GPS technology has found its way into many everyday objects - and more recently it has complemented a little gadget that has been around for a long time: bike computers. What do we expect from the best MTB GPS? That it continue to provide sports data; of cardio, of distance… With a twist of size, that of navigation.
And when it comes to choosing an MTB GPS, there are many very technical factors involved that account for the huge price disparity - from simple to quintuple. The field of navigation is much more complex than it appears, and can mobilize very different technologies which present very specific advantages and disadvantages.
In this area more than others, we should therefore not throw ourselves blindly on the first model and carefully study the competition. The market in USA is dominated by a handful of brands, of which Garmin is the most famous. But we also found other lesser known and equally interesting MTB GPS.
To find your way around, go to the buying guide at the end of this comparison
The best mountain bike GPS in 2021
1. Bryton Aero 60 - A small, inexpensive and complete MTB GPS
Bryton is one of the top brands in MTB GPS, and just below Garmin when it comes to quality. Despite a few less efficient models, their reputation is solid. And the Aero 60 is no stranger to their success: it's an excellent entry-level compromise that has met with great success in its niche. A compromise, because this is what we are looking for on a reduced budget. In the case of the Aero, certain peripheral options are sacrificed to concentrate on the essentials, hence the relatively reduced price.
The Bryton Aero 60 is an ergonomic and well-designed MTB GPS. Even if it has some weaknesses when compared to its direct competitor in this price - the Garmin Edge 530 - it makes up for very good performance.
It's in the name: the design is aerodynamic, and that's more important than it looks. This model can potentially be aimed at competitive cyclists who will be put off by the lack of care given to this point by other MTB GPS. It comes with an original mounting system, which differs from what can be seen from the competition, but which allows it to be removed more easily from its base without risking losing it.
The great strength of this MTB GPS lies in its metric sensors. In this category, it is even quite simply one of the best. In addition to the readability of the screen, well thought out to be searchable at a glance, there are several interesting innovations. For example, the ability to customize the different data fields displayed at any time.
The reliability of these metric sensors is also a major asset. The comparative results are bluffing, again for this price bracket, with a very good estimate of cardio and distance data.
If there is one point that surprises, and positively, it is the navigation software included. For a recent model, it is very rare: we explain ourselves. To lower prices, some manufacturers - including Garmin - have had the idea of relying on smartphones. With Bluetooth connectivity, the ATV GPS then becomes a simple terminal, but it is the smartphone that does all the work. That poses many questions: autonomy, already. In all fairness, can we put back to back models with included navigation and others that, in the end, are simple display terminals?
The additional good point of the Aero 60 is that even taking this factor into account, the autonomy remains quite correct: 32 hours on average.
Its small 2.3 ″ display is well thought out to display all the information you need. By navigating through the device with the - many - physical buttons, you have access to 5 pages of data.
And for those who want to recover this data, don't panic. While navigation is included, that doesn't prevent the Aero 60 from being compatible with Bryton's companion app for compiling, storing, comparing and sharing. In particular, the route taken can be extracted in .gpx format.
The built-in navigation is relatively classic: it relies on Open Street Maps, which is a great choice. OSM is a collaborative and open GPS system, as the name suggests, and it has proven itself. It's a bit like the Wikipedia of cartography, and as with the latter, the experience has been proven: the data is numerous, precise and very reliable. This is also the same system that Garmin uses.
This MTB GPS uses a total of five different satellite networks: GPS, Glonass, Galileo, QZSS and BDS. It is the certainty of always having a reliable data flow wherever you are.
It is also compatible with ANT + cardio sensors, speed, cadence, power and displays other peripheral data. Only drawback? The minimalist GPS interface can be criticized for sometimes lacking clarity, especially if one has to make quick route decisions.
The Aero 60 is more solid in terms of sensors than navigation. But it is also one of the very rare MTB GPS to offer so many options without having any particular weaknesses. Compatibility with networks and sensors allow great flexibility of use. And yet, it is the best value for money in the category of less than 150 €!
2. Polar M460 - The entry level MTB GPS with the best software
Polar is one of the leading brands in the field of hi-tech fitness. It follows Garmin closely in terms of quality and reliability of construction, despite some weaknesses in some ranges. The M460 MTB GPS, on the other hand, represents one of the best value for money in its class. Like the Aero 60, it offers more features than its competitors.
Polar uses software that has already proven itself on many other models of the brand: FLOW. It is also the name of the companion app, which allows data to be synchronized between the smartphone and the MTB GPS. We can also point out that there is software for PC and Mac, FLOW SYNC, to export data to a computer as well.
The interface of FLOW on the MTB GPS itself is a little different from what you can see on other brands. But Polar's UX, if not unanimous, is overall intuitive.
The M460 relies quite heavily on the companion app for interface configuration. It's an advantage as a disadvantage, it will depend on the uses. The interface depends in part on the activity profile. There are 8, each with up to 4 metric data displayed, which can be defined from the app - and therefore online. It presupposes a 4G or WiFi connection on the phone, and it's not very easy to do while on the road. The advantage is that there are fewer physical buttons than on the Aero 60, which means a cleaner, more direct interface that relies more on touch.
On the other hand, we would have preferred to be able to access more than 4 metric data at a time - we are thinking in particular of the Aero 60 which manages to display up to 6 on the screen with very good clarity.
The responsiveness of the touchscreen is also rather comfortable, even with gloves: this is sometimes a major flaw in entry-level mountain bike GPS. With a screen size similar to a Garmin Edge 520, readability is optimal.
Compatibility between this GPS and the various sensors is ensured entirely by Bluetooth. It is about setting up a SMART Bluetooth network - and you must therefore ensure that your various accessories are compatible with this technology. This will almost always be the case on relatively recent models: if you have none, you can start to complete your kit on the basis of Bluetooth SMART without asking yourself too many questions. The app recognizes just about everything on the market in this area, from the simplest cardio sensors to the most advanced.
The GPS chip is a UBlox - it's common on entry-level models, and while these aren't the best in terms of accuracy, the results are quite satisfactory for this price. It does not use the GLONASS system in addition to GPS, like Garmin or Bryton: this is what explains this difference in performance.
The compatible GPS service is Strava, one of the most widely used systems in the field of sports GPS. A 60-day free trial is included with the purchase, the monthly subscription is then at the standard price compared to other services on the market.
The autonomy of this MTB GPS is quite correct. But despite the device's strong support for connectivity with a smartphone, a maximum of 16 hours of use is reached. It should be sufficient for most uses, although we could have hoped for better performance.
The great strength of the Polar M460 is therefore its software on mobile and computer, which makes this MTB GPS an excellent sports tracker. The GPS function is otherwise correct, although Strava is a less open system than OSM - and proprietary. The advantage, however, is that we benefit from software updates of both services, with new patches and features regularly.
3. Bryton Rider 410T - The best entry-level MTB GPS
If the Aero 60 is one of Bryton's cheapest MTB GPS, the Rider 410T allows you to discover another qualitative range of the brand. And in the category of Riders, the 410T - one of the most recent models - is an excellent compromise between GPS of this range, which have all enjoyed a very good reputation thanks to a high quality of design. The arrival of the 410T suggests that Bryton will occupy more and more place in the sporting world.
Visually, the Bryton Rider 410 is a little larger than the 310, its predecessor which already stood out for its longevity and ease of use. Where the latter only offered three physical buttons, the 410 uses 6. We can already deduce the advantage and the disadvantage of such a choice of design: like the Aero, it relies on manual use. and less on the companion app to navigate the different menus. It also means that you lose a little handling while riding.
The mounting system is universal, since it uses the same type of rubber bands as the Btwin accessories for example: it can be mounted almost anywhere, regardless of the diameter of the handlebars.
Let's talk a bit about the software. The data interface is ultra-readable and clear, with 5 to 8 data displayed in real time. Finally, you navigate relatively little via the buttons if you have configured your interface correctly. The GPS is very responsive, especially for this price bracket, and relatively reliable. It relies on a combination of GPS, Galileo, Glonass, Qzss and BDS. You can select the different systems you want to use. There is even a battery saving mode, which will rely on the less greedy - at the expense of a little performance.
It's also because the 410 T relies a lot on Bryton's new app. The integration of the app has been greatly improved since the launch of the 310, and data settings are a breeze. The altimeter setting - which can be a real headache on other models -, profiles, page configuration, notifications can be managed directly via the smartphone, with a clear and intuitive interface.
You can display up to 72 functions: suddenly that's a bit too much. We already know that a large part of these options will be obsolete. On the other hand, exporting data still makes it possible to look into it: the analysis potential is enormous, and we know that it can quickly become addictive. Build your graphs, compare your performance ...
Autonomy is another strong point of this MTB GPS. With 35 hours of battery on average, we know that recharging will never be a particular headache.
Compatibility with sensors is generally good: you can set up your network with Garmin or TomTom accessories without difficulty. But if you don't already have one, we recommend Bryton's ANT + for cardio data, these sensors offer one of the best value for money and surprising data fidelity.
We understand better how Bryton can represent a real danger for Garmin. Admittedly, this MTB GPS does not have as many features as its main competitor, but in terms of ease of use, flexibility and seriousness of design, it is a safe bet for a price well below the average. A brand to watch closely!
Lezyne's Mega XL series is one of the most trusted and popular lines of MTB GPS, even among the pros. The Mega C, the smallest - and cheapest - model of the Australian brand, has many advantages that come close to sending it shoulder to shoulder with size competitors like Garmin and Wahoo.
The design isn't as sleek or slim as Garmin, but aesthetics are rarely the most important criteria. It is thanks to its somewhat surprising thickness - almost twice that of its competitors - that this MTB GPS offers such an impressive range of 32 hours.
Especially since it offers advantages in terms of display. The screen is very correct, comparable to the Edge 520, but here we have the possibility of backlighting it. You can display up to 8 data per page, and the distribution is well thought out: the figures are readable, even at first glance. The interface is not as crowded as on the Edge 520 or Bolt from ELEMNT. The backlighting is powerful, and the colors help a lot in improving visibility. It is a risky bet, but successful for Lezyne: to offer an illuminated and colorful screen with an autonomy that is superior to many other brands. In particular, you will see the advantages of this in direct sunlight, where LCD screens without backlighting may lack clarity.
Pairing with the smartphone is rather simple, with the Lezyne GPS Ally V2 companion app, an improvement on the previous version, which is complete and intuitive. You can configure most of the settings from a handful of menus, add different profiles depending on the mountain bikes used, pair the sensors and configure data collection. This is also where we will be able to activate and configure the GPS.
This allows Lezyne to have only 4 buttons on the MTB GPS, where models as complete can have 5 to 8, with more or less obscure combinations.
The device is compatible with Bluetooth or ANT + sensors. You can collect cardio data, cadence, speed, distance, time, etc.
The GPS system is also pretty smart. Lezyne's site, GPS Root, is a good option to simplify your life: you can easily select and export sections of the map on an OSM - Open Street Map database. The only limit? A square kilometer! There is plenty to have fun.
Once activated, the device shows the roads and paths in the selected area. The navigation is really correct, especially for such a small screen. The color coding, again, makes it possible to follow the trajectory better than on the LCD models. The navigation system is by far the most efficient and clearest.
The Lezyne Mega C is, in fact, the most versatile in this comparison. For a mid-range model, the range of tools and sensor compatibility is impressive. It is one of the rare MTB GPS that will suit both an athlete and a bicycle delivery man, thanks to its reliability and autonomy. Its only flaw? Its slightly larger size makes it less aerodynamic - but that's only important at a very competitive level.
5. Garmin Edge 520 - The MTB GPS with the best companion app
For MTB GPS too, Garmin is one of the best sports-tech brands. And even if its competitors are catching up quickly, it has dominated the market for twenty years. The brand has made a name for itself in sports connected watches: and it is relevant, in another form, mountain bike GPS generally use the same technologies, and similar functionalities.
If we look at the specifications of this MTB GPS, the most surprising thing is the long list of features… and the very small size of the device. At only 60 grams, with a 2.3-inch color screen, it is more on the lightweight side. This is in part because Garmin relies heavily on the flexibility of its companion app.
The Garmin Connect app is not always unanimous - especially because it is not always the most intuitive - but it must be admitted that it is one of the most complete. The evolution of this app has punctuated the success of Garmin products, and this more recent MTB GPS benefits from all the new features.
For example, you can use the Virtual Partner function, which allows you to play against a virtual opponent that you configure yourself, on criteria of distance, time, speed ... Another interesting feature of the app, the Live -tracking allows your selected contacts to follow your performance live. Convenient for group walks, for example!
This MTB GPS is compatible with ANT + and ANT + FE-C technologies for cardio, speed and cadence sensors, but also via Bluetooth Smart. This Bluetooth standard is found in connected watches for example, to display notifications, or to synchronize data. \
It should be noted that if it is well equipped with a GPS compatible with many standards, the screen does not offer the option of live navigation. The GPS function is therefore used to retrace your route - not to orient yourself during the journey. From this price bracket, we will consider that it is a limitation; in reality, not everyone is primarily looking for navigation in an MTB GPS. This is a factor to take into account when choosing the model.
Autonomy is correct on paper - 15h, a necessary compromise to achieve such compactness. However, it should be noted that this data assumes that the screen brightness is set to a minimum: however, backlit LED screens can lose readability in direct sunlight. In real conditions, it will be necessary to increase the brightness, which brings the real autonomy between 10 and 12 hours.
Garmin is by far one of the best brands of MTB GPS, and the Edge 520 offers the best value in its class. It would even have been the best if, like the Lezyne, it had offered full navigation. If that's a big deal and you stick to the great features of the Garmin app, you can go for the Edge 820, which also offers WiFi connectivity, a touchscreen, and a few other cool features. Conversely, the Garmin Edge 20 is a much cheaper and minimalist model, compatible with many of the features of the app.
6. Wahoo Elemnt - The best high-end mountain bike GPS
Wahoo is another brand that has caught up with Garmin in the MTB GPS market. With innovative features and great handling, it has serious advantages. It was very difficult for us to separate the Elemnt from the Garmin E820; it was the price-performance ratio that tipped the scales. And given the price of devices in this range, that's not a detail!
MTB GPS has evolved a lot in recent years, especially thanks to the popularization of connectivity standards. In fact, we find the possibility of connecting via WiFi, ANT + and Bluetooth on all recent high-end models. But the Wahoo Elemnt isn't all about that.
In terms of design, this MTB GPS is flawless: aerodynamic, light, ergonomic and well designed. The screen is not in color - and we can regret it for this price - but that does not prevent a pleasant and intuitive use. We also know how the backlighting affects autonomy, and the many features are already draining the latter. This is the compromise necessary to continue to benefit from a good battery life and a featherweight.
Because the functionalities are numerous. Unlike Garmin, Wahoo does not take the gamble of relying solely on the smartphone's processor and Bluetooth connectivity. And good surprise, the connection of the different sensors is done by the ANT + standard. Little novelty, you can configure your cardio goals so that the LEDs on the side of the device indicate whether they have been reached or not. This is a great readability option, since it eliminates the need to read data all the time.
In addition to the Wahoo companion app, the MTB GPS is also compatible with TrainingPeaks and Today's Plan, two sports planning and performance apps, to establish a cardio routine, goals, and compare your day to day performance. other.
But aside from a few neat options, the Elemnt is a self-contained bike computer. This is what earned it the top-of-the-range first place: otherwise there is no point in talking about autonomy if the GPS is a simple screen relay, because it is the app that does all the work ... The Elemnt must be configured via smartphone, but from there it also works fine on its own.
Suddenly, the Elemnt relies heavily on the maneuverability of the menus and the touch screen. One option in particular changes the game: the zoom, which you activate with your fingers and which allows you to focus on a part of the screen temporarily. It's silly, and it changes your life.
If you want to use the MTB GPS more as a terminal connected to your smartphone, the Bluetooth Smart standard also allows you to display notifications. Coupled with a good navigation engine, this is undoubtedly the most serious option for a bicycle delivery man, who will be able to consult his messages briefly on the way, for example.
Navigation is based on OSM, and it is a safe bet. However, it is not as clear and effective as that of Garmin: the guidance is not followed enough, and we do not benefit from real-time alerts either. Navigation simply consists of a highlighted path on the map.
It's a shame, especially since apart from navigation, the ergonomics of the screen is one of the most efficient. You can display between 2 and 10 data at the same time - that's much more than its competitors - and their layout is fully configurable.
The Wahoo Elemnt has a few shortcomings: the lack of color, backlighting, and a bit too basic navigation for this price. Apart from that, thanks to the app but especially to the seriousness of this MTB GPS in itself, it deserves the palm. Indeed, it is commendable of Wahoo not to rely entirely on the use of a smartphone. If you have a smaller budget, are interested in Wahoo models and are not afraid of smartphone addiction, you can also take a look at the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, its less expensive and very interesting little brother.
Buyer's Guide: Everything you need to know about MTB GPS before buying one
The uses of an MTB GPS
MTB GPS is an improvement on a slightly older product, the bicycle computer, the primary purpose of which is to collect sports data in real time. The appearance of smartphones and progress in miniaturization have made it possible to complete these options.
Today, MTB GPS devices are varied, more versatile, but also more ambiguous. Some are leaning towards data collection, with smartphone connectivity and ever more competitive companion apps from this point of view. In this case, the GPS data is mainly used to consult and share its route after the race. Others focus on navigation and act like a car GPS.
Therefore, we can identify three main uses of GPS mountain biking: sports, mixed, and utility. Sportsman, to consult his performances. Utility, if you are a bicycle delivery driver for example, to replace your smartphone as a navigation interface. Mixed if, as in many cases, you want to have only one device that allows you to do both.
When we talk about MTB GPS, we can imagine that the navigation - that is to say the tracking of the route live, as on a car GPS - is systematic. The reality is more complex. An MTB GPS is simply a bicycle computer that contains GPS technology.
It can be used to export and share its route, or to know its position, but not necessarily to define routes in advance and to guide oneself in real time.
Open Street Maps are essential, and by far the most reliable. They've been developed collaboratively, they're free, and they're awfully detailed - way more than Google Maps, especially when you're off the road.
Some MTB GPS manufacturers continue to offer paid card packs. It is completely unnecessary and, these days, it borders on scam. The OSM standard is also much lighter for downloading large areas on your smartphone or GPS.
Recent MTB GPS from Garmin, Lezyne or Wahoo use the Bluetooth connectivity standard to communicate with your smartphone. In some cases, Bluetooth Smart is also present, and allows you to display notifications and texts in real time. This is what we find on SmartWatches, for example.
If your MTB GPS has enough functionality on its own, Bluetooth is not necessary. But some brands have taken very different paths. Garmin, for example, relies heavily on Bluetooth connectivity to provide more options. Others, like Wahoo, prefer to offer a more autonomous model.
In general, the presence of Bluetooth connectivity makes it possible to benefit from many additional features, either via the manufacturer's companion app, or via other sports applications such as Strava.
By GPS we mean communication with a certain type of satellite. If we mean by GPS any satellite communication, this is a shift in meaning: in this case we are talking about GNSS, which includes the GPS standard. There are others, such as GLONASS - the most widely used standard in Russia -, Galileo - in Europe -, BeiDou - in China and Southeast Asia.
The area of preference is not the only factor that determines what kind of standard you need. In fact, for better reliability, devices like MTB GPS today rely on several standards at the same time. Models compatible with all of the above standards will generally be more reliable in terms of location.
FAQ: we answer your questions about MTB GPS
Is the touch screen important on an MTB GPS?
It depends on the use you plan to make of it. The touch screen is an expensive feature which, to benefit from good quality in other areas of the device, will force you to go upmarket.
It is especially useful for devices that have a lot of features, if you want to quickly switch menus or change the display on the go.
If you do not intend to manipulate your MTB GPS a lot while driving, it is not really necessary: even if it has a lot of buttons, you can take the time to do the necessary manipulations. stop.
If you are a bicycle delivery driver, on the other hand, a touch screen is strongly recommended for safety. Note, however, that even today, an MTB GPS with a touch screen will be less waterproof than a classic model.
📍 Is it better to use an MTB GPS or a smartphone?
We sometimes see walkers attaching their smartphone to the handlebars, and directly using the dedicated applications to benefit - in theory - from all that an MTB GPS has to offer. The only advantage is financial: you don't have to buy an additional device.
In reality, a smartphone is very limited in this kind of context. First, you are going to have to invest in a strong and compatible fixing system, which will have to be as reliable as possible; and it will already be a substantial expense.
Then, even if your smartphone has a function that we assimilate with navigation, it is not a GPS. This is called an A-GPS - for Assisted GPS. This technology uses the triangulation of telecom antennas to perform localization. It is less reliable, less precise, and above all it does not work everywhere - especially far from civilization, where we usually go mountain biking. In addition, with rare exceptions, the maps are not stored on the smartphone and require a lot of mobile data.
And that's without counting all the other features - which are specific to a bicycle computer such as a MTB GPS - which you will be missing: cardio data, connectivity with speed sensors, etc. Most of these sensors use the ANT + standard and not Bluetooth, too greedy in energy. Your smartphone will not be of much use to you then.
The last point is the battery life. Navigation is one of the most demanding features on a smartphone, while an MTB GPS is designed to last around 20 hours on average. It is better to keep the battery of your smartphone to be able to call for help in the event of a problem
⚙️ What sensors are compatible with an MTB GPS?
Most MTB GPS communicate with sensors according to the ANT + standard. They collect the data and transmit it to the smartphone via Bluetooth. You must check the type of connection between the sensors and the GPS before making your choice.
The Bluetooth standard requires more energy, and it is still relatively rare on sensors, even if we are starting to see it appear thanks to the Bluetooth 5.2 standard, which uses less power.
If an MTB GPS is ANT + compatible, it should support all of these devices. However, its interface may not be configurable to display this data: you can still find it on your smartphone export, but not on the screen.
To choose your MTB GPS, list the sensors you want to use - cardio, speed, altitude… - and look for a model that includes them in the list of its features.
Devices from the same brand tend to work better together. For example, we know that Garmin sensors are not perfectly compatible with Wahoo MTB GPS.
📏 How to choose the screen size of my MTB GPS?
It's about finding the right balance between two criteria: compactness / aerodynamics vs readability. A larger device will generate more wind resistance and take up more space on your handlebars. But it can display more information at the same time without having to swipe or go through menus.
A smaller device will normally be limited in terms of readability, but these are the ones we find most in competitive contexts, in particular thanks to their aerodynamics.
The determining factor is therefore the amount of information you will want to consult at the same time. The larger models have about ten, the smallest 2-4. Always select a screen size that matches this factor, as some poorly designed models let you amass too much information on the screen - and that is. ultimately unreadable. It is therefore not a quality factor in itself, and certainly not an influence on the price!
If you just want to review your performance later, that's fine. This is an expensive option, especially if it is of good quality.
On the other hand, navigation is essential in two cases. The first is for difficult trails or in conditions of limited visibility. You will be able to rely on the navigation interface to avoid getting lost. The second is for urban use.
We see more and more bike delivery men using mountain bike GPS to optimize their trips without draining the battery of their smartphone - and risking a fine when using it.
🛒 Where to buy a good MTB GPS?
As you can see, each model is very different and adapted to very specific needs and situations. You will rarely find more than a handful of models in specialist stores, so it is difficult in these conditions to be convinced to find the one that suits you.
Especially since it is a technology which evolves quickly, and that you will generally want to orient yourself towards a recent GPS MTB. Under these conditions, the online offer is much more advantageous, on condition that you inform yourself beforehand.