Sunday, July 08, 2012

Bike Talk: Backlit Bike Computer?

Phil from cyberspace asks what sounds like a simple question:

Do you know of a wired, backlit bike computer?  I don’t need the interference from the next guy’s bike computer, and I don’t need a lot of features. For following a trip sheet at night, sometimes all night! (I’ll carry spare batteries…)

There are surprisingly few backlit cyclecomputers. The SIGMA BC1606L is backlit and so is the very inexpensive Schwinn 20-Function Bike Computer. In general, I've been very impressed with the design, engineering and build quality of Sigma products. As for the Schwinn, I'll just say that the Schwinn name products of today have pretty much nothing in common with the classic hand-built Paramounts and  bullet-proof electro-forged Varsities of yesteryear.

I've written previously about wireless computers and interference and while there are probably some good, digital signal wireless computers now that feature both a backlight and and resistance to interference, I'll leave it to my helpful blog commenters to note them.

For my night riding brevets and such things where I need a computer, I use a non-backlit Cateye Enduro that I see thanks to my helmet light. The helmet light is also handy for reading cue sheets and roadside signs. It's also super handy for doing things like changing flat tires.

That's my take on bike computers. These days, I pretty much run without a computer but I know many folks now use their phones or GPS units to track their progress and make their way in the world. Again, I hope people will weigh in with their comments about their favorite bike computing solution.

As always feel free to send me any Bike Talk questions via email at or via Twitter at @kentsbike.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA


Janice in GA said...

I gave up on a wireless computer a while back because of interference from the inductive loops at red lights. (Going 66 mph while I'm standing still? Uh, no.)

I've been thinking about adding a helmet light to my on-bike lights. Do you use that light with a strap, or do you clip it onto the helmet?

Kent Peterson said...


I run the strap through my helmet vents. Depending on your headlamp and the placement of the vents on your helmet, you might have to do some modifications with zipties or rubber strips cut from an old innertube.

Anonymous said...

Planet Bike sells a simple and cheap helmet mount that will accommodate their battery powered lights. It works with a simple velcro strap - see

Anonymous said...

Remember Vetta ?, they were popular back in the 90's...

Anonymous said...

The Bontrager Node computers have a backlight. I still use a head lamp at night (but the backlight might be useful if I was out without a head light). It appears that digital wireless is (largely) interference proof (I haven't seen any interference with the Node 2.1). Interference is an issue with analog wireless.

Phil Miller said...

Thanks for the response. I'm in Pasadena, CA. I wouldn't need or want a bike computer at all except for trying to follow a trip sheet in unfamiliar territory, it makes finding the turns easier. Almost all the other statistics are way less interesting. Cadence? Give me a metronome marking and I can click it out. Speed? Ummm, moving. Keep moving and I'll make the cut.
Big thanks on using a head light. I've never needed one in all the years of commuting in the winter, but this will help.