When it comes to tracking bike rides, most cyclists hardly look beyond the computer mounted on their handlebars. Cycling specific computers are a great and more popular way of training among cyclists. This, however, is gradually changing because the truth is, not everyone enjoys cycling while staring at their live stats. Good news is that each year smartwatch capabilities and functionality extend from just mirroring your smartphone and instead they are becoming more like dedicated bike computers. Smartwatch technology improvement now includes cycling-specific features to their ever-growing activity tracking capabilities. Where once cyclists were awed by just a bike symbol of the sports choice modes on a smartwatch you can now actually enjoy more feature beyond pace and distance information with a sleek smartwatch.

Handlebar computer vs. smartwatch

Cyclists normally prefer a handlebar-mounted computer for measuring their rides because it carries a clear screen that display maps and biking data. The reason being it has a bigger screen than a smartwatch. Other than that using a smartwatch to track your bike rides is much better than the computer. In particular, multi-sport athletes use their smartwatch to track all their biking, running and swimming modes in one place making it easier while at the same time cutting down on electronic clutter.

Key features to look for before buying a smartwatch for biking

Bluetooth/ANT+

It’s important that your smartwatch work with the sensors that you already have in possession. You want a smartwatch that connects to your power meter, heart rate strap or cadence, and speed sensor. Bluetooth connectivity allows you to connect to your phone which makes it easy to sync your bike rides wirelessly, create and edit activity modes, access fitness apps, and download metrics.

Battery life

While most smartwatches specify that their battery life lasts for weeks on end always check GPS or ‘in activity’ battery life.

Built-in sensors

Most smartwatches for cycling feature built-in GPS while others are designed to feature built-in compasses, altimeters, gyroscopes, barometers, and accelerometers. Others can connect to the GLONASS network for ultimate accuracy.

Navigation

Most of the high-end smartwatches offer some form of navigation. This however requires you to pre-load routes into your device. Some smartwatches will buzz as you approach points of interest on your route.

Strap and screen material

If you are looking for comfort, smartwatches for biking come with a wide range of bands including flexible silicone bands, metal bands, fabric and leather bands. Plastic screens often get scratched however the current smartwatches are fitted with Gorilla Glass or mineral screen with the premium versions getting crystal or sapphire screens.

Touchscreen or buttons

Getting a touchscreen smartwatch is cool but keep in mind that watch faces are quite small which might be frustrating if you have fat fingers.

Best Smartwatches for Cycling:

Garmin Vívoactive

Garmin Vivoactive smartwatch is the ultimate device for a truly active person, and it’s one of the best smartwatches for cycling you can find. As a biking tracker, the Garmin Vivoactive provides more than the base level insights, full notifications on your wrist and an overwhelmingly large collection of sports tracking at a reasonable price.

Features:

An array of built-in sports apps such as GPS-enabled biking, running, golfing as well as activity tracking and swimming. You can view your stats from your wrist.

Has a high-resolution, sunlight-readable, ultra-thin color touchscreen display.

Up to 3 weeks of battery life in activity tracking/watch mode and up to 10 hours of battery life in GPS mode.

Easily customizable with free watch face designs, apps and widgets from Connect IQ store.

Pros:

  • Garmin Vivoactive has excellent battery life, and the always-on color display makes it easier to use when cycling and other outdoor activities.
  • The smartwatch is quite comfortable to use, and it hardly rubs or pinches while gripping the handlebar.
  • As compared to most smartwatches, you can use the Garmin Vivoactive as a standalone device without the need of always checking your phone. The GPS records your speed distance and ascent ridden. The ANT+ compatibility ensure even greater accuracy because you can link in a wheel speed and cadence sensor.
  • Multisport tracking, activity tracking with auto-adjusting goals, vibration and notification alerts are available from your smartwatch.

Cons

  • Garmin Vivoactive smartphone and software connectivity can sometimes be unstable and require frequent reboots.
  • Only the ANT+ versions of speed and cadence sensors can be used.
  • The smartwatch lacks an integrated heart rate detector; you need an ANT+ chest strap to get heart rate data.

Fitbit Blaze

Maximize every workout with this sleek timepiece. Fitbit Blaze features a versatile design and advanced technology making it a revolutionary fitness smartwatch specifically built to track your daily workout, accurately monitor your performance stats and gauge your overall progress. The smartwatch has everything you need to reach your fitness goals.

Features

Connect Blaze to your smartphone’s GPS to map out your routes and receive real-time stats on your smartwatch.

FitStar provides on-screen workouts with coaching and step by step instructions.

PurePulse allows you to maximize workouts with simplified zones and continuous heart rate monitoring.

Fitbit Blaze uses SmartTrack to automatically recognize and record exercises.

Set your weekly workout goals on the Fitbit App and receive your weekly workout summaries on your smartwatch.

The Multisport tracking feature tracks your biking, runs, cross-training, cardio and so much more.

Pros

  • Fitbit Blaze features a color LCD touch screen and can easily be accessorized with different clock faces, wristbands and frames making a fashionable and stylish biking tracker.
  • Configuring Fitbit Blaze to integrate and upload data to Stave is effortless.
  • Multisport mode is great if you mix up your training. You can set up a total of seven activities

Cons

  • Prolonged wear of Fitbit Blaze elastomer strap seems to cause skin irritation. Also, the smartwatch may slip from your wrist while biking in rugged terrain especially if you have small wrists.
  • The ‘quick view’ feature of the device is not so quick; the screen doesn’t promptly light up when there is a new notification. It’s difficult pressing a button to display a notification while cycling.
  • The accuracy of activity stats and heart rate data can be flaky.

Garmin Forerunner 645 Music

The Forerunner 645 Music elevates biking from a mere exercise to a performance. The smartwatch is packed with an array of outstanding features including on-device music storage so that you can enjoy your rides with some of your favorite tunes.

Features

You can download a maximum of 500 songs to your smartwatch. Purchase a pair of Bluetooth headphones to enjoy the music.

The smartphone enables offline music by syncing to select music streaming services.

Make convenient payments from your smartwatch using Garmin Pay contactless payment solutions.

Forerunner 645 Music offers performance monitoring features using estimated wrist-based heart rate data.

5 hours of battery life in GPS mode and up to 7 days of battery life on smartwatch mode.

Pros

  • Forerunner 645 Music support both ANT+ and Bluetooth which means you can connect any cycling accessory to your smartwatch.
  • The simple-to-press buttons and the large screen makes it easy to operate your smartwatch on the go. You can operate your camera from your smartwatch.
  • The display is bright and legible outdoors; you can easily glance at your watch while cycling. Audio feedback is also a great feature.
  • The smartwatch has a great battery life even while on GPS mode, and the music is playing.
  • The music feature on the smartwatch is well integrated and easy to use. Transferring podcasts, audiobooks, and music only take a few minutes.
  • The smartwatch performs daily activity tracking well, it automatically adjusts targets based on your past activities and provides the stats on your smartwatch as well as the Garmin connect app.

Cons

  • The smartwatch has no power meter support.
  • Sometimes the smartwatch disconnects with Bluetooth headphones.
  • Forerunner 645 Music is a bit pricey as compared with other smartwatches equipped with the same features
  • Garmin Pay isn’t extensively supported.

Garmin Fenix 5

Compact yet rugged, the Garmin Fenix 5 is multisport GPS watch with interchangeable bands, advanced sport features and wrist-based heart rate monitor to coordinate your lifestyle. With its built-in activity profile, you can comfortably and accurately track your cycling.

Features

Garmin Fenix 5 supports smart notifications, Group Track and Connect IQ App support. For further customization QuickFit interchangeable bands are available.

Garmin Fenix 5 features forged steel back, stainless steel bezel, built-in GLONASS EXO antenna and GPS and anti-glare coated lens to maintain the best integrity regardless of the environment.

Supports ANT+, BluetoothSmart and WiFi connectivity on sapphire editions.

Depending on your settings, the smartwatch has a battery life of 60 hours in UltraTrac battery saver mode, 24 hours on GPS mode and up to 2 weeks in smartwatch mode.

Tracking factions and satellite navigation in addition to the 3-axis compass with barometric altimeter and gyroscope guides you on and off road.

Performance widgets enable you to see your training status, recovery advisor, training load, VO2 max and so much more.

Pros

  • The smartwatch has a long battery life.
  • The crisp and clear color display makes it readable outdoors.
  • The activity and GPS tracker on the smartwatch is quite accurate. The smartwatch outstanding software provides all your activity stats.
  • Garmin Fenix 5 has a durable design and rock-solid hardware.

Cons

  • The music set up on the smartwatch is still has some problems.
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