Chances are that if you don’t already have a bike computer, you want one. Although for some it’s the desire to have a mapped route display for you and save the headaches of navigating complex routes, for almost all triathletes it’s at least the desire to know our current speed. And, if you have a coach that is as particular as mine, you also want to know cadence.
So you start exploring options. You’re pleased to find that you can get some no name bike computer from Amazon for about $10. However, you have a look around reviews and note that the screen is hard to see, the unit is hard to mount, it’s unreliable, doesn’t hold up to bad weather, or often ships defective. So you go to something more reliable, and are pleased that you can get something like the VDO M5 that is wireless and supports speed and cadence for under $100. However, again, on further exploration you find that it has no GPS capability, you can’t easily store rides or use apps like Strava, and you want to capture FTP or watts. So, you look at a Garmin Edge 520, only practically fall off your chair at the $300-$400 price tag (depending where in the world you live). Do you keep saving for all the capabilities you want, or make a sacrifice and get something more affordable?
There may actually be a third option. If you have been swimming, biking, and running for a little while, there’s a good chance you have some form of exercise watch. Whether it’s a simple Forerunner 10 or the super-fancy Forerunner 735XT, all have the ability to at least inform you of current speed, even if labelled as a running device. So, the cheapest bike computer ever is simply buying a mount to attach your watch to your handlebars. Yes, you can just use it on your wrist, but I have found that there are simply too many times when I want to leave my hands on the bars but also want to look at my speed/cadence to make the wrist a satisfactory option.
For $13 you can bike a bike mount kit at MEC. I have only had mine for a brief period of time, but have been really happy with it. I find I am much more likely to stay focused on my pace and my cadence, less likely to zone out and slow down, if it’s easier to see. Setup was incredibly simple, and it’s easy to relocate the mount if you are unhappy with the position. You don’t get the protrusion off the front of a Garmin bike computer mount, so you do have to look a little further down, but I haven’t found this to be a problem…it’s nothing different from glancing at your bottle before grabbing it. The only downside is that it does add some significant bulk to the bars and likely aerodynamic loss, so I anticipate removing it for racing.
Lastly, this can make the excuse for purchasing a higher end triathlon watch, as it is cheaper than buying both a watch and a bike computer.