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The best GPS bike computers for training, navigation and data

Cyclist magazine
4 Aug 2021

A guide to the best cycling GPS computers on the market

Few additions to your bike can make as big a difference as a bike computer. It can tell you where you are when you get lost, how many watts you're struggling to put out, and even when it's time to stop for a piece of cake.

There was a time when £20 would get you a tiny device with an LCD screen that converted every revolution of your wheel into data like distance travelled, average speed, and trip duration. Now as likely to rely on GPS positioning satellites as a magnet on your spokes, the latest bike computers increasingly offer smartphone-style features along with simple speed and distance data.

This might include mapping and navigation, previews of upcoming climbs, or even the ability to see the fastest times set by other riders on the stretch you're currently pedalling along. Among riders searching for these features, the bike computer market has come to be dominated by Wahoo and Garmin.

However, there are still smaller brands worth considering. The main thing is to decide why you are buying a computer in the first place. If you want outstanding mapping that can guide you on and off-road, you'll need to look towards options that boast navigation capabilities.

If you're a data junkie, you will need to assess the connectivity of the device. However, if you are solely using the computer to upload your ride to Strava, you may be better served by a more budget option.

Below you'll find what we consider the best bike computers on the market. Scroll down past them, and you'll also find advice on understanding their features and picking the best one for you…

Our pick of the best GPS bike computers on the market in 2021

1. Wahoo Elemnt Roam: The best bike computer for ease of use 

The big boss of Wahoo’s GPS cycling computer range, the Roam has been introduced as the long-term replacement to the original Elemnt. It boasts updated navigation that includes on-board rerouting and on-demand route generation that partners with existing functions such as routing you to a pre-downloaded course.

On GPS setup, you are prompted to download the Elemnt app which acts as the central hub for all the necessary information and data. Then, once you've scanned the QR code that pops up on the Roam, you are fully synced and ready to go.

Take mapping, for example. After creating my route on a third-party app such as Strava or Ride With GPS, the route automatically synced to my pre-downloaded Elemnt Roam App and then onto the computer through Bluetooth in a matter of seconds. Let’s be honest, Garmin’s products have at times been a bit of a pain to set up, and this is somewhere Wahoo has definitely capitalised.

The Roam is also the first of Wahoo’s range to introduce a colour screen, using flashes subtly in its mapping and also across its training programmes. Lastly, the Roam also boasts an impressive battery life of 17 hours, even at full functionality.

A top-drawer product, but if you’re happy with a smaller black and white screen the Bolt still does pretty much the same job for £100 less. More details below.

Screen size: 2.7in; Battery life: Up to 17 hours; Location: GPS, Glonass, Galileo; Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi; Weight: 95g; Other features: Easy setup

Read our full review here

2. Garmin Edge 830: The most usable Garmin GPS computer 

The Garmin 830 is essentially a much smaller version of the brand’s top-end 1030 computer, complete with live segments, live tracking, ultra-fast route planning, incident detection, nutrition tracking and even a bike alarm – all while punching out 20 hours of battery life.

Despite being relatively compact at 82g and with a 2.6-inch screen, the Edge 830 is still packed with an abundance of functions. In fact, it's really just a smaller version of the Edge 1030. It contains live segments via third-party app Strava, live tracking, on-board route planning, rerouting capabilities alongside safety features like 'Incident Detection' and even a pin-locked bike alarm.

The unit will tell you when you need to eat and drink and also sync to your Shimano Di2 groupset to let you toggle through the computer’s screen from the levers of your bike. Impressive! Controlled mainly via its touchscreen, a full-size feature-set and handy size make this our go-to Garmin.

Screen size: 2.6in; Battery life: Up to 20 hours; Location: GPS, Glonass, Galileo; Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi; Weight: 82g; Other features: N/A

Read our full review here 

3. Hammerhead Karoo 2: The most smartphone-like experience 

Buy now from Karoo for £359

Jumping straight from OS paper maps to a cycling GPS for navigation would have been fine, if it weren’t for smartphones having arrived in the meantime. As it is, switching from mapping on your phone to that on a cycling computer is like going from an iMac to an Amstrad.

Based around the Android operating system, with 32GB of storage, and including free access to worldwide mapping, the Karoo aims to bridge the gap between the two experiences.

Offering turn-by-turn navigation both on and off-road, the Karoo’s base map offers a significant level of detail, with nearby points of interest from cafes to toilets all flagged. Hit a climb and it will bring up the oncoming elevation, while it’s also possible to drop a pin and have the unit quickly create a route to it. Unlike other units, searching and sorting routes and locations is easy, partly thanks to the unit's in-built QWERTY keyboard.

Happy to ping notifications from your phone, the Karoo also stands out thanks to its GSM cellular SIM card slot. With 3G and 4G capability sitting alongside more standard Bluetooth, ANT+ and Wi-Fi connectivity, you're able to get on the internet without a smartphone, and can import routes directly from your favourite app, while also pulling in real-time data from things like Strava segments.

Very much positioning itself as a tech firm rather than a hardware maker, Karoo promises to provide fortnightly updates to the unit's firmware and functionality. That means its capabilities are likely to grow in the near future, and as such the Hammerhead 2 already has the making of a capable rival to more established brands.

Screen size: 3.2in; Battery life: Up to 14 hours; Location: GPS, Glonass, Galileo; Connectivity: GSM cellular, Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi; Weight: 167g; Other features: High-res screen

Buy now from Karoo for £359

4. Garmin Edge 1030 Plus: The most fully-featured bike computer  

The most money you can spend on a Garmin nets you more than a few useful features. Getting on for the size of a smartphone while being a chunk heavier, the Edge 1030 is largely controlled via a much-improved touchscreen interface. Happily, being so large leaves its customisable data fields easily readable, with the same being true of its maps, which are legible right down to the road names.

Already well-suited to navigating, not only will it show you where you’re going, but it’ll even alert you to hazards like steep descents or particularly sharp turns via a small message at the bottom of the screen.

it’ll also guide you up hills by automatically switching to Climb mode when following a course, which gives you info on gradient and distance remaining. Built-in Wi-Fi on top of Bluetooth and ANT+ compatibility means that courses plotted on a computer are immediately available on the unit, without having to faff around syncing before going for a ride.

Out on the road, the Edge 1030 also does clever things like telling your friends where you are via Livetrack allowing them to follow your progress on their devices. Should you come off the bike, it’ll also detect potential accidents and can alert selected contacts.

All the standard GPS computer functions you’d expect are included too, along with access to Garmin’s extensive Connect ecosystem. If you want all the features and don’t mind the increased cost and size, this is probably the computer to go for.

Screen size: 3.5in; Battery life: Up to 24 hours; Location: GPS, Glonass, Galileo; Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi; Weight: 124g; Other features: Livetrack

Read our full review here

5. Mio Cyclo 210: Best bike computer for the back of beyond

With no sensor connectivity, the Mio Cyclo 210 is aimed squarely at riders who prioritise navigating, and are happy to make do with just the stats that a location-sensing GPS can generate.

Still, anyone who doesn’t care about heart rate zones or hitting their FTP will find plenty to like. Ideally suited to cycle tourists or those on long-distance journeys, the Mio arrives with all of Europe loaded and ready to ride over.

Its maps are available free of charge via OpenStreet, with an SD card slot letting you add any further continent you fancy cycling through. Able to autoroute as you ride, much like a GPS in a car, you can pop in an address anywhere in Europe, select the level of traffic you’re happy to deal with, and it’ll guide you to your destination.

Its ‘surprise me’ function will even generate a route at a length of your choosing from anywhere you happen to be, although these can sometimes throw up odd choices.

It’ll also conventionally store any GPX routes you fancy following. The graphics are a little clunky, as is the size of the unit itself. As there’s no connectivity option other than via a USB cable, you’ll need to plug it into a computer to get your data out. Regardless, we think this zero-fuss unit with massive mapping capability will suit more than just Luddites.

Screen size: 3.5in; Battery life: Up to 10 hours; Location: GPS; Connectivity: N/A; Weight: 154g; Other features: Won’t work with additional sensors, Full European base map

Read our full review here

6. Garmin Edge 530: The best value Garmin bike computer 

The Garmin Edge 530 was released in the spring of 2019 as a replacement to the Edge 520 and is the baby sibling of the more expensive Edge 830 that launched at the same time.

It’s been designed as a true companion to riders who train, seamlessly syncing to third-party power meters, providing biometric information into whether you are training too hard and even informing you when to eat and drink when riding.

Despite more basic on-bike mapping than Garmin's more expensive models, navigation is still good thanks to the pre-loaded Garmin Cycle Map that provided turn-by-turn directions and notifications as well as off-road mapping for the gravel/mtb riders out there.

Ride safety is also considered paramount with ‘Incident Detection’ that notifies pre-determined contacts of any potential incident while also acting as an alarm that notifies your smartphone if your bike is being moved if you are elsewhere.

Battery life weighs in at 20 hours, which is also impressive. What you don’t get is touchscreen control. However, if you can manage without that the Edge 530 is something of a bargain.

Screen size: 2.6in; Battery life: Up to 20 hours; Location: GPS, Glonass, Galileo; Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi; Weight: 76g; Other features: Non-touchscreen

7. Wahoo Elemnt Bolt: The best bike computer for racers on a budget

The Elemnt Bolt is a GPS computer for those who race. Similar to its bigger brother the Roam, the Bolt offers turn-by-turn navigation, seamless route syncing from the companion app, as well as on-board and on-demand navigation through its impressive mapping system.

It also gives live text and call alerts, relays Strava live and fully links to all Wahoo accessories. There is also the capability to sync the LED lights across the top of the unit to act as a visual reference for things such as speed.

The only difference to the original Elemnt is that the Bolt is smaller, more aerodynamic and comes with a fully-integrated mount. Oh, and Wahoo recently released the Bolt in blue and pink as an alternative to the original black.

Screen size: 2.2in; Battery life: Up to 15 hours; Location: GPS, Glonass, Galileo; Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+, Wi-Fi; Weight: 62g; Other features: Black and white screen

Read our full review here

8. Shanren Miles: most affordable bike computer

Launched on Kickstarter, Shanren's Miles bike computer aims to combine the simplicity of basic speedometer computers with the data of modern GPS units. Its customisable display provides speed, distance, time, elevation, gradient and heart rate – if you're connected to a monitor.

It can be paired with a power meter to give cadence, power and L-R balance or if you don't have a power meter, the Miles will actually display an estimated power metric, that the brands say is consistent and accurate, so you can pretend you've splashed out on the tech.

While it doesn't provide navigation assistance, the Shanren app lets you plan and track rides with the Miles, storing 20,000km of ride data and enabling the all-important sharing of workouts on Strava.

The Miles can also be paired with Shanren's Raz Pro rear light so not only can you control the light from your computer but the LEDs on the computer will light up in sync with the Raz Pro.

Screen size: 2.1in; Battery life: Up to 25 hours; Location: GPS; Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+; Weight: 65g; Other features: Power estimation, taillight control, trip storage

Buy now from AliExpress for £135.13

Buyer's guide to the best bike computers

What to look for when buying a bike computer

Maps and navigation: Most cycling computers will offer some form of on-screen mapping or, at the very least, turn-by-turn navigation. Most will also allow you to preload routes to follow and some will even allow you to renavigate on the fly.

Smart notifications: Smart notifications are when you sync the computer to your mobile phone and receive notifications on the go. Most will send through messages and call alerts allowing you to keep tabs on what's going on without having to reach for your back pocket.

Battery life: If you plan to spend long days in the saddle exploring then you will need to look at options with healthy battery life. Most cycling computers will last up to 18 hours albeit when used conservatively.

Sensor compatibility: This could be an external power meter, heart rate monitor or cadence sensor, either way, you must check the computer's ability to connect to sensors and devices. Some only allow connection to one at a time but most allow multiple connections using ANT+.

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