One of the best things about cycling is the ability to challenge yourself, and your buddies by using time and distance as a yardstick. Cycle computers give you the ability to measure those numbers and record them.
If you’re cycling for fitness and as a leisure sport, it soon comes down to numbers. The distance you’ve travelled, the time you took to get there, the route you covered, even the amount of calories burned and the changes in elevation you encountered can all be measured. There are several options you can choose to measure your performance on the bike, using the miracle of modern electronics.
Almost every cyclist today has a cycle computer mounted on their bike. Over the years, with the reduction in size and price of electronics and LCD screens, they have gone from being pro-level only equipment to practically standard fitment for everyone’s bicycle. From their first appearance in 1895 as a mechanically driven meter displaying speed and mileage, today’s cycle computers have the ability to collect and display data collected from a variety of sensors. The most basic models will collect speed and odometer readings, and more sophisticated models will let you display your heart rate, cadence and power output, provided the appropriate sensors are attached. The highest end models will record your route using GPS (Global Positioning System) and let you share it over the internet.
Left: Cateye Stealth Evo+; Right: VDO MC2
The most basic of measurements for cycling will have you recording speed and distance.
The most basic of measurements for cycling will have you recording speed and distance. There are variety of cycle computers on the market that allow you to do this. Designed to suit various budgets, cycle computers like the Cateye series do an admirable job of measuring your ride. For the basics, the Cateye Strada Wireless does the job, without the hassle of wires. If you’re a slightly more senior rider, the Padrone model gives a large numerical readout that is easy to read without glasses. The VDO MC2 does much the same thing, with the added functions of a second channel to record heart rate or cadence and barometric values. More sophisticated models such as the Stealth Evo+ from Cateye record more, such as power, and GPS recording, which lets you upload the computer’s data to a personal computer for playback and review.
ON THE EDGE
These cycle computers include a GPS receiver, which allows you to accurately track your route and position.
The high end of the scale will include Garmin’s offerings such as the Edge 1000, Edge 810, Edge Touring, and Edge 510. These cycle computers include a GPS receiver, which allows you to accurately track your route and position. Aside from recording your speed and mileage, Garmin’s Edge series of cycle computers include cadence, heart rate and power meter sensors. If you have a power meter that is ANT+ compliant, then all you have to do is pair it with the Edge. With Garmin’s Edge 1000, 810 and Touring, you can have a moving map display while you ride. For the Edge 510 and 200, the GPS data can be uploaded to a computer for later review.
DOING IT SMART
Wahoo’s RFLKT+ has the added function of being able to control the playlist on your iPhone.
Coming in between the basic cycle computers are those that pair with a smartphone. Wahoo has the RFLKT+, with uses an iPhone along with the Wahoo Fitness App, while Cateye has the Strada Smart, with pairs with any smartphone and the Cateye Cycling app. This partnership of cycle computer and smartphone in your jersey pocket allows the basic readouts and functions to stay with the small sized bike unit, while using the GPS and mapping capability of the smartphone. Wahoo’s RFLKT+ has the added function of being able to control the playlist on your iPhone, while both the RFLKT+ and the Strada Smart provide call, e-mail and message notification while on the go.
Using a cycle computer is beneficial whether you’re a casual rider or serious cyclist. For those training for sport, reviewing numbers can tell you what needs to be worked on and where improvements can be made. For others, it’s always useful to know where you’ve been, and how long it took you to get there. Cycle computers bring the added dimension of measuring your ride in a meaningful way.