Cycle Computers on Test

A cycle computer can tell you exactly how well you're doing, ensuring your training stays fresh and you reap the benefits of every session


Posted: 19 November 2009

Effective training is all about progression - train the same, stay the same. To become better you need to challenge yourself and for less then a tenner a cycle computer can provide some structure and motivation to your training. Common features such as average speed, current speed and distance can give you all the information you need to make sure that your training continues to progress while giving you a nice sense of accomplishment at the end of each ride.

Cycle computers can also help you improve your pedalling technique. The cadence feature available on some computers measures your pedal revolutions each minute, providing constant feedback, showing when you are too low (below 80 rpm) or too high (above 100 rpm). They also enable you to carry out strength-building low-cadence sessions or technique-building high-cadence sessions, bringing more variety and purpose to your training. So, for as little as £9.99 you've no excuse.

Ciclosport CM 2.1, £19.99

The Ciclosport CM 2.1 is the epitome of simplicity. Because it has no big, clunky buttons to confuse matters, the current speed, average speed, speed comparison, time and distance constantly scroll through its three-line display in an easy-to-read format. The speed and distance is picked up from a wired wheel sensor, meaning that you will have some wires trailing down your brake cables and fork. The functionality is basic, but the good looks and ease-of-use make it a worthy training tool for technophobes everywhere.
Contact www.ciclosport.de

VDO A4, £9.99

For under a tenner you can't expect anything more than a basic cycle computer. However, this bargain-priced offering from VDO actually has a decent number of functions for its low price tag. They include a useful odometer to measure your total accumulative mileage and a good old-fashioned clock. Unlike the Ciclosport, the VDO has two big buttons on the front for easy access to the various functions. It's a wired computer, so expect to have some wires trailing around the front end of your bike. The VDO A4 is a perfectly useful training tool for pocket-money prices.
Contact www.fisheroutdoor.co.uk

Decathlon DC7R Computer, £15.95

The most significant feature of the Decathlon DC7 is that it's wireless. Rather then having a wire connecting the display to the wheel sensor, the computer and sensor are separate. The DC7R has seven functions including speed, stopwatch, average speed, maximum speed and distance. The benefits of lower-priced bike computers lie in their simplicity and with the Decathlon everything works perfectly well. You won't need a degree in Computer Science to work it and being wireless also makes it very neat and easy to fit. If you're on a budget and want a nice, neat cycle computer, this could be for you.
Contact www.decathlon.co.uk

Specialized Speedzone Sport Wireless, £29.99

The Specialized Speedzone Sport is a wireless computer with similar functionality to the wireless Decathlon DC7R. The main reason it's more expensive is its superior quality and ease of use. The mounting is straightforward and versatile, so out of the box it can be up and running in minutes, whatever your bike.
The three-line display is big and easy to read and you can access any function by pressing one button. The computer is available in three colours and looks built to last. In short, the Specialized Speedzone is a basic but high-quality cycle computer.
Contact www.specialized.com

Sigma 1106 DTS, £29.95

Much like the Specialized Speedzone Sport Wireless, this is a no-frills wireless computer that is easy to use and built to last. The Sigma 1106 DTS comes with all the usual - and clearly displayed - features such as average speed, distance, clock and odometer, and it's easy to fit and adjust. It's handy in cold weather, as you can easily operate it when you're wearing gloves. It is also easily transferable from one bike to another, so you can use it on your racer and your mountain bike without too much fiddling about. In short, a good-quality all-rounder.
Contact www.sigmasport.com

Boardman 22 Function, £39.99

The standout benefit of this feature-packed wireless computer is that it measures altitude. Altitude monitoring is especially useful if you're training in hilly areas, allowing you to see just how hard your ride was. The Boardman displays current altitude, as well as the total ascent and descent on any particular ride. Among the many other features in this busy little item are the trip meter, odometer and a temperature gauge. All in all, the Boardman 22 offers an excellent level of functionality with an affordable price tag.
Contact www.boardmanbikes.com

Cateye V2c, £99.99

The Cateye V2c measures speed, distance and cadence all from a single sensor, doing away with the need for the separate cadence sensor used on other computers. Also, whereas many cycle computers are prone to interference, the V2c features 2.4 GHz digital data transmission, virtually eliminating this potential problem. The fast data transfer also ensures that the speed and cadence data is constantly updated and accurate. On the practical side the buttons are a little stiff, but quite easy to use. Setting it up is quick and the display is clear. The Cateye V2c doesn't come cheap but it's still a joy to use.
Contact www.zyro.co.uk

Mavic Wintech Alti, £98.99

The Mavic Wintech Alti is a wireless computer with highly accurate altitude measurement and fast 2.4 GHz data transfer. The altimeter function has some unique new functions such as climbing velocity and a 'home-altitude' memory. The display is clear and easy to read, although it can be a little slow. Its sensor is in place of the nut on the front quick-release skewer, saving you from attaching anything to your forks. The Mavic scores highly for both style and substance and would grace even the most expensive carbon bike. The model without cadence is £99.99; with cadence, it costs £119.99.
Contact www.mavic.com

Trek Incite Alpine, £89.99

The Trek Incite Alpine wireless has all the standard functionality you would expect, plus some great extras. A digital compass displays your direction, a temperature gauge lets you know why you can no longer feel your feet and hands, and there's also an altimeter. The Trek Alpine is fairly easy to fit using the cable ties provided and it is a very user-friendly computer that can also be upgraded to display heart-rate. The choice you would have to make in this price-range is whether or not you could live without a cadence function.
Contact www.trekbikes.com


Putting your new gadget into practice

One-hour tempo session

Use a course that takes just over an hour. Start with a 10-minute warm-up. Zero your cycle computer and ride the first 10 minutes hard, but not flat out. Note your average speed for the first 10 minutes and try not to let your average speed drop below this for the next 50 minutes. Warm down for 10 minutes.

Speed pyramid

This higher intensity session can be done weekly.

15 minutes very easy warm-up.
5 minutes at 1 mph faster than your average speed (as noted in one-hour tempo session)
4 minutes at + 2 mph average speed
3 minutes at + 3 mph average speed
2 minutes at + 4 mph average speed
1 minute at + 5 mph average speed
2 minutes at + 4 mph average speed
3 minutes at + 3 mph average speed
4 minutes at + 2 mph average speed
5 minutes at + 1 mph average speed
15 minutes easy warm-down

Over-gearing strength session

Over-gearing involves cycling in a gear that is one or two heavier than you would normally use. This type of workout is designed to help improve your leg strength. You will need a cycle computer with a cadence function for this session. Select a heavy-enough gear so that you can still ride 'hard' as the cadence becomes lower in the session.

15 minutes easy warm-up. Try to maintain a constant average speed
5 minutes hard at 90rpm
2 minutes easy at any cadence
5 minutes hard at 80rpm
2 minutes easy at any cadence
5 minutes hard at 70 rpm
2 minutes easy at any cadence
5 minutes hard at 60rpm
15 minutes easy warm-down

High-cadence session

There is more to cycling than just strength and fitness. Improving your pedalling technique is vital if you want to maximise your performance. Many cyclists focus on pushing down on the pedals, leaving dead spots at the top and bottom. The best cyclists  apply their power more evenly throughout the 360- degree pedal-cycle. The best way to improve is to imagine you are wiping mud off your shoe at the bottom of each pedal stroke. This will help ensure that you pull through the bottom of the pedal stroke instead of easing off the power. You will need a cycle computer with a cadence function for this session.

15 minutes easy warm-up
Focus on pedalling in circles
7 minutes at 90 rpm
2 minutes easy at any cadence
6 minutes at 100 rpm
2 minutes easy at any cadence
5 minutes at 110 rpm
2 minutes easy at any cadence
4 minutes at 120 rpm
15 minutes easy warm-down

The Long Ride

A regular long ride is an important session for any triathlete. The cycle computer is an invaluable tool to help make sure you are making the most of this type of training. Features such as average speed, distance and altitude will allow you to measure and gradually increase your training volume.

A long ride can be anything between one and five hours depending on your experience and the types of races you are targeting. Every four weeks you should either increase the distance of the long ride by between five and 10 per cent while maintaining your average speed, or increase your average speed by 0.5mph and maintain the distance.   


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