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Fitness Tech Reviews

Best Garmin GPS Watches For Cycling (Updated)

If you’re a surfer, you will know that no matter how fun and exciting the sport can be, it is also extremely dangerous. With the risk of being wiped off your board and hitting submerged obstacles under the water, it is vital to protect yourself with the appropriate safety gear.

Head-related injuries are unfortunately quite common in both amateur and professional surfing. Such injuries can cause unconsciousness and drowning, which is why it is so important to wear a helmet.

Best Tech
Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Garmin Fenix 6X Pro
$509.99
Pros:
  • Dynamic Pace Pro
  • Pulse Ox Sensors
  • TOPO Maps
  • Rugged Design
  • Big Battery Life
Cons:
  • Bulky Size
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05/06/2022 12:19 am GMT
Best Value
Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Garmin Vivoactive 4
$329.99$249.99
Pros:
  • Body Battery Energy Monitoring
  • Hydration Tracking
  • Built-In Sports Apps
  • Smart Notifications
  • Tracking Features
Cons:
  • Limited Battery
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05/06/2022 12:19 am GMT
Best For High-Performance Tracking
Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Garmin Fenix 6
Pros:
  • Versatile Design
  • Trendline Popularity Routing
  • Navigation Sensors
  • Training Features
Cons:
  • Not Quite Stylish
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Best for Technology

Garmin Fenix 6X Pro

Our Pick
Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Garmin Fenix 6X Pro
$509.99

With a big, sunlight-readable 1.4 inches display that's 36% larger than previous Fenix models, The Fenix 6x Pro and Fenix 6x sapphire multisport GPS Watches add mapping, music and more to your workouts. They offer training status, running and cycling dynamics and environmentally adjusted Vo2 Max estimates. Both models feature a first-of-its-kind pacepro feature that helps keep your pacing strategy on track, Providing grade-adjusted guidance as you run a course. Styled for all-day wearability, these versatile Watches come with preloaded topo maps and ski maps for more than 2,000 worldwide ski resorts. Other highlights include enhanced wrist heart rate.

Pros:
  • Dynamic Pace Pro
  • Pulse Ox Sensors
  • TOPO Maps
  • Rugged Design
  • Big Battery Life
Cons:
  • Bulky Size
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05/06/2022 12:19 am GMT

The Garmin Fenix 6X Pro is a watch that is built for intensive use. With Dynamic Pace Pro you can receive guidance on your pace that is adjusted to the terrain and gradient you are riding at.

Going up to high altitudes? Check out their sensors which can help determine your heart rate and blood oxygen saturation levels. Wherever you go, the rugged design can stand up to some punishing treatment, which we liked in our testing. It is even up to US military standards for shock, water, and thermal resistance.

The battery life is also durable as it can go a solid 21 days between charges. As long as you can stand up to the conditions, so can this watch.

Pros

  • Dynamic Pace Pro – Pace guidance that is grade adjusted so you know how fast you should be going over various terrain
  • Pulse Ox Sensors – Determines blood oxygen saturation levels to help advanced sleep monitoring and how you acclimatize to high altitudes
  • TOPO Maps – Helpful for navigating the outdoors with specialized maps
  • Rugged Design – The watch is tested for shock, water, and thermal resistance to US military standards
  • Big Battery Life – With smartwatch mode, you can take 21 days between charges

Cons

  • Bulky Size – With the rugged design and so much functionality, the watch can be deemed a bit bulky

Also available directly from Garmin

Best for Value

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Best Value
Garmin Vivoactive 4 Garmin Vivoactive 4
$329.99$249.99

Tune in to your body, and tone up with the 45mm Vivoactive 4 GPS smartwatch. It has the broadest available range of all-day health monitoring features, music storage and on screen, Animated workouts To help you reach your goals. Boost every activity by downloading your favorite Spotify or Deezer playlists (may require a premium subscription with a third party music provider) straight to your watch. Bezel material: Stainless steel.

Pros:
  • Body Battery Energy Monitoring
  • Hydration Tracking
  • Built-In Sports Apps
  • Smart Notifications
  • Tracking Features
Cons:
  • Limited Battery
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05/06/2022 12:19 am GMT

For a mid-range smartwatch that still comes with the basic functionality that you need, consider the Garmin Vivoactive 4.

Granted, the Vivoactive range is more multi-purpose but for cycling it does an admirable job.

With Body Battery Energy Monitoring, you can check if you are primed for that long ride you have been preparing for. The tracking features can be a comfort to your companions to find out where you are quickly. Especially if you go further than intended.

Then there are smart notifications which you would expect so you can check your messages and emails while on the move.

As well as cycling, the watch is versatile for other sports which we liked in our testing. It can even let you know if your hydration level requires topping up.

Pros

  • Body Battery Energy Monitoring – Check your energy levels so you know when you are ready for an intense ride
  • Hydration Tracking – Keep logging your fluid intake then let the watch work out your hydration levels based on how much you sweat during a ride
  • Built-In Sports Apps – As well as cycling, you can log your walking, golf, and running amongst other sports
  • Smart Notifications – With a compatible smartphone you can check your emails and texts while on the move
  • Tracking Features – Ensure that your loved ones know your live location which is welcome peace of mind

Cons

  • Limited Battery – Though the battery still offers great value, a six-hour battery life during intensive use may not be sufficient

Also available directly from Garmin

Best for High-Performance Tracking

Garmin Fenix 6

Our Pick
Garmin Fenix 6 Garmin Fenix 6
  • Fit for performance with rugged, sophisticated design that features an always-on 1.3” (18% larger than previous fēnix models) sunlight-readable display with bezels in stainless steel, titanium or diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating
  • Features enhanced wrist heart rate and Pulse Ox (this is not a medical device and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or monitoring of any medical condition) sensing of blood oxygen saturation to support advanced sleep monitoring and altitude acclimation at high elevations
  • Advanced training features include PacePro for grade-adjusted pace guidance throughout your activity plus environmentally adjusted VO2 max and training status estimates
Pros:
  • Versatile Design
  • Trendline Popularity Routing
  • Navigation Sensors
  • Training Features
Cons:
  • Not Quite Stylish
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For those long off-road rides, you need a smartwatch that you know is designed for outdoor adventures.

The sort of watch that will have your back if you need to work out where you are, or exactly how far you have gone.

With full-color topographical maps, you should be able to work out your location. These are preloaded too so no need to stress out on an intermittent satellite signal.

Trendline Popularity Routing is also a really handy feature to find the best route when you require it most.

We also liked the various navigation sensors which work well together to grab your exact location.

This is a rugged watch that also expects some rough treatment from the elements, and is more than prepared for it.

Pros

  • Versatile Design – Choose from diamond-like carbon, titanium, or stainless steel for the bezel
  • Full-Color TOPO Mapping – Full-color topographical maps that are preloaded to keep you on track during a long ride
  • Trendline Popularity Routing – Whenever you need to find the best path to follow, use the Trendline popularity routing feature
  • Navigation Sensors – Improved tracking in difficult environments with an altimeter, three-axis compass, a barometer and several satellite systems
  • Training Features – Check your training load against your history and work out when you are reaching peak performance

Cons

  • Not Quite Stylish – The watch is built for performance though there are more stylish watches out there

Also available directly from Garmin

Best for Style

Garmin Venu 2

Our Pick
Garmin Venu 2 Garmin Venu 2
$369.99

When you live healthy, you live better. Get in tune with your mind and body with Venu 2. This smaller-sized GPS smartwatch has fitness features to help you better understand what’s going on inside your body. It feels good to move. Switch up your activities with animated workouts and more than 25 built-in indoor and GPS sports apps. Feed your soul with your favorite music, stored right on your wrist for phone-free listening when paired with wireless headphones (sold separately). And battery life up to 5 days with rapid recharging lets you get an uninterrupted picture of your health. This is what it’s all about. Mind and body — connected by Garmin.

Pros:
  • AMOLED Display
  • Connect IQ Store
  • Tough Build
  • Stress Tracking
  • Advanced Sleep Monitoring
Cons:
  • Lackluster App Support
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05/06/2022 12:20 am GMT

Behind that gorgeous AMOLED display is a tough build. You can even download your own custom watch face by using the Connect IQ store.

This is a smartwatch that is built for intense activity yet you will look great on your wrist all day long. Stress Tracking is one feature we liked in our testing to indicate when is a good moment to take some time to yourself.

The advanced sleep monitoring is a great reason to keep on the watch during the night too. With Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and a stainless steel bezel, the smartwatch is prepared for testing conditions.

With a water rating of 5 ATM, you could even take it for a swim down to 50 meters. 

Though for cycling, you should simply get your worth out of the silicone band and Body Battery Energy Monitoring.

Pros

  • AMOLED Display – The bright display looks great while riding yet also in everyday use
  • Connect IQ Store – Ideal if you fancy mixing it up with a new watch face
  • Tough Build – Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and a stainless steel bezel make this smartwatch built for intense riding in all weather conditions
  • Stress Tracking – You can check the watch to find out how stressful a day you are having, ideal for when you need to let off some steam on your bike
  • Advanced Sleep Monitoring – Receive a daily sleep quality score with some advice on how to improve your sleep

Cons

  • Lackluster App Support – Though the watch does have access to the Connect IQ Store there is little app support

Also available directly from Garmin

Robust Design

Garmin Instinct Solar

Our Pick
Garmin Instinct Solar Garmin Instinct Solar
$349.99$279.99

Do what you love, longer with Instinct Solar. This rugged GPS smart Watch boasts solar charging, giving incredible battery life in smart Watch and Expedition modes while outdoors. Monitor how your body uses energy by tracking heart rate, stress, estimated sleep and Pulse Ox (this is not a medical device and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or monitoring of any medical condition), which helps give you a better understanding of your health and wellness. Get more out of the sports you love with preloaded activity profiles such as running, biking, swimming and more. Smart notifications (when paired with a compatible smartphone) at the wrist keep you connected to what matters. Multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo) help you track wherever your adventures take you.

Pros:
  • Power Glass
  • Sturdy Design
  • Fiber-Reinforced Polymer Case
  • Multi-GNSS Support
  • Trackback Routing
Cons:
  • Substantial Build
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05/06/2022 02:25 am GMT

If you ever get lost on a long ride, you need a watch that you know you can trust. One with a super robust design that can look after itself.

The Garmin Instinct Solar is built for endurance. With a Power Glass screen, you can enhance the longevity by using the power of the sun, which we liked in our testing.

This is especially important if you intend to go a few days without charging.Out in the great outdoors, the sturdy design meets US military standard 810, which should be more than enough durability.

Little surprise it hits those marks; a fiber-reinforced polymer case means it can take some rough treatment. There is even multi-GNSS support to back up the GPS and Tracback Routing to find your way back.

We do not recommend that you intentionally get lost yet this is a watch that can help you get home if you do.

Pros

  • Power Glass – A solar charging lens is a game-changer for extending the battery life
  • Sturdy Design – The watch has been built to US military standard 810 and delivers formidable thermal, shock, and water resistance
  • Fiber-Reinforced Polymer Case – Built for endurance and withstanding extreme conditions
  • Multi-GNSS Support – Complement your GPS with global navigation satellite systems such as GLONASS and Galileo for quick tracking in challenging environments
  • Tracback Routing – Find your way back exactly the way you came to create a stress-free return journey

Cons

  • Substantial Build – While incredibly robust, the design has been described as ‘chunky’

Also available directly from Garmin

Best for Training

Garmin Forerunner 745

Our Pick
Garmin Forerunner 745 Garmin Forerunner 745
$499.99

Chase down new PRs with Forerunner 745. This GPS running watch is made for runners and triathletes like you who need detailed training stats and on-device workouts plus smartwatch functions like music, contactless payments and more. Preloaded activity profiles for cycling and pool swimming let you round out your training routine, and the multisport profile consolidates data for your brick workouts. Tap into advanced physio features like heat and altitude acclimation, training load focus and race predictor to meet your goals. Sync music from select streaming services (premium subscription required) to store on your watch for phone-free listening while you run.

Pros:
  • Daily Workout Suggestions
  • Training Effect Feedback
  • Tracking Capacity
  • Recovery Time
  • Wearable Design
Cons:
  • Comparably Poor Battery Life
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05/06/2022 02:58 am GMT

There are novice cyclists and there are those that want to improve on a daily basis. For the latter, there is the Garmin Forerunner 745.

If you like to track the data and eke out your best performance then this is the watch for you.

From daily workout suggestions to push you further to Training Effect Feedback to show your specific improvement, every factor is considered.

While the watch may seem demanding, it is lightweight and comfortable to wear during the day and a ride, which we liked in our testing.

With a Race Predictor, Recovery Time feature, and the capacity to store data from 200 rides, this is a watch you will want to make the most of. As it will your performance.

Pros

  • Daily Workout Suggestions – Take your training to the next level with ride recommendations that considers your training load
  • Training Effect Feedback – Rate how your speed, endurance, and power are developing with analytical feedback
  • Tracking Capacity – The watch can hold data for up to 200 individual rides
  • Recovery Time – Let the watch tell you when you are primed for another tough few hours on the bike
  • Wearable Design – Lightweight and built for daily life as well as comfortable riding

Cons

  • Comparably Poor Battery Life – For all the fitness tracking capabilities, the battery life could be improved

Also available directly from Garmin

Best Overall Battery Life

Garmin Enduro

Our Pick
Garmin Enduro Garmin Enduro
$829.99$679.99

Looking for a watch that matches your ever-changing endurance? Witness it right on your wrist with the Enduro ultraperformance multisport GPS watch. Featuring a monster battery life, solar charging, strength & power training, ultrarun activities, enhanced recovery timer, and workout recommendations.

Pros:
  • Solar Charging
  • Power Management
  • Excellent Battery Life In GPS Mode
  • Lightweight
  • Durable Design
Cons:
  • Lack of Touchscreen
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05/06/2022 12:14 am GMT

Enduro by name, endurance by nature. For a Garmin GPS watch with excellent battery life then there really is no debate.

This watch goes that bit further by offering solar charging which can seriously improve its duration.

That comes with a durable design that is ready to repel whatever the weather can throw at it without getting scratched.In GPS mode, you should be able to go for several rides without charging, up to 80 hours in fact.

If that’s not enough use the Power Manager to specify which settings you want so you can extend the battery life even further. This was a feature we enjoyed in our experience with this product.

Pros

  • Solar Charging – Even without the excellent battery, you can use the power of the sun to go that bit further
  • Power Management – Learn how several settings and sensors deplete your battery then decide which ones you want to keep to extend that battery life even further
  • Excellent Battery Life In GPS Mode – Revel in up to 80 hours in GPS mode or 300 hours using max battery mode
  • Lightweight – You should barely notice the smartwatch while you are riding
  • Durable Design – Weather-resistant design which is primed to be scratch-resistant

Cons

  • Lack of Touchscreen – For all the battery life, the lack of a touchscreen was telling

Also available directly from Garmin

Best Battery Life in GPS Mode

Garmin Forerunner 945

Our Pick
Garmin Forerunner 945 Garmin Forerunner 945
$599.99$510.00

You’re an athlete, and this is your watch. The forerunner 945 running watch lets you sync with premium music services to put your songs on your wrist when paired with a compatible smartphone (may require premium subscription). It also offers our most advanced physiological features, including training load balance and more. Also enjoy the convenience of quick, contactless payments solution (available for supported cards from participating banks) from the wrist with Garmin Pay. With full color, onboard maps to guide you on your run, you’ll never get lost during a workout. Wherever you go, built in safety and tracking features — such as incident detection (during select activities), which sends you send your real time location to emergency contacts through your paired compatible smartphone.

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05/06/2022 10:44 am GMT

Granted, the Garmin Forerunner 945 is intended for premium runners and triathletes yet does a great job for cycling too.

A set of analytics will keep you up to date on your performance no matter what the weather. That includes your heart rate, sleep, and oxygen saturation.

The GPS is also enhanced with multi-GNSS which allows for more global navigation satellite systems.

Having a watch that has an easy-to-understand map is a feature we enjoyed in our experience with this product. 

The Bluetooth compatibility means you can listen to music while riding, though you would require a premium subscription to Spotify.

Pros

  • Performance Metrics – Improve your performance by checking the performance metrics after each ride
  • Multi-GNSS Support – More global navigation satellite systems for more impressive GPS tracking
  • Quick Setup – You can just press the 30.4 mm screen and go then allow the satellite to pick up your position
  • Bluetooth Compatibility – Wear your Bluetooth headphones and enjoy some music as you ride
  • PlayBetter HD Tempered Glass – Protect your watch against scratches with screen protectors

Cons

  • Large Price Tag – If you want a more tailored cycling watch, you may be put off by the price with this one
  • Premium Spotify Subscription Required – You can have 1000 songs at your disposal yet you would require a premium subscription to Spotify

Also available directly from Garmin

Best Entry-Level Watch

Garmin Venu Sq

Our Pick
Garmin Venu Sq Garmin Venu Sq
$149.99

Featuring a bright color display, the Venu Sq GPS smartwatch combines daily style with health monitoring and fitness features that inspire you to keep moving. Estimate your heart rate, sleep, stress, Body Battery energy levels and so much more. Walk, run, ride or choose from more than 20 preloaded apps for indoor or outdoor sports. Never miss a call or text with smart notifications delivered to your wrist (when paired with a compatible smartphone). Breeze through checkout lines and select transit systems with Garmin Pay contactless payments (with a supported payment network). Go longer between charges with up to 6 days of battery life. Swim, bike, run — do it all with a smartwatch that uses multiple satellite systems to accurately track your workouts.

Pros:
  • Lightweight and small
  • Comes with 20 preloaded apps for sports, including things like golf and
  • Comes with preloaded workouts such as plates, cardio yoga and strength
  • Comes with smart notifications
Cons:
  • It can have a habit of glitching and the GPS reception isn’t very good
  • The screen may be a little bit small for cyclists
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05/06/2022 01:07 am GMT

For an affordable GPS watch, the Garmin Venu Sq delivers everything you would expect and more. The watch is focused on sport so you can use it for cycling or the odd run and even a swim. 

Along with that inviting affordability, there is a multitude of fitness tracking functionality. That includes the Pulse Ox Sensor for checking your blood oxygen saturation levels and hydration tracking.

When you are ready for a ride, the heart rate monitoring and respiration tracking offer useful data on how your body is doing.

The watch even looks after you during the night with advanced sleep monitoring.

All that and a bright color screen that you would expect to come from a bigger outlay, which we liked in our testing.

Pros

  • Lightweight Aluminum Bezel – The watch is built for comfort while riding or during your everyday activities 
  • Affordable Price Tag – With all this functionality and style, you may be surprised at the price tag
  • Essential Features – From advanced sleep monitoring to wrist-based heart rate monitoring and respiration tracking
  • Bright Color Screen – The display is eye-catching and also comes with an always-on mode so it is ready when you need it

Cons

  • Lack of Altimeter – The GPS is not wholly accurate for altitude so this may not be ideal for tracking climbs

Also available directly from Garmin


Best Garmin GPS Watches For Cycling Buying Guide

As the smartwatch market has developed, Garmin has repeatedly come out on top with its range of GPS watches.

For the highest standard of tracking, you simply cannot look further. Such is their success, they have a range of smartwatches that you can choose from to cater from entry-level to high-end models more suited to professional cyclists.

Some come in on a low budget while others are impressive for the sheer amount of functionality they can contain. Especially when you consider how small they can be when strapped to your wrist.

Best Garmin GPS Watches for Cycling (Updated)

Build

Due to their exposure to the elements, Garmin GPS watches come in a range of durable designs.

They are designed to withstand some harsh treatment, which includes being weather and shock-resistant. The build is really important to consider as you may want to change settings as you are riding. 

While a touchscreen is great to use when you are setting your watch up before a ride, that functionality can be lost while riding. Certainly, you would not be advised to use the touchscreen while riding. Having a set of buttons that you can use is a worthwhile and safe option to have.

It also helps if you are able to manually choose what each button is used for so most of that functionality is present while riding and can be easily adjusted or checked.

Comfort

You may be used to relying on your cycling computer for all those crucial analytics yet that has changed markedly with the advanced development of smartwatches.

That can mean you will have to continually wear it though, how else do you expect it to provide heart-rate analysis?

The smartwatch should comfortably wrap itself around your wrist so you barely notice it while cycling. With a snug, secure fit you can expect the data to be accurate and for the smartwatch to remain in place.There are two factors to consider when it comes to the comfort of a GPS watch.

The first is the material of the strap and you should opt for the flexibility of silicone. Metal can include sharp edges and fabric can become irritating.

The second factor is the screen size as one that dominates your wrist is likely to get in the way.Just like any watch, the weight of the device may put you off wanting to wear it for hours on end.

If you can feel it weigh down your wrist while you are trying it out, chances are you could sense it during a ride. Ideally, your smartwatch should be present yet not detectable.

All that functionality should dutifully arrive without the sense that wearing it is taking away any focus from your riding.

Fitness Tracking

There is not a lot of difference between Garmin GPS watches when it comes to fitness tracking.

As it is worn around your wrist, you should expect data on your heart rate, with some analysis into your sleeping habits thrown in too.

That daily record of your resting heart rate also helps the smartwatch work out when you are really pushing yourself.

It could also indicate when you are approaching peak fitness, or whether you have overtrained and become fatigued. The more you wear the watch and take it out while riding, the better and more detailed the fitness tracking will be.

Over time, the watch will get a better understanding of your exercise habits and build a profile of what it can expect from your performance and fitness levels. If you are looking to up your fitness then the watch should help you find ways to improve that.

The watch may even advise you appropriately on how to go further and push yourself that much harder.

Certain prompts can instruct you when it is ideal to rest up or when you should step up to some drills and challenge yourself.

Smartphone Compatibility

For many cyclists, their smartwatch should be an extension of their smartphone. With customizable notifications, you can set it so you only see the alerts that truly matter.

If you have gone out for a ride to get away from it all then you need the option to truly switch off. However, you may want the option to enable replies, just in case you truly need to.

There should also be similar functionality including Bluetooth connectivity to hear songs, as you would with your smartphone. Having the ability to pair your smartwatch to your smartphone also means having the tracking data available.

You could also set it up so that the data comes from your smartwatch after a ride, negating the need to carry your smartphone with you.

Using Bluetooth connectivity, it should be straightforward to link up your smartwatch to a fitness app. Your riding should be uploaded wirelessly and promptly, perhaps even without you instigating it.

Style

Due to the constant exposure on your wrist, your GPS watch should look stylish. That element of fashion may not be the overall reason for buying one yet it should be factored into your decision.

You may prefer rugged, bulky designs as those are the watches you are used to wearing and fitting in with your general look.

However, Garmin has taken the initiative to produce displays that are consistently functional yet look great at the same time.A lot of the style comes from the display and a sophisticated font with some bright colors may match your persona perfectly. However, a bit of subtlety should not go amiss and you should consider clean lines and smooth edges. 

If you want to maintain fitness tracking throughout the day while at work, you need a watch that will look appropriate in an important meeting.

Thankfully, there are several Garmin GPS watches that fit the bill.

Cycling Modes

There are a lot of Garmin GPS watches to choose from and cycling may not be the only physical activity you enjoy. That is why various modes are available, so you can get more tailored functionality.

With a range of activity profiles available, you can track your progress in popular sports such as running and swimming yet the watch should include more specific modes for cycling.

You could have the one bike yet partake in road or mountain biking, even commuting and the watch should be smart enough to determine this. There are even watches that can provide training workouts if you want to up your performance.

Over time, you could also build training zones to really test how far you have come. If you want a watch that you can use to track your performance over various pursuits then there is that functionality.

However, it may be advisable to work out how intrinsic you want the analysis in certain sports over others.

Offline Music Support

If you like to listen to some music while out for a ride, having offline music support is a must. You may have several playlists on various music streaming services and having them in one place is really handy.

Having a Garmin GPS watch that caters for Spotify, as well as Amazon Music, Google Play Music and Apple Music should allow you to listen to your favorites.

Battery Life

Assessing the battery life can get complicated. As with many smart devices, there will be a basic battery life where the watch will remain charged for longer if you barely use the functionality.

However, if you are out on a long ride and need to use both Bluetooth and GPS functionality then that can take up some juice. The last thing you want on an all-day ride is for the battery to run out right at the end of your day.

Having a battery life that can last for over eight hours of intensive use is a feature to look out for as that should cover most long rides.

A lot of smartwatches boast about their enviable battery life yet you should test this yourself. If you go for all-day rides and rely on the GPS then that duration is one you should determine on your own.

The watch should be able to last for as long as you need it with the functionality you need.Such is the technology available, the battery life on your smartwatch should rival that of a cycling computer.

There is also an increasing amount of options to eke out the battery life even further. Solar charging and power management are great for specifying what functionality you want at all times. Connecting the battery for a charge should also be pretty straightforward.

You may want to use a specific USB cable or simply find the same one that you would use for your smartphone. That way you can reduce the number of cables you need to take with you on a cycling trip.

GPS Tracker

Obviously, the watch should have a GPS tracker (otherwise why would you be researching GPS watches?).

There was a time when smartwatches would perform the GPS tracking by using a connected smartphone. However, technology is so advanced that smartwatches can do it all by themselves.

You should expect basic distance logging yet also altimeters and barometers. These are vital if you want to compare how well you are performing on climbs. These watches should take into consideration how draining the GPS tracking can be. That does not necessarily mean a bigger watch for a bigger battery, the watch should be comfortable and appropriately sized.

You may also want the GPS Tracker to ensure that your loved ones know where you are too. There are also features such as TracBack Routing that can direct you back to the start just the way you came.

Heart Rate Monitor

Having an optical heart rate monitor may be one of those functions that is considered nice to have but you may not use it that extensively.

Most smartwatches use these wrist-based monitors to demonstrate how hard you are working. That insight is then used alongside separate fitness metrics such as those that judge your recovery and sleep quality.

Alas, there is still some way to go for wrist-based monitoring to become as accurate as chest strap monitors. That is largely due to the comparative lack of skin contact yet smartwatches do produce worthwhile insight.

Accelerometers/Altimeters

Should you head into obscure areas where the GPS may cut out or there is satellite dropout, there is other functionality you can use.

This includes accelerometers that can track your speed. If climbing is one of your strengths then you may want to seek out a barometric altimeter.

Just having one of these features can prove really useful as the altitude data on a GPS is not always hugely accurate and an altimeter can be incredibly precise.

Maps/Navigation

GPS tracking is one thing yet having route planning and navigation you can easily use is another feature to consider.

In a smartwatch, you should expect a breadcrumb trail so you can follow a trail you have already pre-planned.

Ideally, this will include instructions and directions on every turn so it proves increasingly difficult to get lost. 

The higher-end models should also have a basemap which can come in handy. Functionality may mirror that of a car with in-ride rerouting though this may require you to carry your smartphone. The topography may also be of prime importance, especially if you enjoy a climb.

It may be the case that on a long ride your stamina demands that you test yourself and using a full-color TOPO map can help you find a suitable slope within seconds.

Connectivity

Of course, Bluetooth connectivity is essential if you want to listen to songs via your wireless earphones. You are not going to be wearing corded headphones so wireless connectivity is required.

Bluetooth’s connectivity is also crucial should you use other sensors such as a speed and cadence sensor, power meter, or heart rate strap.

Having a smartwatch should mean connecting to these devices for the best analysis. That includes when climbing up slopes and a power meter to show your power-to-weight ratio is great to improve on.There is some versatility in the connectivity on offer. Most watches will include Bluetooth as their ideal protocol.

However, there is also ANT+ connectivity available on some high-end watches. This is what you should be looking for if you want the best out of a new power meter as some from SRM and Quarq may only use an ANT+ signal.

If all this connectivity sounds bewildering, it need not be. You can set the functionality to whatever you require; advanced tracking and wireless music or just important notifications.

The Display

With any watch, you should be looking for one that you can read easily. The bigger displays tend to be in bulkier designs so the display should be manageable with a user interface you can understand.

They should be able to display the most basic of routes yet also show several other data fields and analytics. The screen size can vary hugely from 30 to 45mm so it may be an idea to try on numerous smartwatches first.

Having one that has a clear and big enough display is one thing yet if it is uncomfortable it can be distracting. 

Nobody wants a scratched or cracked screen which has been considered by Garmin for a lot of their more recent GPS watches for cycling.

Some models have gone for a Gorilla Glass or mineral screen while the further up the price range you go you may find a sapphire or crystal screen.

As a cyclist, you may be used to a cycling computer that comes with a much larger screen. However, smartwatches can still contain that functionality, even with their limited size.

With that in mind, you should get one that has the functionality you need at that ideal size. Not too big and not too small for your wrist but a clear enough display to effortlessly check while riding. You should also have a play around with the display to ensure it shows just what you want. Limiting the analytics and the fields should give you all the data you require at a quick glance.

This is certainly important with the GPS as you may want to zoom out with the map so you have a better idea of your progress.

That display is also indispensable if you plan on using the smartwatch for sleep tracking during the night. If the watch is too big and props up your wrist, that may make it difficult to sleep comfortably.

Of course, you should also ensure that the display is off so any alerts do not light up during the night.

The Strap

Another factor to take into account for comfort is the strap, specifically what material is used. A lot of smartwatches tend to opt for silicone bands as these provide some welcome flexibility.

You can also find metal straps as well as those in leather and fabric. Just like any watch, you should know what material feels best on your wrist.

Fabric can chaff and metal edges can dig into your skin as you ride which can become very uncomfortable.

It should be relatively straightforward to change the strap, especially with a ‘tool-free’ system though you may need a Torx tool.

Durability

Your watch should be able to take a hit, especially if you take it off-road. As it will sit on your wrist, that exposure requires water resistance which should be expected.

You should also look out for an IP rating as this details the rating for ingress protection. 

An IP67 rating is recommended which is a suitably high number that delivers excellent protection. 

Best Garmin GPS Watches For Cycling – FAQ’s

How Does My Garmin Watch Know That I’m Moving And Exercising?

There is a feature known as ‘Move IQ’ that is included on several Garmin watches that actively knows that you are performing physical activity.

Move IQ automatically detects movement as different types of exercise such as cycling, swimming, running, or simply walking.

If this movement is continuous and lasts at least ten minutes then the feature should tag it as an event.

That can be a bit awkward if you find yourself power walking because you are late for the subway yet that should still count as exercise. However, if you are consciously performing an activity and the Garmin GPS watch fails to recognize or log it there are some ways to make sure it does.

Firstly, ensure that the exercise lasts for at least ten minutes and is definitely continuous. Even if you do take a short break you should still continue moving.

Also, check the Move IQ feature to confirm that exercise is one of the identified types. You should also ensure that your watch is being worn in the correct place, which is on your wrist.

Finally, check that Move IQ has been enabled in Garmin Connect. You can check this by going to Garmin Devices, then Device Settings, and selecting Activity Tracking. Move IQ should be listed here.

If one specific exercise is not being logged as a Move IQ event, it could be that the movement is not detected and is outside the device’s algorithm.

Alternatively, if you notice that Move IQ events are being detected and tagged constantly without performing that exercise then this can confuse your fitness tracking.

In this scenario, you should disable Move IQ as a feature from your Garmin Connect account.

Can I Use My Garmin Watch For Other Activities?

Yes, cycling is just one of many activities that you can track using your Garmin GPS watch.

Most of the watches have several activity profiles which are tailored for specific activities. These should include running, walking, and exercises such as yoga. The activity profiles are so tailored they can recognize variations of the same activity.

For instance, you can have an activity profile for running on a treadmill or running outside. Not only will the watch track your outside cycling but also spinning which is done indoors.

The watch should also be able to track your outside walking routes, as well as provide similar data for indoor walking. Even if you do not do any specific activities as defined by the profiles, certain watches can still pull plenty of useful data.

This can include your resting heart rate, daily steps, calorie burn, stress level, respiration rate, and sleep monitoring. 

You may not need all of that data yet it can help your general health if you pay attention to how well you are sleeping and how far you are walking each day.

Andrew Barrett
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