I don’t know why they’re called computers. “Speedometer” seems like a more useful descriptor. Anyway. From 2003 to 2012 I used a super basic bike computer with just speed, distance, and maybe cadence. Very much like this one:
From 2012 to 2023 I used a Garmin Edge 800. It’s way fancier: Gives turn by turn navigation, records the GPS track, has a barometric altimeter, supports wireless speed and cadence sensors (my Trek has a sensor embedded in the left chainstay), etc. And it’s been great.
Unfortunately the touchscreen no longer detects touches in the bottom left corner. This is a problem because that’s where the “back” button is. So I can’t exit menus. I can still record rides but looking at the map and using turn by turn navigation are basically no-go’s.
I’ve done a few longer rides without mapping and it’s inconvenient. It means I have to stop and take out my phone to figure out where to go. And even then I still miss turns sometimes. It was time to upgrade.
What Did I Try?
Phones are pretty amazing these days and phone mounts are way cheaper than GPS bike computers ($20 instead of >$100) so I gave it a shot. I got this one. For this style mount it’s pretty much as good as it could be. Easy to attach. Sturdy. Holds the phone securely.
But after one ride I don’t like it and I’m planning on switching back to a dedicated computer. There are a few reasons. Roughly listed from minor to important:
– To use my speed/cadence sensor I would need to buy a newer version of the DuoTrap chainstay-mounted sensor that supports Bluetooth (mine is older and only broadcasts using ANT+). I worry that the newer DuoTrap sensor might have worse battery life since it broadcasts using both protocols.
– The phone mount is large and I think it looks goofy.
– My phone’s touchscreen goes right up to the edge of the face. I think the mount was interfering with the touchscreen a little. But it was hard to tell. It did make it hard to tap near the corners, though.
– I had to change my display timeout from 2 minutes to 30 minutes to keep the display on. That’s not secure. Maybe I can find a good app that disables screen lock in use and this would be moot.
– It shakes more than the Garmin, which makes it harder to read quickly.
– Many of my touches were misinterpreted as drags. In part due to the shakiness of the mount but mostly due to general road bumpiness. I think phone touchscreen sensitivity isn’t really calibrated for this.
– I couldn’t find an app I liked. The Garmin displays only the things I care about in a super minimal layout. It’s great. I tried the Strava app but I think it doesn’t do turn by turn navigation. And it doesn’t show speed and distance when the map is showing (my old Edge 800 didn’t either, but I think some newer GPS bike computers can). Maybe there is an app that does a good job with this? I didn’t immediately find one after a little searching and I don’t feel like spending a ton of time installing different apps to find a good one.
What Will I Do Now?
I haven’t bought it yet but the Garmin Edge 1040 is my current top pick. The Hammerhead Karoo 2 is also an option but the fact that it runs Android is actually kind of a turn off for me. It seems like too big of an OS. And I think the battery life is worse, which doesn’t matter now but could matter 10 years from now when the battery has degraded.
I don’t ride much in the winter and it looks like Garmin introduces a new version roughly every two years, which might be next spring. So I’ll wait until spring and buy an Edge 1040 or possibly a newer model then.