Bontrager Node 1.1 – Nice but not quite there.

Bontrager Node 1.1 Review

This article is the first of my Practical Reviews.  Practical Reviews focuses on how well the product works and my personal experiences with the product.  Practical Reviews tries to rise above the poetic nature of many bike review sites and instead give real-person thoughts.  One caveat of this is that I’m not a professional reviewer – I don’t have access to a wind tunnel to test four different types of brake calipers.  I don’t go 100% through every feature of every product (although DC Rainmaker does and his reviews are great too), but rather focus on what I’ve used.  If you have any questions, feel free to comment or email me at zachryanwong@gmail.com.

The product today is the Bontrager Node 1.1 (or Model #09586, as Bontrager seems intent on stressing) and corresponding handlebar mount.  Cleverly named and minimastically styled, it’s a small, compact bike computer that has a few features that made me buy it in the first place:

1.)   It’s Ant+ compatible.
2.)   It’s cheap.  70 + 20 bucks (mount) through the Bontrager/Node store.

White top, black body.  But then again, if you're blind, why are you looking for a bike computer anyways?

The product photography will improve, trust me.

I was in the market for a new bike computer after I got my 2014 Felt AR5.  I had been using a haphazard combination of a Nashbar HRM watch wrapped sideways around my stem and a Blackburn Delphi 3 mounted on my handlebars.  I didn’t like having two computers and I didn’t like the long cadence wire that wrapped around my top tube and seat tube.  I was going to make the switch to Ant+ eventually, when I got my power meter, so I decided to move up the computer purchase.  For reference, I paired the Node 1.1 with the Garmin GSC-10 (Speed/Cadence) and the Motorola MOTOACTV HRM, both of which are great and haven’t given me any problems.  I also got the Wahoo Fitness Ant+ key, so I could use metrics with Strava.

Neat packaging, everything has its place.

Well done, gentlemen, well done.

I’m not one to go over small details like packaging, but the design of the Node’s box is actually really cool.  As you can see, everything is placed in its own section of the box.  The quick start guide fits snugly behind the accessories pack.  A small detail, but still cool.  The Node itself is plastic, with a plastic LCD lacking a backlight.  That’s fine, I don’t ride in the dark anyways.

The Node 1.1 has a plastic mount bracket that the computer slides into.  There are plastic shims included that allow you to mount the Node to different diameter handlebars.  A stem mount, mounted with zipties (not rubber bands) is included.  This is important b/c it means that the mount is more or less permanent (and hard to remove if you want to).

The Bontrager mount that I bought is aluminum.  It holds the plastic mount bracket with a screw and the Node slides into the bracket with a solid snap.  No worries of anything falling off at all.  I found the screws on the mount to be troublesome, as they were all quite tight (hard to tighten or untighten the screws, not just at first).

The all aluminum mount attaches to the plastic bracket.

The all aluminum mount attaches to the plastic bracket.

Underside, Secure clip in front

Underside, Secure clip in front

The Node mount goes around the handlebars.  It has a very small footprint, which I appreciate.  And, bonus (!), it matches the black/white of my Felt.  When in doubt, go black or white.  Or just black.  The only problem with the mount is that it doesn’t extend far enough.  As you can see in the picture, it slams right against the stem bolts.  If I wanted to tilt the computer up, I wouldn’t be able to.  This really needs to be fixed because with non-standard stems like the Zipp SL Sprint, it’ll be impossible to use.

Tight against the stem.

Tight against the stem.

Now about the computer itself… This review could be summarized with a single fact: I returned the Node 1.1.  It’s poorly designed, at least for my uses.  The Node 1.1 has a bigger brother, the Node 2.1 and it seems like Trek pulled the standard scam, putting necessary features in the more expensive offering to force people to buy that one.

I’ll explain: For me, a bike computer, especially one that is Ant+ compatible, should show be able to show the four standard metrics without a hitch: power (preferably with smoothing), heart rate, cadence, and speed.  The Node 1.1 displays speed without a problem – it’s the central number, taking up about half of the screen.  However, when it gets to heart rate, cadence, and power, it gets sketchy.  The only customizable part of the Node is the bottom part (highlighted in red).  It can cycle through various settings like distance, cadence, heart rate, time, etc.  It also has a feature called Dual View.  That allows the user to view two things at once… kind of.  For the Node 1.1, users cannot view heart rate in dual view.  Below is the table of which functions can be shown in Dual View.

Capitalism... Sigh.

Capitalism… Sigh.

Green and Blue cannot be customized, Red is very limited.

Green and Blue cannot be customized, Red is very limited.

As you can see, the Node 2.1 (extra 70 bucks) can show heart rate and grade, but the 1.1 cannot.  That’s sad to see.

However, even if this was a Node 2.1 review, I wouldn’t be able to view heart rate, cadence, power, and speed all at the same time – I could only view three of four and would have to see speed at all time.  I don’t know why the designers didn’t think of this, or why they didn’t just implement it.  How hard could it be to have all fields customizable?  I like having a clock (green), but ride time (blue) really isn’t important to me at all.

Overall, then, the Node seems like it could be a really good computer.  Build quality isn’t anything outstanding, but it’s styling, compact footprint, and low price could make it a great buy.  However, it’s held up by (as is typical with a lot of products, not just Bontrager) a lack of customization and practicality.  And for Practical Reviews, that just won’t do.

TL;DR: Small footprint, good aesthetics.  But can’t see HRM, Cad, PWR, and SPD all at once.

Final Verdict: Poor.

Final Verdict: Poor.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Bontrager Node 1.1 – Nice but not quite there.

  1. Hi I am so happy I found your website, I really found you by error, while I was looking on Digg for something else,
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  2. balazs

    Hy zach, thanks a lot for your review on the Node 1.1 its very useful for me (and trust for others too)
    One quick question: What files does the Node 1.1 create and do you know if its somehow compatible with the Garmin Connect or whether there is a way to convert the Node 1.1 files into garmins .fit file format?
    Thanks a lot!

    • Hey balazs. Thanks for the kind words.

      I don’t 100% remember since I wrote this about a year ago, but I don’t think the Node 1.1 records any sort of file at all. There’s also no port to transfer to a computer and it isn’t Bluetooth compatible, either. This would mean that it’s not compatible with Garmin Connect. Also, it’s not GPS.

      Thanks,
      Zach

  3. jonathan cook

    Hi Zach,
    I just bought a Node 1.1 and I have to dispute your claim regarding the dual-view limitation. I have a HR monitor, speed/cadence sensor (Garmin GSC10), and PowerTap SL+ on my bicycle and am able to display whatever I want side-by-side.
    BOTH left and right sides of Dual-view give me the option of displaying CAD/HR/PWR/DIST. So the Node 1.1 has no limitations as far as I’m concerned! Not sure how to get Grade/Temp data displayed, but that has no use to me anyway. I can get grade by uploading gps from my phone to Strava post-ride.

    Maybe they updated the software since your original review, but it works great! Also of note, I believe the node 2.1 includes a heart rate strap, justifying the extra cost, but I don’t know for sure. If so, I’m not sure what, if any,

  4. Brad

    I have the node 1.1. I am currently running dual view with cadence and heart rate. It’s a good computer. The only hiccup I see is that after 20 mins, the computer shuts off and when u want to use it again, it doesn’t automatically start up. The node 1.1 asks if you want a new ride.

    • Alex

      Brad, good call on the 20 min “no ride mode” shutting down the entire ride. I had a stop that was about 15 min long and if you just start biking .. it will not hook up to sensors again and fail for the entire trip to connect. I still have not found the fix… makes you sad you lost your early session.

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