Polar Tour de France CS500 Bike Computer: Rides Hard, But Not Easy

The Tour de France is happening now, and while you are not Lance Armstrong, or Andy Schleck or Alberto Contador, you can at least trick out your bike with the new Tour de France-themed bike computer from Polar.

Why It Matters

There is nothing completely revolutionary about the Polar Tour de France CS500, but it's a solid device in a niche category. There are a handful of datapoints you need if you're a serious cyclist: speed and distance, power output, and heart rate.
Oh, and it's yellow. Tour de France yellow.

Using It

You can tell this was designed by someone who spent a lot of time on a bike. The numbers are large and pop on the screen, so they're easily seen at a glance on a fast-moving bike. Instead of buttons, you press the entire computer on either edge to scroll through readouts. It gives you a nice, satisfying click that you can feel, so you don't have to take your eyes off the road or the trail. And transferring data after a ride is a cool breeze.

Polar Tour de France CS500 Bike Computer: Rides Hard, But Not Easy

Like

Because this is Polar, it does heart rate monitoring exceptionally well, tracking beats better than Kanye. You can set up your own zones or even let it create custom zones for each of your workouts based on your physical state that day. Not only does it do heart rate-based calorie counting, it even adjusts that for altitude using its built in barometer to measure air pressure.

Polar's Web-based software makes tracking your training really simple, with all your workout data plotted on a calendar and a wealth of charts that let you dive deep into your training data. It'll even walk you through creating training plans. Quantified self types will love it.

No Like

This device needs a built in GPS chip. It's certainly big enough to hold one. It's 2011, and I expect to see my workouts mapped, especially at this price point. Also, it's only compatible with Polar's line of W.I.N.D. power sensors, not the more common ANT+.

And then there's the thing that should be obvious: Who thought it was a good idea to put the majority of the TDF branding on the bottom-side of this computer? The Tour de France logo, which is frankly something you want to show off to other riders, is printed on the bottom mount. So as soon as you clip it on your bike, it's no longer visible. At all. And what you're left with is a computer that looks like the garden variety CS500. What's the opposite of allez?

Polar Tour de France CS500 Bike Computer: Rides Hard, But Not Easy

Should I Buy It

For most cyclists, I'd skip it and go for a Garmin Edge. Garmin doesn't do heart rate monitoring nearly as well as Polar, but it's got a much prettier interface. And, of course, GPS. But if you are a competitive cyclist who's really serious about heart rate or power meter training—or if you want something that will hold your hand through moving your conditioning up a level—this is the choice for you.

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