With the number of bicycle computers on the market it's pretty difficult to understand the subtle differences between manufactures and models.
Typically you can narrow your choices by whether you're seeking wired or wireless, cadence or no-cadence. Functions such as speed, average speed, maximum speed, trip distance, odometer distance and elapsed time are common on nearly every model out there.
But nearly all bicycle computers have buttons for modes and starting and stopping. The idea of a bicycle computer that just turns itself on as soon as it detects subtle movement from the front tire is pretty cool. Even cooler, or at least easier to operate, would be a computer that has no mode buttons.
Planet Bike Protg 8.0
Enter the Planet Bike Protg 8.0, a simple, no-frills but very powerful little bicycle computer. Planet Bike has taken all the hassle out of fumbling with your mode buttons by putting all the data you normally want on just one screen. And since no space is devoted to buttons, the computer case can be entirely devoted to displaying data.
While the Protg 8.0 doesn't have any visible buttons, it does have three modes which are accessed by simply pressing the computer forward in its mount. By simply pushing the unit forward, the unit switches to the next display mode. All display modes show the same three top lines: current speed, elapsed time and trip distance. The default mode shows current time (clock) on the fourth line.
With each forward push on the unit, the fourth line alternates between three separate displays: 1) clock, 2) odometer and 3) average speed and maximum speed. So in the third mode you get a computer that displays speed, elapsed ride time, trip distance, average speed and maximum speed. For most riders, that's the only mode they need.
Speed is displayed to the tenth of a mile, which is certainly nice when you're struggling up a steep climb and want to know the difference between 8.0 and 8.9 mph.
To reset your ride data, you simply push the unit forward and hold it for three seconds. What really impresses me is how ultra-sensitive the unit is to movement. The moment I either touched or slightly moved the wheel, presto, the computer's displays all came on.
This auto-on and auto-off feature is really nice since your elapsed riding time and averages will always be accurate and never include time spent waiting at lights or rest stops.
My only gripe is that the computer doesn't hold whatever mode you prefer or were in when it goes into sleep mode. The unit always turns on in the default mode, with the clock on the fourth line.
It goes to sleep mode after five minutes of inactivity and holds all current ride data when it comes back on. This is especially nice when you stop for lunch or snacks and want your current ride data to still be displayed.
I found installation to be a snap. Just run the wire down the front fork, fasten it with the provided zip-ties and line up the wheel magnet with the sensor, which is also mounted with zip-ties. You can use any magnet to line up with the sensor. Since I ride Mavic Ksyrium wheels, I simply installed my Mavic magnet that's made to attach to the wider bladed spokes.
For those with larger bulge diameters on their handlebars, like 31.8mm, you won't be able to use the provided mount since it's designed for smaller 26mm diameters. Since I have a 31.8 diameter handlebar, I had to be a little creative by using one of the zip ties to close the gap difference between the bolt openings.
My creative rigging is certainly not ideal because I have to hold the mount when pushing the unit forward to change modes. I spoke to Planet Bike and they claim there will be a wider handlebar mount coming out in early spring '04.
For those who like sharing one computer on different bikes, the Protg 8.0 can also be configured for two different bikes with different tire diameters.
I've put just under 500 miles on the unit and found it to be as reliable and accurate as any of the high-priced units on the market. There's also a Protg 9.0, only difference being that it includes a thermometer to display current temperature. Planet Bike claims they're making some improvements to the temperature model for early next year as well.
At a suggested retail of $24.99, it's hard to go wrong with this little show-all unit. It weighs only 54 grams, including the bracket mount and the computer case is only 40mm x 45mm, which is not very large considering everything on the display.
For more information, visit www.planetbike.com or call toll-free 1-866-256-8510.