Best Fitness Tracker for Cycling

Best Fitness Tracker for Cycling – We’ve rounded up the very best run-friendly wearables, and as you can see from our picks, there’s a wide price range so you can find something that meets your needs and budget, matches your style, and helps you get through all those miles. Wearables with running features can easily cost upward of $200 (and above), though not all of them do. We looked for a few devices at the lower end of the price spectrum, around the $100 mark, along with some of the higher-end models that cost a lot more.

We’ve also taken into consideration some of the essential features any runner would want from a tracker, and whether it offers heart rate monitoring, as well as smartwatch features like push notifications, downloadable apps, and more.

ROUND UP

If you’re a serious runner, you need a fitness tracker that can do more than count steps, measure sleep, and vibrate when a push notification appears on your phone. The good news is that many fitness trackers these days can now track your cadence, pace, and other stats that were once reserved for special running-focused wearables.

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1.POLAR Vantage

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OUR TAKE

The Polar Vantage M2 is a reasonably priced multisport smartwatch that’s perfect for the budding fitness enthusiast. Its range of 24/7 health insights might prove a little daunting for beginners, but those looking to get serious with their fitness will find that this rugged wearable is more than up to the challenge.

It has all the core components, like onboard GPS and heart rate monitoring, plus enough special training features to keep runners satisfied. It also comes with some fun extras, like breathing and stretching exercises. The Vantage M can help track and train in other outdoor sports, too, but is best suited for serious runners who sometimes also cycle and swim. Compared with pricier trackers, it lacks some metrics that help you focus on form, although you can add them by connecting a separate run power meter. For the price, it’s a strong choice for a rugged and feature-rich running watch.

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2.Garmin fenix

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OUR TAKE

The Garmin Fenix 6 sits right at the top of the extensive tree of Garmin watches, and represents the best of everything the company has to offer right now.

The Fenix series is a family of fitness trackers that pretty much has it all when it comes to outdoor fitness and adventure tracking. Stepping things up a notch, Garmin released the Fenix 6 range in August 2019, offering users a slight update in design and some welcome new features over the Fenix 5 Plus.

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3.Apple Watch

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OUR TAKE

The entire smartwatch category had a good Q2, as numbers jumped 27% year over year. That, in turn, was up 20% from a year prior, in spite — or perhaps because of — COVID-19 concerns. The popularity of these devices are the proverbial rising tide, with most of the big players benefiting from an overall increase in adoption.

But one name continues to loom large in a way seldom seen in a fairly mature category. Last quarter, the Apple Watch’s active user base crossed 100 million, according to Counterpoint Research. The company took three of the top four smartwatch spots globally with the Series 6, SE and Series 3, with Samsung managing to sneak into the No. 3 slot with its latest Galaxy Watch Active.

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4.Fitbit Charge

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OUR TAKE

The Charge 4 looks sleek, measuring less than half an inch at its thickest point. I especially like the styling of the Special Edition (pictured in this review), which costs  more than the standard model, but comes with a reflective granite/black woven band, plus a classic black flexible plastic band you can use for sweaty workouts.

Swapping out the bands couldn’t be easier. There are two small buttons on the back of the tracker—just press them to release one band and snap on a new one.

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5.Willful Fitness

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OUR TAKE

The Willful SW352 fitness tracker is a good option for the price. With an IP68 waterproof rating, long battery life and smartphone notifications it competes functionality wise with more expensive trackers. Given its price point it would be ideal as a first fitness tracker or as a gift for children.

Available in 6 colors and there is a single button to control the functionality. that wouldn’t look out of a place on your wrist at work.

The straps are interchangeable and extend from 5.5 to 8.3 inches by 0.59 inches wide so should suit most shapes and sizes of wrist.

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Best Fitness Tracker for Cycling – BUYER’S GUIDE

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Style

Runners’ watches usually have a sporty look, which isn’t ideal for something you want to wear 24/7. They often have a chunky face and a silicone wristband that can withstand sweat. That’s not what you want as eye candy on your arm when you’re out networking over cocktails.

However, a few hybrid fitness tracker-running watches actually do have a more sophisticated look than many others. The Apple Watch Series 6, Coros Apex, and Garmin Vivoactive 4 come to mind. They have sleeker bodies and more attention to detail, such as stainless steel clasps, that elevate the look. With most models, you can swap the bands for something classier when the occasion calls for it.

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The Essentials for Running

A few essential features runners look for include the ability to accurately track total running time, distance, pace, and lap time. It certainly helps if the watch comes with GPS, as stats for outdoor runs are much more accurate when GPS is used to calculate them. Having GPS also means you can usually see the route of your run after the fact. GPS can drain battery quickly, but some watches, like the Coros Apex and Polar Grit X, offer battery-saving features that can be helpful during long runs.

Some of the trackers included here offer advanced metrics including ground contact time, stride length, and estimated recovery time needed after a workout. Many also estimate your VO2 Max, or the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during intense exercise, a metric used to measure cardiovascular fitness. Later this year, Apple plans to roll out a Low Cardio Fitness feature for the Series 6 that can notify you if your VO2 Max falls into a low range.

When you’re not running, you expect a tracker to keep an eye on your steps and sleep. Most of the devices on this list can track your light and deep shut eye.

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Heart Rate

Most trackers have an optical heart rate monitor (HRM) built into the device. This reads heart rate through your wrist. There are different ways HRMs are used and implemented

With an optical HRM, you never have to put on a chest strap if you don’t want to, although many trackers with optical HRM usually still support them. A chest strap HRM wirelessly (via Bluetooth or ANT+) connects with a compatible running watch so that you have real-time heart rate data while you’re in motion. Many athletes still prefer chest straps because they are more accurate.

The other major distinction is whether the optical HRM offers continuous heart rate monitoring or only during activity. Continuous monitoring lets you see your heart rate at any moment, making it easy to look up your resting heart rate every day. Continuous HRMs tend to eat up battery life, however.

The point of having heart rate information on a runner’s watch is to use it for training, but this information can also help signal potential health issues. The Apple Watch SE and Series 6 offer irregular heart rate and rhythm notifications, and the latter also has an FDA-approved electrocardiogram (ECG) function that generates a PDF of your heart rhythm you can share with your doctor.

For more, see the best heart rate monitors we’ve tested.

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Push Notifications and Apps

Push notification support is surprisingly abundant among hybrid devices. Typically what happens is that the tracker vibrates when a notification appears on your phone, and the first few lines of the message show up on the tracker itself. The Garmin Vivoactive 4 is a favorite for push notifications because you can read more than just the first few lines if you scroll through the alert.

The Vivoactive 4 also has the benefit of tapping into Garmin’s app store, Connect IQ. Compared with the Apple App Store, Garmin’s store is tiny. But having an app store at all means you can add custom widgets and screens to your device. There is a screen, for example, that shows multiple time zones of your choice around the world.

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Battery Life

Battery life is a big deal among fitness trackers. You want a device to last more than a day or two, and if you’re preparing for a long race, you need to feel reassured that your tracking won’t poop out at mile 25.

See How We Test Fitness Trackers

The battery life estimates below are for general step-counting mode. Once GPS is enabled, battery life changes dramatically. All the devices here have a long enough battery life to last a long race…maybe not an ultramarathon, though. The Coros Apex is an exception. It can last up to 24 days with normal use, 24 hours in full GPS mode, and 80 hours in UltraMax GPS mode, in which the GPS switches on for 30 seconds every two minutes (the rest of the time, it uses motion sensors and machine learning algorithms to track you).

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Frequently Asked Questions

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How much do I need to spend?

If you want a watch with in-built GPS, which means you won’t rely on your phone for location data, then you’re looking at a minimum of around £80 to 100.

You can buy a simpler fitness tracker that connects to the GPS receiver in your phone for under £50 that will also record heart rate data.

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WRAP UP

Fitness trackers and sports watches have evolved with striking pace, from previously being little more than slave units for a phone to measuring everything from your heart rate to the quality of the sleep you’re getting, and offering standalone GPS tracking.

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