Best Smartwatches For Cycling Reviews

Updated June 13, 2020

A dedicated cyclist is always working to improve speed, increase fitness levels, and maximize distance. And of course have some fun, with new routes, cross-training in other sports, or even expanding into triathlon or run-bike races.

A cycling watch can help you track all of that and more. As smartwatches add to their fitness-tracking capacity, they can replace systems like a handlebar-mounted computer.

The best fitness watch for cycling will let you use different bikes, or do indoor training in a spin class. It will also let you expand as a multisport athlete, by also tracking hiking, running, swimming, and more. A cycling GPS watch lets you try different routes, and store the ones you’d like to ride again, as well as tell you distance and pace, and provide information on your fitness level.

The best smartwatch for biking will also allow you to have all your data in one place, from every sport, and track activity as simple as daily steps taken.

So what should you be looking for when shopping for the best watch for biking? Let’s look at the most important considerations.

Best Smartwatches For Cycling

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1 Garmin – fēnix 5 Cycling Smartwatch
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2 Garmin – Forerunner 235 Cycling Smartwatch
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3 Polar – Vantage Advanced GPS Cycling Smartwatch
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4
Best Overall
Suunto – 9 Baro Cycling Smartwatch
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5 Letsfit – Smart Activity Tracker Cycling Smartwatch
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6 LETSCOM – Smart Fitness Cycling Smartwatch
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7 Garmin – Vívoactive 3 Cycling Smartwatch
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1. Garmin – fēnix 5 Cycling Smartwatch

Highlights

This multisport watch has GPS and wrist-based heart rate technology, with a multitude of data and metrics provided by the watch. 

The outdoor sensors include GPS and GLONASS satellite reception, and a 3-axis compass with gyroscope and barometric altimeter. 

Connect your watch to enable smart notifications, as well as automatic uploads to the Garmin Connect online fitness community. You can personalize the watch with free watch faces and apps from the Garmin Connect IQ store. And the QuickFit bands are interchangeable, so you can choose a dressy version for work and sport variety for training. They’re available in premium leather, metal or silicone.

The Garmin training features provide advanced running information that’s applicable for cycling as well. By tapping into your physiological metrics, these dynamics include your performance condition and your lactate threshold. For runners, there’s also cadence and stride length. 

Get as detailed as readouts of aerobic and anaerobic benefits of your workout, to see your improvement. A VO2 max estimator will tell you heartbeats per minute and heart rate variability, or the maximum volume of oxygen you can consume per minute. Other information includes a recovery advisor and a race predictor that estimates your finish time.

You can also use it to track performance in other sports, including swimming, skiing, golfing and paddle sports, with different metrics for each sport. 

The Elevate wrist heart rate technology allows you to monitor your heart rate without wearing a chest strap, or you can pair it with a compatible heart rate chest strap to get even more metrics.

The display provides easy readability, visible even in intense sunlight, with transflective technology that reflects and transmits light at the same time. The bright, high-resolution, full-color Garmin Chroma Display has LED backlighting. Read your watch in all ambient conditions. Runs on a CR2 battery, which is included.

The Sapphire edition includes an extra silicone QuickFit band and has Wi-Fi capability for automatic activity uploading.

Specifications

Material:
Fiber Reinforced Polymer With Stainless Steel Rear Cover
Size:
1.8 x 1.8 x 0.6 inches. The display itself is 1.2 inches
Weight:
2.4 ounces

Pros

  • This watch provides a huge amount of data for fitness enthusiasts who want to track everything.
  • You can customise if you want, with watch bands that are easy to swap out and customizable watch faces.
  • Easy to read in all kinds of conditions, with transflective technology that reflects and transmits light at the same time and a high-resolution display.

Cons

  • All the data may be confusing to some, not worth having for others.

Why We Chose This

While this is sold as a running watch that tracks running metrics, it’s also perfectly suited for cycling. With Garmin’s GPS technology, a heart tracking technology that doesn’t require an extra chest strap, easy readability in all conditions, and physiological metrics that help you track and improve performance.

2. Garmin – Forerunner 235 Cycling Smartwatch

Highlights

The Forerunner 235 from Garmin is an eye-catching smartwatch designed with active people in mind. The device is durable (5 ATM water rating), lightweight, and features a slim design with a user-friendly interface. 

It can accurately track the heart rate 24/7 due to the wrist-based sensor and it has a built-in GPS feature that tracks distance, pace, location, and more. All the data tracked with the watch are stored and processed by the phone app, so you can get up to 200 hours of useful information.   

The screen is large, with a 1.23” in diameter display that supports 215 x 180 pixels resolution. Also, the battery can give users up to 12 hours in training mode and up to 12 weeks in watch mode. 

Lastly, the Forerunner 235 receives and displays notifications and smart updates from your phone.

Specifications

Material:
Silicone

Pros

  • A solid and good-looking design
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Good battery life
  • It is waterproof
  • It has a wide range of fitness-oriented apps
  • Built-in GPS and heart rate monitor

Cons

  • Widgets slow down the responsiveness of the device
  • Heart rate accuracy gets spotty with exercises that involve the wrists
  • The display could be brighter

Why We Chose This

The Garmin Forerunner 235 is lightweight, compact, and can be used as a fitness tracker and a watch. Since it is waterproof, you can use it to keep track of your swimming performance and the silicone band will keep it in place.

3. Polar – Vantage Advanced GPS Cycling Smartwatch

Highlights

This multisport training watch, designed for men and women, has a wrist-based heart monitor, using what’s known as Polar’s “Sensor Fusion Technology.” This provides heart rate monitoring for over 130 sports besides the common ones of cycling and running. 

The fitness tracker also monitors cardio load and perceived load, telling you how training sessions are straining your body. It provides insights into your sleep and helps you avoid overtraining and injuries. You can use the information to get practical tips on how to train, sleep better and regulate energy levels.

Using the Polar Flow platform on your desktop or mobile device, you can track your workouts, analyse your progress and achieve more. The watch also syncs to several training programs such as Strava, Training Peaks, and more. 

There’s an integrated GPS and Glonass, giving you accurate speed, distance and route tracking, and an assisted GPS for fast fix times, ideal for sports like cycling. The barometer allows you to track barometric altitude, incline, ascent and descent.

The connectivity is with a low energy bluetooth, and there’s a custom USB cable for charging and data synchronisation. It even has the time and date, and a vibrating alarm with a snooze function. The watch features an “always on” colour touch display.

While your heart rate is monitored right on your wrist, the watch is also compatible with Polar BLE heart rate sensors.

The rechargeable battery has ultra long life, up to 30 hours of training time with the GPS and heart monitor active. This durable watch is waterproof, allowing you to track swimming performance too.  There’s even special metrics for swimming, besides heart rate, including swimming style, distance, pace, strokes and rest times. A personalised, adaptable running plan also makes it perfect for runners as a true multisport watch.

Specifications

Material:
Durable and Water Resistant, WR30
Size:
1.8 x 1.8 x 0.5 inches. The display itself is 1.2 inches
Weight:
2.4 ounces

Pros

  • Has heart rate technology but it’s also compatible with Polar’s heart rate sensors.
  • A multisport watch that provides a lot of data for athletes.
  • Rechargeable battery with ultra long life, up to 30 hours of training time with the GPS and heart monitor active.

Cons

  • Needs to be recharged, likely daily if you’re using it a lot.

Why We Chose This

This watch will give you excellent data as a cyclist, but can be used for so much more. If you’re into triathlons, for instance, you can track cycling, running and swimming performance. The Polar Flow platform makes it easy for you to track performance over time.

4. Suunto – 9 Baro Cycling Smartwatch

Highlights
Best Overall

This unisex training watch has GPS capability with an integrated heart rate wrist monitor and an atmospheric pressure sensor. It features support for over 80 sports. It’s ideal for cycling or running, and since it’s waterproof to 100 meters, it’s also ideal for swimming. 

It also has new outdoor features for mountain and snow sports, along with navigation system improvements and storm warning. Hikers, skiers and trail runners will appreciate the exact altitude measurement provided by the combination of Barometric and GPS altimeter. That’s what enables exact altitude profiles and helps to identify meteorological changes, allowing you to cancel your trek if bad weather is coming. 

Suunto’s value proposition states that this watch will take you from “the highest mountains to the deepest oceans.”

It features an intelligent battery system that allows you to adjust the battery mode. Switch between the three modes to get from 25 hours up to 120 hours of use from the battery. You’ll get real-time notifications on how much battery life is remaining, so you can change modes to save the battery before it completely runs out of power.

The Suunto website provides regular software updates.

The Glonass technology can be used in addition to GPS for improved tracking, providing quick and exact recognition of your position. There are also  tracking and route navigation options, with waypoints and real-time breadcrumb navigation features. 

There’s a graphic heart rate wrist display that shows heart rate even while resting, a step display and calorie display, including showing the last 7 days. The activity monitoring is 24/7. A colour display has 3 action buttons for toggling among the features. If you want even more detailed heart rate data, you can purchase separately the compatible Suunto Smart Belt.

The watch is used in conjunction with the Suunto App, which offers training insights and social features to stay motivated. It helps you track daily activities and workouts, plan routes, show activity maps, and calculate overall speed and distance using the GPS connectivity. You can also monitor sleep patterns and overall fitness levels, and share milestones on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram.

Specifications

Material:
Black Face and Case With Silicone Strap
Size:
2 x 2 x 0.67 inches
Weight:
2.86 ounces

Pros

  • The 3 battery modes of the intelligent battery systems allows you to maximize battery life if necessary.
  • Extra features are ideal for those involved in mountain sports like hiking and skiing.
  • Glonass technology can be used in addition to GPS for improved tracking.

Cons

  • It might be trying to “do too much” by providing data for so many different situations.

Why We Chose This

This watch might be better suited for a trail rider than a city cyclist, but it still provides all the data you should need for any sport. It has all the heart rate and activity tracking information, and with extra features like altitude measurement and notification of meteorological changes, this watch is great for an outdoor enthusiast.

5. Letsfit – Smart Activity Tracker Cycling Smartwatch

Highlights

This is more of an activity tracker bracelet in its design, as it doesn’t look like a watch. However, it provides enough data to make it a smartwatch, with a sleek, narrow look on your wrist.

As a fitness tracker, it will track up to 14 exercises, making it great for cycling and more. It records your exercise data in those 14 sports modes with a connected GPS, and then also does 24/7 activity monitoring of your heart rate, steps, calories, distance, and active minutes all day. It also has reminders to move to encourage you away from a sedentary lifestyle.

Use the tracker to connect to your phone’s GPS and see real-time stats and then use the ‘VeryFitPro’ app to read detailed exercise data and explore more functions. Once paired to your smartphone, the Letsfit tracker receives notifications for text messages, emails and smart notifications, along with alarms. It’s compatible with most major smartphones using Bluetooth 4.0. You can even use it to control shooting photos on your phone.

Note that it isn’t suitable for swimmers. It’s OK for cycling and running in the rain but shouldn’t be worn in the shower or when swimming.

A sleep tracking function will track sleep duration and consistency, giving you analysis of your sleep quality. Combined with heart rate data, this gives you access to two sets of health data that help you understand your fitness level.

Charging is done using the built-in USB plug which pops out of the tracker and is inserted into a USB charger to charge the device. The battery life should be about 5-7 days, and takes about 1-2 hours to recharge. To “wake” the device, you simply flip your wrist to light up the screen and view time and steps.

Specifications

Material:
Standard Polycarbonate
Size:
6.9 x 3.5 x 0.7 inches, with a screen 0. 96 of an inch
Weight:
0.84 of an ounce

Pros

  • An option for those who don’t want to wear a big watch.
  • Five-day battery life is a bonus.
  • Bonus feature allows you to control shooting photos on your phone.

Cons

  • You can’t wear this swimming.

Why We Chose This

This is a nice option over a big, clunky watch face, for those fitness enthusiasts who want data without wearing a watch. The fitness tracker provides all the information you need, with GPS capacity and heart rate monitoring. Sleep information is a bonus, but the downside is that it can’t be used by swimmers.

6. LETSCOM – Smart Fitness Cycling Smartwatch

Highlights

This slim fitness tracker is a nice option for those who don’t want a traditional watch with a big watchface. The screen automatically lights up when you turn your wrist towards you.

The heart rate monitor tracks your real-time heart rate automatically and continuously. It also tracks your sleep duration and consistency to provide you with analysis of your sleep quality. These two sets of data are key to monitoring your healthy lifestyle.

The activity tracker records activity all day long, including steps, distance, calories burned, and active minutes, and has a sedentary alert that notifies you to get active when you have long periods of no activity.

In terms of sport tracking, it has 14 different exercise modes to help you understand specific activity data, including cycling plus walking, running, hiking and more, and a general fitness mode. By connecting the GPS to your smartphone, you’ll be able to monitor stats like pace and distance and record a map of your workout route. 

Once connected to your smartphone, you’ll also get notifications to the tracker, such as incoming calls and messages, calendar alerts, and SMS and SNS notifications, including Facebook, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. It’s compatible with iOS 7.1 and Android 4.4 and above, with Bluetooth 4.0. It works with a smartphone only, not an iPad, PC or Tablet. You can also control the ability to take photos on your phone using the tracker. 

While it can handle rain and sweat, you can’t wear it swimming.

The tracker has a battery life of about 7 days, and then it’s charged with a built-in USB plug. You simply pop it out of the tracker and plug it into any USB block or computer.

Specifications

Material:
Standard Polycarbonate
Size:
9.4 x 0.8 x 0.4 inches with a screen of 0.96 of an inch
Weight:
0.84 of an ounce

Pros

  • It has 7 days of battery life and is easily recharged.
  • It provides tracking for 14 different sports, including cycling and spinning.
  • A sedentary alert notifies you to get active when you have long periods of no activity.

Cons

  • You can’t use it swimming.

Why We Chose This

A nice alternative to a big watch, this tracker will track up to 14 different sports, including cycling, and for indoor training, spinning and treadmill work. Activity tracking and sleep monitoring helps you track your health progress. When connected to your smartphone, you’ll get GPS data and incoming notifications.

7. Garmin – Vívoactive 3 Cycling Smartwatch

Highlights

Garmin Vivoactive 3 is designed for people with an active life. Equipped with a wide range of sports-oriented features, this is the watch that lets you keep accurate track of your fitness level, heart rate (to measure stress levels), and keep up to date with the latest news through notifications. 

The watch is durable, waterproof, and elegant due to the chemically strengthened Corning Gorilla Glass lens, stainless steel bezel, and fiber-reinforced polymer case. Also, due to the Garmin Choma display, the watch is easy to read even in direct sunlight. This makes it the perfect workout companion in all kinds of weather. 

It comes with 15 sports apps for various activities such as yoga, running, swimming, or more and the built-in GPS lets you accurately record the distance, pace, and location for your outdoor activities. Moreover, you have access to a wide range of free watch faces so you can have fun personalizing the interface to your liking.

Other cool features you may enjoy are contactless payment using the watch,  free widgets and apps, and BT connectivity with your smartphone. The battery is designed to last up to seven days, depending on the features you use.

Lastly, the Vivoactive 3 features the Side Swipe interface which improves navigation through all the menus and widgets. This way, you don’t have to adjust your habits to the watch – you just use it the way it’s more convenient.

Specifications

Material:
Stainless Steel

Pros

  • Elegant & durable design
  • Up to 7 days of battery life
  • Waterproof and resistant to all weather conditions
  • It features a wide array of apps and widgets
  • Side Swipe and contactless payment
  • It measures heart rate and provides accurate tracking history

Cons

  • Heart rate tracking is not available in swim mode
  • Side Swipe can be triggered involuntarily by loose clothing
  • GPS accuracy is not at 100%

Why We Chose This

It is comfortable to wear and has a lot of cool features and widgets that let you keep accurate track of your swimming! Even more, you have access to a nicely-drawn history of your performance, which lets you track progress.

Cycling Smartwatch Buying Guide

Cycling Mode

Most GPS watches and fitness trackers are geared to runners as their main customers, with the capacity to track other sports. While we can assume that most will also have a cycling mode, it’s worth making sure the one you’re thinking of getting actually does have it.

A dedicated cycling mode is key especially if you want to sync it to a training program you use, such as Strava. Even used on its own, you want to make sure the GPS watch that catches your eye will do what you need as a cyclist.

GPS

There are two considerations in the GPS capacity of a smartwatch. Some have their own GPS chip. Others piggyback with your phone to get GPS capacity. It’s also possible to find one that can pick up a signal from the GLONASS, BieDou or Galileo satellite networks, although GPS alone should be more than sufficient. Most are now connected with Bluetooth technology. Some can even connect via WiFi for syncing and updating, allowing for ride uploads and firmware updates.

Water Resistance

This is an important one for those cyclists who also participate in triathlons, or cross-train with swimming and want to track that performance. Some watches can handle getting as wet as being in the rain, or getting splashed when you wash your hands, but they aren’t meant to wear in the water. Some others are made especially for shallow water pool swimming. And others still can be worn diving. It’s up to you to decide which is sufficient for your needs.

Design

This is mostly a personal preference. A true watch looks like a watch, and when you need to check your watch during a ride, you may want a big watchface, bright background lights, and buttons that are easy to work.

Others aren’t crazy about wearing a big watch, so a slim, less noticeable fitness tracker is preferable for them.

Heart Rate Tracking

The standard GPS bike watch will monitor your heart rate. Many of them also provide more detailed information about your fitness capacity.

But since a wrist-based heart rate monitor is not as accurate as a chest strap monitor, the best watch for cycling for you may be one that is compatible with a chest strap monitor. Then, you can connect the two when you want really in-depth information, and use just the watch when it’s enough to have calculations such as relative effort and caloric burn. With a wrist-based system, you won’t get much accuracy measuring your heart rate from point to point, but you will get really good average heart rate tracking.

Battery Life

The type of battery is one of those decisions that can come down to personal preference. If you want a long-lasting battery, you’ll likely want a GPS cycling watch with a replaceable battery that lasts several months between changes. The battery life will be of interest to you, if you want to minimize your trips to get new batteries.

If you hate buying new batteries or going to the watch store to get a battery replaced, you may want a rechargeable watch that you can plug in and charge on a regular basis. In that instance, battery life is important to know if you do all-day rides, bike and camp, or otherwise will be away from charging capability for long periods of time.

Overall watch battery life is important, but even more so is battery life when you’re using important capabilities like GPS mode and route tracking.

Extra Bells and Whistles

Many smartwatches and fitness trackers now provide extra information like sleep duration and quality, and notifications from a smartphone. Some of them even allow you to control the photo-taking capability on your phone.

If you do a lot of backcountry biking or hiking, you may want to look at watches that provide altitude data with a built-in barometric altimeter. Some watches even have the capacity to use the barometer to give you a warning when the air pressure suddenly drops, which can signal an incoming storm.

You have to decide if those extra features are important. Do you need to get text messages on your watch? It’s up to you.

Now that you know what to look for, let’s dig into our top picks in searching for the best gps watch for cycling.

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