Cycling isn’t just about sticking a helmet on and heading out on the road anymore. Whether it’s competitive social cycling measured against friends or even strangers, or improved safety while riding, there’s a whole world of accessories and add-ons designed to improve every ride in some way.
Year on year, cycling technology keeps on improving as more manufacturers innovate and bring out new tech that promises to deliver better results. From interconnected gadgets that communicate with your smart device to translate performance into readable figures, all the way to helmets that do more than just protect your head from injury, there’s loads of cycling to tech to choose from, catering for beginners all the way to seasoned enthusiasts. But where do you start?
Our breakdown of the best cycling technology for 2019 covers some of the key areas of smart bike technology, including top tips for improving your cycling experiences, as well as the right cycling technology to improve every ride.
Best cycling apps
If you’re just getting into smart cycling or are looking at easy ways of measuring and improving performance, then start with your smartphone. As well as apps that compliment some of the cycling tech we’ll be looking at later, there are also a few brilliant standalone apps that use your location to generate route ideas and even let you know speeds and distances travelled.
Strava is probably the hottest cycling performance measurement app out there right now, with over 11 million users around the world. Strava is all about social cycling (and running), with the ability to share your route (and how well you did on it) with other Strava users to see how each rider’s performance compares. The big attraction here is that you can not only pick up some potential new riding routes using Strava Segments (a user-generated database of popular cycling routes), but also see how long it took riders to complete said route – opening up a whole new world of healthy competition!
The other great feature is full fitness tracking and a training calendar, free of charge. This means you can log all results from particular rides and sessions, then check that you’re headed in the right direction, or at least making small improvements. This can be great for adding some motivation to your training sessions by setting out goals. You’ll also pick up Strava trophies and badges when you complete certain milestones!
If you’ve got a Garmin bike computer (if you don’t, check out the next section to see why it’s a great investment), then the Garmin Connect app is a must have. As well as integrating with apps like Strava, Garmin Connect includes similar tracking and calendar features to help you make improvements and ultimately get fitter. Connect to Garmin cycle computers via Bluetooth, your phone or smart device acts as a display for information gathered in your ride, so you can start analysing your rides.
One of our favourite Garmin Connect features however is the ability to connect with other Garmin users, then follow their ride in real time using . This is especially handy if you join a ride after it has already started, or to see if friends of club mates are also out and about near you.
One of the coolest cycling apps that will definitely become even more popular in 2019 is Relive. Pulling data from rides using either Strava or Garmin Connect, Relive plays back your ride on a 3D maps, showing heart rate, speed, and power data if you’ve got a power meter. This allows you to see which part of the ride were hardest, or where the majority of time was lost or made up, helping to make it clear where improvements need to be made next time.
Best cycle computers
If you haven’t already got even a basic cycling computer, then you need to get on board! Cycling computers can change the way you ride completely, with tons of features packed into the latest models. Whether it’s displaying your heart rate when used with a chest sensor, or giving you a gentle reminder that your behind your PB on a time trial, cycle computers often act as the interface for your ride, providing a snapshot of how things are going.
One of the key features of modern cycling computers is GPS connectivity. GPS plays a huge role when it comes figuring out ride distances and speeds, important for competitive cyclists or those who are looking to improve their ride each time they go out. The other benefit here is that many cycling computers now take on the role of the ‘bike sat nav’, providing turn by turn directions or an overview of the route ahead.
Cycle computers can also act as a hub for other smart cycling accessories, such as cadence and power meters, collating data and feeding it into your post-ride report. Most cycle computers now come with a whole host of analysis tools in the form of smartphone apps, so you can get a breakdown of your ride without having to break out the pen, paper and calculator.
One of the industry leaders in the world of cycle computers is Garmin, and their selection of cycle computers are at the very forefront of smart cycling and automated performance measurement. The absolute cream of the crop and our pick for best cycling computer for 2019 is the Garmin Edge 1030. This beast of a cycle computer does all of the standard stuff like speed measurement and timing, but in a much more in-depth way then you’ve ever seen. Every ride is logged, so you can bring up all of your rides and compare them however you want to, ideal for seeing if you’re headed in the right direction in terms of fitness and training. The Edge 1030 is also fully compatible with a massive range of power meters and cadence sensors, so you can get much more reliable power output data that compliments your array of built-in performance measurement tools.
Then there’s the mapping and navigation. Garmin cycle computers come with pre-loaded maps, so you can just choose a route and start cycling, but it’s also possible to use the ever popular Strava via a smartphone to start attacking Segments and compete against others.
One of our favourite features however is rider-to-rider messaging. If you’re late for the start of a ride or frequently join your club or group part way through a ride, you can simply message friends who also have a Garmin cycle computer to see where everyone is or how their ride is going. It’s especially handy if you drop someone (or let’s be honest, when you get dropped) and need to know if they’re still stopping for that cup of tea at the top of the hill.
If your budget doesn’t stretch to the high-calibre 1030, then the 1030’s little sister offers similar features at a lower price. The Garmin Edge 820 provides similar performance measurement features, turn-by-turn directions and accident detection, and there are only a few differences between the two, such as a smaller screen and slightly shorter battery life.
Best smart helmets
A bike helmet’s primary job is to prevent head injuries, but why not use this otherwise useless bit of cycling real estate to add extra ride-enhancing tech? If you want your helmet to do more than just protect your skull, then you should definitely check out Livall’s range of smart bike helmets.
The Livall BH60SE Bluetooth Enabled Smart Helmet is a must have for the upcoming cycling season, no matter what you ride. Alongside the standard stuff like adjustable straps and extra vents for comfort, this top of the range 280g smart helmet will also allow you to make phone calls hands-free, listen to music, and even let a nominated friend or family member know you’re in trouble with the built-in SOS feature. This sends a text message with your location to your emergency contact if the G-sensor in the helmet is triggered (i.e., you stop a bit too suddenly or fall off your bike) so they can check on you or call for help.
The Livall BH60SE will also keep you much safer when cycling at night, with an array of rear-facing LED lights, as well as handlebar-operated indicators to let other road users know where you’re headed. The Livall BH60SE offers up to 10 hours of battery life and is rechargeable via USB.
If your helmet budget is a little lower, then the Livall MTL is still an excellent option. You’ll get the same SOS and lighting features, but this version is missing the hands-free phone call and music options, which makes it a bit more affordable for riders who are looking for both added safety and value for money.
Best Power Meters
Measuring your power output is a great way of seeing how efficiently you are cycling, and at which stages of the ride you’re putting the most effort in. This makes it much easier to measure overall ride performance, see if you’re attacking certain sections in the right gear, and to benchmark against previous rides.
Power meters can be fitted in multiple locations on your bike, but pedal and crank arm power meters are becoming very popular, thanks to the ability to change them out quickly to different bikes.
One of our top cycling power meter picks for 2019 is 4iiii’s Precision Power Meter, a tiny 9-gram power meter than comes pre-installed on a choice of performance crank arms. Connecting to a smart device, this barely-noticeable power meter provides an in-depth picture of how much power you’re putting into the pedals by measuring the strain on the crank arm itself, before converting this into understandable figures. Fitting and removing crank arms is pretty straightforward, making this a great option if you use different bikes for different types of ride.
One thing to watch out for when it comes to buying crank-mounted power meters is crank length. Crank arms come in different sizes and shapes depending on the rider, so if you have a particular preference or size requirement, make sure you buy the correct crank size for your bike.
Similarly, pedal-based power meters are also a popular choice as they can be switched onto another bike. The Powertap P series are best-in-class when it comes to pedal power meters, with the Powertap P1 and newer P2 models both capable of providing incredibly accurate power readings.
Bear in mind that you’ll need to connect your smart device and download a suitable app to be able to use these smart power meters, but all of our power meters come with setup instructions and in some cases a dedicated app that can be used to collate and translate power output metrics.
Best cadence meters
Similarly to power meters, cadence measurement is all about seeing how quickly your wheels are turning, an indicator of both speed and efficiency. Cadence meters allow cyclists to measure pedal strokes per minute, then analyse point in the ride where revolutions slowed down or sped up. This is especially handy if you’re working on your fitness, as you’ll be able to see if your cadence improves or gets more consistent as you build your muscle strength and cardio-vascular capabilities.
Our own Halfords Cadence Sensor fastens nicely out of the way onto your crank arm and collects the numbers as you enjoy your ride. There are no fiddly magnets or bits that need to be lined up, plus you can transfer it onto other bikes where needed. Once fitted, connect to your phone via Bluetooth and use a compatible app (Garmin Connect works nicely and is completely free to download) to see your results. It’s also miles cheaper than it’s closest rival and does pretty much the same job!
If you’ve been bitten by the Garmin bug and want a matching cadence sensor to go with your new Edge cycle computer, then check the matching Garmin Edge Cadence Sensor. This also fastens in place on your crank arm and does exactly the same job as the Halfords model, but you’ll pay a little extra for the Garmin logo and 2 year warranty.
Best fitness watches
If you’re one of the millions of people in the UK who is currently measuring their cycling activity with a FitBit or similar, then you’re likely missing out on lots of information about your ride, as well as some great extra features that can be found on dedicated cycling smartwatches in 2019.
Fitness trackers and smartwatches aren’t exactly new tech, but squeezing way more into a tiny screen on your arm is what 2019 is heralding for smart watches. From Apple’s new focus on more durable, waterproof and sport-proof watches to Samsung’s increasingly impressive foray into the world of wearables, you can do way more than just tell the time. But what about us cyclists?
Well, if you want something that’s really going to blow your mind this season then it’s got to be a Polar smartwatch. Designed for a huge range of sports, including cycling, Polar’s range of smartwatches will help even the most infrequent riders to get way more out their techy timepiece.
At the top of the tree, there’s the Polar Vantage V. As well as the standard stuff like heart rate monitoring, step counting and of course time-telling, this monster smartwatch will also learn about your goals and tell you how close you are to achieving them with updates as frequently as you need them. You can also get full mapping once connected to a smartphone, as well as features like running power measurement without the need for foot sensors for when you’re off the bike.
The big draw for cyclists is that the Polar Vantage V weighs just 68g, is completely weatherproof, and you’ll get up to 40 hours from a single charge – impressive compared to clunkier sports smartwatches that don’t last as long.
If you haven’t got the cash to splash on a top-of-the-range smartwatch like the Polar Vantage V, then there’s always the Nuband I Touch Fitness Tracker. For £50, you’ll get a basic fitness tracker that measures how far you’ve cycled and how many calories you’ve burned, perfect if you aren’t a cycling fanatic who needs to know exactly when your heart rate spiked on that last climb. You’ll also be able to count steps, see sleep quality and read smartphone notifications on-screen.
Best cycling heart rate monitors
Although a smartwatch will do a decent job of measuring and tracking your heart rate, many cyclists still swear by a good old fashioned heart rate monitor for the most accurate readings. In 2019 however, you’ll need to choose between the classic chest-mounted heart monitor that fastens around you, or a band that sits around your arm in order to read your pulse.
You can’t go wrong with a Garmin Soft Strap Heart Rate Monitor if you’d prefer an out-of-sight heart monitor that fastens around your chest. This super light monitor pairs with any smartphone and is unique to your device, so you won’t get the classic problem of picking up other people’s heart rates if you’re in a group or around others at the start of a competition.
For a really impressive arm-mounted heart rate monitor however, the Scosche Rhythm Plus Heart Rate Monitor is the go-to for 2019. This tactile bit of pulse-measuring kit is compatible with pretty much every smart cycling app, using bluetooth and ANT+ to connect to your phone or tablet. The Rhythm Plus uses a variety of light types to get a much more accurate reading, and it’s so light you’ll forget you’re wearing it, which is exactly what you want from any heart monitor.
Best smart bike lights
Gone are the days of clunky, heavy bike lights that need new AA batteries every few days. Step into the world of smart bike lights in 2019, with the brilliant Garmin Varia range.
Connecting to your Garmin Edge 520, 820, or 1030 Cycle Computer, these smart bike lights can be flicked on or off with a tap of your smart phone (but don’t worry, there are buttons too). The Garmin Varia UT Front Light has five lighting modes, up to 20 hours of battery life depending on the mode used, as well as an out-front mount that allows the light to be attached to your Garmin Edge Out-Front cycle computer holder.
The impressive rear Garmin Varia 2 Radar Tail Light however takes bike lights to the next level. Alongside a high-intensity USB-rechargeable light that lasts for up to 15 hours, there’s also a Built-in radar detector that gives riders a visual warning of cars approaching from the rear via the display of a compatible Garmin Edge Cycle Computer, as well as an audible warning if they get too close.
If you’re a commuter or ride a lot in the dark, then a Bikehut Backpack Signal is another bit of smart tech that could end up saving your life. Using a mini handlebar-mounted remote control, riders can signal which way they are turning via a flashing LED arrow on the slim panel that attaches to any backpack. The panel is USB-rechargeable and provides 5 hours of operation, perfect for those late night rides or commutes home on dull days.
Best smart turbo trainers
If you’re still relying on rollers when the weather is bad, then a turbo trainer has to be your next purchase. Things have come a long way from the old fan or liquid-resistance trainers too, with smart turbo trainers that not only emulate hill climbing but also connect with your other tech to make things a bit more interesting.
Instead of staring blankly at the wall as you get a winter ‘training ride’ in, why not step into the 21st century by adding a screen into the equation. With the help of your smartphone, a smart TV and a virtual training app like Zwift, you can follow real-world rides (and even a few fantasy ones), virtual reality style. From Tour de France stages to popular worldwide cycling routes, a smart turbo trainer will adjust the resistance to match what’s happening on screen. For example, if you’re attacking the L’Alpe d’Huez, the resistance will match one of the world’s toughest climbs, but on the way back down you can focus on downhill cycling between turns, much more exciting than having to imagine everything!
Getting a techy setup like this doesn’t have to cost a fortune either. For a couple of hundred quid, the excellent entry-level Elite Novo Smart Turbo Trainer is fully compatible with apps like Zwift and is incredible easy to set up. You’ll get simulated slopes up to 6%, elastogel rollers for reduced noise, as well as a 12 month subscription to the Elite My E-Training app, which allows users to upload their training rides directly into Strava.
If you’re looking for more features and more realistic resistance, then a Tacx turbo trainer is our top pick for 2019. The Tacx Flux 2 is a solid mid-range turbo trainer that offers a much higher 16% slope simulation as well as extremely accurate performance measurement tools, so you can build out your ride in Strava with a lot more info than the Elite.
If you’re already a smart turbo trainer aficionado, then the Tacx Neo 2 is your turbo trainer upgrade for the rest of the year. From left and right pedal power measurement to heavy-hitting processor and memory capabilities for a seamless integration into your virtual ride, this is the closest you can get to road riding without leaving the house.
Now that you’ve picked out the best tech to help you improve your cycling this season, it’s time to make sure your bike is in top nick too. Drop into any Halfords store for a completely free safety check if you haven’t ridden your bike yet this year, and don’t forget to check out CycleCare too. Depending on the level of service you go for, we’ll sort out the fiddly bits like brake cable replacement and gear adjustments so you can focus on getting more out of your ride.