Currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand (06/12/2013) - 31200km cycled

11 Nov 2013

Cycle Computer Review: Cateye Adventure CC-AT200W

Posted by Will

Bought for the princely sum of: £60
Used for: 16 months
Type: Wireless
In short: Gave up completely after struggling for many months, battery-life poor, battery replacement system flawed, altitude reading inaccurate. Disappointed.

cateyeadventureHaving splashed out (by my standards) on a Cateye Adventure cycle computer it goes without saying I had high expectations. I’m a statistics bore, able to lose myself for hours calculating how long to the next village, how long to the next town assuming I reached the village on time, how long to the next city assuming I reached the town on time which assumes reaching the village on time etc… and struggling to encourage my legs up hills with optimistic numbers. So for me a decent cycle computer is an essential piece of kit. While quite happy to ride for several days without brakes, I stop immediately when the screen goes blank.

So imagine my frustration when the Cateye Adventure gave up suddenly in the middle of the Siberian wilderness after only 16 months of use (and loving care). The sensor specifically gave out, responding neither to a battery change, nor an ID reset, nor vicious penknife prodding in the circuitry. I was forced to cycle a tough and particularly interesting chunk of my journey without my beloved stats. Even worse, I have no accurate record of daily distances, speeds and altitude climbs to share on this website … aren’t you annoyed now?

I could invest a significant proportion of the initial outlay back into the Cateye brand to buy a new sensor but I’m not sure I want to. I’m not convinced the Cateye Adventure is a durable cycle computer. It had shown signs of giving up long before its eventual death on that fateful afternoon in mid-July, for instance randomly, and for seemingly no reason, the computer unit would reset itself, losing all data already accumulated during the session. That was always infuriating, especially at the end of the day, and meant I had to keep a running log of stats in my memory as I cycled along. I can’t say I had confidence in its performance in the second-half of its life.

Eventually, I found the random reset problem was a result of the battery popping loose inside the unit and thereby becoming disconnected. Asphalt roads didn’t cause many problems but the rough tracks of Central Asia and pot-holed construction patches of Kazakhstan and Russia forced me to stick the battery inside with tiny pieces of duct tape. I wouldn’t expect to have to do this to a top-end cycle computer.

p1060789-800When the battery works, its life is poor. Cateye writes the battery should last for 10 months with an hour’s use per day but I rarely cycled a month without having to replace BOTH batteries (one in the unit, one in the sensor) and I don’t cycle 10 hours a day. That might not be a big deal when each battery costs less than a dollar. However, while the unit battery gives fair warning that it’s about to die, the sensor battery goes suddenly, leaving you to fiddle about by the side of a busy road instead of with a coffee beside your tent. An annoying oversight by the people at Cateye.

When the battery has to be changed so often, its vital to have a tough and durable mechanism for opening and closing the battery replacement capsule. The Cateye Adventure has a weak and easy-wearing coin-and-twist system. Although it’s a neat idea to place the coin in a slot and twist to open, by the hundredth battery change the slot is too worn away for the coin to catch properly. By the end, the only way I could open the computer unit was by levering my penknife blade under the covering which worked but of course damaged it even further. I suspect this contributed to the battery popping out regularly too.

I wasn’t even impressed by the features on the Cateye Adventure (with the exception of the ultra-convenient click-tec technology – simply nudging the unit as a whole changes the display). Sure, it calculates the basics like distance, average speed and time cycled, but its signature altitude feature, the feature that everyone buys it for, isn’t accurate. After less than a month’s use I rode into Stockholm at an altitude of 273m despite defining the altitude accurately only a week before.

p1010624-800After many hours testing and pondering the constant inaccuracies, I concluded that my Cateye Adventure calculated correctly when climbing but underestimated by around 10% when coming down. I would redefine the altitude setting at the bottom of a pass, watch my elevation climb gradually until I reached the peak where the Adventure would be almost spot-on when checked against the pass height on my map. However, at the end of a long, winding descent on the other side, the map would always read a lower elevation than the computer. On the road, I would forgive the Cateye Adventure the mistakes by conceding that underestimating, as opposed to overestimating, a descent makes for much more encouraging stats. When I’m writing a review though I can not be so forgiving. It’s primary feature didn’t work properly.

On the positive side, which I have to admit is very limited indeed, is the sleek design of the unit, an easy-to-use interface for resetting session stats and all-round stoic performance in adverse weather conditions. I would expect these from a top-of-the-range cycle computer though, especially one that calls itself ‘Adventure’. In fact, I would expect a whole lot more. As far as I’m concerned the Cateye is neither durable nor reliable nor long-lasting enough to justify its price-tag or pompous ‘Adventure’ label.

A shame, since there would have been so many more stats entries to spend your free-time studying.

Leave a comment