A speedometer provides a range of data about your ride, from the average speed and overall distance, to more brag-worthy information like maximum speed. If you’re a cyclist who loves numbers, whether it’s weight, wheel size, frame geometry, or power output, having a speedometer can add an extra dimension to your riding.
The way a speedometer works is pretty simple. It usually consists of a magnet attached to the wheel, and a sensor on the fork. Every time the magnet passes the sensor, it sends a signal, and all those signals add up to the overall ride data. Once you’ve input the size of your wheels, it can work out how fast you’re going, along with distance covered, average speed, ride time and maximum speed.
More advanced speedometers may also allow you to set a target average speed, and warn you when you drop below. They may also be able to predict how long it will take for you to arrive at your destination.
Not all speedometers will come with an app that wirelessly connects the head unit and your phone, so it’s important to consider if this is a feature you want. With smartphone pairing you’ll access advanced features like GPS recording. Of course, this is something you can always do with just your phone, but it really drains the battery. Would you benefit from having this feature built into a speedometer instead?
Another advantage of using a speedometer instead of your phone is that you can keep your phone tucked out of harm’s way, instead of having it perched on your handlebar. Finally, a speedometer that pairs with your phone will also record data from your ride which you can analyse later.
The clue’s in the name: we’re guessing you’re mainly looking for a speedometer to keep track of your ride speed. However there are a lot of other common features you’re likely to find across various models, so if any of these appeal to you, it’s worth looking for a unit that ticks all your boxes.
As well as your average speed, maximum speed and cadence, some speedometers will also tell you your maximum cadence (i.e. how fast you can spin), your overall ride time, the time of day, your distance so far, and whether you’re above or below your average speed. Finally, some speedometers will have an odometer built in as well. This tells you how far you’ve ridden, and in some cases you can set an initial value so you can build an accumulative record of your overall distance covered over a given period of time.
Not all speedometers will include these functions, but some sophisticated models might, so it’s worth being aware of them. Different speedometers will have differing sets of secondary functions that rely on heart rate, altitude, ascent and temperature. Therefore they may also offer features that gather this data.
Excellent battery life and packed with features
The feature-packed Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt bundle includes a computer unit, speed and cadence sensors, and a heart rate monitor. Pair it with your smartphone and the free ELEMNT Companion app to customize your settings, configure workouts, link to apps like Strava, and build routes for GPS navigation. The ‘Take me to’ function helps you quickly find and navigate to points of interest, while you can automatically download and upload routes with Strava, Ride with GPS, Best Bike Split, Komoot, Singletracks, and MTB Project. Finally, it fully integrates with Strava Live Segments, to give you accurate progress status, as well as the final push you need to beat your goals.
With a 15-hour battery life, you can get so much out of this clever piece of kit. Combine it with the Wahoo KICKR or SNAP indoor trainers and your Zwift account for the full setup.
Uses a solar panel to auto-charge
With a host of colors to choose from, the Cateye Padrone is a simple and practical computer that comes in a small unit, but still features a clear, large display. It features an auto-pause function that will pause your ride whenever it senses the rider has come to a stop to ensure your average speed and duration remains correct. As for the data it supplies, you get all the good stuff such as current, average and maximum speed, as well as distance, time, and a clock. The flex-tight bracket makes it easy to fit, adjust, and even swap between bikes.
A personal trainer in your pocket
If you’re a serious athlete, or you want to make some big changes to your health, the Garmin Edge 530 sensor bundle is just like having your own personal trainer. Alongside all the usual functions you’d expect with a bike computer (GPS navigation, speedometer and odometer), you also gain performance insights into your VO2 max, recovery, training balance, heat and altitude acclimation, nutrition, hydration, and more.
Bundle includes the computer unit, speed and cadence sensors, and a heart rate monitor, to help you get accurate readings, while the data collection you receive includes dynamic performance insights, like your aerobic and anaerobic levels, your power curve and the balance between endurance and high-intensity training efforts.
The Edge 530 is compatible with other Garmin products like the Varia rearview radar and lights, as well as the Shimano Steps e-bike system. It pairs with your smartphone and the Garmin Connect app, which you can use to customize widgets and data fields, as well as sync with your profiles on other third-party apps like Strava.
Uses a solar panel to auto-charge
We really like the fact that the Icocopro bike computer is semi-solar powered, thanks to the small solar panel at the top of the unit. This means it can automatically charge in the sunlight while riding, providing a boost in power on top of the battery.
It comes with 22 built-in functions, measuring speed (average, maximum, current, and comparisons), distance, riding time and calorie burn. Auto sleep helps preserve power, while the display is backlit at night. Finally, you can pre-program its service indicator, so it reminds you when your bike is due some maintenance.
Does a basic job for the price
This very small and compact speedometer comes with very basic functions, but it does what most cyclists would want, and is an absolute steal. It comes with a bright LCD display and a backlight for while riding in low light conditions, plus the auto sleep function helps to preserve battery power.
The SY speedometer measures your current speed, the distance travelled and your overall riding time. It’s a great budget-friendly option for casual cyclists and people who don’t like getting too overwhelmed by copious amounts of data.
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Mildred is a Reviews Writer for Cyclingnews who loves all forms of cycling from long-distance audax to daily errand-running by bike. She does almost everything on two wheels, including moving house, and started out her cycling career working in a bike shop. For the past five years she's volunteered at The Bristol Bike Project as a mechanic and session coordinator, and now sits on its board of directors. Since then she's gone on to write for a multitude of cycling publications, including Bikeradar, Cycling Plus, Singletrack, Red Bull, Cycling UK and Total Women's Cycling. She's dedicated to providing more coverage of women's specific cycling tech, elevating under-represented voices in the sport, and making cycling more accessible overall.
Height: 156cm (5'2")
Rides: Liv Devote, Genesis Equilibrium Disc 20, Triban RC520 Women's Disc, Genesis Flyer, Whyte Victoria, Cotic BFe 26, Clandestine custom bike
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