How to choose your GPS or cycle computer

Knowledge is power and our range of GPS (Global Positioning System) and cycling computers will arm you with all the knowledge you need: where you’re going, where you’ve been, how far, how fast, how long, and much more besides. You can even share it, networked via live mapping apps. We’ve got options to suit every budget and riding need, and this guide will help you find the right one for you. 

The first thing to decide is whether you want a simple cycling computer or a more advanced GPS unit. While there is overlap in functionality, a basic cycle computer and a top end GPS are very different things in terms of what they can offer. Which you choose depends on how much information you need, what you want to do with it, and your budget. 

The simplest cycling computers display a core range of data in real time. The more data you want the more you can expect to pay. You are entering GPS territory if you want to add in networked data such as mapping and weather – we have some very affordable units starting with the Bryton 15 at £49.99. 

Cycle computers: Wired or wireless?

Basic cycle computers, like the B'Twin 100 Wired Cycle Computer,use a wire between a magnetic sensor on the fork and a head unit on the handlebar. Measuring the spinning of the wheel allows the computer to give you speed and distance information on your ride.

Wireless cycle computers, like the B'Twin 120 Wireless Cyclometer,can be easier to install and look neater because there's no cable to route between the sensor and the head unit. Mountain bikers don't need to worry about a wire getting caught on suspension or overhanging twigs either.

Choosing your functions

The most affordable cycle computers stick to the most basic ride information. The B’Twin 100 Wired Cycle Computer, for example, gives you your current speed, average speed, ride distance, total distance, and time. Go up to something like the B’Twin 500 Wireless Cyclometer and you’ll get extra features like a stopwatch, your maximum speed and a temperature readout. The Sigma Sport BC 9.16 ATS Wireless Cyclometer allows you to see the number of calories you’ve burned while the Sigma Sport BC 9 16.16 STS gives you an estimated time of arrival at your destination.  The Sigma Sports BC 14.16 STS Wireless Cyclometer includes an altimeter and a cadence sensor that tells you how fast you're turning the pedals. It can also communicate wirelessly with Android smartphones using the free Sigma Link app, allowing you to program and download ride data.

You get the idea: spending more money on a cycling computer gets you more functions!

Switching to GPS

GPS cycle computers use satellite-based technology to track your position and speed. This means there's no need for a magnetic sensor – everything is contained within the head unit, so there's less clutter on your bike.

GPS stands for Global Positioning System, a service provided by the US government, although cycle computers typically use other satellite positioning systems as well, reducing the possibility of a dropped signal. 

The Bryton Rider 15 is an inexpensive GPS Cycle computer that offers up to 30 functions, as well as a customisable display that allows you to see the information that interests you most. It can show data from any Bluetooth sensors you have, such as a heart rate monitor, it is waterproof, and you get up to 16 hours of use between charges.

The Bryton Rider 15 doesn't offer on-screen mapping but you can download your rides to Bryton's online app which acts as a training log, and have it automatically sync with popular cycling websites/apps like Strava and TrainingPeaks.

Navigational features

Higher end GPS cycle computers offer navigational features to help you explore new areas. The Bryton Rider 420, for instance, gives you turn-by-turn directions for following a pre-determined route when connected to Bryton's smart phone Active App, with road names, distance and directions before every turn. 

The Bryton 450E, aimed at mountain bikers, comes preloaded with OpenStreetMap mapping, allowing you to find trails and decide on the best direction to head. It offers up to 78 functions, including a display of the gear you're currently using if you have a compatible electronic shifting system.

Getting a Garmin

Garmin is the best known brand in GPS technology, its Edge range of cycle computers having proved hugely popular over many years.

The Garmin Edge 130 is a small yet powerful option that can communicate with both Bluetooth and ANT+ sensors, so you can have data from a power meter displayed on the screen, for example, along with your choice from a huge amount of other information. 

The navigation features are basic but you can get turn prompts for following a route, a sharp display, and all of the information on your rides is downloadable to various cycling apps. This allows you to check out your routes and see how your training is going.

Spend more on the Garmin Edge 520 Plus and you get mapping and navigation functions, including re-routing if you go off course, plus a full-colour display that's easy to read. If you want to improve your fitness, it offers loads of features that'll help you get there. For example, you can design a detailed session on Garmin's Connect app and the Edge 520 will guide you through it out on the road. It's a really clever device.

If you’re not interested in the training-focused features, the Garmin Edge Explore concentrates on mapping and navigation. It comes with a large touchscreen (39mm x 65mm) and voice navigation, and you can create courses on the device itself. The Round-Trip Course feature is handy. You select a distance and a direction and the computer will suggest up to three routes for you to follow. 

Sharing with Strava and other fitness apps

All of the Bryton and Garmin GPS computers available at Decathlon can communicate with Strava and other popular web-based fitness platforms like TrainingPeaks. 

If you own a Garmin Edge cycling computer you can have all of the data it collects automatically transferred to Garmin’s own Connect tool which you can view on the web or as a mobile app. You’ll be able to see a map of where you’ve ridden, along with dozens of other details about your performance.

You can also set things up so that the data is sent automatically to Strava, allowing you to see how your times over different segments (sections of road and off-road) compare with those of other riders.

If your GPS has navigational capability (see above), you can plan rides on one of these platforms, send them to your device, and then follow them out on the roads or trails.