Reviews

The Best Cycling Watches

Gain access to a wrist-based health and fitness monitor.

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BY Norah Tarichia / LAST UPDATED ON March 28, 2021

Gone are the days when a watch was used solely to tell the time. These days many watches come with additional features that are beneficial to athletes. Also, manufacturers are constantly developing new and innovative designs. This means that you have more options to choose from, and there's a good chance that you'll find a watch that meets most (if not all) of your needs. Enter the cyclist smartwatches and fitness trackers that can monitor your active status and health. These watches keep track of your cycling routine so you can boost performance. They are reliable when you are performing at your peak and even when you stop to rest. If you need an effective cycling watch, this guide is a good starting point.

Best Overall
Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smartwatch
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Summary
Summary

This smartwatch is equipped with a large display that lets you monitor the time and your hourly activity, including your heart rate, calories burnt, and distance covered.

Pros
Pros
  • GPS-enabled 
  • Has a 20 feet syncing range
  • Long-lasting, 6-day battery life
  • Compatible with iOS and Android devices
Cons
Cons
  • Can only send voice replies on Android devices
  • Always on display drains the battery faster
Best Overall
Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smartwatch
Best Value
Willful Smartwatch
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Summary
Summary

This is an affordable smartwatch that’s GPS-enabled and lets you keep track of your fitness routine. It accurately monitors your steps, calories, active minutes, and more.

Pros
Pros
  • Waterproof
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Supports multiple physical activities
  • Automatically monitors your real-time heart rate
Cons
Cons
  • Doesn't keep a history of your heart rate data 
  • Can't track swimming data 
  • Sleep tracker may not be 100 percent accurate
Best Value
Willful Smartwatch
Honorable Mention
Apple Watch Series 6
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Summary
Summary

This is a GPS- and Wi-Fi-enabled smartwatch that keeps track of your fitness routine. It also monitors your heart rate and measures your blood oxygen levels.

Pros
Pros
  • Elegant design
  • Comes with a voice-assist feature
  • Screen automatically gets brighter when you ride outdoors
  • Compatible with third-party apps
Cons
Cons
  • Expensive 
  • Doesn't monitor as many activities as other high-end smartwatches
  • Battery only lasts for less than two days
Honorable Mention
Apple Watch Series 6
Cycling Watch Close Up
Amazon

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Benefits of Cycling Watches

  • Track your performance. Most fitness watches on the market are smartwatches that are equipped with fitness profiles that will help you monitor your performance so you can consistently perform at peak levels. Most can monitor your heart rate, speed, calories burnt, distance covered, and more. 
  • Engage in multisport activities. Cyclist watches can estimate and record all kinds of metrics across multiple sports or physical activities. You should be able to use your cycling watch to record you're running, walking, skating, and with some models, swimming data. 
  • Discover new routes. Most cyclists' watches are GPS-enabled so you can use them to find a new cycling route and navigate your way back home. Some models can keep a record of the cycling data whenever you need to revisit the location. You can also upload the data to your bike computer for easier map reading. 
  • Connect with others. Most watch manufacturers have their platforms where the users can gain access to a larger community so they can share their fitness information. This helps you find other cyclists nearby who can join and motivate you on your ride. Also, you can share your cycling route with your friend and family for safety. These platforms include Polar Beat, Garmin Connect, Fitbit Dashboard, Strava, and more.

Types of Cycling Watches

Fitness Tracker

Fitness trackers have evolved from the traditional wristband and sensor design, and now have a watch face that displays the time and date. However, most manufacturers have maintained the traditional look and the watch face is still sleek so it can still be wearable for long training hours. It may have some overlapping features with most smartwatches though the main goal is to monitor your health.

Smartwatch 

A smartwatch is an extension of your smartphone, and is quite similar to regular watches, though it has more advanced features than a fitness tracker. They are often paired with a smartphone, though they can work independently and will still display most of the important apps and notifications from your smartphone. On top of monitoring your cycling routine, you can use them for navigation or music. 

Top Brands 

Apple 

Apple is one of the most popular tech brands in the world that has had years of success in designing high-quality, user-friendly, and innovative products. It’s an American multinational tech company that was founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Ronald Wayne, and Steve Wozniak. It's currently headquartered in Cupertino, Calif., and has over 500 retail stores in 25 countries. The Series 5 and Series 6 are some of its popular smartwatches for fitness training. 

Samsung 

Headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, Samsung is a multinational company that was founded by Lee Byung-Chul in 1938. It's one of the leading producers of electronic devices and appliances tailored for individual consumers and large industries. If you are looking for a multisport watch, check out the Galaxy Watch Active 2 or the Galaxy Fit 2.

Fitbit 

Fitbit is a health and fitness brand that was founded by James Park and Eric Friedman in 2007. It’s headquartered in San Francisco, Calif., and is popularly known for making electronics and fitness tracking wearables that aim to improve the fitness outcomes of the users. If you are looking for a smart fitness watch, check out the Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smartwatch or the Sense Advanced Smartwatch

Garmin

Garmin has earned over 30 years of experience in making some of the most advanced navigation devices that are used in many industries, including automotive, aviation, outdoor, and sports. It's officially headquartered in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, but has an operating base in Olathe, Kan. Some of its top GPS-enabled watches that can be used by cyclists include the Instinct Outdoor Watch and the Fenix 5 Smartwatch

Cycling Watch Pricing

  • Under $100: This price range includes entry-level fitness trackers that are equipped with basic functions such as a heart rate monitor, step counter, calorie counter, and sleep tracker. They are mainly built for gathering data, and most do not have communication capabilities.
  • $100 to $200: The price of watches typically increases with the size and functions, so you can expect to find everything from basic fitness watches to sophisticated smartwatches within this price range. 
  • $200 and up: Expect to find mostly advanced smartwatches that have a touchscreen interface within this price range. In addition to navigation and health monitoring capabilities, these watches are built for communication and provide instant smart notifications from your phone. Most of the expensive watches are from high-end brands and are made of expensive materials such as titanium or ceramic. 

Key Features

Design 

Ideally, you should choose a wearable watch with comfortable straps and a lightweight body so it doesn't feel like a burden on your wrist. The display should be large and bright enough to read in the daytime. Also, you will find a touchscreen display that's supplemented with buttons more convenient than one with a plain display. 

Active Sensors 

Choose wearable watches that have active sensors on the backplate that can take periodic measurements of your activity and health status throughout the day. This involves heart rate monitoring, which shows your overall cardiovascular fitness. Stress tracking gives a simple score of your stress level, and some watches may give recommendations on how to lower your stress. Sleep tracking helps you develop better sleeping habits so you can be more active during the day. 

GPS Tracking 

Prioritize GPS-enabled watches that can accurately record your speed, distance, and elevation. If you live in an urban setting, the accuracy of the GPS may be affected by the buildings in the area. So to ensure optimal accuracy, look for a tracker that’s compatible with other satellite tracking systems such as Galileo (EU’s satellite system) or GLONASS (Russian navigation system).  

Other Considerations

  • Customizable Workouts. You should have a watch that can guide you throughout your cycling session and other forms of workout. This is why you should choose watches that come pre-loaded with multiple sport profiles so you can use them for cycling and other physical activities. Some high-end models can formulate a great workout plan based on your current health and fitness data. 
  • Water Resistance. Your watch must have a level of waterproofing, especially if you are a triathlete. It should be able to function effectively underwater so you can track your performance while taking laps in the pool. 
  • Music Control. Having a watch with built-in Wi-Fi and music control lets you leave your phone behind while cycling. You can sync with wireless streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, or Deezer to enjoy music. 

Best Cycling Watches Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smartwatch

Topping our list is the Versa 2 Smartwatch that comes with a large display and Google’s voice-assist so you can speak to your watch. It lets you track your fitness routine by providing information on your step count, heart rate, calories burnt, and active minutes. It will use your heart rate to determine your sleep score so you can get better sleep quality. 


You can get a text or a call from your watch when your phone is nearby, and it can connect to devices up to 20 feet. It has Amazon Alexa built in for news and information, and you can control your home devices from your watch. Its battery life is a good six days on a single charge though you may need to recharge it more often if it's set to the “always-on” display or if you're actively using it every day. You can also get entertained while you are on your cycling route; it can play your favorite songs via Pandora or the Spotify app.

Best Value
Willful Smartwatch

The Willful Smartwatch is a budget-friendly watch that still gets the job done with regards to tracking your fitness needs. It comes preloaded with multiple exercise modes, including cycling, walking, running, and more. It's also equipped with a large display with three levels of brightness so it’s readable at any time of day. A built-in GPS keeps track of your cycling routes, the distance you covered, and your physical status throughout the route. A 24/7 heart rate monitor automatically monitors your real-time heart rate, though it doesn't keep a record of this data.


With an IP68 rating for water resistance, you can use it for swimming. However, it won't keep track of your swimming data. To help keep you connected, it provides smart notifications from your phone. When you lay down to rest, it will keep your sleep schedule including the time you wake up. This watch is powered with a large capacity battery that can last for seven days on normal use and provide 30 days standby time on a single charge

Most Versatile
Apple Watch Series 6

The Series 6 is the latest option in the Apple Watch Series range and is 20 percent faster than the Series 5 so you know you’re getting accurate, real-time data. It sports a large display with an “everyday look” so you can wear it even when you’re at work or with your casual wear. For easy daytime reading, it's designed with an Always-On Retina display that increases the brightness when you’re outdoors with your wrist down. 


Also, it’s a fitness companion that’s equipped with a sensor on the backplate that helps to check your heart rhythm, blood oxygen level, and medical-grade ECG measurement. It also tracks your sleeping data so you can know if you're getting enough rest. The accuracy of GPS tracking has been improved from its predecessors, and built-in Wi-Fi increases your connectivity options. It’s a bit expensive but offers access to unlimited apps on the App Store and third-party apps such as Strava.

Most Durable
Garmin Instinct Outdoor Watch

If you are a mountain biker and love to cycle on the off-road trails then this military-grade watch could work for you. It has a rugged design featuring a waterproof construction with a thermal- and shock-resistant body. Garmin is known for premier navigation features and this watch doesn’t miss out; it’s designed with a three-axis compass, and multiple navigation systems, including GPS, Galileo, and GLONASS. It also includes a barometric altimeter that gives you accurate altitude information.


It comes pre-loaded with activity profiles for biking, running, hiking, swimming, and more. While cycling, it will monitor your heart rate, activity, and stress level. You can also get smart notifications from your phone and can upload your fitness data to the Garmin Connect online fitness community. The battery can last for up to 14 days when set to smartwatch mode. It's available in multiple colors, though it's more of a men's watch, owing to its bulky design.

Honorable Mention
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

The large display and sleek design make this Active series smartwatch from Samsung worth a look. The large color display shows the time, date, weather, and step count all on one screen. It features advanced sensors that help you reach your fitness goals. This includes built-in pace coaching, which monitors your heart rate and automatically alerts you if it's too high or low. It's also integrated with an application that monitors your stress levels. A built-in sleep tracker monitors your sleeping pattern and gives insights on how to better it.


With Bixby’s voice assist feature, you can give voice commands to your watch, but at times, it may not get the instructions accurately. You needn’t remove it as you switch from one activity to another, as it comes preloaded with multiple sport profiles, including swimming, cycling, running, skating, and more. You will get more than five days of battery life on a single charge.

Honorable Mention
Garmin Fenix 5 Smartwatch

The Garmin Fenix 5 SmartWatch is a high-performance watch that comes loaded with the three modes of a triathlon. It has traded in the typical rectangular face design with a sleeker round design so it can even fit on women’s wrists. It’s designed with Elevate-Wrist heart rate technology that monitors your heart rate 24/7, and a race predictor that estimates your ideal finish time based on your current data. It also includes a recovery adviser with a timer that alerts you when your rest period is over. 


As expected of Garmin devices, this watch is also built for navigation with a built-in GPS, GLONASS, three-axis compass, and a barometric altimeter. It can hold up to the harsh outdoors owing to its rugged design featuring a stainless steel bezel, a fiber-reinforced polymer case, and a stainless steel rear cover. Additionally, it supports Bluetooth and can connect to your phone so you can get instant notifications. However, it’s a bit expensive.

Honorable Mention
Letsfit Smartwatch

If you are looking for a simple and affordable smartwatch to track your cycling and daily workout, then the Letsfit Smartwatch could be what you need. It has a large, 1.3-inch touch screen that displays the time, date, and battery percentage. It's water-resistant and offers nine different sport modes, including running, walking, hiking, biking, and more. This also includes a relaxation guide that will help you after a workout or if you're doing yoga; it tells you when to inhale and exhale.


As a fitness tracker, the watch has wrist-based sensors that can monitor your heart rate, steps, distance covered, and estimates of the calories burnt for the period. It’s compatible with most iOS and Android devices, and you can receive text and call notifications. Music control also lets you play music from your smartphone. However, it doesn't have a mic, so you can’t give it voice commands. Lastly, the battery offers 10 days of active use and 40 days of standby time on a single charge. 

Honorable Mention
Polar Ignite Fitness Watch

The polar ignite fitness watch is designed for athletes and comes equipped with a wrist-based heart rate monitor. It has an easy-to-use interface loaded with fitness profiles that will help keep you in shape. One is a Polar Fit Spark Daily Training Guide that coaches you during your workout so you can achieve your fitness goals. 


Polar's Nightly Recharge feature calculates your sleeping hours and will recommend if you are still fatigued or well-rested enough for your next workout. This works hand-in-hand with Polar's Sleep Plus Stages Analysis, which is a sleep tracking system that monitors your sleep pattern. All this information can be a bit overwhelming, but it helps to create a range of suitable workouts for you. To make it cyclist-friendly, it’s integrated with a GPS that offers speed, distance, and route tracking even without connecting it to a smartphone.

Tips

  • If you like to go mountain biking in the backcountry or hilly areas, it’s important to get a GPS watch with a built-in barometric altimeter that provides altitude data. You can stretch your budget and get a watch that gives you a warning when the air pressure suddenly drops; this can signal an incoming storm. 
  • Do not use your smartwatch for swimming or take it in the shower unless it specifically has a swimming mode. If it's only water-resistant, you can cycle with it in the rain, but it may not handle a large amount of water. 
  • Consider buying a smartwatch that has a power-saving mode so you can get more out of the battery life. This may mean that you won't have access to some functions such as GPS or Wi-Fi but it will still maintain the basic functions. 

FAQs

Q: What is the best smartwatch for cycling?

Any of the watches on our list could work for you depending on what you're looking for in a smartwatch though the Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smartwatch is the best overall. 

Q: What is the best Garmin for cycling?

The Garmin Instinct Outdoor Watch is the best for cycling in the trails, while the Garmin Fenix 5 Smartwatch is great for cycling and engaging in water sports. 

Q: What watch works best with Strava?

The Apple Watch Series 6 is Strava compatible and allows you to record real-time activities such as your heart rate and distance when your phone is at home. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, we rate the Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smartwatch more highly because of its sizable display that’s especially brighter than most of its competitors. We also appreciate its user-friendly interface with voice assist functionality. If you are looking for an inexpensive watch for indoor cycling or occasional outdoor rides, then consider the Willful Smartwatch.