The health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks (pollution, crashes, or injuries), particularly when the sport is compared to a sedentary lifestyle. A recent Dutch study found that, on average, cycling can extend lifespan by up to 14 months, against the risks equated to a reduced lifespan of 40 days or less.
Essential reading: Best smart bike helmets
Now wearable technology and GPS devices are making it easier than ever to enjoy this popular sport and stay safer on the road. Cycling gadgets provide a variety of different purposes for riders, but for the most part, we can group them either in the fitness or cycling accessories group. We include both in this article.
Read on for our overview of devices and connected gear you can use for your next bike adventure.
Garmin Edge 1030 | Garmin Edge 520 | Polar V650 | Wahoo Elemnt Bolt | Garmin Edge 25 | Varia Vision | LifeBEAM smart helmet | Garmin Forerunner 935 | Beeline | ICEdot Crash Sensor | Garmin Varia Lights
Released late last year, the Garmin Edge 1030 is a high-end cycling computer. This is the one you want if price is not an issue.
Featuring a 3.5 inch colour touchscreen and a new aero-dynamic design, the device is packed with advanced cycling functionality. You’ll get a plethora of standard analysis features including some more advanced such as time in zone, cycling-specific VO2 max and recovery time (when used with a power meter and heart rate monitor), indoor trainer support and cycling dynamics (when used with compatible power meter).
The Edge 1030 also comes preloaded with maps and includes turn-by-turn navigation and navigation alerts. In-ride challenges with the newly updated preloaded Strava Live Segments feature and Garmin Connect segments are there to keep you motivated. Other features include Popularity-derived Routing, Rider-to-rider Messaging, Improved Cycling Awareness features and more.
A slightly scaled back version than the 1030, Edge 520 has everything an average cyclist needs. The gizmo features a high-resolution 2.3 inch colour screen, providing great visibility in a compact and lightweight form factor.
The 520 comes with the standard features we expect from Garmin: It keeps tabs speed, trip time, and trip distance, and can pair with power meters and heart rate monitors. You also get some of the advanced analysis features listed above.
Connected features include live tracking, smart notifications and automatic uploads to Garmin Connect. Garmin Edge 520 is compatible with both GPS and GLONASS satellites, so you benefit from more signal options, wherever your ride takes you.
There is also an updated version called Edge 520 Plus. This comes with a few extras such as the ability to add maps, VIRB® Camera Remote functionality and Vo2Max.
The V650 tracks your ride with integrated GPS and gives you altitude data thanks to a built-in barometric pressure sensor. Polar’s device features a 2.8 inch colour touch screen and is compatible with Bluetooth smart heart rate and cycling sensors to provide you with speed, cadence and heart rate data.
Furthermore, the V650 includes free maps, enabling you to see your location and route on a map during your rides. When it runs out of juice, use its USB port to recharge.
Alternatively, you could go for its cheaper cousin, the M450 (Amazon). It throws advanced power metrics, Strava live segments and smart notifications into the mix, but you will miss out on route import and guidance functionality of its big brother.
Wahoo’s GPS cycling computer is quick and easy to use. With a performance driven aerodynamic design and integrated mount locking screw, the device is engineered for simplicity. You’ll find both Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ dual-band technology, that enables the device to pair seamlessly with all of your cycling sensors.
The accompanying smartphone app allows you to set up data fields, customize profiles, track performance and share ride data. You can also program the LED QuickLook Indicators to provide you with a quick way of seeing if you’re on pace with important performance metrics like speed, heart rate, and power.
The Edge 25 may be small in size, but its not small in features.
The cycling computer captures the essential stats from your ride like time, distance, speed, total ascent and location. It uses GPS + GLONASS satellites to track how far, how fast and where you ride. When paired with a heart rate strap, it also records your heart rate and heart rate zone information. To get cadence, indoor speed and distance, connect it to ANT+ sensors.
You can choose from one of pre-existing courses or create a route of your own on Garmin Connect. Then simply upload it to the device and follow to arrive at your desired destination.
Tired of looking down at your computer to see your data? The first in-sight cycling display from Garmin could be for you. Unlike other heads-up displays that integrate a display unit into proprietary glasses, Varia Vision is an attachment that mounts to existing sunglasses.
Riding a bike can be dangerous, especially in large cities. This lightweight display attaches to either side of an existing pair of sunglasses and relays information directly in your line of sight, to help keep you safe. The device integrates with a few other Garmin products, like the Edge line for performance monitoring. It also works with Varia Review Radar, alerting the rider when a vehicle is approaching from behind. Now you won’t lose focus while trying to nail your targets for a workout, find the next turn or stay aware of cars approaching from behind.
Varia Vision also allows you to view information such as your heart rate, power and speed and still keep your eyes peeled for potential hazards in front of you. The wearable can even help you find your way with detailed navigation prompts, complete with street names, directional arrows and distance to turn.
The LifeBEAM smart helmet senses your body while you ride. It features a sleek Lazer Genesis design, and is lightweight (weights between 280g and 300g depending on the size) and comfortable (Rollsys Retention System).
Inside the helmet are sensors that monitor your heart rate, count your calories, give you an analysis of your performance and protect your head – all, according to the company, with aerospace level accuracy. Apparently, the tech in the helmets first started off as a way to measure the vitals of astronauts and jet pilots.
Riders who use heart rate and are in the market for a new helmet should definitely give this one a closer look. Rather bizarrely, the company also sells a smart hat and even a smart visor! They feature all the sensors of the helmet and are designed for active sports.
The Forerunner 935 is a fully featured running and triathlon GPS sports watch. You will find the usual Elevate wrist-based heart rate for 24/7 heart rate monitoring, and GPS and GLONASS coverage. Additionally, the wearable sports a barometer, altimeter, and a compass. Where the watch stands out most though, is in its detailed analysis of performance.
For your rides, you can choose between bike, bike indoor and mountain bike. The device will track a variety of metrics such as power zones, time differences between seated and standing positions, FTP (Functional Threshold Power) and more. Attaching it to a power meter will make a difference to those interested in their pedal power.
The Forerunner 935 is essentially a cheaper version of the Fenix 5 range, that comes in a slimmer plastic body and with silicone straps. You’ll find everything you could ever hope for in terms of connectivity, training features and performance metrics.
Cycling has always been a great way to get around the city, but it comes with challenges. Especially in big cities. Getting lost could make you frustrated, late and even unsafe.
Beeline is not your run-of-the-mill navigation device. Its purpose is not to direct you, but to provide you with enough information to guide you towards your destination. It essentially tells you where to go, but not how to get there.
The gizmo uses a built-in gyroscope and accelerometer to point you in the general direction of your destination and the distance to go. As there are no instructions, you can never take a wrong turn and riding becomes completely stress free. A clock and speedometer are also built in.
This is a simple but potentially life saving device. The ICEdot Crash Sensor straps on to your helmet to detect life-threatening impacts and send an emergency message through your smartphone to someone who can get you medical help. An alarm will sound on the phone, giving you a chance to stop the distress signal from going out if you’re ok. If you don’t stop the app, it sends an SMS text message to your pre-specified emergency contacts with your GPS coordinates.
To keep you safe on the road, the Garmin tail light uses radar to detect approaching cars from up to 140m away and increases in brightness in both steady and flash modes as motorists approach. You can use the tail light independently, as a smart light; or with certain models from Garmin’s Edge bike computer line light sends information about how many cars are behind you as well as each car’s proximity.
The front light, meanwhile, helps to create safer riding by adjusting the light beam to changing light conditions and illuminating further ahead at greater speeds.
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