Best Smartwatches for Cycling – Find the Best Strava Watch for 2020

For day-to-day life, I’ve never been a fan of smartwatches. The idea of getting even more notifications makes me queasy.

However, there is one area in which I love smartwatches: exercise.

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I’m a bit of a nerd, so a fitness tracker is very appealing to me. I find just by tracking my exercise levels, I become more competitive with myself and want to improve on my scores. The key tools needed to do this are a heartrate monitor and a GPS tracker – ideally encompassed into the Strava app.

As well as fitness tracking, the other major appeal of a smartwatch to me is so that I can go and workout without carrying my phone. And, as I do like my music, that means I want my smartwatch to be capable of providing me with offline Spotify playlists.

3 Things to Look for in a Cycling Smartwatch

So, whether I’m running or cycling – I want a smartwatch that can accurately track my activities via GPS and gives me access to music without my phone. These two things don’t half drain battery life, though. Therefore, I also want a good few hours of battery life when being used intensively (ideally four or more).

  • GPS tracker and heart rate monitor
  • Offline music support
  • Killer battery life (note: “standby” battery life and using GPS/Bluetooth will be radically different).


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BEST TECH
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
BEST VALUE
Garmin Vivoactive 4
MOST STYLISH
Samsung Galaxy Active 2
Garmin fēnix 6 Pro, Ultimate Multisport GPS Watch, Features Mapping, Music, Grade-Adjusted Pace Monitoring and Pulse Ox Sensors, Black with Black Band
Garmin Vívoactive 4, GPS Smartwatch, Features Music, Body Energy Monitoring, Animated Workouts, Pulse Ox Sensors and More, Shadow Gray/Silver
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 Bluetooth Aluminium 44 mm - Aqua Black (UK Version)
£439.00
£207.00
£249.48
BEST TECH
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
Garmin fēnix 6 Pro, Ultimate Multisport GPS Watch, Features Mapping, Music, Grade-Adjusted Pace Monitoring and Pulse Ox Sensors, Black with Black Band
£439.00
BEST VALUE
Garmin Vivoactive 4
Garmin Vívoactive 4, GPS Smartwatch, Features Music, Body Energy Monitoring, Animated Workouts, Pulse Ox Sensors and More, Shadow Gray/Silver
£207.00
MOST STYLISH
Samsung Galaxy Active 2
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 Bluetooth Aluminium 44 mm - Aqua Black (UK Version)
£249.48

How to Find the Best Strava Smartwatch for Cycling

In the rest of the post, I’m going to look at several of the best smartwatches around. However, I’ll be scoring them on the previously mentioned essential features (i.e. GPS accuracy, heart rate accuracy, offline music support and battery life), while also taking in consideration style and price.

How I’m Comparing Watches for Cycling

  • GPS accuracy (out of 10) – how accurate is the GPS?
  • Heart rate monitor (out of 10) – how accurate is it and can you download Strava?
  • Offline music support (out of 10) – which music streaming services (Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Google Play Music) are available with offline support?
  • Battery life (out of 10) – how long is the battery life in “normal” use and, more importantly, how long can the battery life last approximately when Bluetooth and the GPS functions are being used simultaneously?
  • Usability (out of 10) – what is the user interface like and is it easy to use?
  • Style (out of 10) – pure vanity. Does it look good?
  • Value (out of 10) – does it provide value for money considering the functionality?
  • OVERALL SCORE (average out of 10)

Whether you’re new to cycling or just want to splash out on some state-of-the-art cycling gear, smartwatches are a great way to enhance your experience while out on your bike.



Find the Best GPS Watch for Cycling

A GPS cycling watch offers so many benefits to every cyclist. Of course, they can obviously provide you with maps to navigate and direct you on your way, but can do much more than that, too.

For instance, cycling watches can track your speed, your distance travelled, your calories burned and your heart rate, and control your music without you having to reach for your phone every few minutes.

Anyway, let’s get to it… here are best cycling smartwatches for Strava users.



What’s the Best Strava Watch for Cyclists?

6. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 (£249.48)

  • GPS Accuracy: 7/10 – Good, but not elite.
  • Heart rate monitor: 7/10 – Again, good but doesn’t match the accuracy of Garmin
  • Offline music support: 9/10 (out of 10) – Lots of offline music storage options, including Spotify and Deezer.
  • Battery Life: 6/10 – 2 days of use in “normal mode”, up to 4 hours with intensive GPS/Bluetooth/music use.
  • Usability: 8/10 – Slick touchscreen user interface with a touch spinning bezel to quickly navigate between apps, also has two physical buttons on the side.
  • Style: 9/10 – Might be the best-looking bicycle watch on the market with a sleek minimal design.
  • Value: 8/10
  • OVERALL SCORE: 7.7/10
  • Summary: A beautiful smartwatch that offers decent fitness tracking.

In terms of chic design, Samsung have smashed it with the sleek Galaxy Active Watch 2.

It also has a good range of apps, can be used to make payments, has GPS tracking and offline Spotify (and other music) and is a Strava compatible watch. All good things.

The battery life is also decent for “normal” use with about two days (at a push) of use. But if you’re looking to use GPS and listen to music via Bluetooth headphones, the battery life diminishes to under four hours.

While it’s pretty accurate in terms of tracking, it doesn’t come close to the advanced GPS cycling watch and heart rate tracking available on Garmin smartwatches, which we’ll cover below.

Sale
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 Bluetooth Aluminium 44 mm - Aqua Black (UK Version)
  • Intelligent wellness: using multiple sensors and real-time data, the Galaxy Watch Active2 is a lifestyle and health partner on your wrist
  • Automatic workout detection: the real-time Running Coach allows you to set a target and prompts you to keep on track
  • Timeless design: both thin and light, its elegant round body features an enlarged display and unique digital bezel that offers a modern twist on a classic design


5. Suunto 9 Baro (£376.44)

  • GPS Accuracy: 9/10 – One of the most accurate around
  • Heart rate monitor: 9/10 – Top notch. Optical heart rate monitor from Vallencal.
  • Offline music support: 0/10 – No music options at all, let alone offline support.
  • Battery Life: 9/10 – 25+ hours with GPS tracking in use
  • Usability: 7/10 – Okay user interface, have physical buttons on the side to navigate which keeps things simple.
  • Style: 6/10 – bit chunky and clearly a “sports watch” but doesn’t look terrible.
  • Value: 7/10
  • OVERALL SCORE: 6.7/10
  • Summary: Very strong tracker with excellent battery – but no music option.

This design from Suunto has countless key features, but what’s most impressive is its battery life – it can last for up to 25 hours in Performance mode and as long as 120 hours when in Ultra mode.

You get notifications on battery life, too, so you can change modes while you ride so you won’t run out before the end of your cycle. It also includes optical sensors to measure your heart rate, and you can connect a strap for greater accuracy on this.

It’s also 100m water resistant, meaning you can swim in it. No surprise that the Suunto 9 Baro is also touted as one of the best watches for triathletes too.

A sturdy watch, it is ideal for lengthy, tiring cycles where you will need lots of juice in the tank. And while it’s the most expensive on here, you’ll no doubt find you’ve got your money’s worth with perhaps not just the best smartwatch for cycling, but the best cycling watch for commuters, too.

Suunto 9 Baro GPS Sports Watch with Long Battery Life and Wrist-Based Heart Rate
  • A great training and competition companion for over 80 sports, Waterproof up to 100 m, Extra-long-lasting battery that lasts up to 120 hours, Regular software updates via the Suunto website
  • Colour display with 3 buttons, Graphic real heart rate display on the wrist, Step/calorie display and sleep monitoring, Interval guidance, Location-based lap recognition and mountain training
  • GPS tracking and route planning with current location information, Suunto app for route planning using heat maps based on millions of GPS tracks, Barometric altimeter (FusedAlti) and route tracking...


4. Fitbit Ionic (£146.04)

  • GPS Accuracy: 7/10
  • Heart rate monitor: 7/10 – Top notch. Optical heart rate monitor from Vallencal.
  • Offline music support: 7/10 – Can store music on the phone, but there’s no functionality to download music from streaming services like Spotify.
  • Battery Life: 7/10 – 4 days of use in “normal mode”, 10 hours with GPS activated.
  • Usability: 8/10 – Good touchscreen user interface, with three physical buttons on the side.
  • Style: 7/10 – Slim and lightweight, if not beautiful.
  • Value: 8/10
  • OVERALL SCORE: 7.3/10
  • Summary: If you’re on a budget and just want a basic fitness tracker with GPS functionality (plus the ability to store music), the Fitbit Ionic is a decent cheap smartwatch for cycling.

A good all-rounder, this is the best Fitbit for cycling, giving on-board GPS rather than connected GPS and letting you download and play music without you needing to hook up your phone.

In terms of fitness, this Fitbit cycling watch tracks your steps, your calories burned, your sleep patterns, and your heart rate. Auto-exercise recognition and auto start/stop functions allow you to start cycling without having to change different modes.

It is also a Strava watch, and apps for things like sports, weather and more, a female health tracker, contactless payments, multisport modes, call and text notifications, and reminders to get up and move.

Sale
Fitbit Ionic Health & Fitness Smartwatch (GPS) with Heart Rate, Swim Tracking & Music - Black (Charcoal)/Smoke Grey
  • Start dynamic personal coaching on your wrist with step-by-step instruction. Syncs with windows vista and later, mac OS X 10.6 and up, iPhone 4s and later, iPad 3 gen and later. Syncing range up to 20...
  • Store and play 300+ songs, no phone needed. Care - If the band gets wet or if you sweat in it, remove and completely dry the band before putting it back on
  • Use built-in GPS/GLONASS to track pace, distance & routes. Corning Gorilla Glass 3 is tough and damage resistant. Call and text notifications via Bluetooth 4.0


3. Polar Vantage M (£212.44)

  • GPS Accuracy: 8/10
  • Heart rate monitor: 8/10 – Very good optical tech.
  • Offline music support: 0/10 – No music storage.
  • Battery Life: 8/10 – 4 days of use in “normal mode”, 30 hours with GPS activated.
  • Usability: 7/10 – 5 buttons, no touchscreen, but simple to navigate.
  • Style: 9/10 – Slim and good-looking watch
  • Value: 7/10
  • OVERALL SCORE: 6.7/10
  • Summary: A sleek, lightweight smartwatch that is a very good fitness tracker. If you don’t want a smartwatch with music, this is a good option.

Weighing a mere 44 grams, this is one of the lightest smartwatches you can find and is packed full of useful features to improve your cycling experience.

First of all, it has a superb battery life; with up to 30 hours of training time with GPS active, it can keep trainers going through their toughest stretches.

It also comes with Polar Precision Prime technology to give extremely accurate heart rate readings, and Training Load Pro separates cardio load, muscle load and perceived load, and offers you a much more detailed look than usual at how your training is impacting on your body

That’s not all, though, because the Vantage M comes with Bluetooth Low Energy and can be paired with a variety of cycling accessories.

Sale
Polar Unisex Adult Vantage M Multisport Watch - Black, M/L
  • ULTRA-LONG BATTERY LIFE: Up to 30 hours of training time with GPS active, the durable and waterproof all-in-one Polar vantage M is for those who love setting records
  • POLAR PRECISION PRIME SENSOR FUSION TECHNOLOGY: Accurate optical HR monitoring for 130+ sports includes swimming, cycling
  • TRAINING LOAD PRO and RECOVERY PRO:: The vantage m is the fitness and biking activity tracker, separating cardio, muscle and perceived load, get a comprehensive view of how training sessions strain...

What is the Best Garmin Watch for Cycling?

It should be noted that if you want a smartwatch for cycling – or sports in general – then Garmin are typically the best watches out there – although some of the models do boast quite a serious price tag.  



2. Garmin Vivoactive 4 (£207.00)

  • GPS Accuracy: 9/10 – One of the most accurate around
  • Heart rate monitor: 9/10 – Top notch. Optical heart rate monitor from Vallencal.
  • Offline music support: 9/10 (out of 10) – Lots of offline music storage options, including Spotify and Deezer.
  • Battery Life: 7/10 – 8 days of use in “normal mode”, 6 hours with intensive GPS/Bluetooth/music use.
  • Usability: 8/10 – Good touchscreen user interface, with two buttons on the side which come in handy.
  • Style: 6/10 – Looks decent. A touch on the chunky side.
  • Value: 8/10
  • OVERALL SCORE: 8/10
  • Summary: A really good all-rounder and one that offers a little more for “everyday life” with Garmin Pay also available.

The Garmin Vivoactive range is one of Garmin’s mid-range smartwatches, and costs significantly less than some of the Garmin Forerunner models. But, despite being one of the cheapest smartwatches for cycling, it’s still a good ‘un.

The latest model is the Garmin Vivoactive 4. The Vivoactive series is more of a multi-purpose smartwatch than the Forerunner series too, boasting all of Garmin’s excellent GPS and fitness tracking tech in a beautiful case.

For all but the most serious of riders, the Garmin Vivoactive 4 could well be the best watch for Strava users. It might also be the best-looking Garming cycling watch.

Sale
Garmin Vívoactive 4, GPS Smartwatch, Features Music, Body Energy Monitoring, Animated Workouts, Pulse Ox Sensors and More, Shadow Gray/Silver
  • The broadest range of all-day health monitoring features keeps track of your energy levels, pulse ox (this is not a medical device and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or monitoring of any...
  • Easily download songs to your watch, including playlists from Spotify or Deezer (may require a premium subscription with a third-party music provider), and connect with headphones (sold separately)...
  • Record all the ways to move with more than 20 preloaded GPS and indoor sports apps, including yoga, running, swimming and more


Differences Between Garmin Vivoactive 3 and Vivoactive 4

In the battle to create the best Garmin for cycling, the company are regularly updating their models, so if you’re looking to save a bit of cash, the Vivoactive 3 is also very good and available at a discounted price.

The major differences between the Vivoactive 3 and the Vivoactive 4 aren’t monumental, although the Vivoactive 4 has had a bump in specifications, including a slightly better battery life, and is a touch bigger and with a larger screen (although the Vivoactive 4S provides a smaller alternative with similar specs).

The Vivoactive 3 also didn’t offer music originally, but the updated Vivoactive 3 Music model (which closely resembles the Samsung Galaxy Active 2) offers offline Spotify and the like.

Garmin Comparison: Vivoactive 4 v Vivoactive 3

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The Best Garmin Smartwatch is…

1. Garmin Fenix 6 Pro (£439.00)

  • GPS Accuracy: 9/10 – One of the most accurate around.
  • Heart rate monitor: 9/10 – Top notch. Optical heart rate monitor from Vallencal.
  • Offline music support: 9/10 (out of 10) – Lots of offline music storage options, including Spotify and Deezer.
  • Battery Life: 9/10 – 46 days in battery saver mode, 36 hours with GPS use and 10 hours with intensive GPS, music and Bluetooth use.
  • Usability: 7/10 – Five physical buttons to navigate
  • Style: 6/10 – It’s big and pretty heavy (80g).
  • Value: 7/10
  • OVERALL SCORE: 8/10
  • Summary: Perfect for serious athletes who want the best, most accurate tech, on their wrist.

It you want the very best Garmin smartwatch with most accurate tracking (including altitude), then the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is actually the best smartwatch for cycling or running that there is.

The rugged Garmin smartwatch is packed with some impressive features, such as an always-on 1.3” inch display that is also readable in direct sunlight. It obviously costs a lot more than other cycling smartwatches out there, but for that price you’ll get top end GPS and heart rate monitoring, while the Fenix 6 Pro will also estimate your VO2 max. In essence, it’s the best GPS smartwatch and best fitness tracker for cycling there is.

And like most Garmin smartwatches, you’ll find plenty of options for offline music storage, including the option to load and store tracks directly to the phone.

Amazingly, the Fenix 6 Pro can last up to 46 days with one full charge – although this is obviously with minimal use and by applying the battery save mode. But what is even more impressive is that the Fenix 6 Pro will up to 36 hours with the GPS function being used with moderate activity. For the most intensive use (i.e. GPS, plus Bluetooth and music) you’ll still get a remarkable 10 hours of use – which you’ll struggle to beat in the smartwatch world right now.

It’s not only the best fitness watch for cycling, but the best GPS watch, too.

Sale
Garmin fēnix 6 Pro, Ultimate Multisport GPS Watch, Features Mapping, Music, Grade-Adjusted Pace Monitoring and Pulse Ox Sensors, Black with Black Band
  • Fit for performance with rugged, sophisticated design that features an always-on 1.3-Inch (18% Larger Than previous Fenix models) sunlight-readable display with stainless steel bezel, Display...
  • Features enhanced wrist heart rate (the data and information provided by these devices is intended to be a close estimation of your activity and metrics tracked, but may not be precisely accurate) and...
  • Advanced training features include pacepro for grade-adjusted pace guidance throughout your activity Plus environmentally adjusted VO2 max and training status estimates


Discerning Cyclist recommends…

For everyday users who want to track fitness, you should get the… 

Sale
Garmin Vivoactive 4
  • The broadest range of all-day health monitoring features keeps track of your energy levels, pulse ox (this is not a medical device and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or monitoring of any...
  • Easily download songs to your watch, including playlists from Spotify or Deezer (may require a premium subscription with a third-party music provider), and connect with headphones (sold separately)...
  • Record all the ways to move with more than 20 preloaded GPS and indoor sports apps, including yoga, running, swimming and more

For people who want to track their fitness with extreme precision, you should get the… 

Sale
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
  • Fit for performance with rugged, sophisticated design that features an always-on 1.3-Inch (18% Larger Than previous Fenix models) sunlight-readable display with stainless steel bezel, Display...
  • Features enhanced wrist heart rate (the data and information provided by these devices is intended to be a close estimation of your activity and metrics tracked, but may not be precisely accurate) and...
  • Advanced training features include pacepro for grade-adjusted pace guidance throughout your activity Plus environmentally adjusted VO2 max and training status estimates

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