VDO MC1.0+ Review – April 24, 2008

vdomc10sThe first bike computers — mechanical devices measuring speed and distance — came out in the 1890s. Cyclists have always wanted to know how far, how fast, and now for some of us, how steep. The VDO MC1.0+ has an inclinometer, a unique feature on a bike computer.

I bought the MC1.0+ because my Specialized SpeedZone Pro, after five years and a repair, has seen better days. While looking for a bike computer with altitude gain and incline, I found there isn’t much choice. The VDO MC1.0+, $125 by mail, seemed like a winner.

I live in the hilly San Francisco Bay Area where an inclinometer settles bets on which hill is the steepest.

VDO and Specialized Lead the Way

Even though the SpeedZone Pro is no longer sold by Specialized, I include it here for comparison. I like its industrial design, features, and performance.

The wireless MC1.0+ has everything the Speed ZonePro had, except for a night light. It offers more data readouts than SpeedZone Pro, such as steepest and average gradient for a ride, cumulative elevation gain, and a navigator.

According to the MC1.0+ instructions, the Navigator is helpful for following road book instructions. Set it for each mile point and then out on the ride reset the Navigator back to zero once a mile point is reached.

Accuracy is relative. However, I measured my ride to work and it recorded 6.35 miles, exactly matching my SpeedZone Pro. I used the wheel rollout method to get the most accurate measurement. The MC1.0+ displays half miles per hour, rather than tenths, which has no effect on accuracy.

Buttons, buttons, buttons

Why are buttons such a problem for bike computer makers? Avocet, which has gone into hibernation, had the best buttons, among other great features that made them popular. Their buttons were in the right position — on top — and they had a reassuring snap when pressed.

The SpeedZone Pro had buttons on the side, but at least they stuck out from the body so they were accessible. The MC1.0+ buttons are buried on the side, requiring an awkward hand movement to press. I found myself wishing the raised portion of the casing over the buttons could be pushed down, which would be a natural movement. The top button feels mushy, as do the side buttons.

It’s a small point, but small points accumulate to become constant sources of irritation, like saddle sores. Take the area around the display for example. Its silver surface produces a blinding glare in the sun.

The display screen will not appeal to older riders who wear glasses.  On permanent display there’s: wheel setting, speed, altitude, temperature, gradient, trip distance. Average speed (above or below) shows as a small triangle just below the speed. That’s a lot of information to squeeze onto a small display.

I’ve read numerous complaints about the character size. It’s true for all but the altitude and speed. Why altitude takes up the most space mid-screen mystifies me. Why not distance? And why does the trip distance display as a dot-matrix font?

One reason bike computers have all that information on one screen is because pressing buttons from setting to setting is not only annoying, it will wear out the button’s sprung-steel spring. It happened to my SpeedZone Pro. I never had a problem with the Avocet buttons failing.

I think cyclists, even those who track altitude, care about speed foremost, followed by distance, and then probably time of day. These should be the largest items on display.

I checked out the inclinometer on some steep grades, recording 21 percent on a hill that showed 20 percent on the SpeedZone Pro. Close enough.

VDO put some effort into the manual. It has six languages (English, German, Dutch, French, Spanish, Italian) and you don’t need a magnifying glass to read it, a failing of the SpeedZone Pro’s manual. However, there is some awkward grammar here and there and a few typos.

When it comes to packaging, who can forget the SpeedZone Pro’s black metal “lunch box?” The VDO cardboard package is industrial black and gray.

3 Responses to “VDO MC1.0+ Review – April 24, 2008”

  1. Ray Hosler Says:

    My battery inside the cyclometer died after 1 year 7 months. Not bad. It had more than 10,000 miles. There’s another battery inside the wheel pickup unit.

  2. Ray Hosler Says:

    Note that the VDO will accumulate miles when you’re stopped at a store, due to radio interference from other electronic devices. It’s annoying.

  3. Ray Hosler Says:

    I came across the U.S. sales rep for VDO at Interbike 2010. When I described the issue of the unit accumulating miles, he immediately recognized it as a circuit error and gave me a new one. On my recent ride to a store where the computer always accumulates miles, the new unit did not add miles. So, if you have a unit that adds miles, it is defective, as I always suspected.

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