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Asking the Right Questions: Buying a Bike Computer

You already know that riding with a cycling computer can be a huge benefit to your ride. Cycling computers can give you the metrics to help you improve faster, prevent injury, and ride more safely- oh, and tell you your maximum speed, of course! Cycling computers are available in a variety of sizes, and shapes, to performs a variety of functions. Before choosing one for yourself, here are a few questions to ask yourself so that you’re familiar with the technology!


What do you want to know?

If all you care about is your maximum speed, or how far you go on a ride, there isn’t any need to spend the extra dough on a really high-end computer. Your phone, when paired with software like the Topeak PanoBike App will do the basics just fine, and can save you a bunch of money. See below for more details!

The Panobike+ App is free to download

The Panobike+ App is free to download



The more you need to know, the higher-end a computer you’ll need. While speed, distance and time come on every computer, advanced functions, like 2-bike memory, temperature sensors, or wireless capability only come at a higher price tag.

How do you know how many features you need to purchase? It depends on your budget, and what you’re hoping to do with the information you gather.


Wired or Wireless?

This really only applies to more entry level computers, as all computers above a certain price point will be wireless automatically. Wireless computers are significantly easier to set up, to transfer to other bikes, and to ride with. Wired computers require more setup (routing the wire) but are less expensive. Wireless is considered a better buy overall, with options like the Wahoo RFLKT starting just over $100.


The Wahoo RFLKT Wireless










Are you using it for training purposes?

This is an important question to ask early on, as investing in a computer without enough features to keep up with your training will be frustrating in the long run. Training without a computer is possible, but considerably more difficult if you’re trying to get the most out of your time on the bike. A good bike computer is key in quantifying your progress, so you have a better idea of what you need to work on. Wahoo’s Elemnt is the best training computer we’ve tried.

178320-01 front3

Wahoo’s Elemnt GPS Computer










Do you need to track heart rate or cadence?

Two key training factors that a good computer, like the Topeak Panocomputer can help you track, are heart rate and cadence. Tracking both while training is key to getting the most out of your rides, as you can easily track your weaknesses, and work to bolster them. For all the information you need on using heart rate, head to this article!

The Topeak Panocomputer is a wireless way to track training metrics

The Topeak Panocomputer is a wireless way to track training metrics











How about power output?

Do you want to know how much power you’re putting out at any point in your ride? How about the ability to review your training rides when you get home to see what you need to work on? Those are both available, with computers like the Wahoo Elemnt, and a power meter like SRAM’s Quarq cranks.


What about your phone?

With the proper equipment, your smartphone can be almost as functional as a full-blown high-end training computer, at a lower pricepoint (As you’ve already bought the expensive part!) Your phone is already GPS-enabled, so mapping isn’t a problem, and with free apps from Wahoofitness and Kurt Kinetic, you need very little to put your phone to work as a training tool. The accessories to budget for are:


406110-011. A case to hold the phone on your bike (becuase you need to be able to see it to use much of the functionality in real-time)





178353-012. A cadence pickup (to measure your pedalling speed)





178350-013. A heart rate monitor. Most phones only communicate with bluetooth, so ensure that you grab accessories like the Wahoo Tickr, which will communicate with your device.




And there you have it! These questions will give you the knowledge you need to walk into your Live to Play Sports dealer and purchase the computer that’s best suited to your riding style. Remember that your dealer is a valuable resource for additional information, suggestions, and setup- they’ll be happy to help you find training rides and share their own stories as well!

Happy riding!


Derek Kidd BioFooter