer for navigation so, when appropriate, check its resolution.
For the most marginal of gainers, obviously the larger the screen, the less aerodynamic a computer is, though that’s a minor sacrifice worth making if it’s easy to navigate via a touchscreen. This is especially important when wearing gloves. But large usually means more features and that means extra cost.
If you choose a GPS model, you’ll have to decide between a ‘backward-looking’ or ‘forward-looking’ model. Backward-looking are favoured by riders who tap into portals like Strava as they offer live data plus detailed post-ride analysis. ‘Forward-looking’ feature built-in maps to tick that navigational box, meaning additional storage and a larger screen. Of course, this all comes at an extra cost. More expensive computers should also feature Bluetooth as standard, meaning phone connectivity if required, as well as cranking up ease of syncing the data to your smartphone for ride analysis. More affordable models strip features right down but don’t let that put you off – for many, speed and distance is enough.
WAHOO ELEMNT ROAM
Wahoo’s trademark is usability, and that includes this impressive palm-sized unit. Mounting and data pairing are simple – download Wahoo’s app on your smartphone and connect to your head unit via a QR code. You can then configure up to 11 data fields on a page. The intuitive interface is a big sell – as is viewability. The 2.7in colour display is top notch, with a sensor adjusting brightness when riding indoors or out. (Regarding the former, it syncs with Wahoo’s KickR.) This computer’s all about navigation, and you can follow routes you’ve uploaded via the Wahoo app or plug in a destination and follow the directions (a minor issue is the rerouting feature, which isn’t always the most direct). The Roam also integrates with Strava, Training Peaks and Today’s Plan for Live Segments and structured workouts. Battery is 17hrs.
Verdict: pricey but a strong and usable competitor to Garmin 85%
The first thing that strikes is the large size of the M460, especially compared to the Garmin below. Despite this, it’s not as clear to see on the fly. That mild lack of clarity sums up a solid computer. GPS pick-up proves swift and there’s the Strava Live feature, which tells you when a segment is approaching and then, in real time, gives you your results (it includes a 60-day trial of Strava Summit). There’s a wealth of training features, yet you’ll need the HR package that’s £199.50. It’s worth the extra spend to tap into common Polar hits such as a 5min fitness test, training-load feedback and session planning, all analysed further via Polar’s usable Flow app. Power metrics are available, but you’ll need a power meter. Battery is 15-16hrs.
Verdict: A competent but unspectacular bike computer 78%
GARMIN EDGE 130 PLUS
The standout feature of the Edge 130 Plus is the training plans section, where you can wirelessly send workouts from Garmin Connect and third-party apps (i.e. Training Peaks). It’s a smart feature for making every session count. That training detail stretches to the ClimbPro feature where you can see the remaining ascent and gradient when following a pre-loaded route. Beyond gauging your effort, it’s a useful addition to plan fuel intake. The Edge 130 Plus also comes with Incident Detection, and there’s MTB Dynamics for those of you who boost fitness via mountain biking. As for the basics, satellite pick-up is adequate and the interface is crisp. Battery life’s up to 12hrs and the price rises to £219.99 with HR strap.
Verdict: A superb and innovative training tool at a good price, 88%
If you’re a fan of Strava and can’t pedal without generating a wad of data, this affordable model from Trek’s component arm isn’t for you. It lacks GPS, so no routes or navigation. USB is also absent; instead, it runs on a slimline battery. It features ANT+, however, so you can connect with respective sensors to measure standards such as cadence, speed and power. Yet its most basic package comes with no sensors at all, meaning an extra £30-plus outlay required for, at the very least, Bonty’s DuoTrap digital speed-and-cadence sensor. That’s when things turned around. It’s easily paired via the sole front button. That info’s then presented vividly – the clear display really easy to view on the fly.
Verdict: Solid but would be nice to come with at least a sensor, 74%
On paper, Giant’s NeosTrack punches above its fiscal weight. It offers GPS and taps into distance ridden, speed and altitude data. With add-ons, you can use power, HR and Shimano Di2, where the easy-to-read screen displays what gear you’re in. Connection is via ANT+ or Bluetooth. That GPS also gives navigation and mapping capabilities where you can either upload a GPX file from Strava, from previous rides or via the NeosTrack app. Routes are clunky to upload via on the app and, when it does upload, the display is hard to follow. It’s certainly no Roam, yet it’s half the price. The unit displays up to six pages with 10 data fields each and is mounted on stem/bar or via an out-front mount, which isn’t the most stable. Battery is a great 30hrs.
Verdict: On first look, fine; dig a little deeper, not so good 70%