What is the point or benefit of a bike computer (rather than an iPhone)?


Active Member
A lot of riders have a specific bike computer on the bars, rather than an iPhone or similar - why?

If I get a mount for my phone, I can have maps on to know where I need to go, can track speeds, distance and even heart-rate. And thats just the Apple fitness thing, let alone looking at dedicated bike apps.

Things like a Wahoo one I have seen sync with your phone for maps and stuff so aside from this falling onto the road and smashing (setting me back ~£200 rather than up to £1000 for an iphone) I just dont see the point. What am I missing?


Senior Member
I don't have the answer to this but, asked myself the same question last Xmas whilst in Evans having failed to justify £150+ on a GPS device over a phone, even if I bought a basic smart phone for circa £60.

For me, my phone is very important, I can't afford to drop, loose or damage it. I do occasionally use it for navigation in the car but, have never used it on the bike, nor do I plan to do so.

In end I ended up buying an as new Garmin Edge 25 from the usual classifieds for £35. It does more than I need it to, it has a very small footprint in the cock pit, there are a number of mounting options, should it get destroyed in any way, I'll buy another used GPS bike device. The one thing I did notice on the box of my Garmin is that you can connect it to a several additional sensors etc that, you may not be able to connect to via a phone.


Slippery scientist
Because a dedicated unit is designed for that one task and is good at it:

- waterproof and rugged
- small, easy to mount, unobstrusive (aero? :whistle:)
- easy to read in various lighting conditions
- long battery life (and if you do flatten the battery you still have a phone available to make calls or backup navigation)
- cheaper to lose/break (although I don't intend to lose or break either my Bolt or phone).


For me it is that when out riding my phone is my lifeline. If I crash or breakdown I phone someone to help (signal permitting lol). It has my medical info on. It has full maps in case I am lost.

If I was to mount my phone on my bars and use it for rides I'd be worried that in a crash it would get damaged and I was unable to phone for help. Also it drains the battery using it as a cycle computer, so might not work in an emergency. I might forget to charge it.

When I'm cycling phones are for emergencies and kept in a padded case. Cycling computers are for cycling and telling me how fast and where I am going.

Obviously you don't need a bike computer. But I like to see how fast, far, high I'm going but want to protect my phone. Plus phones are massive and look silly on your handlebars.
It's horses for courses, really.

My phone is a backup to my gps unit.

I chose a gps unit mainly to navigate.

I did not want a phone as my primary navigator because:
  • It drains battery and my phone is my primary safety device.
  • The phone is at its worst when it's needed most - think lost in a rainstorm on bumpy paths.

Other factors:
Mounts for phones are variable and some are phone specific. New phone? Another mount. Dodgy mount? I might need a new phone!

A phone is far more visible to undesirables than a gps unit in strange parts.

Phone screens can have display issues in bright light and touchscreen phones are a nightmare in the wet or with wet fingers.

Finally, while a phone does a lot of things good, I'd rather place my trust in a unit designed for the job, especially as I use it - in strange places. My phone camera is adequate, but it can't do all the things to the standard a proper camera can.

For some people a phone is perfect. Using various apps for cycling, especially navigating, is a great way to figure out what you want in a gps unit. Also a great way of discovering you don't need a unit.^_^


Über Member
Some good points on here I'd never considered... personally it's because I don't have a smart phone.


What could go wrong with sticking your iPillock on the handle bars in full view of everybody and in a place where it is likely to be smashed to bits...

Oh, btw i can fix it for a price... :okay:


I did the C2C last year and tried to use my phone for navigation. Got a bulky waterproof mount which would only fit on the cross bar. Touch screen wouldn't work properly through plastic cover. Battery life struggled using gps all day. Fortunately C2C is very well sign posted, so in the end the phone navigation was abandoned.
Invested in an all sing all dancing Garmin edge 530, and so glad I did.
Just got back from the Yorkshire Dales Cycleway....plotted the route, up load to Garmin, and away you go. It even let's you know how much of the 25% climb you are currently battling up, is left to do.

SGG on a bike

Well-Known Member
I have an android phone but it's rare I take it on a ride with me, that's p&q time, I gave up on the computer a few years ago when I realised I didn't care what it told me, total luddite, I use paper maps on tour so I can gaze in wonder at the big picture.
Totally get the gaze at the big picture on a map thing. It somehow makes the trip more interesting because you're picking out nice scenic bits to go with the wiggly bits. I always plan touring routes on a proper map even if I then transfer them to a satnav/backup online. I can guarantee that I'll have the map out en route though. I don't have a cycle computer (Mrs SGG does) and I don't use a sat nav other than to see where I am if I'm lost or think mI may have taken a wrong turn somewhere. I spent many years touring all over Europe on motorcycles, quite a few with a sat nav and several years ago dumped it for directions in favour of the "that road looks interesting, I'll go up there" type of touring. As a result, seen many more lovely places.


Legendary Member
I usually tend to fit a cheap basic cycle computer to whichever bikes I use most. I'm not interested in average speed or anything like that, I just want to record my mileage so I always get cheap basic ones. I suppose I could use my phone I'm sure but I don't always take my phone when riding, battery life is a concern - especially if touring and I suppose it's partly just habit as I was using cycle computers before I ever had a mobile phone never mind a smart phone.

I always plan my routes on a paper map as I can get to see the whole area I will be passing through in a way you can't with GPS.

On my pre-war Elswick I have one of these little babies to record my mileage :becool:
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