If you’re a cycling novice, one way to improve your performance is to buy a GPS cycling smartwatch.
GPS cycling watches offer maps for navigation so you know where you are, but they do more than that. They’ll monitor distance, speed, calories burned, heart rate and zones. Furthermore, letting you listen to music and alert you to your chosen notifications without having to be near your phone.
Here are five key features to look for in a cycling watch.
# 1 – GPS
GPS watches advance every year and increasingly they resemble a bike computer that you wear on your wrist, rather than attach to your handlebars. These watches do more than navigate, they offer more general fitness tracking. A handlebar computer might have a larger display for your maps, granted, but there are certain situations in which a GPS cycling smartwatch has the edge.
Once you know the gaps in your performance, a GPS cycling smartwatch will give you feedback that will aid your training by offering specificity. A lot of professional cyclists will spend half of their preseason time working on their cardio strength to ensure their endurance levels are where they need to be. This allows them to take on sprints and kills later on. Being able to measure pace and perceived effort using a GPS watch will give you the data you need to fine-tune your training, mile for mile.
Check out some recommendations of the best GPS watches.
# 2 – Design
Designs range from barely-there lightweight and slender to more rugged and clunky with a feel of reliability.
Wristbands come in a range of materials, from stainless steel to leather and silicone. If you like to ride somewhere where it gets a bit wet, this will be an important choice.
You’ll want to consider the ergonomics of the strap, as every moving part plays a role in your overall comfort. Straps with holes offer breathability, for example. Avoid something that will pinch or pull. Opt for a user-friendly fastening. Consider what weather you like to ride in; if you ride in the cold, perhaps you want an extendable strap to fit the watch over the top of your clothes.
Check if the display is large enough to see your information and ensure you’re happy with any side buttons and the idea of easily pressing them as you ride.
Remember that design is about more than just how it looks.
#3 – Multisport tracking
For many active people, cycling isn’t the only sport they’re into. Spending a large sum on a dedicated cycling computer might be a waste when you can spend the same amount of money on a watch that offers more.
Multisport watches are primarily designed with triathletes in mind, but they track cycling, as well as swimming, running and potentially hundreds of other sports. A watch that monitors it all in once place is a handy device for someone who is into more than cycling – and if you have more than one bike; a watch allows you to move between bikes effortlessly. When its on your wrist all the time, it monitors your health and fitness constantly (including sleep and recovery times), too, which can only be of help when analysing your performance.
Check out some multisport watch recommendations.
#4 – Sensors
Smartwatches can have all kinds of sensors. It really depends on what requirements you have for a watch as to what sensors you need.
Smartwatches can come with a barometric pressure sensor, altimeter, compass (or magnetometer), heart rate monitor, accelerometer, gyroscope (usually used for screens that ‘wake up’ when you tilt your wrist). Don’t forget GPS (already covered, above). The list is rather impressive when you consider these all live in a device that simply straps on your wrist.
All these functions significantly affect the battery life of your device so don’t simply go for a watch that has everything, or you might find that when you get on your bike, you’ll be heading back sooner than you think for a charger. There is usually information about how long you can expect your watch to last between chargers, based on different use.
The Apple Watch 5 Series has a plethora of sensors for this, but for a different suggestion, the Suunto Traverse is an excellent watch.
#5 – ATM rating
No watch ever made has ever been waterproof. Typically, a watch that is marketed as being waterproof should have an ATM rating. ATM stands for atmosphere. For every 1 ATM, it’s roughly ten meters. This does not mean that a deep-sea diver has gone 100m underwater with the watch on to test if it still tells the time. Rather, it’s tested in a lab under a surprisingly low level of water (centimetres) and water pressure is applied. This isn’t a realistic scenario to test how ‘waterproof’ a watch is, so, therefore, the general rule is until it reaches 100-200m then you shouldn’t do more than shower in it. With regard to cycling, you’ll inevitably get caught in the rain sometimes, so 50m should be appropriate.
Check out the best Waterproof Fitbit Watches coming in 2020
Cyclists tend to be generally very active people so a multisport or cycling smartwatch will be far more suitable (in terms of function and costs) for the lifestyle of a cyclist, rather than a computer mounted onto one of their bikes. Even more beneficial is the combination a cycling watch with the wealth of features and befits provided by cycling and fitness apps – read more in our guide.
Last Updated on March 4, 2023
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