Up Your Cycling Game: Bluetooth Cadence and Speed Sensors for Smartphones
If you’re a huge fan of cycling analytics – monitoring your improving speed, fitness level and ride pace – you’re probably aware of the many powerful cycling computers out there.
They’re powerful tools for upping your game, improving your times and reaching your athletic pinnacle.
Once upon a time, a good cycling cadence and speed sensor would cost you hundreds. They would require extensive wiring and water protection, and they wouldn’t necessarily work all that well. Not ideal, right?
But know this: you may have a cycling computer in your pocket already.
There are a bunch of great apps which essentially turn your phone into a cycling computer.
Thanks to your smartphone, some clever apps and a bit of inexpensive bluetooth technology, a cadence and speed sensor for iPhone or Android is a reality, and an affordable one at that. No wires, no fuss, no excess gadgetry cluttering up your home or bicycle frame.
This article will review a few of the best wireless iPhone / Android cadence and speed sensors. We’ll examine them, listing the stats, pros and cons of each.
Compatibility Issues: Wireless Smartphone Cadence & Speed Sensors
Before we go over my favourite iPhone bicycle sensors, it’s important to touch on compatibility.
Basically, all modern smartphones are Bluetooth equipped. This is a short-distance, low-energy radio technology which allows wireless transmission of data from one device to another.
It lets your phone connect with your hands-free headset while driving, and it works great in many other applications too, including cycling.
Any Bluetooth equipped speed and cadence sensor should work with your iPhone or Android device (as long as it is modern enough.) However, most of these devices are designed to function with apps specifically designed for the product.
Some devices only work with ANT+, which is a wireless protocol similar to Bluetooth but specifically designed for fitness trackers.
Because not all smartphones support ANT+, I will only be focusing on devices that primarily support Bluetooth in this article (though most of the products reviewed here actually support both.)
If you’re already using and loving a particular fitness app, it’s worthwhile to check whether the cycling sensor you’re considering buying is compatible.
Wahoo: A popular wireless cadence sensor for iPhone and Android
This is a brand which has dominated this niche for the last little while. And for very good reason.
The Wahoo SC is a Bluetooth 4.0 compatible cadence and speed sensor that can work with both a smartphone or a cycling computer with ANT+ capability.
It is battery powered and entirely wireless. All you need to do is clip it into place on your chainstay. The fasteners are either thick rubber bands or zip ties, your choice. (My advice? Use the zip ties, they are more secure over the long run?)
It’s waterproof and able to take a beating. It’s also pretty light, coming in at just 36 grams. The battery is not rechargeable, but this device is very low energy, so it only needs to be replaced every 12 months or so.
The Wahoo devours data. You’ll get a readout of your cadence, your speed and the distance you’ve traveled.
It also plays nice with lots of apps, not just Wahoo’s system. Compatible apps include Fitbit, MapMyRide, MyFitnessPal, DigiFit, and many more.
Cons: The Wahoo is slightly more expensive than most of the competition. However, it’s still a heck of a lot cheaper than a dedicated cadence setup, so it’s all relative!
At around $60 at the time of writing, the Wahoo is an affordable bluetooth cadence sensor for iPhone or Android users, and it reviews really well. Check it out!
Topeak Panobike: An ‘armless’ Bluetooth speedometer & cadence sensor
This device by Topeak looks a bit different than most other iPhone cadence sensors and speedometers out there right now, mostly because of the form factor: it doesn’t have the arm.
One end of the device measures speed while the other end measures cadence. It’s highly compact and one hell of a slick device.
It uses a button style battery that will last for as long as 5 years of continuous use, which is incredible. It’s also water resistant and can be used in rain and wet conditions. (You just want to avoid total submersion.)
The Panobike uses an open API; in plain language that means any app developer can work with it, so it’s highly compatible. Most major fitness apps will talk with the Panobike, including Strava, MapMyRide, Wahoo, Runtastic, etc.
Cons: I’ve heard of very occasional sync issues, which require you to restart the app. Not a big deal in my opinion, but it’s worth mentioning.
It sells for around $44, making it inexpensive compared to a lot of the competition. So it’s a cheap, sleek, durable, long-lasting smartphone cadence sensor with high marks for compatibility… what’s not to like?
CatEye: A Bluetooth cycling sensor & speedo with great brand backing
The CatEye, like the others in this list, will turn your iPhone or Android into a powerful cycling computer by collecting accurate data wirelessly.
I like this unit for its reputable brand. CatEye has been in the fitness tracking game for ages. They know their stuff and you can count on a good warranty, industry-leading durability, and most importantly, accuracy.
I also appreciate its wide compatibility and the robust, data-rich CatEye fitness app. You can pair it to any CatEye tracking device or any smartphone. In smartphone mode it uses very little of your battery power.
The replaceable coin battery gives you around 1 year of use in standard conditions.
It’s Bluetooth 4.0 compatible, giving you access to a wide range of apps, including all the big ones. It it not ANT+ compatible, but CatEye does make an identical version of this product for ANT+ users.
Cons: The CatEye is higher on the price range. It’s a “big brand” item and has a premium build quality, so you’re going to pay a bit extra for that. As for functionality, I have zero complaints.
It’s still under $60, which I consider affordable. It’s a top-end bluetooth bicycle cadence speedometer with good reviews and a relatively easy setup… a no-brainer to make this list!
LESHP: A cycling RPM / speed sensor with flexible installation
From: $21.99 USD
There are a ton of wireless bicycle cadence sensors out there that have a pretty similar design to the Wahoo. That’s not a bad thing, but I like seeing a flexible and original take on the concept, especially with the recognition that not all bikes are constructed the same way.
The LESHP does that. And it’s one of the most affordable bluetooth cadence and speed cycling sensors around, coming in at under $30.
Rather than having the unit be one solid piece, the LESHP separates the sensor into two parts, joined by a wire.
The larger portion measures your speed (using a magnet attached to your spokes.) The smaller piece points forward and keeps track of your cadence (or RPM, as LESHP sometimes refers to it.)
Because there is a bit of flexibility and distance between the two sections, you can customize the mounting somewhat. That’s handy on atypical bikes. It should even work on a stationary bike.
It runs on a button battery and gives about 700 hours of riding per battery; typically that’s more than 1 year of use.
LESHP doesn’t have their own app, but this slick unit will run happily on most major iPhone and Android applications. It also seems to be ANT+ compatible in case that’s what you’re looking for.
Cons: The wire style may not be appealing, and this one is definitely a bit more basic than the products listed above.
Kudos to this company for a creative approach to their product design. With good compatibility, a cheap price, easy installation and a precise sensor, it’s worth taking a look at.
More To Come
This is a growing segment, and I’d expect more iPhone and Android compatible Bluetooth RPM and speed sensors to appear shortly.
I will add to this list as I see appropriate. (If you notice something exciting arrive on the market, tap me on the shoulder and I’ll request a review unit from the manufacturer.)
People are becoming more reliant on their mobile phones for fitness purposes. And you had better believe that the big ‘traditional’ powers in the cycling analytics world are paying attention; CatEye is already on board, and I’m waiting on players like Garmin and Sigma. Stay tuned!
Any important sensors that I missed? What do you track with? Feel free to chime in below.