Should you be using your phone as a bike computer?

How can you use the tech you already have instead of paying out for a specific computer?

Clock17:00, Thursday 26th October 2023

Cycling as a sport comes with a long list of accessories that can make your riding more enjoyable, faster, and easier. As wonderful as it is to have so much gadgetry to obsess over, a lot of it doesn’t come cheap. Is it always the case that using a cycling-specific product is better than using something you already have?

Ollie's explored the advantages and disadvantages of using your phone to record a ride versus using a specific bike computer. Most of us already have a smartphone in our pockets that is more than capable of doubling up as a bike computer, and these days, most phones are waterproof as standard. With that in mind, could they replace the need for a specific bike computer?

Why would you use your phone?

If you are getting started in cycling and want a head unit for navigating new routes or to allow you to track your speed and distance, you are going to need some sort of bike computer. These are available at a whole range of prices, however, more functionality comes with a greater cost.

If you are already in possession of a smartphone, using this pocket supercomputer to track your riding makes perfect sense. It has a big and clear screen and the ability to download more fitness apps than you could know what to do with.

Why wouldn’t you use your phone?

There are a few obvious restrictions that might hold you back from using your phone as your bike computer. Firstly, depending on how long your rides tend to be, your phone's battery life might not be sufficient, especially after a day of normal phone use.

Phones can also really struggle in direct sunlight. Often while riding, your front-mounted phone will be directly exposed to the sun, which can cause the device to overheat.

The most obvious drawback of using your phone is the risk factor. Phones are very expensive, and if yours is mounted to the bars on your bike, there's a good chance that if you crash, it'll hit the deck and break.

How can I mount my phone to my bike?

There are plenty of products out there that will allow you to mount your phone to your bike. We suggest researching a quality product that will keep your phone nice and secure.

One brand that offers mounting solutions for a wealth of phones is Mous, which not only makes phone mounts for bikes, but also standalone protective cases. Mous has incorporated its knowledge of protective material technology into the cases that make up part of the mounting interface. This should offer your phone the best line of protection in the event of a crash.

Regardless of the brand, most good quality bike mounts will use a specific case for the model of phone you have. This mechanically locks to a mounting bracket that sits either on your bars or stem. The mechanical locking mechanism holds the case and phone firmly and can only be released by either pressing a button to retract the retention device or by turning the handset a 90º turn.

Depending on what you are in the market for, most brands offer a range of mounting brackets. This includes out-in-front mounts that sit like a traditional Garmin/Wahoo mount, equally, you can get top cap mounts along with easily removable thumb screw mounts that are easily movable from bike to bike.

Advantages of specific bike computers

If you are looking to step up your riding and want to collect more training data such as heart rate and power, a bike computer will be designed to process and display that data with ease.

Matching up a bike computer to other sensors is usually very easy, as the producers of power meters, heart rate monitors and speed sensors design their products with bike computers in mind.

Aesthetically, a bike computer is far neater than a big phone, and we'd argue they're probably more aerodynamic too.

Finally, bike computers have specific screens that are designed to be clearly visible in direct sunlight. Many use a non-backlit calculator-style screen, which means that no matter what the conditions, your data is clearly visible.

Do you use a bike computer or are you a fan of using your phone, let us know which one and why in the comments below.

Related Content

Link to Cycling in the rain: 8 top tips for staying safe and comfortable
YouTube video ZYKx-_sQIbs

Cycling in the rain: 8 top tips for staying safe and comfortable

Here’s how to continue riding outdoors when the rain is pouring

Link to Everything you need to know to start riding gravel
YouTube video MmakjWK9Jsc

Everything you need to know to start riding gravel

If you're new to gravel riding, these are the skills and tips you'll need to make the most out of your ride

Link to Avoid the gym: 7 outdoor strength training exercises for cyclists
YouTube video jYUoiS6Tp8A

Avoid the gym: 7 outdoor strength training exercises for cyclists

Strength training exercises have lots of benefits for cyclists and, even better, you don’t have to go to the gym to complete them

Link to One bike to rule them all: Can a gravel bike double up as a road bike?
YouTube video 6OdZ0l9hFes

One bike to rule them all: Can a gravel bike double up as a road bike?

If you only want to own a single bike, a gravel steed could be the most versatile option

Subscribe to the GCN Newsletter

Get the latest, most entertaining and best informed news, reviews, challenges, insights, analysis, competitions and offers - straight to your inbox