Cycling Computers & Apps: Everything you need to start understanding your cycling data

Published September 17, 2021

Everyone likes having a window into how they perform. Whether it’s a big presentation at work or how good dinner is - feedback is integral to improvement. It’s no different with cycling. By capturing and analyzing our cycling data we can start to find ways to improve. That could mean higher speeds, longer distances, finding new routes, or climbing to higher elevations. Whatever fits with your style of riding and personality.

Getting started with capturing and understanding your cycling data is easy. Let’s look at a few choices you have ahead of you.

Apps, Computers and Smart Watches

The first decision you need to make is how to capture data. You can start right now by installing and signing up for an app and letting your phone do all work. Easy. Or you can consider buying a new cycling computer or smartwatch.

Each setup has pros and cons. For example, you may need to consider a backup battery when using your phone on longer rides. And any new device requires setup time and an understanding of how all the features function.

Cycling Apps For Getting Started

Cycling apps are the easiest way, no doubt. Yet, finding the right app may take a little bit of trial and error depending on your needs. An app like Strava is a good place to start. It’s free and will do everything you need. Also, chances are you know someone on Strava as it’s the largest cycling (and running) community on earth. It has great community features and as they say “if it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen”.

If you are interested in route planning look no further than Ride With GPS or Komoot. Both apps have stellar route planning features and even have data to help you understand different surface types - if that’s your thing. Both also let you sync your routes to your phone or cycling computer for real-time navigation.

Getting Started With Cycling Computers

Cycling computers have been around for decades but have evolved with technology. Gone are the days of setting up magnets and wires to be replaced by GPS. They also do a lot. Almost too much. Today’s cycling computers have large color screens, real-time mapping, navigation, and incoming message notifications. Because of this connection to your phone, most cycling computers can share your data with the apps listed above.

A Note On Smartwatches

Cycling with a smartwatch is becoming a trend you see more of every day. And for very good reason. Most smartwatches can do anything a cycling computer does with the addition of a built-in heart rate sensor. Understanding heart rate is a key metric for many cyclists.

Understanding Your Cycling Data

Depending on what sort of cycling you are doing, different data points may be of interest to you. Here we outline some of the most common numbers in cycling data and what they mean.


Easily, the most understandable number of cycling data. Yet, it’s worth noting that most apps, computers, and watches calculate distance depending on the manufacturer.


Speed can be thought of in two ways - real-time and average speed. Your real-time speed is usually displayed to you in your app or on your device while on the bike. Your average speed is calculated after your ride and is represented as mph or km/h

Elevation Gain

Many cyclists love to climb hills. Climbing builds the mind and body and elevation gain is a good metric of effort. Elevation gain is just that, the elevation you accrue and does not count downhill bombs, sorry ;)


Come on, who doesn’t love seeing how many calories we burn?

Product List

Click each list item to learn more about that product. Some products in this list have been fully reviewed by us and labeled with an asterisk (*).