The popularity of wearable fitness trackers and smartwatches has exploded in recent years—and it is set to just keep on growing. When it comes to keeping tabs on all your activities, monitoring your progress, and even interacting with other athletes in the cycling community, these gadgets truly hit the mark. 

Although some use them in place of a bike computer, we prefer to think of them as a complementary accessory rather than a replacement. Dealing with the awkward manoeuvring needed to continually look at your wrist is never the best way to follow navigation. Still, there are indeed instances when a wearable GPS watch has the edge and can offer a different array of benefits.

For multisport athletes, in particular, a smartwatch with running, swimming, and cycling modes makes it easier to track all your activities and data in one place while cutting down on the electronics clutter of two devices. Even if you like to get all your miles in on a bike, though, having a slick tracker strapped to your wrist means that you even get data on those shorter commutes you might not otherwise bother it. Plus, smartwatches provide additional insight into sleep recovery and activity throughout the day. In addition to training, they help you zoom out and have a better understanding of your overall wellbeing and fitness. So, let’s take a look at a few of the features to keep in mind when shopping and a selection of our picks for some of the top fitness watches on the market.

Smartwatch
There are indeed instances when a wearable GPS watch has the edge and can offer a different array of benefits. © Profimedia

Key features to look for 

A dedicated cycling mode: If you’re planning to sync your rides to Strava or another training app, a dedicated cycling mode is a must! (all the watches below have this feature).

All about the battery: Next, battery life is the make-or-break feature that will determine how you use and feel about your watch. Keep in mind that you need to look not just at overall run time but specifically battery life in GPS mode.

Keep that heart rate in check: A chest strap will always be the most accurate way of recording heart rate. A good fitness watch comes in at a close second, though, and can still provide the necessary data for calculating relative effort and caloric burn.

Your bonus features of choice: Whether you’re looking for power meter compatibility, turn-by-turn directors, or the option of a watch that can play your favourite tunes—know that these are all available to you! You just need to find the right device.

Tried and tested fitness watches

An excellent selection of watches for enthusiasts of life on two-wheels:

Garmin Viviactive: All-around solid choice 

Garmin Viviactive

This sleek GPS smartwatch has a sunlight-readable and high-resolution colour touchscreen (something to be mindful of if you often venture out in wet weather). It has various built-in sports apps, including GPS-enabled cycling, running, and even golfing, which allows you to view your stats even when away from your phone.

Speaking of your phone, though, the watch pairs with your smartphone to gently vibrate and display alerts for incoming calls, texts, emails and calendar items, plus notifications from social media and other mobile apps. Battery charge lasts around10 hours using GPS, and the cycling app measures time, distance, speed and calories. It is also compatible with sensors such as speed, cadence and heart rate monitors to measure your progress on training rides and daily commutes.

Garmin Fenix 6 solar: Best friend of mountain bikers and long-haulers 

Garmin Fenix 6

Are ten hours of GPS battery power not going to cut it? Well, you can still leave the cord at home with this one, which provides solar charging and lets you get up to 14 days of battery life — and then some! It also boasts a variety of sports and is a favourite among mountain bikers. It can track the details of every ride with mountain biking metrics plus specialised Grit™ and Flow™ measurements that rate trail difficulty and how smoothly you descend, giving you a score to beat next time.

Polar Ignite: A stylish workout partner 

Polar Ignite smartwatch

Polar Ignite is a waterproof fitness watch with an advanced wrist-based heart rate and integrated GPS, making it a good pick if you’re looking to reach your cycling goals while generally leading a more balanced life. With a complete view of your activity and habits throughout the day, this watch will help you get your circadian rhythms in check and feel more in control of how you spend your time. In addition, it offers a lightweight and sleek design that will compliment your workday look and training gear alike.

ELEMNT RIVAL GPS Watch: For the triathletes in the house 

Wahho Element smartwatch

The makers of Wahoo’s first GPS watch have no qualms about who their target audience is. Intended to improve the life and performance of any dedicated triathlete, its distinguishing feature is a touchless transition mode that automatically changes the sport modes on your watch as you go through a triathlon race. Throw in the fact that it has built-in hardware like the optical heart rate sensor (similar to other watches at this price point), Bluetooth, and ANT+ connectivity for pairing to a chest HR strap and on-bike power meters—and you’re looking at a device that is indeed likely to help improve your performance.

Samsung Galaxy Watch: A solid budget option

Samsung Galaxy Watch

Less tricked out than some of the options mentioned above, this is nevertheless a powerful smartwatch and is worth considering for anyone feeling torn about which fitness watch to buy. It comes preloaded with 45 sport profiles for recording workouts, and the activity-tracking functions keep tabs on not only your sessions in the saddle but also your daily movements, calories burned, and sleep patterns. For the music lovers out there, this one also features wireless connectivity for data access when untethered from your phone, including streaming music through your Spotify account.

As you can see, there are plenty of enticing options if you’re looking to add another device to your beloved collection of cycling paraphernalia. From top-of-the-line performance to all-purpose functionality, you can find a watch that will make your cycling regime more efficient and, hopefully, more fun!