Recently, Garmin suffered a multi-day outage in its sports-tracking service, which prevented users of the company’s sports and fitness devices from syncing with Gamin Connect. This outage was due to a ransomware attack, in which Garmin reportedly made the decision to pay the ransom to cyber-terrorists. If that doesn’t sit well with you (it shouldn’t), there are plenty of other alternatives on the market today.
If you’re as disgusted with the whole situation as I (a long-time Garmin user) am, then it’s time for us both to start looking at the alternatives. We’re focusing exclusively on cycling computers in this piece, but have pieces about multi-sport watches and general fitness trackers coming soon.
Before we get into the list, a quick note about what we’re talking about here. We’re only looking at full-featured cycling computers here—not the simple computers that only track distance, speed, and a few averages. We’re talking about real Garmin Edge competitors here, with elevation, heart rate, and power tracking, full integration with electronic group sets, and all that jazz. The metric nerd stuff.
What to Look for in a Cycling Computer
Up until fairly recently, Garmin didn’t have a lot of competition in the cycling computer market. There were a few other options out there for advanced computers, but over the last few years, it has started to see some serious competition from brands like Wahoo.
- Large readable display: What good is a computer if you can’t read it? None. None good. The best computers have large displays that are easy to read. Bonus points if they’re also full color.
- Customizations: Everyone’s needs are different when it comes to tracking metrics, so you want to be able to organize your computer’s screens in a way that makes sense to you. All of these computers let you do that—some even let you customize screens from your phone and then transfer them to the computer.
- Full tracking capabilities: You want more than just distance tracking, so you’ll need a computer with GPS tracking for accuracy and navigation. Bonus points if they also feature some sort of live track feature so loved ones can keep up with your whereabouts.
- Sensor support: The best computer will support any sensor you can throw at them, like speed, cadence, heart rate, and power meters. Most of our picks also support the Garmin Varia Radar, so you can ditch your Edge computer without losing the Radar functionality.
The Best Overall: Wahoo Elemnt Bolt or Elemnt Roam
If you’re looking for a Garmin replacement that is almost as widely supported, then Wahoo is the way to go. These computers have features you won’t find anywhere else outside of Garmin’s ecosystem—like support for Garmin’s own Varia Radar taillights. That makes either of these a great choice for anyone switching away from Garmin but still wants to keep most of the same features they’re currently used to.
Wahoo currently has two computers in its catalog: the Elemnt Bolt and Elemnt Roam. The former is a smaller computer that is a good replacement for the Garmin Edge 520 (or older), but users of the 530 or 830 might be left wanting. It’s also been out for a few years, so it’s due up for a refresh. In other words, consider this one carefully—it sucks to buy a new gadget only to have the company release a newer model a month or two later.
For the latest hotness coming out of Wahoo, you’ll want to look at the Elemnt Roam. While the Bolt does have some form of navigation, it’s pretty primitive—especially for riders who want to get lost and find their way back. But that’s where the Roam comes in. With its design around navigation, it’s more in line with Garmin’s newer 30-series (530 and 830) computers in terms of letting you map a route and get where you need to go.
The Roam is also bigger and has a better color screen. Just don’t expect touch on either of these devices—you’ll get buttons-only navigation no matter which way you go. Otherwise, you’ll get a few additional benefits from Wahoo’s devices, like simpler page setup. Instead of doing everything directly on the device as with Garmin, you’ll set your pages up on a smartphone and sync it with the computer. It’s pretty intuitive and much simpler than most Garmin computers (though the 30s are also better than the older systems).
Both computers offer the full gamut of sensor connections, including heart rate, power, cadence, speed, and a whole lot more. Basically, if you can connect it to a Garmin, you can connect it to an Elemnt computer, too. The biggest issue here is that there’s a premium for the Roam—functionally, it’s closer an Edge 530 but hits at the same price point as an Edge 830. That can make it a tough sell for a lot of people.
Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt V1 GPS Cycling/Bike Computer
The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is small, easy to customize, and powerful. What more do you need?
Bang for Your Buck: Lezyne Super Pro GPS
For the price, the Lezyne Super Pro GPS is one hell of a computer—perhaps even the best deal out there right now. It doesn’t feature some of the more superfluous (but loved) features found on other computers, like a color screen, but it offers some cool features of its own to make up for it.
For starters, the Super Pro GPS can be used in either portrait or landscape modes, which is honestly a pretty cool feature that only a few other computers are capable of. Much like Garmin’s system with its Varia lights (and other lights compatible with the Light Network feature), the Super Pro GPS works with Lezyne lights that use the Smart Connect feature to allow full control of the light system directly from the head unit. Unlike Wahoo’s computers, however, the Super Pro GPS isn’t compatible with the Garmin Varia Radar (though there are no technical limitations that would prevent Lezyne from making this happen).
Otherwise, the Super Pro GPS offers both Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity, so it’s compatible with pretty much any non-proprietary sensor you can throw at it, including power meters, heart rate monitors, speed/cadence sensors, and a lot more. When paired with your smartphone using the Lezyne Ally app, you also get Lezyne Track for live tracking, Strava Live Segments, navigation, and mirrored notifications.
All in all, the Super Pro GPS is a killer little computer that appears to punch above its price point. If you’re into the idea of the Super Pro GPS but want something a little beefier, take a look at the Mega XL GPS. Alternatively, if you want something smaller, check out the Mini GPS.
LEZYNE Super Pro Performance GPS Bicycle Computer, 28H Runtime, USB Rechargeable, ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, Mountain & Road Bikes
If you're looking for a lot of computer at half the cost of what other companies are offering, look no further than the Lezyne Super Pro GPS.
Customizable and Powerful: Stages Dash L50 and M50
When most cyclists hear the name “Stages,” power meters are the first thing that come to mind—not computers. But as it turns out, Stages’ Dash computers are pretty legit little head units. It offers two different high-end head units under the Dash brand—the M50 and L50. The two are pretty similar feature-wise, with a slightly different form factor between separating the two. The L50 is longer and more narrow (like a Garmin), where the M50 is shorter and wider. That said, both computers can be used in either portrait or landscape mode, so it’s really about which design you prefer the most.
Given that Stages is a nerd-stat company (because, you know, power meters are inherently pretty nerdy), the Dash head units are focused on useful stats and data you won’t get with other head units. To start, there’s a big focus on mapping with both the Dash L50 and M50, with full color detail highlighting important roads and trails. Both units also have “live graphing,” which basically shows a graph of your various metrics as you work out. Oh, and they both have Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity, so they’re compatible with pretty much any sensor out there, including the Garmin Varia Radar. That’s a big bonus for Radar riders. (Seriously, once you ride with one, it’s hard to go without it.)
Like Wahoo’s computers, you customize the Dashes’ screens using your phone. (You can also use your computer if you’d rather.) Everything is handled in the Stages Link app for iOS or Android. These are both truly versatile computers—though it’s worth noting that they use a mount that’s unlike any other computer. Instead of going with the quarter- or half-turn mounts like almost everyone else, Stages designed its own out-front mount. While I haven’t personally used this mount, DC Rainmaker wasn’t super impressed with that aspect of the Stages Dash. Just something to consider.
But if that doesn’t bother you, these seem to tick a lot of boxes that most cyclists want to tick. And even the most expensive one is cheaper than a Garmin Edge 530.
On the Horizon: Hammerhead Karoo 2
Back in 2018, Hammerhead set out to do create a new type of cycling computer with the Karoo. And, for the most part, it succeeded. Unlike other computers, which are based on proprietary operating systems, the Karoo runs an OS you may already be familiar with: Android. Yeah, this is a cycling computer that’s totally based on Android, which is pretty rad and makes it insanely versatile.
Because the Karoo runs Android, it offers things like cellular connectivity (you’ll need a data plan and SIM card, of course), and the ability to sideload apps. But you also get all of the normal cycling computer bits here, too—full navigation compatibility, Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity for pretty much any type of sensor you could pair with it (including the Garmin Varia Radar), ride sync to Strava and TrainingPeaks (and more), and all that other jazz.
Hammerhead has also done a good job of offering new features by way of over-the-air updates on the Karoo—in fact, I might even say that it does a better job of updating its device than most Android phone manufacturers. Heh.
Now, all that said, you can’t actually buy the Karoo right now—it’s totally sold out on Hammerhead’s site. This actually makes sense, because the company has already announced the Karoo 2. The only issue here is that details on the forthcoming computer are still pretty much unknown, so it’s not clear what is going to be better in the Karoo 2. That’s why this one is listed as “on the horizon”—if you’re not in a huge hurry to replace your Garmin right now and the Karoo sounds interesting, the Karoo 2 will be one to keep an eye on.
I’m a pretty obsessive cyclist, so I try to keep an eye on all the new bike tech that’s coming out. Still, after researching this topic (not just for the article, but to replace my own Garmin), one thing became pretty clear: Garmin has a strong hold on this market.
The only other devices that start to come close right now are Wahoo’s offerings, so if support and compatibility across as many apps and services as possible is important to you, that’s the way to go. Wahoo computers are the only options outside of Garmin that support TrainerRoad outside workouts, for example. That’s pretty important to me personally. If you have specific features you rely on, you’ll want to do your due diligence and make sure you can actually get those things on other computers.