Getting the right kit to record data is essential for cycling, whether it’s indoor cycling or on the road. But there’s a lot to be said for using a smartwatch – they are great for measuring and training with heart rate performance indoors as well as track rides outside.
I’ve gone through the best smartwatches – for wearing on the bike and off it. If you haven’t got time I rated the Amzfit T-Rex Pro as the best in terms of function and value.
So here’s is our list of the best cycling watch, for inside and on the road. We’ve tried all of these – either ourselves or grabbing a pal’s one.
The Best Three Cycling Watches
Best Indoor Cycling Specific Watch – Wahoo Elemnt Rival
The Wahoo Elemnt Rival is an indoor cycling computer that lets you know everything you need to know about your ride – from cadence to elevation and more. The Elemnt Rival pairs with sensors that strap onto your bike and track stats such as speed, distance, heart rate, power output, and more.
It also tracks other things like wattage and gradient on climbs in addition to providing turn-by-turn navigation for off-road rides so you’ll always stay on track.
And it does all this without compromising battery life or connectivity – the battery lasts and lasts.
- Only 53g – nice and light so it keeps the heart rate monitor in place.
- 14 days in smartwatch mode. Not bad although it will be less in broadcast mode.
- No touchscreen.
- No sleep tracking. But would you need that?
Best for Battery Life – Garmin Enduro
The Garmin Enduro is a fantastic GPS cycling computer. It tracks speed, distance, elevation changes and a heart rate monitor. And if you like a chunky watch – this is for you.
The battery life is great too – it only needs to be charged every few weeks! The only thing that this device doesn’t have is maps.
The Garmin Enduro is a great product, but it’s not the right fit for everyone. If you’re the type of person who wants a watch that can go a couple of days without needing to charge, then the Fenix smartwatch is more your thing.
On the downside, this watch has fewer features than a Fenix 6 Pro and costs more. The nylon strap is nice, but you can find 3rd party reseller straps of the same size for the Garmin Fenix 6X too.
- Insanely long battery life.
- Super accurate GPS, with support for GLONASS and Galileo satellite tracking.
- Expensive for what you get.
- No maps.
Best looking watch – Garmin Venu
The thing about a lot of sports smartwatches, is they look just like that. If that’s your look, great. But if you want something that can be worn out, then the Garmin Venu might be your thing.
Best described as Garmin’s take on the Apple iWatch. It’s one of the few Garmin watches with a touchscreen, but from our experience, this appeared a little slow when compared to an iWatch. It features GPS, Bluetooth, and ANT+. It also connects with Garmin’s app store.
From a cycling perspective: It’s sold in terms of tracking your route and speed. On the downside, you can’t set different types of cycling besides the road, like e-bikes, or Mtb.
- Touchscreen with a 390 x 390 pixel resolution.
- Solid GPS and heart-rate tracking.
- Offline music and bluetooth headphone pairing.
- Found the heart rate sensor a little cranky.
- Batteries only last up to five days in smartwatch mode.
Best non-brand Budget smart watch for Cycling – Amazfit T-Rex Pro
Amazfit T-Rex Pro is a cheap yet useful smartwatch that will delight budget-conscious cycling and outdoor fans, as it boasts a far longer battery life than the big brands (we are talking about 20 hours of continuous GPS tracking). It also connects to Strava via the brand’s own app.
One of the key features is the 20-day battery life. Other features include weather forecasting and a decent heart rate monitor.
- 1.3-inch 360 x 360 AMOLED touchscreen.
- Connectivity – ANT+, Bluetooth.
- GPS with a positioning chip for extra accuracy.
- Design – looks a bit like a knock-off Garmin.
Good Value All-Rounder – Coros Apex
Coros has created a great watch not just for cyclists but also for other athletes. It features great GPS tracking and is powered by a long-lasting battery.
Long-lasting battery life, up to 35 hours in regular GPS mode and can be extended up to 100 hours if needed.
This can give you a variety of metrics, such as blood oxygen monitoring.
It also has a new data metric called stamina that estimates your energy levels. Plus there are videos that provide on-demand coaching-you’ll have an immersive experience every time you workout.
Lastly, it’s compatible with ANT+, so you can connect to third-party sensors using that protocol. However, the Bluetooth connection is limited to connecting to smartphones only.
There are workouts set up for indoor cycling trainers and uploads to Strava and Training Peaks via an app.
- Lots of features, inc temperature and altimeter.
- Battery life good – 35 hours with GPS.
- Best GPS accuracy here.
- Nice minimal design. Could wear it out.
- Heart rate slightly off compared to some of the others.
Here’s how they have been rated
GPS accuracy – accuracy of these devices can be affected by many factors including satellite type and positioning, weather conditions, nearby buildings, etc.
Heart rate monitor – as well as heartbeats per minute, this can also be used to measure a person’s breathing activity, and skin temperature. An optical heart rate sensor that measures by light, is now the norm.
Offline music storage – Pretty handy if you are indoor cycling and don’t want to interfere with bandwidth.
Battery life – how long is the battery life in “normal” use. What is the battery life like while using Bluetooth and GPS at the same time?
Usability and third-party apps – what is the user interface like and is it easy to use. ANT+ is pretty crucial here for connecting your heart rate to Zwift.
Style – the Rolex is at the repairers, so can you wear this one on a night out?
Value – it is worth it?
Why smart watches are better than a phone for cycling
A lot of people like to use phone holders these days. However, your phone is a vital part of your life, and do you really want to risk it getting broken while on the road?
Probably, the biggest benefit is being able to ditch a chest strap for heart rate monitoring.
A smartwatch can receive notifications from your phone and allow you to perform various tasks without having to take your phone out. You can download apps, stream music, get directions, track your heart rate, and more.
But there are many things to consider when buying a smartwatch such as what features are important to you, how regularly you will be using the watch? What price range would you prefer? The two types of watches available are iOS and Android which also determines the type of phone you need.
Some people might say that smartphones can do everything cycling watches can, but the truth is getting a phone out of your pocket and unlocking it are both slower than checking your wrist.
Whether you want to track your progress or improve your gameplay, it can be a difficult but important item to invest in. The benefits include tracking how much time you spend on the bike, helping you meet targets, and informing outside parties of your whereabouts.
Smart watches can do most if not all of the things that a mobile phone can and they have the added benefit of monitoring your activity levels whilst benefiting from GPS accuracy.
A decent smartwatch can also come with music features for use when you’re using the trainer, as well as a wireless connection to other apps.
What to look for in a smartwatch for cycling
There are plenty of smartwatches out there for the sport. But a cyclist’s needs are going to be slightly different than they are for, let’s say a triathlete or a runner.
GPS, an alternator, heart rate tracking – these are all things that are crucial. Cycling is much more dependent on training data than running or swimming uses.
Battery life is also crucial especially if you are going on a long ride.
So accuracy is crucial. Especially when a lot of the data that is picked up on the watch is going to end up being uploaded to Strava.
Additionally, indoor cycling is going to need Bluetooth or ant plus connectivity so the watch can connect to the smart trainer. Any smartwatch with this sort of connectivity will be able to take the place of a bike computer.
It’s worth remembering that this will drain the battery if you don’t watch out.
Third-Party App Opinions
Smartwatches can be paired with your smartphone to provide a more personalized experience. Some popular third-party applications include Garmin Connect and Fitbit Dashboard which allow you to track your activity levels, keep tabs on your heart rate, and even view your workouts.
People feel the social features on Garmin Connect are not as good as other apps, such as Strava and Map My Ride. However, they do like how it tracks stats like heart rate and cadence.
Overall, people have mixed feelings about Garmin Connect. Although they find some of the features useful and others are not very well-done.
The Polar Beat application is a heart rate monitor that works in conjunction with the iPhone’s camera to record and track your heart rate. It also has a number of social features that allow you to compete against friends or other members of the public.
The best features of Polar Beat are the latest fitness technology and the ability to monitor your heart rate, steps taken, calories burned, quality of sleep, elevation climbed and distance traveled.
Fitbit has been one of the most innovative companies in the tech industry since its inception. They have been creating affordable health-tracking devices that are easy to use and help users achieve their goals. The Fitbit Dashboard is an online hub where you can keep track of your fitness goals and progress.
Fitbit has a number of features that people enjoy using. Some of the most popular features are the ability to track sleep, calories burned, and distance traveled.
How much do you need to spend?
Between £100-150 will get you a watch with GPS. It might be lacking in connectivity and fairly general but you won’t need to bring your mobile phone to track your position.
Anything above hundred and £150 and things are starting to get a little bit more sophisticated. £300 should be top whack for what we are looking for.