Mountain biking has a decent level of adventure in it. Although This is what pulls in riders, it also causes a number of potential problems for whoever joins it.
To keep you safe and make your journey more enjoyable, a bike GPS is what you need. However, many people will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices out there, which may lead to a rush decision.
To help you navigate through all the extra choices, Sarah gathered this list of the best mountain bike GPS, plus a buying guide for those who do not know what to look for in a device like this.
Deep and Thorough Reviews of 5 Top-rated Best Mountain Bike GPS
Garmin Edge 820
Garmin Edge 820 features GroupTrack, a LiveTrack’s extension so that your friends and family know your whereabouts via your GPS coordinate.
GroupTrack bears similar principles with LiveTrack but you are the one who receives this visibility of your riding companions.
This may not be so useful for solo riders but when you want to have company on the trails, it is advisable to at least know where they are in case of emergency.
Better safe than sorry, right?
Garmin Edge 820 has another feature for safe-keeping, which is the Incident Alert.
Once you configure it, the program that will send a distress message to a contact of your choice telling them that you need their help at a specific location.
To avoid sending false alarm, it will first notify you that a message is ready to be sent and you have 20 seconds to cancel it. If you do not, the contacts you assign in advance will get the message.
If you keep an eye on Garmin recently, you may notice that they are aiming at creating a virtual coach on each device. This plays as a support program for the educated guesstimates on the Garmin 520, including the Recovery Time and the V02 Max.
The Garmin Edge 820 is capable of providing you with an estimated FTP number. This piece of information is drawn from a test that the device walks you through or by auto-calculation.
The heart rate monitor and the power meter are required to support these two features.
- A handful of programs for keeping you safe when mountain biking.
- Good navigation.
- A wide variety of mounting options.
- ANT+ compatibility.
- Touch screen calibration is a bit off.
- Poor Bluetooth connection.
Lezyne Micro Color GPS Bike Computer
The first thing anyone will probably notice is the compact size of this device. This may not be a huge selling point for riders who like a big screen so that they can check the navigations, STRAVA segments, and texts regularly.
However, those who want the convenience of a GPS but do not like to be distracted, this Lezyne fits the bill.
You get to customize the screen to display only the information you want to see most.
The GPS is compatible with iPhone. It can also be paired with cadence sensors and heart rate monitor. All of your ride data will be transferred to an app of Lezyne’s GPS. The information will later be auto-synced to STRAVA.
- Reasonable priced.
- Can track and connect most of the things you ever want.
- Old-fashion interface.
- The appearance is not as appealing as other models.
CAT EYE – Strada Slim Wireless Bike Computer
The first thing one notices on this CAT EYE is the absolute absence of buttons, which means that if you want to control or adjust anything, you do it by pressing the screen.
This design significantly increases the size of the screen and allows you to have more information without scrolling to the next page.
Its simplicity is unparalleled so you do not have to worry about checking it when you are in short of time.
The interface features a customizable display, which means you can decide whether the modes on the lower half of the screen are visible or not.
This level of customizing is not so impressive in comparison with other models but there is nothing complicated about it, so some might consider this is an advantage.
Here is the list of modes: trip distance, elapsed time, maximum speed, average speed, clock, and odometer.
These features are enough for some riders including me.
- Simple interface.
- No redundant features
- Large screen for more information to be displayed.
- The device will reset the data after it leaves the bike for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Low temperature may cause the device to malfunction.
Garmin Edge 520 Bike GPS
When you consider its price range, the Garmin Edge 520 is arguably the best bike GPS.
If you are the one that highly regards functionality and appearance and desire the best of both worlds, this 520 is right down your alley.
It does what it is supposed to very well. Its course navigation is hard to beat even for some devices of the higher price range.
You can consider what you have to pay for this Garmin Edge 520 is money-well-spent. For that price, you have a wide range of features, plus its durability.
The interface is quite user-friendly and the device can be paired with your smartphone and some external sensors.
- Garmin LiveTrack works well.
- A wide range of metrics and compatible with many sensors: cadence, power meter, and HR.
- Reasonable priced.
- When you ride lots of rollers, the gradient metric tends to lag.
- The auto zoom is confusing.
- The weather alert is bothersome.
Bryton Rider 310 GPS Bike Computer
This one is a full-fledged computer in the shell of a compact device. The best part is, this Bryton is a budget-friendly model.
For those who only care about data, not navigation, this Bryton is a prime candidate.
Although it does not have STRAVA, educated guesstimates, or recovery, it’s sports basic metrics well and accurate. You can count on its distance and speed.
- Display all the important metrics clearly and accurately.
- Does not cost much.
- Long battery life,
- No Bluetooth notifications.
- Clunky apps.
What You Need to Know Before Purchasing A New Mountain Bike GPS
As with anything else you buy, the best MTB GPS should be the one that meets your needs and suitable for your budget.
The things you need to consider are:
Nowadays, even the basic entry-level devices are able to plan and track a certain route. The data you can expect from them are distance, time tracking, location, and speed.
As the price goes up, you will get more features.
There is one thing I want to mention here,
If you need your heart rate data to be extremely accurate, think about a torso-worn HRMs (short for heart-rate monitors).
These are way more reliable than the one that is built-in with smartwatches.
For devices of the higher price range, expect to have turn-by-turn navigation which provides you with directions to the destination you need. This system is more precise and effective than the old breadcrumb style navigation.
Up the price scale, the map on these devices shows more details, including attractions, road names, places for a quick meal.
Weight and Design
Mountain bike GPS comes in a wide variety of different designs.
Some advanced models have colored and interactive interfaces. A lot of these devices can work as well as a smartphone.
The screen size is also a feature to consider. A wider screen allows for more information to be displayed while a smaller one will make the device looks more compact.
The weight might not be a concern for a typical rider but for competitive XC riders, this feature is vital. Professional bikers know well that extra weight means extra seconds to their time.
This may not sound like a significant feature but actually, it is important.
How the device is attached to your bike will give you an idea of whether it can remain on the bike when you are on bumpy roads.
The two most common spots for a bike GPS is on the handlebar or the stem.
A good device will stay fixed on the bike no matter how rough the terrain is. The more options you have when it comes to mounting, the more control you have over where and when to attach it on.
Those who are planning to bike for a long distance, the battery life is crucial in picking a bike GPS.
A long battery life is convenient, especially when it does not allow you to take it off and switch to another device.
The average battery can last from 13 to 15 hours. The most durable one can operate in the course of 24 hours.
The rule here is that the more features the GPS have, the shorter the battery life.
You have a choice over a type with replaceable batteries or rechargeable batteries. The latter is more common as it does not add extra weight to the device.
For those interested in even longer rides, the options range from dynamo hub generators, external battery expanders, and solar technology.
Why Do You Need A Bike GPS?
Bike GPS has to compete with a wide range of wearables such as fitness bands, smartwatches, cell phones with GPS apps. Therefore it may not be clear why you need a separate device while you can have dozens of features on one.
Some of the prominent apps for smartphones include STRAVA and Map My Ride. They have all the cool functionality like speed, directions, altitude, distances.
These wearables challenge the existence of the bike GPS.
These features might sound tempting. Who wants an extra expense on a GPS while you can download an app to your phone in a few minutes, right?
However, for now, a smartphone has not been able to beat a bike GPS yet.
Here is why:
Compatibility To The Terrain
A GPS allows you to mount it on the handlebar so that you can glance at it whenever you need to check for anything.
A smartphone, on the other hand, is usually kept in the pocket. You will have to pull it out to check when you need.
Some people will argue that there are plenty of mounts for phones on the market.
It is true, but:
A phone is more vulnerable to shock and rough terrain. Mountain biking means that most of your time is spent off-road. Imagine a crash and your phone will be broken.
A smartphone also tends to be bulkier and does not have the distinctive professional look to it.
Bike GPS, even the budget-friendly model, definitely has a longer battery life than most smartphones. A phone’s battery must power a bunch of features that are not really related to what you are doing (mountain biking).
Try to bring a phone with you on a touring ride and you will feel the pain of not being able to use the GPS on your phone because the battery cannot hold up to the length of the journey.
Let’s be realistic:
Just Not Sports are talking about 15 hours of a bike GPS and 3 hours max of a smartphone.
Value For Money
So we have had enough argument to disapprove of the idea of using a smartphone as a GPS. So what about smart watches or wristbands?
They are compact and lightweight. Some of them can be mounted on the handlebar just like a bike GPS does.
Now imagine you need to check the speed or the distance on a smartwatch, sometimes you need to take both hands off the bar, which is not always feasible on mountain roads.
The more features one device has, the more expensive it is. A smartwatch may not be a good investment if all you need is the GPS.
Have you ever used one of the models I list above? What do you think about them? If you have your own best mountain bike GPS, remember to share it with me in the comment section below.