Best cycling computers: Check out our favourite bike satnavs
There’s no shortage of cycling apps and devices available for tracking your rides, creating fitness plans, even sharing and competing with friends, but for turn-by-turn navigation, the pickings are slimmer – and often fairly pricey, too.
MapMyRide and Strava and its ilk allow you to plot a course before you set off, but even in mobile app format, they’re not meant to be your main navigation guide – and they’re at the very best when used in conjunction with a cycling-friendly GPS device. That’s not your only option, either, as you can also fit your smartphone inside a custom handlebar mount to achieve the same with an app – or even Google Maps.
We’ve used pretty much every possible option out there, but here are our favourite bits of cycling tech for getting from A to B and back again.
Best cycling computers
1. Garmin Edge 820
Key specs: 2.3in, 200 x 265 colour touchscreen, Up to 15 hours battery life, 4.9 x 2.1 x 7.3cm (WDH), 68 grams
Price: £352, garmin.com/en-GB
The Garmin Edge 820 has been a long time coming, but it’s been worth the wait. Packing all the features of Garmin’s high-end bike satnavs into the tiniest device yet is quite the feat, and if you want a fully-featured GPS without the bulk of the Garmin Edge 1000, the Edge 820 is a dream come true.
Physically, the Edge 820 is exactly the same size as the mid-range Edge 520, is still fully waterproof, and weighs a feathery 68g. It’s astonishingly tiny for such a fully-featured device: you get a high-resolution 2.3in touchscreen; support for all manner of ANT+ sensors for measuring power, speed, cadence and heart rate; full mapping (yes, you can also upload your own) and turn-by-turn navigation; and a vast array of training features.
Meanwhile, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth mean that it’ll automatically upload your ride data within reach of a home Wi-Fi network, notify you of incoming calls or texts, and even allow you to broadcast your location to others with the new GroupTrack feature, which keeps tabs on everyone you’re riding with. If you’re one of those riders who always gets dropped on the Sunday club run, then this might come in rather handy – well, it will if someone else has an Edge 820, anyway.
Garmin has given the interface a welcome once-over for the Edge 820, and while it’s still not as user-friendly as a smartphone OS, it’s much easier to navigate than previously. It’s easy to flick between stats and maps with a brush of a finger, and the menus are far more logically laid out. The multiple bike profiles are a nice touch, too, and this allows you to tailor the Edge 820 to a variety of bikes. For instance, you can select on- or off-road mapping for your mountain and road bikes, and enable different ANT+ sensors.
The Garmin Edge 820 features built-in incident detection, which is compatible with accessories designed to improve cycling awareness, such as smart bike lights and rearview radar.
In my experience, the 2.3in touchscreen does seem to be more sensitive to getting triggered by raindrops or beads of sweat landing on it, but thankfully subsequent updates seem to have reduced the sensitivity a touch. There are a few aggravating bugs here and there, such as a very occasional tendency to automatically power off and lose ride data at cafe stops, but with software updates arriving on what seems like a weekly basis, it shouldn’t be long before Garmin has ironed out the niggles.
2. Garmin Edge 810
Key specs: 2.6in, 160 x 240 colour touchscreen, Up to 17 hours battery life, 5.1 x 2.5 x 9.3cm (WDH), 98 grams
Price: Around £370, garmin.com/en-GB
It’s been around quite a while now, but the compact Garmin Edge 810 is still one of our favourite GPS devices – and as it’s since been superseded by the Edge 820, it’s increasingly possible that you might soon be able to pick it up for a bargain price.
It’s built to survive the worst of British weather – it’s fully waterproof – and also works with gloves, so winter riding is no problem. Best of all, the transflective screen means you can still read it easily when the sun comes out.
The cheapest version comes with basic city maps on the microSD card, but there are other versions to choose from with full UK and European mapping. As the maps are all stored on a microSD card route planning is quick, and the results are generally impresive, with it finding cycle-specific routes with ease. The screen isn’t as big as some, but the display highlights turns clearly, and has useful features such as lane guidance. Loud beeps signal upcoming turns long in advance, so even if you’re hammering away, it’s difficult to miss a turn. and a different beep pattern reminds you nearer the junction.
The satnav bits are great, then, but there’s more. It can connect with your phone via Bluetooth to download weather updates, upload rides to Garmin Connect, and activate LiveTrack, which lets you invite other people to watch your ride on a map in their browser. You can share instantly to social network, and it also has support for Strava Live Segments, so you can race against your personal bests, in addition to its support for a whole gamut of ANT+ sensors for recording speed, cadence, power and so forth. Activity profiles even allow settings and data fields to be adjusted to your specific type of riding. It’s a great bit of kit.
3. Mio Cyclo 505
Key specs: 3in, 240 x 400 colour touchscreen, Up to 12 hours battery life, 6.1 x 2 x 10.3cm (WDH), 129 grams
Price: Around £280, eu.mio.com
Mio’s answer to the Garmin Edge 810 gets a lot of things right. Its dull design doesn’t look quite as convincing, but it has all the capabilities and specifications you’d expect from a high-end GPS device. There’s the same IPX7 water-proofing as the Garmin, so you can get it (and yourself) sopping wet, and the transflective, anti-glare display works in bright sunshine, too.
The big difference to the Garmin is the Cyclo 505’s screen. It’s slightly larger for starters (3in), but the resolution is dramatically higher. This makes for a much sharper, clearer interface, and there’s a surprising amount of detail to the onscreen maps. Mio’s done a great job of the user interface, too, which is far easier to understand than Garmin’s often-confusing layout.
You don’t get some of the nifty features such as Strava Live Segments, but you still get Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. If you’re cycling with a group of people, the Shake and Share feature may come in handy – all that’s required for you to share your selected route with your friends is a quick shake of your device. The MioShare app allows you to upload and sync rides and routes to your device without even turning on your computer, too. ANT+ sensors are fully supported, so you can connect with a heart-rate monitor, cadence sensor, power meter or whatever you’d prefer, as is integration with Shimano Di2 groupsets.
By far our favourite feature (and one now added to the latest Garmin devices) is the Surprise Me option: this automatically generates a choice of three local routes according to how far or how long you want to ride for. It’s handy for busy cyclists who don’t want to waste valuable riding time downloading maps in preparation. Shell out extra for the version with European maps, and you can go exploring anywhere in the world, but sadly you can’t upload your own open source maps – go further afield, and the Mio won’t be much use. Nonetheless, it’s a suitable choice for a competitive riders and mountain bikers alike.
4. Garmin Edge 1000
Key specs: 3in colour touchscreen, Up to 15 hours battery life, 5.8 x 2 x 11.2cm (WDH), 115g
Price: Around £320, garmin.com/en-GB
This is the Rolls-Royce of cycling GPS devices. Sporting a 3in display, the Edge 1000 is much taller than its sibling, the Edge 810, but the reward is a much sharper display and a far sleeker design.
Just like the Mio Cyclo 505, the big benefit here is that maps and navigation are hugely improved by the large, reasonably crisp display. Transflective LCD technology guarantees that the display doesn’t wash out when the sun comes out, and it also loves being prodded by gloved fingers. As you’d expect, it’s fully waterproof, and tough too – we’ve knocked ours off on a 40mph+ descent and, despite a few dents and scratches, it’s still working fine.
ANT+ connectivity is a given on a device of this calibre, but the Edge 1000 does a great job of delivering loads of data in a clear, easy to read format. If you’ve got speed, heart rate, cadence and power sensors all hooked up and ready to roll, all it takes is a quick glance at the big, clear display to make sure your numbers are looking good. What’s more, it supports instant uploads to Garmin Connect Mobile, allowing you to analyse and share your data.
The connectivity the Edge 1000’s features is also a bonus: you are alerted to any incoming calls, texts and emails, you can share your progress on social media, and weather updates are available, along with live tracking.
Battery life can’t keep up with the Edge 810 – the big screen draws that bit more power – but well over 10 hours is pretty good going by any yardstick, and you can eke a bit more out by disabling the high-precision GLONASS GPS tracking. Download a few gigabytes of open-source maps, and the Edge 1000 will keep you on track on a round-the-world cycling trip – or just a quick jaunt through the Cotswolds.
5. Tigra BikeConsole
Key specs: Available for most major phones, Around 175 grams
Price: From £25, tigrasport.com
Don’t fancy shelling out for proper GPS unit? Then why not use your phone. The BikeConsole is an armoured case which shields your smartphone and straps it firmly to your handlebars – you’ll need to buy the specific model for your phone, though.
The difference in size is rather jarring – and quite impressive. You can’t buy a 5in cycling GPS device for love nor money, but that’s effectively what you get when you strap a phone to your bicycle. Load up Google Maps, or any third-party navigation app, and you can head off into the great unknown.
It works pretty well, though. To open the mount, you remove two safety features: first, a strong rubber band that stretches between hooks on either side to hold the front of the case closed; and then a clasp that clips over the bottom edge of the body. The BikeConsole leaves clear plastic peepholes for any cameras, and a rubber cap hides the headphone socket. Tigra says it’s weatherproof, and it certainly kept our phone dry and in one piece.
It works best with smaller, lighter phones – when trundling over rough ground, the vibration from the wheels goes straight to the phone itself, which makes reading a small map much harder than the other devices here. Still, if you just want a cheap, easy option, the BikeConsole hits the spot nicely without breaking the bank. Even better, it’s recently undergone a 50% discount on Amazon, making it just under £15.