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Bike Computers - Are they all junk?

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Bike Computers - Are they all junk?

Old 02-17-19, 02:38 PM
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puma1552
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Bike Computers - Are they all junk?

Have not had a cycling computer before, but would like to get one this year. Am looking at the usual suspects: Garmin 520, 520 Plus, and Wahoo Elemnt Bolt.

Here's where I'm at, maybe a bit odd as an old millenial:

-I do not ride with ANY app or use any ride service like Strava, Ridewithgps, Travelroad or whatever it is and hate syncing anything with anything; I get so tired of society trying to force me to integrate every aspect of my life and it's just more hassle to manage and makes my life more complicated, not simpler. I basically want a device that is self-contained and doesn't penetrate other areas of my life.
-I do not ride with speed/cadence/HR sensors, and think if I get to that point then I'll enjoy riding less because it will feel like more of a chore/job, when I'm just a recreational rider who would like to just look at basics (not even track, really) just for fun.
-In fact, I don't even - as of yet - bring my phone with me on a ride.
-I don't care about maps, I pretty much know where I'm going and am not going off on mystical journeys on my rides.

That said, there are only a couple things I really care about:

-Being able to flip through and look at metrics of my ride on the device itself after my ride, and then just delete them from the device itself; basically I need it to save all the ride metrics to the device for just a little bit, and then allow me to delete
-With one exception, that being I want the device to keep a lifetime running odometer total

Otherwise, the total feature set I'm looking for is:

-Current speed
-Max speed for a given ride
-Average speed for a given ride

-Distance traveled for a given ride
-Lifetime odometer miles

-Ride time for a given ride
-Time of day

-Total climbing elevation for a given ride (net elevation less important since it should always be 0 since I start and end in the same place)

-Color screen would be nice, but not necessary I guess

I think the Edge 520 does all this. I know from a lifetime of being alive that Garmin makes a lot of straight up junk. Google (and Wahoo converts) seems to confirm this is still the case. So I started looking at the Elemnt Bolt. Looks like it's a flat-out better product, with one glaring error - it doesn't have a lifetime odometer feature, you have to upload all your rides and add them up or whatever. I can live with the monochrome screen I guess. Setting it up with my phone is sort of a drag, but not the end of the world if it's a one and done setup.

Basically, neither are perfect, but an Apple watch isn't the solution either.

So do you buy the supposedly higher quality product with a couple glaring feature omissions for more money, or do you buy the less regarded product with all the features for less money? Should I be looking at something else in the $250 or under bracket? Garmin 520 Edge can be had for as low as $190, but the Elemnt Bolt is going to be the full-tilt $250. Probably don't really need the 520 Plus.

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Old 02-17-19, 03:21 PM
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You just need a garmin 200 or maybe buy a used Garmin 500. That should do all you need.
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Old 02-17-19, 03:40 PM
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You are correct. All bike computers are (or will soon be) junk.
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Old 02-17-19, 04:45 PM
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With what you are looking for I would go simple and do the garmin 130, just a basic good computer. The 520 has been great for me, not complaints. I had a 500 that was also good, you would do fine with 500 if you can find a good enough deal. None of these need any sensors for function.

good luck.
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Old 02-17-19, 04:54 PM
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For $10-25 you can everything you need except elevation with a Bell 300 or a Cateye from Walmart or Amazon. Standalone and swap batteries every few months. You can set the cumulative odometer to any initial mileage you desire if something goes wrong and you happen to remember what it was before hand. Your elevation requirement takes a huge jump and next level feature set and probably includes most of everything else you are specifically trying to avoid.

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Old 02-17-19, 04:58 PM
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Question Best?

I have lower Requirements ....In the 80s I got a German Ciclomaster bike computer

https://www.flickr.com/photos/237427...n/photostream/ (found web image, not mine)..

their wireless version mounts down on the fork , magnet sensor in the side of the case...

Wired, fork mount it hides off the bars ..


Back to the Garmin GPS fan club ..
altimeter Spec puts your needs in premium, not basic price point..


Assume you will remain Unhappy..






..

.....

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Old 02-17-19, 06:30 PM
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I agree with U235 above, skip the elevation and get a really cheap basic computer. I would suggest wired. My wired ones automatically turn on when the wheel starts turning but my wireless ones I have to remember to start them at the start of a ride. My wired ones also last for years on one CR 2032 battery, the wireless ones seem to go through batteries faster.
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Old 02-17-19, 06:31 PM
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Thanks guys, I'm going to look into some of your recommendations tonight/tomorrow.

Was just youtubing the Bolt for a bit, had a couple questions about that one.

Looks like the Wahoo app you have to use to set it up stores all your rides which I guess is liveable and sandbox enough since I have to use the app to set it up anyway.

1) Do you have to be riding with the phone for your rides to get stored in the app or can rides be uploaded to the app anytime after the ride? Assuming the latter since you can also export to Strava etc afterwards, but you never know.

2) If you have all your rides in the Wahoo app, does it sum the total mileage of them all for you or do you have to manually add them up? If the former, I suppose I can live with that.
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Old 02-17-19, 10:02 PM
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Well that escalated quickly. Decided heck with it and grabbed the Bolt, last red one in stock at Lordgun and only place it was on sale, $225 + $15 priority shipping and no tax.

Would've went black but couldn't understand why Wahoo decided to put blue accents on only the black, which would've clashed with my red bike...helps my bike is red I suppose.

Appreciate the suggestions, looked at every one but ultimately decided I still wanted elevation despite my generally simple wants so I figured I'd just buy a nice computer.



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Old 02-17-19, 10:26 PM
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Originally Posted by puma1552 View Post
Well that escalated quickly. Decided heck with it and grabbed the Bolt, last red one in stock at Lordgun and only place it was on sale, $225 + $15 priority shipping and no tax.

Would've went black but couldn't understand why Wahoo decided to put blue accents on only the black, which would've clashed with my red bike...helps my bike is red I suppose.

Appreciate the suggestions, looked at every one but ultimately decided I still wanted elevation despite my generally simple wants so I figured I'd just buy a nice computer.


Next up... You'll get the cadence, speed sensors...

It will store rides until you sync it with the app. The statistics on the Wahoo app itself leaves a lot to desire. It really only includes a weekly summary of miles and time but all your rides are there for you to browse all the other details. You'll have to add manually or sync with something else if you want analysis and details.
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Old 02-17-19, 10:54 PM
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Am I too late to this thread. If you do not need the map or GPS in general, Sigma 23.16 will do: https://www.sigmasport.com/en/produk...less/bc2316sts It will record elevation profile and other relevant data. You can switch off the cadence and HR sensors.
There is even more basic Sigma 14.16: https://www.sigmasport.com/en/produk...less/bc1416sts It also has altitude/gradient. I am not sure if it will record the elevation/speed profile.
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Old 02-17-19, 11:02 PM
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Originally Posted by gl98115 View Post
You are correct. All bike computers are (or will soon be) junk.
They're not junk, but they are overpriced and overly complicated. There's nothing they can do that you need to know that can't be done with a simple calculator. For basic data anything Garmin is overkill. If you like complexity go Garmin. Otherwise, a simple Cateye will do.

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Old 02-18-19, 08:51 AM
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I use the cheap bike computers and sometimes also use a GPS. But I consider them separate for different purposes. Exception, my folding bike is not fitted with a computer.

From the comments above, it is pretty clear that some people are starting to think of a GPS as a minimal bike computer. I had not realized that times had changed that much.
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Old 02-18-19, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by puma1552 View Post

That said, there are only a couple things I really care about:

-Being able to flip through and look at metrics of my ride on the device itself after my ride, and then just delete them from the device itself; basically I need it to save all the ride metrics to the device for just a little bit, and then allow me to delete
-With one exception, that being I want the device to keep a lifetime running odometer total

Otherwise, the total feature set I'm looking for is:

-Current speed
-Max speed for a given ride
-Average speed for a given ride

-Distance traveled for a given ride
-Lifetime odometer miles

-Ride time for a given ride
-Time of day

-Total climbing elevation for a given ride (net elevation less important since it should always be 0 since I start and end in the same place)

-Color screen would be nice, but not necessary I guess
With the exception of the color screen, you just perfectly described a Cateye computer. No frills, unintrusive, stand alone unit. I use a Cateye Padrone plus. Smart phone connectivity is optional.
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Old 02-18-19, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by puma1552 View Post
Well that escalated quickly. Decided heck with it and grabbed the Bolt, last red one in stock at Lordgun and only place it was on sale, $225 + $15 priority shipping and no tax.

Would've went black but couldn't understand why Wahoo decided to put blue accents on only the black, which would've clashed with my red bike...helps my bike is red I suppose.

Appreciate the suggestions, looked at every one but ultimately decided I still wanted elevation despite my generally simple wants so I figured I'd just buy a nice computer.

Really curious as a bit of research on GPS bike computers would have revelaled that elevation calculations is one thing GPS really suck at. Even models with barometric sensors are inaccurate.

The Bolt is as good and simple as a GPS can be but don’t be surprised when your elevation numbers are all over the map (no pun intended) even on repeat routes.
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Old 02-18-19, 07:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post


Even models with barometric sensors are inaccurate.

Th
your correct they are very hit and miss, that its why if you care about this metric you have to upload you data so that software can adjust it to correct. IE: Garmin Connect has a altimeter correction built in when you upload it will fix the "weird" readings. Does a nice job of it. Not perfect but still.

I don't have any experience with the Wahoo but I would bet they do the same thing when uploading it to their software.
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Old 02-18-19, 08:35 PM
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My experience is that recent GPS units are pretty good at elevation, but I've only used it as a point, never a stream. Barometric altimeters are excellent over short time periods. Unless something wicked this way comes (a front moves in) I regularly get < 20 feet error over 4,000 feet of vert compared to topo maps.

Sadly the shower confuses mine for a couple hours though.
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Old 02-18-19, 08:36 PM
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Originally Posted by sdmc530 View Post
your correct they are very hit and miss, that its why if you care about this metric you have to upload you data so that software can adjust it to correct. IE: Garmin Connect has a altimeter correction built in when you upload it will fix the "weird" readings. Does a nice job of it. Not perfect but still.

I don't have any experience with the Wahoo but I would bet they do the same thing when uploading it to their software.
The problem comes when you try to use multiple on-line data collectors, Connect, Strava, RWGPS and they all show different things. Then you wonder who’s correct and what total elevation gain/loss loss is real. If you stick with just one and never look at the others........is it still real ? Lots and lots of posts on assorted forums about this, is why I never pay attention to elevation.
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Old 02-19-19, 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post


The problem comes when you try to use multiple on-line data collectors, Connect, Strava, RWGPS and they all show different things. Then you wonder who’s correct and what total elevation gain/loss loss is real. If you stick with just one and never look at the others........is it still real ? Lots and lots of posts on assorted forums about this, is why I never pay attention to elevation.
I don't pay attention to elevation either, nor do I really care about it I guess. Not a metric I track.

But I think if you use the same computer/program to track elevation I think your probably in pretty good shape.
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Old 02-20-19, 12:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post


The problem comes when you try to use multiple on-line data collectors, Connect, Strava, RWGPS and they all show different things. Then you wonder who’s correct and what total elevation gain/loss loss is real. If you stick with just one and never look at the others........is it still real ? Lots and lots of posts on assorted forums about this, is why I never pay attention to elevation.
If you have a watch, you always know what time it is. If you have two, you can never be sure.

Ride up a hill, get USGS quads or any other topo maps, find the starting and ending elevation, then see which service comes closest to the truth?
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Old 02-20-19, 12:52 AM
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Regarding smartphone apps, you don't need to give up privacy to benefit from some useful apps.

And I'd strongly encourage anyone to carry a phone for emergencies. You don't need a voice/data plan to dial 911 in the US. However a voice/data plan enhances our ability to make calls, including 911. Some phones can carry two SIMs, and Google's Fi phone service can access multiple networks in the US and some other countries.

For the most privacy, just buy a cheap Android phone and don't activate it. Just use your home wifi. Download Wahoo Fitness. It's free, works well, and stores data only on your own phone. You can transfer activity data to Strava (which I do) or other apps but it's not necessary. And to be sure it's not transferring data without your permission, disable wifi after installing the app. It'll still work with GPS.

I used this method with an older iPhone 4s a friend gave me after he upgraded. I didn't activate the iPhone for the first couple of years. Just used it as a GPS device for cycling apps and navigation maps. It was usable for emergency calls via 911, but doesn't need a voice/data plan for that.

I also used Cyclemeter for iPhone for a year, the paid version (only $10 a year). By default it stores our activity data only on our phones, not to the app company servers or our own cloud storage unless we chose to. However Cyclemeter didn't do much that I wasn't already doing with Wahoo Fitness and Strava.

There were a few advantages to Cyclemeter (besides being reasonably private by default):
  • User customizable workouts with voice prompts. Very handy for folks who don't want or need to look at their phones. I found this handy.
  • Records weather data (and can share it to Strava or other apps/sites, if the user chooses). Also handy, to keep track of tailwind assists, headwind hindrances, or neutral wind conditions.
  • Versatile user customization options, but not too complicated to figure out. I didn't use most of those features.

Another advantage to Strava is access to Strava-compatible apps for making better use of our ride data. For example, the Elevate app can be authorized to use our Strava logs and give us useful info about our performance and progress in various categories. I'm pretty fast on downhills by any standard, even at my age (61) and only moderately good condition. Just a consequence of being naturally aero -- skinny with fairly narrow shoulders, but weighing just enough to have good momentum, being able to spin up to 130 rpm in whatever my biggest gear is, and not being nervous about speed. But I'm a mediocre climber. Always have been. So I'm more interested in how I'm progressing with the tougher stuff. Elevate helps make sense of Strava logs in useful ways, so it's not just my subjective impressions.

There's another app (currently not being developed, I think), that factored in wind. Big help for distinguishing between my best times wind a tailwind assist compared with neutral wind or headwind on the same segment, direction. I find that very helpful because it's realistic. I have a few top 10s on some tough segments, alongside some very strong local riders including some pros. But the wind factor app makes it clear that I was benefiting greatly from tailwinds, while the other riders had less tailwind or even some headwind or quartering wind.

These apps remove subjectivity, fantasies and clarify where my strengths and weaknesses are, where I'm making progress or regressing. That's more helpful to me than average speeds, power estimates and data that doesn't include real world conditions. It shows that over distance and a range of terrain and conditions, I'm just a very average cyclist and not even particularly strong among 60+ year olds. That's a good thing to know because it motivates me to train with realistic expectations rather than be fooled by appearing to be "as fast as so-and-so" when in reality those other riders could drop me like a rock.

The only downside to Wahoo Fitness app is it shows minimal info via the app. It records a lot of data but doesn't show it. We need to transfer the data to another app or site to access the data. I use Strava as another social network for keeping up with friends so I transfer my activity data from Wahoo Fitness to Strava. But I still choose which activities to share and which to keep private (well, just between me, NSA, Google, Strava, and a few hundred Russian and Chinese hackers... but private by 21st century standards).

Another reason to carry an activated smartphone for emergencies is to have a silent objective witness. By giving Google Maps Timeline permission to record all of our activities by default, it's always on. No need to remember to start it. It's remarkably accurate at guesstimating our mode of travel, whether bike, walking, running, private vehicle or public transportation. This was critical last year when I was hit by a car -- it confirmed my version of the location and incident, time, etc. And it automagically records my many medical appointments, so I don't need to keep a separate journal (although I do for personal notes including subjective impressions of how I'm feeling, pain level, etc).

It's private by default, although we could choose to share it. I don't. Google data cannot be edited, altered or falsified by the user. It can only be deleted (although Google probably keeps it indefinitely anyway). It can be downloaded and converted to another data format for use with our own databases, or apps like Strava. Those can be edited or modified. But not the original file. Also potentially handy for legal purposes, although I don't know whether it's been done yet.
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Old 02-20-19, 01:48 PM
  #22  
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I used Runtastic Roadbike Pro app ($4.99) on an iPhone and paired it with Sunding Bluetooth cadence and speed sensor (Amazon $14.99).
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Old 02-20-19, 04:33 PM
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I use both the Runtastic road cycling app and Strava. I don't feel I'm giving up any privacy with them, but to each their own. Only friends on Strava are people I ride with in real life, and I just have a handful of friends on the Runtastic app, and I don't think any of them actually use it. It's just a good way for my wife to keep track of where I am on long rides because it tracks me in real time. If I thought that was giving up my privacy I'd turn it off.
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Old 02-20-19, 09:10 PM
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I've had a very high fail rate with wireless, no matter how much I've paid for a wireless they all last no longer than 5 years. If you want a reliable computer go wired but you won't win any fashion points. I happen to like Sigma the best of the wired jobs, their buttons don't feel like the contacts are plasticky. The Sigma BC 14.12 has elevation as well.
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Old 02-21-19, 08:02 PM
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Got my Bolt today.

1) Setup was really easy with the app, got my pages set up and I'm sandboxed between the device and the app which will do nicely. Can link and export to virtually any other app if you want.

2) Matches the bike nicely. Glad I picked the red.

3) I'm a little suspicious that the backlight is bright enough. There is no brightness adjustment, just on or off (or on for 5 seconds), and to me it doesn't seem all that bright, but everyone says they have no problem whatsoever reading it in the sun so I'll take their word for it. Screen is easy to read though.

4) I like that it shows a little elevation map on the climbing page.

5) The out front mount is nice, quarter turn mounting is solid and secure. I did initially want to set it so the screen was parallel with the ground, but it was putting too much pressure on the front brake cable, so I eventually relented and set it to match the angle of my stem, which I guess is fine since it's tilted towards me a bit and it's better for the cables. Maybe that makes me a Fred? Probably not anymore so than my stack of spacers, so whatever. Never really thought much about the angle people install their computers at or noticed what other people do.





Overall I'm really happy with it and it seems like a nice piece of equipment. Looking forward to taking a ride with it when the 4 feet of snow in the yard melts in 3-4 months.

Last edited by puma1552; 02-21-19 at 09:21 PM.
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