Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The best bike computer that you can't buy...!

Cycling computers have evolved over the last 10 years. Remember when you had to have a wire running from the sensor on your fork up the the handlebar mounted unit that displayed speed and distance, and that was it. The big breakthrough came with wireless units - I remember my Cateye Cordless 7 being the envy of the day! Then Polar came along and suddenly you could have heart rate, and even altitude on your computer. In my opinion, and in the opinion of no less a blogging authority than the Fat Cyclist, the best bike computer currently available is the Garmin Edge 500, which adds GPS. However, at about R2,400 (or $250 in the States), this is an expensive bit of kit.
Now, if you ask any cyclist to turn out his pockets at the end of a ride, in amongst an assortment of keys, mini-tools and sticky energy bar wrappers, you'll always find a cell phone. And most top-end phones include GPS, so why should we have to pay twice for it? There are numerous apps available for Android, iOS and Symbian phones designed for runners and cyclists, and most of them have a free version. Most rides I go on I track with my phone - I love being able to sit at my computer and see my exact route, speed at each km point, altitude etc.
The problem is, most modern smartphones are a bit big to strap to your handlebars, and their screens are notoriously difficult to read in direct sunlight.
And then I saw the Sony LiveView micro display, and the answer was revealed to me! This is a tiny, Bluetooth connected device that gives a status linked to your phone, letting you control your music or see your Facebook updates. It's so small it can even be worn as a watch! Unfortunately, with only a 1.3" display the LiveView would be a bit small, and with an LED display would almost definitely have the same problems in sunlight as a fully fledged smartphone. The ideal bike computer would have an LCD display similar in size to the Garmin Edge 500 above, but the unit would link via bluetooth to your smartphone which would be doing all the heavy lifting! Even with it's expensive OLED display the LiveView is retailing for only $100, so I figure with a cheaper but slightly larger LCD screen, my device needn't cost any more than that! Any takers?

Thanks for reading.