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I need a new bike computer (speedometer) and I believe in simplicity. All the bike computers I can find online and in bike dealers have many functions which I neither want nor need; all I want are speed and trip (day) distance.

Many (20+) years ago I had a bike computer with just two functions (speed and trip) and zero buttons; the trip readout reset to zero after several hours of standing still. This would be ideal, but does anyone still make such a device?

I'd appreciate manufacturer, supplier, search keywords, or even an unambiguous "no hope, you dinosaur!"

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    Could you use your phone? And honestly, so what if your bike computer has features you don't want, just ignore it or put some tape over that section of the display. Any case, probably find that once you've got this new info, you might find you like it.
    – Hursey
    Oct 9, 2022 at 19:47
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    @Hursey bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/5968 may be relevant. In short, a phone's battery life drops quickly if the display is forced on all the time, they get hot, can be hard to read in sunlight, and are exposed to rain/damage. Phones are less aero, and harder to glance at quickly (ie your eyes are off the road longer)
    – Criggie
    Oct 9, 2022 at 19:52
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    Why do you want a computer? An analog speedometer will do what you want and doesn't require batteries. I did an internet search for "Analog Bike Speedometer" and found many options.
    – Scottie H
    Oct 10, 2022 at 15:01
  • @Criggie I get 16+ hours on my cheap waterproof phone with the screen on dim (tap to go brighter) and mainly in aeroplane mode. That's enough for most people even if not always for me. And a well-designed app is clear to read. The one I use (IPbike) is massive overkill for this but could be set up with just trip distance and speed in large text, readable at a glance at low brightness. An old phone in a waterproof case might be quite a nice solution here.
    – Chris H
    Oct 11, 2022 at 15:06

5 Answers 5

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Yes, they definitely still exist.

  1. Cheap rubbish from Aliexpress - these tend to eat batteries. I had one that would drain a 3 volt CR2032 in three days. So I hacked a 2xAAA battery holder onto it, and even those only lasted a fortnight. Not recommended.

  2. Wired cycle computers, like the Cateye Velo7. These are probably your best bet, having about 7 functions, with Speed as the main display, and a second number below that toggles through Elapsed Time, Elapsed distance, Max speed, average speed, and Clock. This is likely what you will want.

  3. Wireless cycle computers. Very similar to the above, but the sensor on the fork has another battery and sends a blip to the receiver. Advantage is no wire between them, downside is double the batteries and increased weight.

  4. Head units - these tend to cost a lot, and have names like Garmin and Wahoo and Lezyne, etc. Probably more than you want.

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    ^ #3 is what I used when I first started cycling and continued to use before my Garmin. I was gifted the "DINOKA Bike Speedometer" and I was very happy with it. At least check it out. It's still working to this day and was fairly simple and included the features your looking for.
    – love2phish
    Oct 9, 2022 at 20:08
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    I suggest avoid cheap wireless. Wires might be ugly, but wireless sensors with signal reliability problems are horrible, and cheap ones often have problems.
    – mattnz
    Oct 9, 2022 at 20:30
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    I have used wired (#2) ever since. Usually, I run its cable on the wheel side of the fork tightly with cable ties. In this case, they are not really ugly and have the benefit of being simply reliable. The battery drains in - dunno - 8 years or so. Oct 10, 2022 at 12:45
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    There’s a fifth type also, albeit not very common: ‘sensorless’ designs that just use an internal IMU instead of a sensor on the fork, but are not cheap rubbish. The only one I know of in active production right now is the Beeline Velo 2, which I’ve personally had good results with (it’s actually remarkably accurate considering it’s just using an IMU). Oct 10, 2022 at 17:42
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    @AustinHemmelgarn Well, accelerometer + gyroscope + GPS + compass, that's a perfect team: The first two provide very sensitive measurements of forces and orientation, albeit not free of drift, the later provide drift free ground truth data, albeit far less precise. Together, they provide precise, fine grained, and drift free measurement of the exact 3D position, orientation, speed and rotation. You can't get much better. Oct 10, 2022 at 20:47
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Don't cheap out, since cheap cyclocomputers can have various issues, mostly with reading false double counts from reed sensor or from radio interference.

Long time ago, I had a cheap cyclocomputer that was wired and used the normal magnet and reed sensor system to read speed. Unfortunately, there was something wrong in the reed sensor and occasionally it read "double counts". The computer apparently wasn't smart enough and thus occasionally gave false maximum speed readings. A brand name cyclocomputer would probably not do this. Also, it was very sensitive to placement of the reed sensor. If it was slightly misplaced, the "double count" problem was continuous, i.e. I all the time got twice the amount of speed and twice the amount of distance. However, a perfect placement would eliminate this problem only 99.99% of the time, i.e. distance would be accurate but the 0.01% time problem would give false maximum speed.

Then, that computer broke after the bike had been several years in storage. I tried to find a good replacement and bought another cheap cyclocomputer, this time wireless. It too gave false maximum speed readings. I found I had to mount the computer and the wireless reed sensor on the same side of the handlebar to slightly improve the wireless connection. This time, the false maximum speed readings got rarer, but then I once noticed when I went to a shop, parked the bike before going to the shop, the maximum speed reading made sense, then after being at the shop, the maximum speed reading was false! So apparently the bike read counts from the wireless sensor while stationary, probably reading radio interference as counts.

Sigma BC 5.0 WR would be about the most basic reliable brand name bike computer you can find. It's wired, not wireless. It has one button, though, but that probably is not a negative feature.

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    I had these symptoms on a wired sensor - turned out to be the reed switch in the sensor was cracked. It was a cheap one made of glass and had suffered damage, probably from a fall. So occasionally it would jump from 30 km/h to 45, or 60, and sometimes I would see 90 (or 1.5x, 2x, and 3x the current real speed) Fix was to solder in a new reed sensor worth maybe $1.
    – Criggie
    Oct 9, 2022 at 19:49
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I found the Bryton computer to be easy to use. It is a bit pricier than what you would probaby expect for your 2 functions, but it is reliable, battery lasts a long time.

it is based on GPS, so doesn't need a wheel sensor. You can integrate one, if you want. You can also integrate a cadence sensor, if you want, and a chest strap sensor, if you want. But by default, it shows you speed and distance. And can record the route too, but not necessary.

My only issue is that sometimes it takes a while to acquire the first GPS signal, up to 2 minutes in the worst case. But it's a minor annoyance until I put my helmet on.

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CatEye is a well respected manufacturer that still makes basic cycle computers of some quality. I have seen some attractively designed models eg Quick that display just two lines of data. Even if this particular product is discontinued in the future, I think they will continue to make something similar.

I wouldn't choose an unbranded model but I know that TREK's own-brand devices can be good and the same goes for other cycle manufacturers. There are a few big players still making simple cycle computers. Try to avoid buying a no-name item from the internet.

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I would highly suggest your phone for this. I use mine all the time to record (10-12 hrs/week), and it works perfectly. I record on Strava, but there are many other free options to choose from. Strava will record all of your rides and mileage (not to mention speed), and all you have to do is press start and stop in the app. You can make it as streamlined as you want, plus it's actually simpler if you use the free version as it avoids all the data analysis bonus stuff. It can record with the screen off if you don't mind not seeing yourself going 40mph down the neighborhood road as well.

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    I use strava on a phone, but it stays in the pocket or backpack. On the handlebars I use a wired bike computer because it lasts years on a single battery. If I take the phone away from good coverage, it can be flat in a couple of hours.
    – Criggie
    Oct 9, 2022 at 20:19
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    @Criggie you’ve got me wondering about your phone. When I use Strava on my phone, once I’ve got the ride going, I can put the phone in airplane mode and barely put a dent in the battery. Point being, your phone trying find signals might be issue, not Strava.
    – Paul H
    Oct 10, 2022 at 2:37
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    @PaulH possibly - its 5 years old and on its third battery. However IMO even a great phone makes a poor bike computer.
    – Criggie
    Oct 10, 2022 at 8:23
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    It's also worth mentioning that using a phone means not only you yourself track your ride, but so does also: at least your mobile service provider, almost certainly Google and/or Apple (and thus US government agencies), and likely a whole bunch of other companies in various countries whose apps you're running. — Does this matter? Well, most people of course don't give a damn about it. That doesn't mean it's not something everyone should properly think about before blindly giving up all their privacy. Oct 10, 2022 at 11:59
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    @leftaroundabout If you use your phone in airplane mode and switch off location history (see e.g. on Android support.google.com/maps/answer/…) your bike ride should be reasonably private even with the phone on you. Oct 10, 2022 at 18:11

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