There are currently some great cycling watches on the market right now.
We’ve come to expect that all our devices deliver data – tracking your exercise progress is the new standard. However, it’s not just athletes who want to analyse their fitness data. Beginners want to track their information because it allows them to set goals and improve.
When it comes to cycling, most people start off by downloading Strava. This is a great app for measuring distance, speed and personal best records. But apps like this run constantly during your session and are a big drain on a phone’s battery. Many don’t give you the opportunity to monitor your heart rate, so cyclists have started looking toward wearable tech as an alternative to phone apps.
Here are some mid-range suggestions of cycling watches for those who have gotten into cycling recently and found a love for it, or the more advanced rider.
$229 / £198
Fitbit is the go-to name for those getting into fitness. It’s marketing department has done a very good job, and luckily, so has its developers. If you’ve previously used a budget fitness tracker and are ready for something better Fitbit has you covered. Fitbit launched the Ionic, its first GPS smartwatch with fitness right at the heart.
It’s the fitness element that separates the Ionic from other smartwatches, which have features that are distracting whilst you’re riding. The Ionic doesn’t draw your attention away with too many app notifications but you can still access your favourite apps if you want to. The choice is yours!
The display is a little more generous than the Apple Watch. The screen is also significantly brighter than its more expensive competitors, making it easy to see even on a sunny day.
It has one button on the left and two on the right. These are used to navigate the watch, as well as the touchscreen.
The Ionic comes with the Fitbit Coach app which is particularly good for the newer cyclist as it helps guide you through your training to help you reach your goals.
It also has a GPS feature that allows you to see distance, pace and a map of where you’ve been. For accuracy, the Ionic has an integrated antenna which gives it much stronger GPS reception.
If you’re unlucky enough to get caught in the rain (or your training goes exceptionally well and you end up doing a triathlon), the Ionic is water-resistant and has advanced swimming tracking options.
Not that it helps your cycling technique, but the Ionic also comes with a plastic strap (which is better when you’re outdoors, for quick drying) or a leather option, so you don’t have to change your watch when you’re not riding.
$139 / £118
The M400 got Polar noticed in the fitness tracker world. It’s considered as one of the best smartwatches with GPS capabilities for its accuracy. Although the wow factor ends there with the M400 because it has no navigation tools to speak of. It offers a heart rate monitor, though, and is waterproof.
In comes the M430. It has all the great features the M400 and more. The M430 has an optical heart rate sensor and even better GPS capabilities. It also has the addition of a sleep tracker.
As far as design goes, it’s sleek compared to competitors like the Apple Watch. It has a similar, if not identical, monochrome style to its predecessor.
The design means you can see the screen easily as you ride. When it’s dark, the display is bright enough to convey the information you need with ease thanks to the optional invert function and a backlight which can be activated with a tap.
An additional improvement seen on the M430 is a soft silicone wristband. It has holes along the length which is meant to make it more breathable.
All in all, for the price, it’s a bargain for new-ish to semi-pro cyclists as it ticks all the major boxes you need to enhance your cycling performance without overwhelming you with notifications or data. This is definitely a top contender for our best cycling watches.
Garmin Forerunner 920XT
$299 / £299
More expensive, granted, but this watch is fantastic for cyclists. The Garmin Forerunner 92XT is a watch recommended for those who are graduating from the beginner cyclist level and going into the semi-pro stage. It offers a coach that stays close to you all the time.
This cycling watch not only helps with your cycling proficiency but will also monitor your sleep and step count. It has a GPS function that will allow you to compare your ride with friends’ and anyone else on the internet. If you want the addition of a heart rate monitor, it’s there.
The 920XT can be a powerful cycling companion if you have the budget to further invest in the ANT+ power meter and/or a speed sensor.
The reason it’s great for those really getting into their sport is the advanced features like VO2 maximum, which learns as you use it. It tells you how much your fitness is improving and over time becomes more accurate about your unique abilities. By the time it’s learnt this about you, it can predict race times and set a realistic target based on where your training is at. Something a pro might be able to do for themselves, and it’ll help you learn how.
When getting into a sport it’s a good idea to start off at the budget end when you’re buying accessories. Cyclists have specific data requirements and beginners need to start slowly to avoid being overwhelmed. This list provides progressive recommendations from the Fitbit, working up to a Garmin. All the watches mentioned cater to the needs of a cyclist, but allow the user time to grow into their sport, to train and learn.