Spin Control

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, April 2000 Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Spin Control
Clay Ellis

A friend of mine has a $7,000 dual-suspension mountain bike made of titanium. Naturally it's outfitted with the lightest fork on the market. He recently swapped out the original wheels for a pair that costs $800, because the original set was technologically lagging. Come to think of it, every last bolt on the bike has been hand-picked with the care of a jeweler sorting diamonds. (I swear, the guy isn't me.) But I'm afraid he's gone overboard: Strapped to the titanium handlebars and stem are no less than three separate digital devices: one for measuring distance and speed, another for heart rate, and a third for altitude.

And though it may be hard for the unabashed cycling dweeb to grow up, we're thankful that bike electronics have. Some or all of the functions in my friend's quantitative arsenal can now be had in a single, consolidated unit. At minimum, the average cyclometer's functions include speed, distance, maximum speed, average speed, a clock, and a timer. Many add such delights as wireless sensors and a dual wheel-size function to allow easy swapping between road bike and mountain bike. The five instruments we've rounded up represent a variety of features for bikers who range from the casual cruiser to the infomaniac. —ALAN COTÉ

Sigma Sport BC600 Has only the six essential functions of a cyclometer, which is precisely why we like it. Also tiny, at 1.5 inches square. Pony up an additional $23.50 for an optional wireless kit, which works with any Sigma cyclometer. Simple setup—no tools required. The prominent top line always displays speed while the bottom lets you flash easily through the other modes. Road racers—they just want to know how far it is to the finish line. $20
Cateye CC-AT100 Monitors altitude and temperature, tracks altitude gain over a single trip, and compiles total gain over multiple rides. Easily swaps between English and metric units for foreign excursions. Only cyclometer of the bunch that has a backlight for after-hours use. Screw-down handlebar clip wired to fork-mounted sensor. A labyrinth of eight different displays can leave you completely lost. The two primary buttons are big enough to operate with full-fingered gloves. Boulder roadies who climb 5,000 feet in one ride and need to know how cold they'll be on the descent. $90
Trek Wireless Compact wireless transmitter mounts to fork and beams info to a bar-mounted display. Dual wheel-size function; dual odometer lets you track mileage between trail markers without erasing trip distance. Pace arrow flogs you if your speed dips below your current ride average. No wires, no hassles. Computer and sensor clamp down in a jiffy with zip-ties. Two minutes, tops. Enormous, half-inch-tall numbers on the top line will have passing motorists checking out your data. Both control buttons depress with distinct clicks. Mountain bikers; there's no wire to snag on grabby trailside shrubbery. $60
Shimano Flight Deck Connects to ubiquitous Shimano shift levers on both road and mountain bikes. Tells you at a glance which gear you're in and calculates cadence based on speed and gear ratio—thus avoiding the rigmarole of running a second wire to the chainstay. Fussy at best. Requires partial disassembly of brake-shift levers. Roadies will want fresh bar tape. Nubby little control buttons molded into shift levers let you scroll through modes without taking a hand off the bars. The serious cyclist who can get away with sporting a pock.et protector as well as a tattoo. $70 for road version, $102 for mountain
Specialized P Brain Built-in heart-rate monitor and altimeter turn handlebars into mission control. For an extra $50, you can download 33 hours of training data to a PC via a wireless interface (Mac version slated for 2001). Overlay your heart rate on the elevation profile to see just what sort of stamina you have. Bolt on a handlebar bracket that's wired to a fork-mount sensor. Software loads up easy as can be. Plenty navigable, considering the myriad functions: An arrow for each of the two display lines points to one of 14 icons around LCD's border. Meticulous training-log types—and my buddy with the $7,000 mountain bike. $199

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