Best Watches For Mountain Biking (2021)

Mountain biking is a hard sport that quenches both your thirst for adventure and your longing for nature. Going on the trail requires a little preparation ahead of time for what you may need if you are rigid for hours. You may need a faithful mountain bike that you can count on to take you to your destination and back, and an equipped backpack with basic supplies like food and tools. If you are a fitness freak or a pro, you will need something else – a smartwatch.

While it is a fun and fulfilling activity, mountain biking has its fair share of risks and dangers. Many people meet unprecedented accidents and others are lost on the way. For that, you will need a watch that can alert you and your close ones of possible danger or emergency situations, as well as accurately locate you on the map.

In this article, we have gathered the best mountain bike watches in the market along with factors you need to keep in mind before you invest in one.

Best Budget Mountain Bike Watch

Polar M430

Case Material: Stainless steel
Water Resistance: 30m
Strap Bracelet: Silicone

Pros

  • LED optical heart rate sensors
  • 24/7 activity & sleep tracking
  • Satellite prediction
  • Good battery life
  • User-friendly
  • Reliable and accurate

Cons

  • Annoying charging lead
  • Not the best looking
  • Some smartphone syncing issues

The best thing about this model of Polar is how easy it is to set it up and use it. All you need to do is download the Polar app, connect your watch to your smartphone via Bluetooth, and you are good to go. Moreover, the customization features allow you to tailor the watch exactly as you need by adding things like maximum heart rate, age, weight, height, and so on.

The Polar M430 has embraced new features such as optical heart rate monitoring by increasing the number of LEDs and improving the heart rate algorithms to interpret the data efficiently. This software-hardware combination is better at detecting rapid pulse changes and represents your heart rate more accurately.

One of the most important upgrades in this model is GPS connectivity and accuracy. The watch uses Assisted GPS (A-GPS), which can predict the latest positions of the GPS satellites from your phone and direct the information on your watch display. This ensures that you can acquire the GPS quickly whenever you want to run. As you’d expect, the GPS gives you all the usual stats such as pace, speed, and distance along with GPS-based altitude.

The M430 has a 240mAh battery which Polar claims offers 8 hours training time with GPS and optical heart rate in use and up to 20 days if you’re just using it to tell the time and track your general activity. A great feature that’s been added here is the ability to change the settings to sacrifice some GPS accuracy to extend the battery life; this is particularly useful if you’re running into ultra territory where you don’t necessarily need your pacing with quite as much accuracy.

Another thing that the M430 improved is the new softer silicone strap with holes to make it more breathable and more ergonomic to fit the wrist better.

While it’s not the best or for everyone, Polar M430 is a great option if you are looking for something low-priced with all the essential features.

Best Overall Mountain Bike Watch

Garmin Forerunner 945

Case Material: Fiber-reinforced polymer
Water Resistance: 50m
Strap Bracelet: Silicone

Pros

  • Fiber-reinforced polymer case
  • Incident detection and assistance
  • 2 weeks battery smartwatch mode; 10 hours GPS w/ music; 60 hours ultra-trace
  • Lightweight
  • More accurate GPS and additional navigation features

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Rugged design

When it comes to watches for mountain biking, nothing can be compared to the watches by Garmin. You can burn enough calories just going through the wide range of watches they have to offer. Among these, the 945 is a total powerhouse, with every bell and whistle a runner could ask for.

One of the most helpful features 945 has to offer you is the Tracking Load which can monitor your training over the course of the last seven days and will notify you if you are meeting your goals for fitness or if you need to improve your stats. The Performance Conditional is functional throughout the period of your mountain biking and takes your baseline VO2 max score to compare with your daily or weekly regime.

Another great feature of Garmin 945 that helps tremendously during mountain biking is its maps routing. The watch comes with full-color maps, as well as the ability to seek and set running routes within your vicinity. You can set how far you want to go, and the map will provide some suggested routes. This feature comes in really handy when you are on the road.

You can pair power meters to the watch to track how many miles you cover on the bike. The 945 uses Garmin’s latest Elevate v3 heart rate tech, which improves on the previous optical tech while adding a pulse oximeter to measure oxygen saturation.

The GPS is incredible, and there are hardly any distance lapses on the road. Lastly, the 945 offers up to 36 hours of use in GPS mode.

Best GPS Mountain Bike Watch

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro

Case Material: Stainless Steel
Water Resistance: 100m
Strap Bracelet: Silicone

Pros

  • Outstanding outdoor tracking
  • Solid and robust design
  • Accurate activity tracking
  • Multiple global navigation satellite system
  • 14 days smartwatch mode; 10 hours GPS w/ music; 28 days GPS activity mode; 48 days battery saver watch mode
  • Sunlight readable display

Cons

  • Does not offer incident detection and assistance
  • Little upgrade since Fenix 5 Plus
  • Pricey

The Fenis 6 Pro is a premium watch that comes with a wide spectrum of sport and fitness-related functions that makes it unbeatable in the market. The performance has improved considerably after the introduction of widgets that can group your data and make it easier to find the desired data in real-time.

Mountain bikers often find themselves in unfamiliar places, and the Fenix 6 Pro offers a solution through its multiple global navigation satellite systems and its preloaded topographical maps. This watch will help find your exact location anytime, anywhere.

The watch uses tactile buttons instead of a touch screen because buttons are more useful in adventures like mountain biking. One of the most notable improvements to multi-sport tracking is the update to its heart rate sensor.

The GPS connectivity has received a boost in performance; it can almost instantly find the location after hitting the “start” button. Garmin claims you should get 14 days of use out of the Fenix 6 before it needs to recharge in regular smartwatch mode. Using GPS continuously plummets down to 36 hours, or 72 hours when set to max battery GPS mode.

The only obvious downside is the price tag it comes with, which is bound to put a lot of people off. However, if you are someone who wants the best and doesn’t mind investing the amount, Fenix 6 Pro is a great catch for you.

Best Data-Driven Mountain Bike Watch

Suunto Spartan Sport HR

Case Material: Glass-fiber reinforced polyamide
Water Resistance: 100m
Strap Bracelet: Silicone

Pros

  • Glass fiber reinforced polyamide case
  • Powerful GPS Navigation
  • 24/7 activity tracking
  • 80+ sports modes for focused exercise
  • Accurate data collection

Cons

  • Lacks automatic emergency detection

Almost identical to its predecessor Spartan Ultra watch, this model has improved a lot on some features here and there. While it is in a race with rivals such as Garmin, it doesn’t quite stand out as much except that it costs way less than any of the Garmin products.

The design elements are perfect for the heart monitor as Suunto recommends a snug fit on the wrist so that you get the most accurate heart rate. The watch is fit but comfortable, so that you can wear it on long mountain biking rides.

As far as the GPS is concerned, the Suunto Spartan Sport HR picks up a GPS signal almost immediately. After starting a ride, your watch will display your pace, overall time, distance, and current heart rate. The screen display is black and white with both sunlight and darkness compatibility.

During the ride, you can tap the touch screen, which will generate a quick pop-up notifying the battery remaining and the time. This is a unique and helpful feature, as it’s easy to lose track of time and battery life in the middle of a long workout.

The most important feature of this model is the amount of data it provides upon the completion of a ride. Along with the usual pace, time, and distance, there is additional information such as a graph of your heart rate, stats like your Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), recovery time, and lap time for each mile.

According to Suunto, the Spartan Sport Wrist HR battery will last 8 hours in Best mode (where it uses GPS to ping a satellite once every second with full power), 12 hours in Good mode (once every second with low power), and 30 hours in OK mode (once every minute at a fixed rate with full power). OK is meant for endurance athletes who need to conserve battery life but aren’t concerned about frequent GPS measurements.

Best Compact Mountain Bike Watch

Coros Apex

Case Material: Grade 5 titanium alloy bezel
Water Resistance: 100m
Strap Bracelet: Silicone

Pros

  • Intuitive interface
  • Smart, uncluttered design
  • Fantastic companion app
  • Good budget
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • The screen is a little dark
  • Bluetooth only talks to a smartphone

The sleek and smart design of the Coros Apex watch is attractive to all athletes, new and old. The multi-sports watch harbors a wide range of features to help mountain bikers track their performance and measure their improvements.

The screen is a color LCD with durable sapphire glass to last a long time. The silicone band comes with a quick-release mechanism for easy changing. Navigation is provided by GPS, GLONASS, and BDS to ensure the best possible coverage around the world, accompanied by a compass, gyroscope, altimeter, and accelerometer for accurate activity tracking.

It comes with an optical heart monitor which constantly measures your heart rate and records the data to display later. Coros estimates battery life between 25 hours while in full GPS mode and 24 days for regular casual use.

The watch uses a button, and a dial called a “digital knob” for the user interface. The watch comes with a companion app that displays all your data in one place and analyzes your data on its own. The app also provides you with a breakdown of how long you spent in each heart rate zone, which is a helpful feature in mountain biking.

Key Considerations For Buying Mountain Bike Watches

If you just read the review, you will need a set of factors to navigate through the guideline for mountain bike watches. Here are some of the factors you need to consider before you invest in your MTB watch, with brief explanations of why they are important:

GPS

One of the primary features you look for in a watch as a mountain biker is the accuracy of navigation it offers. As a mountain biker, you need to keep an eye on the maps at all times so that you know you are on the right track. Some watches offer full-color maps while others opt for black and white screens. Some high-end watches also come with breadcrumb style navigation that can take you back to the starting point by retracing your steps. Many smartwatches come with a more accurate navigation system in the form of GLONASS.

Display

What good is a screen if you can’t read what it displays? A crucial factor to keep in mind is that the screen of your watch is readable; otherwise, all data that it shows are worthless. Most people think that the screen size makes the difference, but the truth is that it does not significantly matter as long as its user interface design fits well. It should also be readable under the bright sun or in the dark.

Water Resistance

Being a mountain biker, getting a smartwatch that comes with water resistance capability is not such a bad idea. When you are on the trail, you will need something which won’t disappoint you after a little rain. It is a convenient feature if you take mountain biking seriously or participate in triathlons.

Heart Rate Monitor

Most of the new smartwatches and fitness trackers have optical heart rate sensors. Being a mountain biker, you will need something that can keep track of your heart rate and notify you of the results. Most of the heart rate sensors are wrist-based and provide the most accurate readings when the fit is snug on the wrist. Remember that some of these readings may be faulty if your watch is not strapped on tight enough or if you are riding over rough terrain.

Battery Life

One of the most important features you absolutely need to keep in mind is the battery life of your smartwatch. If your smartwatch is not compatible with the long hours you spend on the road or dies in the middle of the road; it won’t be of much use. Take your watch for a spin with features such as GPS and a heart monitor turned on so you can observe how long it lasts while it is functional.

Durability

Mountain biking entails tough conditions that require your equipment to be durable. You should get a watch with a tough exterior, case, and material so that it can endure the harsh conditions on the trail.

Price Range

Affordability is always an essential factor to consider because there is a myriad of options to choose from that come with all sorts of features with high-end technology. What sets apart the watches on this list is that they offer an astounding amount of features for a price equally as excellent.

If you are looking for a watch with minimal expenditure but still providing all the essential features, Polar M430 is your best bet. On the other hand, if you don’t mind spending a fortune on additional cool features, Garmin Fenix 6 Pro is the right choice for you.

Takeaway

Having a watch with biking activity tracking apps and built-in cycling features can make your mountain biking more enjoyable. Moreover, being able to track your heart rate or access GPS while riding your bike gives you additional convenience.

While picking the best mountain biking watch is a cut-throat competition, you will realize that there is a right watch out there for you that fits not only your needs but also your aesthetic. To find the watch that suits you best, keep your budget in mind and look for a watch that provides good functionality along with safety.

Remember that if you get lost in the midst of a trail, a good watch with a sustainable battery is the only thing that can provide you and your close ones the accurate coordinates of where you are. Keep your watch charged, clean, and ready to strap on before you head on one of your mountain biking adventures.

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