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Bike computers...they're tell you how far, how fast, and more.

Bike computers . . . they'll tell you how far, how fast, and more

Palm-size, handlebar-mounted bicycle computers began to appear in bike shops about four years ago, and already many cyclists consider them standard equipment. Weekend touring enthusiasts can clock their mileage, racers can determine the pack's speed and stay a step ahead, fitness buffs can use different functions to help pace their workouts.

Most bike shops now sell at least two of several brands on the market. Most models cost $30 to $70; less expensive ones are likely to appear soon. All run on batteries (one model has a solar panel to recharge them) and weigh 2 1/2 to 6 ounces.

Though they vary in style and function, all operate in basically the same way: one or more magnets attach to the front wheel, and a magnetic sensor attaches to the front fork. As the magnets pass the sensor, they register the wheel's revolutions. A wire runs from the sensor to the computer, which calculates speed and distance using its internal clock and your wheel's circumference (which you enter into the computer).

Look beyond the numbers

When you're shopping, don't judge them simply by the number of functions they have. All those on the market today have speedometers and odometers, the two most popular functions. For a casual cyclist, the cadence meter found on a few models may not be useful (it tells you pedal revolutions per minute). Some features --stopwatch, countdown, alarm-- are on many digital watches, making those functions possibly redundant. It's more important to judge quality, and this you can investigate by talking to salespeople or carefully reading instruction booklets. We found that price is not a reliable indication of quality.

Speedometers in particular vary widely in accuracy and speed of reporting. For example, some display your current speed almost instantly; others lag several seconds behind or sometimes display erroneous speeds due to "ghost vibrations' from the magnets. Generally, the more magnets passing by the sensor per wheel revolution, the faster and more accurate the speedometer. As for trip meters, you can reset some with a button at the start of every outing, while with others you have to remove and reinsert batteries.

You can install the computer yourself (a fairly simple procedure, though instructions vary in clarity), or have it installed at a bike shop ($3 to $20). Computers with a cadence meter require installation of an additional magnet on one pedal and a corresponding sensor on the frame's bottom tube.

For aerobically conscious cyclists, models that also monitor heart rate are available from such firms as Biotechnology, Inc. ($99.95 to $229.95) and Veltec/Boyer Sports ($124.95). You may need to check at several bike shops to find these specialty items.

Photo: Cycling computers can be found at larger bike shops. Small screens display speed, distance, time; buttons switch functions

Photo: Stopwatch-size computer mounts near center of handlebars; rider has easy time reading display, switching functions

Photo: He snapped magnetic ring onto front hub; other brands use single magnets hooked to spokes. Sensor attaches to front fork
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Feb 1, 1986
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