This is a review of the Cateye Strada Wireless cycle computer with speed, cadence and heart rate monitoring. There are several similar bike computers in the Cateye range using the same sort of design and body including the “digital” version of this computer which allows you to upload data onto your phone into Strava etc.
OK, so, I’ve been happily cycling along with this new Cateye Strada for about a month now. You might have read elsewhere on the blog that my road bike was stolen a late last year and along with it my original Cateye Velo 9 bike computer. This was a basic bike computer that just records speed, time and distance travelled and it had served me well but I wanted to replace it with something that would monitor my heart rate as well so the Strada seemed like a good choice.
I like the understated look of the Cateye range and I also record a lot of my data straight onto Strava via a phone app so I wasn’t looking for anything particularly top of the range. (Yes, I’m now starting to confuse Strada and Strava as well!) This computer is certainly no Garmin 520 which is fine as I really only wanted something relatively easy to set up and with some clear basic controls only.
That makes me sound like a technophobe old fogey which I’m really not (!) but I do find it frustrating when you buy a technological gadget that it takes ages to understand how the darn thing works – there’s pages of menus, scrolling and setting up to do and you spend more time working out how to get it to do the things that you want it to do than you do actually using it!
To a certain extent so many gadgets today have so many functions that it’s a case of eliminating what you don’t want rather than finding what you do.
This can be a bit frustrating and a massive time drain!
So, I basically just wanted something straightforward and quick to set up that would record the basic functions plus heart rate. The Strada has the added advantage of being wireless as well which was appealing as the Velo 9 was connected by annoying wires to the speed sensor on near the wheel. It doesn’t have any GPS or bluetooth/ANT capabilities and has to be used with the supplied Cateye sensors. Mine came with speed and heart rate, you can add a cadence sensor to this if you wish as well.
Cateye Strada Set up and Instructions.
Out of the box I was struck by just how tiny the computer is. In some ways this is discrete and sits nicely on the bike handlebars but I was concerned that I might not be able to easily read the display – more on that later.
The first annoying thing is that the instructions are of the multi language multi folding cheap paper with diagram type. It takes a while to find what you need to read but, once you have sorted this out they are reasonably clear.
Fitting the computer to the bike is OK once you have worked out how the bits fit together but it did take me a couple of attempts and some study of the diagrams – it’s not rocket science though. Similarly the speed sensor was easy enough to fit and I got the distance from the magnet on the wheel set up and working first time. I’m reasonably handy with a spanner but it’s not hard once you have taken the time to soak up the info in the diagrams.
Actually setting up the computer itself was less straightforward as I found the instructions didn’t accurately reflect the order in which the unit’s menu was arranged. In the end I just ignored the instructions and it was fine. There’s a some fiddling about with very small buttons on the back of the unit to be done and this was a bit awkward. Once I had set the time and chosen mph/kmph etc and done the basic set up I found that the unit instantly recognised the speed sensor and heart rate sensor without any further resetting or problems.
You have to check your wheel size from the chart on the instructions carefully and make sure that the computer is set to the right setting.
One thing I have found difficult is getting the unit off the clip holding it onto the bike handlebars. I seem to have so use quite a lot of pressure, almost to the point of being concerned that I’ll break the clip to get it to come free. It hasn’t broken so far and has just required quite a lot of forceful wiggling to get it free.
Cateye Strada Batteries
I also had the rather unfortunate experience of all of the batteries running low at the same time on the unit shortly after I started using it. The display starts flashing when the batteries are low and, as it uses the flat mini battery type the batteries are reasonably expensive. This obviously isn’t the fault of the manufacturer as my particular computer must have been in storage for a while before I got it so the batteries ran out.
Fitting the new batteries was fiddly and time consuming and requires each of the sensors to be reset using a pen or pencil to push in a tiny reset button. This didn’t work first time for me and I had to reset the main unit as well before they recognised each other but the connection has been good and I haven’t had any problems with them since.
A number of other bike computers in this price range charge via USB rather than batteries. The Strada has a very low power display and doesn’t have the capability to download onto a computer so it makes sense that it’s battery powered. I suspect that now I have the new batteries in it will last for several months and this simplicity is rather appealing!
Heart rate Monitor
Similarly I have ridden with the heart rate monitor on for most of my bike rides over the last month and haven’t had any connectivity issues with that either. The monitor itself seems to be reasonably robust and comes mounted on an elastic strap. There is a simple clip to hold it together and it seems to stay in place without any problems and is perfectly comfortable to wear for prolonged rides.
The Cateye Strada Bike Computer in Use
Once you have go the Cateye Strada set up this little bike computer really does come into it’s own. At the start of a ride there’s no booting up time or connections to be made or waited for. You can literally get on and ride and the Strada instantly recognises both the speed and heart rate sensors.
It records on an ongoing basis but if I want to reset it to just record my data for the current ride I just need to press the button and hold it down for two seconds and everything is reset to zero.
This is, for me at least, one of the great joys of actually using this computer. Essentially it’s one big button and to flip between data readings all you do is actually press the unit itself. It rocks rather nicely in it’s housing and has a rather satisfying click and it’s easy to control, it simply with one thumb whilst still having both hands holding onto the handle bars. Personally I think this is brilliant, there are no tiny buttons to try to negotiate whilst riding and the simplicity of operation is fantastic.
I have my Strada on the side of the bars and just operate it with my thumb (even in gloves). You could also easily mount it on the centre stem but you would then need to move your hands off the handle bars to operate it. The convenience of being able to ride on the tops and not have to move my hand away to operate the computer is brilliant!
Once riding your speed is displayed at the top of the display and is easy to read. The other data is available by scrolling through the menu with a thumb push so you can basically have your speed plus heart rate or speed plus time or speed plus distance etc etc showing at any one time. This is slightly restrictive in that I would often prefer to have heart rate and time showing at the same time but that doesn’t seem to be possible.
The payoff is the simplicity of operation because it is beautifully simple to use, but that does mean that there are a few restrictions as to the actual combinations of display data.
Other than this the screen is very clear, doesn’t seem to be problematic to read in bright light and is sharp and has good contrast. It is small though and it can sometimes be hard, at a glance, to see what data you are looking at – the numbers themselves are large and clear but the data icons are very small. You do get used to it though and again this is the payoff for having such a lightweight and sleek looking unit.
The Cateye Strada is extremely simple to use, is instantly ready to go at the start of a ride and provides clear basic cycling information. The unit itself has a fantastic button push menu which means that you can operate it just with a thumb whilst holding onto the top of the bars and it looks discrete and is extremely lightweight.
On the negative side the display is small and can be a bit tricky to read at times and you can only display the speed and one other data field at a time. The Strava doesn’t have GPS and isn’t compatible with Bluetooth or ANT.
For me it is perfect in that it’s quick and simple and does literally what it says on the tin. I tend to use the GPS on my phone to record my rides directly into Strava and for me at the moment this solution works well. I can see the time coming when I will outgrow the Cateye Strada but it’s a cute little computer, friendly to use and looks good on my bike so I would miss it if I ever do upgrade.