Speed and cadence sensors for your bicycle (posted 2022-12-20)
It happened again: I look at my bicycle handlebars to see how fast I'm going, but my bicycle computer was gone. This happens to me every three to four years. A goot moment to reconsider what information I really need during and after cycling. That would be:
- current distance
- current speed
- total distance per day / week / month
Current distance and speed are mostly relevant during longer rides. I could use my Apple Watch for this. But I don't want to be forced to always use my Apple Watch (and suffer the resulting power use for running the GPS the whole time) to record the total distance for all rides big and small. So for that, I need an extra sensor.
Bike speed sensors measure the revolutions of your wheel. That way they also record the total distance traveled. These days there are speed sensors that use bluetooth low energy (BLE) to transmit your speed/distance to another device. Like your phone. Many of these sensors also support Garmin's ANT+ protocol.
However, it turned out that the apps from makers of two of such sensors require you to create a login on their system. What kind of nonsense is that? The bizarre thing is that apparently these days this is so normal that reviews don't even mention it. Apart from hassle and privacy the problem I have with this is that if the maker discontinues their server, your device no longer works.
It's interesting that several of these sensors don't work with a little magnet on a spoke that the sensor sees flying by, but they're mounted around the hub of the wheel. So apparently they can count the revolutions of the wheel that way. This is of course a bit of a hassle when you need to replace a battery, especially if the sensor is mounted on the back wheel.
So I came back to Sigma Sport. I've had several of their BCs ("bicycle computer"?) over the years. For a long time, I didn't understand their naming convention. But it seems like they use two numbers: the first is the number of functions and the second the year a new platform was released. Currently that's 16 (2016). So the BC 14.16 has 14 functions, including recording elevation changes. The BC 16.16 (which I ordered) has a few more functions, including an ETA timer. That seems useful. (But it doesn't seem to have the elevation sensor.) The BC 23.16 has even more functions, but the screen gets pretty crowded/complex. See Sigma Sport's Youtube channel for more info.
Sigma Sport has bike computers where the sensor is connected to the mount on the handle bars with a wire and also wireless BCs. Those come in two varieties: ATS and STS. ATS is an analog protocol and is less reliable, but probably cheaper. STS is digital and has the advantage that one bike computer can be coupled with both a speed / distance sensor and a cadence sensor, and that for two different bikes. Your total distance is then recorded separately for both bikes. So I would definitely go for an STS model.
With the different models, like for instance the BC 16.16, you can buy the wired variant (just "BC 16.16"), the wireless variant with just a speed sensor ("BC 16.16 STS") or the wireless variant with a cadence sensor included ("BC 16.16 CAD").