Here’s a question I’m pretty confident nobody has ever answered “yes” to:
“Have you ever replaced the battery on a bike computer?”
I know I haven’t. Up until now, the reason has always been the same: bike computers self-destruct before even one battery runs out. And for this reason, I have learned to always buy cheap bike computers — the ones you can get for $12.00. I mean, the wires are going to break, or the contact points are going to rust/oxidize, or condensation is going to get between the LCD and the view window, or the buttons are going to stop working, regardless of how much you spend. So why spend $40, $50, or more on something that will last no longer than the $10 item?
That question was rhetorical.
I Get Stupid
Due to what I’d like to call a bout of serious-minded dedication compounded with a willful dismissal of facts I know to be true, however, last winter I went and bought a Polar CS200cad cyclocomputer. Here’s what this little beauty boasts:
- Speed sensor
- Cadence sensor
- Heart Rate monitor
- Wireless, wireless, wireless!
It was easy to set up. It was easy to use. It gave me massive quantities of data, which I have used to adhere to Coach Lofgran’s awesome training program as faithfully as I can.
You already see the problem, don’t you? Well, that’s because I am using effective foreshadowing techniques, but the fact remains: I should have seen it coming: Within a month, one of the batteries (the speed sensor) died. And then one time I forgot to turn off the main computer doohickey after a workout, and that pretty much killed the battery on the main computer.
I Get Angry
So, I should replace the batteries, right? Of course I should. And what does Polar have to say about how to do that? Well, they say I should ship the whole ball of wax back to their service center, where they’ll be happy to put new batteries in for me.
Thanks, Polar! That’s an awesome idea! But I admit to having some minor quibbles:
- You’re going to charge me about $15 for each battery you replace. That’s $30 so far.
- You’re going to charge me about $7.50 for shipping, plus I have to spend my own money and time to ship this, so now we’re up to about $45.
- Once I ship it off, I have no bike computer at all until Polar gets mine back to me. I don’t find that inconvenient at all!
To recap: After having spent $160 on Polar’s bike computer and getting use of it for about a month, they’d now like me to pay them a bare minimum of $45 to get new batteries, even though the batteries didn’t last due to faulty design (ie, the stupid bike computer doesn’t realize it’s not receiving any information from any of the sensors, and therefore doesn’t get the clever idea of maybe shutting itself off).
Polar, in their Very Helpful Customer Service & Repair website page recommend I just go ahead and pre-authorize a service charge of up to $75, and they’ll just use as much of that as they need to.
Hey, Polar, I have a better idea: how about if instead of doing that, I get really disgusted at you for creating such a weak design — an electronic instrument that doesn’t know to turn itself off, is not rechargeable, and must be sent away to get new batteries — that I just accept my stupid purchase as a sunk cost, realize that any more money I spend on this lame cyclocomputer is throwing good money after bad, and vow to never buy anything from you ever again?
I Like My Garmin 301
I do have an exception to my general vitriol toward cyclocomputers, though: My Garmin 301. It’s a wrist-mounted GPS with a heart rate monitor. You can buy it at Amazon.com for $161.85. Here’s what I like about it:
- No sensors, wireless or otherwise. You just strap it to your handlebar. My handy tip in this regard: buy a 6′ length of copper pipe insulation for $2.00 and cut off an inch-wide cross-section of it. Put that around your handlebar and it’s just right for the wrist-sized velcro strap mount the 301 comes with. Very easy to move from bike to bike that way.
- Wait a second, I guess it does have a sensor. The HRM strap must have a battery, right? Well, that’s lasted about a year and doesn’t have any problems yet. Has anyone ever had to replace a battery in their HRM chest strap?
- It’s rechargeable. In fact, the 301 recharges with a mini-USB jack, which I have plugged into both my home and work computers. So it’s not like you need to have a special recharger for it (although it does come with one, which I keep in my garage).
- It lasts. The 301 claims to last 11 hours on a charge. That seems to be about right. Long enough for most big rides, or several 2-hour rides.
- It has a big red button. That’s the start/stop button. It’s easy to find even when you’re riding. And all the buttons are easy enough to get to, even when you’re in motion and wearing gloves.
- It has not conked out. Here’s an interesting feature other cycle computer manufacturers ought to take a look at: none of the other features matter if the stupid thing can’t handle being outdoors.
- It works with MotionBased.com: Motionbased.com is a cool site where you can upload and show off your ride stats, for free. You can check mine out at http://eldennelson.motionbased.com.
- Since it’s a GPS, you don’t have to do complex math. You don’t have to know your wheel circumference or anything like that, and you don’t have to change any settings when you move it from your road bike to your mountain bike. It’s doing speed and distance based on GPS data.
I Ponder Whether to Upgrade
The thing is, I would like to have cadence info, since I’m trying to be serious about the whole training thing this year. And it looks like I can do that with a Garmin Forerunner 305 with a cadence kit.
But I just don’t know.
Here’s my pro and con list.
- I’ve had good luck with Garmin.
- This should be about the same as my 301, but with cadence
- If I have a 305 for the road bike, I can just leave the 301 on the MTB full-time.
- Wireless cadence sensor = potential battery hassles
- People will call me a huge nerd for having not just one GPS bike computer, but two.
So, does anyone have the 305 setup with the cadence kit? Are you happy with it?
And, more importantly, is everyone as otherwise disgusted with cyclecomputers in general as I am?
Thanks for letting me vent. I feel much better. And my nasal passages have cleared.
PS: If anyone from Garmin is reading this and wants to send me a Forerunner 305 + a cadence kit, I will pimp it shamelessly (if I like it). Thank you.