The best mountain bike computers will give you tons of data and keep track where you been. It will also make biking more fun and challenging. If you get a higher-end bike computer, you can even get excellent navigation for every single turn.
This guide will feature both simple bike computers to top-of-the-line bike GPS systems with turn-by-turn navigation. If you’re uncertain what to pick, we also made a huge buying guide. It will show you exactly how to find the best GPS for your way of mountain biking.
If you already know what type of GPS to go for and know what to look for, then I’ll make this straightforward for you, here are the best products you can get in 2019:
Best Mountain Bike Computers 2019
How to Choose the Best Mountain Biking GPS
Mountain bike computers will make finding cool trails easier, and it’s great fun analyzing the routes and the number after the ride. They are also often highly motivational and makes you want to hit the trails again.
Finding the right product, however, can be difficult. Especially, these days when there are so many seemingly similar products on the market.
Smartphone or Dedicated Bike Computer?
Most people already have a smartphone so it could be tempting to use it as a bike GPS. There are, however, some drawbacks with using your smartphone as your bike computer:
Bike Computers generally have 30+ hours of uptime, and most phones will only handle a few hours at best. Better save that battery life for emergencies or when you need to call friends and family.
Dedicated bike computers have much more accurate GPS positioning than your phone. A good mountain bile computer will show you everything from your position to how many meters you’ve climbed. Thanks to the larger screen of bike computers, you get super simple navigation.
Another drawback of using your phone as your bike GPS is the fragility of the smartphone and the steep cost of replacement. Using something designed primarily for bike navigation is the cheapest and best form of navigation.
Using a Smartwatch as a bike GPS?
Smartwatches can be convenient. You’re probably already wearing it when you get to the trail. It can already track heart rate and track where you are for syncing the ride data. However, for trackings tons of data, the different sensors you’ll need will work much better with a good bicycle computer. The screen of the smartwatch will be smaller, and it’s often not as affordable as a bike computer. However, if you still want to use a smartwatch as your bike GPS, check out the Garmin Phoenix 47.
Strava: Get the Most Out of Your Ride Data
If you’ve already tracked your rides before, you’ve probably heard about Strava. Stava is a mix between a social platform and cycling tracking app. You can follow other riders and other riders can follow you. Most advanced bike computers work with Stava, and it’s easy to join in. When you are riding with your bike computer, you can see with the help of Strava how your friends tackled the trail and get challenged by your peers.
Strava Live Segments is a feature where you can compete against yourself, against your friends or other Strava users. With live segments, you try to get the best time on a challenging segment such as a steep climb. This makes riding highly motivating.
If you want to the motivation and excitement Strava can give, look for bike computers with Strava compatibility.
How Basic Should the Bike Computer be?
There are super basic bike computers that will just track the bare essential metrics. There are also high-tech bike computers for several hundred dollars that will track everything you’ll ever need. Which should you get? It all boils down to a simple sentence:
The more money you spend on a bike computer, the more numbers will it display. If you don't need a metric, don't pay for it
The most basic bike computers will track the most basic metrics, such as speed, distance, and average speed. These bike computers are often light, easy to use, and have a rechargeable battery. They are convenient, but they lack advanced functions such as GPS functionality, adding more sensors, or sharing your ride on something like Strava. These basic bike computers are perfect if you just want something simple and easy to use without any advanced functions for an affordable price.
If you want to go up a bit in budget, you’ll start to see the bike computers with GPS functionality. A bike computer with GPS will give you much more features than the most basic bike computers. You’ll be able to see where you are, it will track where you’ve been, and will often show you the temperature, cadence, and your heart rate. In some GPS bike computers, you can even import maps to follow and get turn-by-turn direction.
More advanced bike computers generally have larger screens. The large screen size makes it easier to read, and it’s more detailed than cheaper alternatives with smaller displays. A large screen will weigh a bit more and is less suitable for really gnarly mountain biking, but the added detail is often worth it.
An important feature to look out for in advanced bike computers is ANT+. ANT+ is the thing that makes the bike computer compatible with different sensors for tracking things such as power, speed, and distance. A few bike computers have some ANT+ sensors included, but in most cases, you’ll have to buy the sensors you’ll want separately.
Best Mountain Bike Computers Reviewed
Garmin Edge 1030
The Garmin Edge 1030 comes with an excellent display, turn-by-turn navigation, and will give you tons of data of your rides.
With a 3.5″ display, it’s a quite large screen for being a bike computer. The large screen size makes reading directions and waypoints easy, even when riding tougher trails. During morning and evening rides, when it’s darker outside, the backlight also helps to make the display easy to read.
The Edge 1030 is made to last with a high-quality, robust design. Expect 20 hours of battery life. If you need even longer battery life, you can extend it with Garmin’s charge power pack.
One of the things that makes the Garmin Edge stand out is how well it handles navigation. It’s really easy to use and lets you see elevation data, points of interest, and search for addresses in a well-laid out manner.
The GPS is accurate and will give you easy to follow directions both on and off the trail. With turn-by-turn direction, it’s easy to follow where you need to go. You’ll get alerts for sharp turns, and if you miss a turn it’s smart enough to take you back on track. The only thing some people had issues with was the power meter being sometimes inaccurate.
If you want added functionality, you can use one of the many 3rd party apps with the Edge. One excellent app that works with this bike computer is Trailforks. Trailforks will give you navigation on trails in all difficulties in over 80 different countries.
Another great app to use with your Garmin Edge 1030 is Strava. It will let you analyze your rides when you get home and share them to fellow riders. Strava Live Segments is another nice feature of Strava. Live segments allow you to challenge yourself against other cyclists on a shorter segment such as a difficult climb.
It also comes with some neat safety features. With Grouptrack you can easily send pre-written messages to other riders in your group with Garmin bike computers. You can respond to missed phone calls and texts directly on the Edge.
Another great feature is the included incident detection. If you crash, it can automatically send your location to an emergency contact via SMS or email. There is a big drawback for mountain bike riders though. This won’t work when you have no cellular data, so it’s essentially pointless in really remote areas.
If you want to track things such as your heart rate or get more accurate data of your speed, you can pair the Edge with ANT+ sensors.
|Comprehensive navigation both on and off the trail|
|Will give you tons of data to improve your MTB experience|
|Excellent 3.5″ display with well-laid out information|
|Some software bugs|
|Limitation in incident detection|
|Some found the power meter erratic|
If you want a product with almost as good performance as the Garmin Edge for a lower price, check out the Wahoo Elemnt.
The display is a 2.7″ LED display that’s easy to read. It works well in both low light and in direct sunlight. When riding on early mornings or evenings, you can turn on the backlight to read the display better.
You can customize how many fields you want to see on the screen and can have anywhere between 2 to 10 different curated data fields on display. It’s well structured, and it’s easy to understand what’s going on. After 5 minutes of using the Wahoo Elemnt, you’ll most likely get a good grasp on how to use it.
With the Wahoo Elemnt, you can get turn-by-turn cues from popular apps like Strava, RideWithFPS, Singletracks, and MTB project+. Wahoo has jam-packed this bike computer with cycling optimized routes from all over the world. It’s will automatically download the best routes and trails near you.
The GPS is reliable but if you are riding trails and want 100% accurate data, consider getting a wheel sensor. Sometimes the speed and distance seem to be off if you ride trails where trees block the sky. A wheel sensor that has been customized to fit your wheels for will give you correct data and correct any GPS errors. Garmin’s wheel sensor costs 39 bucks and works well with this bike computer.
Another mountain biking issue some customers had was a delay in altitude. The last con to be aware of is that customer service isn’t perfect. Many customers said the customer service was great, but there are also some customers that felt the customer service was poor.
After a day of riding, it’s easy to sync your ride data to third-party apps such as Strava. The Wahoo companion app stores your ride history and will automatically sync it to your favorite third party cycling apps.
The Wahoo Elemnt gather and syncs all the data via ANT+, Bluetooth, and Wi-fi. This means the only time you’ll need to plug it in is when you charge it or sync the data to your computer.
It pairs easily with most sensors. No matter if you want power, heart rate, speed, or Sm02 data, the Wahoo Elemnt can handle it.
Another good feature is the communication options this bike computer gives you. You can easily keep in touch with your group of friends and see where they are in real-time.
|Crystal clear screen from all angles with customizable data fields|
|Accurate GPS that automatically download new routes and trails for you|
|Uploading your ride data to third part y apps such as strava works automatically and reliably|
|Some customers felt it had delay in altitude|
|Distance seems off in dirt trails without wheel sensor|
|A few customers reported poor customer service|
Polar M460 GPS Bike Computer
If you don’t need any navigation but still want to get tons of data from your mountain bike, consider the Polar M460. It has probably the best bang for the buck for any budget mountain bike computer.
With a 35x35mm(1.37×1.37″) screen you might think the display is on the smaller side. However, the data is well-structured, and most people have no problem reading it.
The screen displays everything you’ll need when riding, such as speed, time, temperature, and distance. With a push of a button, you can change the data to averages for the ride and push it again to display all data by max.
It’s easy to set up and works with Polar’s Bluetooth smart sensors for heart rate, speed, and cadence. It’s not ANT+ compatible, so it won’t work with any ANT+ sensors but works with some third-party power sensors.
The Polar M460 is also a great way to track the health benefits of mountain biking. It can track calories burnt, determine a baseline for your training approach, and calculate how much recovery time you’re going to need after the training.
Another way to get the most out of your biking is with Strava. The Polar M460 GPS has integrated Strava support, and two months of Strava premium is included when you buy it.
If you want to analyze your rides and performance, it’s easy to connect it to your computer. The downside of it is that it’s really slow and usually takes several minutes to sync the data.
The battery will last a long time. If you use the standard features, expect at around 16 hours of battery life.
|Easy to setup|
|Excellent for staying healty and tracking health and workout data|
|Strava Support with 2 included months of free Strava premium|
|No navigation ability|
|No ANT+ support|
|Slow to sync data to the computer|
iGPSPORT GPS Bike Computer
If you don’t need any navigation features but still want an ANT+ compatible bike computer, then the best bang for the buck is the iGPSPORT Bike computer.
The screen is a large 2.2″ display that is easy to read. With a 1200mAH battery, you’ll be able to ride for around 40 hours before you need to charge it.
If you are riding in the rain, you don’t have to worry about it getting wet; it’s fully waterproof.
Mounting the iGPSPORT to your bike is pretty straightforward. It comes with an easy-to-use double o ring mount. You can buy a separate out-front mount for around 15 bucks if you want to mount it in front of the handlebars instead of directly on the handlebars.
Even if it’s called a GPS bike computer, it won’t give you any navigation while riding. The GPS is used to map where and how you have ridden. The high-sensitivity GPS has mostly accurate positioning, but in deep woods where the sky is blocked, it tends to be inaccurate. To get the most accurate data, you might want to get additional ANT+ sensors, such as a wheel sensor.
No matter what you want to track, it’s easy to find a compatible sensor. The iGPSPORT bike computer is compatible with most ANT+ sensors.
It’s compatible with Strava, and you can either sync your rides by plugging it into your computer or using the iGPSPORT app. The iGPSPORT app might be a bit confusing to some users, but it’s continuously updated and has been improved. A nice, quite recent addition is that if you are connected to your phone via Bluetooth, it can sync your rides effortlessly to Strava.
|Solid build quality|
|Works with ANT+ sensors|
|Long battery life|
|App can be confusing|
|Might need additional ANT+ sensors for most accurate data|
Garmin Edge 520
The Garmin Edge 520 has almost all of the fantastic features of the Garmin Edge 1030 but for less than half the price.
If you compare it to the Edge 1030, you’ll notice a smaller screen, less battery life, and fewer features.
The screen is bright and easy to read, but with a lower resolution and smaller size, (2.2″ vs. 3.5″), it’s not as good as the Screen of the Edge 1030. The battery is reliable but has only 15 hours of battery life compared to the 20 hours of the Garmin Edge 1030. The screen doesn’t have a touchscreen, but the buttons work well and are convenient when you are wearing full finger gloves.
It’s easy to mount and move it from bike to bike. You can attach it around 3 inches in front of the handlebars with the front edge mount or use the rubber attachment to attach it to the handlebars.
The GPS navigation of the Garmin Edge 520 is accurate and has some nice features that make the navigation even more convenient. You can get turn-by-turn directions, so you don’t have to look at the map when riding. Another good feature of the Garmin GPS navigation is that it’s smart enough to get you back on track if you deviate from the route.
If you love Strava or other similar apps and want to upload your data, it’s easy with the Garmin Connect app. It will sync your rides automatically, but a small quirk is that sometimes you’ll have to turn the Bluetooth on and off on your phone to get it to work.
If you are riding with other riders, it comes with two excellent features that will help you stay in touch with the group. GroupTrack will let your friends track exactly where you are. This is an excellent feature to help people see where you are in case you need assistance. Rider-to-rider messaging will let you send a pre-written message to your friends’ bike computers. A good example of this feature is to let your friends know you want them to slow down, stop, or keep on going down the trail.
One of the best apps for mountain bikers on the Garmin is the Trailforks app. It lets you download trail maps from more than 80 different countries. It will show you everything from directions to trail conditions and points of interest. Once you found a trail you like, it’s really easy to import it to your Garmin GPS:
|Excellent build quality|
|Easy to import cool MTB trails with the Trailforks app|
|Accurate GPS with easy to follow navigation|
|Some had trouble pairing it with their iPhone|
|Screen is a bit small if you are going to use it as a maps screen|
|Less battery life, less features and smaller screen than the Edge 1030|
Smartphones are constantly getting better and better, but they have a long way to go to compete with dedicated bike computers. When choosing a bike computer, consider how basic you want it to be. If you just want a basic bike computer that can track where and how you’ve ridden consider the iGPSPORT Bike computer or the Polar M460 GPS computer. Since the iGPSPORT has ANT+ compatibility, it’s our preferred budget choice.
For those of you that want navigation as well as tons of data, consider the Garmin Edge or the Wahoo Elemnt. Garmin is the leader in bike computers, and have accurate, high-quality bike computers with tons of features. The Wahoo Elemnt The Elemnt is an excellent contender to the Garmin edge and will often be the best bang for the buck.
No matter what product you go for, we hope this guide has helped you find the best mountain bike GPS for your needs.