Which bike GPS is best?
Paper maps tear. They get smudged and soggy. They flutter in the wind, and sometimes they even blow away. But luckily, in this day and age, they’re very nearly obsolete. Today’s bike computers are feather-light, but they’re heavyweights when it comes to functionality. Depending on your needs as a rider, your bike computer can tell you your speed, guide you on your route, integrate with your power meter and display text messages from your phone. Mounted conveniently on your handlebars, a bike GPS like the Garmin Edge 830 can be a useful tool for all kinds of riders, whether you’re racing, riding with friends or just popping over to the grocery store.
What to know before you buy a bike GPS
Smartwatch vs. bike GPS
These days, smartwatches and bike GPSs have many of the same features. Both can record your rides, offer health insights and follow routes. Bike GPSs, though, tend to be more rugged, and their position on the handlebars is better for navigation. Smartwatches have the advantage of integrated heart rate sensing, whereas bike GPSs will require you to buy a chest band to enjoy the same feature. And smartwatches, of course, can be used for sports such as running and swimming as well as cycling. If you’re a triathlete or you’re willing to sacrifice some of the navigational features of your device, consider a smartwatch instead of a bike GPS.
Depending on how long your rides are, battery life is an important consideration when choosing a bike GPS. If you’re going for epic all-day adventures in the saddle, consider an option with an extra-large battery to make sure it doesn’t die while you’re out there. The majority of bike GPS batteries will last at least five hours.
What kind of bike rider are you? Are you an adventurous rider looking for durability and ruggedness? A fitness fanatic looking for training plans and health insights? Or a beginner looking for straightforward design and easy integration with social media? The right bike GPS for you depends on what you’ll use it for.
What to look for in a quality bike GPS
Most bike GPSs connect wirelessly to your phone or computer. This feature will save you time and headaches by allowing you to sync routes and rides back and forth between the GPS and your device.
Some bike GPSs have simple black-and-white displays, while others feature more detailed, colorful graphics. Generally, the more expensive devices will have color, but not always; some of the more minimal, race-focused offerings eschew elaborate displays in favor of simplicity and longer battery life.
Heart rate monitor integration
Paired with a chest strap or wrist-based sensor, some bike GPSs can provide sophisticated cardio and training data for bikers who want to maximize actionable insights on their training rides. By displaying live heart rate information on the screen, this feature allows riders to fine-tune their effort.
Most bike GPSs can guide you along a route and alert you when you’re off course. Normally that route needs to be planned on a computer or phone and loaded onto the device ahead of time. But some GPSs feature their own routing function that will auto-generate a route when given an address — a handy tool for impromptu planning.
Some bike GPSs have built-in emergency response features. Newer Garmin Edge devices have an integrated incident detection function, which senses when a crash has occurred and instantly sends your location to an emergency contact you’ve inputted.
How much you can expect to spend on a bike GPS
Bike GPSs start at about $75, while the most expensive will run you more than $500. Less expensive bike computers use GPS just to record your route and display your speed and distance while you’re riding, while more expensive ones will offer navigation, Bluetooth integration and other features.
Bike GPSs FAQ
What if you get caught in the rain or crash?
A. Most bike GPSs these days are waterproof, or at least water-resistant enough to withstand a shower. If you’re nervous about water damage or crashing, there are many shock-resistant and water-resistant cases available for most GPS units.
Do you need a GPS if you just want to see your speed?
A. In the past, most bike computers were simple odometers, which sometimes used a magnet attached to a spoke to calculate your speed. As GPSs have gotten better and more affordable, such technology has been rendered nearly obsolete. If you just need to see your speed and distance traveled, consider a simple GPS unit without mapping technology, which will be more affordable than a full-featured one.
What’s the best bike GPS to buy?
Top bike GPS
What you need to know: This tiny device is packed with functionality, from heart rate monitoring to state-of-the-art safety features.
What you’ll love: The Garmin Edge 830 has everything you could want from a bike GPS. It connects with wearable devices to provide real-time fitness insights, it includes on-device routing and off-course recalculation, and it even comes with cutting-edge features like mountain bike dynamics tracking and smart light integration.
What you should consider: The device’s interface is less than intuitive, and its routing features are still in development and may have trouble distinguishing pavement from dirt paths or gravel roads.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top bike GPS for the money
What you need to know: Minimal, functional and reasonably priced, the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is a fantastic bike GPS for nearly all cyclists.
What you’ll love: The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt was first launched as the minimal, black-and-white, aerodynamic version of the company’s full-color, full-size Roam devices. Today, it’s the company’s most popular model, thanks to its intuitive interface, sleek design, generous suite of features and overall reliability.
What you should consider: The Elemnt Bolt’s display is small and black and white. Its battery only lasts a stated 15 hours, compared to 20 for the Garmin Edge 830.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This Garmin device has many of the same features of the Edge 830 at a lower price point.
What you’ll love: With features such as route-finding and mountain bike dynamics tracking, this device offers enormous functionality in a small, affordable package. With the same intelligent route mapping and safety features as the 830, the 530 offers cutting-edge technology for a steal.
What you should consider: The key difference between the Edge 530 and the Edge 830 is the former’s lack of a touchscreen, which exacerbates the usability issues that can affect the higher-end model.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Cody Siler writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.