Watches have evolved immensely concerning capability and functionality. The fitness space is an area that has seen significant technological advances in the past decade. Modern cycling and running watches are so advanced that they can act as an automated training assistant.
Everything from GPS technology to built-in workout plans has graced the faces of these ticking time pieces. GPS capability allows you to track your running or cycling path before embracing the adventure.
You can find the terrains that suit your training level, whether you are going for short distance intensities or long-haul marathon training. When training for heavy cardio activities like cycling and running, it is important to monitor your vital signs. Watches equipped with heart rate monitors, calorie trackers, among other functions pose a significant benefit to the runner or cyclist.
Our team of running/cycling junkies have put the best sports watches to the test to provide you with the most comprehensive list of devices in this space. Each product listed has exclusive benefits and drawbacks, but ultimately are the best of the best.
Garmin Vivoactive HR
The second installment in this Garmin line, the Vivoactive HR produces an accessory that does it all. This watch tracks anything from running to swimming, providing a detailed section for each sport featured. The display features a lower pixelation level, which drastically optimizes battery usage.
The Vivoactive HR utilizes heart rate monitoring technology and adds the element of water resistant capabilities. These two features make for a bulkier device, but that is an expectation when hosting these features. The sleek design is met with a black color, matching almost any clothing combination.
As far as running is concerned, this device can track your heart rate, traveled distance (both indoor and outdoor), map your run, and track your weekly progress. This tracking provides useful data when training for runs or finding ways to increase your total workload.
Cycling operates similarly, bringing altitude levels and other terrain information right to your wrist. The increased battery capacity allows for you to receive an optimal charge quickly.
Garmin Vivoactive HR Review
Pros: It has great tracking information and battery life. While it is somewhat bulky, its design is still overall pretty sleek.
Cons: This device utilizes low pixel levels, creating a rather dark surface that can be hard to read.
Garmin Fenix 5S Sapphire
Small size meets sleek design with the Garmin Fenix 5S. This watch is the second coming of the Fenix 5X, which is a bulkier model that doesn't offer as much visual appeal. The Fenix 5S contains the same optical heart rate monitor from previous models and provides the ability to use a chest strap monitor as well.
The GPS functionality of this watch is fantastic. It connects quickly, stays connected, and tracks your route accurately. You may notice it stray a bit when you run/cycle between tall buildings, but for the most part, it is very accurate.
The weather tracker allows you to find the time frame that best suits the performed activity, never getting you stuck in the rain. If you find yourself facing adverse weather conditions, fear not as this watch contains water resistant technology. While running or biking in the rain isn't ideal, at least you know your smart watch is ready for the challenge.
The smaller size makes for this watch to fit a wider range of wrists, giving users a snug fit that isn't overly restrictive or uncomfortable. When you consider how much this little watch can do, it's almost surprising how Garmin was able to fit so many features into such a small package.
Garmin Fenix 5S Sapphire Review
Pros: It is a compact watch that packs a ton of cool features. Both men and women will be able to wear this watch while exercising and during day-to-day activities. It has superior GPS tracking, is waterproof and provides accurate data.
Cons: Heart rate tracking could be better. It is one of the more expensive options and needs Garmin Connect to work.
Garmin Forerunner 920XT
The Garmin Forerunner 920XT is one of the most complete and comprehensive watches on the market. It utilizes all forms of Garmin technology from other models and combines them into this super watch.
For running, this device tracks everything to a science. Each time you run, it will track your pace, time intervals, overall distance, amount other metrics. It can predict splits and utilizes your weight, height, and age to predict marathon placing. To get this info, you just have to fill out a few basic pieces of information about yourself. The Forerunner 920XT is a great training tool because it will predict the areas that need improvement.
The Forerunner 920XT uses cycling metrics to display laps, total distance, speed as well as your performance stats such as heart rate and calorie usage. Additionally, if you want to store more historical data, you can upload everything from your watch to your computer. This data helps you locate areas of your splits where you may be lacking or sections where you are excelling. This watch is not only perfect for running and cycling but is also great for other sports like swimming and golfing.
This watch provides you with information that you can't get many other watches. The Forerunner 920XT is the ultimate training tool, and it continuously gives you status updates and real-time information to use to your advantage.
Garmin Forerunner 920XT Review
Pros: It's GPS tracking is accurate and reliable. It is waterproof making it useful for water sports such as swimming, water polo, and surfing. It has a sleek design making it appealing to a wide range of users.
Cons: It gives a ton of information about your workouts and progress, but doesn't conclusively tell you how to use it. However, I would rather have more info that I can use for research than just having the basics and guessing about the rest.
Tom Tom Spark 3 Cardio
Tom Tom has been a well-known brand in the GPS arena for over a decade. Tom Tom took their expertise on this feature and put it into a smaller design, and the Tom Tom Spark 3 was born. This lightweight smart watch brings both comfort and functionality to the user. It utilizes unique programming tools to provide you training mechanisms for running, swimming, biking, and walking. These programs are all featured in full-display, showcasing heart rate, pace, among other great metrics.
Due to popular demand, the Tom Tom Spark 3 Cardio gives users control over their phone for functions such as music playback and text notifications. It also features minimal display pixels, producing a longer battery life. The smaller pixel concern is met head-on with the addition of a larger screen. Never miss the provided information again with a display that is easy to view. The same GPS systemization in Tom Tom's car GPS systems graces this watch, providing pinpoint accuracy no matter your location.
Tom Tom Spark 3 Cardio Review
Pros: This device is very lightweight and brings obvious benefits to the average runner or cyclist. The ability to control your music brings an additional feature to your workout. It comes with pinpoint accurate GPS tracking.
Cons: It sometimes has issues connecting to your phone.
The Polar M400 is the best mix of low price and high functionality. This device falls near the low-end of the watch spectrum but continues to host a majority of the features you are likely looking for from an athletic watch. It can track your GPS location, as well as key metrics such as heart rate and pace. It features additional programming that fits the running and cycling space.
You can pre-program all of the elements you wish to host in your work out. Anything from pace to route can be monitored on the Polar M400. The display is highly pixelated, producing an eye-popping view for the user. This device hosts up to 8 hours of battery life in one usage, which is sustainable for workouts and daily usage. The display also features a benefits package to delight the user. It shows loads of information, creating multiple sources of tracking for the user.
Polar M400 Review
Pros: This is one of the most affordable, fully featured fitness watches on the market. It is a great overall value and features a sleek, lightweight design that will be appealing to most people.
Cons: Due to its lower price point, you won't have as many tracking features as some of the comparable watch models. It also is lacking in battery life. While it will be perfect for most workouts, if you plan on using it on a daily basis, you will have to charge it on a daily basis.
Choosing the best cycling/running watch
Taking all of these fitness watches into consideration, they provide great tools to boost your fitness level. The tracking capabilities of each of these watches will help keep you honest with yourself and on track to reach your goals. These devices are a must-have for the avid runner or cyclist. All the great information you can gather will keep you motivated and keep you moving.