Choosing your GPS bike computer
In this Article
Published on September 21, 2023
How to to choose a GPS bike computer among all the models available? If the opportunity toto buy a GPS bike is a good idea, it's hard to distinguish the information that really adds value from that which is more of a gimmick. And yet, the technology behind this equipment has developed to such an extent in recent years that we can pretty much everything you need to know about a if you want to. In this article, we'll try to shed some (retro)light on the subject. How to improve your cycling performance with a computer? Which GPS computer to choose ? What are best GPS bike applications ? And why not choose a connected watch rather than a road bike computer? So many questions we'll try to answer... Motion detected, stopwatch started, off you go! 🧭
Why have a bike computer?
How does a GPS bike computer work?
A little back-to-basics never hurts. A bike GPS works in the same way as a car GPS:
1) the satellites constantly emit signals which are picked up by the device;
2) the device determines its position based on the positions of the satellites;
3) the device translates its coordinates into a position on a map and records movements.
The GPS counter analyses this signal continuously, so that when you arrive you can see the route you have taken... It's called a track!
To improve your cycling performance
Now that we're clear on how it works, let's see why it's an essential piece of equipment for improving your cycling.
Depending on the model, the GPS computer will provide you with detailed data on your ride average speed, distance, duration of activity, energy consumed, altitude difference, average power, heart rate, pedaling frequency, etc.
Analysis of this data will highlight times when you are developing less power, for example.
Are we talking about the minutes after a bump? Perhaps you need to keep a little under the pedal to smooth out your effort. If your worst period is around 1h30 or 2h of activity, it may be because you're eating too late.
If your training routes vary little, you can also compare and beat your times on the same segment on different outings. Try to understand why you were slower or faster: the wind, the distance, the gear ratio... or just a bad day?
The more information you have at your disposal, the more in-depth your study will be, and the more you'll be able to improve... But beware of an overly scientific approach! 👩🔬 The important thing is to enjoy yourself!
To prepare your itinerary
It's true that leaving on the spur of the moment can have its charms. But planning your route in advance will enable you to take sections less frequented by cars, to pass by a point of interest or even to find a hill on which you'd like to test yourself. It's also highly recommended to avoid mishaps when you're bikepacking.
Once you've quietly prepared your ride on your computer, you can put it on your Garmin, Sigma, Polar or Bryton computer (more on the main brands later!).
Please note, for this to work, the file must be in a very specific extension. You can't import a Google Maps file, for example. You'll need to use Strava (subscriber version) or the tool of the brand of your GPS bike computer.
And if you don't want to go to the trouble of preparing.., there are many sites offering ready-to-use traces shared by other cyclists. It's a great opportunity to set yourself a challenge!
If you're used to cycling with other cyclists, you could, for example, set up a rotation system so that it's not always the same cyclist who takes charge of the route. It can be fun to throw in a few surprises along the way (good or bad). 👿), plan a coffee break, etc.
For artists at heart, it's also an opportunity to create a piece of Strava Art or GPS Art... Basically, the idea is to draw something using your GPS track. We invite you to have a look - some of them are really good at it!
Which GPS computer to choose?
How to choose your computer?
We won't surprise you by telling you that it all depends on your level and your goals. Nor will it surprise you to learn that the price will vary according to your requirements.
A cyclist looking for a bike computer for beginners will be satisfied with a few simple items of information: navigation and map display, distance, time, instantaneous and average speed. That's all you need to progress and motivate yourself.
But to choose the right bike computer, you also need to consider what you can do with the data collected. Does the brand offer its own data processing tool? Is the tool or the files generated by the computer compatible with star applications such as Strava and Komoot?
In general, the biggest brands (Garmin, Bryton, Sigma, Polar and Wahoo to name but a few) offer all these possibilities. What's more, their models are considered the most powerful and robust on the market. So, if you're just starting out on your road bike, look no further than their entry-level models. mountainbike or gravel biking. These models cost between 100 and 200 euros.
If you're an experienced and/or competitive cyclist, an entry-level GPS computer won't suffice.. You'll need more information to track and improve your performance.
Your device will need to be able to collect information froma power sensor or a heart rate monitor placed on your chest. This new data will help you determine your weight/power ratio, your maximum heart rate and your different effort thresholds. All this will open the door to more methodical training.
Prices can soar above 500 or even 700 euros for this type of high-performance equipment.
The best GPS bike computers
As we said in the introduction, the range of products on offer is very extensive, and it's impossible to know exactly what wireless bike computers are available.
So we're going to present you with 3 computers to suit all budgets and all levels.
A great bike computer for beginners: the Bryton rider 420
Bryton generally offers high-quality computers at lower prices than its main competitors.
This model has the advantage of offering clear, precise GPS navigation on a budget.
The best mid-range GPS computer: the Wahoo ELEMNT Roam
An increasingly popular brand! With its streamlined range, Wahoo has succeeded in catching up with the industry leaders.
The Wahoo Elemnt Roam may well be the best bike GPS if we focus on value for money. It offers a multitude of functions and will be a useful partner even for those who race regularly.
The best of the best: the Garmin Edge 1040 Solar
This is the most advanced GPS computer from the best bike computer brand. It can do just about anything (except pedal for you, of course...).
Its incredible 45-hour (!) autonomy is made possible by solar-powered recharging. 🌞
A model that costs over 700 euros all the same!
What are the alternatives to the wireless bike computer?
GPS bike apps
The question often comes up... Why buy a GPS bike computer when there are free bike apps available? It's true, Strava, for example, works very well, even for non-subscribers.
Let's just say that this solution can do the trick for occasional cyclists or for short trips, but it's not enough. if you're a frequent cyclist, using your smartphone won't be very suitable.
There are five reasons for this:
1) You've already noticed, the Battery of a cell phone discharges rapidly when geolocation is activated. On a long outing, you run the risk of finding yourself without a meter...and especially without a mobile!
2) Smartphones heat up a lot when you use them. And on a summer outing, you may be riding under the sun for a long time.
3) Phone screens aren't really designed to provide powerful lighting even in bright sunlight. Which means that sometimes, you'll see absolutely nothing!
4) It's the risk of damaging your phone The risk of damaging your phone: rain, perspiration, the risk of dropping it... Don't forget that smartphones aren't designed to be used in this way.
5) Leave your mobile in your pocket, it allows you to disconnect for a while. Cycling is also about clearing your head. If you're bothered by a notification every 5 minutes, your outing turns into a telecommute... 💻
Connected watch or GPS counter?
If you're a runner or swimmer, you may already be equipped with a connected watch that provides you with a lot of information. In that case, there's no need to invest in a bike computer. You can simply install your GPS watch directly on the handlebars.
Whether you're riding a road mountainbike or gravel, the use of a computer is now essential for performance or even pleasure.
With a simple bike computer holder, all models can be installed on our bikes. Find out more our selection of bikes Certified Pre-Owned that will help you do justice to your super speedometer!