Unboxing the Strada Smart, I was surprised at the small size of the unit, having grown used to the relative bulk of GPS computers. The Strada Smart carries the classic CatEye look and feel, which had me reminiscing about my first bike computers. Unlike those earlier devices though, the Strada Smart can do some clever things.
The small size (47 x 32 X 13.2mm) means that the device only weighs 17 grams and with the mounting attached the total weight comes to 25 grams. The Strada Smart is powered by a replaceable CR2032 battery and is supposedly good for around 5 months of average use.
The mount (which is included in the box) matches the minimalist approach of the Strada Smart. On the road bike, I had the Strada Smart mounted on the stem, where it seamlessly formed a natural part of the bike, causing no distractions. The mount proved to be sturdy holding firmly in place even when out on the mountain bike, which included a few knocks and tumbles.
Battery life: Approx 5 months
Dimensions: 47.0 X32.0 X13.2mm
Weight: 17 grams
Weight including mounting strap: 25 grams
Wireless transmission: Bluetooth Smart
A tale of two modes
The Strada Smart talks to your phone or/and sensors using Bluetooth and works in two ways: Mirror mode or Sensor Direct mode.
In Mirror mode, your phone acts as the central point with data from your sensors being relayed to Strada Smart head unit through the CatEye Cycling app on the phone. If you do not have any sensors, only the information gained from the smartphone GPS is used.
Sensor Direct mode is a more minimalist approach which excludes your smartphone. In this mode, the Bluetooth sensors deliver data directly to the Strada Smart head unit. I can see this mode being particularly useful in racing, where you don’t necessarily want your phone with you but still want to keep track of your performance indicators. The Strada Smart can display an array of data from your sensors including cadence, heart rate, speed, and even power data.
Of course, the major downside of the Strada Smart is that it only communicates via Bluetooth. This means that if you have already invested in ANT+ sensors, you are in for further expenses purchasing Bluetooth sensors to work with the Strada Smart.
For these reasons, the Strada Smart makes the most sense for riders already using a phone to record their activities but want this data to displayed up front without having to mount the phone on the handlebars.
Having the phone on the bars puts it in danger of crash and water damage as well as battery drain with the screen having to be active. On a three hour ride, with the screen off in my pocket, the battery usage was not significant on my OnePlus One smartphone (which admittedly is frugal on battery usage) and I could have easily gone all day if required.
Unfortunately, we were not provided with a Bluetooth sensor bundle, so we tested the device exclusively in Mirror mode.
On the bike
When the CatEye Strada Smart landed on my desk, I had no idea how the device worked. The instructions in the box weren’t all that clear and related mostly to connecting Bluetooth sensors to the Smart Strada. Instead, I headed to the CatEye website for a better idea of what I was trying to achieve. From here, the instructions to download the CatEye Cycling app and sync your phone with the Strada Smart were thankfully straightforward.
Once the initial pairing has been setup, you simply open the CatEye Cycling app, turn on the Strada Smart - wait a few seconds for the two to pair - and then hit the record button on your phone before slipping it into your back pocket and heading off to ride.
Operating the CatEye while riding couldn’t be easier as there is only one button to push. With the sensors connected, you can view up to three data values, including your current speed which is always displayed. You cannot customise your views but rather cycle through the options using the single button. This can be frustrating as you might have to move through up to seven screens to get to the data you want. The Strada Smart will also notify you when calls or messages come through on your phone, whether or not you want such distractions is, of course, a personal preference.
The 1.5 inch monochrome screen is easily viewable in all conditions. While the data is small on the device, I found it clear and easily readable, but I do foresee that those with poor eyesight might struggle with the smaller icons and numbers on display.
The CatEye Cycling app is easy to use and comprehensively records your data including a record of your previous rides. While the after ride experience lacks the polish of Strava, the in-app recording of the rides is a comparable experience. But don’t worry, you can easily upload your data directly from the CatEye Cycling app to cloud services like Strava or TrainingPeaks for further analysis after each ride.
Most of my rides with the Strada Smart were accompanied with my Garmin 520 and there was little discrepancy between the two in terms of distance measurement. The Strada Smart also displays altitude but as the device does not include an altimeter, it uses the phone for that reading, the accuracy of which should be taken with a pinch of salt.
The CatEye Strada Smart is delicately priced at R1,500 sitting between a dumb bicycle computer and a dedicated GPS bike computer. Having to buy Bluetooth sensors will bring the price up considerably and you might be better off looking for a GPS unit with a bundled sensor pack. But if you simply want to get your phone's data from your pocket to the handlebars, the Strada Smart’s pricing sits in a sweet spot.
The CatEye Strada Smart provides a simple solution for getting your data out of your back pocket and onto the front of your bike. Cheaper than a GPS computer and more comprehensive than an ordinary bicycle computer, the Strada Smart might be just the tool for those wanting to view their phone data while they ride.