In winter everything becomes problematic. Even the simple bike
The problem is not the computers themselves, but trying to use them can be
maddening when you have winter gloves, or worse, lobster claws or mittens on, and your
fingers are an inch wide. Those little buttons are often hard to push.
Since much winter ICEBIKING, for commuters, at least, is done in the dark,
some winter cyclists go for weeks without actually seeing their computers in action.
Just as well, we are often depressed by our speed
in winter anyway.
However it doesn't have to be that way. There are computers that
accommodate "Fat Fingers" and even help you tell macho biking stories about the
cold, and have illuminated displays.
The Cateye CC-AT100
computer includes an Electro-luminescent back plane for those dark commutes.
It also has a temperature read out, as well as
altitude gained in addition to all the usual features found on bike computers today.
It has large buttons so that you can operate the thing with heavy gloves. Availability of
this model may vary as it is not featured on the website.
The temperature range listed in the specifications only goes down to
freezing. It may actually operate below freezing but lacks a minus sign. This
computer costs around $90 USD.
Will it Freeze?
Many cyclists worry about their computer freezing in
winter. A common question on the ICEBIKE list
concerns the advisability of using a computer in winter temperatures.
The short answer is Yes, it will freeze. But
it doesn't seem to hurt them too much. Many times the display will cease to
function. It always resumes operation upon being warned up a bit, and the computers
keep track of mileage and speed even when the display is not working.
Damage to batteries is another possibility.
I've never experienced any battery damage or bursting down to minus 20 (F). I'm
sure it could be a problem, but I've heard no reports of it.
Features you want:
For winter cycling, look for Large
buttons, located on the edge of the unit. Getting gloved fingers onto small buttons,
or recessed buttons is difficult. Buttons on the edge of the unit are far easier to
push. The Vetta C-25AT shown at
right has large edge buttons and a temperature read out as well.
All for around $35 USD.
You want buttons, widely spaced.
You want to consider at alternative mounting locations, such as the stem
rather than the handle bar. In winter you often have lights mounted, some require
separate mounting of switches, and these take up a lot of real-estate on the handle bars.
Performance sells a "Cronometer Nob" that allows attachment of a computer
the handlebar stem. You can make one from scratch with a zip-tie and one inch of
Wireless is nice, but not essential for winter cycling.
Waterproof is also nice to have, but probably not essential.
Although none of mine are rated as truly waterproof, they have never been damaged by
winter rains. Most computers are rated as water resistant.
Quick release is a mixed blessing. It means you can take the
computer inside with you easily. It also means a thief can nab your instrument in
one second flat.
If you are fussy about your odometer readings, don't forget to adjust your
cycle computers' settings for the lower pressure typically used in winter. Sheldon
Brown has a good page on Calibration.
And watch for ice build up on the sensor if you park your bike outside
after a freezing ride in the rain or slushy snow. If left standing in the cold it
might freeze up hard enough to damage the sensor when the magnet comes around when you
decide to resume your ride. Whip it off before it freezes.