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So a Garmin Edge 800 with cadence and HRM is $530 on Amazon right now. The new 810 is close to $700.

Would this work?
Get an iPod touch, give it GPS capability, and add a cadence and HRM via bluetooth, then get a bracket to hold it to your bars.

An iPod Touch 4, refurbished from the Apple store is $150. Used on Ebay, the 3 can be found as cheaply as $50.

The iPod doesn't come with GPS, but you have a few options to add it:
BadElf makes a chip that plugs in to the 30 pin connector, they make a bluetooth GPS, a few companies make a case that gives the iPod GPS and extends the battery. $50-150

Then you need to attach it to your bars. You can finds brackets for around $20.

Next, you want to add cadence. Wahoo Fitness makes a speed and cadence sensor for $35.

Now you need a bluetooth HRM. You can find those on Amazon for $50.

Finally, you'll need to download a cycling app with base maps and speed/distance/cadence etc.

So you could do the whole thing for just over $200. Although, what you'll end up with might be a little cobbled together and buggy.

Still, for under $400, you get a pretty nice system that would probably function really well.
 

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Better off getting a more basic model of Garmin. You can try doing what you're thinking, but most likely in the end, you'll get the real deal anyway. Doing that will mean even more money spent.
 

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I looked into this too. various cases and add on doohickeys seem like it could work. In the end, it would just be a big thing on my bars or in my jersey pocket.

I'm glad I went for the Garmin 800. It's fairly small, does a good job, and is stupidly reliable. I have crashed on my mtb and it has never had an issue.

Look for a closeout on a 500 or 800.

For mapping, it's the 800 with all those FREE OSM maps. HR monitors and speed sensors are easy to find as anything with ANT+ works.
 

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If you get an iPhone or any GPS enabled smartphone, you can download any of the free apps and get GPS tracking for your rides. You'll get distance, speeds, altitudes and maps, plus any combination of these (e.g. ave. speeds, speeds per segment etc.) and you won't have to fiddle around with GPS dongles etc.

This is especially cheap if you already have a smartphone since the only thing you need is the phone case or phone mount for your bike. You can skip that as well and put your phone inside a ziplock bag in your jersey pocket if you're not too particular about needing to look at your speed and distance covered as you ride.

If you want to get an HRM, they are available cheaply as you pointed out, plus you have a choice of apps (Wahoo, Sports-Tracker, Strava).

Once you start adding other accessories - cadence etc, or start going on longer rides, or face inclement weather, then the value proposition of dedicated cycling GPS units wins out.
 

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For a while I used my feature phone as a cycle computer, and used the Google Maps app, but it basically sucked. It measured speed sort of ok, but was unuseable for almost anything else, except finding where I was if I was lost. Battery life was about an hour and 15 minutes too.

If you're really going to use it, buy a good GPS unit, there's a reason that smartphones haven't put these out of business yet.
 

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Use my Apps :)
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The Android phone is GPS enabled and cost less than any of the above. Cadence, don't know. The Tracks App is Google Map synced and pretty nice.
+1. I don't even leave the screen on. Just put the phone in my jersey pocket and use my app to correct the elevations when I'm done. "Tracks App"... you mean My Tracks, right?
 
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