Bike Computers Vs. Smartphone Vs. Smart Watch


Active Member
Jul 7, 2015
I wanted to know which of these work best for you when you take a ride. Is it smartphone, bike computer or a smart watch?
Why did you choose that option? Aren't all of these the same when it comes to providing you with the basic functionalities? What makes your choice special?
First I used the dedicated computers - now I use MapMyRide - pretty much the same basic data, but it doesn't need a sensor on the wheel and it my phone multi-tasks.
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I'm eyeing one of these new Lezyne GPS units when they come out.

Small, sensorless, rugged etc.

The middle range one has Bluetooth for cadence and HR too.
I use a bike computer.
Better battery life.
No concerns about being weather proof.
Easily read screen even in full daylight.
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Bike computer. I don't want the batterry dying on my phone when I have to call 911 after I get run over by an 18 wheeler during a 5 hour long ride.

I also don't want to mount my phone on my bike. Works fine in the back pocket but can't see what you are doing.
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I try not to bring any technology whenever I ride, but if I do, I bring my smartphone. It's more practical.
I used to have a basic odometer with the front wheel sensor and would stow my smartphone away with the GPS running (Endomondo, Strava, whatever). Nice part was instant upload to their sites. Bad part was draining battery on longer rides. Eventually ditched the old fashioned odometer and went with Garmin Edge 200 (cleaner mounting). Gives me a big easy to read screen with the info I care about most....Speed, distance and average speed. I take it home, connect to computer and upload to my favorite sites. I had considered mounting my iPhone but the potential for damage was always there. And of course the battery situation. I used to think that having a dedicated bike computer was overkill but frankly, I haven't regretted the expenditure at all. An added bonus is you can upload routes to give you a bread crumb trail. Used it recently on a metric century and it was great.
I'd rather get a cheap bike computer made in China. You can have it mounted on your handle bars, and not worry about scratching it or it getting damaged because it's so cheap. I would get ****** if my smart phone crack because it feel out of my pocket.
Hmmmm...I remember when the Avocet 30 was all I needed and wanted. That Pace Arrow was awesome!

I've used a mid-line bike computer for years...various Cateye, TREK, etc. units. The Cateye Strada Wired and Wireless models are simple and reliable and were on my bikes for many years.

Then, I had to have GPS. And altitude. And heart rate. Altitude, IMO, is a guesstimate at best and varies wildly from website to website off the same uploaded file. Still, I like the data for training with.

My Garmin 510, only a year old, is now obsolete. The new Garmin 520 includes another feature I would enjoy using...mapping!
Right now I'm happy with just my phone and Google Maps. For me, the most important thing is training my body. Don't want to let gadgets distract me too much from getting more stamina and saying yes to more miles.

If I had to have a gadget, I'd try to build my own based on open hardware and open sourced software.


First off, the smart watch can only be seen in the magazine advertisements, hahahaaa. I always rely on my phone particularly in navigating with the Waze app. But one time I saw a motorcycle during a traffic stop. It has a phone connected to the handlebar of the motorcylce and the guy was using Waze. It was the first time I've seen that and probably it is the so called bike computer. It seems that I'm already being left behind by technology.
I use my phone. I have a small phone, Samsung Alpha with good GPS sensitivity. My favorite app is Runtastic Road Bike Pro. I like the part about % cycling on flat lane, uphill and downhill where you dont get any exercise.

What is your favorite GPS app for your bike?
I've been using my phone with the Map My Ride app for a few months, but since I also stream music or radio on my phone it drains my battery very quickly. I'd like to switch to a cyclecomputer sometime in the future, but still be able to log my rides on MapMyRide.
I have been using my iPhone 6 using the Topeak ride case which is mounted to the stem. I run two apps Wahoo and Strava when I ride and they show me everything I need and they use GPS. This setup allows me to use my ANT+/BLE Wahoo HR monitor and speed/cadence sensor. A couple of weeks ago I went on a 5 hour ride and the battery had only went down to about half of its life.

Last weekend I picked up a Garmin edge 1000 ($500.00) to see if it was any better. I took a ride about 30 miles using both setups. I returned the Garmin. If I didn't already have the smartphone I would have kept the Garmin.
I don't really have a use for a bike computer. I have my smartphone if I absolutely need technology on my trip for some reason. People got by fine without these devices before, I'm not sure what the fascination is now to be honest. Keep in mind I work in IT, and make a living supporting computer and mobile technology. I just think in some cases it is over the top. To each their own.
What smartphone do you have? I got the Note 4 and the battery life is awsome, but I dont use it when exercising. I use a Samsung Alpha. It has the smallest removeable battery. I use it for 1 hr and it drop 20% at the max. Of course I can pop in another battery, but I dont think I exercise for 5 hrs.

Maybe older fons are battery hog?

Also I can use the phone to make call in case something bad happen at the trail. Bike computer cant do that.
Just depends on how fancy you want to get, I don't like to spend an hour after a ride and download info and review it on a computer, I'm not racing so all of that isn't important to me. I also don't like the headache of a long learning curve to operate such devices and I'm not a techno geek, so that's why I answered the way I did. So I use is, depending on which bike I'm on, is primarily a VDO Z2, and on another bike I use a Sigma 1609. The only other piece of electronic device I will buy when I start doing long tours is a watch with a GPS mapping system like the Leiker
I used to go with a speedometer on the handlebars but now I just use my smartphone tucked into my pocket. The reason is my phone does everything I need, from navigation, tracking my distance, to listening to music.