The Bike Computer Gear Guide

Bike computers are an essential piece of technology for any cyclist, as they can allow us to record ride data, measure our performance, map routes and connect with friends.

Like most technology, bike computers are continually evolving, with new physical and software features constantly being rolled out. Some of the existing as well as newer features such as larger touchscreens, improved navigation, incident detection, smartphone/smart trainer pairing and built in coaching, can improve your fitness and safety levels, as well as improve your overall experience of cycling. However, when you are looking to purchase a bike computer, consider your budget, your needs and the features that you will most likely use. For some cyclists, investing in a lower cost unit may be the best choice, as some new and more expensive units have a massive range of features that some of us will likely never use.

Below, we run through the features to look for when looking to purchase a new bike computer.

Looking to buy a GPS bike computer? We have compiled a list of the most popular and highly rated GPS bike computers that are available to buy, with specifications, summarized reviews and the latest deals.

What are the different types of bike computers and which is the best for you?

There are two different types of bike computers: GPS and non-GPS bike computers.

GPS Bike Computers: GPS bike computers are the most common type of bike computer found on a cyclist’s bike. GPS units use satellites to track your position, to accurately calculate your speed, distance, time, elevation and your route on a map, without the need for magnets or wires. They can display a huge range of real-and-post-ride information, including your heart rate, power output and cadence, when paired with compatible sensors. Once you have completed your ride, you can then upload your data for personal recording or to a ride-logging service such as Strava, to evaluate your performance for training, or for fun, which is perfect for the average or data-hungry cyclist.

GPS bike computers can be split into two categories: those with live mapping/navigation and those without. GPS units with live detailed mapping and turn-by-turn navigation are great for cyclists who love to explore new areas and head into unchartered territory by bike, without getting completely lost. The only downside is that these units are generally more expensive than those designed simply to display ride data and basic mapping.

Basic/Non-GPS Bike Computers: For cyclists who just want to know their speed and distance, a basic unit without GPS may be all that you need. Non-GPS bike computers are usually much cheaper, smaller, lighter and have a much longer battery life than a GPS unit. Basic bike computers can be wireless or wired, and require a magnet and a speed sensor.

Features to look for in a bike computer

Battery Life

A greater battery life is very important if you want to spend hours in the saddle or if you don’t want to constantly recharge your bike computer after a couple of short rides.

Most bike computers should be able to get through a few days of short rides or a longer ride on a single charge. However, many factors negatively influence battery life including: greater screen brightness, size and colour, shorter recording intervals, use of external sensors, smartphone/connectivity links, poor satellite connections and even air temperature.

It is important to note that the claimed battery life for every bike computer model is usually based on conservative use, where features are limited and screen brightness is reduced, usually in a controlled temperature setting. Despite this, the claimed battery life is still useful for comparing the relative battery life between bike computers.

Maps and Navigation

All GPS bike computers can record basic ride data which can be viewed on a map, however, some offer simple turn-by-turn guidance. Full featured navigation with detailed turn-by-turn directions, maps, points of interest, street names, addresses, renavigation and elevation data, that can be viewed on the device (similar to a car navigation system), is generally only found on the most expensive/top-end computers. GPS units with live detailed mapping and turn-by-turn navigation are great for cyclists who love to explore new areas and head into unchartered territory by bike, without getting completely lost. For those who regularly ride on familiar roads, then a computer designed simply to display ride data and basic mapping would be considered the best and most cost-effective option. Before spending a lot of extra money on a full-featured navigation unit, it is best to consider how much you will actually use that function.

Garmin Edge 830

Screen Display

Colour or Monochromatic?: Coloured bike computer screens not only look good, but can be useful whilst using navigation features, as it can make the streets and maps more identifiable. They are also useful for training features such as heart rate and power zones, as it helps to make the data stand out. Colour becomes more useful the more graphical the feature is, however, this can depend on what computer/software that you have. The downside is that bike computers with colour screens are generally more expensive, and the battery life tends to be less than with monochromatic units. If you are just using a bike computer for reading numbers like speed, distance, time and elevation, then a monochromatic screen is sufficient and generally easier to see in some conditions.

Pixel Number: The higher the amount of pixels per inch, the greater the image resolution, resulting in a clearer display.

Screen Backlight: A backlit screen is beneficial for visibility in low light settings, and also provides greater contrast for easier viewing.

Touchscreen: Touchscreens are usually found on higher end bike computers to help increase the ease of use and functionality of some features. A touchscreen may be a nice fancy feature to have on a bike computer, however the use of physical buttons are generally sufficient. Touchscreens can make the initial setup and some functions easier to use, especially navigation features, however its effectiveness and use is largely compromised when wearing full gloves, when it’s raining, or if there is perspiration on our fingers.

Sensor Connectivity and Compatibility

It is important to check if your bike computer has the ability to connect to sensors and devices, whether it be a power meter, heart rate monitor, cadence sensor or smart trainer. Some bike computers only allow connection to one sensor at a time but most allow multiple connections with ANT+. ANT+ is currently the most popular connectivity protocol for cycling sensors, including speed, cadence, heart rate and power meters as well as smart trainers and electronic gear shifting. Bluetooth is also another popular connectivity protocol. It is recommended to get a bike computer with both ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity as it gives you more sensor options. Some higher-end bike computers also have WiFi capabilities, which makes it easier to upload your rides to a ride-logging service, or to update the computer’s firmware. It is always best to check and ensure that a bike computer can connect to the sensors that you have or want to use.

Bryton Rider 750

Smartphone Connectivity

Many GPS bike computers can sync to your phone via Bluetooth, enabling you to receive notifications about incoming calls, messages and other alerts, allowing you to keep up to date with what’s going on, without having to take out your phone mid-ride.

Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt


When you buy a GPS bike computer, you are also investing in the brand’s software. You will have to consider if you would like a brand’s web portal or smartphone app. It is best to do a little research on each brand’s software/apps, in particular the ease of use, the available features, and the simplicity of storing and/or uploading ride data to third-party apps. It is also worth looking into the computer’s route builder software, if the unit has advanced mapping and navigation.

Bryton Software

Looking to buy a GPS bike computer? We have compiled a list of the most popular and highly rated GPS bike computers that are available to buy, with specifications, summarized reviews and the latest deals.

View the most frequently asked bike computer questions that people ask on the Bike Computer FAQ page.