Bike computers have long been used in the world of cycling to track and measure data. Nowadays, in the current age of smartphones, and smartwatches, there is the question of whether or not biking computers are still relevant. After all, can’t smartwatches do everything a bike computer can do and more? The purpose of this article is to attempt to find out which one is actually best when comparing a bike computer vs a smartwatch.
Is one really better than the other, or is it just a matter of personal preference? There are pros and cons to using either one. Here we will look at both bike computers, and smartwatches as they relate to cycling, and weigh the pros and cons of each. Once we have all the facts, we can then determine if one is objectively better than the other.
Bike Computer Vs Smartwatch: Features
The first thing to look at when comparing a bike computer to a smartwatch, would be the actual features. It goes without saying that both of these devices will be weather resistant, but what about their other features? Let’s take a look, shall we!
Bike Computers Features
One thing that bike computers definitely have going for them, is that they were designed with a singular purpose in mind: cycling. This is a specialized device designed by cyclists for cyclists. So what does it do?
A good bike computer will have a built in GPS. It will measure speed, cadence, distance traveled, and elapsed time. Good bike computers will also give you additional stats such as calories burned, V02 Max, as well as temperature and elevation data.
Some bike computers even have touchscreens and will allow for group chats. A lot of bike computers these days can even sync with your phone, giving you access to all of your favorite apps, such as Strava.
The thing about cycling smartwatches, is that they mostly rely on being tethered to your phone in order to use the majority of their features. But who really leaves home without their smartphone these days anyway?
A good cycling smartwatch will also have a built in GPS, although since they can sync with your phone, you can always just sync it with the GPS on your phone. Smartwatches are compatible with apps that you download onto your phone, with Strava being one of the more popular apps in the cycling community.
These apps will allow your smartwatch to track things such as distance, speed, cadence, time, calories burned, V02 Max, elevation data, weather patterns and more. You can also easily switch music tracks via your smartwatch if you happen to be wearing earbuds while cycling.
Seeing as how a smartwatch can sync with your smartphone, you will, on average, have access to more features with a smartwatch. There are even smartwatches that run a full android operating system!
Biking Computer Vs Smartwatch: Ease Of Use
The next thing we will look at when comparing biking computers to smartwatches is their ease of use. How easy, or difficult is it to manage these devices when preparing for cycling or during an actual cycling outing.
When it comes to biking computers, you do have to have to mount it on your bike. This can be a hassle sometimes, but the cool thing about it is that once you have it set up, you can leave it on your bike. If it has a touchscreen, you will have to take one hand off of of your handlebars to navigate the touchscreen while cycling.
One neat thing about many biking computers is that they have tend to have a long battery life. A very long battery life! This is especially true if you get biking computers that have only the most basic features. For example, the Cat Eye Velo 9 bike computer boasts a battery life of up to 3 years!
When using a smartwatch, there is no initial mounting required. It is already on your wrist, so no worries there. There is one issue that can come up when using a smartwatch, however, and that is accessibility while riding.
In order to use a smartwatch while riding, you would have to use one hand to interact with the smartwatch and also look at the smartwatch, which shifts your field of vision away from the front.
This could be problematic, and make you more likely to get involved in an accident on your bike. Not to mention, you may also have to change the angle of your hand that the smartwatch is on as well.
Additionally, smartwatches have limited battery life, especially while engaging various features and apps. You could , however, get several hours, or even days, depending on the smartwatch used, and what features are activated.
Biking computers appear to be easier to manage while cycling.
Winner: Biking Computer
Bike Computer Vs Smartwatch: Price
This one doesn’t require too much of a breakdown. You can get far cheaper options in biking computers if you settle for the bare minimum of features without all of the bells and whistles. This is good enough for many casual cyclists. Biking computers like this can be bought for under $100.
It’s only when you start getting the ones with many extra features and smartphone compatibility that you start spending more. At that point, the price of a biking computer will be the equivalent of a good cycling smartwatch. And most good cycling smartwatches will be at least a couple of hundred dollars, so that is what you can expect to spend on a more advanced biking computer.
Ultimately, smartwatches will, on average, be more expensive than the average biking computer.
Winner: Biking Computer
Bike Computer Vs Smartwatch: Final Results
- cheaper on average
- easier to use while cycling
- no smartphone needed
- usually have much longer battery life
- initial setup on bike
- more features when synced with smartphone phone
- no initial setup
- more awkward to use while cycling
- tends to be more expensive
Better For Cycling Overall: Biking Computer
Well based on the factors we have covered, I have concluded that a biking computer is going to be better for biking than a smartwatch. Overall bike computers are cheaper on average, easier to use while cycling, have a longer battery life, and don’t need to be tethered to a smartphone.
This doesn’t mean that you should never use a smartwatch instead. If a smartwatch is your personal preference, then go for it! I just feel that a biking computer is going to be a better deal. But to each his own!