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Best Bike Computers for Touring & BikePacking

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Best Bike Computer

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This is a gear review about the Best Bike Computers for Touring, Bikepacking or Mountain Biking in 2022.

Paper maps and the old style basic bike speedometer that worked off the size of the front wheel are being replaced by bike computers. While Smartphones are OK, a good GPS Cycling computer is much better at tracking your location, speed and so much more.

The best bike computers for cycle touring, bikepacking and mountain biking are super tough, able to give turn by turn navigation and have long battery life that will last all day.

I’ve been using a bike computer for years and in this bike gear review I’m checking out some of the best bike computers on the market in 2022.

Best GPS Bike Computers

The Best GPS Bike Computers in 2022 are:


Best Bike Computer 2022 – Overall

Garmin Edge 1030

Pros:
> Very large 3.5 inch full color touchscreen

> Preloaded with Garmin cycling maps
> You can use it to message your fellow cyclists
> Displays your performance stats clearly
> You can buy compatible mounts and sensors
Cons:
> Premium product at a premium price

The Touchscreen Garmin Edge 1030 is the best cycling computer on the market at the moment. As it is Garmin, you know the GPS signal is going to be good.

It has a very large 3.5 inch full color touchscreen and it comes preloaded with an excellent Garmin cycle map. It can provide you with turn-by-turn directions as you go but I found Google Maps to be much better at turn by turn navigation than Garmin.

The Garmin Edge 1030 will track your performance data, including not only your speed, distance and time, but also your VO2 max and your training load. This may not be as important if you are bike touring but if you are competitive and racing then this is for you. I love the barometric altimeter when bike touring and spending time in the mountains, I also like to look of the color display of the maps.

At any point you can switch between a road screen, navigation screen, training screen, history screen, or your stats.

You can also find the most popular routes using Garmin connect app, and you can message other riders in your group so that no-one ever gets lost.

If you decide to buy the Garmin Edge 1030 you might want the bundle, including items to help mount the device, additional sensors and a heart rate monitor. But not everyone will want so much tech when cycling.

This is a premium product with almost every possible cycle training option available. Not everyone will want to receive so much data. If you are a complete gear nerd, this is for you. If not, look at one of the cheaper entry level bike computer options below.

It is important to keep in mind that the Garmin Edge 1030 is like all Garmin products that they tend to be a bit slow to update any software patches for their bike computers. Some people will not like this, even if you are tech savvy, Garmin is not very good at being user friendly. Garmin is not Apple, or Google!

Overall, if you want the best bike computer for cycling then the Garmin Edge 1030 is it. Whether you are road cycling, mountain biking or cycling around the world this is the Best Garmin Bike Computer on the market in 2022. But is it too expensive!

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Best Bike Touring Computer

Garmin Edge 530

Pros:
> Very affordable, reasonably priced & great value for money

> You can buy compatible mounts and sensors for it
> Measures such things as your VO2 max, hydration, altitude acclimation and the smoothness of your MTB descents

> Safety features include group messaging and tracking
> Excellent 20-hour battery life
Cons:
> Like all Garmin they are patchy and slow to patch software issues

The Garmin Edge 530 is the best bike computer for touring and bikepacking. If you are cycle touring or bikepacking this is the best budget bike computer for you.

The Garmin Edge 530 offers excellent GPS tracking for accurate distance travelled, alongside performance monitoring. I love how I can have my current speed right alongside my average speed, great when I want to get an idea on how I’m going for the day.

Like all the Garmin GPS Computers in this review, you can pair the Garmin Edge 530 with the several different sensors. You can track your heart rate, your VO2 max, hydration, altitude acclimation and more with the bluetooth connectivity features. It also links with Garmin Connect app to find routes.

Mountain Bikers will love the MTB tracking on this bike computer. It will track jump distance, jump count, the ride difficulty and the smoothness of your descent.

The maps bring up popular routing, and off-course recalculation if you ever make a detour. I also like how you can customize it with a range of free apps and widgets if you choose to do so.

Safety features include an alarm, and group messaging and tracking, which can come in really handy if you’re cycling with a group and they get split.

It has a very good battery life and will last up to 20 hours with the GPS turned on. But if you need it to go on for longer, you can always pair it with a Garmin Charge power pack for an extra 40 hours of battery life or to any good battery power bank.

If you were to buy the device alone, you also have the option to add on a dual heart rate monitor, a standard sensor, or a speed and cadence sensor if that is something that you want.

It is important to keep in mind that the Garmin Edge 530 is like all Garmin products, they tend to be a bit slow to update any software patches for their bike computers. Some people will not like this, even if you are tech savvy, Garmin is not very good at being user friendly. Garmin is not Apple, or Google!

Overall, the Garmin Edge 530 is the best bike touring computer or mountain bike computers on the market in 2022. It is also the best budget bike computer that is still very high quality.

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Best Mountain Bike Computer

Garmin Edge 830

Pros:
> Measures such things as your VO2 max, hydration, altitude acclimation
> Excellent MTB tracking, including the smoothness of your descents
> Safety features include group messaging and tracking

> Excellent 20-hour battery life

Cons:
> Garmin lack of speed to update any connectivity issues or software glitches

The Garmin Edge 830 certainly has a lot in common with the Garmin Edge 530 we reviewed for you earlier. I used the earlier model of this one, the Garmin Edge 810. This upgraded model is much better than what I have used in the past.

As you may imagine the Garmin Edge GPS tracking is excellent, giving you highly accurate readings for distance travelled, as well as all the dynamic performance monitoring that runs alongside it, such as current speed vs average speed. 

You can pair the Garmin Edge 830 with various sensors in order to track such things as your heart rate, VO2 max, hydration levels and more.

If you are into mountain biking, you will love the MTB tracking. It can track jump difficulty, jump distance, and the smoothness of your descent.

Another great thing is how it offers off-course recalculation in case you split for your riding group to make a quick detour. And the safety features are pretty neat, too, with group messaging and tracking, and an alarm.

The battery life is very good. It lasts up to 20 hours in GPS mode. But if that’s not quite long enough for you, you can always pair it up with a Garmin Charge power pack or what I like to do is use a Lightweight Power Bank to charge the device.

The key difference between the Garmin Edge 530 and the Garmin Edge 830 is that the 830 features a touchscreen, whereas the 530 uses buttons. This brings the cost down to a reasonable price.

It is important to keep in mind that the Garmin Edge 830 is like all Garmin products that they tend to be a bit slow to update any software patches for their cycling computers. Some people will not like this, even if you are tech savvy Garmin is not very good when it comes to a user interface that is friendly. Garmin is not Apple, or Google!

Overall, the Garmin Edge 830 is one of the best bike computers for mountain biking and people cycle touring will also love this cycle computer.

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Wahoo ELEMNT Roam

Pros:
> Preloaded with maps for all over the world
> You can filter for the shortest route

> You can receive smartphone notifications

> Wide range of software & hardware integrations
> Rechargeable battery with up to 17 hours of battery life

Cons:
> Not a touchscreen

The Wahoo Elemnt Roam GPS Bike Computer is very popular and features a full color screen and comes preloaded with maps for countries all over the world. It is a great bike touring computer. You get on-demand route generation, and you can save waypoints as you go along.

You can also filter for the shortest route if you are in a hurry. There’s a page for every element of your ride, such as a workout view, a map view and so on. What’s more, all of the screens are fully customizable.

We also love how it’s compatible with a wide range of third party apps, including the likes of Strava, Ride with GPS, and Komoot.

And in addition to software integrations, there are hardware integrations to take advantage of too, including electronic gear shifters, muscle oxygen sensors, and power meters.

And that’s not all – you can use it to receive your smartphone notifications too. The battery life is also really good. It uses a rechargeable battery which can provide up to 17 hours of battery life.

Overall, this is another one of the best bike computers for bike touring, mountain biking and road cycling

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Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt

Pros:
> Good Battery Life at 15 hours
> Good budget bike computer
> Good integration with bluetooth devices

Cons:
> No Touchscreen

The Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt GPS Bike Computer has a lot in common with the Wahoo ELEMNT Roam, but is a basic cycle computer at a far more affordable price.

Of course at this lower price it doesn’t have quite as much to offer, but I felt it was still worthy of a place on our shortlist for those who don’t need everything. This is a good basic GPS cycling computer with everything most people will ever need in a bike computer.

You get automatic route downloads, compatibility with about 10 different third party apps, like Strava, Ride with GPS, and Komoot, and those all important turn by turn notifications. It also has color display mapping.

You can pair it with your smartphone for messaging, and get all kinds of workout data up on screen.

What’s more, the data is particularly clear and easy to read on screen – you won’t need to fish around for your reading glasses. The battery life is about 15 hours.

It comes complete with both a front mount and a stem mount.

Overall, this is another of the best cycling computers for those wanting a budget bike computer.

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The best bike computers will have GPS mapping and basics such as speed and distance
A good bike computer for touring will have GPS mapping, elevation, grade and basics such as speed and distance.

Buyers Guide

Here are the things you will need to know about bike computers before you buy. Whether you are using your cycling computer for road cycling, mountain biking, bikepacking or bike touring let’s take a look at everything from battery life to turn by turn navigation.


Mapping

The mapping function of the modern GPS cycling computers are one of the main reasons to shell out your hard earned money. The GPS computers on these units are better than what you get on your phone when using google maps. So the mapping accuracy is very good. All have some form of mapping software or a choice of maps you can add to these GPS cycling computers.

While the GPS is batter on a bike computer, the maps are not. Garmin and Wahoo have a lot to go to catch up to the mapping quality and technology of Smartphones. If only they had better maps!

GPS bike computer
Road cycling computer with a group touring

Turn By Turn Navigation

Turn by turn navigation on a GPS computer for cycling is great for navigating around towns and further afield. If using a Garmin bike computer I can tell you from experience that their turn by turn navigation is not as good as Google Maps.

Once, when I was cycle touring in Alaska the turn by turn navigation on my Garmin instructed me to turn off the main road and into a lake. I suspect this lake was the home of an Ice Road in winter, but Google never sent me into a lake.


Tracking

Cycling computers have great GPS tracking which is great for recording your tracks of where you have been. You can also download map tracks and upload them to your bike computer and follow these tracks.

Whether the tracks are from other people, or from a GPX track you made or a third party app you can upload and download them from all the GPS cycling computers in this review. Either way, the tracking features on the GPS cycling computers are a great thing. I have well over 20000 miles of GPX tracks saved from my bike computer and downloaded to my home computer.


Accessories

Bike computers do a good job but most people will look at some sort of accessories. Some might look at a better handlebar mount but there are so much more. There are bluetooth accessories such accurate heart rate monitors, power meters, cadence sensors and more. They increase the functionality of cycling computers, specially for those interested in the data that can analyse your training.


Mounting

Most bike computers have some form of basic handlebar mounting or mount system for the steering stem. They also use a locking mechanism that locks them in place. Great for mountain biking, bike touring and bikepacking which can be on really rough trails as times.


Connectivity

All the best bike computers have some form of connectivity with third party apps and devices to monitor your fitness, speed and power. When you are finished with your ride you can upload to Strava, Garmin Connect and more if you choose.


Bluetooth ANT+ connectivity

The best bike computer will sync with multiple different bluetooth devices. All the best cycling computers will connect via ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart connectivity, but most will connect using both. Everything from bluetooth connection to your smartphone app to connection to external sensors for your power data is via these methods. Gone are the days of a USB cable.


Third Party Apps

Most high end and even budget bike computers can sync with third party apps such as Strava, Map my Ride and more.

Connect apps to a Bike Computer
Some connect with weather apps or have built in temperature, not always a good thing

Training

Most competitive cyclists want to monitor their heart rate, cadence and power levels. To get the most of the high end cycling computers they require extra accessories. Most of these can be purchased with the GPS unit in a bundle. These often save quite a lot of money.

Most people cycle touring and bikepacking want good mapping and not much else so some of these functions might be overkill.


Screen Size

The bigger the screen the better it is to view and the more visual features you can fit on the screen. Specially for visually challenged people like myself that find my eyes are not as good as they once were.

Big data screens equals big bucks in many cases. And as the screen gets bigger it also gets heavier, not something anyone wants with their GPS cycling computer. Most people are surprised just how big these screens are in real life. It appears some people want smaller screens nowadays.

Screen size on a GPS bike computer
I like a big screen size on GPS bike computers

Battery Life

All day cycling is a must for cycling computers. For most people 5-6 hours is a very good day in the saddle. For some it is much longer. Fortunately the modern cycling GPS computers have very good battery life. Several things will affect the battery life such as screen brightness, bluetooth connectivity, wifi connectivity, sensors, temperature and more.

When I look for the best GPS cycling computers I want at least 12 hours of battery life when using all the features. And when I’m finished riding I can recharge and download the data from the GPS computer overnight.

GPS bike computer
Using a GPS bike computer for bike touring

GPS Watch

I’ve tried using a GPS watch as a cycling computer and I find they just don’t do a good job. The battery life on a GPS watch is nowhere near as a good as dedicated GPS cycling computers and when cycling it is rather annoying to look on your wrist for details. I even mounted one around my handlebars and it was still rather average.


Handheld Hiking Computer

Before I started using GPS bike computers I was using a Handheld Hiking GPS with a bike mount. It was able to tell me my speed, direction of travel and it had decent battery life. But it wasn’t able to do everything that even the most basic cycling computer can do.

Overall, it was a good introduction to the possibilities. If you have a hiking GPS, try it out. After a while, you will probably do the same as me and get a dedicated basic cycling computer.


Smartphone Apps

Smartphones are not quite there when it comes to being used as a cycling computer. But they are getting close.

Smartphones don’t use the same GPS technology as a GPS cycling computer. The GPS signal is not as strong or accurate, specially when away from wifi, cell phone towers and cell phone signal. They are good, but not as good. Also, the battery life is not as good as any dedicated GPS cycling computer. Keep in mind that the basic computer on a budget GPS cycling computer is better and more accurate than a smartphone.

A smartphone can be connected to the cycle computer to take advantage of weather updates and more.

Having said that, I suspect that with a couple of years Smartphones will catch up and replace even the best bike computer on the market. Watch this space to find out if I’m right!


Budget

How much money do you want to spend. The best bike computer is not cheap. Sure it comes with a lot of functionality but do you need it all. For most people reading this review a good cycling computer with decent battery life and a good mapping function will be enough.

Unless you are a competitive cyclist or a gear nerd who loves the data then the best bike computer is not always best. If you are bike touring or bikepacking you probably don’t want all the features that increase the price of the cycling computer.


Conclusion

So, the biggest factor influencing your decision on which one to buy will probably come down to the price tag. And just how many functions do you need on your bike computer. if you want the best you will have to pay a lot of money.

The Best Bike Computer for touring, road cycling and mountain biking in 2022 is:


Are Bike Computers worth it?

With built in mapping, turn by turn navigation, long battery life and all the basics such as speed, elevation and distance they are worth it. The Garmin and Wahoo are certainly worth it as a good bike computer

What is the Best Bike Computer for Cycle Touring?

The best bike computer for bike touring is a choice between models from Garmin and Wahoo. The Garmin Edge 530 and the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt are two very good options at a reasonable price.

Can I use a Smartphone as a bike computer?

Yes and No. A smartphone will have most of the features of a basic bike computer but will not be as good when it comes to battery life or accuracy. Bike computers have a much more accurate GPS than smartphones.

Do I need a bike computer for bikepacking?

A bike computer is great for bikepacking. It can tell you where you are with great mapping features and tell you how far to the next waypoint such as your planned campsite for the night. You can also upload maps and GPS routes form other riders and follow their routes.



Read More:

Best Bike Computer for Touring and Bikepacking

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Chile.

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