21 September 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: Cateye Strada Wireless computer

As a product designer and all-around design geek, I'm a sucker for an elegant solution. While I'm usually a little be jealous that I hadn't thought of that, I can set my jealousy aside to admire something truly slick. Cateye's Strada line of computers are just such an example. While many computers require the use of 2-3 little buttons to access their features, the Strada Wireless has one. And it's the whole computer.

By moving the computer's one button to its backside and allowing the whole unit to rock when pressed, Cateye have freed up the real estate needed to present all of the normal computer functions in large, clear lines of text. Pushing on the bottom half of the computer (near the three little bumps shown) cycles through the computer's functions (maximum speed, average speed, odometer, trip distance (2x), elapsed time and clock). There's also a pace arrow that compares the current speed to the trip average. A long push (2 or 3 seconds) resets the trip distance, max speed, average speed and elapsed time. That's it (setup does require the used of a second rear button, but that's a one-time thing).

Because the buttons have been removed, the Strada itself is smaller than the Micro series it replaces and the text larger. This makes it easier to mount (to either the stem or bars) and to read. The sensor itself has also been slimmed significantly and fits behind road bike fork legs much better, relying on simple and effective zip ties. The new sensor can be mounted quite close to the dropout, which will (in theory) lessen the (minimal) unbalancing effect of the spoke magnet. The magnet itself is simple and easy to attach to bladed or round spokes but is starting to look a bit lumpy next to the competition and on aero setups. Not a big deal, but it may be due an update. Also a bit clunky is the bar/stem mount. Similar to a hose clamp, the mounting band is a plastic affair that's easy to mount or remove. The computer mount itself is square and can be rotated to allow for bar or stem mounting- a good thing. Unfortunately, it's more complex and a bit bigger than older Cateye mounts (which used zip ties). If something similar could be done to the computer mount as the sensor mount, the computer might sit a bit lower and be more secure- after all, how often does one remove the mount from their bike?

In use, I have no complaints. The pressing down on the computer results in a nice affirmative 'click' and is easy, even in winter gloves. After 9 months' use, the display is still sharp and high-contrast (which I take to mean that the CR2032 battery is still going strong). With the sensor very close to the dropout and the computer itself on the stem, I've had no transmission issues- the signal is apparently strong enough cover that distance. The lack of wires is fantastic, especially on a 'cross bike- this makes the computer easy to set up and less likely to get damaged in a crash. If you have several bikes with wireless computers, it may not be a bad idea to buy some of the replacement coin cell batteries on eBay- they're much cheaper in bulk than at Walgreen's- they'll last a long time, just not as long as on wired computers.

I put off writing this review because I was waiting for something interesting to happen- and it hasn't. For $45, the Strada Wireless has all of the functions that I need in a cycle computer and has proven itself reliable, easy to use and easy to set up. Because the Cateye is reasonably priced, easy on the eyes and never requires thought to use, it's easily a bikefix pick.



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