Whether your looking for navigation, hunting Strava segments, tackling some training, or simply want to record your rides for prosperity then choosing the best GPS for mountain biking is important.
Nowadays GPS computers are compact handlebar-mounted devices that feature GPS chips, Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi and a host of other metrics ranging from speed, distance and power, to training stress score, 'beers earned' and Strava Live Segments.
When you're shopping for the many models of GPS devices, it can be challenging to navigate the vast spec sheets that come along with even the most basic units. So in the list below we’ll help you to wade through the tech jargon to help you find and buy the best GPS computer for mountain biking.
If you're less bothered about mapping or live stats as you ride, a GPS smartwatch is another option well worthy of consideration.
Best GPS for mountain biking
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Garmin has had battery-topping-up solar power screens on its smartwatches for a while now, but with the release of the latest 1040 Solar, the tech has found its way over to its GPS devices. The 3.5-inch color touchscreen is claimed to be able to extend battery life up to 45 hours between charges or 100 hours with full power saving. That's a massive bonus for bikepackers, ultra-endurance riders, and forgetful chargers alike.
The Edge 1040 Solar has an almost unfathomable amount of features building on the already feature-packed 1030 Plus. A lot of the new tech revolves around fitness and performance. With cycling abilities and course demand ratings, training insights from Firstbeat Analytics, and real-time stamina insights all are aimed at helping you get faster on the bike.
If you don't need the maximum battery life potential of the Solar 1040, there's a non-solar 1040 version that still has a whopping 35 hours of claimed run time and saves $150 / £110. Garmin has also added Multi-band GNSS technology to the 1040 and 1040 Solar for improved accuracy and navigation too.
It might be Garmin's cheapest GPS computer, but its small form hides plenty of features and a good battery life means that if you are looking for a good way to record a day on the trails, the 130 Plus is one of the best and most cost effective ways of doing that.
The 130 Plus is able to connect to any Ant+ or Bluetooth sensor so it can record a whole array of metrics if needed, including Garmin's ClimbPro and mountain biking data like Grit, Flow, and Airtime. The basic but high contrast black and white screen is easy to read and the button navigation works well even when wearing gloves.
The 130 Plus's one weakness is navigation as it's only capable of displaying a breadcrumb trail. For those riding waymarked trail centers or local trails, this probably may not be an issue, however, if you intend to do any gravel or bikepacking where navigation is more important, we recommend opting for the Garmin Edge 530 instead.
Read our Garmin Edge 130 Plus review for more details.
The follow-up to the uber-successful Edge 520, the Garmin Edge 530 expands on the rich training suite and adds a faster processor to massively improve mapping, a feature that was introduced with the Edge 520 Plus.
With both Garmin Cycle Maps and Trail Forks pre-installed on the Edge 530, whether on the road or trail, it can help you find your way. With a battery life of 20 hours, 40 in battery-saver mode, it’s also one of the longest-lasting computers on the market. That's before you add the Garmin Charge optional battery pack.
You’d be forgiven for confusing the Edge 530 and 830 as they look almost exactly the same, the only real difference being the 830 gets a touchscreen and on-device route planning for about an extra 100-bucks.
The 530 comes with Garmin's Flow and Grit metrics. Flow uses built-in accelerometers to detect how smoothly you flow through a trail, while Grit gives trails a difficult score based on the data from the accelerometer, GPS and elevation data. There’s also an Airtime counter and the Edge 530 features ForkSight which automatically swaps to a trail map screen when you stop.
The Edge 530 also gets access to the Garmin Connect store, meaning you can add apps like Accuweather, Yelp, and Komoot among others, download data fields, and the computer can also talk to Garmin’s Varia Radar lights.
Want more detail? Check out our Garmin Edge 530 review.
Hammerhead's Karoo was already one of the best cycling computers, and the brand has now improved on the product with its Karoo 2 model. Externally, the computer is now slimmer and sleeker than the original model, plus it's now on-par with the weight of rival units.
The Karoo 2 features all of the functions you'd expect out of the one of the best MTB GPS computers with the Karoo levering a fully customized Android operating system. To handle the operating system and assure snappy performance speeds Hammerhead have specced a powerful quad-core, smartphone-grade Qualcomm processor, so you can map your rides or find a route easily. The touchscreen is very responsive, although Hammerhead has included four side-mounted buttons to aid navigation when touchscreen operation isn't ideal.
A major selling point is the price, which is significantly cheaper than rival computers with similar functions and performance attributes like Garmins 1040. Hammerhead also offers a trade-in program for Karoo owners to upgrade to the newest model at a discount.
We've got a full Hammerhead Karoo 2 review if you want to read more.
The Garmin Edge 1030 Plus was long been the gold standard when it comes to cycling computers and navigation until the Edge 1040 superseded it, but that doesn't mean the Edge 1030 Plus isn't still a great GPS computer. Using the brand's cycle maps and the Trail Forks app from the IQ store, the 1030 guides you via Garmin's Trendline Popularity Routing, drawing from billions of miles of Garmin Connect ride data to guide you towards more bike-friendly routes.
With a huge 3.5in/89mm color touchscreen, you can create routes directly on the device. The touchscreen isn’t quite as responsive as your smartphone, but it's pretty good as far as bike computers go.
It’s no surprise it’s got all the training bells and whistles the brand has to throw into a single unit, and supports both ANT+ and Bluetooth sensors including power meters.
Get the full details in our Garmin Edge 1030 Plus review.
Wahoo recently released the newest version of its top-of-the-range Element Roam. Visually, there's not much to see much in the way of changes, Wahoo has stuck with the same size screen, LED, and button layout. In fact, the only real physical change is that the buttons on the front are now easier to press.
It's the insides that have seen the biggest updates. The Roam V2 now uses Dual Band GPS for more accuracy under trees or among big buildings. Storage has now been upped to 32Gb too, so there is more space for routes, maps, and workouts. There are two new sensors too, a compass and gyroscope although Wahoo is yet to utilize these yet. The unit gets a new climbing feature called Summit Segments to help pace climbs, pre-loaded routes, Systm Outdoor Workouts for training, and Public Route Sharing.
Where Wahoo excels is its usability. The screen is very simple to read on the move and the map design is clear for easy navigation. The app works really well and reliably syncs between device and app.
With a claimed 17 hours of battery life, the Roam carries over Wahoo’s nifty phone integration for easy setup and customization, free worldwide map downloads, and the brand’s signature quick-zoom function which lets you increase or decrease the data fields showing with the push of a button.(opens in new tab)
Wahoo's Elemnt Bolt is basically a more compact version of the brand's first Elemnt computer. It has all the same features, minus one set of LEDs along the side of the screen, half the memory (16Gb), and a shorter battery life – claimed at 15 hours.
Like the Roam, the Bolt uses Wahoo's companion app for setup, but it’s a streamlined and intuitive process and the ease of use is second to none. It's excellent for data fields, but when it comes to navigation the small screen makes it a little more challenging to figure out where you’re supposed to go.
Speaking of navigation, the device comes with pre-loaded global maps optimized for bike-friendly routes and turn-by-turn navigation.
Like its more larger cousin, the Bolt features tons of training metrics, support for both ANT+ and Bluetooth, as well as WiFi for speedy uploads to Strava, Training Peaks, or wherever else you’d like your rides to be stored.(opens in new tab)
Best known for flashy pumps and drool-worthy tools, Lezyne delved into the GPS cycling computer market in 2016, and its line of Super GPS computers has found a good balance between functionality and price point.
Using a non-touch, black and white screen, the Super Pro boasts an impressive claimed battery life of 28 hours. The computer also supports ANT+ sensors including power meters and can store up to 800 hours of ride data. The companion app facilitates quick uploads and automatically pushes ride data to Strava, Training Peaks, or Today’s Plan.
The head unit can also help you chase Strava KOMs / QOMs with Live Segments, let you know if it's your kids or work calling you during your ride with on-screen notifications, and offers electronic drivetrain integration through ANT+.
The Super Pro does offer turn-by-turn navigation, though you’ll need to kick off the route using your mobile phone. In lieu of a pre-installed base map, you’ll also need to sync offline maps from something like Ride With GPS or Komoot.
Best GPS for mountain biking: everything you need to know
What is the best GPS for mountain biking?
Mountain biking as a sport is a very broad spectrum, so riders feature requirements when looking for the best GPS is going to vary a lot. Gravity based riders are probably looking for an easy and reliable way to record their rides, while cross-country riders might put more value on training features. Ultra endurance riders will need high-quality mapping and long battery life while racers will want effort and pacing strategies.
Once you have decided on the features and hardware you need, then you can better decide on the best GPS for mountain biking for you. Prices for worthy, older GPS computer models start at around 150 dollars/pounds, while the latest models are nearer 500.
How much should I spend on a MTB GPS computer?
As the saying goes, you get what you pay for, so spending more will get you more, whereas if you only need basic functions, you can get away with spending less.
Depending on how much money you have to spend, your computer may have base maps, interval timers, in-depth power metrics, a color touchscreen and more connectivity than you can shake a stick at, or it might be a simple, compact unit with a black-and-white display and basic training metrics.
Every computer on the market will give you data fields such as speed, distance, and time. Generally, the more money you spend, the more features and functions you will get.
Which GPS computers are best for connectivity?
Don't worry, even at the bottom end of the spectrum, most GPS computers will support an ANT+ or Bluetooth connection to a heart-rate monitor, plus speed and cadence sensors. However, some less-expensive units may not support power meters.
More computers are beginning to work with both ANT+ and Bluetooth sensors now. There are still a few hold-outs sticking to one or the other, but the majority will facilitate a Bluetooth connection to your phone for on-screen notifications, firmware updates and the like. Further still, some computers also connect to your home WiFi network to allow for your ride to be on Strava before you’ve taken your helmet and sunglasses off.
Which computer is best for GPS and mapping?
Most cycle computers feature a GPS chip, as well as access to other satellite networks like GLONASS, BeiDou, and Galileo, and offer some definition of navigation.
Many also have a base map pre-installed which allows for turn-by-turn directions, on-the-fly redirection and some allow you to create routes and courses directly on the device.
More budget-friendly head units won’t have a base map, but may still offer what’s called ‘breadcrumb’ navigation, where the computer will display your route as a line that you’re meant to follow.
What size screen do I need?
As you go up in price, you get features such as touch- and color screens, but these aren't always something you’ll necessarily need.
While touchscreens are great for swiping through pages of metrics or maneuvering maps, if you're wearing full-finger gloves or if it's raining, the screen may not function as advertised.
The same goes for color displays, which only really become a necessity if you’re using maps. Think about how you'll be using your computer, and then decide which type of screen will best serve your purposes.
Can I connect my GPS to third-party apps?
Of course. Extras such as Strava Live Segments, on-screen workouts populated by Today’s Plan, Training Peaks and TrainerRoad, uploadable training metrics and data fields, drivetrain and light integration, the companion app, and more, all make up the wonderful world of cycling computers.
Where these features are available will depend on the computer you choose, but they are not reserved for the premium units, and you’ll see features like Strava Live Segments and drivetrain integration trickling into mid- and lower-range units.