There are so many bike training tools to choose from these days. You can choose from sports watches that seem to track everything. And, specific monitors for heart rate and stroke count and average speed.
But, is it all necessary, and does it actually help you?
Yes and no.
It depends on what your training and racing goals are.
A bike sensor is a very useful tool if you’re goal is to become faster and more efficient on the bike. Not sure what a bike sensor is or why you might consider buying one?
We’ll provide a buyer’s guide and product review to help you decide for yourself.
What is a Bike Sensor?
A bike sensor is a device that you install on your bike to keep track of your speed and cadence.
Some devices only track speed or cadence and others track both.
These sensors can display your metrics on your sports watch, bike computer, or smartphone. Of course, this can all be synced up to your training apps such as Strava or Training Peaks.
Why Consider Buying a Bike Sensor?
Bike sensors are a great tool to help you maximize your workout results.
The sensors measure how much energy you’re using per rotation per minute. It can also tell if one of your legs is working harder than the other.
For people who use trainers during the winter season, bike sensors let them record their distance and speed. It gives them a sense of what their gearing can do even though they are riding indoors.
And, for some specialized bikers (track and mountain bikers) the speed metric is far more accurate than the GPS when they are trying to figure out their distance.
What Types of Bike Sensors Can I Choose From?
There are three different types of sensors that can help you develop your biking strength.
Speed Only Sensor
This sensor typically uses a wheel sensor and a magnet. It is mounted on the frame with a magnet on the rear wheel, which measures your speed and distance.
Every time you pedal, the magnet passes the sensor and it calculates how fast and how far you’ve ridden so far.
You can pair this sensor to a bike computer, sports watch, or smart phone with ANT+ capabilities.
Cadence Only Sensor
This sensor typically uses a sensor on the bike frame and a magnet on the crank to measure the cadence.
Every time you pedal, your crank arm passes the sensor it records a revolution.
This can be paired with a bike computer, sport watch, or smart phone with ANT+ capabilities.
Speed and Cadence Combo Sensor
This sensor records both speed and cadence information wirelessly and sends the information to a head unit.
This is a single unit device which is mounted near the rear wheel. If it’s not a single device, it comes in two pieces that can be connected with a wire.
Like the other two options, this can be paired with a bike computer, sports watch, or smart phone with ANT+ capabilities.
Specifics on Speed and Cadence Only Sensors
As mentioned in the general overview, these devices only record either speed or cadence, but not both.
Most people who use these types of sensors have a very specific bike frame such as a tandem bike.
Others might only need a cadence sensor because their sports watch already records their speed. And, they are focused on having an even cadence between both legs.
You’ll need a head unit for the ANT+ to transmit the speed or cadence data to you. This can be a bike computer (typically) but it can also be a sports watch or smartphone. This depends on your bike set up.
Speed and Cadence Sensors-Frame Integrated
The last category is a sensor that records both speed and cadence. And, some sensors can be integrated into your bike frame.
When this article was written, the only company that offers this option is Bontrager. So only a select number of bikes can even have these sensors.
Besides these very specific sensors, most speed and cadence sensors can be installed on any type of bike.
It basically has the capabilities of both speed and cadence only
How a Speed Sensor Works
When you install the speeds sensor, you can either place the sensor on either your front or back wheel.
Keep in mind, if you install it on your back wheel, you can still measure speed on your trainer. That is if you don’t use a flywheel or smart bike for winter training.
After you install the sensor, you’ll want to connect it to your sports watch, bike computer, or smartphone. This can be done through ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart depending on your technology set up.
Make sure you know your wheel size when you calibrate the monitor to your devices! This step is crucial otherwise you’ll get both inaccurate and unprecise results.
Once paired with your device, the sensor should automatically turn on whenever you start pedaling. Some sensors are quicker to pick up that a workout has started than others, but that difference is often very small.
After the workout, you’ll hit the stop button on your device and the data should sync up to your training app account such as Strava or Training Peaks.
How a Cadence Sensor Works
The cadence sensor is a little easier to install than a speed sensor on your bike.
All you do is install the sensor to the inside of your crank arm with rubber bands or whatever comes with the sensor’s package.
It’s strongly suggested to install the sensor on the inside of the crank arm so that your shoe won’t bump or and it gives it more protection from the bike.
And, it’s also suggested to put the sensor on your left crankarm.
After the sensor is installed, you can pair it up to your sports watch, bike computer, or smartphone. This can be done with ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart depending on the sensor and what devices you have.
Best Speed and Cadence Sensors in 2023
1. Garmin Speed and Cadence Sensor 2
The Garmin Sensor 2 can measure both your speed and cadence with two easy-to-install wireless sensors.
There aren’t any magnets and it’s all done with elastic so you can easily move the sensors between bikes.
The speed sensor needs to be installed on the hub of either the front or back wheel and it will self-calibrate once installed. It will calibrate to either a Garmin Edge bike computer or a compatible Garmin device. It doesn’t have to be a head unit.
The speed sensor has an offline caching of your workouts feature. This will automatically start a new workout every time you start pedaling.
This is great when you’re trying to get a workout in quickly and don’t want to start up all the technology.
However, if you use the bike to run errands, then your training app will record every single short trip and sync it to your training app.
The cadence sensor can be installed on the inside of your crank arm and it will measure the revolutions per minute. The sensor’s data can be sent to any compatible training apps or devices with ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart technologies.
Remember, for the speed sensor, you’ll need to tell the Garmin App (if you use it) what size wheels you have. This is crucial if you want to have accurate and precise results.
The accuracy of these sensors is pretty good when compared to other sensors with similar capabilities. The speed sensor is very precise and quickly picks up on the changes. The cadence also tracks very well. But there are some issues when you decide to change the cadence very quickly. It has a hard time following, but this issue only affects a small portion of people.
If this does happen, most have has luck by just updating the firmware.
Triathletes who have bought these sensors like them because they are easy to install and have very high accuracies. This is an ideal package since the sensors come together so people can see both on their head units.
Most triathletes like that the speed sensor automatically kicks in every time they start pedaling. They don’t have to worry if they remembered to turn on their sensor. For commuters, it’s fun to see how far and how fast they can do their errands by bike.
I recommend this sensor to anyone who wants reliable tools to use for their training. The sensors are easy to install so you can spend more time training.
2. Wahoo RPM Cycling Speed and Cadence Sensor
The Wahoo RPM sensor is sold either as a cadence sensor or a speed sensor.
The RPM cadence sensor is a low-profile sensor that can wirelessly transmit your data through Bluetooth Smart or ANT+ to your device. It doesn’t have magnets so it can stay on your bike through the toughest rides.
The RPM speed sensor is also magnet-less and can wirelessly track your metrics through Bluetooth Smart or ANT+ devices. It can
Installing both sensors is fairly easy.
You’ll need to locate the appropriate space for the sensors and put them in their sleeves with the logo facing outward.
The speed sensor comes with a sturdy plastic mount for your front or back wheel hub. You’ll need to stretch the rubber strap and secure it to the two bottom hooks on the mount. This is probably the most frustrating part of the installation because it takes some trial and error.
The cadence sensor’s installation is far easier in comparison. The sensor goes on the inside of the left crank arm using strong tape and the two provided zip ties. You can also install it on the shoe clip if you don’t want to attach anything to your bike.
Once installed, you can connect your devices to any training app you use to track your workouts. When your training app recognizes the sensors, LED lights will flash indicating that it is paired and ready to work.
Once paired, the sensors will “wake up” anytime they sense movement. You can continue to train without having to turn on the devices before each workout.
If the sensors need to be updated, the Wahoo app will give you a notification.
Triathletes who have bought the sensors like them because they work with the Wahoo app so they don’t have to download or create new accounts. The cadence and speed sensors are fairly easy to install. And, once paired an LED light will flash. This makes set up time faster and you won’t have to worry if one ride wasn’t recorded. And, there are only minor differences in data for triathletes who use other training apps such as Strava and Training Peaks.
I recommend these sensors to those who already train with Wahoo. It makes it easier to set up and you’re sure to have accurate and precise results. There’s nothing wrong with using Wahoo and Strava; there’s just very minor data differences, which really don’t make an impact in the long run.
3. Wahoo Blue SC Speed and Cadence Sensor
Wahoo Blue SC changes up the bike sensor game with its sensor that can record both speed and cadence on one device. It uses Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ which uses low-energy sensors whose battery can last for a year.
The installation process mimics the Bontrager Speed/Cadence sensor, which uses no tools. All you have to do is pull the rubber band around your bike frame and you’re all done. Be sure that you have the flexible arm facing the magnet. The magnet is simply installed with your fingers on the spokes of your rear wheel.
To pair the device with your smartphone, bike computer, or sports watch, just turn on your Bluetooth. And, you the devices will pop up on the screen. Once synced you’re all set to go.
Since the devices use both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart capabilities you can connect to two devices. One being your phone or watch and the other a GPS device.
You can also pair the devices with whatever training app you like such as Strava or Training Peaks.
Triathletes who have bought the sensor like it because it is a “two in one” device that can record both speed and cadence. The installation process takes less than five minutes and is really easy. It is sturdy and is weather-proof against all types of conditions triathletes will be training and competing in. Triathletes like that the device can be paired with two different devices if needed. The sensors’ battery-life lasts a long time and the devices turn off and on by sensing your pedal movement. The accuracy and precision of the data are very good with a few differences if using a third-party training app.
I highly recommend this sensor to those who want to keep it simple with a reputable company that makes high-quality products. The sensory will cut down on the number of devices you can attach to your bike which will help you go faster during training rides.
4. Polar Speed and Сadence Sensor Bluetooth Smart
Polar also designed and produced its own sensor that can track both speed and cadence on the bike.
The sensor can record and show you in real-time what your current speed and the average pedaling rate is.
The sensor is very light and easily attaches to the frame of your bike. It has a very secure attachment system so that it will stay on the bike no matter what. And, it can also be taken off if needed for races.
Once installed, the device can be synced with both iOS and Android devices through Bluetooth technology. However, the device can only be synced with a limited number of Polar bike computers. This is great if you already have a polar bike computer. But for those who have a different brand, you’ll either need to go without a bike computer or buy a used Polar computer for yourself.
The device works very well with the Polar training app and has very good accuracy with its data recordings. The bad news, the Polar bike sensor doesn’t work with every training app available. This might be a problem if you’ve always use Strava or Train Peaks. You’ll have to switch apps.
Triathletes who have bought the bike sensor like it because it is very sleek, small, and barely weighs anything. If it was used during a race, it never slowed a triathlete down. Athletes like that it can easily be paired with compatible iOS and Android devices and works well with their Polar bike computers. Those who have has problems with the sensor is because they didn’t have compatible devices for it.
I recommend this bike sensor only if you have all the compatible devices for it. It works well and can compete with big companies such as Garmin and Wahoo. But, if it had more options for paired devices it could really make an impact in the market.
5. COOSPO Cadence and Speed Sensor
The CooSpo RPM is a Speed or Cadence sensor. You can decide what metrics you want to record on any given day.
It’s very easy to switch between the two metrics. Just hit the reset button on the battery. The blue light is for cadence and the red light is for speed. It cannot track both, but having one sensor does save you the time of installing two devices.
The sensor has dual-band Bluetooth and ANT+ technology so it is compatible with nearly all ANT+ bike or GPS computers and iOS and Android cycling apps.
This is a wireless sensor and it doesn’t have magnets which makes it easy to install. The sensor comes with a couple rubber bands depending on where you want the device to sit on your bike.
When you do want to change between cadence and speed, you also have to uninstall and re-install the device. This can be a pain so be sure you allow enough time before your workouts. And, you have to take the battery out and put it back in for this process.
The device easily pairs up with a bike computer, smart phone, or watch. Just turn on the Bluetooth settings and the device should show up on your desired devices.
Triathletes who have bought the device like it because the sensor is a good set that is easy to set up and doesn’t require any magnets. The device is durable and can last for several seasons before needing to be replaced. The batteries are replaceable which is a plus for some. The pairing is seamless and the only issue some have is with their own training apps.
I recommend this device to anyone who wants a simple sensor that can change between cadence and speed. The device needs to be uninstalled and then reinstalled every time you want to switch between metrics which can be tedious.
6. Saris Magnetless Speed/Cadence Sensor
The Saris sensor is a magnet-less speed or cadence sensor, which takes out the frustrations of dealing with a magnet.
You won’t need to carefully and time-consumingly line-up a sensor with its corresponding magnet.
For installation, all you need is to put in the battery, orient the sensor for either cadence or speed, and mount it on the non-drive side crank arm or the bike’s front or back hub.
The sensor was designed with an internal accelerometer that can sense both cadence and speed. This makes the sensor very sensitive to movement; so if you accidentallly bump into it, it will start to record data like normal. If this was a magnet sensor, then it would need to be realigned with the magnet.
The sensor can be paired with any training app so that someone who has a “dumb trainer” can see their data in real-time. Of course, it would be a one-way smart trainer.
Triathletes who have bought the device were happy with the installation process but were not so impressed with how the device recorded their metrics. Most reported that the device is not accurate and doesn’t pick up when they had spikes in their cadence or speed or even when they stopped their workouts.
I don’t recommend this device because there are a handful of reviews that have complained about the device’s accuracy and precision. It’s best to find a device that will give you better results so you can have more meaningful workouts.
1 thought on “Cycling Speed and Cadence Sensors”
“Others might only need a cadence sensor because their sports watch already records their speed. And, they are focused on having an even cadence between both legs.”
Focused on having an even cadence between both legs?
I would have thought that the pedals, which are mechanically linked togethe, would force the cadence to be the same for each leg but then that’s just me.