Best Fitness Trackers for Cyclists iMore 2021
Let's be real, the market is saturated with tons of different kinds of smartwatches and activity trackers, and some of them are better at tracking certain types of activities than others. When it comes to cycling, we've researched tracking every rotation, mapping routes, performance stats, and more. Our pick for the best fitness tracker for cyclists is the teched-out Apple Watch 6. It's top of its class when it comes to features and technology, and it's excellent at tracking all of your cycling stats and needs. Whatever you're looking for in a cycling fitness tracker, we've got you covered with this list of the best fitness trackers for cyclists.
- Best Overall: Apple Watch 6
- Best Value Fitness Tracker: Fitbit Charge 4
- Best Value Smartwatch: Fitbit Ionic
- Best Budget: Willful Fitness Tracker
- Best Bike Computer: Garmin Edge 830 Performance GPS Cycling/Bike Computer
- Best Durable: Garmin 010-02064-01 Instinct
- Best Multisport: Polar Vantage V – Premium GPS Multisport Watch
- Best Everyday Design: Garmin Vivoactive 4
- Best Bundle: Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt Bundle
- Best Style: Withings Steel HR Hybrid Smartwatch
Best Overall: Apple Watch 6
In our opinion, the Apple Watch 6 is unarguably the world's best smartwatch. Like its predecessors, this sixth-generation smartwatch pulls out all the stops when it comes to cutting-edge technology and premium health and fitness tracking. Some of the most notable upgraded features of the Apple Watch 6 are a faster processor, brighter display, faster battery charging, an always-on altimeter, upgraded blood oxygen monitoring (oximeter), upgraded ECG monitoring, and advanced sleep tracking.
When it comes to cycling, Apple Watch 6 is fully equipped to track every rotation. It uses advanced built-in GPS systems to map your routes and keep track of where you are. If you happen to find yourself in an emergency, it uses GPS and its built-in cellular system to pinpoint your exact location (worldwide). It will send SOS signals to the appropriate local emergency services.
You can view your route maps directly on your wrist, and you'll get a tap on the wrist telling you when it's time to turn after you input directions. As always, you can personalize your Apple Watch with thousands of different watch faces. There are cycling-specific watch faces, so be sure to check those out at the App Store, the web, or social media.
The built-in cellular system enables you to ride phone-free so you can stay in touch and listen to music while you're on the move. Play your favorite tunes, send texts, make calls, and check voicemails anytime, anywhere. Apple Watch 6 offers up to 18 hours of battery life on a single charge and features faster battery charging overall.
- Built-in GPS + cellular system
- Faster processor + brighter display
- Always-on altimeter
- Advanced sleep tracking
- Faster battery charging
Best Value Fitness Tracker: Fitbit Charge 4
The Fitbit Charge 4 is Fitbit's newest addition to the Fitbit family. It features a built-in GPS so you can see your pace and distance on-screen during your outdoor rides, runs, hikes — you name it. It's great because you can see your workout intensity map in the app, showing how your heart rate changes along your route. It also introduces Active Zone Minutes; it's a new feature that sends a buzz when you reach your target heart rate and gives you cause for celebration when you earn extra active minutes outside of your workouts.
This purchase snags you a free 90-day trial of Fitbit Premium to help you stay active, sleep well, and manage stress. It uses 24/7 heart rate monitoring so you can track your resting heart rate and better measure your daily calorie burn. It has some smart features like the ability to play your favorite songs and playlists via the Spotify app, make secure purchases with Fitbit Pay, and get call, text, and smartphone app notifications.
You can track all your workouts in real-time with 20+ goal-based exercise modes, and it's swim-proof and water-resistant up to 50 meters. Plus, you get personalized coaching through the Fitbit Coach app. The multi-day battery lasts up to seven days and up to five hours when using the built-in GPS. Note that battery life can vary depending on use and other factors.
On the downside, many users report issues with setting this device up and that it's difficult to get it to turn on initially. They also say that two-day battery life is more realistic than the reported seven days, especially if you're actively using it every day.
- Built-in GPS
- Active Zone Minutes
- Fitbit Coach
- 24/7 heart rate monitoring
- Smart tech/notifications
- Water-resistant to 50 meters
- Some user setup issues
- Battery life varies
Best Value Smartwatch: Fitbit Ionic
The Fitbit Ionic is the first Fitbit to incorporate a built-in GPS, which is integral for serious cyclists. The built-in GPS with GLONASS lets you see pace, distance, and other key stats on display, while also recording elevation, split times, and a map of your route. It also provides dynamic, personalized coaching so you can get complete on-screen guidance with every move, along with routines that adapt based on your feedback. It's like having a personal trainer with you at all times.
It's also outfitted with smart tech, like the ability to store and play 300+ songs right from your wrist. You can even create your own playlists so you can get the motivation you need at a moment's notice. You can download all your favorite apps, make payments via Fitbit Pay, and get all your call, text, and email notifications as well.
It features 24/7 heart rate monitoring for tracking more accurate calorie burn throughout your day and provides health and wellness insights so you can get a better handle on your overall health.
Take note that some users complained of software and connectivity issues. Most were very happy with this purchase, and at this price, it's a great value for a smartwatch.
- Built-in GPS
- Smart technology/notifications
- 24/7 heart rate monitoring
- Fitbit Coach
- Great value
- Some software/connectivity issues
Best Budget: Willful Fitness Tracker
This super budget-friendly fitness tracker will get the job done concerning your basic fitness tracking needs. It features 14 exercise modes: cycling, walking, running, treadmill, hiking, fitness, basketball, badminton, tennis, football, mountaineering, spinning, yoga, and dancing. When connected to your smartphone, you can track your outdoor routes in the free affiliated app.
It also has features like 24/7 heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking so you can get a better handle on your overall health. It's waterproof, so you can wear it in the shower and the pool, and it has an excellent battery life of 7-10 days. It can even control your phone's camera. You'll get smart notifications from your phone, so you can always stay connected.
Take note that you must connect to your smartphone to take advantage of the tracking your routes feature; this tracker does not have a built-in GPS. Also, some purchasers complained of the band being quite irritating and non-breathable.
- 14 exercise modes (including cycling)
- 24/7 heart rate + sleep tracking
- Great battery life
- No built-in GPS
- Uncomfortable band
Best Bike Computer: Garmin Edge 830
This performance GPS cycling bike computer is at the top of its class when mapping routes and its easy-to-use touchscreen. It provides insights on your VO2 max, recovery, training load focus, heat and altitude acclimation, nutrition, hydration, and more when paired with compatible sensors. It guarantees you'll cycle safely with features like its bike alarm, group messaging and tracking, compatibility with Variant rearview radar, and lights so you can see and be seen by those around you (when paired with your compatible smartphone).
It includes the Garmin Cycle Map with popularity routing that helps you ride like a local. You'll also get on-device route creation and off-course recalculation, so you always know where you are. The mountain biking model has integrated Trail forks data. You can customize this computer with free apps, widgets, and data fields from the Connect IQ store. It's compatible with ANT+ and BLE.
MTB dynamics track jump count, distance, hang time, "Grit," a measure of the ride's difficulty, and "Flow," which tracks the smoothness of your descent, so you have a score to beat on your next ride. It has a battery life of up to 20 hours and can work with Garmin Charge power pack for up to 40 additional hours of battery life.
This bike computer is very pricey, but most agree that it's worth the cost for what you get. Take note that some users complained of syncing issues, so that's something to consider before purchasing.
- GPS routing and mapping
- Health insights
- Safety features
- MTB dynamics
- Syncing issues
Best Durable: Garmin Instinct
This watch is the best for those who love mountain biking in the rugged outdoors. It's designed to withstand the harshest environments and is constructed to U.S. military standards for thermal, shock, and water resistance (rated to 100 meters). It features a built-in three-axis compass and barometric altimeter, plus multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, Glonass, and Galileo) to help track in more challenging environments.
It will monitor your estimated heart rate, activity, and stress. You can train with multiple preloaded activity profiles, including cycling on and off-road. You'll stay connected with smart notifications (with a compatible smartphone) and automatic data uploads to the Garmin Connect online fitness community. You can use the Tracback feature to navigate the same route back to your starting point, along with the Garmin Explore website and app to plan your trips. It has a battery life of up to 14 days in smartwatch mode, up to 16 hours in GPS mode, and up to 40 hours in Ultratrac battery saver mode.
Note that some users complained of nonexistent customer support when their watches had issues or had questions. Because it's a rugged watch, it's also going to be bulky, which may be an issue for those with smaller wrists.
- Constructed to Military standard
- Excellent GPS + navigation system
- Great heart rate + activity tracking
- Superior battery life
- Poor customer support
- Bulky for small wrists
Best Multisport: Polar Vantage V
This sports watch boasts a superior battery life of up to 40 hours of training time with the GPS active, exceeding the active GPS battery life of most smartwatches and fitness trackers by a long shot. It's designed to track many different training sessions and is an excellent choice for triathletes. It features a heart rate monitor that uses bio-impedance electrodes and optical sensors for supreme accuracy.
This watch is unique in its ability to separate training loads. It will separate cardio load, muscle load, and perceived load. Polar's Training Load Pro provides an in-depth look into how your training affects your body. This watch also features Recovery Pro, which allows your watch to calculate factors outside of your training that can influence your recovery, providing a holistic view of not only what you've done but what you can do next for optimal results.
It showcases an integrated GPS for accurate speed, distance, route tracking, and assisted GPS for fast fix times. It will also track barometric altitude: incline, ascent, and descent. Plus, this device is waterproof and detects your heart rate, swimming style, distance, pace, strokes, and rest times in the water. Distance and strokes will also be tracked in open water swimming.
This watch is pricey, but we feel it's worth the money for the performance and features you get out of it. Some users are also disappointed with the lack of customization options. There are no custom watch faces, no custom goals, and no third-party integrations.
- Great multisport tracking
- Superior battery life with active GPS
- Excellent features
- 24/7 Polar heart rate monitoring
- Lack of customization
Best Everyday Design: Garmin Vivoactive 4
Garmin Vivoactive 4 is great because it features a light, sleek design and comes in multiple colors, so you can choose the one that suits you best. It looks like a regular watch, so you can dress it up or down accordingly.
This is more than just your basic watch, however. It will keep track of your energy levels, respiration, menstrual cycle, stress, sleep, heart rate, hydration, and more. You can easily download your favorite songs, including playlists from Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer, and connect with your headphones for phone-free listening. It comes with 20 preloaded GPS and indoor sports apps, including cycling, yoga, running, swimming, and more!
It features a battery life of up to eight days in smartwatch mode and up to six hours in GPS and music mode. You can personalize your watch with thousands of free watch faces, apps, and widgets from Garmin's Connect IQ store.
This watch is pricey, but it is a fully outfitted smartwatch, so we feel you get what you pay for. However, some users reported sync issues with Spotify, and some reported Bluetooth connectivity issues.
- Light, sleek design
- Great customization options
- 20 preloaded workouts
- Music + Bluetooth
- Sync issues
Best Bundle: Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt Bundle
This bundle is a cyclist's dream and comes with the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt GPS Bike Computer, the Wahoo speed sensor, the Wahoo cadence sensor, and the Wahoo TICKR heart rate monitor. The bike computer is a crowd favorite and features wireless route downloads, turn-by-turn cues from popular apps such as Strava, RideWithGPS, Komoot, Singletrack, and MTB Project, optimized cycling routes with Wahoo's "Take me to" feature, and free preloaded maps from around the world making it easy to follow any road.
Paired with your phone, you'll get call, text, and email alerts, and with live/group tracking, you can go online to locate friends out riding in real-time. Easy-to-press front buttons enable users to toggle between Workout, Climb, Map, Live Track, Text/Phone Alerts, and KICKR control, and Wi-Fi, ANT+, and Bluetooth make the BOLT truly wireless.
The speed and cadence sensors enable you to track and capture real-time cycling speed and cadence on your bike computer or smartphone with compatible training apps. They're lightweight and very easy to install. The Wahoo TICKR heart rate monitor enables you to track and capture real-time heart rate, training zones, and calories burned.
Take note that you'll need an Allen wrench (not included) to mount this computer onto your bike. Also, the handlebar mount is not completely universal, so you may need to purchase additional attachments. Be aware that you cannot charge this device while in use, something to consider for those that spend 24+ hours on their bikes.
- Excellent value (4 items included)
- Excellent bike computer + superior features
- Great connectivity (Wi-Fi, ANT+, Bluetooth)
- Allen wrench for setup not included
- Handlebar mount not universal
- Can't charge while in use
Best Style: Withings Steel HR
The Withings Steel HR is the right choice for those with sophisticated taste. It features a sleek, fashion-forward design that comes in various color options to best suit your style. It offers heart rate monitoring so you can get the most out of your workouts, long-lasting battery life of up to 25 days, 30+ sport modes for workout tracking, and connected GPS provides a map of your session with distance, elevation, pace, and Strava integration.
It's water-resistant up to 50 meters, so you can wear it in the shower and the pool. It also has sleep tracking and will give you a sleep score based on light and deep sleep cycles, interruptions, depth, and regularity. You'll get all of your call, text, event, and app notifications, and if you enable the Alexa Skill, you can ask Alexa what the forecast for the day is or check in on news and sports updates.
On the downside, this watch does not have a built-in GPS, so you'll have to connect to your smartphone if you want to track your routes. Some users have also complained about the numbers and text being small and difficult to see.
- Sleek, fashion-forward design
- 30+ sport modes
- Connected GPS
- Option for Amazon Alexa
- No built-in GPS
- Numbers and text are small and difficult to see
To wrap things up, there are a ton of fitness trackers out there, but not all of them are created equally. We scoured the market to find the best fitness trackers for cyclists. Built-in GPS systems were high on our list of necessary features, as well as the ability to accurately and effectively track rotations and map your bike routes.
Our favorite is the Apple Watch 6 because of its advanced GPS systems, oximeter, and always-on altimeter. It can pinpoint exactly where you are globally and will map your routes worldwide — sending directions straight to your wrist. It also features a built-in cellular system so you can go phoneless while you're riding but stay connected if necessary or in case of an emergency. It comes with Apple's best features and technology and really is at the top of its class when it comes to the world of smartwatches and fitness trackers. Check out the best Apple Watch 6 deals, and grab one while you can!
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Nicolette Roux Nicolette has been an avid cyclist for over a decade. She loves tracking rotations and puts a lot of research and expertise into finding the very best fitness trackers (for cyclists) that money can buy.
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