The newest wave of high-tech fitness trackers has made cyclists feel a little neglected. While every month there’s a new app or watch to help runners and swimmers track their progress and get more info about their workouts, the number of watches built for cyclists is relatively sparse.
Fortunately, a handful of companies have stepped up to the plate and built superb watches that help cyclists of all skill levels. If you want to collect better data and push yourself harder on every ride, pick one of these cycling watches.
Polar RCX5 Cycling Watch
The Polar RCX5 Watch is one of the few watches are specifically built for triathletes, so the cycling features are best in class. In fact, it has so many features that you probably won’t use them all, unless you’re the type who wants to track every single possible stat about your workouts. To really get the most out of the watch, cyclists get the specialized accessories, such as the Polar Cadence Bluetooth Sensor. This device attaches to your bicycle and help you find out what your most efficient pedaling rate is.
The display is simple black and white, but it’s highly customizable. That’s a plus when you want it to only show your most vital stats. It displays four lines of data per “page,” and you can set up to six pages.
On the downside, it does not come with a GPS sensor. But you can pair it with the external Polar G5 GPS sensor to get ride length and route maps.
Garmin Forerunner 920XT Cycling Watch
Garmin offers several excellent watches for endurance athletes. But if you’re a cyclist, your best buy is the Garmin Forerunner 920XT. It has a couple of advantages over the Polar RCX5, such as the built-in GPS sensor and the color display.
If you want to take advantage of more accurate info, than you’ll also want to snag the Garmin HRM-Run monitor and foot pod. The HRM-Run does more than just collect your heart rate — it can also estimate your power output, VO2max, and recovery time. Cyclists who want to turn their watch into their personal coach can tell the 920XT to provide pace alerts to keep them on track.
The Forerunner 920XT collects so much data, it provides two different data collections. There is the standard method of data collection, which collects data once per second, but creates a very large data file. Otherwise, you can switch to the “Smart” recording, which only collects data when there’s a change, such as pace or direction. According to Garmin, the 920XT can store around 100 hours of data.
Garmin Fenix 3 HR
If your cycling watch budget is enviously large, and you want something that is stylish as well as functional, then consider the Garmin Fenix 3 HR. There’s no denying that the $549.99 price tag is eye-popping. However, it gives you almost all of the same features as the Forerunner 920XT in a watch that you can wear in social or corporate settings.
The only real drawback to the Garmin Fenix 3 HR is that it doesn’t have the bicycle mounts that the Forerunner 920XT does. So if you prefer to strap your cycling watch to your handlebars instead of wearing it on your wrist, then the 920XT might be a better choice. But other than that, you’ll get all the same functionality in a watch that looks good over your handlebars or in a business meeting.
Polar V800 GPS Sports Watch
Like the other watches on this list, the Polar V800 is solidly built and can pair with external sensors, such as cadence sensors and a power meter. For people who don’t have the benefit of a coach, the Polar V800 also includes training features such as recovery status measurement. First, the watch measures the strength of your heart by measuring your heart rate as you stand up. (This is called an orthostatic test.) From this information, it can calculate how long you should wait between workouts. It’s a handy tool for any overambitious athletes who have a tendency to overtrain.
Since it can be tough for people without a degree in statistics to chew through all that data, Polar offers the Polar Flow app to help you get a better handle on your stats. It outlines the nitty gritty of your cycling sessions and includes data visualizations to help you see your progress. At a touch of a button, you can export sessions as .TCX files. That allows you to use other tools to crunch your data, such as Strava.
Suunto Ambit3 Sport Watch
If you want a solid cycling watch, but one that is a bit more affordable than most others, then take a look at the Suunto Ambit3 Sport Watch. Like other cycling watches, you can track heart rate, position via GPS, cadence, and power output. But you can usually pick it up for around $270.
The black and white display only shows three stats at a time. However, unless you really require a full stat sheet at a glance at any given time, that should be plenty.
Despite the low cost, it still offers some competitive features. For example, Suunto estimates that it can last a full 100 hours on a single charge. You can spend more time riding and less time charging your cycling watch with the Ambit3.