Bike computers review

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ARgh, I somehow lost my Garmin 1030 bike computer in the haze of the COVID pandemic, it’s in a box somewhere, so what I have left is my Garmin 520 Plus and an old Garmin 800.

I’ve actually gotten the 520 Plus to work pretty well, it doesn’t have a touch screen and because it’s old the battery life is short. More like six hours than 12. But when I look at review, this thing is still highly recommended.

What is great about Garmin is that IC Connect shop which gives you all kinds of integrations and data fields. And it’s incredible compatibility with just about every kind of ANT+ and Bluetooth LE peripheral around because it sells so well.

That being said, having spent 20 years in the Garmin environment, since I can’t find the 1030, I spent the afternoon doing some research to see what the state of the art is. The important things to get a replacement is to get something that complements the 520 Plus (still pretty much ideal for known routes) so that navigation works well, works with the Garmin Varia RTL510/515 Radar

The conclusion is that after reading Bike Radar, Outdoor Gear Labs, Bicycling, Gear Junkie, DC Rainmaker:

  1. Garmin 530. For most users the Garmin 530 (a slight update to the 520 Plus) is really good enough. It doesn’t do live navigation which is the main thing (it is really hard to just do navigation from the device, you program it ahead of time), but it has everything else from Strava Live segments to FTP to Di2 to VO2 max estimates. And, you can even add maps to it, but the screen makes them pretty hard to see. And it isn’t a touchscreen but has a 20 hour battery. $300 from Amazon
  2. Wahoo Elemnt Bolt or Roam. At $230 for the Bolt, this thing was the original easy-to-use contender to the Garmin 530 and it now has a color screen. The Roam at $380 has the navigational features. Today, it has integration with just about everything as well, but the nice feature is that you program it with your phone rather than hitting all those random buttons with the Garmin. Note that if you do go Wahoo, they carry a quarter turn mount, so you can just use it with your Garmin mount (this matters to me because I have a Varia UT 500 light that mounts underneath). And it does support ANT+ lights and radars so will work with those things.
  3. Garmin Edge 1030 Plus. Yes, this is the thing that I’ve lost somewhere in my house and its been a classic for a while. The main thing with the plus is a 24 hour battery life and a really huge screen that does route calculation. But it is $600 from Amazon. In truth, you probably really want two computers, one a small one like the 530 and then a big one for touring in unfamiliar areas.
  4. If you get by with a smaller screen then the Garmin Edge 830 is fine (I have an old Garmin Edge 800 and it is right between the 520 Plus and 1030 in size). Like the 1030, it let’s you build routes while you are moving along and it is a touchscreen.
  5. Hammerhead Kazoo 2. OK, like Wahoo a while back, these folks based in Brooklyn took a different approach, this is basically an Android 8 phone cut down with a dedicated application. The display and navigation are the reason to get it. They have largely caught up in other features like integration with radar, power meters and so forth. The main issue thought is that it has a relatively short battery life of 8-10 hours so you may need a charger with it. That’s not surprising given it is Android underneath. It does let you side load applications though, so you could use it to run say TrainerRoad on a trainer, although I find that you might as well use a laptop for that. And of course, the big benefit is that theoretically programming it should be way easier, but it doesn’t have the benefit of the IQ connect library. Also it has a quarter turn mount and in the latest version of software, it works with Di2, Varia radar and you can turn on and off the light and set the mode too. Finally, because it is Android, the GPS and navigation really do work well. At $400 direct (or from Competitive Cyclist), it actually compares pretty well to the Garmin 830 at $400 and it is brighter than the Garmin 1030 Plus which costs $600. Still you are taking a chance on a new manufacturer, but their bet on Android is pretty smart.

Other devices: Hydration and Lactic Acid

In the course of doing this, I found yet more strange things that you can monitor. Chief amongst them are Aura which uses electrical impedance to measure your hydration. It’s a strap on top of your Apple Watch for $120, perfect for the new Apple Watch 7, you can monitor everything.

You can also spend $1K to see your actual lactic buildup by scanning with a special light.

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