I'm about ready to replace my 20 year old Nishiki with a brand new Cannondale Synapse Alloy 6. I will be getting a bike computer of some sort. I would really like a GPS unit made for biking, or perhaps general outdoor use. I'm interested in comments from people who have used GPS units.
I won't ever go back to not riding with a non GPS bike computer.
I've used the Garmin Edge 500 for almost a year and have used a Garmin wrist watch to record before that. Having the computer on the stem is much better than my wrist.
I have never used a bike GPS for navigation, just as a bike computer to show speed, distance, cadence, HR and power (ANT+ from my Power Meter).
I love analyzing my ride after, looking at the map, seeing where I struggled and where I really hit it hard. I think this is the best part of a GPS bike computer as it will 'record' your whole ride. You can upload a map to your Facebook, see how much elevation you rode, compare rides with friends who rode that same route before.
The software (Training Center) that comes with the Garmin devices is not all that great but there are many alternatives, such as Garmin's online equivalent (Garmin Connect). I use Strava.com almost exclusively now, but have used TrainingPeaks.com as well as downloaded software on my computer called SportTracks.
I think the Garmin Edge 500 is a great value right in the middle of their offerings, you can go a bit cheaper (into low $100's for the Edge 200) or full color with maps (Edge 800). I have never run the extra speed/cadence sensor, just relying on the GPS for speed/distance, my riding buddies do like their speed/cadence sensors, as you can then use it on your trainer in the garage.
You've got a small handful of choices for GPS enabled bike computers.
- In the world of bike GPS, Garmin has the market all but locked down. They currently have 3 models to choose from, all relatively new, with the most recent addition being the entry level 200 model. Your choice here is all finding a balance of budget and features.
- The 200 is inexpensive but is not ANT+ compatible which means you can't pair it with other ANT+ components such as heart rate monitors, power meters, or speed sensors (nice for the trainer or densely forested areas where GPS reception gets spotty)
- The 500 is the middle of the road product providing most of the features of the more expensive model along with ANT+ compatibility all for about $200 less than the top of the line 800. If you don't need turn by turn directions or the ability to look at a map whil you ride, this is probably the one to go with. It's the model I own and I'm very happy with it.
- The 800 is the most feature packed, and most expensive, bike computer that Garmin makes. All the bells and whistles including a color touch screen and the ability to upload map packs. Great choice if budget is not an concern.
- If you have a GPS enabled Android or iPhone, you may already have your GPS bike computer. There are a handful of apps available, most for free, that keep getting better with every version- most notably MapMyRide and Google Tracks. The biggest downside to using your phone as your GPS bike computer is that the battery life stinks. To a lesser degree, the software can sometimes be finicky and you may lose your ride information though as I mentioned the available apps get better with every update. Also, there's the matter of finding a quality bike mount case for your particlar phone (significantly more difficult for some Android phones than for iPhones). The other option is to put your phone in a ziplock sandwich bag and throw it in your jersey pocket, but then of course you can't see your live stats. These apps typically arent as feature rich as a dedicated computer and lack the sensors that mid-level and up GPS computers have (eg, barometer, ANT+ capability). You can get an ANT+ dongle for iphone - not sure about Android - but then with the case you're looking at a price that's closing in on the cost of a dedicated computer.
- There are some other choices that you can look into from companies like Suunto and Polar but most of these are wrist mount options and typically designed more with runners in mind. This may not be true anymore, but last time I checked polar still did not have ANT+ compatible products.
Hope this helps!
I bought a waterproof case/mount for my Android phone and I think it's awesome. There are a stack of apps in both the Android market and the iTunes store that track everything using GPS and let you connect to monitoring devices using Blutooth. Only issue is it eats the battery like there is no tomorrow to use the GPS I bought a bigger battery and I can get 3-4 hours of cycling as well having the phone to use all day.
I know it's not what you asked but it's an alternative option which is cheaper if you already have a smart phone.