8 best cycling computers for mapping routes and measuring performance

cycling on a bike ride

As a cyclist, you now have access to some of the most advanced and easy-to-use cycling computers in today’s tech market.

What once started as a rudimentary tool to calculate distance by wheel rotations has transformed over the years into a sleek, portable, and wireless “smart” computer for your bike. We’ve created a list of our top picks for the best cycling computers in 2021.

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Modern cycling computers

Most cycling computers nowadays include GPS tracking and Bluetooth or ANT+ connectivity. They’re also built to conveniently mount to the handlebars for easy use.

That wireless connectively also connects to smartphones, apps, and even some “smart” turbo trainers. Cycling computers can range from more basic models to advanced ones that track a variety of metrics.

A review of our top eight picks is listed below.

Hammerhead Karoo 2: Great audio navigation

Cycling computers Hammerhead Karoo 2

If you’ve been in the cycling realm for a while, you’ve likely heard of the original Hammerhead Karoo. Its second-generation model, Hammerhead Karoo 2, is smaller and lighter than the original. It continues to push the limits of what a premium cycling experience should be.

It has received rave reviews for its 3.2-inch scratch and water resistance touch screen. This also provides a super clear screen display. You may never need to rely on the screen display, though, because of its effective audio navigational prompts.

The Hammerhead Karoo 2 is compatible with a handful of third-party apps, like Strava. Coming in at $399.00, it sits right around the mid-range for price.

Purchase this awesome addition to your cycling from Hammerhead directly.

Pros:

  • Smaller and lighter than the first model
  • Features audio navigational prompts
  • Water-resistant touch screen

Cons:

  • No companion app
  • Price is a little steep

Wahoo Elemnt Roam: One of the best multi-featured cycling computers

Element Bolt by Wahoo

Wahoo has made its presence in the cycling world for many years. They produce some of the best cycling trainers and other cycling equipment, and their cycling computers are solid performers as well.

The Wahoo Elemnt Roam has stemmed from one of the brand’s original cycling computers. It has since been upgraded with a colored screen, longer battery life, and more in-depth navigation skills.

The on-screen display is very user-friendly, with clearly defined routes and directions. The Roam also boasts a GPS function to better track your routes.

The Wahoo Elemnt Roam is larger than its cousin (the Bolt), but some riders may actually prefer that. Having a larger screen makes it easier to check in with your real-time riding navigation. However, others may want something more discrete on their handlebars. I think it’s truly down to personal preference.

Listed at $379.99, the Wahoo Elemnt Roam also sits in the mid-price range. Purchase it directly from Wahoo’s online store.

Pros:

  • Easy, intuitive user interface
  • Available iOS and Android app (Wahoo ELEMNT Companion app)
  • 17 hours of battery life

Cons:

  • No touch screen
  • Larger model size

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt: A smaller, lighter model with a great price

Element Bolt by Wahoo

The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is one of the newer cycling computers that has followed in the footsteps of the Wahoo Elemnt Roam. It’s packed full of new and improved features.

Users may first notice its smaller, sleeker, and overall more compact design. It weighs just 69g compared to the Elemnt Roam’s 95g.

There are some tradeoffs to the smaller screen and smaller body. Because of its smaller size, the Elemnt Bolt has less battery life (15 hours) which, honestly, is still quite good. Its tiny screen also makes on-road navigation a bit harder to visualize.

Wahoo has also boasted that the Elemnt Bolt has clearer screen resolution and increased color display than the Roam. Personally, seeing more colors on my screen doesn’t weigh heavily on my review.

It does come with an improved 16GB of internal memory for increased storage of routes and is chargeable via a USB-C port. At $279.99, it’s definitely one of the more reasonable options, and if you’re into is a smaller design, this could be a great pick.

Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT Bolt GPS Bike Computer, Stealth Black
  • Download, pair, configure and ride! Wahoo's free ELEMNT Companion App automates pairing and manages...
  • Automatic route downloads and uploads with compatible third party apps: Strava, Ride With GPS, Best...

Pros:

  • Smaller and more aerodynamic
  • Increased internal memory
  • USB-C charging port
  • Reasonably priced

Cons:

  • Its small screen makes on-road navigation difficult
  • No touch screen

Stages Dash L50: Most data-rich for those tracking their performance

Stages Dash cycling computer

The Stages Dash L50 may not be as well-known as some of the bigger names, but it has proven to hold its own against the competition. It is still a newer product in its early developmental phase, so that lends to a few kinks we hope to see worked out in future models.

The Stages Dash L50 clearly has the brightest and fullest color option for LCD screens on the market. It’s not a touch screen, though, which may play into its functional use while on the road.

A unique feature that Stages has equipped its cycling computers with is the ability to mount it vertically or horizontally on the handlebars. Depending on the orientation, you may feel you have a better setup to view your performance stats.

And speaking of performance metrics, the L50 has a good GPS built-in, but it shines as a training tool. Stages use their own app to help track elevation gains, power, speed, and cadence (among others) in real-ride time.

Stages Dash L50 ANT+/Bluetooth GPS Cycling Computer | EverBrite Screen & Cycling Specific Navigation
  • BRIGHTER. Featuring a brilliant full color EverBrite screen with high resolution and low power...
  • FULL CUSTOM. Easily build custom profiles with personalized data screens. Simply configure via the...

Pros:

  • Displays performance metrics in addition to navigation
  • Long battery life (23 hours!)
  • Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity with compatible Android and iOS Stages Sync app
  • Reasonable price at $249.99

Cons:

  • Bulkier design when compared to others
  • No touch screen

Sigma Rox 12.0: Best map and route integration

Rox 12 by Sigma

Sigma has been out of the game for a while when it comes to producing high-end cycling computers. Their newest model, the Rox 12.0, changes all of that.

It comes with a full-color touch screen that many users love, and its actual body design and user interface feel the most like a smartphone out of all the others we’ve reviewed.

One drawback is that it won’t connect to your smartphone even though it’s Bluetooth and ANT+ compatible. It relies on your home WiFi for uploads and downloads of routes, metrics, etc.

That said, Sigma has developed the Rox 12.0 with a handful of internal, third-party apps already installed. To date, these include Strava, Komoot, Training Peaks, and GPSies. But at the time of writing this article, that’s all that is offered.

We’re hopeful that future upgrades improves its ease of use to connect to other apps. However, if you’re already a user of the apps mentioned, then this could be a great, streamlined option for you.

Sigma ROX GPS 12.0 Sport Basic Cycling Computer Grey
  • GPS bike computer loaded with map functions, numerous training features and packed into powerful...
  • Incredibly responsive and crystal clear trans reflective display

Pros:

  • Most similar to a smartphone interface
  • Efficient map drawing speed
  • Impressively accurate and limitless navigation

Cons:

  • No partner app
  • Can’t connect to a smartphone
  • Limited third-party app options

Garmin Edge 530: Most popular choice for price and performance

530 Edge by Garmin

Garmin is the other powerhouse brand when it comes to cycling computers. They’ve been around the longest, so it makes sense that they know a thing or two.

The Edge 530 is the cheapest of the three Garmin options on our list, but it’s got one of the fastest processors. Garmin’s biggest upgrade from the 520 to the 530 is the improved mapping feature.

The Edge 530 isn’t a touch screen, but it offers good, touch-feel tactile buttons. It’s also not the lightest computer on the market, but also not the bulkiest. It truly is a solid, mid-range computer in build, features, and price.

The Edge 530 produces all of the typical features you would expect from Garmin. It offers excellent turn-by-turn navigation when on the road and records other standard metrics like distance, time, percent grade, etc.

One unique feature is its bike alarm. If you have to leave your bike briefly to run inside a public location, you can simply turn on the bike alarm for the time that you are away. If the computer detects movement while the alarm is set, it sounds off a loud noise and notify your phone.

Garmin Edge 530, Performance GPS Cycling/Bike Computer with Mapping, Dynamic Performance Monitoring and Popularity Routing
  • Performance GPS cycling computer with mapping. Compatible with Vector (power meter). Power meter...
  • Dynamic performance monitoring provides insights on your VO2 max, recovery, training balance, heat...

Pros:

  • 20 hours of battery life (40 hours in battery saver mode!)
  • Mapping navigation is clear, simple, and fast
  • Reasonably priced at $299.99
  • Access to Garmin Connect store

Cons:

  • Many users have noted it takes some fiddling around to set up.
  • No touch screen means tedious button-pressing for map browsing

Garmin Edge 830: Great on- and off-road capabilities

830 Edge by Garmin

The Edge 830 begins to move into Garmin’s upper-mid-range cycling computers. It offers essentially everything the Edge 530 does, but it also comes with a handful of other training metrics.

As opposed to the Edge 530, the 830 is a colored touchscreen. It has access to super-accurate GPS and also boasts other typical metrics such as tracking your speed, time, and distance. It even has advanced capabilities to track things like left-right balance.

You’ve also got the option to connect with your Garmin smartwatch or smart trainer, as well as other heart rate straps and power meters. It’s one of the great all-around cycling computers that have a range of powerful training and navigational features.

Garmin Edge 830 GPS Cycling Computer with Included Wearable4U Compact Power Bank Bundle
  • IN THE BOX: 1x Garmin Edge 830 GPS Cycling Computer, 1x Wearable4U Power Bank 2200 mAh
  • Performance GPS cycling computer with mapping and touchscreen

Pros:

  • 20 hours of battery life
  • Increased performance metrics and navigation
  • Super-fast processor for mapping routes

Cons:

  • Higher-end price at $399.99
  • Has had some issues with syncing data

Garmin Edge 1030 Plus: Superior performance with a price to match

Edge 1030 Plus by Garmin

The Edge 1030 is Garmin’s top-of-the-line, the gold standard when it comes to cycling computers. This model is larger than the others in its line, but that’s a fair trade-off for the stellar features that it offers.

For starters, the 1030 gives you access to Garmin’s Trendline Popularity Routing. This draws from millions of miles of Garmin Connect riding data to guide you towards popular, bike-friendly routes.

All of its detailed maps are easily swipe-able and adjustable mid-ride, thanks to its easy touch screen. If you choose to record your rides with a power meter or heart rate monitor, Garmin provides you with a detailed analysis after every workout.

It supports both Bluetooth and ANT+ sensors making it compatible with many other tech options. This truly is one of the best cycling computers out there, and if you’re willing to pay the price, you won’t be disappointed.

Garmin Edge 1030 Plus GPS Cycling Computer Cycle Bundle | Includes Black Silicone Case & Tempered Glass Screen Protectors | GPS Bike Computer | On-Device Workout, ClimbPro | GPS Only, 010-02424-01
  • [GARMIN EDGE 1030 PLUS BUNDLE] - Garmin Edge 1030 Plus GPS Bike Computer, Bike Mounts (Standard &...
  • [PLAYBETTER BUNDLE] - PlayBetter Protective Silicone Case (Black) & PlayBetter HD Tempered Glass...

Pros:

  • Extra-long battery life (24 hours)
  • Large, clear display
  • Access to Garmin’s Trendline Popularity Routing

Cons:

  • Most expensive on our list at $599.99

Final thoughts on our favorite cycling computers

Wading through the dozens of options of cycling computers that are out there can be an overwhelming process. We aimed to highlight some of the most important features that you’ll typically see on the market.

With varying screen sizes, performance metrics, navigational features, and prices, we hope this list gave you a better idea of what to look for when weighing the options among different cycling computers.

Last update on 2022-01-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

I am an occupational therapist and kinesiologist with a long history in the health and fitness industry. Plus, I'm also an avid cyclist with a passion for writing and travel that have helped shape my interest in the fitness tech world. You can catch me in a nearby cat café planning for my next road route or bucket list destination!

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