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This summer I have already bought two bike computers but both have failed to meet my expectations:

Computer #1

The Filzer had poor reviews but I thought I would give it a try anyways. Should have listened to the reviews the computer stopped receiving data after about two weeks. (Luckily Mec has a good return policy so I exchanged the computer).

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Computer #2

Next I bought a computer from China.

The computer is wireless which is a nice perk (no wires snaking across your bike => more beautiful). Unfortunately the computer was in poor shape upon arrival. It seems like something was loose inside the computer. The computer appeared to work fine but I never put it on my bike (the rattling would drive me crazy). Because of the low price of ~$6 I actually ordered two computers. Both had the same issue. (Site).

enter image description here

Question

Are there any good quality bike computers for a reasonable price? Here are my requirements:

  • Under $100
  • Provides Functions:
    • Speed
    • Ave. Speed
    • Distance
    • Time riding
    • Distance for the season
    • Time
  • Wireless (optional)

Bonus Functionality (would pay a little bit extra):

  • Heart beat monitor
  • Cadence (Pedal rotations)
  • GPS
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Pedal rotations, better known as cadence –  geoffc Jun 19 '11 at 16:16
    
I bought a cheapo ($20) Bell wireless, been working like a champ for 6 months, knock on wood. –  Moab Jun 27 '11 at 1:38

9 Answers 9

I use a Cateye Strada Wireless on my mountain bike. It's taken quite a bit of abuse and hasn't let me down yet. My only complaint is that it's easy to reset your trip info by accidentally leaning on the computer for a few seconds. This can be seen as a benefit as well, as it's easy to reset your distance if you're navigating and need to know how far until your next turn even if you're wearing winter gloves. It's a basic computer, no cadence, GPS, HRM, or anything like that. That stuff just takes the fun out of riding anyway.

I'd recommend that you loctite the wheel magnet, they'll come loose over rough terrain.

Cateye Strada Wireless

They get good reviews at Amazon too.

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I have the Strada wireless with cadence option (which almost doubles the price) and find it less than ideal. The pickup mounting scheme (zip ties) is flaky at best and the pickup (they couldn't spring for two separate ones??) is always getting knocked out of alignment. The one-button control scheme means that it takes about ten punches to cycle through from, say, cadence to miles traveled and back. And that scheme also means that it's remarkably easy to reset the trip meter accidentally. And sometimes the unit "jumps" settings on a bump. –  Daniel R Hicks Jun 25 '11 at 8:47
    
Agreed with Daniel. I got this one for my track racing bike prior to acquiring the Sigma for my road bike and have all the same problems. I will be swapping it out for a second Sigma before next season. Definitely a pass. –  Stephen Touset Jan 11 '12 at 6:20

My LBS has a number of bike computers that fit the requirements and at least a few of the bonus points, all for under $100. I'm planning to pick up a new one once my arm heals:

Sigma BC1609

Have you checked your local shop? They would both often have a selection you can check out, and also a better support/return policy than random vendors online :)

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I use this (actually, the 1909 with cadence and heart rate). It's great. –  Stephen Touset Jan 9 '12 at 20:58

Does it have to be a "bike computer"? I use a Garmin Edge 205. I got tired of messing with magnets that wouldn't stay in the exact right magic spot. I just sync with the satellites (which takes a few minutes) and I'm done. The only piece in the system is the unit itself; no wires or magnets or other such stuff.

Looking at your requirements:

  • Speed [yes]
  • Avg. Speed [yes]
  • Distance [yes]
  • Time riding [yes]
  • Distance for the season [yes, with sync software]
  • Time [yes]
  • Wireless (optional) [no wires needed]
  • Heart beat monitor [some models]
  • Cadence (Pedal rotations) [some models do]
  • GPS [obviously yes]

Also, it has

  • Compass direction
  • Time of day
  • Time of sunset
  • % grade
  • On-screen map (that is, it shows your route and any waypoints you've made; it's not like a map showing streets and things)
  • Comes with software that syncs your data to PC software, showing you your route (on a very rudimentary street map) and your miles, average speed, maximum speed, etc.

Oh, almost forgot

  • Under $100 [...nope]

Alas, can't help you on that last one. The least expensive one Garmin has currently is the Edge 500, which lists at $249; you can find one on Amazon used for $180. I got my Edge 205 refurbished at $150.

To me, though, it's worth it not to mess with wires anymore, and to get to have a map of my ride, something you obviously won't get with a standard bicycle computer.

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1  
Garmin now makes an Edge 200 which retails on the internet from $125 to about $150 buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=160&pID=90675 –  Glenn Gervais Jan 9 '12 at 18:43
    
If anyone's familiar with them, it'd be awesome for this to be updated to include feature checklists for the Edge 200 and 500 instead of the discontinued Edge 205. –  Jefromi Jan 9 '12 at 18:58

If you have an android/iphone/blackberry phone with gps, there are many bike computer apps out there and a lot of them are free!
I'm using endomondo because my friends use that one too, so makes it easier to compare ride stats. It has everything you want and if you want extras (hrm and cadence) you can buy them.

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I had a Cateye that incorporated a heart-rate-monitor... Ran it without problems for about 10 years. The little rubberized buttons finally deteriorated.

Likewise I have a Specialized branded item that my patrol bike wore for about that long and it's presently on my roadster...Still works fine. No idea who really makes them.

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I had an old Cateye wired unit that lasted about 10 years. I finally replaced it when the cadence sensor broke off. Replaced it with a Cateye Strada wireless, but finding that less than ideal. –  Daniel R Hicks Jun 25 '11 at 8:51

I use a wired Cateye Strada Cadence on my hybrid: I've had it for a year, and all I've had to do is occasionally adjust the position of the cadence sensor. It meets your basic requirements and also (obviously, from the name) measures cadence ... in fact, I typically have the display showing both speed and cadence, as in the example below.

enter image description here

There was one thing I needed to adjust when I set it up, though. Because of the size and shape of my frame (it's a Specialized Globe), the distance between the crank and sensor was too great to register, but I found some posts that recommended using rare earth magnets. I put one of them on the magnet that's mounted on the crank and one on the magnet on the spoke (be careful: the rare earth magnets are strong magnets), and the sensor reads it with no problems. I don't go off-road, but I've ridden on some fairly bumpy roads and paths, and I haven't come close to losing a magnet.

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I've got a couple of the previous generation Filzer computers (DB4zl, wired, no cadence) and have had to replace a wiring harness. They don't take kindly to abuse. The computers themselves seem to hold up pretty well.

Wireless can be prone to interference, particularly from high-power LED headlights--buck regulators can emit a lot of stray RF. I prefer to stick with wires.

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I've used Specialized cycle computers quite a bit, and have been rather satisfied with them for their price. My LBS has wireless ones for ~$45, and sired for ~$25. Even the lowest models should have all of your requirements, as well as a good build quality (I've dropped mine down a stairwell with no ill effects).

To check off your list:

  • Under $100 - Check, $30-$45.
  • Speed - Check.
  • Avg. Speed - Check.
  • Distance - Check.
  • Time riding - Check...ish. They call it "Actual Time Moving", so it doesn't include time spent at a signal and such.
  • Distance for the season - You can use the Odometer for this.
  • Time - Check.
  • Wireless (optional) - Optional.
  • Cadence (Pedal rotations) - I'm not sure on this one. They used to have models which supported cadence, but I don't see it on their website now.
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Almost every bike computer on the market offers the basic features you listed. Heartrate, GPS, and cadence all bump up the cost; in combination, they cost even more. You will not find any GPS units for under $100; the Edge 200 is your cheapest option for a GPS-enabled bike computer near that price range. If you're looking for maximum reliability:

  • Buy a wired unit, not a wireless unit. Wireless units go through batteries, have interference issues with other radio sources and other bike computers, etc.
  • Don't buy no-name brands. Between Cateye, Sigma, Specialized, Garmin, etc you should be able to find something.
  • Don't buy off ebay. Buy from a local bike shop or retailer that will offer a satisfaction guarantee, like REI.
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