Do you love having your smartphone on you everywhere you go, even when you’re riding outdoors?
Since smartphones are becoming so much more technologically advanced, you might wonder if there’s still a place for your bike computer to track your session.
What is a bike computer? A bicycle computer is a small device that gets secured to the handlebar of your bike and provides you with information about your cycling session, such as power, performance, and cadence.
If you’re not sure if you should own a bike computer or use your smartphone to access cycling apps, read our guide to see which one is best. We’ll compare both devices according to important categories to settle on the most effective device.
Bike Computer Pros And Cons
- It’s cost-effective. A bike computer can cost $25 to a few hundred dollars on average. This can be cheaper than a smartphone.
- Bicycle computers are designed with high-contrast screens so that you can see them clearly on bright days.
- They come in a compact size so they won’t take up a lot of space on your bike’s handlebars.
- Many bike computers are waterproof so you don’t have to worry about harsh conditions damaging them.
- Many bike computers on the market offer a wealth of training data, such as calories burned, heart rate, gradient, and more.
- Many of these devices will provide you with pre-loaded maps that detail features, roads, waypoints, and amenities.
- A bike computer can last for many hours and many models boast an impressive battery life.
- You can find smartphone apps that are cheaper than the cost of purchasing a bike computer.
- Instead of just using your smartphone, you need to purchase a separate device in the form of a bike computer. This might feel unnecessary.
Bike Phone Pros And Cons
- A bike phone is versatile and valuable, especially if you’re a casual cyclist.
- You can make use of a variety of high-quality apps to record your races, such as MapMyRide, Wahoo Fitness, and Strava.
- You can keep your smartphone in your back pocket so it doesn’t have to take up valuable handlebar space. Since you always have your smartphone with you whenever you leave the house, using a tracking app can make lots of sense.
- Smartphone apps have caught up with bike computers. For example, cycling computers make use of ANT+ to communicate data but although phones receive Bluetooth info, many models now also support ANT+.
- Some smartphone apps can connect to your smartwatches and other devices so that you don’t have to carry your smartphone around with you.
- If you have a large smartphone, this will take up valuable space on your bike handlebars.
- Smartphone batteries are known for draining fast.
- A smartphone isn’t very weatherproof, so you’ll have to purchase a case to make it more tolerant of bad weather. This increases how much space you need on your handlebar and can also make it difficult for you to read the screen.
- A smartphone will usually make use of touchscreens whereas bike computers tend to have buttons. The latter makes them easier to use when you’re on the go.
Bike Computer Vs Phone: Which One Is More Accurate?
It’s clear to see from the above pros and cons of bike computers and phones that bike computers do have more benefits.
There’s another thing to consider. Generally, a bike computer is more accurate than using a smartphone to map your rides. Both devices obviously offer GPS features, but the bike computer has a barometric altimeter sensor.
This enables you to track your bike climbs. This is beneficial if you cycle up hills so you’ll achieve greater accuracy.
You might say, “But smartphone apps can track your climbs!”, and you’re right – but, since they make use of other people’s cycling sessions, they’re not going to be as accurate as what you’ll get from a bike computer.
As a result, you shouldn’t expect your smartphone to completely replace your bike computer.
What Are the Best Smartphone Apps for Cycling?
If you’re dead set on using your smartphone to track your cycling, you might be wondering what some of the best apps are on the market. Here’s a rundown of some that you should download before your next training session.
This smartphone app ensures that all cycling sessions you upload to it will give you automatic rankings of your times over popular distances of trail and road.
It also provides a GPS map of where you’ve cycled. It has a real-time feature so you can see how fast you’re cycling at a certain distance.
It enables you to make use of your social platforms, such as by following friends, viewing their cycling sessions, and even commenting on them. You can post pics of your sessions, too.
- You can track and log rides as well as get data such as your speed and elevation, without having to pay for it.
- You can link it up to your bike computer so you can upload your cycling data after your session.
- You’ll love how versatile Strava is, as you can connect it to your Amazfit Bip, Apple Watch, and other devices.
- You need to pay for the app to get more advanced features, such as training plans and custom goals.
This app works well with Bluetooth sensors so you can stay on top of your fitness progress, such as heart-rate monitors, progressive power meters, and speed sensors.
By using a Wahoo Key plugin, you’ll also be able to pair it to ANT+ sensors. You can use this app to upload your cycling tracking data to a variety of other sites, such as MyFitnesPal and Strava, so it’s versatile.
- This app syncs effectively with Apple Health.
- It’s easy to use and very intuitive.
- You can select workout types that aren’t just cycling or running. This makes it a versatile fitness app to own.
- Some people have said that the app can be a bit buggy.
- The GPS map drains your smartphone battery very quickly.
This is an app that gives you many excellent features, such as navigation, route planning, and real-time updates.
If you regularly ride in urban areas, you’ll love its real-time updates that enable you to notify other users of any problems you encountered on the road.
This makes it a useful way to always stay ahead of the game when planning routes. While most of the features on Bikemap are completely free to use, you can make use of its premium service.
This gives you cool extra features, such as 3D views of your cycling routes and offline navigation.
- It offers a large variety of cycling routes.
- It has a user-friendly and effective search function.
- It’s compatible with smartwatches, such as Apple Watch, which enables you to download and follow a route without you having to lug around your phone.
- Bikemap requires a premium version if you want to make use of advanced features, such as extra map layers, offline navigation and maps, and bike type routing. These are essentials if you’re training.
This app is powerful enough to make your smartphone turn into a cycling computer. It has a variety of features, with the most noteworthy one being that it provides you with lots of data after your cycling sessions.
You don’t have to log into a website as the data will remain on your device, so it works a lot like a computer bike.
It works with Google Maps so that you don’t get lost, and you can ride your bike while wearing headphones so that you can easily stop or start your rides via your iPhone earphone remote buttons, which is pretty cool.
- You can use it to track your progress in a variety of sports, such as skiing and running. These come preloaded on the app.
- You can use it to track over 250 stats that can help you improve your cycling, such as speed, cadence, heart rate, distance, and even your bike power.
- The app works with Google Maps so you can see traffic maps and terrain maps to help you better plan routes – and, as a bonus, the app will record weather conditions during your cycling session automatically.
- Unlike apps such as Strava, it doesn’t come with a points-based system.
Best Bike Computers
If you’re interested in using a bike computer instead of a smartphone app, here are some of the best ones on the market.
Garmin Edge 1030
This computer gives you up to 20 hours of battery life and its screen has a color display. It enables you to sync your training plans and offers live tracking.
It also has rider-to-rider messaging so you can remain in contact with other cyclists when racing in a group.
You won’t even miss not having your smartphone with you because it offers you the chance to respond to texts or missed calls with prewritten messages.
One of the drawbacks of this bike computer is that you can’t touch and pinch the screen to zoom into it.
Wahoo Elemnt Bolt V2
This bike computer gives you data that will come in handy when cycling, such as turn-by-turn navigation, and it has a very impressive mapping system on board. It has a 64-color display and 16 GB of internal storage.
It’s great for racers because it’s small, compact, and ergonomic. You’ll love that this bike computer provides many metrics, like heart rate and power.
Best of all, these will be displayed in a color that corresponds to your training zone, so you can quickly look down at the bike computer while cycling and see how you’re progressing.
One of the drawbacks of this bike computer is that it has a beeping notification sound that can be distracting or annoying to some people.
Dash M50 GPS Bike Computer
This bike computer is easy to use and has a variety of excellent features to help you make the most of your cycling sessions. It has an auto-dimming and brightening backlit screen so that you don’t have to decrease or increase its brightness when required.
It’s filled with OSM-powered or open-street maps that don’t only show you the roads but give you valuable information such as routes that are color-coded to be marked as safe for cyclists.
You can also build custom screens and profiles so that you’ll see the metrics you want during your cycling session.
A drawback, however, is that when you want to change its settings you might find that it’s a bit clunky.
So, Which One Should You Use?
If you are a serious cyclist, you should invest in a bike computer. This is because the device is built to be weather- and crash-proof, and it doesn’t get in the way of your bike’s storage space on the handlebars.
If you’re cycling for longer than a few hours a week, you will want to make use of lots of data. A bike computer will give you tons of data, especially if you take part in long-distance cycling and training.
On the other hand, if you cycle for less than a few hours per week, you can get away with using a smartphone app.
This is also a wise choice if you’re just starting out with cycling and you’re testing the waters of it before you commit to buying cycling accessories.
How does a GPS bike computer work?
GPS bike computers make use of satellites to track your position by calculating your distance, speed, and time without any magnets or wires.
Where should you store your phone while cycling?
A cycling jersey comes in handy because you can store your phone in the jersey pocket. You could also store your phone in a handlebar bag or cargo cycling shorts that have pockets.
Tracking your cycling sessions is an important element of riding your bike, but you might wonder if you should do this with a bike computer or smartphone app.
In this article, we’ve featured important things you should know about bike computers and bike phones, featuring their pros and cons.
Last Updated on July 27, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic