Road Cycling

8 Best Garmin Watches in 2022 – Garmin Watch Reviews – Bicycling

Staff, Courtesy of Garmin

Why should cyclists consider a Garmin smartwatch over a cycling computer? Both have similar functionality but smartwatches offer a number of benefits that cycling computers can’t.

First off, there’s portability. With a Garmin watch, you don’t have to worry about removing your computer from your bike’s handlebars every time you stop to go in a store or when you store your bike at home. But, perhaps more importantly, sport watches are more versatile. They don’t just track cycling, but can also give you a clear picture of your activities and biometrics, help with training and cross-training, play music, provide GPS tracking and location, and some may even serving as a mobile phone.

Garmin’s known for making some of the best smartwatches out there that can integrate with your other devices—not just smartphones—but also ANT+ devices like heart monitors and pedal sensors and Bluetooth devices. Whether you want a simple tracker or an advanced device, these Garmin watches will enhance your performance both on and off the saddle.

Best Garmin Watches

  • Most Durable:
  • Best for Bikepacking:
  • Most Cycling Modes:
  • Best for Triathlons:
  • Best for Casual Cycling:
  • Best Small Profile:
  • Most Stylish:
  • Best for Mountain Biking:

    What to Consider

    The right Garmin watch for you depends entirely on your training style and personal needs. A casual biker won’t need the advanced features that triathletes, mountain bike riders, or serious road racers need. Likewise, someone who’s into multiday bikepacking or bike touring trips will have different needs from commuters or more casual cyclists. Before you purchase, make sure you’ve considered the following.

    Tracking and/or GPS

    Almost all Garmin watches have GPS capabilities. Even those that don’t have GPS sensors can track your routes with a smartphone’s GPS system. Advanced watches can connect to multiple GPS navigation systems and can even allow others to track your progress on a route. Most Garmin watches also have navigation features that can help you get back to where you’re going if you get lost.

    Cycling and Activity Modes

    All of Garmin’s smartwatches have at least one cycling mode. However, its more advanced watches, like the Fenix series, have numerous biking modes including: Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking, and Triathlon. These cycling modes contain more nuanced data that you can see while riding and afterward, and include factors like altitude changes, speed changes, and energy output changes, based on more advanced biometrics. If cycling is only part of your active lifestyle and you like to do other activities like swimming, running, skiing, mountaineering, or kayaking, you’ll want a smartwatch with modes dedicated to those activities, as well.

    Battery life

    If you only plan on using your smartwatch for shorter daily adventures and don’t mind charging it every day, you don’t need a watch with an extended battery life. If you don’t plan on charging it every day or plan on going on long or multiday adventures you’ll need one with a better battery capacity, or one of Garmin’s solar watches, which can charge—at least partially—via the sun.

    Biometrics and health tracking features

    Almost all smartwatches have some biometric tracking features, like an accelerometer. For cycling, we recommend watches that have at least a heart rate monitor—they’re not as accurate as chest straps but are still a good indication of your heart rate while working out. More advanced smartwatches have additional health tracking features like blood oxygen sensors, respiratory monitors, stress monitors and more. The majority of Garmin’s watches have these sensors, but we’ll point out when they don’t. Garmin watches also feature women’s health tracking features.

    Durability

    If you’re using a smartwatch chiefly around town, you might not want a heavier, more durable watch like the Fenix, but if you’re doing a lot of activities where you could bash it against walls or rocks, you’re going to want a watch that doesn’t crack under pressure. Most Garmin watches are also rated to 5 ATM, which is suitable for swimming and means they won’t get damaged by sweat or drizzle.

    ABC SENSORS

    Altitude, barometer, and compass features are essential for navigating bigger adventures. They’re ideal for understanding your altitude, direction, and weather.

    Connectivity

    Garmin’s smartwatches connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone and its Connect app, which allows it to interact with other apps like Strava and Training Peaks. However, if you’re using other devices, like heart rate monitors or pressure sensors in your pedals, you’ll want to make sure it has ANT+ and/or Bluetooth capabilities to harness that additional information.

    Music

    Some smartwatches can download music and connect to headphones if you like to listen while riding and don’t want to bring a phone. Not a necessary feature, but a nice one.

    How We Selected

    Having used various smartwatches and GPS devices from leading manufacturers like Garmin and others while cycling and doing other outdoor activities over the years, we’ve learned what we like and don’t like in a smartwatch and how to use and take advantage of different models’ features. We based our selections and suggested uses based on experience, expert reviews, and customer reviews.

1

Most Durable

fēnix 7 — Solar Edition

Garmin

Key Specs

  • Face Sizes: 42, 47, and 51 millimeters
  • Battery Life (Regular Operation): 11 days, up to 14 with solar power
  • Cycling Modes: Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking, Triathlon
  • Music: Up to 2,000 songs
  • Touchscreen: Yes

Introduced in January 2022, the fēnix 7 is the latest flagship smartwatch from Garmin. It’s also the first real ruggedized, multi-sport smartwatch from Garmin that comes with a touchscreen, allowing wearers to navigate its features using both the screen and buttons.

The solar edition of the watch allows for up to 14 days of normal use between charges, but using GPS and sports modes will reduce battery life. It also comes in three different face sizes for wearers with smaller or larger wrists.

Purchasers can also buy a less expensive version without solar or a more expensive version with a tougher Sapphire lens.

2

Best for Bikepacking

Enduro

Garmin

Key Specs

  • Face Sizes: 51 millimeters
  • Battery Life (Regular Operation): Up to 50 days (65 with solar)
  • Cycling Modes: Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking, Triathlon
  • Music: No
  • Touchscreen: No

If you were bikepacking across the country, the Garmin Enduro is the watch you’d want to bring along for the ride. With an incredible 50-day run time between charges under normal use, you could probably make it across half the country before needing another charge. With multiple bike modes, as well as other sport modes, this watch is almost as feature-packed as the fēnix series but doesn’t have the ability to map or play music like the newest fēnix.

3

Most Cycling Modes

Instinct 2

Garmin

Key Specs

  • Face Sizes: 40 and 45 millimeters
  • Battery Life (Regular Operation): Up to 28 days
  • Cycling Modes: Biking, Road Biking, Mountain Biking, Gravel Biking, Cyclocross, Bike Commuting, Bike Touring, eBiking, eMountain Biking, Indoor Biking
  • Music: No
  • Touchscreen: No

The Garmin Instinct 2 has the most cycling modes of any Garmin watch, including multiple e-bike modes. Launched in February 2022, it’s a great upgrade from previous Instinct model. It’s a more basic sport watch with a unique monochromatic dual display.

However, it’s rugged and has a full array of biometric and ABC sensors and has a long battery life, making it ideal for those who don’t need all the bells and whistles of Garmin’s more advanced smartwatches.

It’s available in two sizes, as well as a solar version, which can extend its battery life.

4

Best for Triathlons

Forerunner 945

Garmin

Key Specs

  • Face Sizes: 47 millimeters
  • Battery Life (Regular Operation): Up to 14 days
  • Cycling Modes: Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Trail Biking
  • Music: Up to 1,000 songs
  • Touchscreen: No

Garmin’s Forerunner 945 is a great sports watch with multiple cycling modes. It’s an update to the Forerunner 935 with more accurate GPS capabilities and better navigation. It also has ABC sensors and can store up to 1,000 songs. The activity watch also is available in an LTE version, which allows for messaging and online tracking by friends and family.

5

Best for Casual Cycling

Venu 2

Garmin

Key Specs

  • Face Sizes: 45.4, 43.6, and 40.4 millimeters
  • Battery Life (Regular Operation): 9 to 11 days, depending on model
  • Cycling Modes: Biking, Indoor Biking
  • Music: Up to 650 songs
  • Touchscreen: Yes

Garmin’s Venu 2 is a stylish, user-friendly smartwatch with great features for cyclists. It’s available in three sizes, so it can fit the wrists of people with a wide range of body types. The watch isn’t geared toward rugged outdoor adventures but it still has all the sensors and capabilities of Garmin’s other smartwatches, like heart rate monitoring, blood oxygen sensors, and ABC sensors. It also has a bright AMOLED display, making it easy to see in daylight.

7

Most Stylish

fēnix 6

Garmin

Key Specs

  • Face Sizes: 42, 47, and 51 millimeters
  • Battery Life (Regular Operation): Up to 9 days, 10.5 days with solar
  • Cycling Modes: Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Biking, Triathlon
  • Music: Only in Pro and Sapphire models
  • Touchscreen: No

The Garmin fēnix 6 is less expensive but almost as fully featured as the Garmin fēnix 7. The major difference is the lack of a touchscreen and a slightly shorter battery life. It’s comfortable to wear and has multiple cycling-specific modes, making it a favorite among many bikers.

8

Best for Mountain Biking

Forerunner 745

Garmin

Key Specs

  • Face Sizes: 43.8 millimeters
  • Battery Life (Regular Operation): Up to 7 days
  • Cycling Modes: Biking, Indoor Biking, Mountain Trail Biking
  • Music: Up to 500 songs
  • Touchscreen: No

When Garmin updated the Forerunner 735 to the Forerunner 745, it made the popular smartwatch even more functional. While it doesn’t feature the battery life or offline maps you’ll find in the full-featured Forerunner 945 model, it has the same array of sensors, including ABC sensors, and the GPS accuracy is improved. Still, this is a sports watch that will give you all the data you want on your rides and other adventures.

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