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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.