For serious mountain bikers, a handlebar-mounted bike computer was the only reliable option for storing correct ride data and GPS route tracking until recently. However, with technological advancements, you can now find watches with biking-specific features and those with compatible biking apps and a dedicated cycling mode.
Our top pick for the best watches for mountain biking is SUUNTO Ambit3 Peak Watch. With its wide range of features, excellent navigation, improved battery life, and off-road styling, this watch is a cracking mountain biking watch. The watch is designed to be durable and comfortable with a sleek design that utilizes comfortable and robust materials.
Table of Contents
- What to Look for?
- Best Watches for Mountain Biking
- Key References
The best watches for mountain biking are versatile and have additional body metrics. Some can track your heart rate while others can measure optimal and V02 max recovery time. In this guide, we have included everything from the very affordable watches to the high-end options.
What to Look for?
Most smartwatches bands are made of rubber or silicone for ultimate comfort. However, for classier and sleeker design, some options would still come with fabric and leather bands. Whichever you decide to go for, ensure the band is breathable even during cycling, and it fits you well.
B) Battery Life
Given all the features the best watches for mountain biking must-have, battery life is an essential factor that every rider must consider. Can your watch match your lifestyle, or will it turn off suddenly in the middle of the ride? Most watches claim their battery lasts up to 5 or 7 days. However, it is vital to check its battery life when it is “inactive” or when the GPS and other features that drain batteries heavily are in use.
C) Water Resistance
Since you would be using this watch for mountain biking, we advise that you choose a water-resistant option. A water-resistant option is very convenient in case you get caught in the rain while on the trail.
D) Hardware Design
Since the screens of these watches are usually small, it’s important to check this aspect (particularly for riders with fat fingers). Make sure the user interface of the watch matches the screen size and the size of your fingers, so it can be less frustrating to use. Since you had already considered the water-resistance of the watch, it is also vital to examine if the touchscreen will still work even when it’s wet.
E) Easy to Read Display
The screen of your watch must be readable; otherwise, all the data it displays are worthless. Its size doesn’t matter significantly, provided that the design of its user interface fits well. Also, it should be easy to read in the dark or under the bright sun.
F) Reliable GPS
Similar to snowboarding and skiing, an important feature you would look for as a mountain biker is a reliable GPS that will enable you to easily navigate around your trail. Some high-end watches come with breadcrumb style navigation, which helps riders trace back their route to the starting point.
G) Heart Monitor
Optical heart rate sensors are now a standard feature you will find in the best watches for mountain biking. This feature is majorly wrist-based, so some readings may be incorrect, especially when you are riding over rugged terrains, or the watch is not tightly worn.
Best Watches for Mountain Biking
Here are the top 6 best watches for mountain biking on the market today:
1. Garmin Instinct Outdoor Watch with GPS
The Garmin Instinct Outdoor Watch is an affordable, adventure-focused watch that is housed in a rugged- and good-looking package.
- It has a crisp white and black display.
- Thanks to its military standard (MIL-STD) 810G credentials, it is super rugged and waterproof to 100 meters.
- This watch is a bit different as it comes with many of the features you would typically associate with Garmin’s Fenix Series, such as 14-day battery life, navigation tools, and GPS tracking.
- Plus, it includes a wide range of tracking and sensors tech, including an altimeter, a 3-axis compass, and a heart rate monitor.
- There is also Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity, so users can connect the watch to their phone and other external sensors.
- The Garmin Instinct Outdoor Watch is well-built and robust, as you would expect from a device that is made to accompany you on different outdoor expeditions.
2. Garmin Forerunner 645 GPS Watch
Despite its name, Garmin Forerunner 645 GPS Watch is more than just a running watch.
- It’s a very comprehensive activity tracker with four sports modes: cycle, run, run indoor, and other.
- Just like other sports watches, this watch allows you to see your time, distances, heart rate, and calories.
- This watch is housed under chemically strengthened glass and is very easy to read, even in direct sunlight.
- One key feature it boasts is the maximum volume of oxygen or the V02 Max Reading.
- It is a crucial indicator of your progress and current fitness level.
- With up to 12 hours in GPS mode and 7 days battery life in smartwatch mode, the Garmin Forerunner 645 GPS Watch is the biking partner that can keep up with you.
3. SUUNTO Core Outdoor Sports Watch
SUUNTO Core Outdoor Sports Watch is a timepiece specially designed for outdoor activities.
- It features a sturdy, water-resistant casing, and its design combines the modern and dynamic look with the reliability of SUUNTO watches.
- This watch is characterized by a digital display and round bezel protected by a scratch-resistant crystal window.
- Combining a barometer, altimeter, and a compass, it will bring out the adventurer in you.
- The altimeter will help determine your current elevation, track your descent or ascent, and gauge your progress on a climb.
- By keeping a close eye on the air pressure trend, the barometer forecasts sudden alterations in the weather.
- Additionally, the compass will help you navigate and pinpoint locations to find your way in whiteout conditions and through wilderness safely.
4. Garmin Vivoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch is a durable and attractive watch that hits the sweet spot between smartwatch functionality and fitness tracker.
- Its design reflects its smart yet sporty credentials, as it appears more like a watch than a fitness tracker.
- In keeping with the sports tech legacy of Garmin, this watch has GPS tracking, a heart rate sensor, and a wide range of built-in apps dedicated to helping you keep tabs on your activities while on the trail.
- Thanks to the Elevate wrist-based heart rate technology, this watch allows you to monitor vital aspects of your fitness.
- The watch is also waterproof, and the screen comes with Gorilla Glass 3, so it is scuff and scratch-resistant.
- The Garmin Vivoactive 3 GPS Smartwatch is comfy to wear and lightweight, and it is packed with practical features.
5. Coros Pace GPS Watch
The Coros Pace GPS Watch attempts to fill the niche between consumer-oriented trackers and high-end GPS watches.
- It has a screen that is big enough for a quick glance at critical metrics while riding, but not too big that it becomes so uncomfortable.
- Thanks to the choice of materials, it is also lightweight: the case is made of plastic material, and the band is made of a silicone material that is ventilated to minimize sweat and soft to the touch.
- While it’s plastic, this watch has a reliable build quality.
- The glass is scratch-resistant, and the housing is durable.
- The PACE has a built-in heart rate monitor that records while riding.
- It features a barometer which uses the atmospheric pressure of the earth to determine your altitude, making it great for mountain biking.
- With the Coros Pace GPS Watch, you need not worry about charging your watch continually as the battery can last up to 30 days in smartwatch mode.
6. SUUNTO Ambit3 Peak Watch
SUUNTO Ambit3 Peak Watch is a great all-round watch. Its GPS capability, combined with its accuracy, makes this unit one of our favorites.
- While tracking your typical speed, distance, and duration, this watch goes one step further as it allows users to monitor heart rate and plan routes.
- Also, the watch gives you extra help by providing storm alerts as the weather is changing and daylight hours, so you don’t get stuck in the dark.
- There is also the FindBack feature that navigates the rider back to the starting point, so they don’t get lost.
- This comfortable and sleek watch is both highly accurate and durable, allowing riders to feel secure wearing this watch.
- SUUNTO Ambit3 Peak Watch is relatively easy to use and provides useful features with a clear and simple display.
Our top recommendation for the best watches for mountain biking is SUUNTO Ambit3 Peak Watch. This GPS watch features excellent navigation, improved battery life, and off-road styling, and it is a cracking watch for mountain biking.
Having a watch with biking activity tracking apps and built-in cycling features can make your mountain biking more enjoyable. Being to track your heart rate or access GPS while riding your bike gives you additional convenience.
Hopefully, our review of the best watches for mountain biking has helped you to make an informed decision.
- “Using Fitness Trackers and Smartwatches to Measure Physical Activity in Research: Analysis of Consumer Wrist-Worn Wearables”. Accessed March 15, 2020. Link.