For years, I’ve used Cat Eye’s low-end wireless cyclocomputers almost exclusively: the Commuter, the Micro Wireless, and the Velo Wireless+. Common to all three of them is their reliance on a simple speed sensor zip-tied to the fork, its readings driven by a small spoke-mounted wheel magnet and the wheel circumference set on the cyclocomputer itself.
While this is fine for most purposes, I felt the limitations of these computers when I spent more time on the turbo trainer. For data measurement there, you will need to duplicate or move this entire arrangement of cyclocomputer, wheel magnet, and speed sensor to the back so that it picks up the data from the rear wheel.
More importantly from a training perspective, none of these three computers comes with the sensor hardware to measure your cadence. While there are creative ways of getting around this, it’s still not a true measurement, and, as I found out the hard way, you can really feel the difference in effort to spin the cranks an additional 5 rpm.
With indoor training figuring more and more into my life as a cyclist, I decided to graduate to the next level with the Cat Eye Padrone Digital. Let’s see what it’s got.
- Compatible with speed, cadence, and heart rate sensors that communicate via Bluetooth Smart
- Compatible with the Cat Eye Cycling smartphone app
- Three-tiered customizable information display, 67.5 x 43 mm
- FlexTight mounting bracket
- ClickTec interface
- Distance measurements: Two trip meters and odometer function
- Speed measurements: Current, average, and maximum
- Cadence measurements: Current, average, and maximum
- Bundled with ISC-12 Bluetooth Smart speed and cadence sensor, spoke-mounted wheel magnet, and crank-mounted cadence magnet
- CR2032 button-cell batteries used for sensors and computer
The Padrone name has adorned a lot of cyclocomputers since its introduction in 2014, the very first one being a basic affair, but with a larger screen than previous units. The Padrone Digital keeps true to this original philosophy, but introduces a bit more sophistication with its embedded Bluetooth Smart radio for sensor communication and setup procedure.
As normal with Cat Eye, it’s still the same square-ish mounting foot that slides into the mount bracket, which has raised bumps to interface with the main Mode button. Whenever the front face is pressed, the Mode button gets activated and that’s how you cycle through the different data displays.
Where the Padrone Digital differs is that the Menu button sees a lot more use. It’s primarily used to switch to the Bluetooth sync mode, which opens it to communication with the Cat Eye Cycling smartphone app. This makes things a lot easier. Where on previous cyclocomputers you had to endure pressing the tiny, hard buttons to input data such as effective wheel diameter and your odometer reading, the Cycling app leverages the Bluetooth connection to do all that via the comfort of your phone’s touch screen.
The box includes the trusty old FlexTight mounting bracket, meant to wrap around the stem; the ISC-12 Bluetooth Smart integrated speed and cadence sensor and its rubber mounting bracket; the two magnets needed to make measurement work; and a bunch of zip ties.
The ISC-12 mounts on your rear non-drive side chainstay. Using the rubber mount, you can pivot the cadence sensor “flap” to bring it over closer to the crank magnet. The speed sensor on the other hand is mounted on a ratcheted pivot and secured by a Philips screw. You can loosen this screw and turn the speed sensor arm over closer to the spoke magnet, then secure the whole thing once both sensors are within 3 mm of their respective magnets.
As I mentioned earlier, the Cat Eye Cycling app makes a huge difference in interacting with the Padrone Digital. It’s a similar take on how Wahoo uses its own app to interface and configure its cyclocomputers, the ELEMNT and ELEMNT BOLT, but perhaps a little clunkier.
The Padrone Digital itself also works a little differently to more basic units. Where all my previous cyclocomputers basically carried data for one activity session at a time, its data gone forever after resetting, the Padrone Digital saves data from each session into its onboard memory with every “reset” procedure you do. The intent is to sync it up to the Cat Eye Cycling app, where you can upload it to linked accounts on Cat Eye Atlas, Strava, or TrainingPeaks. Go too long without syncing or clearing, and the Padrone Digital will complain of low memory, after which it will automatically delete old session data.
So how does the Padrone Digital itself work? Perfectly fine, to be honest. I’ve gotten so used to not knowing just how fast I’m virtually going or how far I’m virtually cycling while hooked up to the turbo trainer, that knowing my actual wheel speed is pretty surprising.
More important than that is the cadence measurement. I’m now aware that my natural pedaling cadence lies somewhere in the 75-85 rpm range, and that ramping up to 90 rpm feels rather alien for a cadence that’s generally lauded as the most efficient.
As I don’t have a heart rate monitor chest strap to pair with the Padrone Digital, I’ll have to continue relying on my trusty Fitbit Charge 2 for heart rate data.
The “average” and “maximum” modes are retained from Cat Eye’s other cyclocomputers, but here we have both speed and cadence displayed.
One thing I do miss is the display backlight. This is the very first cyclocomputer I’ve had with no backlight at all, and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. Perhaps the Bluetooth hardware is a little more taxing on the CR2032 button-cell batteries ubiquitous to most cyclists, to such an extent that Cat Eye decided to do away with it in pursuit of a purported four months of battery life.
So, has Cat Eye made a cyclocomputer that can stand toe-to-toe with more modern, capable offerings from the likes of Garmin and Wahoo? It probably already has, but this ain’t it. You’d have to look at the much more expensive Padrone Smart+ for that.
The Cat Eye Cycling app goes a long way towards improving this device’s usability. That said, I do wish there was a more accessible means of activating the Bluetooth sync mode. The Menu button to do so is almost totally obscured when mounted on the bike, so you’ll have to slide the computer on and off to sync data.
The Padrone Digital marks the ceiling of just how powerful a cyclocomputer can get without resorting to GPS, power meter data, or silly gimmicks. Deconstructing the kit yields even more value. The ISC-12 speed and cadence sensor is frequently found on retail by itself, accounting for half of the Padrone Digital package’s total price, and its Bluetooth functionality makes it desirable. When you are ready to move on to a more advanced cyclocomputer, you can simply keep the ISC-12 on your bike and pair it to the new one.
12 thoughts on “Review: Cat Eye Padrone Digital (CC-PA400B) cyclocomputer”
Bluetooth sync mode.
I use this computer and leave it in it’s out front holder to activate the sync mode.
This clever person has drilled a small hole in the bracket and use a 2mm diameter pin to press the MENU button, so I dont have to remove the computer after every trip (and wear out the locking mechanism). The only time l need to remove it is for replacing the battery. Simples!
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That is absolute gold. I’ll try that on mine! Thanks!
The instructions that come with it aren’t complete, you have to go online to get everything. The release Fromm the mount should be easier, like a release tab instead of pushing and hoping it doesn’t break.
Well, mastering how to remove the CC is an art.
Here in the Philippines the Padrone Digital is way more expensive than the Padrone Smart. One downside of the Digital is that it loses its Bluetooth connectivity with the speed and cadence monitor during measurement. Hope Cateye would REMEDY this. By the way, I’m using a third party HR monitor and it works well with the Digital. However, has the same problem during measurement.
I get this sometimes, too. I use Stages Cycling’s HR strap, and I thought the unit just ate through batteries hence the signal drop-outs. As it turns out, the Padrone Digital’s Bluetooth transceiver is a little on the weak side, especially so with HR straps. Walking off the bike and taking three steps away can cut the Bluetooth signal transmission, which is a fraction of the Bluetooth spec’s official 10-meter/33-foot radius. After upgrading to the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT I’ve gotten much more solid reception.
I’ve never had a connectivity problem with the ISC-12 speed/cadence sensor though.
I don’t know why I don’t see decimal numbers for AVERAGE SPEEDS on display. Current speed is ready. Any solution from someone? Thanks.
The decimal (tenths) values are the little digits in superscript. Average values are displayed when the “Av” indicator is on the display as per the photos.
Thank you and I appreciate your quick reply. Unfortunately, I did not understand it. My problem is, that after each ride when I check the data on my Padrone Digital with switching data in the bottom row of the display, so at the Average speed I see only integers without index numbers and without decimals.
For example: it should be 25.8, but it shows 25 only, 28.9 but shows 28 only…I can send photo, no problem.
PS.: on your photos are numbers for AV crank rotation and that’s ok.
Wrong. “Average” shows both average speed and average cadence
Yes, that’s right, but you have to switch between them. And when I switch to on AV speed(immediately after stop my ride) so my display shows e.g. this:
0.0km/h. (It´s ok: I stand)
45.2Dst. AV (ok:Distance 45.2)
S 23 (This is
problem? AV speed (s) an integer, always!
P.S.: I have no crank rotation sensor, only bluetooth speed sensor.
Thanks for your time!