best smartwatches for cycling

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The 3 best smartwatches for cycling

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A smartwatch makes life infinitely easier. Not to mention, it’s a great companion for the avid cycler. The best smartwatches for cycling are water-resistant, durable, and designed with built-in GPS tracking for easy navigation. While they can all be paired with your smartphone to monitor your fitness levels over time, some are designed with additional features — such as a touch screen or built-in voice activation technology.

When shopping for the best fitness tracker for cycling, keep construction in mind. Water resistance and durability are essential, as you want a smartwatch that can withstand the elements, bumps in the road, and any sweat that gathers on your wrist. The most rugged option will be a shock-tested watch with buttons and no touch screen, so you don’t have to stress about the potential of a glass watch face cracking. If you’re less concerned about cracks or shattering, a watch with a touch screen face makes it easy to access health data, pick up phone calls, and change your music when you’re off your bike. Keep in mind, though, that a touch screen can be difficult to operate while riding, so it’s well worth getting a watch with a built-in Alexa or Google smart assistant for hands-free convenience. A lightweight, flexible strap is also important. Silicone is a popular material for this, due to its waterproof and heat-resistant properties.

When it comes to features, you’ll want a watch with built-in GPS functions, as this is more convenient than having to keep your phone nearby to stay oriented. Some watches even navigate your route back to your starting point — helpful if you love cycling, but aren’t great with directions. And while all of these smartwatches measure time, distance, heart rate, and speed, some have upgraded features like a built-in blood oxygen sensor or barometric altimeter to measure elevation.

Whether you’re looking for a heavy-duty smartwatch with advanced satellite technology, a sleek touch-screen option with tons of added functions, or a user-friendly watch with a budget-friendly price tag, I’ve got you covered.

1. The overall best

Highlights:

  • Rugged construction (military standard thermal and shock resistance)
  • Built-in GPS, Galileo, and GLONASS satellite technology, plus TracBack navigation
  • Built-in barometric altimeter
  • Water-resistant up to 100 meters
  • 4.7-star overall rating on Amazon after over 16,000 reviews

This Garmin cycling watch is built for heavy outdoor use, which is why it’s at the top of this list. Water-resistant up to 100 meters, it’s constructed to U.S. military standard 810G, which means it’s undergone tests for resistance to shock, vibration, heat, cold, humidity, and more. It doesn’t have a touch screen, and instead, the rows of buttons on either side allow you to toggle through each setting on the 1.27-inch black-and-white surface. Besides built-in GPS , the Garmin Instinct is enhanced with Galileo and GLONASS satellite technologies for the most accurate location reading, and the barometric altimeter monitors elevation, making this a great pick for mountain bikers. When you’re in cycling mode, the watch keeps track of stats like average speed, distance, time, heart rate, cadence, and elevation gained, plus the TracBack feature helps you navigate your route back to your starting point — especially helpful if you don’t have a strong sense of direction.

The battery lasts up to 14 days in smartwatch mode and up to 16 hours in GPS mode. A lightweight, vented silicone strap keeps the watch securely on your wrist, allowing it to measure your heart rate as you exercise. Pair this watch with your smartphone to get text and call notifications, but note that since there’s no built-in microphone, you’ll have to access your phone to respond.

This option is best for bikers who want a durable watch that can stand up to the elements, with a no-frills, easy-to-use interface. It has the most comprehensive navigation capabilities out of the options on this list, and you also get the features of a standard fitness tracker, including a heart rate monitor, sleep tracker, and step counter. There are also 27 other pre-loaded sports modes (according to a user), including running, hiking, and swimming. However, unlike the other choices on this list, the Garmin Instinct doesn’t monitor your blood oxygenation levels. If that and the exclusion of smart assistant technology aren’t deal breakers for you, then you’ll find everything else you need in this sports watch.

According to a reviewer: “I bought this mainly to track my mountain biking/fitness, but I'm loving the other features too. For mountain biking - it tracks very accurately HR and location, and uploads to Strava seamlessly. I can track 4 hours of riding plus a week of regular usage and the battery is only down 1 bar (out of 4). Then it takes 15 minutes to fully charge it. It's tough - I'm wearing it daily for biking, work, and on the water sailing. The compass, barometer/altimeter are all excellent - with the display being extremely clear and intuitive. The backlight is excellent too.”

  • Available colors: 4

2. The best option with a touch screen & smart assistant

Highlights:

  • Built-in Alexa and Google voice assistants
  • Built-in GPS technology
  • Built-in mic and speaker
  • Fitbit Premium subscription (not included) offers upgraded fitness guidance
  • Water-resistant to 50 meters
  • 4.5-star overall rating on Amazon after more than 27,000 reviews

For those who want the high-tech feel of a touch screen, the Fitbit Versa 3 sits at around the same price point of the Garmin Instinct, and it offers hands-free convenience, thanks to the integrated Alexa and Google voice assistants — which can be especially helpful when you’re on a ride and can’t fuss with the watch. The built-in microphone and speaker allow you to set reminders, check the weather, and take phone calls (when the watch is connected to your phone via Bluetooth), all with a simple voice command. A great Fitbit for cycling, it tracks distance, speed, and pace, but the Fitbit Versa 3 is missing a few perks the Garmin has, like the rugged durability, barometric altimeter, extensive satellite technology, and TracBack navigation. That being said, the easy-to-view color screen displays your heart rate, step count, and nightly blood oxygen levels (yes, there’s a built-in SpO2 sensor). Per the company’s website, there are 20 different sport modes, including running, biking, weights, and golf. If you decide to pay extra and subscribe to the Fitbit Premium app, you can access personalized health and fitness insight, guidance, and motivation.

Fitted with a smooth silicone strap, the Fitbit Versa 3 has a sleek appearance overall, with a watch face that measures 1.59 inches wide. With a battery life of up to six days, it’s best for those who want a smartwatch with a wide range of functions that extend beyond what is useful for cycling. While the Fitbit Versa 3 is water-resistant up to 50 meters and designed with built-in GPS, this smartwatch has a versatile design that lends itself to a variety of workouts as well as everyday errands and tasks.

According to a reviewer: “So far, I really like this watch. I updated from the charge 2 and the versa is much more sensitive to my heart rate. I feel like it is actually accurately reflecting my pulse while I'm out on runs. The built-in GPS rocks as well, with more accurate distance and split times during workouts. I went mountain biking in a state forest with hardly any cell signal and it tracked my route perfectly! I love being able to change the clock face as well. The Alexa link is also very useful, I use it multiple times a day to set timers and reminders. And I can respond to texts with voice to text!”

  • Available colors: 4

3. The best budget-friendly option

Highlights:

  • Built-in Alexa voice assistant
  • Built-in GPS technology
  • Measures blood oxygen
  • Built-in mic and speaker
  • Water-resistant to 50 meters
  • Great value for the low price
  • 4.2-star overall rating on Amazon after more than 6,600 reviews

The best cycling watch if you’re on a budget, the Amazfit Bip U Pro is a great choice for those who don’t mind sacrificing a few extra features in exchange for a lower price tag. Designed with a 1.43-inch color touch screen and a built-in Amazon Alexa voice assistant, this smartwatch still gives you serious bang for your buck, and offers basic tracking features while cycling, like distance, pace, duration, and heart rate. There are over 60 different sport modes to choose from, including outdoor and indoor cycling, running, and yoga. Water-resistant up to 50 meters, this smartwatch is also suitable for swimming.

Like the Fitbit Versa 3, the Amazfit Bip U Pro measures your blood oxygen levels in addition to your heart rate, step count, and sleep patterns. You can also answer calls, check the weather, and set reminders using the built-in mic and speaker. While it does have built-in GPS tracking, the Amazfit Bip U Pro lacks advanced mapping technology, a built-in compass, or a barometric altimeter. However its simpler range of navigational functions means that the battery can last up to nine days before needing a recharge.

Visually, the streamlined, square-shaped screen is similar to the Fitbit Versa 3, and it also features a lightweight silicone strap. The Amazfit Bip U Pro can be paired with the accompanying smartphone app, but expect a more limited range of features in comparison to the Garmin or Fitbit Versa 3. Still, this watch’s basic functionality and touch screen make it well worth the price, especially if you mostly plan on using it during your workouts.

According to a reviewer: “I was looking for a watch that could do some basic features of the apple watch without the steep price tag. This watch really does the trick. Accurate BPM reading, text msg updates, and GPS tracking for my walks and bike rides. [...] Overall I'm super happy with this watch and feel great that I didn't spend $600 on an Apple watch.”

  • Available colors: 5
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