Bike Computers

The display head on the BionX E-bike conversion kit has many of the features of a bike computer.

When I was a kid, a few friends had speedometers on their bikes.   The were crude mechanical items that mimicked the ones in cars and on motorcycles.   I didn’t really see the need, but those guys loved them.   They also had a built-in odometer.   Also offered at the time were fork mounted odometers that were activated one wheel revolution at a time by a pin that hooked to one of the spokes.   Once again, not for me.

I got my first bike computer in the mid 90’s.   I really wasn’t that interested in my speed or distance, but thought having a clock on my bike would be helpful.   My boss at the bike shop went on about how great and popular they were, but when I realized it would tell time, I jumped in and got one.   That Schwinn computer is still on that bike and works great.

Before long, I began to enjoy seeing my speed and knowing the distance and times of rides I was taking.   A bike computer will give you more information that just speed, distance, and time.   Although each brand and model has different features, most will tell you top speed reached, average speed of a ride, and total miles ridden on the bike in addition to the above noted functions.

Knowing your total miles can help you keep up on needed servicing.   It can be fun to boast about how many miles you and your bike have shared.   In the world of long-distance riding, I doubt you would see many of those bikes without a computer on the handlebars.   Not really something you need to know, but still its nice to keep track of such things.

I like the speedometer part to monitor downhill speeds.   I don’t feel the need to go all out, so using the speedometer I can limit my speed to a safer pace.   You can feel the speed without a gauge, but having one is not a bad idea.   I make sure to keep it under 30 mph, unless I am in a daredevil mood.   Most of the time, 20-25 is better.

I have used the top speed reached mode to have competitions with my friends on local hills.   The read out will solve all arguments about who is faster.   This is something I haven’t done much lately, but many people might like this function the best.   There is a racer in all of us.

A lot of the functions are great for commuting.   Knowing your distance on rides and times taken during them, can help you plan your rides.   I would think this is a prime reason for having one on your bike.   In this age of information, it just adds to the bike experience.

Some computers have an ability to measure cadence.   That is the RPM of the pedals and front chain ring.   A true performance cyclist knows that a certain pace there is needed for optimum efficiency of their leg power.   This is not something I need, but if you do, make sure to get a computer that offers this feature.

We have a few that are designed to be used on more than one bike.   You can get a separate mount and sensor for each bike.   I don’t see the need for that.   Just get a different computer for each bike you have.   We have them on most of our bikes, and I couldn’t imagine having to slide one off the re-install it on another bike each time.

When it comes to E-bikes, I think a computer is a great tool.   It can help you keep track of available battery energy.   It can help you evaluate to condition of your battery as time goes by.   Most E-bikes come with a computer installed or built into the electric panel that comes with it.

Still, my favorite feature is the clock.   I am not much into wristwatches.   Knowing the time while on the road can be very helpful.   That is one thing I also like about my digital cameras.   We even have some Planet Bike computers that have thermometers in them.   Not needed, but handy.

The way the computer works is fairly simple.   It comes with a small powerful magnet that you mount on one of the spokes.   It passes a sensor that is mounted on the forks.   The computer translates this into the readout you see on the display.   On thing you must do is input the wheel circumference into the memory of the computer.   With that info, it knows how far your bike travels with each turn of the wheel.

It is not hard to measure your wheel circumference.   Make a mark on the pavement, line up the valve stem with it, climb on (to get an accurate reading that compensates for the actual distance), and move the bike forward one revolution of the wheel.   Make a mark at the valve stem again (on the pavement), and measure the distance.   I would do this measurement 3-5 times to double-check your accuracy.

The computer will want this in millimeters.   The instructions come with general numbers for most tire sizes, but don’t trust those.   Make your own measurements to be sure.   Input this along with a few other things.   You have your choice between a readout in MPH or KPH.   Also input the time of day.   The instructions on all this might seem a little complicated, but read them well and take your time.

Another option is between a wireless or wired computer.   This refers to the sensor and the computer’s connection with each other.   I would opt for the wired type.   I have heard that wireless computers can have problems , but I think they are much better nowadays.

The installation of a computer is not hard.   Just like the programming, read the instructions carefully and follow them closely.   You can have a friend or bike shop take care of it for you if needed.   And then you too, can know more about your daily bike ride.

See you on the downhill stretch, Turbo Bob.

“He dropped down the hills on his bicycle.   The roads were greasy, so he had to let it go.   He felt a pleasure as the machine plunged over the second, steeper drop in the hill….His bicycle seemed to fall beneath him, and he loved it”.—D. H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers.

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About Turbo Bob's Bicycle Blog

E-bike Enthusiast Vintage Bike Enthusiast
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