Choosing the Best Bike Computer for Your Needs



Gone are the days of measuring our workouts based on how much we struggle for breath or how sore we feel the next day. We are living in a data-driven, digital age where technology and the information it collects play critical roles in achieving our fitness and athletic goals. Cyclists, whether new to the sport or regular participants at competitions, turn to tech, like bike computers, for specific feedback to hit certain milestones. However, a saturated product market coupled with a dizzying array of features, metrics and buzzwords can be overwhelming. With that in mind, here is a simplified guide to help you make the right choice when shopping for a bike computer.

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A bike computer is a device that provides feedback and an overview from one's ride. Depending on which bike computer you ultimately select, it can offer data as simple as distance, current speed, and ride time to more in-depth information like heart rate, power and cadence.

Determining the Type of Rider and Features Needed

It's important to ask yourself a few basic questions before whittling down your bike computer options. What type of riding do you do? What are your goals? What is your budget? Your purpose and goals will determine if you fall into a beginner, enthusiast or competitor category, while your budget will help you choose which features are most important. Like all things, the more features and accessories, the more expensive the unit.

If You're a Beginner Cyclist

The beginner cyclist is the rider who wants to get fit through a new form of exercise, and they turn to bike computers for simple feedback or even as a tool for motivation. As a rule of thumb, the beginner cyclist should look for a device that provides the rider with speed, distance and length of time functions. There are plenty of bike computers out there with these basic functionalities, and they typically fall into a price range of $30 - $50.

If You're a Cycling Enthusiast

The next step up is the cycling enthusiast. Whether it is for personal achievement or to begin training for a competition or tour, the cycling enthusiast is a rider who wants to improve in the sport. An important feature in this category is cadence, or the pedal turnover, which is not the same thing as speed. Eventually, riders discover an efficient rate at which to pedal, which improves the overall biking experience and launches riders into the next level of cyclists. Additionally, pedaling too hard in a gear is not just ineffective, but it could be dangerous, exposing the rider to knee injuries. Such helpful and injury-preventative features don't come cheap, as bike computers featuring a cadence function can cost up to $200.

More: 3 Drills to Improve Cycling Efficiency and Pedal Cadence

If You're a Competitive Cyclist

The competitive cyclist looks for bike computers with advanced features and hard, physiological data to assist in his or her improvement. In addition to all of the metrics mentioned earlier such as speed, distance, and cadence, this category adds on a heart rate component, which includes calories burned, heart rate max and training in target zones. This rider also looks for feedback on power output shown as wattage. Competitors choose bike computers that provide app services such as shareable data, data transfer and training regimens. These advanced versions can cost up to $300.

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About the Author

Michael Herlihy

Michael Herlihy is a Senior Cycling Product Specialist for Polar, the leading pioneer in heart rate monitoring, activity trackers, and training computers. With more than 11 years of experience in fitness and sports industry, Mr. Herlihy's passion and knowledge is focused on the cycling world, and the technology that provides an unmatched experience in motivation, growth, and athletic improvement.

Michael Herlihy is a Senior Cycling Product Specialist for Polar, the leading pioneer in heart rate monitoring, activity trackers, and training computers. With more than 11 years of experience in fitness and sports industry, Mr. Herlihy's passion and knowledge is focused on the cycling world, and the technology that provides an unmatched experience in motivation, growth, and athletic improvement.

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