I am having trouble navigating the formidable variety of cyclocomputers on the market.
I am not asking for product recommendations. A recommendation will in any case almost surely not be helpful. Each product seems to last very few years on the market. The barrier to entry is also small, and so many brands appear to be ephemeral, or at least have no distribution networks. And that's before noticing that during this pandemic even normally well-stocked and very large exercise/cycling stores routinely run out of stock in bike components.
The products backed by any sort of name-brand are many, and they are based (or at least have headquarters) in various places:
- Bontrager, a division of Trek (Wisconsin, USA)]
- Bryton Sport (Taipei, Taiwan)
- Cateye (Japan)
- Garmin (Kansas, USA)
- Hammerhead Karoo
- iGPSport (Wuhan, China)
- Inbike Cycling
- Lezyne (California, USA)
- Mooseland (Canada)
- Neos, a division of Giant (Taichung, Taiwan)
- Polar Electro (Kempele, Finland)
- Shanren (Shenzhen, China)
- Sigma Sport (Neustadt, Germany)
- Specialized (California, USA)
- Stages (Colorado, USA)
- Suunto (Vantaa, Finland)
- Topeak (Taichung, Taiwan)
- VDO 1, 2, 3 (Offenbach, Germany)
- Wahoo (Georgia, USA)
I'm after something quite modest, having a cadence meter in addition to speed and mileage. I've so far managed with just the last pair (and would gladly remain loyal to the well-built products from the Japanese maker, if I could spot a device for an upgrade), but on a road bike I like to think that there is something more that can be gleaned from knowing the "RPM" as well, especially since on a road bike I have access to speeds I could only until now dream of, and cadence seems to be the most critical point for keeping my knees healthy, and generally looking after the well being of my leg joints. I've eliminated the need for a HRM, as much as that can be helpful to push oneself and keep track of progress, because I don't think I will tolerate a firm chest band. This is likely going to be a separate product, possibly in the form of a watch from some Cupertino-based brand. (At the risk of digressing widely, I'll mention that even the last edition, the Apple Watch Series 5, which uses electric rather than optical sensors, may not function as a cycling heart rate monitor, since the second electrode is in the crown. Note that the two-electrode feature in the Series 5 produces not just a heart rate, but an electrocardiogram. Hence this watch may be an overkill for cyclists' need, in addition to not being usable unless one dismounts to manipulate the two electrodes. I'm not aware whether they kept the optical sensor while adding the electric ones.)
Now, someone who aims for the wireless option to avoid running cables all over the bike, will have the choice between a published (but not open/free to use) protocol, ANT+ (owned by Garmin), and closed, or at least proprietary, protocols, devised by the various manufacturers. An ANT+ sensor can only be replaced with another ANT+ sensor. Any other must be replaced with a component from the same manufacturer, and even then possibly from a specific line or for a specific product.
One intriguing recent innovation is in a (speed or cadence) sensor that comes in one part only. This is not just easier to install. It's also considerably easier to maintain, since there is no gap to worry about. Judging by these products coming from only one maker (Wahoo), this may well be patent protected, and so this feature is likely available only from that one maker.
Do the above few lines correctly summarize how a shopper can navigate the many products available in 2020? The innovations here are not that frequent, and so this discussion will likely remain relevant for a few years. It's puzzling that in other product categories very few makers eventually succeed in nailing how to build the right product. Yet in this arena it seems the competition is much more varied. As a shopper I oddly find that this variety is not at all helpful.
I believe I got all the details right. So basically this is a true/false question. Did you catch a mistake?