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Bike computer vs iPhone

Old 11-23-23, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by tFUnK
Four pages of discussion so I hope the OP has it figured out.

As someone who went thru different tools (wheel magnet cyclometer, Garmin GPS, Fitbit watch, modern head unit with GPS/ANT+/BLE), as well as a significant period of going back to "no data", I'll contribute the following:
  1. If you just need speed and distance then any wheel magnet or GPS bike computer will do. You don't need to spend a lot of money on this.
  2. Smartphone: battery life, display timeout, susceptibility to damage following crashes are valid concerns. Also, notifications and other background activity can affect the functionally - ever try to close something or switch between camera and other apps and accidentally kill your RWGPS app in the middle of the ride?
  3. A Garmin or Fitbit watch does the job but glancing at the wrist every time you want to see something can be distracting. Also Fitbit is terrible with respect to losing GPS connectivity and if it's on my wrist I might not notice it until much later (not that there's any corrective action to take if the recording has already started).
  4. I rode many years without having access to real-time ride data. There are benefits to this, especially if coming off of a period of being data-obsessed - it can be more relaxing or allow you to be more present on the ride. But overall having data can be quite beneficial/enjoyable as well.
  5. The only reason I got a modern head unit is to use my radar light. I really would have been happy if the radar light could give me audible alerts without the need for a head unit, but now that I have a head unit, I use it for the following: radar (obviously), cadence and HR (requires additional sensors), real-time metrics on gradient, time of day, ride duration (moving time), temperature - those are the on-ride metrics I find to be helpful to have, even if they're not essential. So in a way, getting a head unit was like a gateway drug into ride data (and sensors) that I didn't really need for many years prior.
Yeah I figured out what I wanted. I really just wanted a small computer so I can see speed, distance and time at a glance.
I put my iphone in a bag after starting map my ride so I can check my route. I just didnít feel comfortable with it mounted on my handlebars plus it being always on drains the battery.
My apple watch tracks my heart rate.
I bought an inexpensive basic cycle computer-Cycplus. It tracks speed and distance using gps. It does what I want.
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Old 11-23-23, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by genejockey
Same. I don't know how other folks' minds work, but I build maps in my head, so after riding around here for >25 years, I have all the roads I like to ride that I can easily get to in my head. BUT we're planning to move across the country in 3-4 years, and all the roads will be new to me! I'll have to build the map afresh.

Speed and HR are the most critical to me, because I know how fast I should be going in any particular place for a given HR.
I figure as long as I am moving my heart must be beating......probably better I don't know what it is or I might have to slow down even slower than I am already going....
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Old 11-23-23, 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by pepperbelly
Have you looked into one of the backpacking small solar panel chargers?
What I have now works fine for what I do. My 30,000 whatever unit external battery can recharge my iPhone easily if I put the phone in airplane mode. No need for an extra item to carry or have to deal with finding a sunny place to put it. Clouds happen. I happened to camp in a city park with power that day.


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Old 11-23-23, 01:48 PM
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For keeping track of new routes to repeat/modify, GPS is probably a must these days.

For merely having real time current speed, avg speed, distance, time stuff there are pretty simplistic bike computers, even wired ones that serve this purpose. I have some old wired Sigma Sport ones that I still use.

But, I take my iPhone in my under saddle bag and wear an iWatch for real time HR, elevation gain. The “close enough” data it gives I look over later.

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Old 11-23-23, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Atlas Shrugged
I believe Garmin and RideWithGPS are some of the most transformative technologies that have exponentially increased my enjoyment of cycling and made it a fantastic part of my life. .
Very well stated and my experience as well. I use that combo as well as TrailForks to create and follow roads and trails I would otherwise be hesitant to take. Very happy with how these technologies have allowed more enjoyable riding experiences.
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Old 11-23-23, 06:01 PM
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Seems like the version of me that jumps on my bike and takes a spin without any devices would have an argument with the version of me that uses my phone to record a jra with strava who would be angry with the version of me that uses Google maps to plot a course to an obscure coffee shop, all of whom would be completely puzzled by the version of me who puts a 400k brevet in my Garmin and uses turn by turn nav. But actually we're all happily coexisting. Weird.
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Old 11-23-23, 06:25 PM
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Originally Posted by downtube42
Seems like the version of me that jumps on my bike and takes a spin without any devices would have an argument with the version of me that uses my phone to record a jra with strava who would be angry with the version of me that uses Google maps to plot a course to an obscure coffee shop, all of whom would be completely puzzled by the version of me who puts a 400k brevet in my Garmin and uses turn by turn nav. But actually we're all happily coexisting. Weird.
How many watts are all of you putting out?
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Old 11-23-23, 08:28 PM
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This thread is better than ďAlien vs Predator.Ē
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Old 11-25-23, 07:17 AM
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I use my iPhone 13mini in a Rokform case and handlebar mount to track mileage and route. I don't keep screen on so it doesn't kill the battery. We just ride rails to trails paths so hopefully no crashes happen but phone should survive if one does.
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Old 01-22-24, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by saraturner3
Some people just like cycling computers because they are already used to them.
I started with a speedometer in a can which was mechanically activated by a flange stuck between the spokes. Not accurate in the least, but it was fun. Then moved up to very crude magnetic speedos with a wire running down the fork, which gave speed, ave speed and distance and time. Outrageous amount of info! Now I have a Garmin with satellite GPS that is so sophisticated, it slices and presents 25 pieces of data in any format I want, has rear radar, alerts me to messages, weather conditions and provides turn by turn navigation. Can’t imagine what they will be like in another 10 years.

Edit: My iPhone is always in my jersey pocket in case of emergency (mine or others) plus it relays messages, incoming calls to Garmin.
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Old 01-22-24, 10:45 AM
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GPS vs wheel circumference

Originally Posted by pepperbelly
Are the computers that track speed and distance using gps less accurate than one using a wheel sensor?
I've run a Garmin 64sx for several years with a Cateye Strada, overkill perhaps. I try to correlate the distance readings between them by adjusting the Cateye wheel circumference setting. I load the Garmin tracks into BaseCamp and data from both into a spreadsheet. My assumption is that the GPS distance is usually a bit less than the Cateye distance, since GPS uses more widely-spaced breadcrumbs than the Cateye, which may cut corners more on sharp turns. A straight out-and-back track is most likely to be accurate. If the GPS signal goes weird, however, and it puts you on the other side of the river from where you are, or some such nonsense, the distance on the GPS can exceed the Cateye. Sometimes it does that anyway, for no reason apparent to me. I think of my collection of BaseCamp tracks as the functional equivalent of a personal diary, and the distance correlation as a challenging puzzle.
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Old 01-22-24, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Anicius
I've run a Garmin 64sx for several years with a Cateye Strada, overkill perhaps. I try to correlate the distance readings between them by adjusting the Cateye wheel circumference setting. I load the Garmin tracks into BaseCamp and data from both into a spreadsheet. My assumption is that the GPS distance is usually a bit less than the Cateye distance, since GPS uses more widely-spaced breadcrumbs than the Cateye, which may cut corners more on sharp turns. A straight out-and-back track is most likely to be accurate. If the GPS signal goes weird, however, and it puts you on the other side of the river from where you are, or some such nonsense, the distance on the GPS can exceed the Cateye. Sometimes it does that anyway, for no reason apparent to me. I think of my collection of BaseCamp tracks as the functional equivalent of a personal diary, and the distance correlation as a challenging puzzle.
I always thought of gps as being accurate but I guess itís accurate enough.
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Old 01-22-24, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by pepperbelly
I always thought of gps as being accurate but I guess itís accurate enough.
I agree. What I do with mileage and GPS tracks is a hobby pursuit,
Another point I will mention regarding the Cateye. I often have inadvertently zeroed out my mileage by holding down the button while leaning over or handling the bike. The Strada has a second circumference setting and mileage reading that stays put if you zero out the main reading., It's intended to allow a wheel swap or use of the Cateye on two different bikes, but I rely on it when I accidently kill the main display, A second mileage reading also lets me independently check mileage between points during a ride. The Cateye, on a multiday trip, can be used to track daily mileage without having to mess with the GPS. There are some likely variations with the Cateye mileage such as tire pressure and riding surface, Changing tires will probably throw it off. Using mile markers on a bike path to calibrate wheel circumference is pretty unreliable if you're shooting for accuracy. A realignment that is longer than the original path will throw off mile markers that follow it, and markers are sometimes planted elsewhere when the surface at the actual mileage point is inhospital to a physical marker. But I do think that a properly calibrated wheel circumference may be a tad bit more accurate than GPS, at least for day rides. The problem is the calibration,
For me, the main point of the GPS is to display and record tracks and terrain. The Garmin I have can use rechargeable NI-MH batteries, a savings over the long haul. It's survived falls at speed from the bike, is waterproof, and uses buttons rather than a touch screen, which I like,
Happy riding!
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Old 01-22-24, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Anicius
I agree. What I do with mileage and GPS tracks is a hobby pursuit,
Another point I will mention regarding the Cateye. I often have inadvertently zeroed out my mileage by holding down the button while leaning over or handling the bike. The Strada has a second circumference setting and mileage reading that stays put if you zero out the main reading., It's intended to allow a wheel swap or use of the Cateye on two different bikes, but I rely on it when I accidently kill the main display, A second mileage reading also lets me independently check mileage between points during a ride. The Cateye, on a multiday trip, can be used to track daily mileage without having to mess with the GPS. There are some likely variations with the Cateye mileage such as tire pressure and riding surface, Changing tires will probably throw it off. Using mile markers on a bike path to calibrate wheel circumference is pretty unreliable if you're shooting for accuracy. A realignment that is longer than the original path will throw off mile markers that follow it, and markers are sometimes planted elsewhere when the surface at the actual mileage point is inhospital to a physical marker. But I do think that a properly calibrated wheel circumference may be a tad bit more accurate than GPS, at least for day rides. The problem is the calibration,
For me, the main point of the GPS is to display and record tracks and terrain. The Garmin I have can use rechargeable NI-MH batteries, a savings over the long haul. It's survived falls at speed from the bike, is waterproof, and uses buttons rather than a touch screen, which I like,
Happy riding!
The gps I am using is a simple computer that measures speed, distance and time using gps. It has no mapping capability. It also is difficult to use so I may look into a Cateye.
I use map my ride on my phone and can pull up maps of course. I keep it in a bag or my jersey pocket so it isnít as useful as one mounted in front of me, but I ride on streets or paved trails so it would be hard to get lost. I bought this to replace a wheel mounted sensor computer. All I want is a computer that is easy to use and gives my speed, distance snd time. If it has other features great but not necessary.
I have the rest of the winter to look around.
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Old 01-22-24, 03:55 PM
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For simplicity and cost, if you don't need something that displays maps or tracks, I'd go with a unit that reads wheel revolutions. Swap out the battery (or batteries, usually something like a CR2032) every year, logging your mileage before replacing the battery. You can use the unit's instructions to set wheel circumference or ride it over a known distance and make adjustments to match. If the circumference is accurate, the other stats are likely to be accurate, since they result from math applied to the # of revolutions and the elapsed time.
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Old 01-22-24, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Anicius
For simplicity and cost, if you don't need something that displays maps or tracks, I'd go with a unit that reads wheel revolutions. Swap out the battery (or batteries, usually something like a CR2032) every year, logging your mileage before replacing the battery. You can use the unit's instructions to set wheel circumference or ride it over a known distance and make adjustments to match. If the circumference is accurate, the other stats are likely to be accurate, since they result from math applied to the # of revolutions and the elapsed time.
I got several of those in a drawer since switching to my phone. They're wireless, use a magnet on the spoke and generally cost less than $20 bucks. The CR2032 batteries last about a year unless you leave your bike out in the cold.
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Old 01-22-24, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by SpedFast
I got several of those in a drawer since switching to my phone. They're wireless, use a magnet on the spoke and generally cost less than $20 bucks. The CR2032 batteries last about a year unless you leave your bike out in the cold.
Do you just have your phone in a mount on your handlebars?
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Old 01-22-24, 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by pepperbelly
Do you just have your phone in a mount on your handlebars?
Yes. I have a Samsung A14 with the super large battery. I use a Ram X mount, but only because that's what we used for our gear when I did search and rescue. I'm familiar with Ram mounts and trust them. But if I had to start from scratch, I would look at a quad lock or even one of the cheap quad lock knock offs. With all the electronics turned on including blue tooth sensors and tunes and the screen on bright, it uses about 10% battery/hour of operation whereas my wife's Iphone would be dead in 2 hours I can go 10 plus without worry. Lately, I've started only use the sensors when I'm on the trainer. On the road I use a GPS app that does everything and then some. HTH
https://cimg1.ibsrv.net/gimg/bikefor...8728a2afb6.jpg
Not sure if I did the link right. But it should take you to the image. I only use the Garmin GPS when I'm geocaching, it's on a Ram mount too.

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Old 01-23-24, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by SpedFast
Yes. I have a Samsung A14 with the super large battery. I use a Ram X mount, but only because that's what we used for our gear when I did search and rescue. I'm familiar with Ram mounts and trust them. But if I had to start from scratch, I would look at a quad lock or even one of the cheap quad lock knock offs. With all the electronics turned on including blue tooth sensors and tunes and the screen on bright, it uses about 10% battery/hour of operation whereas my wife's Iphone would be dead in 2 hours I can go 10 plus without worry. Lately, I've started only use the sensors when I'm on the trainer. On the road I use a GPS app that does everything and then some. HTH
https://cimg1.ibsrv.net/gimg/bikefor...8728a2afb6.jpg
Not sure if I did the link right. But it should take you to the image. I only use the Garmin GPS when I'm geocaching, it's on a Ram mount too.
I have an I-phone 12. If it eats battery life I will just get a stand alone computer.
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Old 01-23-24, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by pepperbelly
I have an I-phone 12. If it eats battery life I will just get a stand alone computer.
Battery life is the main reason not to use a phone as a bike computer.

Other reasons include:
  • phone apps tend to not work well when they lose cell signal
  • phones are relatively expensive and fragile
  • most phones don't connect to Ant+ sensors
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Old 01-23-24, 01:54 PM
  #121  
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
Battery life is the main reason not to use a phone as a bike computer.

Other reasons include:
  • phone apps tend to not work well when they lose cell signal
  • phones are relatively expensive and fragile
  • most phones don't connect to Ant+ sensors

I think someone said that before.

Is Cateye the go-to brand of cycling computers?
I bought a cheap computer that is not user friendly and instructions are not helpful.
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Old 01-23-24, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by pepperbelly
Is Cateye the go-to brand of cycling computers?
Cateye was a standard brand for bike computers in the pre-GPS days. They made simple computers that were very easy to use. I assume they still do.

Since GPS bike computers have become dominant, the two brands that I see the most today are Garmin and Wahoo.

If all you want from a bike computer are speed and distance, Cateye is a decent choice.
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