Wearable gadgets to monitor your health and track workouts have been getting more and more interesting in the past couple of years. With new features added, they’re becoming the perfect companion for cycling, as well.
But what’s the best fitness tracker for cycling out in the market right now? What are the technical specifics you need to pay attention to?
I’m going to dive in deep and help you select a gadget that will improve your riding experience.
These are the best fitness trackers for cycling available right now:
The Best Fitness Tracker for Cyclists Reviews
There are so many different fitness trackers and smartwatches out there that choosing one can seem like a daunting task.
I’ve made it a little easier for you with this review. Here are some of the best products on the market today.
In this article, I review 7 of the best fitness trackers for cyclists in 2020.
- Apple Watch Series 5 (BEST CHOICE)
- Fitbit Versa 2 (BEST FOR BEGINNERS)
- Garmin Forerunner 35 (BEST VALUE)
- Apple Watch Series 3
- Fitbit Ionic Watch
- Garmin fēnix 5
- Polar M430 GP Running Watch
The Apple Watch 5 is pretty much the best smartwatch you can buy if you already have an iPhone.
Everything works effortlessly together, and the OS is intuitive and easy to use. The heart rate and activity monitoring are accurate for cycling and other different activities.
You can download so many apps to the watch it really expands the usability way beyond fitness. It also has innumerable apps available for cyclists.
This watch syncs your data seamlessly with your other Apple products and lets you comfortably take a call without reaching for the phone.
The two sizes of screens and innumerable combinations for bands make sure there’s a model to almost everybody’s liking.
The Apple Watch is designed to be an extension of your phone—or even your wallet. The watch comes with the Apple Pay function to pay for your Starbucks after your morning ride, but it’s also great for tracking your heart rate and performance.
Everything is seamless and data syncs fantastically.
- Ability to take phone calls on your watch.
- The different colors and bands make the possible combinations practically endless.
- Versatile features and has a ton of different apps to use.
Battery life is really short compared to other models.
- Only usable with an iPhone.
Fitbit has come up with an economic model with a look very similar to the Apple Watch.
The Versa 2 features built-in Amazon Alexa so you can check the weather or set timers with your voice. The Fitbit app is easy to use and gives you a decent amount of data for your rides.
Apart from the cycling-related functions, the heart rate sensor also tracks your sleep hours—light, deep or REM. The battery gives you an estimated six days of use without having to recharge.
Overall, it’s among the best fitness trackers for its value and ease of use. If you want more advanced performance data, this might not be the model you’re looking for.
- Wearable for everyday use and useful as a fitness tracker for cyclists.
- Economically convenient option, with many features and music playback.
GPS system needs to use your phone.
- The buttons have been replaced with Alexa, which is not always convenient.
The Garmin Forerunner is a great choice for cyclists if you’re looking for a versatile watch.
It will keep track of your cycling without costing half your rent. It tracks your heart rate, distance, and calories—plus it’s known to be accurate. The screen adjusts to light so you can see it even on the sunniest days.
It uploads your ride and the rest of your daily activity automatically to Garmin Connect. It’s also lightweight and slim, and the battery can last for five days on a single charge.
The watch looks very good for everyday use and is lightweight.
- Accurate with calculating distances, great for running, cycling, and other distance activities.
- The built-in GPS tracking means you won’t have to have your phone around.
The pacing feature is not very accurate.
- Some users complained about the interval training feature.
The older Apple Watch model is a good option for cycling if you’re an iPhone user but don’t want to splurge.
It’s water-resistant up to 50 meters and includes GPS, but no compass. The heart rate monitor is also an older model, and not as accurate as the Apple watch 5.
Sleek, stylish design with lots of different colors.
- Apple’s seamless syncing to your iPhone to download data.
- Already has most of the important features of the newer model.
The speaker capacity is a lot lower than in the new model.
- Heart rate monitoring has become more accurate since this model was launched.
Size: screen size: 1.15″ x 0.83″; width: 1.42″ 1.46” x 1.86” x 0.48”
- OS: Syncs with Mac OS x 10.6 and up, iPhone 4s and later, iPad 3 Jan. And later, android 4.4 and later and windows 10 devices
- GPS: Yes
- Swimproof: Yes (50 meters)
- Heart Sensors: Heart Rate Monitor
- Battery Life: 4+ day battery life
The Fitbit Ionic has the functionality of a smartwatch and one of the top fitness functionalities, with personalized workouts.
It looks good, but the rectangular design is not necessarily universally appealing. If you want something a little different from the Apple Watch, however, you might love this design.
You can get around four to five days with the battery. The touchscreen is colorful and allows you to manage apps while cycling with comfort. The built-in GPS means you can go out without your phone, even on longer rides.
Pretty lightweight, which is a good thing for sports use.
- Sleek design that’s different from other smartwatches.
- Built-in GPS.
- Phone-free music.
The design is not for everybody.
- Some users reported syncing problems.
Size: 42mm, 47mm, 51mm
- OS: Work with Ios, Android smartphones
- GPS: Yes
- Swimproof: Yes 10 ATM (100 meters)
- Heart Sensors: Heart Rate Monitor
- Battery Life: Battery life – Smartwatch mode: Up to 9 days. GPS/HR mode – Up to 14 hours. UltraTrac mode – Up to 35 hours without wrist heart rate
Garmin’s products are among the top of the game for cycling, and this one is no different. The battery life of up to two weeks is among the best with this kind of wearable.
Direct syncing with Garmin Connect makes it easy to evaluate your running, cycling, and other activity from your Android or iPhone.
The style is more rugged, with the feel of an older sports watch. The numerous outdoor sensors and maps make it a great fit for serious cyclists.
Built-in GPS, compass, and altimeter to help you navigate in unknown terrain.
- Smartphone notifications and key performance stats are easy to find.
- The screen works well outdoors, even in direct sunlight.
- Garmin provides high-quality activity tracking of health data for cyclists.
The display is a little technical.
- The design is more masculine, which might not be to everyone’s liking.
Polar’s watch is made for running, but adapts well to cycling as well. It tracks heart rate, speed, routes, and pace accurately. The integrated GPS is among the fastest on the market.
The design is simple, and it doesn’t let you get distracted with all the different features smartwatches have. It does, however, include interval timers and a stopwatch that are known to be very accurate.
Good battery life of up to a week.
- GPS is super accurate and faster than most competitors.
- Buttons are reactive and easy to use.
- Specifically made for sports, not notifications.
Difficult setup, and pairing and syncing are not always reliable.
- The features are very basic.
Conclusion – Best Fitness Trackers for Cyclists
I found the best fitness tracker for cycling to be the Apple Watch Series 5. It has all you could want from a smartwatch.
It has a wide variety of apps available that make it basically a miniature iPhone to make your life easier. From answering the phone to listening to music or paying, it’s quite a complete package.
The performance functions are also improving with every single new model. Apple’s heart rate and GPS technology, as well as altimeter and compass, are accurate and fast. The waterproofing makes this cycling watch adaptable to every possible situation.
The best fitness watch for biking is the one you’re most likely to use for a long time. You should make your buying decision depending on the use you intend on giving the tracker.
It depends a lot on your activity level, as well as your phone. If you’re not an iPhone user, you won’t get all the best features out of your Apple Watch. In that case, a Garmin might be your next best choice.
How to Choose a Fitness Tracker
There are several things you should keep in mind when choosing a fitness tracker for biking. It’s good to think about the functions you’ll need first.
A basic activity tracker will give you time, bike speed, distance, heart rate, and an estimate of calories burned. A more expensive fitness watch also features maps, a compass, and more specific performance metrics.
Other things then the calories burned to consider, are the price you’re willing to pay and the style and comfort of the gadget. You’ll want to invest in the right one for you to make sure you’ll end up using it.
Fitness Trackers vs. Smartwatches
Smartwatches are tools made for communication and delivering notifications. On top of this basic function, they also keep track of your health data. You can now follow your heart rate and calories burned, as well as intervals and GPS on a smartwatch.
The functions of a smartwatch in cycling can be incredibly varied. They get you your notifications, sync with your calendar, and play your music. A fit watch like this is essentially a wearable extension for your smartphone, in a smaller size.
Simple fitness trackers are specially designed to monitor health, and they won’t blow up your wrist with social media notifications. Some of them might be more accurate and specialized for sport than smartwatches. Before buying, check if the model has all the functions you need for cycling.
An important difference between the two is usually the price. Fitness trackers tend to be the more economical option, whereas more complete fitness watches can easily get pretty expensive.
Another good thing about a fitness watch is that you’re more likely to remember to use something that’s on your wrist at all times. The bigger investment might give you a gadget you’ll wear for years. The basic activity trackers can be better if you want to focus completely, zone out, and not check every notification.
The line between the two is starting to blur, however. Fitness trackers are adding more new functions like notifications from your phone. Smartwatches are getting better with monitoring health, heart rate, and sleep.
Benefits of Using a Fitness Tracker
The biggest benefit of using a fitness tracker for most cyclists is that it helps them keep accountable and push themselves. When I monitor my progress, I get closer to reaching my fitness goals, which motivates me even more. Once I reach them, I set new ones, and the cycle continues.
The benefits don’t stop there, however. GPS can help keep you safe, and sleep monitoring enables you to keep track of different aspects of your health.
The battery life depends a lot on the kind of functions your fitness tracker has. A basic tracker can last up to 6 months on a single charge, while a smartwatch might only last a day.
Some cycling watches are closer to smartphones, and Bluetooth, screen use, and music playback can really drain the battery fast. That is why Apple, for example, estimates a battery life of only 18 hours, depending on the use. (1)
GPS is a function many think is crucial for cycling. Especially if you want to be able to track your exercise without having to keep your phone with you at all times.
The best fitness watch for cycling will surely be equipped with this function, but the simpler ones do tend to need to sync with your phone. If it’s important for you to be able to leave your phone at home, look for the GPS to be built in. It’s also good if you tend to have long rides or plan to travel.
If you’re one of those cyclists who love exploring mainly unfamiliar terrain, this is one of the key features. You might want to invest in a bike fitness tracker that includes navigation on top of basic performance metrics. With map downloads, GPS, and a compass, you’ll be ready to venture out on your own, even when traveling.
This is a great feature included in most fitness trackers today, and it makes your life a whole lot easier. When you get home from your ride, the fitness tracker syncs your rides directly with the app on your phone or computer. Often the compatibility is best between devices of the same brand.
Screen and Ease of Use
Here it’s really a matter of preference. Activity trackers with a color touchscreen are what most people are used to nowadays and the thing they gravitate toward. They are often more intuitive but imply a shorter battery life. I’ve found that buttons can also be easier to use when you’re sweating.
The navigation between different functions on your tracker is something that can make or break the experience. If the tracker has great functions but is impossible for you to use, it might end up in your kitchen drawer.
If you have trouble reading small lettering or using highly technical gadgets, a bigger tracker will be better. The smaller screens might be tougher to read for some people, and especially in the middle of a ride.
The basic Fitbits will give you a tiny display screen with only a couple of features, while some smartwatches have an incredible array of apps to download.
Having a water-resistant tracker means you don’t have to worry about weather conditions or sweat, or taking it off when you shower. Most trackers and smartwatches are also water-resistant up to 164 feet, which means they’re adapted to all shallow-water activities. You can go straight from the bike to the pool and know your heart rate and calories burned are being monitored all the time.
Heart Rate Monitor
Monitor your heart rate if you’re cycling is good for a variety of reasons. Being able to track your heart rate helps you motivate yourself and makes sure you are getting a good workout and not slacking off. It also helps to prevent you from over-exerting yourself.
Some can also help you monitor if you have conditions related to irregular heartbeat, such as atrial fibrillation. But the data is still inaccurate sometimes, so be careful to not rely your health solely on a watch. (2)
This is a great feature that helps you find out a lot more about your health. Sleep is key to your recovery and general wellbeing. It will help you keep your heart healthy and improve your athletic performance. (3)
Many fitness trackers and smartwatches now also have a heart rate monitor that gathers data during the night. The sleep tracking function tells you when you might have woken up in the middle of the night or had irregular sleep. You might be surprised by the results—I know I was—but knowing more will definitely help you improve your performance.
The comfort of any fitness tracker model depends on a couple of different things: the material of the band, the weight, and the size of the screen.
Cheaper and simpler fitness trackers are usually lightweight and small, while smartwatches get a little bigger and heavier. There are often different sizes available, which makes them adaptable to different genders.
The bands can be anything from fabric to the more common option for cyclists: plastic. Garmin and Fitbit also tend to carry the sporty options. Apple makes different versions of bands, starting from your basic plastic all the way to Hermés-designed leather straps.
Access to Apps
The apps you can download to your wearable device can make or break the experience. It’s good to choose a tracker with an app that feels right from the beginning. Once you’ve chosen your brand, changing from one app to another makes it harder to switch.
Strava is among the best sports apps for cycling and running. It’s also a social media app, so you can share your rides with other bikers. Since Strava is so popular, it’s available on multiple different fitness trackers and cycling watches, from Garmin to Apple and Fitbit. Most of them allow you to sync your rides directly to the app.
The Garmin Connect app is another popular one that you might have used if you’ve had a Garmin. However, it’s not fully compatible with the Apple Watch. If you’ve previously had a Garmin fitness watch, it might be difficult to make the switch.
Here are some of the frequently asked questions people think of when buying a fitness tracker.
The Garmin Forerunner 235 can be used for cycling, but it’s a fitness watch designed for running. That means you’ll miss out on some features that are more specific for cycling that are available for other Garmin models, like fenix 5. If you don’t need those features, it’s a very good product.
Sure. Fitbit has rolled out so many models, and there are many that are ideal for bike enthusiasts. Even the most basic Fitbits track cycling, and the more elaborate ones give you really specific metrics.
Many fitness trackers claim to measure your VO2 max—that is, how much oxygen your body uses while exercising. The truth is not so simple. Fitness trackers can’t really measure it, only calculate an estimate from your heart rate, age, weight, and other factors. It’s not accurate, but it’s a ballpark figure of your general fitness level, and can be very useful for cycling.
There are numerous models available, but one of the best, and the most complete smartwatch for cycling is the Apple Watch 5.
All Fitbits are adaptable to basic exercises, including race and mountain biking. However, the best models out on the market right now are the Ionic and Versa 2.
- Apple – Apple Watch Series 5 Battery Information, retrieved from https://www.apple.com/watch/battery/
- Harvard Medical School – Heart rhythm monitoring with a smartwatch, retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/heart-rhythm-monitoring-with-a-smartwatch
- WebMD – Surprising Reasons to Get More Sleep, retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/benefits-sleep-more#1