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The GO Outdoors Guide To Personal Computers/ Cycling Computers

Personal computers for bikes and cyclists can be categorized as either multi function computers or heart rate monitors. This guide concerns the multi functional varieties of computer.

Many are designed with multiple functions, up to 50, whereas some simply monitor your heart rate, or have around 10 key functions that help you improve your speed or stamina. 

Personal Computers have been sold since the 1980’s and have filtered down from pro athletes using them in competition, to cyclists using them for daily use.

There are a variety of functions within personal computers, and prices vary. Many calculate common areas such as Speed, Distance, Heat Rate, Calories Burnt and your heart rate , and other features can also be found in a personal computer, all dependent on how you train and what your goals are. 

Personal computers fit to the bike via wired areas, and should come with full instructions for simple DIY fitting at home. A GO Outdoors in store trained expert can also fit your computer for you, or explain any functions you are unsure of.

Cycling Computers- Wired or Wireless?

A fitted personal computer (Wired)

A wired bike computer is a monitor that comes attached to your bike. Fixed styles can be useful for regular riders as they don’t need to be adjusted or fixed on before use.They will need to be fitted with care to avoid tangling and interference with your bike.

A wireless personal computer

This is designed be mounted to multiple bikes or to your own as preferred. These can prove useful off the bike when used as an on the go pedometer, and are great for casual riders. Wireless computers can be removed which is also a good feature for urban riders who may be at a higher risk of theft.

What Personal Computer To Choose - The Best For You!

The best way to decide what to buy is to look at what your needs are. The more features, the more expensive the device will be.

Interactivity with your PC or laptop is a new feature with many devices, whereby you can download your data onto your computer for analysis and tracking.
If you will use this feature, then this could be a great purchase and could help aid your training and progress. However, if you are more of a fair weather cyclist, or if you lack specific goals, this could be unsuitable for you and will just cost more, for little gains.

Bear in mind you may want a computer with an included mount- otherwise you will need to buy a mount that can hold your computer safely to your handlebars.

What to look for in a bike computer

Buttons- Can you use them? How about with gloves on? Some cycle computers use a one button function that works like a PC screen, allowing you to choose multiple functions from within one button.

Display- Is the display clear and readable? Is there a backlight for night time riding?

Functions- How many functions does your computer have- and how many do you need, or put differently- will you use them all?

(Most have a standard range of features, but sometimes these can be out. features such as calorie counts in computers are often wildy out of range as many are programmed to a set weight point, such as 150lb. This can put the calorie burn estimate out of range lower or higher, depending if you are heavier or lighter than this set point.)

Size- Bicycle computer sizes can vary, but most should fit in the palm of your hand. Your choice should be where you want to locate the personal computer, making sure it doesn’t hinder your movement. Systems do not vary much in weight, so choose based on functions, not a difference in grammes.

Functions Of A Personal Computer

Functions you should be looking for vary on what device you choose. From the ease of set up for a handlebar mounted computer, to the simplicity download your information, you need a personal computer that can function with ease.

Aim to choose a device that is both reliable and sturdy. Look for tough casing made from webbed areas or plastic, as well as a waterproof covering so it is protected from impact.

Below are some of the features you are likely to find within a personal computer. (These can vary with price, less costly models will contain less of the features.)

  • Current Speed ‘Speedometer’- Kmh or Mph – shows effort put into your ride
  • ‘Odometer’ or Trip Distance - Track how far you went in Kilometres or Miles – shows distance in your preferred measurements 
  • 12/24 Hour clock or a digital clock- keep track of time. 
  • Average speed – Measured by the revolutions of the wheels- an accurate way of measuring effort and motion
  • ‘Cadence’- How fast the pedal rotations are, measured by the crank. 
  • Speed Comparator- Compares lasts week’s efforts with today’s. 
  • Riding Time – overall ride times help you measure progress 
  • Re-set of trip distance – For return journeys 
  • Heart Rate (HR) / pulse monitor- allows your to monitor your efforts accurately 
  • Calorie counter- a way of measuring the perceived calories expended 
  • Stopwatch for racing and timing- A great function for use when training 
  • Freeze frame memory 
  • Temperature- Centigrade or Fahrenheit 
  • Alarm Clock- perfect for getting you up on a cycle tour 
  • Illumination -for night vision 
  • Heart rate indicator- helps you keep your heart rate at optimum levels 
  • Pedometer 
  • ‘Save’ functions to record information 
  • Distance above sea level- allows you to calculate effort when on an incline with altitude considered
  • Tool free mounting systems- inbuilt for ease of use these make it easy to set up 
  • Downloading Capabilities 
  • Reset- Reset of all main functions

Fitting A Personal Computer

  • Make sure you get a screen with the right font and screen size that makes it readable as you ride. 
  • Test your personal computer if possible for visibility, and also look at screens that can shield the device from the sun’s glare. 
  • Look for buttons that you can work with with gloves on in the winter
  •  If you are a regular rider, you may want to a personal computer that can let you know your average speed and pace, which can be useful for serious training, helping you discover your growing potential with each ride.
  •  If you ride a bike with oversize suspension forks, look for a personal computer which can fit these appropriately.

If you are in any doubt, see an in store GO Outdoors trained cycling expert who will be happy to help you fit your cycling computer.