Cycling Computer Vs Smartphone: Which Should You Choose? | Cycling Weekly


when you're out on a bike ride a small

cycling computer is a great way to show

your speed and distance without taking

up too much space but your mobile phone

can also do the exact same functionality

without any extra cost it gets more

complicated when you want to start

tracking your location on your bike

rides because as soon as you add GPS

into the mix cycling computers get a

whole lot more expensive and you'll be

quite reasonable to question why you

need to spend the extra cash after

you've already bought a mobile phone so

in this video I'm going to compare a

cycling computer to a mobile phone so

you can work out exactly which device is

best suited to your riding experience


we'll start was the most important

consideration which is of course the

price now your smartphone is probably

undoubtedly already a hefty chunk of

money they can be some of the most

expensive objects that we buy and you

might be quite reasonably reticent to

spend any more on a cycling computer

when you think the two can do the exact

same job now cycling computers of

varying prices not just top-end ones

compared with third-party sensors

including heartrate and cadence as well

as power meters as long as they

communicate via a and t + or blue to

smart they then take all of that

information and present it in a useful

place such as a head unit it's more

difficult with mobile phones there's

only some apps such as whoohoo fitness

actually letting you connect third-party

sensors and others including Strava

removing that functionality altogether

so our advice to you would be know what

type of cycling you're looking to do if

you're already a committed cyclist with

additional sensors then you're probably

better off going for a cycling computer

and if you know that's the area you want

to be getting into then the same applies

however if you're not so first about

your heart rate power or speeding

cadence and would much rather just know

about your speed and distance then

you're probably going to be fine with a

mobile phone


one of the big differences between

phones and cycling computers is their

battery life now we've all experienced

it you've owned a mobile phone for

exactly a year and it's battery life

seems to have completely collapsed and

it's no good being half way through a 50

mile buy tried to have the dreaded 10%

battery life sign pop up on the screen

even if your phone states at 26 hour

battery life like most modern

smartphones do using GPS is going to

severely affect it so as soon as you

fire up Google Maps or Strava you're

eating into this valuable lifeline

however a cycling computer is made with

this action in mind and most top-end

cycling computers will state a battery

life of well over 15 hours the Garmin

Edge 830 offers twenty hours the wha-hoo

element roams 17 and the kuru hammerhead

15 but the key thing is is that all of

these units are designed with GPS in

mind so they have optimized the battery

life to work with that signal they're

also designed to work well in cold

weather and poor weather whereas a

mobile phone's battery life is likely to

tank as soon as you take out in the cold

a cycling computers will carry on being

absolutely fine so it's always worth

bearing in mind that eating out your

phone's battery life could leave you in

a bit of a vulnerable situation if you

get into an emergency and I'd always

rather have battery life on my phone

than on my cycling computer as a

get-out-of-jail-free card


one of the big appeals of using a

cycling computer is that they are sleek

and attractive and look really good when

put on the front of a bike unfortunately

that's not really the case for a mobile

phone which is quite bulky big and is

definitely not aerodynamic which some

cycling computers claim to be such as

Wahoo's Element bolt you could opt for a

cheaper cycling computer which is a lot

smaller and can display your speed and

distance but your phone can do that and

a lot more it's got a bigger screen

which makes it easier to read it's got

Google Maps at your fingertips which is

most people's preferred way of

navigating and it's got a touchscreen

which is a really easy way to hop

between apps on the fly so sometimes

bigger is better


if you're training to push your

performance you want to have as accurate

stats as possible but are you

sacrificing that accuracy by using a

mobile phone instead of a cycling

computer well not necessarily mobile

phones do have pretty good GPS because

they use something called assisted GPS

which is where they use a structure such

as a cell tower or a network tower to

give it your location that way they pick

up your location quicker and often a bit

more accurate straightaway than a

cycling computer is however a cycling

computer can access loads of different

types of GPS signals including GPS

Galileo the European satellite and GPS

GLONASS the Russian satellite this is

really useful because you can actually

pick the signal you want on most top-end

cycling computers which means you can

tailor the device for what you need so

if you're riding right out in the middle

of the sticks on a multi-day adventure

then you might want to save as much

battery life as possible and just use

standard GPS however if you ride

somewhere with a lot of coverage such as

in the woods or forest or in the city

where there's tall buildings you'll want

to go for a more powerful signal such as

GPS GLONASS or GPS Galileo a sokham

computer lets you pick that level of

functionality that you want whereas a

mobile phone doesn't necessarily do that


cycling computers are built to withstand

poor conditions they're water resistant

and they don't lose their battery life

in the cold now a lot of smartphones are

also water resistant but not all of them

for example mine actually isn't

waterproof at all and it's a whole lot

more frustrating if you water log this

rather than a cycling computer because

that way you can kiss goodbye to

Instagram mobile phones are also a whole

lot more likely to smash should you drop

them on the floor or god forbid have a

crash on your bike however so can

computers tend to be pretty chunky and

able to withstand even the pretty harsh

impacts that outdoor use can bring


ultimately the answer to this question

comes down to your use case if you

commute by bike or you just like cycling

because it's a lovely thing to do then

you're probably absolutely fine with

your mobile phone or you could even get

a small non GPS enabled so computer to

give you your speed and distance however

we've all caught the cycling bug at some

point and the more you get into this

great sport the more you're probably

going to want to crunch your numbers and

look at your data at this point it's

probably worth buying a cycling computer

that can do that for you and after all

who doesn't like spending a bit of money

on a nice shiny product I hope that

you've liked this video and it's help

answers some of your questions about

cycling computers and mobile phones if

you have liked it or if you have any

more questions and please do leave them

in the comment section below and we'll

do our best to answer them in the

meantime don't forget to Like and

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channel and I'll see you next time