The best bike computers for triathlon tested, rated and reviewed for 2012

We fitted these computers to a number of bikes and rode with them to assess their ability to deliver the promised data in real-world conditions. At this time of year, real-world conditions tend to be cold, mucky and wet more often than they’re clear and fine.

We spent hours logging up miles and prodding away at these units while wearing chunky winter gloves to see if they work the way you need them to. All the models tested here are wireless so there were no issues with wires getting snagged.

Other devices, such as lights, mobile phones and heart-rate monitors were used in conjunction with the computers to check for any signal interference or break-up.

Find more group tests from Triathlon Plus in our other best triathlon gear reviews.

VDO A4+ Best Bike Computers

VDO A4+

VDO A4+
£23
www.paligap.cc

Truth is, many of the 20-something functions on computers rarely, if ever, get used. So why not save money by trimming back to the bare essentials with the VDO A4+? The head unit is small and neat, though the digits are still usefully large at 12mm. With just four functions you’re only ever a couple of clicks away from every reading. The A4+ was all we needed for the standard, out-and-back rides on our regular routes. Feature-hungry tech-heads or pro athletes may desire more info, but we have a warm feeling for the good old days where we just wanted to know how fast, how far and how long we were going. We made firm friends with the VDO and think you will too.

Verdict
Does just what’s necessary, but that’s the whole point.

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Crops CP-W1009 Best Bike Computers

Crops CP-W1009

Crops CP-W1009
£29.99
www.bob-elliot.co.uk

This small, nine-function unit has a comparatively large screen. The main digits are 18mm tall and easy to see but secondary info is only 5mm and can be easily missed. A single button is used to select functions and gives an audible click. We managed okay with lightweight full-finger gloves, but it took more concentration to ensure a clean press with thicker, winter gloves. As well as all the usual speed and distance data, the Crops also calculates calorie consumption, which is an interesting extra function. The LED test button on the fork sensor is a particularly useful feature as dead or depleted sensor batteries are often the reason that wireless systems fail.

Verdict
Outstanding value; could use a narrower,  taller button.

Performance 3/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Top Value Award, issue 48

Blackburn Atom SL3.0 Best Bike Computers

Blackburn Atom SL3.0

Blackburn Atom SL3.0
£39.99
www.madison.co.uk

We fell in love with the Atom’s angular aesthetics, which look equally good mounted on the bars or stem. Set-up is a five-minute job and the single button uses a left/right tilt to activate either of the two switches. The button’s action is positive and the different modes are sensibly ordered. Data updating was fast and the scan function lets you see all of it by continuously scrolling through each mode. The head unit’s mount is worthy of note for its Velcro strap that makes fitting exceptionally quick and easy. It’s a preferable alternative to the standard-issue zip ties, which make full removal a faff. If only they’d do something similar for the fork sensor mount.

Verdict
Great looking and easy to mount. Good enough to topple the excellent Cateye Strada.

Performance 4/5
Value 5/5
Overall 5/5

Triathlon Plus Gold Award, issue 48

BBB Microboard 13 Best Bike Computers

BBB Microboard 13

BBB Microboard 13
£47.95
www.windwave.co.uk

BBB kit is usually well sorted and value packed and the Microboard 13 is both. It can be fitted to the stem or bars with zip ties or, for greater ease and neatness, rubber O rings (à la Garmin GPS units). There’s a useful low battery power indicator on the head unit and the fork sensor (like the Crops computer) and even a small screwdriver to remove the battery cover when you need to fit a new one. Set-up isn’t quite as simple as some others, with a slightly finnickity button sequence. Once sorted though, the action was simple and the data access from the two-deck readout, easy. The unit saw off a thorough test soaking, so waterproofing seems suitable for UK winters.

Verdict
Tricky set-up, but solid, if unspectacular, performance.

Performance 3/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5

Cateye Strada Wireless Best Bike Computers

Cateye Strada Wireless

Cateye Strada Wireless
£49.99
www.zyro.co.uk

For the often-busy places that tri bike bars tend to be, the diminutive Strada is ideal. It’s only 3cm wide and 4.5cm tall, so takes up very little room, but with 19mm tall primary digits, it’s also one of the easiest to read. Getting at the other data is pretty easy too – pushing on the screen activates a small button underneath the unit to click through to the next function. Even with chunky gloves it’s easy to do. We like the basic training aid of the pace arrow indicator to keep you bang on your average speed (or improve on it). Trying to keep the arrow pointing upwards became quite addictive and we used the feature at least as much as any other the Strada possessed.

Verdict
Simple but effective, the Strada is a great choice for triathletes.

Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 4/5

Knog N.E.R.D 12 Best Bike Computers

Knog N.E.R.D 12

Knog N.E.R.D 12
£63.99
www.todayscyclist.co.uk

Knog’s cartoonish, oversized, silicone-encased computers might not be everyone’s cup of tea – being at odds with the trend for smaller, slicker designs – but don’t let their looks deter you. They are very usable devices. You toggle through the N.E.R.D’s 12 functions by pushing the screen, which is fiendishly easy even with thick gloves. Your current speed remains on the screen while you scan through the other modes and being displayed in 18mm-tall digits, it remains clear. Weatherproofing is good, but it’s not totally waterproof. Set-up is easy and quick but, as with all these computers, they prefer bar mounting to stem mounting for optimal information transfer.

Verdict
Chunky, crashproof, easy to use – even with gloves. Not totally watertight.

Performance 3/5
Value 2/5
Overall 3/5

PRO Scio Alti Best Bike Computers

PRO Scio Alti

PRO Scio Alti
£89.99
www.madison.co.uk

With 16 functions, the Pro Scio Alti covers all the normal data and offers some other useful trimmings too, even if its triple-deck display means there’s a lot to look at. Its especially useful for those who like climbing, with functions covering a range of data related to your altitude in real time or cumulatively. Add in temperature, a pace arrow, a backlight for winter night rides and low-battery indicators on the head unit and sensor and you’ve got a computer that really can cope with a pro’s demands. The Scio Alti’s set-up was a bit more involved but it’s only a few more minutes of head scratching for a worthwhile extra haul of training aids.

Verdict
Everything you could want short of GPS and heart rate.

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Peak Performer Award, issue 48

Wahoo Fitness Blue SC bundle Best Bike Computers

Wahoo Fitness Blue SC bundle

Wahoo Fitness Blue SC bundle
£109
www.paligap.cc

If you’ve got an iPhone and don’t mind strapping it to your bars, then Wahoo’s bluetooth hardware can turn it into a decent bike computer. The extra hardware, in the form of a speed/cadence sensor (£42), is essential however because although using the free, GPS-driven Wahoo fitness app alone is possible, its sampling rate is so slow that speed feedback is comically erratic. Once the sensor (and the £67 HRM belt, if you want) is installed, however, your iPhone becomes a comprehensive ride computer. Data and maps can be emailed or uploaded direct to all the major training apps straight from Wahoo and battery drain is bearable too.

Verdict
Comical using GPS alone; highly proficient with the sensors on your bike.

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Mio Cyclo 105 Best Bike Computers

Mio Cyclo 105

Mio Cyclo 105
£200
www.paligap.cc

Mio’s GPS bike computer is a ride data bargain as long as you don’t want interval sessions or instant Mac link-up. The compact head unit gives up to six programmable cells for the HRM and cadence/speed sensors or any other ANT+ device you’re using. There are plenty of display options for each window and mode, including all the usual speed and distance data along with your calories burned and altitude. The pert side buttons are easy to find in gloves and the soft ‘heartware’ belt is comfy and consistently connected too. ‘Training sessions’ are just simple time, distance or pace targets though and Mac compatibility for the linked MioShare site is still in the pipeline.

Verdict
Everything you need as long as that’s not interval sessions or Mac compatibility.

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Bryton Rider 40T Best Bike Computers

Bryton Rider 40T

Bryton Rider 40T
£219.99
www.zyro.co.uk

Bryton’s neat Rider 40T is a full function data collector at a cracking price. The small screen is okay to use and there’s a vast choice of data options from whatever ANT+ HRM, speed/cadence sensors you’re using. The hard buttons are easy to find in gloves, operation is intuitive, pre-set training sessions can be customised and the Bryton Bridge upload site is Mac compatible. There are a couple of niggles, however. Firstly, it only displays seconds on the ride timer if you run an odd number of display cells and, secondly, there’s no direct Strava link-up. Aside from those minor grumbles, though, the Rider 40T remains an impressive performer for the price.

Verdict
An impressively capable and competitively priced performer.

Performance 4/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Top Value Award, issue 48

Polar RC3 GPS Best Bike Computers

Polar RC3 GPS

Polar RC3 GPS
£249.50
www.polar.fi/en

Polar’s wrist-mounted GPS unit isn’t just for cycling and offers triathletes full cross-training capability. The RC3 has a small screen but ditches Polar’s separate strap-on GPS tracker. Its seven display options show three bike and body data lines clearly and rechargeable battery life is surprisingly good at over 12 hours. There are no interval timers or ANT+ sensors but a cadence sensor is only £20 more. Twenty-five years of HRM experience and coaching evolution are packed into the ‘Smart Training’ features and the polarpersonaltrainer.com upload site. There’s no map element either, but you can download route traces and data to Mac or PC.

Verdict
Polar’s integrated GPS is a miniature multisport marvel.

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

Bryton Rider 50T GPS Best Bike Computers

Bryton Rider 50T GPS

Bryton Rider 50T GPS
£269.99
www.zyro.co.uk

The biggest difference between the Bryton and the more expensive GPS units here is that it lacks a touchscreen. Instead you get buttons and a small joystick. It’s a simpler approach that works better with a diminutive screen, particularly if you’re wearing thick gloves. The small screen means a bit of squinting but the unit’s compact enough to be unobtrusive on the bike. The T version comes with ANT+ heart rate and cadence sensors and syncs with most power meters. It’s PC/Mac compatible, via the Bryton Bridge website, and lets you customise training programmes and review your performance post-ride – although, it’s a laborious rather than intuitive process at first.

Verdict
Excellent price and comprehensive data despite a small screen.

Performance 4/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Gold Award, issue 48

Garmin Edge 500 Best Bike Computers

Garmin Edge 500

Garmin Edge 500
£279.99
www.madison.co.uk

Garmin’s GPS bike computer is expensive but is unmatched for user-friendly operation and performance tracking. The head unit and its mount take up minimal space and the three customisable data lines are easy to read. Four side buttons make for easy scrolling and backlight activation. GPS data reacts quickly and long-term use confirms it’s a reliable unit. The garminconnect.com site is excellent and lets you easily upload your performance info to share or show-off to your pals. It’s £200 for a basic GPS computer (plus £30 for the special red version we tested) plus £50 more for HRM belt and cadence sensor.

Verdict
A ‘cheaper’, high-performance alternative from Garmin.

Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 4/5

Garmin Edge 800 Best Bike Computers

Garmin Edge 800

Garmin Edge 800
£349.99
www.madison.co.uk

Garmin’s Edge 800 is a sleek unit and the simple-but-effective bar/stem mount has been widely copied for good reason. The touchscreen controls and operating menus are also more intuitive than most and work okay with gloves as long as you can prod accurately. The screen is small though and can be hard to see in low-angled light (backlighting and brightness can be altered, albeit at the expense of battery life). Pricing is premium and the cadence and HRM bundle adds another £100 (OS Explorer mapping is another £199.99 for the whole UK). The garminconnect.com website sets the benchmark for easy PC/Mac reviewing and up/downloading and sharing.

Verdict
Benchmark user-friendliness and performance but expensive.

Performance 5/5
Value 3/5
Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Peak Performer Award, issue 48

Mio Cyclo 305HC Best Bike Computers

Mio Cyclo 305HC

Mio Cyclo 305HC
£350
www.paligap.cc

Mio’s top navigation unit is also a comprehensive bike computer with up to eight customisable cells displaying data from the HRM belt, cadence and wheel sensor or any other ANT+ compatible devices you might have. The touchscreen works with gloves too, although the indistinct single button is more of a struggle. Mapping is currently limited to the installed ‘road atlas’-style Euro road map, but you can download routes from the MioShare site or hit the ‘Surprise Me’ button for a random local ride. It’s not Mac compatible yet and the non-intuitive menus can be frustratingly slow to react and program. It’s also one of the more expensive GPS units too.

Verdict
A pricey option given its limited compatibility and user-friendliness.

Performance 3/5
Value 2/5
Overall 3/5

Overall Verdict

Best Triathlon Bike ComputersThere’ still a place for ‘simple’ bike computers but GPS technology is making a big impact by allowing navigation and a host of extra capabilities, as well as bringing smartphones into the equation. For this test we have split the computers into two categories, with and without GPS systems and that is why there are two winners for each award.

The Wahoo Fitness bundle could bring about the extinction of standalone GPS units. Its user-friendly free app and Bluetooth sensors provide a comprehensive and convenient method of tracking your performance. It just needs to be able to read your speed precisely by GPS alone. Until then, it’s Garmin that sets the standard with Bryton leading the assault on the bargain GPS front.

As for the non-GPS computers, the Crops wins the value award by offering the same functions as many other units at nearly half the price. The Cateye Strada’s small size and glove-proof performance made it a notable candidate but when it came to the units that made the strongest case for staying on our bikes, the Pro Scio Alti was the runaway winner. At nearly £100, it’s pricey for a ‘simple’ computer but it allows you to change the focus of your training by tracking altitude gained as well as speed and distance. However, it’s Blackburn’s Atom 3.0SL that comes out on top overall. It’s cheap, easy to read, performs well and looks great.