- by Danny Beveridge
- Published: 5 January 2011
The Rider 50 is a GPS-enabled bike computer designed to provide a plethora of ride data. It has a vast array of features and comes with training analysis software. It also features a range of ride comparison features.
It retails for either $399 or $499 depending on whether you want cadence and a heart rate monitor. Now that is a lot of money for a bike computer, but so are most well designed products with these features.
As I lashed the huge blue computer to the bike, I was hit with a conundrum: How can the desperate pursuit of performance lead to us being so obsessive over the weight of derailleurs and wheels yet also lead us to desire such a bulky dashboard? On balance, we expect a lot of useful data from a computer like this.
Taking a closer look: the backlit screen is gloriously easy to use in the dark. You can fully customise the brightness and how long it takes before it dims. It’s also weatherproof and very hardy – though it’s big, did we mention that?
The display is fully customisable, allowing from one to six different metrics to be displayed at one time. This is a really great feature which we never missed until we had it.
The Rider 50 offers many features, most notably GPS Speed, Cadence, Heart Rate, Altimeter, and Temperature. It also features ANT+ Connectivity (a standard wireless protocol used by many brands for speed, power, cadence sensors and more) which allows for great flexibility.
One of the major aspects we look for in a GPS computer is the accuracy and lag in the speed readout. The Rider 50 is gives readings accurate to tenths of a kilometre/hr and this does seem to be accurate in our experience, but notably it updates almost as quickly as a traditional computer. The cadence feature refreshes about as quickly as any other computer would.
The heart rate function is impressive. It even generates a graph on-screen if you want. It refreshes quickly and is extremely accurate. While you might estimate your zones to the nearest 5 beats with lesser monitors, we had no hesitation in setting zones like 166 to 171. It knows the difference and doesn’t spit out "weird" numbers.
The Rider 50 also has an Altimeter and Temperature gauge. Both are great for bragging. The altimeter is very accurate since you can set the home altitude for better calibration and it collects and displays all sorts of information including current slope, meters gained, meters lost and any other altitude stat you might want to know.
The Mapping function is quite nice, although it uses open maps which are not always up-to-date. On the plus side, the detailed maps including the continent of Australia are included for free. The map can be oriented based on compass bearing which means it automatically turns as you change directions. It can also display predetermined tracks which allows you to follow them easily.
On the mapping screen, you can further customise the display with up to two data metrics. Again, this is a wonderfully handy feature – more companies should provide this (and they slowly are?)
When things just work, it leaves little for us to say. You can scroll around the map, zoom in and out and basically there’s nothing we can think of that it’s missing. You can pre-program rides, log points of interest as you go and just about anything else you might think of.
The Rider 50 allows you to record a ride and when you ride the route again, you can see how far ahead or behind you are. You can do the same with someone else’s data as well. By pairing two different Rider 50’s (via the wireless "Knock Knock" feature) you can follow a map of where your fellow rider went and compare your progress all the way along.
This is a great way to compete against yourself or a friend who has the same computer – a neat way to keep yourself motivated or to work on pacing. Part of the developer’s plan is to create a large "Bryton" community via the (fairly easy-to-use) web-based map sharing forum. While being able to share training rides with a stranger out on the road is a novel idea, we think it’ll be while before this catches on.
The inbuilt training programs are highly customisable (which is becoming a bit of a common theme!) They allow you to specify zone-based workouts and even specific interval programs based on just about anything, Speed, Distance, Heart Rate or Calories.
With a little bit of planning at home, you can create very specific workouts that allow you to make the most of your time on the road.
Unfortunately, we felt the Bryton software let it down a little. Firstly, it took some time to get the latest drivers and firmware to actually install on the computer and device. This was a known problem at the time and requires a bit of a kludgy workaround (repeating the install process some 5 or 6 times). In fairness, the support line was very helpful and helped us get it working eventually.
Secondly, the actual data analysis is a bit limited. On the one hand, Bryton provides a mass of graphs and tables and zone analyses. This allows you to look at figures and averages for one ride or a whole years worth of rides. What lets it down though is that it’s not very customisable.
For example, say you want to find your thresholds for your heart rate. The easiest way would be to:
1. Download a hard ride; and
2. Put the data points (time and heart rate) into a spreadsheet; and
3. Find your highest average for a given time period.
This gives you an idea of how long you can sustain a certain effort for.
The Bryton software doesn’t allow you to download the raw data. You can choose to view a graph and use the mouse to highlight individual data points, but it limits your ability to manipulate the data and run calculations etc.
This may change in the future, as the company appears to be very aggressively developing its products.
The Rider 50 is a "No Compromises" GPS computer. It’s expensive, as all computers with this level of functionality are, however it does represent a cheaper alternative to the Garmin 800.
It uses Open Maps which is both a blessing (being free) and a curse (being occasionally inaccurate). But the training programs and ride mapping/comparison features are infinitely customisable and easy to use.
The PC software is very straightforward and easy to use, yet doesn’t offer the detail that true data geeks might desire. Also the firmware doesn’t yet support Power, though we’re told this is a planned future development.
As it stands, the Rider 50 is a good alternative with a host of strong points. While costly, it delivers great accuracy and adjustability. If/when Power becomes supported and raw data is able to be downloaded, it will put the ball firmly back in its competitor’s court to justify their existence.
Bryton products are imported into Australia by Next Destination and are available from shops throughout Australia.
Next Destination have added the following:
– The price was lowered and the current pricing (2011) is now reflected in this article.
– The units ship with the latest firmware and update automatically with an online connection. (includes Power Data from metres using ANT)
– The Rider 30 is a compact solution for riders who don’t require mapping.