The rise and rise of affordable GPS-enabled bike computers is fantastic, allowing riders to download routes from the internet and accurately record data. At present, Garmin have got the cycling market almost sewn up, so it's refreshing to see a new company coming in to challenge them.
The Bryton 50 can record a huge amount of data including speed, distance, altitude, temperature and, for an extra £70, heart rate and cadence too, along with live mapping for the whole of the UK.
The simple yet effective buttons and joystick – no touchscreen yet – work well, though the device is sometimes slow to respond. As with most small buttons, they're tricky to operate with thick winter gloves, but unlike with a touchscreen, you can at least feel the “click”.
Display settings are easy to toggle through, so you can have as much or as little info as you want, with six stock dashboard-style displays which are easily customisable. The screen isn’t as bright or as high contrast as the current crop of smartphones but it's usable enough on the move.
The Bryton's OpenStreetMap mapping is free and open source, so it's constantly updated, and it's easier to read than the more basic mapping on Garmin's rival, and much more expensive, Edge 705. However, it's not a patch on the Ordnance Survey maps available with the Garmin Oregon, Dakota and Edge 800, because the level of detail and accuracy is lower.
You can't zoom in far enough for our liking, and the 50's 176x220-pixel screen resolution doesn't help matters either. For most roadies, it should be good enough, but we wouldn’t use it as our only navigation tool for exploring new areas.
The microSD data card is fiddly to slot in and the small rubber cover doesn’t look that substantial. However, our device is still working well even after we took it out in -8C and in heavy rain and snow.
The first handlebar mount we were given was ugly and sat the device up very high. Although it did grip the Rider 50 tightly, its purchase on the stem or bars wasn't as good, and on rougher roads it bounced around so much that we couldn't read the screen. The new mount is thankfully much better, so make sure you get that version.
A USB cable is used to both transfer data and charge the lithium-ion battery. You get a mains charger in the box as well. A key to the success of any new GPS system is how well it will interface with your computer. At present the Bryton will only play with PCs but we’re told a Mac version should be along soon.
Bryton's website displays the large amount of data that can be recorded on the device in a user-friendly and intuitive way, which is great as it means you don’t have to be a computer geek as well as a bike geek to get the most out of the unit. As with all things online, privacy can be an issue. The Bryton website defaults to allow your uploaded routes to be viewed by all and sundry – something to be aware of.
The early version of the Bryton that we’ve tested doesn’t produce GPX files or allow them to be downloaded, making route creation and analysis with other mapping software somewhat trying. Bryton are working on firmware and software upgrades for the device that should speed up the download process and allow GPX files to be used – we'll keep you posted.
For the money the Bryton 50 is good. It has the features of the £359 Garmin Edge 705 (and most of the features of the newer Edge 800, apart from the touchscreen and OS maps) at a price nearer the much more basic Edge 500. It's not quite as slick in functionality or aesthetically, and the slight work-in-progress feel of this early model does count against it, but it's certainly very good value.
If you're looking for a GPS mainly to log and record data from your rides, and you don't require the detailed OS maps found on the higher-end Garmin models, then the Bryton’s well worth looking at. If you're not bothered about the navigation aspect, the Bryton 30 might be an even better option, with similar features to the Edge 800 but again at a much lower price.