Best GPS Head Units: 2022 Buyer's Guide

Bike computers help you navigate, track performance, and upload rides to Strava. If you want to add the power of a GPS head unit to your bike, these are the 2022 models worth considering.

Best GPS Head Units: 2022 Buyer's Guide

Written by
Bruce Lin

Published on

Posted in
Gravel

GPS tracking has turned cycling into an “If a tree falls in the forest” situation. If you don’t record your bike ride, did it really happen? Of course, most riders say this in jest. But cyclists really love modern GPS head units — a.k.a. bike computers. They enhance the riding experience by offering an easy way to track performance, navigate new roads and trails, and above all, share their rides on Strava. 

There are a lot of head unit options out there. So how do you pick the one that’s best for you? The head units covered below are top picks for both serious and casual cyclists looking to add a bit of tech to their handlebars. 

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Best Small GPS Head Units for 2022

Small GPS head units are perfect for riders who want a light and sleek head unit that doesn’t dominate their cockpit with a large screen. These head units offer navigation and customizable data pages similar to their big siblings, but their features are often pared down and simplified so they’re better for beginner riders or minimalists. 

Head Unit

Garmin Edge 530

Garmin Edge 830

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt V2

Stages Dash M200

Price

$299.99

$399.99

$299.99

$279.99

Weight

78g

82g

68g

77g

Screen size

2.6”

2.6”

2.2”

2.2”

Resolution

246x322 pixel

246x322 pixel

240x320 pixel

240x320 pixel

Color screen

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Touchscreen

No

Yes

No

No

Battery life

20 hours

20 hours

15 hours

18 hours

Best features: Garmin Edge 530 - $299.99

Garmin Edge 530Photo: Garmin Ltd.

[product-block handle="garmin-edge-530-gps-cycling-computer"/]

The Edge 530 is Garmin’s most popular GPS head unit. For years, it’s been the benchmark small head unit against which all others are compared. It has tons of features, but Garmin’s ClimbPro is a stand-out. It automatically shows the grade and length of each segment of your climb, helping you pace yourself on hilly or mountainous routes. For mountain bikers, there’s trail routing and fun features like jump metrics. Then there’s Garmin’s navigation, which on the Edge 530 now includes detailed routable maps for your region.

Best touchscreen: Garmin Edge 830 - $399.99

[product-block handle="garmin-edge-830-gps-cycling-computer"/]

The Garmin Edge 830 can be thought of as an upgraded Edge 530. The biggest difference between the two head units is the addition of a touchscreen, which eliminates most of the buttons for a sleek, modern package. It also adds address-specific routing, so you can enter a street address like you would on a smartphone, as well as searchable points of interest with hotels, food, train stations, and more. This gives it a slight edge (ha-ha) over the 530 in terms of navigational capabilities. 

Best for simplicity: Wahoo Elemnt Bolt V2 - $299.99

Wahoo Elemnt BoltPhoto: Wahoo Fitness

The Wahoo Elemnt Bolt is the head unit I currently use on my road racing bike. If we look strictly at features, the Edge 530 wins. But there are a couple of reasons I choose the Elemnt Bolt over the Edge 530. It’s much simpler. It shows the data I care about during fast group rides, workouts, and races, and I can just pick it up and go. Pairing it with a phone and having it auto-upload rides is slightly easier than it is with Garmin and, for the most part, it just works. I also like the aero shape and aero handlebar mount because they match my aero bike. 

Best for training: Stages Dash - $279.99 - 329.99

Stages Dash M200Dash M200 in landscape mode. Photo: Stages Cycling

[product-block handle="stages-dash-gps-computer"/]

The Stages Dash is built for racers with training and performance features. As with the Edge and Bolt, riders can send interval workouts to the Dash wirelessly, but Stages adds real-time ride analysis and live workout graphs to make sure you’re in the right zones and hitting your power targets. It’s designed to be easy to read and understandable at a glance, even when you’re redlined during a hard effort. There are two sizes, a medium M200 and a larger L200 that can both be used in portrait or landscape mode, a feature that Garmin and Wahoo both lack.

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Best Large GPS Head Units for 2022

Large GPS head units are perfect for data geeks and adventurers. The larger screens make it easier to view maps, read turn-by-turn directions, and keep tabs on your data while you’re riding. Many have touchscreen capabilities that make accessing different data pages and other features is more intuitive. 

Head Unit

Garmin Edge 1040

Garmin Edge 1040 Solar

Hammerhead Karoo 2

Wahoo Elemnt Roam

Price

$599.99

$749.99

$399.99

$399.99

Weight

126g

133g

186g

95.2g

Screen size

3.5”

3.5”

3.5”

2.7”

Resolution

282x470 pixel

282x470 pixel

480x640 pixel

240x400 pixel

Color screen

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Touchscreen

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Battery life

35 hours

45 hours

14 hours

17 hours

Best for adventurers: Garmin Edge 1040 / 1040 Solar - $599.99 - 749.99

Garmin Edge 1040 SolarPhoto: Garmin Ltd.

[product-block handle="garmin-edge-1040-bike-computer"/]

The Garmin Edge 1040 is the king when it comes to features and battery life. You get the industry-standard Garmin navigation found on the Edge 530 and 830, but it adds multi-band GNSS technology to maximize GPS reliability and accuracy for rides that leave civilization far behind. It has an impressive 35 hours of battery life, but the solar version gives you a massive 45 hours of battery life with solar charging. Pair that performance with a litany of Garmin features like ClimbPro and performance coaching, and you have a head unit that can literally do it all.

I relied on the Garmin Edge 1040 Solar to navigate at Unbound Gravel and came away massively impressed with its performance. Read the review here.  

Best screen and support: Hammerhead Karoo 2 - $399.99

Hammerhead Karoo 2Photo: Hammerhead

[product-block handle="hammerhead-karoo-2-gps-cycling-computer"/]

Hammerhead is the new kid on the block, and it’s been shaking up the head unit game with the Karoo 2. The Karoo 2 has the best high-resolution of any current head unit on the market with beautiful maps and graphics. Plus, it uses an Android-based OS so the touchscreen works intuitively like a smartphone. The navigation rivals Garmin in terms of quality and ease of use. But the real kicker is the regular software updates. Karoo engineers are dedicated to constantly improving the Karoo by listening to user feedback. Just look at the list of updates, it’s huge! The only real downside is the lack of training features, but not every rider wants to do prescribed interval workouts or get coached by their head unit. 

The Karoo 2 is my current go-to head unit for my gravel bike. Check out my Karoo 2 review and some of my favorite hidden features.  

What about the Wahoo Elemnt Roam? - $379.99 

The Wahoo Elemnt Roam was once the top Garmin Edge 1030/1040 alternative, but these days it’s outclassed by the Hammerhead Karoo 2 in terms of screen quality, navigation, and overall features. The one thing Wahoo still has that Hammerhead doesn’t is TrainerRoad outside workout integration. Hammerhead does allow you to import workouts from TrainingPeaks, but I happen to use TrainerRoad. When it’s time to train, I still occasionally bust out my old Roam to do outside workouts. Wahoo has recently reduced the price though, so I think we may see a new and improved Elemnt Roam in the near future. Wahoo fans: Sit tight. 

Best Budget GPS Head Units for 2022

Not everyone can spend big on a head unit for their bike. Fortunately, if you’re interested in testing the waters without breaking the bank, here are a couple of good budget GPS head units that will get the job done. 

Garmin Edge 130 Plus - $199.99

[product-block handle="garmin-edge-130-plus-gps-cycling-computer"/]

The Garmin Edge 130 Plus is tiny. At 33 grams with a 1.8” screen, it’s a fraction the size of other head units. It can track rides but doesn’t have full GPS mapping. It does have breadcrumb routing, Strava Live Segments, and Garmin’s ClimbPro. It also has Garmin’s mountain bike features like jump metrics. This and the small size make the Edge 130 Plus the head unit I use on my enduro mountain bike. Because it’s small and affordable, I don’t worry as much about it getting smashed up in a crash. 

Lezyne Mega XL and Macro Easy

Lezyne Mega XL - $199.99
Lezyne Macro Easy - $89.99

Lezyne has several head unit models between $90 and $200 and the differences between them all are fairly minor. These head units show you the data you expect and they can all do basic mapping, upload routes, and do turn-by-turn navigation. If I were to choose one, I’d go for the top model, the Mega XL which has the biggest screen, most features, and longest battery life. If you just want something super simple to just track your ride for Strava, the Macro Easy is a great deal. Just don’t expect it to help you navigate like a high-end unit. 

GPS Watch Alternatives for 2022

What if you don’t want a computer hanging off the front of your bike? Or, what if you’re a multi-sport athlete or just someone who wants to track their gym workouts and sleep on the same device? If that’s the case, then a GPS smartwatch might be the ticket. Our Senior Editor, Spencer, even prefers using a watch for mountain biking because riding without a head unit keeps his attention focused on the trail. 

Garmin Forerunner 

[product-block handle="garmin-forerunner-955-smartwatch"/]

The Garmin Forerunner 955 is the ultimate GPS smartwatch. It has more features than the similar Forerunner 745, including offline mapping, longer battery life, a larger touchscreen display, and more memory for data recording and music storage. It also has a built-in HRV sensor to track your heart rate, stress, and recovery levels. There’s even a solar version of the Forerunner 955 to extend the battery life. 

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