Do You Need a Trip Computer / Cyclometer / GPS Device? 2

Garmin on Womo


I remember when I first got into bicycling back in college, one of the first thing I bought was a Cateye Mity 2 cyclometer. It was a basic device that mounted on my handlebar with a wired magnetic transmitter where another magnetic piece was mounted on the spokes to keep track of the revolutions of my wheel. You’d set up the size of your wheel, and it figured out how fast you were rolling and the distance you traveled as your front tire spun.



Photo Credit: Pete Reed via Compfight cc


Reminiscing the Past

Back in the early 90s, this device was the cat’s meow as it took me one step closer to being like a real vehicle with information about my speed and distance (both total distance and trip distance). I didn’t have to guess my progress. Instead, the computer would start-up once I started my ride. It was a form of entertainment as I went out to ride my bike to see how fast I’ve gone or how far I’ve traveled.

Fast forward to present day, and you’ll notice that the same type of device has evolved to something that is a lot more capable than merely tracking your speed and distance. They are highly connected devices that give a glimpse of your journey on your bike. Most are satellite enabled with sophisticated global positioning systems (GPS) to accurately keep track of where you’ve been, how fast you went, how far you’ve gone, or how high you’ve climbed. This dedicated device is no bigger than a pack of chewing gum. A technological marvel to say the least.

There’s obviously a need for these devices as online services like Strava are highly popular in cyclist circles. According to Strava, they have 2.5 million GPS-enabled activities being tracked per week and claims that they have 300 billion GPS points recorded in their systems. It goes to show that many people are using cyclometers.


Not Everyone Wants One

Then, there are those who refuse to be tethered by these wireless devices, intruding on their progress, as they purely enjoy being on their bikes without a care in the world. These minimalists don’t want to be bothered by trivial data points as it is meaningless to them. They don’t care how far they’ve ridden or how fast they’ve gone. They just know that in bicycle touring, you ride until you can’t. Your goal isn’t to set any personal records on your loaded down touring bike. You don’t care if you are blasting down the hills going 38 mph, you just know that the descent reminds you of the fun to be had in life as you fly past stationary objects on the side of the road. You are living in the moment.


B & W Bike

Photo Credit: Gideon Tsang via Compfight cc

A Changed Man

For me, I used to be the fellow who didn’t care too much about my riding progress. However, I did care about my mileage. I used to remember each turn as I am riding through neighborhoods and would come home to plot them out on Google Maps to figure out how far I’ve ridden for the day. I was perfectly happy without one, until I was gifted one. It was a Garmin Edge Touring Navigator, a trip computer that is GPS enabled to track everything, but cadence and my heart rate. It also provided directions and had built-in maps in case I need to find my way to the next place to be called “home.” Although it is annoying to constantly worry about the battery life of such device, it isn’t much of an issue as long as you remember to check on it at the end of a long day. I have grown really fond of it lately. I’ve been using it to read turn-by-turn GPX files I’ve created out of preplanned directions on Google Maps. It has been solid in providing all the statistics of all my bike tours. It has humbled me when I look down on it during a long ascent up hills. It keeps on ticking through all types of weather. It tells me the time whenever I need it without pulling out my mobile phone.

I don’t leave home without my Garmin when I go on bike rides. Having the information at the end of the ride allows me to relive the moment in my mind when the road points up or banks down. I rarely share my progress. This is all for me.


Do You Need One?

Enough about me. Let’s see if you need one. Let’s ask a few questions and find out. Answer these questions honestly with a “Yes” or “No”.

  • Do you care about your ride statistics?
  • Are you bored during your rides?
  • Do you want to know how fast you’re going?
  • Do you want to know how far you’ve traveled?
  • Do you want to know your elevation gains?
  • Do you not care about needing to recharge your device while on the road?

If you answered, “Yes” to most or all of these questions, then I reckon you need to go out and buy yourself one. If the majority of your answers are “No,” save your money, and just enjoy your ride.


Strava Laptop

Photo Credit: LoKan Sardari via Compfight cc

You May Not Need to Buy One

Most of us may already have one in our pockets. Yes, our beloved smart phones can easily transform to one of these devices by a simple software download. Here are some popular applications that are used to track your rides.

Be warned that these suck up a lot of power, so be prepared to bring a back up battery if you need your smart phone for other purposes. You’ll also need a good phone case that allows you to mount it to your bicycle handlebars. For these reasons, I prefer to keep my smart phone charged up and ready for other things like wayfinding or a phone call.

Related Posts

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

About Johnny Lam

Johnny is an avid cyclist who enjoys bicycle touring as well as anything bicycle related. Johnny has traveled the entire Pacific Coast by bike from Vancouver to the border of California and Mexico. He's also toured through-out locations in Southern California. Johnny is also a League of American Bicyclists League Certified Instructor (LCI) and also completed the Adventure Cycling Association's Leadership Training Course (LTC). He is an active member in Los Angeles bicycling community being involved in organizations like the Los Angeles County Bicycling Coalition (LACBC), C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange), and Bike San Gabriel Valley (Bike SGV) by taking part in ride marshaling, pedestrian & bike counts, and other volunteering opportunities.

2 thoughts on “Do You Need a Trip Computer / Cyclometer / GPS Device?

Comments are closed.