Best Mountain Bike Computer – Reviews and Guide 2019
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Want to keep tabs on your mountain biking performance? If yes, a bike computer is the answer.
From recording how fast you’re moving to the total distance traveled, ride time, average and maximum speeds, calories burnt, etc., a mountain bike computer can be a crucial investment for every mountain bike owner.
However, not all these devices work the same way, hence the need to look for the best mountain bike computer that matches your specific data needs.
In this post, we’ll delve more into how you can identify your unique data recording needs and find a cycle computer which helps you do just that. We’ll also look at some of the most popular bike computers available today.
Wired vs Wireless Bike Computer
The wired models are the ones where the handlebar unit and the sensor are connected with a wire. The exact opposite is true for wireless models—the sensor and parent unit connect wirelessly.
Wired units are usually inexpensive compared to the wireless models.
The wired units require only one battery to run. Unfortunately, they can make your bike look untidy due to the wire network. Plus, the wires can easily get damaged.
As for the wireless models, both the head unit and transmitter require a battery (that makes two batteries) to work. And as you can easily guess, it eliminates the wires which make your bike look untidy and eliminate the case of wires getting snagged.
Something else to know about wireless mtb computers is that they’re easier to install since you’re not dealing with any wires.
Unlike the wired unit, you can use a wireless model on more than one bike. You just need a couple of sensors to attach to the different bikes and you can access all of them from a single head unit. Some head units allow you to attach as many as 3 sensors to them!
10 Best Mountain Bike GPS Computers:
1. CAT EYE - Strada Wireless Bike Computer
Cateye is a Japan-based, leading manufacturer of highly innovative bike computers. This Strada wireless cycle computer is one of their most popular models which comes with a sleek and lightweight design…and a customizable display which shows select functions in the screen’s bottom row.
This computer presents you with up to 8 stats (current speed, max speed, average speed, two trip distance, total distance, elapsed time, pace arrow, and clock) which are crucial for monitoring your rides.
It’s an incredibly easy to operate device, where you can carry out all the operations through the ClickTec touchscreen interface. You can quickly view the recorded data on the wide screen. And you can easily toggle between different modes when riding on tough terrains.
More impressively, this computer knows when to stop recording. Let’s say when you make a stopover for a cup of coffee or when you get caught in the red light, it’ll automatically stop recording time and average speed. This makes it even more convenient to use!
And oh! Securing this device in your bike is pretty simple. With the included bracket, you can hassle-freely mount, adjust, and move it by your hand. Switching between different bikes is also easy; the dual tire size lets you use one computer for up to 2 bikes.
2. Garmin Edge 520 Bike GPS
Garmin is also a BIG name in the cycling industry which boasts of years of delivering quality biking gear for riders across the world. We recommend Garmin Edge 520 to anyone looking for the best mountain bike GPS.
As expected, this device comes stacked up with favorable features for the serious cyclists.
It features a GPS which keeps track of where you’ve been and where you’re heading to. Working through a high-sensitivity GPS receiver and Hotflix satellite, the GPS function is able to calculate your exact location swiftly.
The device also tracks distance, speed, elevation, cadence, and even shows map.
You can easily connect Garmin 520 with your power meter or heart rate monitor you can also connect it with Strava and your smartphone to enjoy live tracking, text and calls notifications, and social media sharing.
The device provides you with an easy to read color screen for easy reading of recorded data (though it’s not touchscreen). It has 15ours battery life and charges via micro USB charger. Not forgetting it has waterproofing rating against snow, rain, or splashes or immersion at depth of less than 1 meter for about 30 minutes.
3. CAT EYE - Velo 9 Wired Bike Computer
If you’re looking for the best mountain bike computer which is wired, this is it. As you already know, wired models cost less than the wireless models and come with an even longer battery life. This wired bike computer isn’t an exception.
Proudly made by Cateye, this entry-level wired mtb computer makes use of cables to connect the head unit to the sensor on your wheels.
It features a new, larger display screen where you can easily view all your favorite stats—current/max/average speed, total distance, trip distance, elapsed time, pace arrow, carbon offset, and clock. It also tracks the number of calories burnt. Remember you can scroll through all these features with a single button.
Just like its cousins, Velo 9 also knows when you make stops and will automatically stop counting the distance and averaging the speed.
Best part? The bike comes equipped with long-lasting batteries (lasts as long as 3 years). In simpler terms, this is the kind of battery you install and forget about it.
4. Garmin Edge 25 Cycling GPS
For the minimalists in the house, Garmin Edge 25 is one of the most compact, lightest mountain bike computers you can get on the market today. It weighs 25g light, making it a perfect travel companion.
Don’t judge this device by its compact size though! It has all the features and capabilities of a full-size cycle computer. It features GPS +GLONASS which facilitates faster tracking of satellites to help you track how far, how fast, and where you’re riding.
The GLONASS functions well even under trees, for added convenience when riding in altering terrains.
Mark you; it’s not easy to find a unit with GLONASS at this price range!
The availability of Garmin Connect allows you to download interesting courses and promotes viewing of personal tracking for analysis. The connectivity increases when you pair this device with other Garmin compatible devices—allowing sharing of live tracks, achievements.
Because this is ANT+COMPATIBLE computer, you can easily pair it with your heart rate monitor (to help track personal health indicators) and cadence and speed sensors (to retrieve practical data and monitor daily usage).
5. CAT EYE Velo Wireless Bike Computer
Here’s another best mtb computer from Cateye! This is the perfect wireless bike computer for riders who want excellent value for money. It features functional and practical features which perfectly reflects a good balance between its cost and value.
The computer comes endowed with several functional features for tracking miles. These functions include a clock, total distance traveled, trip distance function, pace arrow for regular monitoring, and elapsed time. it also tracks speed in terms of current, maximum, and average speed.
Even better, this computer helps you track the total number of calories burned. This is the unit to help you keep your fitness goals in check.
Like the other Cateyes, this unit features a smart automatic start/stop feature which recognizes when the bike wheel stops turning and stops recording until you resume riding your mtb.
Installing this computer on your bike is the easiest part. It comes with a complete mounting kit and easy-to-follow instructions for hassle-free setup. With two color options—white and black—you can choose one that matches with your bike for a more fashionable ride.
6. Garmin Edge 1030, 3.5" GPS Cycling/Bike Computer
If you do MTB professionally, then you know for sure that a basic computer bike will not be enough for you. You should, therefore, consider finding a more advanced computer like the Garmin Edge 1030, designed with all your needs in mind.
This smartphone-sized computer offers you an outstanding amount of data which is honestly, excessive for an amateur rider. It has technology that rivals that of your laptop. And there’s nothing it can’t tell you about your route or training. If you’re a data nerd, you’re gonna love this device!
It features popularity routing which uses billions of rider data miles to show you the best of on- and off-routes What’s more, it provides you with preloaded Garmin cycle map and new navigation notification to keep you informed of sharp curves ahead.
You can count on the preloaded Training Peak app to help you complete your coach workouts.
Like most of the other computers, this unit works via a combination of touchscreen and buttons. About its touchscreen, it’s highly sensitive and responds well to gloves, rain, sweat, dust, etc., compared to other models.
Above all, this powerful device features rider-to-rider messaging & Group Talk which helps you communicate with your buddies and stay aware along the way. The built-in incident detection ensures a safer riding environment.
7. Garmin Edge 820 Performer Bundle, GPS Cycling/Bike Computer
Looking for the best mountain bike GPS for serious performance and racing? If yes, you just found Garmin Edge 820. The performance bundle provides you with a premium heart rate monitor (a chest strap), cadence sensor and a speed sensor—all in a single package.
The lightweight and compact Garmin comes packed with advanced monitoring metrics which aren’t present in the low-end models. These include the vo2 Max, advanced cycling dynamics, and recovery advisor time.
It also provides you with comprehensive cycling awareness features—like the built-in incident detection and Varia rear radar compatibility—ensuring you enjoy safer rides.
Just like the previously discussed Garmin Edge, this unit has GPS function. It gives you firsthand experience of the accuracy of turn-by-turn GPS navigation and altimeter in letting you know how fast, high, and far you’ve gone as well as where you’ve traveled.
Other notable features include GroupTrack to help you keep tabs on your riding buddies, a 2.3-inch high-resolution touch display (works even with wet hands and gloves) and a long-lasting battery (up to 15 hours).
8. Bryton Rider 10 GPS Cycling Computer
As we’re edging closer to the end of our mountain bike computer reviews, we have this reasonably priced Bryton Rider 10 GPS Cycling Computer. This device is all about simplicity, making it a cool choice for first-time bike computer users.
It’s designed to help you record every single moment of your ride while allowing you to direct all your energy into your rides instead of gambling with complicated installations, difficult operation, or exaggerated costs.
Rider has an incredibly fast setup, with no speed sensor installation required. You simply power ON and GO! It has intuitive 3-button design which helps you pick up in no time.
For the best viewing experience, it presents you with a large 2-inch display which is 50% larger than what you get in the traditional cycle computers.
Being an incredibly versatile device, this mtb computer will seamlessly sync with BLE speed, heart rate sensors, and cadence to provide you with a whopping 29 functions (which are programmable via the Bryton app). Keep in mind that Rider 10 also supports incoming calls, text, and email notifications.
9. IGPSPORT IGS50E Bike Computer
Here’s another great bike computer that lets you avoid the exorbitant prices of the high-end models while providing you with as many benefits as you want to help keep tabs on your riding performance.
One thing that keeps this computer ahead of the game is its super-accurate GPS. It comes with a high-sensitivity GPS receiver which translates to FAST positioning, instant upload & ride sharing capabilities, and live tracking.
Another thing why cyclists love this computer is the comprehensive data list it provides you with. It records speed in terms of current, average, and maximum speed. It also displays riding time, trip distance, and total distance. Other helpful data provided by this computer include gradient, temperature, date, time, calorie, and laps.
Remember you’ll be accessing all this data on a larger 2.2-inch anti-dazzle screen.
For user convenience, this device features an automatic start/stop function…where it automatically pauses when you stop riding and resumes when you start riding again. Mounting this device on your bike is pretty easy and fast. Likewise, adjusting and moving it is a breeze.
10. VDO M5 Wireless Cycling Computer SET
Concluding our list of the best mountain bike computers is this VDO M5 Wireless Cycling Computer. This is a top-quality, intuitive to use and expandable mtb bike which comes with a neat, modern look.
This device too offers you all the important cycling data such as the average speed, total distance, ride time, temperature, and time.
It has a large clear 3-row, 4-cell display which keeps the centerline and subsidiary info clearly visible to you. The backlight means you can access the data when riding at night. The back-and-forth scrolling ensures hassle-free setup and accurate use, and the digital speed sensor offers you trouble-free communication.
If you want to, you can easily add a cadence sensor or a heart rate monitor to help release its full ride data recording and training potential. Keep in mind that both the cadence and heart rate monitor reading will be simultaneously displayed on the large screen.
If you’re using route guide as well, you’ll find the “Navigator” feature which counts down/up between waypoints quite handy.
Other features that top off the M5 wireless cycle computer include battery status indicator, big battery (for extended run life), automatic stop feature, and permanent data storage (for wheel size, total distance, ride time).
Here’s What To Look For Before Buying
The trickiest part about mountain bike computer comes when you’re faced with different units and you have to choose only one suitable model.
If you know much about bike computers, this can be a mind wrecking decision.
However, the tips outlined below will help you easily single out the perfect cycle computer for you from a variety.
If you plan to explore with your mountain bike, then a computer with PS function will come handy.
This will help ensure you don’t lose your way while riding on unknown terrains. it also helps save your battery life eliminates the need to carry paper maps around.
GPS computer bikes will let you discover new roads and even allow you to create new ones and upload them to the device for offline viewing.
As with any other device you have used before, you want to ensure you buy a computer which is as intuitive as possible.
The trick here is to look for a model with easy to read screen data.
Magnetic models usually come with a fixed font size while the GPS models might allow you to customize the font size.
Look for computers which feature touchscreens as they’re more convenient to use compared to the traditional button operation.
Larger screens make the computer even easier to operate.
A powerful battery
Another important thing to consider is battery performance.
You want to buy a model with longer battery life so that you can spend more time riding and less time charging batteries.
That said, wired models usually come longer lasting batteries than the wireless models.
It’s also worth noting that the advanced models like Garmin 1030, which come with a ton of connectivity options, large color screen, and tons of features, is likely to drain the battery faster than a basic computer with a monochrome display.
While still on it, a unit that comes with power saving mode goes a long way in helping extend the battery life.
Ease of mounting
A good mountain bike speedometer should also be incredibly easy for you to install on your bike.
All the 10 units in our review section above come with some sort of mounting and a set of instruction on how to securely attach the device to your mtb handlebar/stem.
However, we highly recommend you to look for units which come with the out-front mounts…or mounts that position your computer out in front of the handlebar.
Simply because this is the perfect position for improving your visibility of the screen. Plus, this position ensures you don’t look down and possibly divert your eyes (focus) from the trail.
Do you plan to use your new cycle computer for training or tracking your fitness data with Training Peaks, Strava? Or are you working with a coach?
If yes, then we suggest that you look for a model that’s ANT+ or smart sensor or Bluetooth enabled.
Again, majority of the units we’ve outlined above are compatible with sensors which allows you to pair them with different sensors.
However, we noted that models which lack GPS function don’t pair with sensors and are unable to transfer your recorded bike data.
What’s your budget?
Coming up with a budget of how much you’re willing to spend will also make it easier for you to choose a computer for your mountain bike.
The cost of these computers usually ranges from $50 all the way up to $200 and above.
Here’s a quick cost breakdown:
TIP: Keep your unique needs in mind when planning a budget for your computer cycle. For instance, you don’t want to spend a hundred bucks for this device if you’re only riding for hobby. If you’re a pro athlete, you want a more advanced unit.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. How does a mountain bike computer work?
to understand how this handy device works, we’ll look at the two most popular types of cycle computers—magnetic and GPS models.
The magnetic models feature a magnet attached to the wheel spoke. It then rotates past a sensor placed on the fork front. This type of sensor is usually inexpensive and has longer battery life.
The GPS unit, on the other hand, uses a satellite receiver to convert the GPS signals into rider data. This type of device is easy to swap between different bikes and has more data options.
2. Can I use my phone as a bike computer?
Yes, you can use your smartphone/iPhone alongside applications such as Strava, MapMyRide, etc., to track data just the same way a bike computer will do.
You can also easily find aftermarket ANT+ devices receivers which allow you to smartphone to communicate with the sensors.
However, we don’t encourage using your smartphone as a cycle computer due to a few drawbacks like limited battery life, the extra cost of purchasing a case/mount to hold your phone for easy screen viewing. These will cost you as much or more than the cycle-specific computer.
You also don’t want to risk crashing your costly device or getting it damaged by wet weather.
Get yourself the purpose designed cycle computer which comes with a durable, crashproof construction, waterproofing, aerodynamic design, and long-lasting battery life.
3. Do bike computers work with indoor trainers?
If your bike trainer supports the ANT+FE-C (Fitness Equipment–Controller) protocol, then you can use it with your cycle computer.
The computer will enable you to do things like creating a course which makes your trainer mimic the route gradient, ride a previous workout, ride a manual workout, ride a structured workout, to name but a few.
4. My computer bike stopped working. What could be the problem?
At one time, your bike computer might stop functioning…but this is nothing to worry about as it happens to all electronic devices.
Knowing the cause, however, is crucial to help you fix the issue and get your device back to normal.
Here are a few things to look at in such case:
Whether you do mountain bike as a hobby or sport, you still need to monitor your performance in today’s data-driven world. A good bike computer comes handy in this case.
The small, handy device provides you with accurate data on anything from your riding speed to the current location, time, calories burned, and latitude.
When choosing a bike computer, we advise you to look for one that’s easy to mount and operate, has longer battery life, provides you with all the data you need, falls in your budget range. Previous user reviews will also help you get a clue on how reliable the cycle computer you want to buy is.
In our list of the best mountain bike computer reviews above, we’ve outlined 10 top-rated devices that will meet the needs of different riders—from the beginner to pro athletes.
Hopefully, you’ll identify a computer that matches your needs and budget from this list.