The Best 7 Fitness Trackers for Cyclists – Top Biking Watches to Suit Any Rider!

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This article was in need of a shakeup as we entered 2020, so we gave it one! This included a revision of our buyer’s guide and FAQ section, with all new information for the new decade.

Our top seven chart also saw two new additions, including the excellent Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire and the new Apple Watch Series 5.

The winner after the latest chart update:
Garmin-Fenix-5X-Sapphire-1
  • Battery life: Up to 2 weeks
  • Sleep Tracking: Yes
  • Waterproof: Yes (10ATM)
  • Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
  • GPS: Yes
  • Features: Sapphire crystal screen, stainless-steel bezel, full-color Garmin Chroma Display, interchangeable straps, multinetwork satellite reception, three cycling profiles, smartphone notifications, music controls, preloaded topographic and cycling maps

With the rise of fitness trackers, it’s easier than ever for fitness enthusiasts to get accurate live statistics on every facet of their workouts.

If you’re an avid cyclist, these wearable devices are an easy and affordable way to track your performance during a ride, as well as over time. They are portable, inexpensive, and can track tons of data to help you measure your strengths and improve your weaknesses.

Thanks to their surge in popularity, there are suddenly many more fitness trackers on the market. Choosing between all of the options can be a difficult decision.

That’s why we’ve compiled this handy list of the seven best fitness trackers for cyclists. The models here are optimized specifically to fill the needs of beginner and advanced cyclists alike, as well as those working to different budgets.

After breaking down each of the devices on our list, we have prepared a comprehensive buyer’s guide to help you make a more informed decision. This list will cover all of the essential features you should look for in a smartwatch-style fitness tracker.

Top 7 Best Fitness Trackers for Cyclists:

Pros

  • Tough exterior with sapphire crystal screen
  • Features three built-in cycling profiles
  • Excellent GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring
  • Includes decent smartphone features

Cons

  • Still quite expensive for an older model
  • No music storage (only controls) or contactless payments

Battery Life: Up to 2 weeks
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Waterproof: Yes (10ATM)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Features: Sapphire crystal screen, stainless-steel bezel, full-color Garmin Chroma Display, interchangeable straps, multinetwork satellite reception, three cycling profiles, smartphone notifications, music controls, preloaded topographic and cycling maps

While the upgraded Fenix 6 is now available, Garmin’s classic Fenix 5X is just as popular as ever and proves to be an excellent cycling watch. Notably, this multi-sport watch includes three built-in cycling profiles comprising Bike, Indoor Biking, and Mountain Biking, with plenty of tracking and analysis features on offer.

The Fenix 5 makes use of stellar multinetwork satellite reception to allow you to accurately track your speed, distance and routes, while preloaded topographic and cycling maps are incredibly handy for the modern cyclist.

With the upgraded Sapphire model, you will find a sapphire crystal screen and stainless-steel bezel. In short, this one is built to survive! It also comes with some decent smartwatch features including smartphone notifications, although no music storage or NFC payments.

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Pros

  • Advanced tracking for cycling and triathlons
  • Extremely durable and water-resistant frame
  • Features onboard GPS tracking with altimeter and compass
  • Offers smartphone notifications, music storage and NFC payments

Cons

  • One of the most expensive models on our list
  • Tracking features may be OTT for more casual cyclists

Battery Life: Up to 2 weeks
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Waterproof: Yes (5ATM)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Features: Two color choices, multinetwork satellite reception, Pulse Ox sensor, workout and training plans, smartphone notifications, music storage, safety tracking features, NFC payments (Garmin Pay)

Garmin’s Forerunner 935 is another top pick on our list due to its outstanding combination of advanced cycling features and exceptional durability.

While not as cycle-focused as the Fenix 5X, the Forerunner 935 is built for triathlons. It tracks advanced running and cycling statistics, along with measurements like elevation gain and an onboard compass to always keep you on track. The lightweight frame and reinforced polymer bezel ensure the 935 remains safe and comfortable through even the toughest environments.

Beyond the tracking, the Forerunner 935 also has all of the amenities you could want in a smartwatch. It connects with both iPhones and Android phones for great smartphone notifications, it can store your music onboard, and can even perform NFC payments through Garmin Pay.

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Pros

  • Seamless integration with other Apple devices
  • Tough construction copes with all cycling trails
  • Multiple satellite reception keeps you connected
  • Features excellent onboard messaging, music and contactless payments

Cons

  • GPS can drain an already poor battery life quite quickly
  • One of the more expensive devices on our list

Battery Life: Up to 18 hours
Sleep Tracking: No
Waterproof: Yes (5ATM)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Features: Multiple color choices, Ion-X strengthened glass, aluminum body, OLED Always-On Retina display, built-in compass, multinetwork satellite reception, barometric altimeter, smartphone notifications, music storage, female health tracking, NFC payments (Apple Pay)

A leader in the smartwatch market, the Apple Watch has become one of the most popular fitness trackers around since its introduction. The Series 5 incorporates advanced fitness tracking features combined with plenty of integrated amenities.

The Series 5 features multinetwork satellite reception along with a built-in compass and altimeter to make sure you always stay on course during your cycles. The advanced activity tracking and multiple heart rate sensors help collect in-depth statistics on your health and performance. It’s also durable, with strengthened glass and a 5ATM water-resistance rating.

As you might expect, this premium watch integrates perfectly with other Apple devices, allowing you to sync your music, notifications and messages with ease. You can even reply to messages and emails right from your wrist!

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Pros

  • Advanced measurements like stress tracking and activity-specific tracking
  • Robust frame can withstand lots of abuse
  • Much more affordable than competitors
  • Outstanding battery life

Cons

  • GPS tracking can cut advertised battery life in half
  • Bright blue display can be a bit distracting

Battery Life: Up to 7 hours
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Waterproof: Yes (5ATM)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Features: Stainless-steel bezel, Chroma Display, Corning Gorilla Glass, multinetwork satellite reception, tracks 15 activities, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, smartphone notifications, stress tracking, NFC payments (Garmin Pay)

Like its competitors from Apple and Samsung, the affordable Garmin vívoactive 3 provides fitness tracking capabilities while also stuffing in some extra features to integrate with your other devices. What sets this model apart is the heavy emphasis on statistics tracking, and the extremely durable frame that can handle even the most dangerous rides.

The vívoactive 3 uses a stainless-steel bezel and Corning Gorilla Glass for the screen; these combine to make it resistant to the scrapes and drops that might break many other smartwatches. With a 5ATM water-resistance rating, it’s also safe for riding in the rain as well as triathlons.

With excellent built-in GPS (plus GLONASS and Galileo) connectivity, it’s ideal for tracking you wherever you ride. Smartphone notifications and contactless payments boost the value of this already ultra-affordable smartwatch!

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Pros

  • Smartphone syncing and NFC payments
  • Google wear OS to take messages and calls
  • Onboard GPS tracking with heart rate monitor
  • Refined traditional watch design

Cons

  • Does not feature sleep tracking
  • Less water resistant (3ATM) than some competitors.

Battery Life: Unspecified
Sleep Tracking: No
Waterproof: Yes (5ATM)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
GPS: Yes
Features: Smart battery modes, large color touchscreen, interchangeable bands with other Fossil watches, Google wear OS, smartphone notifications, USB rapid charge, built-in speaker for phone calls, NFC payments

The Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle watch offers exceptional performance as a pure fitness tracker combined with lifestyle features that exceed most of the other options in this class. If you want a watch that performs as well in the office as it does on your bike, this is a great pick for you.

Powered by Google’s wear OS software, the Carlyle includes a host of capabilities, like smartphone syncing, NFC payments, and the ability to send messages and take phone calls right from your wrist. The ‘smart battery modes’ and rapid USB charging keep it always ready to go.

As a fitness tracker, the Carlyle includes onboard GPS, along with activity tracking and a heart rate monitor. It’s more than capable of handling a difficult cycling workout, while still looking great at the office.

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Pros

  • Affordable for all users
  • Waterproof with long-lasting battery
  • SmartTrack recognition for 15 exercises
  • Connects to your smartphones to display stats

Cons

  • Connected GPS cannot function without a phone or other GPS-enabled device
  • The strap locking mechanism is a bit flimsy

Battery Life: Up to 5 days
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Waterproof: Yes (5ATM)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
GPS: No
Features: Comes with two straps, greyscale OLED, tracks 15 exercises, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, SmartTrack exercise recognition, connected GPS, sedentary reminders, female health tracking, upgradable bands

Fitbit’s Inspire HR is a good model for cyclists who want advanced tracking and features, without a hefty price tag or the bulky silhouette of a full-screen smartwatch. Its slimmed-down style packs all of the functionality of a smartwatch fitness tracker into a much less conspicuous band design.

Like some of the other options on this list, the Inspire HR includes a heart rate tracker onboard, with the ability to measure your daily activities, calories burned, and sleep quality as well. Bluetooth 4.0 allows it to sync with your phone for notifications.

It is 5ATM waterproof, with a battery that lasts up to five days on a single charge – great news for cyclists who need to take their tracker on the road for hours at a time!

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Pros

  • Sleek band design keeps tracker inconspicuous
  • Onboard activity tracking and heart rate monitor
  • Extremely affordable price
  • Displays smartphone notifications

Cons

  • No onboard GPS tracking
  • Step counting feels a bit sporadic

Battery Life: Up to 7 days
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Waterproof: Yes (IP68)
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
GPS: No
Features: Slim Fitbit-style wristband, advanced sleep analysis, HD color screen, syncs to receive calls and messages, social media connectivity, accurate step counting, 14 other trackable activities

The Willful Fitness tracker delivers the activity tracking, performance and style reminiscent of a Fitbit at a much lower price. For cyclists on a tighter budget, this is a hard combination to beat.

On the performance side, the Willful tracker can measure 14 different activities to help you gather advanced statistics about your workouts. Combined with the onboard heart rate monitor and advanced sleep analysis (which collects data to gauge your sleep quality), this device has everything you need to improve your fitness levels.

All of that performance comes in a slimmed-down package that can fit inconspicuously on your wrist. The thin band keeps everything compact, without a bulky or oversized screen. Beyond the cycle path, the Willful tracker also connects to your smartphone to display notifications and social media messages.

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Shopping for a Fitness Tracker for Cyclists

The wide variety of styles, sizes and price ranges on the market can make it difficult to select just one fitness tracker.

Cyclists in particular need a device that ticks a lot of boxes – it must be accurate, comfortable, and extremely durable. After all, there’s no sense in spending money on a tracker that might break as soon as you take it out for a ride.

To help you find the watch that meets these criteria, we have built this buyer’s guide for fitness trackers, listing the essential features to keep an eye out for. By breaking things down into specific areas, we hope you can narrow your list of options and come to a satisfying final decision.

Design

The overall design of a fitness tracker might be the most important feature. Ultimately, it’s the design, more than anything else, that dictates the way other aspects of the device stack up. To make sure you get the right model for you, it’s essential to consider what your ideal design looks like.

On our list, we’ve included a wide variety of different designs. Some of these trackers incorporate large square screens, while others offer a more traditional wristwatch style. Each type has its strengths and weaknesses; depending on your exact cycling routine and desired uses for your fitness tracker, one type may be a better fit for you than the others.

Fitness trackers with large screens, like the Apple Watch Series 5, tend to incorporate the most features out of all of the smartwatches on our list. These features offer a number of advantages over competitors.

For example, many of these smartwatches can display notifications from your phone and perform other functions beyond a standard fitness tracker (some things we will touch on later). The larger screens also make them much easier to read than some of their competitors. While this extra clarity might not seem essential, it can certainly come in handy if you want to check your stats quickly as you’re riding.

On the other hand, these designs are generally less resilient than their counterparts without screens. Newer smartwatches continue to grow tougher, against both drops and liquid spills – but thanks to their larger silhouettes and big glass screens, these fitness trackers are simply more prone to accidental damage. If you’re especially concerned with longevity, a model without a screen poses less risk of breaking thanks to a fall or a sudden torrent of rain during a bike ride.

Beyond the benefits and drawbacks of different face designs, you’ll also need to consider the different band styles between the various models on our list.

The main variants are silicone bands and fabric bands (which usually incorporate some amount of elastic to add some give). Either style can work well for cycling, but you may be motivated to pick one over the other depending on the length, time, and location of your rides.

Silicone bands are easier to clean and generally more resilient than their fabric counterparts. If you get these models dirty or take a nasty spill, they’ll come out the other side looking no worse for wear. The same applies to general wear and tear; most silicone straps won’t begin to look ragged or tired over time in the same way that some fabric straps will.

However, silicone bands might not provide the snug fit that you’re looking for, particularly on longer rides. If you want a more traditional style and feel, a fabric band might be the best option for you. Fabric bands are also extremely comfortable, particularly the ones that stretch easily. While they’re not quite as durable as silicone bands, these straps still provide a great blend of fit, comfort and style.

If you’re struggling to decide which type of band you would like your watch to have, you should know that many of the items on our list come with removable and switchable bands.

You can always purchase both silicone and fabric bands to fit these watches – as well as leather and metal. If you can afford it, try out a couple of styles and figure out which one works best for you in certain scenarios.

Battery Life

Battery life is an essential feature for any device, but it’s particularly important for fitness trackers. Having a device which you can depend on to survive throughout a long ride or training session is crucial.

However, many smartwatches are constrained by a tradeoff between battery life and features. Adding more and more capabilities to a fitness tracker makes it more appealing to a wider base of users, but drives the battery length down. You can certainly find a happy medium between the two extremes, but where exactly that medium lies is up to you.

In general, the fitness trackers on our list are advertised to last anywhere from 18 hours to up to a week before they need recharging.

Unfortunately, one of the most important features for cyclists to have in a fitness tracker – onboard GPS tracking – also drains batteries at an extreme rate. If you want to have GPS tracking built into your device and not have to carry your phone for its GPS capabilities on long rides, you’ll probably need to settle for a model which lasts less than two days on a single charge.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, you can simply charge your smartwatch each night or every other night to ensure that you never run out of battery.

However, many cyclists prefer to avoid the hassle of frequent charging and simply opt for a less complex device with a battery that lasts much longer. Without GPS tracking onboard (or even with the feature disabled), you might be able to extend the length of a single charge on your fitness tracker by 50% or more.

Water Resistance

Unless you swim for leisure or participate in triathlons, you might not think you need to look for a fitness tracker with high water resistance. After all, why spend extra on a smartwatch just to get a feature that you might never use?

In reality, though, water resistance is a good indicator of how durable your fitness tracker is, whether it’s in the water or on dry land.

A higher water-resistance rating always means that your watch is more durable, and put together more carefully so as to ensure that no water gets in.

Extra water resistance is naturally useful if you plan on swimming or diving with your fitness tracker on – but even if you stay away from the water all the time, you can still use the water resistance rating to gauge how well-built your watch is.

Some water resistance ratings, like IP ratings, also measure protection from both liquids and small solids (like dust particles and other fine materials). In these cases, a high rating can signal that the watch is built well enough to withstand both splashes of water and other particles that might damage your watch outside of the pool or the ocean.

However, there are still some issues with water resistance ratings. They are only measured with static, submerged pressure – so a watch that is certified ‘water-resistant to 50 meters’ can survive being submerged in 50 meters of static water, but might still break down if you wear it for a big dive into the ocean.

That’s because factors like moving swim strokes and powerful waves can exert much more pressure on watches than static water can.

Even if your watch has been certified with a high rating (many of the models on our list have achieved at least a 5ATM rating, which means significant water resistance), you should still be careful about taking it in the water.

Many water activities can put a lot of pressure on your device, and there’s no guarantee it won’t break under the extra stress. Especially when you spend a lot of money on a new fitness tracker, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Check out what other users have to say or what the manufacturer lists as safe on their website/marketing information.

Activity Tracking

Unlike some of the other features on this list, the term ‘activity tracking’ encompasses a couple of different functions you’ll find on any fitness tracker – such as step counting and activity minutes. However, the exact exercises your fitness tracker will offer varies from model to model.

Thankfully for cyclists – whether out on a trail or working hard on a good indoor bike – cycling is one activity that pretty much every fitness tracker on the market can recognize and break down.

With more advanced statistics to go beyond your basic heart rate tracking, you can get a better picture of how hard you are exerting yourself during your workouts, and where you can push yourself further to get even more out of each session.

One of the other great benefits about cycling is that many of the trackers on our list can pick it up automatically – you don’t need to switch to a specific cycling mode or navigate through any menus.

Even though this is a relatively minor feature, automatic tracking can make a large difference in your workouts. The seamless nature of a watch that can recognize and log cycling statistics on its own makes it easier for you to stay focused on your workout, without any distractions.

Of course, some of the devices we have featured won’t be able to pick it up automatically, but they will all be able to track specific cycling statistics if you manually select that you are riding your bike.

If you want to switch things up, most watches will offer multiple options for other activity tracking – in fact, some of the smartwatches we have featured can track up to 40+ separate activities! No matter what type of exercise you’re interested in, chances are you’ll be able to get advanced, workout-specific statistics with a fitness tracker right on your wrist.

GPS Tracking

GPS tracking is particularly crucial for cyclists, who spend many of their workouts biking long distances across roads, trails, and everything in between. If you’re a biker looking to purchase a fitness tracker, chances are you want to be able to track your workouts with GPS.

While GPS is a generally common feature, to reap the benefits of this tracking solely from your fitness tracker, you’ll need a device with ‘built-in GPS’ rather than ‘connected GPS’.

Found on lower-end watches, ‘connected GPS’ means that the device has the capability to connect to a smartphone and receive GPS data, but is not advanced enough to track your GPS location for themselves.

A fitness tracker with ‘built-in GPS’ can both collect and process your GPS data in order to show you where you are at any given time.

Built-in GPS can raise the price of a fitness tracker significantly – even one that doesn’t have a lot of other extra features. This is why it is not that common on budget devices.

Beyond the price difference, built-in GPS technology also requires a significant amount of space. This increases the size of the casing and, in turn, makes the watch as a whole larger. That’s why most of the smartwatch-style fitness trackers on our list, like the Apple Watch Series 5 and the Garmin Fenix collection, are larger and bulkier, compared to a cheap fitness band with no GPS functionality.

The more pressing issue for many cyclists, however, is what to do with a fitness tracker that doesn’t include some sort of active onboard GPS. Unfortunately, if your smartwatch doesn’t have full GPS onboard, you’ll need to carry another device with you that does.

This means carting your phone around on your rides. This certainly isn’t the end of the world but, for a lot of riders, the extra hassle (particularly with finding space for a phone on a sleek, stripped-back bike) simply might not be worth it.

If you’re very concerned about getting an accurate GPS readout of where you go each day for your exercise, a device that includes built-in GPS would be worth the investment.

Heart Rate Monitoring

Heart rate monitoring is a standard feature you’ll find on pretty much any fitness tracker. The smartwatch models that we’ve featured here detect your pulse at the wrist, which can give you a good estimation of how hard your heart is working at any given time.

Wrist pulse monitors are generally a bit less accurate than chest strap heart rate monitors, although the accuracy varies between each model. This is one area where a more expensive watch will deliver better results and more consistency.

Even though a chest strap might technically be a better way to accurately gauge your heart rate throughout a workout, these wrist monitors are still reliable enough for most fitness enthusiasts – and they are certainly more convenient!

For cyclists, an accurate heart rate monitor is particularly important. Whether you are on a long ride or a shorter high-intensity sprint, your heart rate is one of the best ways to estimate how hard you’re pushing yourself throughout your session.

An inaccurate monitor can cause you to increase your pace and overstress yourself, or ease off and reduce the benefits of your workout.

Consistency is another important characteristic for measuring heart rate. Even if your fitness tracker can measure your heart rate accurately, it might not be helpful if it fluctuates between different readings. As you search for the perfect model for you, look for a model that can consistently achieve accurate measurements of your heart rate in all different situations.

If a certain smartwatch struggles to stay accurate in test settings, chances are that it won’t be able to keep up with you on grueling bike workouts where the tracker is moving around on your arm and needs to fight through sweat and grime to get an accurate reading.

Before you take a tracker out on the road, it might be a good idea to test it out by riding an indoor bike – take a look at our list of the best exercise bikes [https://www.fitnessverve.com/best-exercise-bikes/under-1000/] for some recommendations!

Sleep Tracking

While it’s not an ‘active’ feature like heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking is one of the most important features that a dedicated fitness tracker can offer.

Unlike app-based trackers, which can measure some statistics directly from your phone, a wrist-mounted tracker offers more in-depth information about the duration and quality of your sleep.

By wearing your device on your wrist while you sleep, you can find out the exact time you slept, and how much of that time you spent in deep sleep versus lighter sleep. Most fitness trackers achieve this by measuring a combination of statistics, including your heart rate, movement and overall relaxation during different periods of the night.

While this feature isn’t standard on all fitness trackers, it’s becoming more and more common as technology improves and wearable devices become more versatile. Some higher-end smartwatches will offer even more information to help you break down and improve your sleep over longer periods of time.

At any rate, sleep tracking is an outstanding way to boost your performance, both on and off your bike. Many athletes don’t get enough sleep for proper muscle recovery and growth, which holds them back from achieving their full athletic potential. If you want to go the extra mile to support your fitness goals, sleep tracking is an absolutely critical feature.

Even beyond athletics, tracking your sleep can help you feel more refreshed in the morning and energetic throughout the day. With busier and busier schedules, it can be a struggle simply to get enough sleep each night.

However, undisciplined efforts to simply ‘get more sleep’ might not give you the same results as a fitness tracker, which can analyze your sleeping habits and help you formulate a targeted plan to maximize the amount of time that you spend in deeper, more restful sleep. Regardless of whether or not you’re an athlete, this is a great way to recover quicker and feel better in all phases of your routine.

Lifestyle Features

Plenty of cyclists are just looking for a fitness tracker to measure their performance when out on their bikes, and that’s great!

However, plenty of others are also looking for a smartwatch that can connect to their other devices and integrate into their lives off the bike and out of the gym. If you are one of the people in the latter group, you’ll need to look for a smartwatch with the lifestyle features that suit you.

These features can be found on devices across the price spectrum, although the best features are reserved for smartwatches with larger screens and greater connectivity for functions like Bluetooth and phone syncing. Unfortunately, this tends to put them at the higher end of the market versus budget fitness trackers.

But if you want a wearable device that can do it all, it’s hard to beat the perks that these smartwatches offer!

Some of the devices on our list, like the Apple Watch Series 5, can connect with other devices manufactured by the same company and share data, notifications and contacts. That means that if you own an iPhone, you can receive notifications and respond to messages straight from your Apple Watch.

Beyond tying into other devices from the same brand, many of the smartwatches on our list can connect with apps to play music during your workouts, like Spotify, Deezer and Pandora. With Bluetooth capabilities, these watches can often replace your phone entirely during your rides! There’s no need to carry along a second device if your watch can cover GPS, messages and music.

If you want to make sure that your smartwatch is a useful accessory even when you’re not working out, you should pick a model which incorporates more of these lifestyle features. Taking advantage of the extra capabilities can prevent your fitness tracker from turning into a flashy but impractical wristwatch outside of the gym.

You should keep in mind, however, that these features cost both space and money. To incorporate the electronics for the extra capabilities, manufacturers must make their watches bigger and more expensive.

Frequently Asked Questions

GPS tracking is one of the most important features that cyclists look for in a fitness tracker. An accurate and reliable GPS system can help you measure your route, speed and distance over even the most complex routes. But with the compact size of GPS units in most fitness trackers, can they really stack up to GPS systems in your phone?

The answer depends on how accurate you want your GPS to be. Phone GPS systems use cellular data to triangulate your position, which makes them exceptionally accurate in almost all areas. Smartwatch GPS systems can approximate that system, but they’re often a bit less accurate and not quite as reliable as the versions you’d find in your phone.

Of course, if you just want to track the general route you took on a certain ride, your smartwatch will do just fine. The vast majority of cyclists won’t notice or care about the slight loss of accuracy, particularly when they can save space and weight by leaving their phone at their house. The real advantage of smartphone GPS comes in measuring the total distance you’ve covered.

In general, the fluctuation between the two types of GPS is usually quite small. However, if you want the most accurate portable GPS possible, your smartphone will be a better bet than using a fitness tracker.

This is only a useful advantage if you need to measure exact distances with almost no margin for error. Cyclists who just want to get a general picture of how far they went on a certain ride will have no issues with the accuracy of the onboard GPS in most smartwatch fitness trackers.

Thanks to the rise of smartphone health apps and statistics tracking, it’s easier than ever to get a clear, accurate picture of your overall fitness levels in the palm of your hand.

That unprecedented access has made many people improve their lifestyles – but it has also made it more difficult for wearable fitness trackers to compete. If you can get some exercise stats on your phone already, do you really need to carry a dedicated fitness tracker?

The answer varies depending on how you want to use the device. Many prospective buyers simply want a smartwatch that can track their steps and measure their heart rate throughout the day. In these cases, your phone can usually fulfill the task of a dedicated fitness tracker. For cyclists, however, the equation is much different.

Cyclists often buy fitness trackers to obtain a host of advanced statistics about their athletic performance. For example, certain smartwatches can measure such advanced stats as a VO2 max estimation and overall levels of stress. These are measures that you simply won’t find in a standard smartphone health app.

Beyond the extra capabilities, wearable fitness trackers are also more convenient to keep on during workouts than phones and other devices. This goes double for cyclists, who aim to minimize the amount of extra gear that they carry during rides.

Finally, fitness trackers can withstand forces – like rain, swimming and sweat – that smartphones might not be able to. That added durability can come in handy both inside and outside of the gym, in places like highways or off-road bike trails.

As we touched on above, one of the main benefits of fitness trackers is their durability, particularly when compared to other portable devices like phones and even tablets. But while they may be more resilient than their competitors, are fitness trackers really very durable in their own right?

While the specifics of the answer depend on the model in question, many of the options we’ve featured here are tough enough to take on almost any challenge you can throw at them!

The exact durability of your fitness tracker hinges on features like the screen shape, size and bezel, along with the material and style of the band. Slight differences in these different categories can make one watch significantly more durable than a similar competitor.

If your goal is to find the toughest, most life-proof watch you can discover, you should look to minimalist models with no screens (such as the Misfit Shine). Simple band-style trackers, with thinner straps and screen-less designs, are much more difficult to break than their advanced counterparts, simply because they have fewer pieces inside of them.

Even though many new devices are built with resilient materials like Gorilla Glass and sapphire crystal, fitness trackers with large screens will be inherently less resistant to damage than models which don’t contain any sort of glass housing at all.

The size of the face also plays a significant role in determining how durable a certain fitness tracker is. The larger the face of your smartwatch, the easier it is to catch on something or to crash into something if you take a spill during a ride.

Once again, stripped-back models like the Shine outperform their flashier counterparts in this category. Beyond making them less likely to stick out and collide with another object, these thinner models incorporate fewer fragile parts, like glass screens, fine buttons and delicate electronics.

Battery life is a crucial issue for any users of fitness trackers – but it is particularly important for cyclists, who need their smartwatches to last throughout multi-hour rides, while using GPS and a host of other complex features.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to take a look at whether or not there are any ways for you to maximize the battery life of your fitness tracker while you’re out on the road.

Unfortunately, GPS tracking is one of the main battery killers among smartwatches. If you have a watch without GPS tracking built-in, then you have nothing to worry about.

For the users who do have GPS capability built into their smartwatch, you might want to continue using the GPS to keep track of where you are throughout your rides. In these cases, you almost certainly won’t get the maximum advertised battery life out of your device.

If you are committed to using the GPS onboard your wearable fitness tracker, you should take some other steps to reduce your device’s battery consumption. Start by turning off any Bluetooth, WIFI or other connective features which keep your phone scanning constantly for new devices, messages and notifications to display.

In the same vein, you’ll also want to turn off any music, or other activities that you were active on your smartwatch. Unless they are absolutely essential, you can extend the battery life of your device by turning them off and letting it focus on GPS and activity tracking only.

Over the long run, these techniques will help preserve your fitness tracker’s battery and enable it to run just as long on its hundredth charge as it did on its first. As long as you take good care of your model and try to protect it from any damage, you should be fine.

The Ver(ve)dict!

After we had examined the smartwatches on the market, we selected the Garmin Fenix 5X Sapphire as our top pick for cyclists in 2020. This device provides an outstanding blend of smarts, toughness and versatility, with all the tracking and maps you need on a long cycle – whether you are training for a tri, or simply enjoying time in nature.

While we love this watch, we recommend reading more on all of the fitness trackers on our list. These smartwatches would all make great additions to your cycling kit –and each model will work best for a different type of user.

Make sure to evaluate all of the options we’ve listed to find the perfect one for you, then go and explore the rest of the market before making an informed purchase. Good luck!

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