A good bike computer is one of the most fun and useful accessories that you can have on your bike. Most cycle computers will include a speedometer, odometer, trip meter, the date and time, riding time vs elapsed time and often much more.
The most affordable bike computers are the traditional wheel-magnet models (see the links below for a large selection of these units online) and the most advanced are the GPS Enabled models.
Note: The content on this page primarily references wheel-magnet based bike computers which are less expensive than the GPS enabled models although the GPS based units are much less expensive than they were in the past. For the most advanced (and still affordable) bike computers, see GPS Based Bike Computers.
Recommended Cycle Computer Brands and Online Stores
Note: For the best low-end and high-end models:
See Bike Computers at Amazon for a great selection of inexpensive bike computers as well as high end bike computers from Cateye, Sigma, Schwinn, Garmin and more. www.amazon.com
See Bike Electronics for a great collection of Cateye, Sigma, Polar, Vetta and Garmin bike speedometers, odometers, GPS, etc. They also have a nice comparison feature on the Performance Bike cyclocomputer (bicycle speedometer...) pages. www.performancebike.com
When bike computers first started becoming widely available in bike shops (around the late 1980s) most models were wired (meaning that they had a wire from the base of the unit to the transmitter on the fork). These models are still available and are usually the least expensive.
Some time later the wireless models and GPS based models started to become more common and widely available. The original wireless models were much more expensive than the wired models but there is no longer as much of a price difference as there was in the past. Today it seems like there are more wireless models available than wired models.
Both the Wired and Wireless models (excluding GPS based models) use a magnet that is mounted between the spokes of the front wheel and a transmitter mounted on the fork to monitor the speed and count the times that the wheel turns around for all of their speed and distance calculations.
These wheel-magnet based computers require a wheel size setting to be entered into the unit for accurate readings. Most of these units come with a chart for common wheel size settings or there are a few other ways that you can fine tune the unit.
The Advantages of the wireless models is that they are usually easier to install, you'll have no more problems with tangled or broken wires (especially good for mountain biking) and they have a clean (no wires) look on your bike.
The Disadvantages of the wireless models is that they have additional batteries to replace, are a little more expensive and can sometimes have minor interference problems (I have rarely run into this).
Common Bike Computer Features and Functions
It can be hard to keep up on all of the latest and greatest features and functions of the many cycle computers that come out each year but there are some pretty common functions that most bike computers will have.
For example you will usually have speedometer, and odometer functions, a trip meter, trip distance, the time, ride time, average and maximum riding speeds for your trip.
Some models also have settings for multiple bikes, cadence options (with an additional transmitter), altimeters for elevation stats, outdoor temperature and heart-rate stats on some of the more advanced models.
See Cycle Computer Features and Comparisons for more detailed information on this.
Advanced Features and Functions ~ GPS Based Models
The most advanced bike computers are the GPS Based Cycle Computers.
GPS based bike computers use GPS signals transmitted by multiple satellites to calculate your location, speed and distance information and usually include more advanced features than you get on the lower priced wheel-magnet based bike computers.
Aside from the more advanced features of GPS based models, one of my favorite features is the Internet and Home Computer Download and Upload Options. You have the option to upload the recorded data from your bike computer to the internet or your PC or to download rides, routes, workouts from your home computer to the bike computer.
There are actually some very reasonably priced GPS based models now available.
See Bicycle GPS for more information on these higher-end bike computers and for some good resources where you can get these units online.
Smartphone Bike Computer Apps and Accessories
If you have a smartphone, there are also many bike computer apps now available for your phone (some are free others are not). I have personally only used one of the free smart phone apps and prefer my GPS based unit at this time.
If you prefer a smartphone bike computer app, there are also quite a few accessories available (through the link buttons above) such as handlebar clips for your smartphone and accessories to connect a heart-rate monitor and/or cadence sensor.
Misc. Personal Bicycle Odometer, Speedometer Stats...
I typically reset my odometer at the beginning of each riding season and attempt to break my mileage record each year! My best year so far has been 2182 miles and I generally try to at least break 1,000 miles per season.
FYI: Just for comparisons, if you are interested, I generally average about 12 mph on my bike on flat land with little or no wind... The fastest speed that I have clocked myself at was 39 mph! As I said, this is just for comparison purposes... To some this may seem like a snails pace and 39 mph is no big deal... to others it may seem like racing... I am a little older now, so for all of you girls and boys out there in your 20's these numbers should be real easy to beat :-)
One little note on the 39 mph... I ride a lot, but am a very casual rider (I'm not into racing at all). This is my record going down hill (a moderate hill) and with a very strong wind! I don't know what my fastest speed is on flat land with no wind... (I haven't checked... but I'm sure it's not 39mph).
I have taken quite a few very long rides in one day but only one 100 miler or "century ride". If you work up to it it's not all that hard but it does take most of the day (at my speed anyway).
Anyway, it can really be a lot of fun to track your stats so select the bike computer (speedometer, odometer, trip meter, etc) that works best for you and have fun!
The Ride is the Destination