Software for Cyclists
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Redding, California
Bikes: Trek 5200, Specialized MTB
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Rather than just an altimeter, you need a "recording altimeter"...in other words, one that is smart enough to keep track of the total amount of climbing you're doing. This requires a unit with a fair degree of precision (3' or so is optimal), along with a decent "sampling rate" (so you get sufficient credit for small rollers).
I've used a Vetta V100A cycle computer for the last couple of years to record my climbing (>200,000 feet last year). It's reasonably accurate, and is a decent wireless cycle computer. Costs around $80-90 as I recall.
In addition to current, max altitude, and total climbing, it will also show you the current grade percentage, along with the max uphill and downhill grade percentages encountered on your rides (thought the grade percentages have to be taken with a grain of salt).
I've also heard the Specialized has an altimeter cycle computer with similar features.