Mountain biking involves finding your own way in rough terrains and confusing trails. Using a smartphone for accessing GPS and recording rides can be difficult as phone GPS tends to be inaccurate off the road, poor data coverage drains the battery quicker, and an unstable connection makes for a poorly logged ride.
If you are fed up with getting lost in the woods and need a map to guide you through the bike rides, you have come to the right place. Mountain bike computers are available in the market for all the purposes listed above.
Mountain bike computers have come a long way since the advent of “cyclometers”. Now we have a wide range of features that make the decision of buying the ideal MTB computer even more difficult. These features include GPS chips, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, speed, distance, and power to assess the performance of these computers.
A mountain bike computer can allow you to access the exercise stats, pace trackers, and allow you to record your rides. If you are looking for one for your mountain biking adventures, we have come up with the best computers available in the market.
Best All-Rounder Mountain Bike Computer
Garmin Edge 1030
Battery Life: 20 hours
Screen Size: 3.5 inches
Dimensions: 2.3″ x 4.5″ x 0.8″
Touch Screen: Yes
Weight: 123 g
- Excellent navigation
- Massive color touchscreen
- Quick route recalculation
- Includes many mount options
- Large size
Among the companies selling cycling computers, Garmin is a leading distributor and a personal favorite for many. Garmin Edge 1030 is a fully-featured mountain bike computer with cutting-edge technology and a complete package in all aspects.
It possesses a large color touchscreen with three tactile buttons for easy control. The large display makes it easy for you to read and there are tons of customizable features that you can mold to your liking.
This computer is Wi-Fi enabled, can pair with Bluetooth and Ant+ sensors, and connects to your smartphone via the Garmin Connect App. Garmin 1030 uses Garmin’s Trendline Popularity Routing to guide you through the bike routes off the road.
It also has integrated incident detection to automatically share your location with emergency contacts if you have an accident. Using Garmin Edge 1030 is like having a personal trainer by your side who guides you through the workout in real-time with intensity targets and intervals.
Best Budget Mountain Bike Computer
Bryton Rider 420
Battery Life: 35 hours
Screen Size: 2.3 inches
Dimensions: 2” x 3.3” x 0.86”
Touch Screen: No
Weight: 67 g
- Broad-spectrum of functionality
- Best value product
- Solid GPS accuracy
- Long battery life
- Integrations with major third party training and social apps
- The tactile buttons are not particularly intuitive
- Limited navigation
With its surprisingly low cost and strikingly good appearance, Bryton Rider 420 has proved to be excellent in terms of performance and functionality. The functionality features include power, notifications, and navigation.
It includes integrations with major third-party training and social apps such as Strava, Komoot, and RidewithGPS. With these useful apps, you can easily upload your ride data and navigate bike routes.
The 2.3” small screen is similar to any typical 90s screen with a high-quality display that offers maximum optical clarity from any angle and in any environment without an interface. Although it does not offer a color screen, Bryton Rider 420 is an excellent pick if you want an optimal screen.
Additional features also include a heart monitor and a cadence sensor. It also has one of the fastest start-ups in the competitive market.
Best Data Storage Mountain Bike Computer
Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT ROAM
Battery Life: 15 hours
Screen Size: 2.2 inches
Dimensions: 2.3” x 2.3” x 0.7”
Touch Screen: No
Weight: 95 g
- Excellent battery life
- Vibrant multi-color display
- Tons of GPS navigation features
- GPS, GLONASS, BEIDOU Galileo, and QZSS satellites
- Robust smartphone app
- No touchscreen
- Difficulties in-app setup and syncing
Among the mountain bike computers we include in this article, Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT ROAM is the most versatile. Where it lacks a touchscreen, it makes up for functionality and navigation.
The 2.2” small screen can withstand any kind of environment whether it’s pouring rain or scorching heat. The connected ELEMNT app on your phone gives you access to a world of other features. The user-friendly app and the superior design are what make Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT ROAM stand out among the rest of the mountain bike computers in its league.
The ease of use is outstanding, allowing you to set up a screen, navigate, review data, and record ride data with minimal intervention. It offers automatic route downloads and uploads with compatible third-party apps: Strava, Ride With GPS, Best Bike Split, Komoot, Singletracks, MTB Project
The only drawback we found with Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT ROAM is the trouble connecting to the mobile app.
Best Battery Mountain Bike Computer
Lezyne Mega XL GPS
Battery Life: 48 hours
Screen Size: 2.7 inches
Dimensions: 2.3” x 3.1” x 1.05”
Touch Screen: No
Weight: 82 g
- Moderate price
- Long battery life
- It offers offline maps and navigation
- It offers both landscape and portrait orientation
- It has a great companion app
- Tactile buttons are not particularly intuitive
If you are looking for a mountain bike computer that is hard to drain, Lezyne Mega XL GPS is the ideal pick for you. It is bigger than other models in its category, both in terms of display and battery life. Lezyne Mega XL GPS is cut out for bike packers, super endurance riders, and bike touring.
Among its unique features, the option to use portrait or landscape orientation is an important one. For navigational accuracy, it uses both GPS and GLONASS satellites and can pair with ANT+ and Bluetooth sensors.
The well-designed and user-friendly companion app – Lezyne Ally V2 – is an excellent add-on. While it doesn’t come with preloaded maps, this mountain bike computer offers quick and easy import of maps from the app.
One of the primary drawbacks of Lezyne Mega XL GPS is its impractical button layout.
Best Button-Operated Mountain Bike Computer
Garmin Edge 530
Battery Life: 20 hours
Screen Size: 2.6 inches
Dimensions: 1.9” x 3.2” x 0.8”
Touch Screen: No
Weight: 76 g
- Good battery life
- Improved satellite coverage
- Mapping is clear and simple
- Faster processor
- New performance metrics
- Activity-specific metrics for indoor and offroad training
- Needs a phone to change navigation
- Map browsing can be difficult with buttons
The selling point of Garmin Edge 530 is its new and improved performance metrics. It features exciting specs that can track performance for any type of riding from the road, mountain, and even indoor workouts.
The training suite is richer than ever and a faster processor helps to improve mapping tremendously. In terms of battery, Garmin Edge 530 is not far behind with its 20-hour battery life that can extend up to 40 hours with battery saver mode.
Among the performance metrics, the “Flow” and “Grit” metrics are remarkable. Flow uses the computer built-in accelerometers to detect how smoothly you flow through a trail. The dynamic performance monitoring constantly updates you on your VO2 max, recovery, training balance, nutrition, hydration, altitude acclimation, and other important metrics.
It offers great protection by incorporating bike alarm, group messaging and tracking, compatibility with backlights, and so on.
Key Considerations To Buy a Mountain Bike Computer
All mountain bike computers, whether expensive or cheap, offer basic Bluetooth or ANT+ connection to a heart monitor, cadence sensor, and speed sensor. However, if you end up on the lowest of the pricing spectrum, you may find that some of them do not support power meters.
Many bike computers now come with features that when linked up to phones and other sensors, offer incoming call and text alerts, tracking that allows your shared contacts to follow your ride, and even the gear you are in with electronic drivetrains.
Most of the computers on the high-priced spectrum can include automatic uploading features such as the ones Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT ROAM possesses. Some like Bryton Rider 420 also offer integrations with third-party cycling apps such as Strava, Kampot, and TrainingPeaks.
GPS and Navigation
Most mountain bike computers come with a GPS chip along with access to other satellite networks like GLONASS, Galileo, and BeiDou. A lot of them also have a pre-installed base map which allows for turn-by-turn directions, route recalculations, and creates routes and courses directly on the device.
One of the most important questions you need to ask yourself before you buy a mountain bike computer is whether you need it to guide you through maps and navigation, or if you want it to track your ride and record everything that you can see once the ride ends.
GPS accuracy is more costly since it needs a larger screen, additional storage, and navigation software. Tracking GPS units are less costly and often offer a “breadcrumb” navigation that lacks significant details.
Considering the battery life of your mountain bike computer is important if you want to ride for long hours without worrying about your battery draining out or losing the navigation in the middle of the trail. It is better to opt for rechargeable batteries since they reduce waste and save you from a trip to the store every time you run out of charging.
While touchscreens and color displays are certainly attractive, they may not be practical or what you need for mountain biking. Touchscreens are great if you want to swipe through the pages and want maximum ease of use but they are not practical when you are fully gloved or when it’s raining. Color displays are only a necessity if you are using elaborate maps. Otherwise, it is a waste of money and space.
A mountain bike computer that attaches to your handlebars conveniently is essential for its proper functioning. It is no surprise that mountain biking is a sport that requires multi-tasking and keeping an eye on the screen is one of the things you need to do. While it makes sense to review and analyze data once the ride has ended, it is also important to keep your eye on the screen to adjust your speed so that you reach your goal with more precision.
Ease of Use
Another thing to consider before you buy a mountain bike computer is the head unit that offers easy configuration and preset ride preparation. The best models in this regard are the Garmin Edge 1030 and the Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT ROAM. The two factors that define the ease of use are the ease of navigation and user interference.
User interference can be judged by the presence of a touchscreen or tactile buttons, screen display, and so on. The questions you need to ask are if the tactile buttons on your computer intuitive or not if the button layout is user-friendly, and if the buttons are interactive enough to use while riding the bike.
Depending on what your budget is, your mountain bike computer can have base maps, in-depth power metrics, interval timers, a color display, touchscreen, and improved connectivity, or it can be basic, compact, with a black-and-white display, tactile buttons, and basic training metrics. The more money that you spend, the more features you will get.
On the high end of the spectrum, we have Garmin Edge 1030 or Wahoo Fitness ELEMNT roam. On the low end of the spectrum, you can buy the low-priced Bryton Rider 420 or Lezyne Mega XL GPS.
Mountain bike computers are an extensive market with a wide range of options that can vary in features, prices, and performance metrics. Based on our mentioned key considerations, you can decide which specification do you care about the most and pick a mountain bike computer that offers it the best.
Remember that mountain biking is different for everyone and a mountain bike computer that works for someone else may not be ideal for you so it is better to do some research yourself and pick one that resonates with your needs.