How Do Bike Speedometers Work: With Easy Installation Instructions for 2023

How do bike speedometers work?

Bicycle odometers commonly referred to as speedometers or cycle computers are devices that calculate everything about your bike trip. Still, the basic function of the speedometer is to calculate the distance traveled and speed

Nonetheless, while a speedometer is meant to be used to calculate speed, it can also be used for all manner of things on your bike trip. 

A speedometer is a one-stop device for all cycling needs and has been used for showing things such as trip time, how dehydrated the cyclist is, and measuring recommended distances. 

The good thing about a speedometer is that it motivates you to go faster and push harder than ever before. Moreover, it can be used for both run-of-the-mill city cycling to long-distance road trips, and even intense morning exercise. 

How Does a Bike Speedometer Work

There are many different types of speedometers or bike computers that all detect speed or distance traveled in different ways. One of the most common speedometers is the wheel sensor which is one of the oldest and one of the more durable ones you could buy. 

The wheel sensor speedometer is usually attached to the bike by attaching a small magnet to a spoke or the inside of the rim of the bike wheel. You would then fasten a magnetic sensor in alignment with the handlebars. 

As such, every time the wheel has a full revolution the magnet passes the sensor. By calculating how fast the magnet is passing the sensor the speedometer produces a readout to the cyclist on the display attached to the handlebars. 

the same sensor can also be calibrated to also calculate the distance traveled.

how do bike speedometers work

How Does A Mechanical Bicycle Speedometer Work?

The mechanical bike speedometer can work with pretty much any bike that you have. It is great for tracking speed but can also provide a very classic look to your bike. 

With a mechanical speedometer, you will usually attach a cable that is connected to the front wheel of the bicycle. When you start riding the bike the revolutions make it possible for the cable to move and provide readings on speed. 

Regardless of whether you are riding a mountain bike road bike or any other bike, you could make use of the mechanical speedometer to measure bike speeds. Still, it is important to note that you will need a wheel drive adapter depending on the size of the wheel on your bike.

How Do You Install A Mechanical Speedometer On A Bike?

One of the easiest things to do is the installation of a mechanical speedometer. You can typically install the speedometer following the following steps even if you are not an expert with bikes. 

  1. Remove the front wheel of the bike
  2. Attach the wheel drive adapter of the speedometer and attach it to the axle of the front wheel
  3. Install the adapter on the left or right side of the bike according to manufacturer recommendations. Note that the speedometer will not work if it is installed on the wrong side. 
  4. Place the washer between the tire and the fork
  5. Once you have the adapter secured reinstall the wheel
  6. Attach the speedometer  bracket to the handlebars
  7. Attach the speedometer gauge to the bracket
  8. Attach one end of the cable to the back of the speedometer gauge
  9. Insert the other end of the cable into the adapter of the wheel drive you initially installed onto the bike wheel
  10. Use ties to ensure that the cable does not touch the tire

How to Install A Digital Bicycle Odometer

Installing a digital bicycle odometer is just as simple as a mechanical one and almost anyone can do it even if they are not so familiar with bike mechanics. 

However, it is important to program the bike computer properly to ensure that you are getting accurate speed readings from the sensors. 

  1. Attach the computer sensor to the fork opposite the brakes on the front wheel mount. Just ensure that you install the sensor at an easy-to-access location on the fork.
  2. Run the wire from the sensor up the back and outer part of the shock absorber. By installing it at this location, it will not be damaged by undergrowth or branches when you are biking and will also not get entangled in the bike wheel.
  3. Attach the computer mount to the handlebars of the bike in an easily accessible location. Ensure that you secure the mount according to the design and manufacturer recommendations. 
  4. Secure the wire which connects the computer mount and the sensor to the bike frame with cable ties. Ensure you leave enough slack in the wire to allow the handlebars and front wheel to turn freely. 
  5. Clip the magnet to the front tire spokes in a location where it will pass the sensor each time the wheel rotates. Ensure that the magnet is no more than ¼ of an inch of the sensor when the wheel rotates. 
  6. Check for the diameter of the bicycle tire on the bicycle user manual and enter it into the computer. 
  7. Turn the wheel to ensure that the magnet is detecting the magnet when it passes by. You will know it is working as expected if it shows any speed when the magnet passes by the sensor.

How to Get the Most from A Speedometer

This will depend on what you are looking to get from your speedometer. For instance, some people just need it for casual checks of distances and speed and not any other aspects. 

In fact, most basic speedometers will do basic speed and distance calculations. However, if you are a biking enthusiast who needs a sense of triumph from hitting those distance and speed milestones, you may need to get a high-end odometer. 

Depending on what speedometer you get, you can use them for all manner of things. For a basic speedometer that costs between $70 – $100, you could set goals for speeds attained and distances traveled over days, months, and even years. 

In fact, you need to check out as many guides and reviews as you can from professional cyclists who have been using odometers. This way you get to know which speedometer will be the most suitable and effective for your needs.

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