Navigation has come a long way since paper maps ruled the roost. Our cars have long sported global positioning systems (GPS) integrated into onboard computers that give directions in real-time right on our dashboards. The best GPS cycling computers do much the same thing — and often, quite a lot more.
The best GPS cycling computer offers a cyclist real-time navigation and wayfinding. Most mount directly to the handlebars for optimal viewing. But GPS cycling computers do not stop there; many offer other data points like current speed, average speed, power, elevation gained, elapsed time and much more.
We've tested some of the best GPS bike computers on the market over hundreds of miles and on all different types of rides to help you choose the best one for your needs. Read on for our top picks.
The quick list
Easy to setup and use, the Elemnt Bolt is the best GPS cycling computer for most. It’s compact but easy to read, and it’s easy to change screens quickly on the move.
Best for quick setup
Best for quick setup
The Elemnt Roam is the bigger brother of the Elemnt Bolt. It features a slightly larger screen a slightly longer battery life, and an identical button layout compared to the Bolt.
Best for multisport athletes
Best for multisport athletes
The wristwatch is a good form factor for multi-sport athletes who may go from running to biking to swimming — sometimes in that order in the form of a triathlon.
Read more below
Best for e-bikes
Best for e-bikes
The Edge Explore 2 is designed specifically with ebikers in mind, though you can still use it with a non-motorized bike. The screen is clear, and setup was quick and easy.
Best for long rides
Best for long rides
Garmin integrates Power Glass into the Edge 840 Solar’s screen face, which allows the unit to charge off the sun while you’re riding, making it great for long rides.
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Best for data-obsessed cyclists
Best for data-obsessed cyclists
This is unique because of its prime functionality: motion tracking sensors are placed on specific body locations to track your body’s movement while you’re riding to track your body’s movement.
Best GPS bike computer overall
The Elemnt Bolt has long been my go-to GPS cycling computer due to its super-simple setup and pairing, and easy user interface. It’s compact but easy to read, and it’s easy to change your screens quickly with just the press of a button. Navigation is very good, though perhaps not as quick and clear as Hammerhead’s Karoo 2.
A 2.2-inch display is easy to read and features selective color to make certain important bits of information easier to see. Wahoo claims a 15-hour battery life, and in my experience, that is a good estimate if you’re being conservative with your screen brightness and navigation use.
The Elemnt Bolt features 16 GB of memory, so you can upload a ton of maps, rides, and workouts (though if you will be uploading routes daily, consider a computer with more storage; Garmin’s Edge 840 Solar, for example, features twice as much storage at 32 GB). It mounts to your handlebars with a proprietary aerodynamic mount that seamlessly integrates with the shape of the computer itself.
Overall, the Elemnt Bolt does everything a good GPS should do without a lot of fluff, all at a decent price.
Best GPS bike computer for quick setup
The Elemnt Roam is the bigger brother of the Elemnt Bolt. It features a slightly larger screen (2.7 inches versus 2.2 on the Bolt) a slightly longer battery life (17 hours versus 15 on the Bolt), and an identical button layout compared to the Bolt.
The big difference is under the hood. The Elemnt Roam features dual band GPS, while the Bolt features single band GPS. That means the Roam’s global positioning should be slightly faster and more accurate than its smaller sibling, the Elemnt Bolt.
The Elemnt Roam is just as great as the Elemnt Bolt, but with a larger footprint. I personally like the Bolt’s smaller footprint, but with added GPS accuracy, you may find the Elemnt Roam worth the extra size.
Best GPS bike computer for mulitsport athletes
Unlike the other GPS computers in this test, the Elemnt Rival from Wahoo is a watch rather than a standalone unit mounted to the bicycle’s handlebars. The wristwatch is a good form factor for multi-sport athletes who may go from running to biking to swimming — sometimes in that order in the form of a triathlon.
If you plan to do triathlons, you’ll appreciate the multisport-specific features, like touchless transition, which automatically tracks the different parts of the triathlon so you don’t have to switch manually. Multisport handover even connects the Elemnt Rival watch to your GPS bike computer so you get a seamless experience on the bike leg.
The Elemnt Rival has an optical heart rate monitor built in, so you can even do some sleep-tracking with the watch. And you can pair the heart rate monitor to your GPS cycling computer too.
There are a ton of great features that make the Elemnt Rival perfect for athletes who don’t spend all their time in the bike saddle. The only complaint I had was how long it takes for the watch to get a connection to satellites. It seems to take longer than most GPS cycling computers, but this isn’t a deal breaker. We’re talking a few minutes, after all.
Best GPS bike computer for e-bikes
As e-bikes grow in popularity, Garmin stands ready to accommodate electric bike riders with its Edge Explore 2. It’s designed specifically with e-bikers in mind, though you can still use it with a non-motorized bike.
While many e-bikes come standard with computers integrated, most performance e-bikes do not. The Edge Explore 2 allows you to see much of the data you’d see on a typical e-bike screen, along with vastly more powerful capabilities and excellent navigation. The computer integrates easily with Shimano Steps motors, and uses ANT+ to connect with other systems.
The 3-inch screen is crystal clear, too, and offers touchscreen capabilities. It looks narrower than the Hammerhead Karoo 2 screen, tough. The setup was quick and easy; I was able to get on my bike with minimal faffing about ahead of time.
And since you can plug the Edge Explore 2 into your bike’s electrical system, the unit can charge from the bike itself, thereby extending the computer’s usable range.
Best GPS bike computer for long rides
Garmin integrates Power Glass into the Edge 840 Solar’s screen face, which allows the unit to charge off the sun while you’re riding. It works while the unit is powered off, too. It’s not intended to be a primary charging source, but it will increase the amount of time you can ride before needing to plug it in to charge. In battery save mode, Garmin claims a 60-hour battery life. During regular use, the claim comes to 32 hours. That’s more than enough for multi-day trips.
I set my unit out to charge in the sunlight for ten minutes. The screen told me I was charging at a 47% intensity of sunlight, and after 10 minutes I had gained 5% of my battery life. It’s an excellent feature if you’ll be out in the sun all day.
If you live in a place where sunlight isn’t always shining bright, the solar function may not benefit you and you can save yourself a few bucks by downgrading to the Edge 840, minus the solar function.
The mapping and GPS system on the Edge 840 is excellent and very accurate, and you can upload up to 32gb onto the device. It’s just as good as the Hammerhead Karoo 2 – which bests the Edge 840 Solar in screen size. The Karoo 2 features a 3.2-inch screen, while the Edge 840 Solar’s screen is 2.6 inches.
Garmin packs the Edge 840 Solar with features like address search, which you can use on the fly while out riding. ClimbPro lets you see upcoming climbs without having to upload a course beforehand.
Simple, reliable, and fairly compact, the Edge 840 Solar packs in tons of features and a super-cool solar charging system that makes it ideal for long, long rides.
Best GPS bike computer for navigation
If your primary goal is exceptional navigation, the Karoo 2 can’t be beat. The bright, anti-glare, color, 3.2-inch touchscreen makes it easy to pick out details on the map, and route-finding is super-easy whether you’ve pre-loaded a route onto the unit or you’re trying to find your way while out on a ride. Hammerhead hit a home run with its navigation features.
The Karoo 2 features 32gb of storage, so you’ll have plenty of space for uploaded routes. You can also set routes right in the computer while you’re riding. And if you miss a turn, the Karoo 2 features instant automatic rerouting.
The touchscreen toggles on and off, so if you’re not interested in accidental taps, you can tailor your experience and just use the physical buttons.
Hammerhead sends updates to its firmware frequently—enough that you might find it annoying to do so much updating.
The advertised maximum battery life is 14 hours. That’s lower than most of the Karoo’s competition, and in practice, my battery life was closer to 9-10 hours.
The Karoo 2 also has its own unique mount. It doesn’t really add any benefit over Garmin-style mounts. Wisely, Hammerhead includes an adapter so you can mount your Karoo to a Garmin-style mount.
The desktop dashboard offers plenty of data analysis and ride-tracking potential. But there’s no app to upload your ride right away. You’ll need to connect to WiFi to get your ride data from the Karoo 2 to your computer dashboard. But the Karoo 2 also supports 4G LTE with an optional SIM card.
Best GPS bike computer for data-obsessed riders
Leomo’s Type-S is unique among GPS cycling computers because of its prime functionality: motion tracking sensors are placed on specific body locations to track your body’s movement while you’re riding. It is therefore the best unit in which to invest if you’re recovering from an injury and need to see how your body is progressing.
The pro kit comes with 5 sensors that you can attach to your shoes, knees, and torso so the computer can track your body movement in real-time. It’s great for injury recovery, but pros also looking to tweak their aerodynamic or power positions will covet the information the Type-S delivers.
While the data the Type-S delivers is undeniably valuable, beware of data overload. Too much data can lead to incorrect assessments about your body position, which can risk injury or discomfort. This is a complex computer and you will likely need support from Leomo to interpret all the data correctly. Fortunately, Leomo offers great support in its assessment platform, as well as phone or email support.
What is a GPS cycling computer?
A GPS cycling computer is an electronic unit that usually mounts to a bicycle’s handlebars so the rider can see the computer’s screen in real time. A GPS computer can include many types of information, but its global positioning system (GPS) features define it.
GPS computers use satellites to locate the rider’s position, often down to 3 feet of accuracy or less. This allows the rider to not only pinpoint their current location, but also find routes, get turn by turn directions, or even find landmarks along the route the rider has chosen.
Most GPS cycling computers give the rider other advantages besides navigation. A typical cycling computer will show the rider a current speed, max speed, average speed, and elapsed ride time, as well as the current time of day. Some more advanced units are able to pair via Bluetooth to external sensors, like a power meter or heart rate monitor. That means the rider can get power and heart rate data in real time, right on the GPS cycling computer screen.
Types of GPS cycling computers
The most basic GPS cycling computers generally feature route guidance and a few other basic operations. You’ll be able to find your way using the GPS signal, and you’ll likely be able to see your current and average speed, your elapsed ride time, and other basic information.
More feature-rich units will use the GPS signal to create a better user experience. For example, pairing sensors to the unit gives the rider a broader picture not only of where the rider has gone but also of how much effort they put into the ride.
Some GPS cycling computers have more honed purposes, like Leomo’s Type-S. This computer pairs with sensors mounted at various locations on the rider’s body to track body movement in real-time. This can be useful if you’re recovering from an injury.
Physically, most GPS cycling computers are mounted on your handlebars. Some brands use proprietary mounts, while others will use what’s known as a Garmin-style mount — or, a three-quarter turn mount.
The GPS cycling computer itself often looks a lot like a miniature smart phone. They usually have physical buttons on the front or sides so you can navigate menus and use other features. Some feature touchscreens as well, which makes the user experience similar to that of a smartphone.
While most GPS cycling computers feature black and white screens, others do have full-color options.
Not all GPS cycling computers take this form, however. Some, like Wahoo’s Elemnt Rival, take the form of a wristwatch. Such GPS computers are more often geared toward multi-sport athletes, particularly runners who may also spend time on the bicycle.
How to choose the best GPS bike computer for you
As is often the case with any piece of new technology, understanding how you’ll most likely use a GPS cycling computer is the first step in choosing the best one for you.
If you’re a multi-sport athlete — you’ll want to track your activities on the bike, running, skiing, swimming, etc. — a wristwatch-style GPS computer may be your best bet.
If you’re after a cycling-specific computer, you’ll likely choose a more traditional unit that mounts on your handlebars.
When choosing the best GPS cycling computer for you, start by determining what data is most important to you: GPS wayfinding, or other features like power data, movement capture, clear screen optics, etc. Or perhaps size and/or price is your north star. There are GPS cycling computers available to support just about any price point, and if you want just a simple, small unit, such computers still offer lots of information and powerful navigation.
How we test the best GPS bike computers
I used each one of the units in this test personally on my bicycle rides. In testing, the first step is to understand the out-of-the-box setup process. Easier is usually better, though some computers with a more intensive setup process also offer more features once the setup is complete.
From there, each computer gets mounted to the bicycle so I can get a sense of how solid and user-friendly the mount that’s included with each unit can be.
Once all that was out of the way, I dove into the basic functionality of each unit. How easy is it to simply get pedaling, with no other adjustments or pairing? How easy is it to pair devices? How easy is it to navigate through menus and set the screens up the way I like?
Then, I tested the GPS capabilities of each unit, including how quickly each unit links up to GPS satellites, how accurate the turn-by-turn directions are, how easy it is to set and follow routes, and how feature-rich the GPS capabilities are on each unit.
Battery life can be a tricky aspect to test, since battery life varies drastically depending on whether you’re using navigation, what the ambient conditions are outside during your ride, whether you have several sensors paired to the computer, and so on. Most GPS cycling computers on the market today advertise a maximum battery life between 8 hours and 32 hours or more.
What does GPS stand for?
Global Positioning System. It’s essentially a satellite-based navigation system that allows you to find your location accurately. Usually, GPS refers to the North American satellite system. This means you can get turn-by-turn directions, see maps on your screen, pre-map a ride and load it onto your computer to follow it, and much more. GPS opens up a ton of wayfinding possibilities.
Are GPS cycling computers expensive?
GPS Cycling computers range in price from $50 for a very basic unit, to $500 or more for more advanced units that also include other important capabilities. You should be able to get several years of use out of your computer, so the cost breakdown is not too frightening if you’re using the unit frequently.
Do I need a GPS cycling computer?
You don’t need a GPS cycling computer to go out on your bike and have a good time. You’ll want one, however, if you are in need of a navigation device, or if you want to track your ride data (top speed, current speed, ride time, wattage, etc.).
HHow do I get the most battery life out of my GPS cycling computer?
It seems odd to say it, but the best way to conserve your battery life is to turn off navigation features. If you already know the route you’ll be riding, there’s no need to have features like turn-by-turn directions active. Any time your computer uses navigation features, the battery will drain more quickly. To circumvent battery stress, Garmin created a unique solar charging system that’s used on the Edge 840 Solar. See more on that below.
A single-band GPS receives information from satellites on one frequency. A dual-band system picks up information on different frequencies, which makes it more accurate and precise in certain situations. Dual Band GPS computers will perform better where there is more interference — in cities where signals are reflecting off buildings, for example. But most cyclists will probably be just fine with single-band GPS signals; dual-band signals often produce accuracy numbers within centimeters, while a single-band GPS may deliver results within a three-foot or less accuracy.
What is GNSS?
GNSS is the Global Navigation Satellite System. This system includes GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and other satellite systems. If your cycling computer has GNSS, that means it will be more useful and accurate in more places worldwide.