The last generation bike computer Stages offered had promise but the second generation throws out almost everything from before and starts new. Once again, the computer has promise but it’s the first generation product all over again and now it’s behind the times. The one place the Stages M200 really shines is when you want to understand power data during a race.
- Best mountain bike pedals - the best options from XC to Enduro
- Beginners guide on how to plan new gravel routes
- 2023 UK gravel events - the best off-road races of the year
As the niche of a bike computer has grown, it's got harder to offer something new and catch attention. There might not be any brand that understands this reality better than Stages.
Stages has been creating some of the best cycling computer products for at least seven years but still seems to be attempting to break into the market. In a world dominated by Garmin and Wahoo, Stages has remained the perpetual outsider. Each generation brings another reinvention and a new take on the genre. The latest in that line is the Stages Dash M200 which arrived on the scene in the summer of 2022.
The M200 is once again an almost complete redesign. There are some thin threads you can follow from the outgoing M50 and L50 but in general, this is a big break from what came before. That means, once again Stages has a new product trying to break into the top tier of offerings for cycling GPS computers. We spent some time testing and if you are interested in seeing how they've done, keep reading.
Stages Dash M200 cycling computer - Technical details
If you have some experience with the previous generation of computers from Stages, you can largely forget those. This latest generation is completely new, but like before, there are two size options available.
The smaller Stages Dash M200 and larger Stages Dash L200 are functionally the same and they even have the same battery life. You might also find these units under Giant branding, but they are the same product. The only thing you are choosing between is the size of the unit. If you'd prefer a little more of a minimal footprint out at the front of your bike, choose the 81 mm x 51 mm x 22 mm Stages Dash M200. It weighs in at 76 grams and matches the size of a Wahoo Bolt almost exactly. Unlike Wahoo though, Stages has moved to a standard Garmin-style quarter-turn mount.
The face of the M200 is primarily taken up by the 2.2in (roughly 56mm) screen which is definitely meant to be the star of the show. The panel is an EverBrite OCA screen with a resolution of 240x320 or, if you want to mount it horizontally, it measures 320x240. Of the big cycling computer manufacturers, Stages is the only one offering a cycling computer that can be used both with vertical or horizontal orientation. There is an unbranded glass covering for the screen to keep it scratch-free and you'll also find an ambient light sensor at the top.
There's no touchscreen functionality so navigation works through five hardware buttons. The top left, on the side, is where you'll find a big power button. The power button uses a long press for direct power on and off but a short press makes it a secondary button as well. Then at the bottom of the screen are four rubber-covered buttons that manage to navigate the rest of the UI with an up, down, and select and the lap button also works as the back button.
On the inside, there's the usual bevvy of sensors you'd expect with a feature-rich head unit. GPS and QZSS satellites handle tracking and navigation duties. There is no automatic rerouting but the unit does understand where you are on a map and lets you know when you are off-course. Other sensors include a barometer, accelerometer, and thermometer. Covering wireless connectivity, you'll find ANT+, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi antennas. Onboard storage is a total of 16GB the water resistance rating sits at IP57.
The final hardware detail is the battery. Charging happens through the rubber-covered micro-USB port at the base and a full charge gets you a quoted max of 18+ hours in low power mode. In normal use, expect around 10 hours with the backlight at auto and a couple of sensors connected. More time on the map screen or a lot of time with the backlight on full will reduce that. The larger L200 does have a bigger battery but the bigger screen means the power requirements are also higher so there's no extra battery life available.
Stages Dash M200 cycling computer - Performance
The first thing you start with any time you have a new bike computer is set up. Stages spent a fair amount of time trying to minimise that experience. Jump on a bike and connect your sensors, most of the major ones are available though not electronic shifting, and the unit will build the screens for you. I'm mentioning that feature because it seems only fair to do so but I never used it and I don't think there are a lot of people who will. You've bought a very capable computer, it's best to customise it the way you want.
Oddly, this has not led to a sore spot in the Stages experience. Despite this focus on automatic setups, the Stages companion app is impressively good. There is a row of icons along the bottom and one of them is a Bluetooth icon that has your Stages devices contained within. If you've got a power metre it will be there and so will the Dash. Once you've pressed it you will find yourself on a whole new screen that interacts with the Dash. Unlike Wahoo, you do not need to have the device connected.
Some of the things you will find in this submenu have to do with the available connections. You can connect Strava, TrainingPeaks, Komoot, Ride With GPS, TrainerRoad, and even Relive. Depending on how, and what, you set up with those connections, you will see courses and workouts to send to the Dash next time it connects. There's also a map screen so you can decide which maps take up space in the device memory and a general settings page.
Initially, though, you will find yourself on the profiles page. Stages lets you create different profiles for different bikes, or for whatever reason you want to, and you've got complete control over the setup. Some of the notable options for each profile are eat and drink reminders and light or dark backgrounds. There are a lot of choices and that continues to the setup of the metrics display.
Everything starts blank and it's up to you what the page ends up being. There are no preset types of pages and instead, it all depends on your choices when setting up the eight available metrics slots. If you place a map, now it’s a map page, if you prefer larger metrics then a single square can use more than one spot. Whatever you want, it's easy in the app and it is also possible to do without using your phone. Given the small screen size, I would leave that for making changes but the option is there.
Personally, I kept things pretty minimal. I have a single profile called "Gravel" that uses a dark background for slight power savings and has two pages. One of those pages is a map page that only has power, the map, and the distance to the next turn. When navigating, the next turn will come in the form of a pop-up above whatever screen you are looking at but this way a single button push gets me a visual if I’m confused. The mapping screen does have pan, scroll, and zoom functions but this is definitely a stop-your-bike situation. Moving around the map with no touchscreen is a fiddly affair and the small screen only makes it harder.
If you find yourself needing to change your route mid-ride, that will also require a stop. The Stags Dash is doing more than simply following a breadcrumb, it’s unable to reroute if you make a wrong turn. It’s also unable to handle things like return to start. The workaround is that the app allows you to create a course and it works incredibly well. If you find yourself ready to head back before finishing a course, jump into the app and create a new course that takes you back to the start.
The catch is that this is reminiscent of the Wahoo mobile-first strategy and both work great unless you find yourself in the backcountry with no service. Stages at least has a more detailed map on the Dash but both companies make things very difficult when your phone isn’t an option.
What I found was the real strength of the Stages Dash M200 is the main data screen. What Stages does amazingly well is show you your zones without any thought. The brand has something called a “Power colour wheel” that is incredibly useful in a race, or group ride situation. It’s essentially a speedometer-style graphic that leverages the bright full colour screen and makes understanding where you are in relation to your ability very easy with only a glance. For other data fields, I have one for heart rate, will also use colour to show you zones but that’s not unique to the Dash, the graphical representation is unique. If I did more racing with the M200, I would switch my main screen to only that one single data field.
The other strength of the Stages Dash comes after the ride finishes. The unit will auto-upload to one of the supported partners after a ride is finished but the companion app has its own analysis section and it’s better. The after-ride analysis that Stages provides is better than anyone else simply because it uses industry-standard metrics and the TSS system. You don’t have to pay for another training service. The fitness tab has a big huge CTL number right at the top along with ATL, and TSB. If you don’t know what those acronyms mean, there are stacks of books and whole websites dedicated to helping you understand them. If you want to dive into understanding how to train yourself, that is the data you need and Stages puts it front and centre without another purchase.
Stages Dash M200 cycling computer - Verdict
The previous generation of Stages bike computers showed a lot of promise. The L50 and M50 had many issues, but they worked well off the grid and had a long battery life. I liked the direction they were heading but those computers also didn’t really match the brand identity of Stages. Not only that but the previous relationship with the Stages-Link website, a partnership with Today’s Plan, and the subscriptions that necessitated, were complicated for consumers.
With the Stages M200, as well as the L200, the company takes a little of what worked before and refocuses. The Stages M200 has a clear and concise menu layout and an excellent companion app. The navigation works well enough to use if needed and most of what you expect a modern bike computer to do is there. Unfortunately, it also lost some battery life and using a micro-USB charging port at this point feels incredibly outdated.
Looking at its arch rivals, the Stage Dash M200 is the cheapest cycling computer of the lot and, for many, that automatically makes it a genuine consideration - but is it as good as the rest? Of all the models we've tested, the Garmin Edge 1040 Solar is the most expensive yet polished option at £629. The Hammerhead Karoo 2 also represents a significant purchase at £359 but has the best touchscreen in the game and is constantly being upgraded through the company's superb new firmware rollouts. The £350 Wahoo Elemnt Roam v2 is also pretty pricey but is reliable, robust and intuitive to operate.
What the Stages M200 does well, in the end, is what Stages has always done well. The brand is a company built on training and racing. In a race situation, there isn’t a better data screen on the market than having the “Power colour wheel” full screen. When the race is over, you get the industry standard data you need to learn how to get faster for the next race. I love those strengths and if the rest of the product held up against the competition, the M200 would be a solid option. At this point though the final product feels like a work in progress that needs one more generation to be great.