Best fitness trackers for cyclists iMore 2021
Let's be real; the market is saturated with tons of different smartwatches and activity trackers. However, some of them are better at tracking certain types of activities than others. When it comes to cycling, the best options track every rotation, map routes, and obtain accurate performance stats. Our pick for the best fitness tracker for cyclists is the feature-heavy Apple Watch Series 6. It's top of its class, and it's excellent at tracking all of your cycling stats and needs. Whatever you're looking for in a fitness tracker, we've got you covered.
- Best overall: Apple Watch Series 6 - Blue
- Best value fitness tracker: Fitbit Charge 4 - Black/Black
- Best value smartwatch: Fitbit Versa 3 - Black/Black
- Best budget: Amazfit GTS 2 Mini - Black
- Best bike computer: Garmin Edge 130 Plus GPS Cycling/Bike Computer
- Best durable: Garmin Instinct - Tundra
- Best multi-sport: Polar Grit X Multisport GPS Smart Watch
- Best everyday design: The Garmin Vivoactive 4 - Black
- Best lightweight design: Coros Pace 2 - Navy
- Best style: Apple Watch SE - Customizable Smart Watch
Best overall: Apple Watch Series 6 - Blue
The Apple Watch Series 6 is one of the world's best smartwatches. 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 Series 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 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 sends SOS signals to the appropriate local emergency services.
You can view your route maps directly on your wrist, and you'll get alerts when it's time to turn after inputting directions. As always, you can personalize your Apple Watch with thousands of different watch faces. There are cycling-specific options, 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 Series 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 - Black/Black
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, monitoring 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 actively use 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 Versa 3 - Black/Black
Run, hike, bike, and more phone-free with this GPS smartwatch. See your real-time pace and distance with the Versa 3's built-in GPS. Then check out how your heart rate changes along your route on your workout intensity map in the Fitbit app. Fitbit Versa 3 features 24/7 heart rate monitoring and Active Zone Minutes, which give your wrist a buzz when you reach personalized heart rate zones.
You can see your nightly blood oxygen levels at a glance with this watch's collection of Sp02 clock faces. Then use the Fitbit app to track trends over time in the Health Metrics dashboard. This watch comes with Google Assistant, or Amazon Alex built right in, and you can store, stream, and play your favorite music and podcasts while you ride. It offers up to six days of battery life.
Some users feel the battery life is shorter than expected. However, note that if you use GPS mode and music mode a lot, your battery will drain much faster than using this device in basic watch mode.
- Built-in GPS
- Workout intensity maps
- Active Zone Minutes
- Sp02 and stress monitoring
- All-day activity + sleep tracking
- Battery life shorter than expected
Best budget: Amazfit GTS 2 Mini - Black
Amazfit GTS 2 Mini is an affordable smartwatch that offers built-in GPS and Amazon Alexa. It's lightweight, thin, and comfortable to wear, so it won't drag you down on the roads or trails. It features 24/7 heart rate, all-day activity, and sleep tracking. You can also monitor your Sp02 levels and stress with this tech-savvy device.
It offers 70+ sport modes and is water-resistant. You can also control music on your phone with this watch. It delivers up to 14 days of battery life in watch mode or seven days of battery with heavy usage. All of your performance stats are stored within the app so you can analyze your training sessions and improve athletic performance.
Take note that this watch comes in three colors: pink, green, and black, but it does not offer many customizable watch faces. Only two default watch faces are customizable.
- Great battery life
- Built-in GPS + Amazon Alexa
- Sp02 + stress monitoring
- 70+ sport modes
- All-day activity and sleep tracking
- Not a lot of customizable watch faces
Best bike computer: Garmin Edge 130 Plus GPS Cycling/Bike Computer
This easy-to-use bike computer features a close to two-inch display that's crisp and easy to read in sunlight or low-light conditions. You'll get training guidance by syncing structured indoor or outdoor workouts to your device from the Garmin Connect app or other compatible apps, including TrainingPeaks and TrainerRoad.
You can improve your fitness with performance insights such as VO2 max and heart rate. Manage your efforts during touch ascents with the ClimbPro feature. You'll always know where you've been and where you're heading with this bike computer's navigation systems. Know how far, fast, hard, and high you've ridden with data from GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo, as well as an always-on altimeter.
This bike computer tracks jump count, jump distance, and hang time with mountain bike dynamics. It offers up to 12 hours of battery life to fuel your rides all day long. It also offers incident detection and assistance. This bike computer is outfitted with a rechargeable battery. There is no user-replaceable battery.
- User friendly
- VO2 max + heart rate
- Advanced navigation
- Mountain bike dynamics
- No user-replaceable battery
Best durable: Garmin Instinct - Tundra
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 up 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 routes. 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 they had questions. Note that this watch is pretty bulky, which may be an issue for those with smaller wrists or those who aren't fans of chunky watches.
- Constructed to Military standard
- Excellent GPS + navigation system
- Great heart rate + activity tracking
- Superior battery life
- Poor customer support
- Bulky for small wrists
Best multi-sport: Polar Grit X Multisport GPS Smart Watch
This lightweight, outdoor sports watch features extra-long battery life and will give you up to 40 hours in full GPS mode. It delivers up to seven days of battery in watch mode with 24/7 heart rate tracking. It features a durable design — it's built to military standards and is water-resistant up to 100 meters.
It offers real-time, turn-by-turn route guidance and route import from Koomoot to keep you on track. It automatically detects inclines and declines. The Hill Splitter will tell you how you performed on your route's ascent and descent sections by using your speed, distance, and altitude data.
It takes automatic, overnight recovery measurements to let you know when you can safely push your body again. It comes with 130+ preloaded sport profiles so you can track all of the ways you move. Use the Polar Flow app for planning, analyzing, and making the most out of your training sessions.
This watch is pricey, but reviewers feel it's well worth the investment, especially if you're an avid mountain biker.
- Excellent battery life
- 24/7 heart rate tracking
- Route guidance
- Hill analyzing technology
- Built-in GPS, compass, altimeter
- 130+ sport profiles
Best everyday design: The Garmin Vivoactive 4 - Black
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 track 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 lightweight design: Coros Pace 2 - Navy
Coros Pace 2 is the lightest sports watch on the market right now, weighing in at a mere 29 grams. It boasts exceptional battery life of 20 days of regular use and 30 hours in full GPS mode. It offers many preloaded sport profiles such as cycling, running, swimming, cardio, strength, and water sports with ongoing updates.
It features an optical heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, and thermometer. It tracks all-day activity and sleep, so you never miss a beat. It comes in seven different colors to match your personal style.
This feather-light smartwatch does not offer any music play, streaming, or storage — definitely something to consider before purchasing if you like to listen to tunes while you ride.
- Lightweight (29 grams)
- Long battery life
- All-day activity + sleep tracking
- Multiple sport profiles
- No music play, stream, or storage
Best style: Apple Watch SE - Customizable Smart Watch
Apple Watch SE tracks all of your daily activity and enables you to precisely track your favorite workouts like cycling. It features built-in cellular so you can get calls, send messages, and listen to music phone-free. It also offers safety tracking using advanced navigation systems and fall detection to give you peace of mind while you ride.
There are tons of ways to personalize your Apple Watch SE, which is why it's our pick for best style. To make this smartwatch completely and uniquely yours, you can choose from various band materials, colors, and casing materials. Apple also offers hundreds of customizable watch faces so you can personalize Apple Watch further and make it totally your own. It delivers up to 18 hours of battery life.
Apple Watch SE is less expensive than Apple Watch Series 6, but it's still going to cost you close to $300. Also, take note that it does not offer Sp02 or ECG monitoring.
- Fully customizable
- Built-in GPS + cellular
- All-day activity tracking
- 24/7 heart rate
- No Sp02 or ECG
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, heart rate, and map your routes.
We love Apple Watch Series 6 because of its advanced GPS systems, oximeter, and always-on altimeter. It can pinpoint exactly where you are globally and map your routes worldwide by sending directions straight to your wrist. It also features a built-in cellular system so you can go phone-free while you're riding, but stay connected if necessary or in case of an emergency. It's outfitted with Apple's most advanced features and technology and reigns supreme when it comes to the world of smartwatches and fitness trackers.
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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