Q:

What cyclocomputer can I use on both my mountain and road bikes?

What cycling computer would you recommend to use interchangeably between my mountain and road bikes? What functions do you think are necessary? John Santa Fe, New Mexico

Apr 20, 2006
Outside
Outside Magazine

VDO C3DS

A: You've got a couple of hurdles to leap, John. For one thing, you need a computer that can handle two pre-programmed wheel sizes, so you can move it from the road bike to the mountain bike without a lot of fussing around. For another, the computer needs to be rugged enough to handle the abuse that mountain biking can dish out. This may lead you to a wireless unit, as with one of those there's no wire wrapped around a fork that can snag on brush (although my mountain bikes both have wired computers, and I've never had a problem with that).

As for functions, by now everyone in the cyclecomputer biz seems to have settled on the basics: Distance, time, average speed, maximum speed. Myself, I want to know how fast I'm going at any moment, how far I've gone, and my average. I do like the little up/down arrow some computers have that show whether you're above or below your current average speed.

Anyway, one strong candidate would be the VDO C3DS ($90; available at www.nashbar.com). It's a fairly high-end wireless model, and can be swapped between two bikes. You can maintain separate records of trips and distances. It even has a feature that lets you count distance up or down, an aid when using maps that, say, tell you to turn right in 6.7 miles. And it's waterproof.

CatEye's MC100W offers many of the same features—wireless, two-bike compatibility—in a slightly stripped down and more affordable package (it's $50 at www.cateye.com, though is currently $40 at Bike Nashbar). It doesn't have the spiffier VDO's navigation function, but it has all the other must-have bike-computer features. And it has the pace arrow I mentioned. I've long used CatEye computers and found them to be exceedingly reliable.

In a wired computer, the CicloSport CM211 (www.ciclosportusa.com) gives you two-bike capability for $40 (or $20 at Nashbar!). The only question is how the pickup will fit on a suspension fork—you may have to rig something with zip ties, but that's common enough.

Of course, for less than $50 you also can simply buy two computers—a CatEye Mity 8 for the road bike and an Enduro 8 for the mountain bike (each $20 when on sale, which is often) and never have to worry about it! I have computers on all my bikes for just that reason—no fiddling around.

Pick up a copy of the 2006 Outside Buyer's Guide, on newsstands April 25, for a look at 396 torture-tested products, including the 2006 Gear of the Year award winners and an all-new women-specific review section.

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