Gadget Review: Cat Eye Strada

In keeping with my love of data and gadgets and in keeping with my frugal inclinations, I tried keeping track of my bicycling distances and times using my iPhone and a GPS app. The iPhone chewed battery power on a long ride and I kept forgetting to turn off the app when I got somewhere or turn it on again when I left. I tried keeping track by mapping the distances using Google Maps. That just plain took too long. I tried using my Garmin running watch (the FR10, the subject of another review, here). The FR10 does a great job for shorter rides–once you strap it to the handlebars–but it has a limit of about 4 hours before it needs to be charged–there are other Garmin watches that have much longer charge times, but they’re heavier and bulkier.

My daughter recommended the Cat Eye Strada as an elegant solution to the problem. It’s a tiny little tracker that installs on the front wheel of the bicycle and then communicates wirelessly to a display on the handlebars. It turns itself on whenever the front wheel of the bicycle is turning. It’s easy to reset, and even if I didn’t reset it, it just adds the new ride to the last ride. It doesn’t cost very much. Its battery lasts about two years in normal use. All it does is show distance, pace, and time. No maps. No GPS. There is a cumulative odometer, though.

I love the device. I love the instantaneous speed reading. There’s a strange satisfaction in seeing that I’m going 32 mph on a downhill when the speed limit is 30. It’s nice to know, too, that I’m not holding up traffic! Seeing that my uphill speed on the worst hill coming up to our house is only about 3.5 mph–as slow as if I were walking–provides incentive to push just a little bit harder.