GPS cycling computers use satellites to track your position, accurately calculating speed, distance, and time without wires or magnets. They record your route—and data collected from heart rate, cadence, and power三九电影网—which you can then upload to a ride-logging service to evaluate your performance for fun or training.
Like most electronics, GPS cycling computers evolve and change rapidly. New models are rolling out all the time, but even existing models get new features (and bug fixes) through firmware updates. That said the core functionality of a typical GPS cycling computer—displaying speed, distance, time, elevation, cadence, and heart rate—hasn’t changed in many years. Building features in addition to these core functions is how the different players try to get you to buy their product or upgrade to the latest model. Some of these features—examples: navigation, incident detection, smartphone pairing, built-in coaching—can improve your safety, fitness, and the overall enjoyment of the ride. Brighter, sharper screens are easier to read; smartphone apps can make setup and customization much easier. But some features can be of dubious value or little more than BNG (Bold New Graphics). Consider your needs before investing in an expensive new unit that has a bunch of features you’ll never use.
Choose the Best Screen for You
Color screens can make navigation easier by making streets and points of interest more identifiable. Color can also be used to accentuate training features like heart rate and power zones. Essentially the more graphical the feature, the more useful color becomes. If you’re just using the computer for reading numbers like speed, distance, elevation, and time, a monochromatic screen is enough and easier to read in some conditions. Touchscreens can make setup and some functions easier—particularly navigation—but can be glitchy when operated with gloved fingers or when sprinkled with precipitation or perspiration. In general, cycling and touchscreens don’t mix well, so we suggest avoiding them when possible.
Features to Look For
You’re Buying More Than Just the Computer
In most cases, when you buy one of these GPS computers, you’re not only investing in the unit, you’re also committing to the brand’s ecosystem. It’s not just, for example, if the Garmin Edge 530 is better than the Stages Dash M50, you need to consider if you like the Garmin Connect web portal and smartphone app better than the Stages Link web portal and smartphone app—a decision that can be more anxiety-inducing than choosing the computer. Hammerhead has a nifty that lets you quickly import routes from sites like Strava, Garmin Connect, Ride With GPS, and others. And if the unit has mapping and navigation, there’s a route builder you’ll need to live with. You also have to consider if the unit is compatible with your favorite third-party apps or services like Training Peaks, Today’s Plan, 2Peak, Best Bike Split, etc.
How Much Navigation Do You Need?
All these computers display and record basic ride data. And while most of these units can offer simple turn guidance (“Turn left in 100 feet”), full-featured navigation—detailed turn-by-turn directions, maps, street names, points of interest, elevation data, an address database—that can be accessed on the device is only found in the highest-end computers. For regular rides near home, you probably won’t use these features—it’s only if you plan on going on adventures in far away and unfamiliar areas that they become valuable. So, before you drop $600 on a full-featured navigation unit like the Garmin Edge 1030, consider how much you need that functionality.
Notes On Battery Life
A claimed battery life is listed for every model. In practice we’ve found these to be optimistic at best and usually involve limiting features and screen brightness. Many factors can influence battery life: screen brightness, recording interval, sensors, smartphone link, satellite connections, air temperature, and even what’s on the screen—a constantly refreshing color map draws more power than just displaying the current time in white characters on a black screen. Most of these computers should get through a few days of after-work rides, a century, or an epic backcountry ride on a single charge. Don’t take claimed run time as gospel, but you can use it to compare the relative battery life of the various units.
How I Chose the Computers
Every product here has been thoroughly evaluated and tested by me and/or Bicycling’s team of test editors and product reviewers. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers and engineers, and use our own experience racing and riding with these products to determine the best options. We carefully chose all the models here based on their value, compatibility, ease of use, companion apps and portals, and how the overall package meets the needs of the intended buyer. We also included two of our favorite GPS–enabled smart watches that are good substitutes to a cycling computer.
Garmin Edge 130
Overall Size— 63 x 41mm Screen Size— 36 x 28mm Weight— 32g Battery Life— up to 15 hours
三九电影网In the Edge 130, Garmin (finally!) has a spiritual successor to the beloved, discontinued, Edge 500. The Edge 130 is a small, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive computer with a streamlined feature set, monochrome screen, and decent battery life. It has all the features a data-hungry rider needs–speed, distance, and time; barometric altimeter; extensive sensor compatibility, including power meters; and long battery life and reliability—without the additional complexity and expense of mapping or other high-end features.
Garmin Edge 530
Overall Size— 85 x 52mm Screen Size— 52 x 40 Weight— 77g Battery Life— up to 20 hours
The 530 is Garmin’s best overall bike computer, and one of the best you can buy. It has almost every feature imaginable, and it’s (mostly) reliable and (mostly) easy to use. The 530 is compact and light, with good battery life, a nice-sized screen that is sharp and bright, and loads of features. It connects to almost everything—Bluetooth and ANT+ sensors, WiFi, your smartphone—and can be enhanced with third-party apps, widgets, and data fields. One of the most useful new features found in the 530 and other newer Garmin devices is Climbpro, which alerts you to upcoming climbs and displays remaining distance and pitch (this only works when you’re following a preloaded route The 530 has built in maps and can provide turn by turn directions on a preloaded route, or to locations saved on the device. Endurance athletes can more than double the 530’s run time by linking Garmin’s Charge Power Pack.
8 month update: This computer remains at the top of our list. Battery life is still long enough for a day–long adventure, the buttons haven't jammed up, and the TrailForks app integration is great for discovering and navigating trails in unknown areas.
Garmin Edge 1030
Overall Size— 114 x 59mm Screen Size— 76 x 46mm Weight— 123g Battery Life— up to 20 hours
The Garmin Edge 1030 is the gold standard for cycling computers with maps and navigation. It’s preloaded with full mapping and navigation features—address lookup, POIs—so you can navigate and reroute from the device. The huge color screen makes following an unfamiliar route easier. Despite its size—slightly larger than an Edge 1000—it’s low profile and the included out-in-front mount set the 1030 flush with your bar. The screen size and its benefits to the navigation features are the highlight of the 1030, otherwise it’s very similar to the smaller and lighter Edge 830. It has Climbpro, Strava Live Segments, live tracking, smartphone alerts, and a host of training and fitness fetures. Life from the onboard battery is 20 hours but add Garmin’s Charge Power Pack and you’ll get up to 44 hours of, claimed, battery life) And, of course, it does what every good cycling computer does: monitors the basics like speed, altitude, time, distance, cadence, and power.
Overall Size— 100 x 75mm Screen Size— 71 x 54mm Weight— 192 Battery Life— up to 15 hours
Hammerhead’s Karoo is a smartphone turned into a cycling computer. That’s not hyperbole—it has a sim-card slot so you can add a data plan for cellular connectivity (it’s not required to use the Karoo), and it runs on the Android OS. It’s also huge and the heaviest computer in this roundup by a wide margin. Its screen is very smartphone like and leagues better than any GPS unit I’ve ever used. The Karoo also feels faster than any other computer: satellite lock and reroutes are very quick and working through the menus and settings is swift and easy (power up is a little slow however). Its touchscreen is also the best I’ve used in a cycling computer. But you can also use its buttons for navigating through pages, accessing menus, and starting and stopping the ride so it also works with bulky winter gloves. But despite how beautiful the screen is and how advanced it seems it is also lacking some significant features. It doesn’t pair to a smartphone via Bluetooth (it can pair to a phone's WiFi hotspot); it doesn’t offer workouts or Strava Live Segments; you can’t search and navigate to POIs on the device (you can search by addresses, but only if it’s connected to WiFi or has a SIM card and data plan). Heck, it doesn’t even have a speaker to alert you to upcoming turns or provide alerts to a paired Garmin Rearview Radar (it can link to Bluetooth speakers and headphones).
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MSW Miniac 322
Overall Size— 71 x 47mm Screen Size— 38 x 27mm Weight— 54g Battery Life—三九电影网 up to 20 hours
三九电影网This little unit is about as basic as a GPS computer can get. It records and displays speed, time, distance, elevation and that’s about it. Rides are recorded to the device, but there’s no wireless uploads here: You mount the Miniac to your PC as an external drive via USB cable and find the .fit file of the ride and manually upload it to your favorite site. This is a small and light unit so the screen is also small with resolution approximating an old digital watch. There’s not much too the little Miniac, but its inexpensive, easy to use (because there’s not much too it) provides the important ride metrics, and lets you compete against your friends on Strava.
Overall Size— 64 x 71mm Screen Size— 35 x 59mm Weight— 95g Battery Life— up to 45 hours
Despite its astronomical price, the SRM PC8 (Power Control Eight) doesn’t, on paper, compare well to other GPS cycling computers. It doesn’t offer navigation or any of the training or recovery guidance features many of the other computers do, and some of the functions and features are rudimentary and clunky compared to Wahoo’s (much cheaper) devices. It only connects to ANT+ sensors, and only recently gained a smartphone app for setup and customization. But it does have its strong points. This is a tool for racers looking to take their training to the next level. It has massive battery life, huge memory, and is specifically designed for interval training. The display is fantastic—one the clearest, sharpest, easiest to read of all the computers. And the aluminum case is jewel-like and comes in a rainbow of colors. Be aware that the PC8 uses a proprietary USB cable for connecting to SRM’s desktop apps. Lose this cable and you’ll be spending $29 for a new one.
3 year update: Despite some subtle scratches on the screen from getting tossed around in backpacks, our PC8 is still performing flawlessly. And the internal memory is still less than 50% full.
Stages Dash M50
Overall Size— 79 x 51mm Screen Size— 46 x 34mm Weight— 95g Battery Life—三九电影网 up to 24 hours
The second-generation Dash computer is an impressive piece of hardware. It’s comes in two sizes—the M50, and the larger L50—but features and battery life are exactly the same. The unit is solidly built, with a metal (not plastic) mount interface. The mount system is the most robust and secure available making the unit particularly attractive for mountain biking. The screen is another highlight—it’s very bright, crisp, and delightfully easy to read—second only to the Karoo in this round up. The screens are highly customizable—you can alter the height and width of each individual data cell—and there is an array of numerical and graphical data fields to pick from. The unit offers turn-by-turn directions of preloaded routes created in Stages Link, or imported from other services (Strava, Ride with GPS, etc). The Dash does not have any navigation features beyond following a preloaded course (or automatically rerouting you if you get off course). The new Dash is also one of the best hardware values going with the unit comparing favorably to devices costing $50 to $100 more, though you realize all of its training and fitness capabilities you need to pay for an expensive Stages Link premium subscription ($200 annually).
Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt
Overall Size— 75 x 48mm Screen Size— 44 x 34mm Weight— 15g Battery Life—三九电影网 up to 15 hours
All three of Wahoo’s ELEMNT computers—the Bolt, the original, and the Roam—offer nearly identical features. The biggest difference between the three is the size of the unit and its screen. The Bolt is the smallest and lightest of the bunch, but like its siblings, it offers easy setup and customization through Wahoo’s app, more third-party app and service compatibility than any other device, and more sensor compatibility—it works with ANT+ and Bluetooth—than any other device (Garmin Varia Rearview Radar compatibility was recently added to all Elemnt computers. Of all the Bolt’s features, the navigation is the weakest. The maps are small and provide little detail, and the navigation prompts are sluggish. From the companion app, you can find and pull up directions addresses or points of interest mid ride—something not all computers with navigation can do. One frustrating thing about the Bolt—and all ELEMNT computers—is you can only scroll through the data page in one direction. So if you go from your main page to your averages page, you can’t jump back to you main page— need to scroll through the rest of the pages before you loop around to your main page again. It’s a clunky detail in a device that is otherwise one of the most user-friendly around.
Overall Size— 90 x 62mm Screen Size— 60 x 35mm Weight— 104g Battery Life— up to 17 hours
Wahoo’s first computer remains one of our favorites. It’s the same computer as the Bolt, but with a bigger screen (and a bigger case). So, the review of the Bolt above mostly applies to this device as well. This device’s larger screen is nicer for navigation than the Bolt’s, it can fit two more data fields (11 to the Bolt’s nine) and the battery life is a bit longer than the Bolt’s as well. Like all of the Elemnt computers, this one has LEDs on the case which can be used to provide a quick visual representation of heart rate or power zones, and navigation and other alerts. It’s a good idea but the feature is largely wasted on this and the other devices because they’re not bright enough to be seen on a sunny day.
Wahoo ELEMNT Roam
Overall Size— 90 x 60mm Screen Size— 59 x 35mm Weight— 96g Battery Life— up to 17 hours
The Roam is Wahoo’s newest, and most expensive, computer. It’s styled like the Bolt but has the same screen dimensions as the original Elemnt. It has the sharpest screen of any Elemnt computer, and it’s the only one with a color screen, though colors are used sparingly. Other than the screen, the primary difference between the Roam and the other Elemnt computers is the Roams larger suite of navigation features.It has maps with road information—the other Elemnts have drawings with no road data—which improves its navigation functions and directions a lot. The color screen offers more differentiation between roads, and it’s more legible when interpreting directions in unfamiliar areas. Another difference is Roam allows you to navigate to locations saved to the device or get directions to a point you select on the device’s map withoutpulling out your phone like you must with the other Elemnts. And while all this is a nice step, the Roam’s navigation is not up to par with Garmin’s 830, or Sigma’s Rox 12.0 even though the Roam is, at $380 priced like them. It is Wahoo’s best device with the best screen the company offers, and it’s still the most user-friendly and compatible device you can buy.
GPS Smart Watches
Garmin fēnix 6X Pro
Overall Size– 51 x 51 x 14.9mm Screen Size– 35.56mm Weight– 93 g Battery Life– 三九电影网Up to 21 Days
The fēnix 6X Pro picks up where the fēnix 5 left off, adding better battery life, increased ability to customize screens and workout profiles, and the ability to pair to ANT+ sensors in addition to Bluetooth ones. We're power nerds (TrainingPeaks upload or it didn't happen) and frequently used this watch as a substitute for a normal bike computer. The data on the screen isn't as easy to read while riding as a bar mounted computer, but the data still gets recorded. A small piece of foam pipe insulation also works very well for mounting a watch on your handlebar. The watch records sleep and stress data, which are easily accessed along with a bevy of other health stats in the Garmin Connect app, and the data auto-syncs with a wide variety of third-party apps including MyFitnessPal, Strava, and TrainingPeaks. The battery lasts so long we regularly forget that’s something we need to do, but the low-battery alert gives a 24-hour buffer to get the watch to a charger. Once on the charger, the watch will be topped off well within three hours.
6-month update: Battery life is still exceptional. It easily lasts for a week in standby mode and can record multiple 4+ hour rides on a single charge.
Suunto 9 Baro
Overall Size– 50 x 50 x 16.8mm Weight– 81g Battery Life– Up to 14 Days
三九电影网This feature-packed watch has an astounding battery life—up to 25 hours in Performance mode and up to 120 hours in Ultra mode. You get real-time notifications on remaining battery life, allowing you to change modes on the go so you don’t run out of juice before the end of your double century. Optical sensors read heart rate, and you can connect a heart-rate strap for greater accuracy.
2-year update: This watch just won't die and the battery life is still astounding–we can still record 32 consecutive hours of data using the most accurate GPS function. Suunto just released an update allowing you to create routes within its app, so combined with the fact that there are no visible signs of wear on the watch, we won't stop using it anytime soon.