A cycling computer is a great gadget which records your rides for posterity, to share with others or to analyse and identify improvements. Put simply, a bike computer can tell you how fast you're going, how far you've gone, and how long you've been riding.
The more they cost, the more functions they'll have, so it's worth identifying what you need before you choose. Invest in the best you can to save a later upgrade. As you improve, your cadence or heart rate might become more important or navigation will stop you getting lost.
You can of course use a mobile phone app to record your ride, but it will drain your battery, hike up your data use and won't record information as accurately as a computer.
"Data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves." - Tim Berners-Lee
Cycle computer features increase the higher up the budget scale you go. However, basic models tend to have a surprisingly good range of functions.
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - Albert Einstein
Like anything cycle-related, you try to look after it, but eventually it gets a few scratches and dents. Look for a sturdy build with waterproofing for the great outdoors.
Check that the buttons aren't too fiddly and that you can still operate them with gloves on.
An additional mounts will let you swap a wireless computer easily between bikes.
The head unit (the computer itself) is no good if the display is too small to read. Look for a nice bright screen with a good size font. A backlight is handy for cycling at night.
The computer should be easy to fit to any kind of bar size or shape, preferably tool-free. Pay special attention when shopping for a device for a bike with oversize suspension forks. Sensor mountings should be easy to fit and be compatible with different frame size and shape and some magnets won't fit flat-bladed spokes.
There are a wide range of computers to choose from but hopefully this guide has helped you narrow down your search. It's all down to budget now…
Put simply, wired computers have a wire from the head unit to a sensor, whereas wireless are wire-free.
Wired computers are best if you don't need to swap your computer between bikes and need to be carefully positioned so they don't interfere with your bike's functioning.
Wireless are wire-free - a stand-alone unit powered by a battery. Aesthetically, wireless computers look better but can suffer from interference.
An advantage is that they can easily be swapped between bikes with additional mounts.
These are specific machines for monitoring your heart rate.
Often in the form of a watch to record your pulse, they are great for showing how hard you're pushing it.
These computers track your location via satellite, making them very accurate.
They work in the same way as car sat navs.