Bontrager ANT+ Bike Speed/Cadence Sensor that requires no zipties or tools!

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(Update/Note: If you’re looking at this unit, it’s marketed under both Bontrager and Motorola brands. Same identical unit, just different shell.)

It’s funny when you think about it, as much innovation that goes on in cycling computers – there’s been fundamentally very little innovation to date when it comes to the speed/cadence sensors that most of us have on our bikes.  These little pods sit by the crank and watch the world of the wheel fly by.  But up until now, they’ve always been a bit of a pain in the butt.

First, you’ve gotta find just the right spot for it where it manages to trip the magnet on the crank while at the same time your wheel spoke magnet.  Then, you’ve gotta zip-tie the thing on there permanently – hoping you got it right.  And of course, should you want to move the thing later on, you’ve almost always got to cut off the zip ties, hoping you don’t scratch up your expensive bike’s paint job in the process.

So back in September at Interbike (yup, 5 months ago!) I had heard of this new Bontrager ANT+ speed/cadence sensor that didn’t require any zip ties, nor any tools.  I was pretty jazzed.  Now, it wasn’t because I had some unexplainable desire to replace my existing trusty little GSC-10 on my bike.  Nope, I actually wanted it because it made the perfect travel ANT+ speed/cadence sensor.  Essentially, anytime I wasn’t on my own bike I could just attach it in a few seconds and be off and running.

Of course, the unit also work just as well in situations where you had multiple bikes and only one ANT+ sensor (though, I would point out that if you had multiple bikes, you could probably splurge for an extra $30 sensor for each bike, and then leverage bike profiles on your head unit).  But let’s not let logic get in the way here…further, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.

So let’s dig into it.

I’ve had the unit since back in December and have been attaching and detaching it to everything I can find.  Mostly to see how well it works in the scenario of constant bike swappage.  I couldn’t figure out a way though to attach it to either the shark or my turtles.

So instead, let’s break down what’s included in the box:

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You’ll notice four pieces within the box, these four pieces make up effectively three components.

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First up is the ANT+ speed/cadence sensor itself.  This is the brains of the unit, and is what transmits to ANT+ devices (i.e. your Garmin, Timex, Bontrager, CycleOps, etc… unit):

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The unit attaches to your bike using the industrial strength rubber band pictured below.  If you’re familiar with the Edge 500/800 mount system, it’s the same type of bands.  Solid stuff.

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Then we’ve got the crank arm magnet, which swings past the sensor to measure cadence.  Unlike traditional magnets that attach via zipties, this one does require you to remove the pedal to use – but it then snuggly fits on there.

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And finally, the ever-exciting spoke magnet for your rear wheel.  This little guy goes around in circles like a hamster on drugs.  But, no tools are required – he just snaps on.

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With that, you’ll want to get it all installed.  The main sensor portion simply has an industrial strength rubber band that catches on the two ledges of the unit and wraps around your bike frame opposite the chain stay.

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Meanwhile, as noted above, you’ll have to remove your pedal to put on the crank magnet.  It’s a bit too bad they couldn’t have done something here requiring no tools, but I also understand that it does need to be pretty tight.  Nonetheless, most places where you would rent a bike would ask you which type of pedals – so you’d probably have the pedals off anyway (and in fact, in many places you take your own pedals with you).  Of note is that this is the same crank magnet as the Duotrap units.

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And finally, the spoke magnet.  He simply clips on with a quick snap:

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With that, you’re ready to ride!

I’ve been using this across an assortment of bikes (road, mountain and triathlon) – without any issues.  The unit runs on a standard issue CR2032 replaceable battery, which is pretty much the standard these days for sports devices.  They’re easily found at a grocery/drugstore, and will last about a year.

Since the unit acts as a standard ANT+ speed/cadence sensor, it’s functionally identical to that of the more commonly found GSC-10 (Garmin Speed/Cadence sensor).  So it’ll work with any ANT+ device that supports the cycling speed/cadence sensor…which, is basically every device out there.  Be it from Garmin, Timex, Bontrager, Wahoo, Digifit, CycleOps, Magellan, and more – they all support this sensor type.

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It should be noted that with both the wheel magnet and the crank magnet, you can use anything that you might already have on the bike.  Why is this relevant?  Well, spoke and crank magnets can be had for super-cheap.  Like, $1 cheap.  In fact, if you’re a regular contributor to your local bike shops beer stash, they’d probably happily toss it to you.  This is of note if you simply want to move the speed/cadence sensor unit itself quickly between bikes.  As you can see below, on one bike I just have a generic wheel magnet:

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Also, many times you’ll find that the rental bike you have may already have the cadence magnet on the crank.

Now, this is also of note if you manage to break the wheel magnet.  The only complaint I have about the unit is that the wheel magnet is somewhat easy to break when removing, if you open the clamshell design in the wrong direction.  Not the end of the world, since a new magnet is only about a buck, but a small bummer nonetheless.

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Speaking of breakage, I will note that I did completely destroy one of these units a few weeks ago – though through not fault of the unit itself.  I was testing the Polar Power Pedals and trying to align something else with the back wheel still spinning rather fast (very stupid, yes).  During the process of which I bumped the cadence sensor into the wheel.  With the bike wheel effectively a giant garbage disposal at 245 1,300RPM (yup, that’s how many RPM’s a wheel goes at 20MPH), it slaughtered the sensor in the blink of an eye – shooting it out the back of the bike on a trainer at incredible speed.  This…was the resultant:

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But again, rear bike wheels will happily eat anything you throw at it.  Like cookie monster.  I’ve lost a Garmin speed/cadence sensor to one in the past, and I know others have as well.  The nice part is that with the breakaway aspect of it, it didn’t injure my rear wheel or the spokes.

Finally, for those that are curious about size comparisons, I present the GSC-10 and Bontrager quick release speed/cadence sensor side by side.

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Also, someone recently asked why I often place the speed sensor arm ‘upwards’ and not ‘downwards’.  Well, it depends on the bike.  In the case of my Cervelo P3C, there isn’t enough clearance between the bike frame and the wheel by placing it downwards, it would rub.  Whereas on my Fuji road bike, there’s still clearance for the downwards angle.  If you can go downwards with the arm, it’s a bit better in the situation where the wheel hits it – since you stand a better change it won’t snap it entirely.

So where do you find one of these magical sensors, and how much are they? Well, they just hit the market a few weeks ago and retail for $59, but I suspect you’ll be able to find them cheaper in due time.  Since they’re relatively new, a lot of shops aren’t directly carrying them yet.  As such, you can pick them up through only a few channels currently. The first is the Bontrager online store, and second would be just about any local bike shop can order them via their distributors.  If they’re ordering it for you, they’re looking for part Bontrager #424634.  I rarely make note of part numbers, but since there are so many speed/cadence sensors on the market, it’s important to ensure that if you pay sixty bucks for this one, you at least get the right one.

As always, if you’ve got questions, feel free to drop them below.  Also note that if you’ve got general questions about speed/cadence sensors – then definitively check out my post: The ANT+ Bike Speed/Cadence Sensor- Everything you ever wanted to know .  And if you’re curious about the Bontrager Duotrap (for frames that support them), then you’ll want to hit up that post instead.

Thanks for reading!

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87 Comments

  1. Les Borean

    I bought this cadence sensor when my Garmin sensor deep-sixed. I was hoping that the Boutrager unit with its unique mounting method would be more stable than the Garmin, which needed frequent adjustment. What I personally found was that this unit was no more stable and I still had frequent cadence drop-outs due to sensor misalignment. The advantage of the Boutrager was that since it was mounted with rubber bands instead of wire ties, it was easier than the Garmin to adjust on the road.

    Still, it was a PITA to deal with. When I ride, I want to ride, not deal with equipment issues. After dealing with the Boutrager for a number of months, I took a look at the mounting for my “Light and Motion” head light. Its mounting was very solid, utilizing a thick rubber band, with spaced holes not unlike a belt.

    I thought if I could get one of those mounts and hack it onto the cadence sensor, I might finally have a good solid mount. Well, it turns out that Light & Motion does make the mounting for their light separately available.

    link to shop.lightandmotion.com

    I took the chance I would be able to make this scheme work, and ordered it. I drilled holes in the mount that allowed me to securely attach the sensor with wire ties. Then I mounted the assembly onto the left chainstay of my bike.

    Since that time I have taken the bike on 2 rides totaling over a hundred miles, and the sensor assembly remains solid and has not once required re-setting. So far, so good. This is more mileage than either the Garmin or the Boutrager mounts ever took me without needing to be adjusted.

    From my previous posting, it looks like Dropbox links don’t work on this site. Just in case though, this link should take you to a picture of the setup:
    link to dropbox.com

    Reply
  2. Eugene

    Hi,

    I’m a huge fan of your review site. I have a question regarding this sensor. I just bought a new Bianchi Intenso and the chain stay design is curved and not very suitable for mounting my Garmin sensor. In fact, the best the local bike shop could do was use a flat rectangular magnet taped onto my spoke. They also had to use another cylindrical magnet behind the pedal to extend its reach and did a pretty poor looking job of zip tying the sensor onto the non-linear unconventional design of the chain stay. Do you think this Bontrager sensor would be a more appropriate fit for a Binachi Intenso chain stay? Thanks!

    Reply
    • It might be. On the flip side you might want to wait a few weeks and pickup the new Garmin sensors. These don’t require any magnets and are based purely on accelerometer (sorta like the Wahoo RPM, but for both both speed and cadence). See my Edge 1000 post for a bit more details there.

      Reply
  3. Chris

    Hi there, just found this thread..I have the duo Bontrager on my Trek and it won’t connect to my suunto Ambit 1…any one had this issue (resolved) ?

    Reply
    • Hi Chris-

      Getting ANT+ sensors paired to the Ambit series can be a bit finicky. In general, you may need to try it once or twenty times to get the initial pairing completed. Put the watch directly next to the sensor (like, touching it). And then keep pressing retry. I promise it will eventually connect, it just may be super finicky on initial pairing.

      After paired you’ll be good to go.

      Reply
  4. Mat0x4e

    Same item, isn’t it ?
    Runtastic version

    Reply
  5. ahmed khaled

    hi, could you tell me your opinion on the bontrager node 2.1 with it’s cons and pros if possible and if you know if i can review my data on my laptop with it and also recommend me other alternatives and if you think a gps computer will be better

    Reply
    • I haven’t used the 2.1, just the older version. That said, for the 2.1 price of $139, I’d really recommend looking at the Garmin Edge 200 instead. It’s cheaper and far more functional. Also, the Node doesn’t download to your computer, whereas the Garmin Edge does.

      Reply
  6. Zac

    Ray –

    Love the site. I recently got this speed/cadence sensor combo. I’m having trouble getting the cadence to read. I’ve checked the main pod for function by using a fairly strong magnet and passing it close to the face and get the green indication light. When using the magnet that attaches to the crank arm, I can’t get the light to come on or cadence data unless I lean the main pod dangerously close to the crank arm. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • It does need to be really close (within a few millimeters).Did the magnet that came with it not work?

      Reply
    • Zac

      It seems to only work when it actually touches (or just about touches) the main pod. Not much of a magnet it appears. Installation instructions were very lacking (none provided).

      Have you had any problems with coming in contact with the pod while riding? I’m considering returning and going with a different type, as I don’t want to destroy this one and lose my investment!

      Reply
    • Theo

      Make sure your magnet is installed the right way around. Some magnets (such as the one in IMG_3273) sometimes get installed inside-out by people and then it does require almost-touching to get it to register. I have no experience with the Bontrager ones, though. However: You can mix and match these magnets as you please. If you already have a magnet on your wheel or crank from a previous sensor installation then you can most likely use it instead of the Bontrager provided one. I use an 8mm neodymium supermagnet on the inside of my pedals or taped to the inside of the crank, instead of any of the sensor vendor magnets.

      Reply
    • Zac

      Theo –

      Thanks for the reply. I have confirmed that I have it on correctly, per the photos above. I may have to try to find a rare earth magnet. It seems like the magnet installed in the crank band is tiny. I may try to rig something up. Thanks again.

      Reply
  7. Paul

    Hi all, I have the Suunto Ambit3 which uses Smart Bluetooth and not ANT+…does the Bontrager Combo come in a Bluetooth version? Need something to use with my Scott Foil so cannot use the internal frame mounted unit. Cheers

    Reply
    • Fwiw, the new Wahoo BlueSCv2 is dual ANT+/BLE. It’s identical hardware externally.

      Reply
    • Paul

      Thanks for that info, I’ll have a look.

      Cheers

      Reply
    • Nice article thanks!
      Bontrager now do have the dual Ant+ / Bluetooth Smart version link to bontrager.com
      Evans cycles stock it for abut £35-£40. Wiggle have the Wahoo version for abound £50. If they are the same hardware it feels like a no brainer to go for the Bontrager…

      Reply
  8. Artur

    So was riding yesterday as usual, and didn’t notice any problems, but the cadence fallout at some point. Kept pedalling and forgot about it at the end of the ride. At home, looked at some average numbers from the ride briefly, but did not go into the detailed graphs of each parameter. Today, while washing the bike, noticed the speed/cadence sensor missing off the bike. Couldn’t find it anywhere. Checked the data from yesterday’s ride – indeed, cadence fallout happened on a particular intersection.

    Given it’s holiday for us today and my wife wanted to go out (car) riding / walking somewhere, we went on a ride to the other end of our megapolis and found the Bontrager speed/cadence sensor exactly where cadence dropped off on Strava / Training Peaks (link to strava.com). Amazing way to find something you’ve lost!

    And why am i writing about this here? Before going out today, I was already reading up on all sort of DCR reviews of speed/cadence combo sensors and thinking what to buy next, and when came home saw this page still open and laughed! Well, seems I still have a sensor for some time. Good luck to all others using it!

    Reply