11 best GPS cycling computers so you can train smarter
Explore the world or train smarter with one of these smart satellite-dependent devices
Cyclists can’t get enough of data – whether it’s our time up a favourite climb, top speed down a hill or the distance of an epic Sunday ride, we love to do a bit of number crunching.
A bike GPS computer is a great tool for recording all the important information so you can train smarter as well as finding your way around.
They pick up signals from constellations of satellites orbiting way out in space to work out your position on the planet and therefore the speed at which you are riding.
On top of that, models with ANT+ and Bluetooth capability allow you to connect a phone or sensors to record your pedalling rate, power output, or heartbeats – great if you are working through a fitness training programme.
Some of our selected GPS units work with the popular fitness app Strava to offer Live Segments – a feature that can spice up solo rides by offering a virtual training partner for you to race on your favourite hills.
Among our lineup are models that can help you navigate your way around by showing simple “breadcrumb” trails of dots, with arrows popping up on screen to help you find your way through road junctions.
Others come with larger screens which can show much more detailed maps while guiding you to a chosen town or postcode, just like a car GPS system.
We rode in town and country to test out our chosen devices in a range of conditions, even trying to get ourselves lost by taking wrong turns to make sure our high-tec companions could put us back on the right track.
Where appropriate, we even turned off the GPS features and rode them on indoor trainers in conjunction with heart monitors and cadence sensors to get a great workout without ever leaving the house.
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Wahoo elemnt roam: £299.99, Evans Cycles
Wahoo’s newest computer gets a dash of colour to help with navigation. It highlights just the important stuff such as major roads and rivers, a feature we found much less distracting than full-colour. The screen is a hefty 2.7-inch slice of Gorilla glass which should stand up to the rough and tumble of off-roading.
Wahoo has made it super-easy to customise the metrics you view – clicking the direction arrows allows you to see more or less information and lets you zoom in and out of the map in a flash. It’s got ANT+ (wireless sensor network) and Bluetooth connectivity and will link up to Wahoo’s Kickr smart trainers if you want to ride indoors. You can set the LEDs on the left of the screen to show heart rate or power zones. But beware, your ride companions might spot you are suffering if your lights turn red! Wireless uploading to Strava is super.
Garmin edge 130: £134.67, Halfords
If you like to keep things simple, then this little marvel is perfect. Its 1.8-inch screen won’t take up much space on your bars yet it’s still got ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity and will let you view all your important metrics including speed, power, and heart rate. It has a great battery life of up to 15 hours and you can target your friends’ times on Strava with Live Segments. If you want to let loved ones keep an eye on your progress you can share your location with a feature called LiveTrack, and it will show call and text notifications when linked to your phone. It can even give you the latest weather forecast on screen! You can load up routes from Garmin Connect and the box contains three spare stem mounts plus a charging cable.
Mio cyclo 210: £149.99, Amazon
A big 3.5-inch colour touchscreen makes this one great for navigation. You can use it like a car GPS unit right down to typing a postcode and then selecting a street and house number. It will find the route in seconds and you also get a little elevation profile to let you know what terrain you’ll face on your ride. The 210 uses the excellent OpenStreetMap system and you can choose between city bike, mountain bike, race bike and run/walk profiles so it can select the most suitable route to follow. We put the navigation to the test by taking a few wrong turns on our test rides but it always managed to get us back on course. Thanks to the touchscreen there’s just one physical button on the unit. As it’s been kept so simple it lacks ANT+ or Bluetooth connectivity, so you can’t link up sensors and must use a cable to download rides to your laptop. It weighs in around 150g and battery life is up to 10 hours.
Garmin edge 520: £177.39, Halfords
This one can pretty much do it all. It’s got ANT+ compatibility so it will talk to your sensors and there is Bluetooth to link your phone, allowing you to upload your rides in seconds and receive text and call notifications on the move. It can even let contacts know if it detects you have been in a crash. You can pair it to your Strava account to get Live Segments and the claimed 15-hour battery life should be plenty for most of us. The buttons are big enough to operate even with gloves on. Navigation is via simple colour maps and it will re-route you on the move if you take a wrong turn. As well as the standard quarter-turn mount there’s also a quality out front bracket in the box so you can position it ahead of your handlebars like a professional rider.
Wahoo elemnt bolt: £199.99, Evans Cycles
The Elemnt is an amazing little device. It’s got ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity plus great navigation. Upload a route from your favourite mapping app and the line of LEDs across the top of the unit will flash a warning if you stray off the trail marked out by arrows on the 2.2-inch black and white screen. The same LEDs will let you know whether you are in your chosen heart rate zone when paired with a compatible heart monitor. We really like the fact you can zoom in or out of the different data fields on screen, meaning you can see as much or as little information as you want. Wahoo have worked hard to make the Elemnt aerodynamic and when it’s slotted into the included sculpted handlebar mount, they claim it can save you just over 12 seconds in a 40km time trial.
Beeline smart navigation: £76, Wiggle
This fun gadget is great for finding your way around town. After selecting your destination via the companion app you can put your phone away and follow the arrow which points towards your target while letting you know how far you have got to go. You’re then free to pick your own way there, safe in the knowledge you’re heading in the right direction. It won’t suit those that like to stick to set routes, but if you’re the type who loves seeking out new tracks and lanes you’ll love it. The rubberised mount slips on and off all sizes of handlebars in seconds and doubles up as a protective case.
Polar V650 HRM: £229, Merlin Cycles
Polar is best known for its heart rate monitors but it makes some great cycling tech too. With a 2.8-inch touch screen and just two buttons, this was a breeze to operate on the move. While riding you can swipe through five pages of data showing things such as heart rate zones, speed and time, and there’s a detailed map for navigation. Polar has built in a forward-facing LED meaning you’ll have a handy emergency light should you get stuck miles from home when night falls. The Polar Flow app also gives you feedback on your ride and highlights areas where you can make gains.
Lezyne mega XL: £137, Chain Reaction Cycles
Awesome battery life is the big selling point for this one. It claims up to a whopping 48 hours thanks to its use of a 2.7-inch black and white screen rather than a power-sapping colour one. It will pair with your phone and ANT+ sensors and you can customise the array of data fields you see on-screen. Unusually, this solid little unit can be mounted in either portrait or landscape format. It feels solid enough to stand a few bumps and knocks, making it a good choice if you enjoy riding trails.
Sigma ROX 12.0: £266.45, BikeInn
This sleek device, which is around the size of a smartphone, is being used by top-flight cycling squad Team Sunweb. This sport set version is pricey but comes packaged with some great accessories including a high-quality out-front handlebar mount, cadence/speed sensor and heart monitor. We liked the highly responsive touch screen and were impressed with the navigation options, including the option to enter an address and then get turn-by-turn instructions to lead you to it. There’s also a Draw My Route function so you can pen your own path through the local hills.
Mio Cyclo 605 HC: £396.09, Amazon
With its huge four-inch colour touchscreen, this monster is perfect for exploring – the extra on-screen space for its built-in maps really makes a difference. We loved the “surprise me” mode which is a fun way to find new roads and trails – it can create a random route based on how long, how far or where you want to ride. It’s good value given that it comes boxed with heart rate, speed and cadence sensors. There’s also a code allowing you access to full European maps.
Polar M460 HRM: £189.95, Merlin Cycles
Polar’s smaller M460 comes bundled with an optical heart rate monitor designed to go around your arm – great for anyone who finds a chest strap restrictive. A more compact model than the V650, it will still record all your usual metrics, pick up notifications from your phone and show Live Segments. The textured buttons are easy to operate and battery life is excellent for its size – up to 16 hours from one charge. It’s worth pointing out that while there is Bluetooth there’s no ANT+, so some sensors will not be compatible.
The verdict: GPS cycling computers
The new Wahoo roam with its big screen and colour highlights is great for both adventurers and budding racers. We loved the way we could zoom in or out of data fields at the press of a button. If it’s a bit too big for your bike, or busts your budget, you can’t go far wrong with the excellent Garmin edge 130. For something a bit quirky, take a look at the simple but effective Beeline.
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