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Cycle computers - why bother?

Plumby BabyPlumby Baby Posts: 82
edited January 2018 in Commuting chat
Aside from potential battery life, why do people buy dedicated Cycle GPS computers for turn by turn directions when they are 000s of pounds?

As the days lengthen I’ve been playing around with extending my commute in and this morning I used Google Maps on a brand new route. I travelled for an hour and used 10% battery life of my Samsung S8 mounted to my handlebars. I dimmed the brightness a bit and turned off Bluetooth to ease the burden on the battery. If an hour equates to 10% roughly then why would I ever think of purchasing a cycle GPS computer?

I run Endomondo at the same time so I get my speed, mileage saved etc.

I’m not criticising, I’d like to know if I’m missing out on anything by using Google Maps? Missing out on something that justifies the price tag of a cycle GPS anyway.
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  • crakercraker Posts: 2,060
    As the days lengthen

    Crikey you're optimistic.

    Lots of posts on this subject. Size and durability tend to feature in these discussions. still its up to you what you ride with.
  • davisdavis Posts: 2,566
    A few reasons, all of which I'll admit are reducing in importance as phone tech advances:

    Better battery life
    Better GPS/GLONASS accuracy.
    Physically tougher.
    Physically smaller, and usually more visible screen (transflective display!)
    As above, I don't mind it hanging out in front in the rain.
    Well-designed mounts.
    Connects to HRM/Cadence/Speed sensors easily (you don't usually get ANT+ on phones).
    Touch screen works with gloves.
    Dedicated devices seem to JFW! Usually fewer crashes etc.
    Simple interface, which counts for something when you're 6 hours in & knackered.
    On my Garmin Edge 1000 I can land anywhere in Europe and, without downloading anything, create a circular route of my preferred distance within ~ 2mins. It's not necessary, but it *is* cool.
    Built-in support for connecting to and controlling my turbo trainer.

    They're not a world away from what's available in phones, but everything they do do is /slightly/ better IMHO. Whether that's worth it to you is entirely personal.
    Sometimes parts break. Sometimes you crash. Sometimes it’s your fault.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,498
    For commuting? No, I wouldn't bother.

    For riding - yes, I do bother (although I do have an older model) - it connects to my (ant+) speed, cadence, heart rate and power meter across several different bikes - I customise the display to show me what I want to see depending on the activity - TT mode is significantly different to a club ride.

    Could I use the phone? Yes, I could - although at the time I bought my GPS, data was still a valuable commodity (maps) and roaming was expensive (still can be outside europe) - so being able to download maps onto my GPS for that sort of (occaisional) ride was worth it.

    You mention battery life - my phone does last all day - but having been skiing and using Strava recently - it does eat the battery in record mode - I'm not sure it'd last a day of long riding + phone use - so I'd need some method of charging.

    Of course, ultimately, for me, the small Garmin is just neater than sodding great smart phone stuck on the bars - plus in the event of a tumble - I'm less likely to break/lose my phone.
  • Depends, my Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is a lot more likely to survive an off than my phone is, and it would be much cheaper to replace too if the worst were to happen!
  • For the cost of a Samsung 8, it looks like you could buy two Elemnt Bolts or four Lezyne Super GPS. I know which I've rather have to replace if something happened to it while using a bike mount! :shock:

    I use my mobile to record commutes, but it's in my pocket, so I can crush it when I fall off the bike. :lol:

    But on any rides outside of work, it's usually the Lezyne, for all the extra info I can get access to... With the mobile in the jersey using the Lezyne Ally V2 app for live tracking, plus if I get lost, it can easily get me back on track with turn-by-turn instructions sent to the Lezyne computer.
    ================
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  • fenixfenix Posts: 5,437
    Very rarely need turn by turn direction. Most of my rides are in areas I know and getting lost isn't a problem. Cycling isn't usually about the destination but the journey ?

    And a bike computer is probably cheaper than your phone anyway - and will last longer.
  • I never figured about having an off to be fair, phones are much more expensive after all so I concur on that one.

    I don't ride so I'm not fussed re: climbing a mountain face in Bulgaria or finding my tent after a days trekking. I commute 100m a week and use my bike for utlity rides (after selling my car)but more about the ultility rides to be fair, I think for pootling along, Google does the job amply and my phone is waterproof and well mounted to my handlebar.

    Horses for courses I guess. I'll stick with GMaps and hope I don't have an off (bit like everyone does).
  • tgotbtgotb Posts: 4,714
    My view: Smart phones are the Swiss army knife of consumer electronics. Very versatile, able to do all sorts of things fairly well, but for any specific task a purpose-built tool is going to be better. You might take a Swiss army knife camping and use it for almost everything, but when you're at home you're more likely to use proper kitchen knives, can opener etc, because they're easier to use, or do the job better.
    You can use your phone in lieu of a Garmin, but it's going to be a bit clunkier, and less convenient. Most likely worth the hassle for an occasional user, but if you spend 2 hours a day on the bike, you might decide that it's worth having a device which was specifically designed for the job at hand. My phone has a web browser, but I prefer using a computer with keyboard and monitor when there's one available; I can also use it to watch movies, but prefer to have a proper TV at home; same thing...
    Pannier, 120rpm.
  • elbowlohelbowloh Posts: 4,039
    For me:

    Battery life - i (used to do) quite a few rides where i'd be riding (with stops) for 8-10 hours. My phone battery would be dead after.

    On many group rides, group leaders would share a GPX or TCX, you can just drop the file into a folder and away you go. I'm guessing you can do similar on a phone, but not sure. It's just easier think.

    Weather proofing is deffo a factor.

    ANT+ connectivity to cadence sensor.

    It's just a tool that's designed for the job. Plus i've had my Edge 800 from 2012, i guess that I've had at least 4 phones in that time!
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  • Don't have a Samsung or iPhone so not many specific cases for my phone that mount securely to help bike. I have saved a lot of money getting the phone I own compared to Samsung and iPhone so phone and GPS bike computer works out cheaper.

    My Garmin 25 is basic but works well and at only £45 what's not to like?
  • lostboysaintlostboysaint Posts: 4,252
    tgotb wrote:
    My view: Smart phones are the Swiss army knife of consumer electronics. Very versatile, able to do all sorts of things fairly well, but for any specific task a purpose-built tool is going to be better. You might take a Swiss army knife camping and use it for almost everything, but when you're at home you're more likely to use proper kitchen knives, can opener etc, because they're easier to use, or do the job better.
    You can use your phone in lieu of a Garmin, but it's going to be a bit clunkier, and less convenient. Most likely worth the hassle for an occasional user, but if you spend 2 hours a day on the bike, you might decide that it's worth having a device which was specifically designed for the job at hand. My phone has a web browser, but I prefer using a computer with keyboard and monitor when there's one available; I can also use it to watch movies, but prefer to have a proper TV at home; same thing...

    That.

    For the same reason that music sounds better from a different source, photographs are better taken with a camera, films/tv programmes/visual media looks better on a bigger screen etc.etc.etc.

    I assume that you stand the phone up vertically when it's dark so that you can use the torch as your front light rather than buying a decent one?! ;)
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  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    My son wanted to do that with his Samsung phone so we bought him a waterproof case / bar mount last Christmas. The mount is pretty agricultural, and the case looks like a tea tray on his handlebars. It works, but he's now looking at bike GPS. The Wahoo stuff is starting to look a better option than the Garmins now...

    My Garmin Touring Plus gives me maps, turn by turn directions, records a load of data I can pore over later, and has survived many a downpour, being dropped on the drive and bounced down the road. And if I need to make a phone call I have my phone, fully charged, in my jersey pocket.

    Horses for thingumies
  • lostboysaintlostboysaint Posts: 4,252
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    Allround - Cotic Solaris
  • All fair points, 100%.

    Whilst I like the Swiss Army analogy I would have to retort that it's not just a question of scale but comparing what one tool does for free (c'mon mostpeople have a smartphone) compared to one that costs 000s for a few extra bells/whistles (which I concede are important for some). The £45 one, does it offer turn by turn? If so, I might get one.

    Also, yes cycling is about the journey but only at the weekends. If I am riding to a dentist appointment then the journey is great but my destination time is more important.

    To repeat, I'm not criticising "dedicated" devices. I think the distinction is what kind of rider you are. If I did time trails, in a club, interested in BPM then I get it I really do but for me, who needs to get from A to B (and does not have an idea where B is) then investing in a dedicated device for turn by turn directions does not seem to make sense, whereas Gmaps fits the bill for occasional use.

    Also, the accuracy of dedicated devices. Are they really superior? I cannot qualify this but I imagine smartphone GPS technology is pretty darn good considering how excellent iPhone's 'Find My Phone' feature is. To within a metre would be my unscientific guess.
  • tgotbtgotb Posts: 4,714
    The £45 one, does it offer turn by turn? If so, I might get one.
    If you want turn-by-turn navigation, including the ability to calculate a route for you (as opposed to uploading a pre-planned route), a phone may actually be the best bet. This is because you can leverage Google Maps, which probably has the best routing algorithm out there (especially when you consider it has the best live traffic data).

    My Garmin 800, which is great for all the stuff I need - basically all the non-navigation features - seems to be pretty rubbish at calculating a route; the Garmin satnav in my car is better, but still makes some howlers (I suspect because it assumes I can drive at exactly the speed limit on every road) and seems to have a very lazy routing algorithm; my old TomTom was better, but Google Maps is way ahead. If I'm riding an unfamiliar route I prefer to use a map, rather than a tool that gives me directions, but even then I'll have it on my phone. Some of the newer bike computers may be better, but most of my riding is on familiar roads, so it's not something I need very often.

    The point about my Swiss army knife analogy is that if you use something frequently enough (can opener, kitchen knife) it's much easier to justify getting a dedicated device. If you don't think you need it (eg the Swiss army corkscrew is good enough) then you don't need it. That's why I stop and get my phone out of my pocket if I want to look at the map; it's not the most elegant solution, but it's good enough for me.

    The other point about cycle computers is that a lot of us have been using them, in one form or another, since the time when your phone lived on a table in the hallway and was plugged into the wall. For us, the question might be, "Why would I replace the purpose-built computer on my handlebars with a telephone?"
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  • mrfpbmrfpb Posts: 4,481
    My Samsung A3(6) is not exactly top of the range, and is about 2 yrs old. It has ant+ and automatically finds new sensors and prompts me to connect to them. I have trouble doing that with my Garmin 800 and Forerunner watch. I keep the Edge 800 for all the "live" data it provides on long rides and the forerunner watch on long runs - mainly to ensure I hit my distance and pace targets on a run, but I'm using the phone more and more for rides and runs where I'm happy to stick it in my pocket once switched on and review the activity afterwards.

    I think, as it's my only mobile, I would not want it on my bars for hours on end as it may get damaged, and I need it if I have an off that requires assistance to get home. However next time I'm tempted to upgrade phones, it may well replace my Garmin 800 on the bike while the new phone stays in my pocket. I can't really imagine replacing the Edge 800 with another dedicated bike computer.
  • wolfsbane2kwolfsbane2k Posts: 2,992
    edited January 2018
    Having done London to Brighton using my phone to record data, and been caught up in a death on the ditching beacon so about a 4 hour delay, meant that even though I had 4 spare aa batteries to keep the phone going, even stopping it recording then meant it was dead after 10 hours in the saddle.
    I was stranded at the Brighton end without a way to call my lift.

    So Battery life, ant+ recording, and it not touching my phone's battery are essential.
    Intent on Cycling Commuting on a budget, but keep on breaking/crashing/finding nice stuff to buy.
    Bike 1 (Broken) - Bike 2(Borked) - Bike 3(broken spokes) - Bike 4( Needs Work) - Bike 5 (in bits) - Bike 6* ...
  • Agent57Agent57 Posts: 2,300
    they are 000s of pounds?
    If you're looking at cyclecomputers costing thousands of pounds, you're living in a different universe from me. You can get a GPS head unit with turn-by-turn for less than £150.
    MTB commuter / 531c commuter / CR1 Team 2009 / RockHopper Pro Disc / 10 mile PB: 25:52 (Jun 2014)
  • wolfsbane2kwolfsbane2k Posts: 2,992
    Oh yeah - and proper waterproof devices.
    Yes, phone bags on mounts are possible, but i find them an censored .
    Much rather have something designed & tested to be out in wind & torrential rain at all times, than somethng that's mostly for an office environment.
    Intent on Cycling Commuting on a budget, but keep on breaking/crashing/finding nice stuff to buy.
    Bike 1 (Broken) - Bike 2(Borked) - Bike 3(broken spokes) - Bike 4( Needs Work) - Bike 5 (in bits) - Bike 6* ...
  • Early waterproof phones needed the operator to close the socket covers. I assume modern samsungs use the more modern sockets with the high waterproof rating claimed for the whole phone.

    I've had two cycling and one hiking GPS units. The hiking one once got condensation inside the screen and one cycling GPS got water into the screen. It continued working for a time but became unreliable.

    Nothings perfect with either system so it's what suits you. Big deal if it's phone or GPS!

    Why do these pointless "my way is better than your way" threads keep coming up? Perhaps the first reply should have been a collection of links to the last half a dozen times a similar phone vs GPS thread came up.
  • mtb-idlemtb-idle Posts: 2,177
    bit harsh, it was a fair question.

    I use a dedicated Garmin. Used a 500 for years then upgraded to a second hand 800 for just fifty of your eenglish pounds.

    I cycle commute for which google maps/strava on my phone (Hua Wei P9 lite) is more than adequate but I also do long rides of 200km+ for which it's totally inadequate.

    For me it's about what matey boy said further up there, I would rather save my phone battery life for when I need to use the phone.
    FCN = 4
  • When I crash I don't destroy an £700-1000 device.
    My Garmin is waterproof.
    Battery life.
    Can swap it between bikes cheaply and easily (up to three bikes now, daughter didn't ride her Boardman Team Road Carbon so I am commandeering and adapting it)
    Works with my HR broadcasting watch.
    Can just leave it on the bike in the garage without faffing around trying to extract it from some form of waterproof case, refitting it to my normal case and then going through the reverse to refit it.

    Why do I use a GPS on every commute?

    Monitor my heart rate to ensure I am not about to drop dead.
    Monitor my cadence to try and ride efficiently.
    Because it is fun.
  • All valid points. I meant to say hundreds of pounds (00s), instead of (000s).

    I've never owned a dedicated cycle GPS computer so I don't think it was unresonable to ask whether I was missing out on anything. I used Google Maps for one 60 min ride and it used 10% of my battery and was flawless and inevitably it raised the "why bother" question. Of course I concede there are advantages to using a dedicated device and I now only realise this because I posted the thread. Job done.

    Regarding Tangled Metal's stance on the futility of my post: for me, this utterly misses the point of the internet. Would you I rather read a single thread on the subject which may be months or years old? Or maybe I should go to the library and ask them if they have a book on it?! After all we don't want to duplicate anything on a forum do we or even, Lord forbid, the narrow expanse of the Internet.
  • What I want to know is what phone the OP has. I've tried google maps on a variety of smartphones (that is 'normal' sized phones not the humongous devices that are really tablets) and after an hour my battery would be down to 30% or less.
  • @Arthur

    I have a Samsung Galaxy S8. A big phone with a lovely crisp display which reflects sunlight etc or whatever the tech term is. I thought my battery would be knackered after a 60 min ride hence this post/thread. All i did was turn off Bluetooth and dim the screen and lot and my battery went from 83% to 71%. I could have turned off WiFi as well come to think of it. And I oculd see the directions very well considering the screen was darkened.

    My phone is quite new however, less than 2 months still if the battery is going to degrade then surely the same thing can be said of other battery powered devices.

    I am convinced of the suitablity of dedicated GPS cycle computers for certain situations/riders with perhaps more disposable income. For me, Google Maps on a smartphone remain king.

    This was never intended to be a "my way is better than your way" thread. If this can be seen in my posts then I can only apologise.
  • tgotbtgotb Posts: 4,714
    I have a Samsung Galaxy S8
    ...
    I am convinced of the suitablity of dedicated GPS cycle computers for certain situations/riders with perhaps more disposable income.
    Disposable income is a red herring. I have a 5-year-old Garmin 800 and a Samsung S5 which is at least 2 years old; neither were on the bleeding edge of technology when I bought them, and I'm in no hurry to replace either. I'd be surprised if my average annual spend on phones/Garmins was more than about £100; how much of your annual income, on average, do you dispose on phones?
    Pannier, 120rpm.
  • This was never intended to be a "my way is better than your way" thread. If this can be seen in my posts then I can only apologise.
    I sorry if my post was bad tempered and harsh. I didn't mean to come across like that. Also I wasn't having a go at you or indeed any single person or post.

    It is just that I seemed to remember a lot of similar posts recently that simply degenerated into an almost my way best, yours is worst series of posts. It looked like this could go that way. You might have seen some threads like that on other topics too. A perfectly good question becomes a series of ppl giving out lists of reasons why their way is best.

    Really they're saying "I like it because..." but the posts read "my way is right because... "

    BTW I'm also reading similar threads on other forums so whilst October was the last thread on here there's been more recent ones elsewhere I'm certain.

    BTW it's a classic subject that's come up before. I don't think there's harm in saying that too. You'll see similar answers in them too. Perhaps I've been on here too long and being a little cantankerous it comes out ill tempered. I'll try and kerb it in future.
  • No worries fella. It was a good constructive debate and has made me at least consider alternatives.

    I thought I'd post it, there aren't many new posts any more for what used to be a pretty active forum. In 2012-15 anyway.

    £35 a month on my phone, pay monthly.
  • wolfsbane2kwolfsbane2k Posts: 2,992
    tgotb wrote:
    I have a Samsung Galaxy S8
    ...
    I am convinced of the suitablity of dedicated GPS cycle computers for certain situations/riders with perhaps more disposable income.
    Disposable income is a red herring. I have a 5-year-old Garmin 800 and a Samsung S5 which is at least 2 years old; neither were on the bleeding edge of technology when I bought them, and I'm in no hurry to replace either. I'd be surprised if my average annual spend on phones/Garmins was more than about £100; how much of your annual income, on average, do you dispose on phones?

    I'd second this - disposable income is a red herring.
    I've got a £30 phone ( moto e2) and a £70 gps ( garmin 25). I expect the garmin 25 to last a heck of a lot longer than the phone does.
    I couldn't justify any more for the phone.. since I smash them so regularly!
    Intent on Cycling Commuting on a budget, but keep on breaking/crashing/finding nice stuff to buy.
    Bike 1 (Broken) - Bike 2(Borked) - Bike 3(broken spokes) - Bike 4( Needs Work) - Bike 5 (in bits) - Bike 6* ...
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