Fitness trackers aren't just for running. For those of you who prefer to get your calorie-busting workouts done on the bike rather than by pounding the pavements, you can still enjoy the distance-tracking, exertion-monitoring ways of a decent fitness-focussed wearable. With runners getting primary billing on most devices though, it can be tricky to know which ones are actually suitable for cyclists.
The sensors onboard might sound the same, but those measurable metrics are different when dealing with pedal power. It's often the supporting software as much as the device itself that separates a decent cycle-friendly fitness tracker from a great one.
If you're after the best fitness tracker for cycling, we've tried out five that claim to offer tracking support on two wheels and ranked them in order of how much they impressed us out on the road.
Fitbit Charge 2 - 5th place
The Fitbit Charge 2 is one of the most popular general running and fitness trackers going. That's not all it's got going for it though, it's a solid cycle tracker too.
Wareable verdict: Fitbit Charge 2 in-depth review
Its bike tracking skills come preinstalled, but they're hidden away between elliptical machine and interval training tacking, showing where the priority levels of this device lie. Strap it to your wrist and start peddling though, and it'll do everything you want.
From duration of your current cycle session to live distance and calorie burn counters, there's plenty that the Charge 2 can relay to your wrist in real time. Given the device's small screen, however, navigating through these menus while cycling isn't the easiest.
To do so you'll need to give the screen a quick tap or two, depending on the menu you want to view, and that means taking your hands off the bars. There's another issue with this tap to navigate system, too. Although not overly sensitive, bumps in the road can trigger it. That means even if you set things up how you want when you line up at a set of traffic lights, come your next stats check, things will have moved on to a less informative view.
You'll also need to ensure you've got your phone with you. The Charge 2 lacks any integrated GPS abilities meaning, on its own, its cycle tracking skills are far less accurate and reliable than when paired with a handset.
Read this: Fitbit Charge 2 tips and tricks
With a phone, there's plenty of data recorded. Open the Fitbit app, however, and it's not the easiest to discover. Given that Fitbit prioritises step count over all else, you'll have to dive into the separate exercise menus to get your synced cycles.
Once you've stumbled across them though, there's plenty of ride data to analyse and assess. Some of it's quite top line - you can't get KM by KM split breakdowns for instance - but, for the most part it's insightful and easy to understand.
With the Charge 2's inbuilt heart rate monitor you see not just fluctuations in your biometrics, but time spent in optimum fat burning heart rate zones, a key indicator of improving fitness. While functional, it does lack a certain fun factor, omitting that top speed metric that you can't help but get a childish sense of joy about.
Samsung Gear Fit 2 - 4th place
Smarter and a bit more flash than your average fitness tracker, the Samsung Gear Fit 2 is a jack of all trades wearable, with cycling monitoring one of its many abilities. Just because it's capable of a lot of different things doesn't mean it lacks any speciality though.
Wareable verdict: Samsung Gear Fit2 in-depth review
Built-in GPS means you can leave your phone at home and still enjoy accurate cycle tracking, while an integrated heart rate sensor brings added depth to your captured data.
While you ride, you can swipe through screens of real time data, with active time, distance covered, calories burned, pace, speed and heart rate information all up for grabs. The screen is big, bright and vibrant, with the graphics really popping. This makes it easy to see the information you're after without taking your eyes off the road for more than a fraction of a second.
There is a bit of lag to the Gear Fit 2's readings though. Twist your wrist to glance at your latest distance stats, and you'll have to wait for the data to update. It's only a split second pause, but it's a noticeable one, and one that can at times skew your perception of your progress.
That, along with the screen's long thin form that you can only display one metric at a time, is the Gear Fit 2's only real shortcoming. It's comfortable, unobtrusive and looks good on your wrist, even when you're off the bike.
The data recorded is decent as well. There's no included metrics that you wouldn't find on any other device, but it's all well laid out and easy to digest, with everything from total ascent and average heart rate to max speed and highest elevation given equal billing.
Read this: Samsung Gear Fit2 tips and tricks
There are some great details to the Fit's graphed out data, too. Being able to see how your heart rate fluctuated not just with the speeds you were travelling, but against your elevation changes brings context to your data. It's a simple addition that takes things to the next level and which help you understand your strengths and weaknesses as a cyclist.
You even get a weather report pinned to your cycle session so you can blame that slow 20 miler on the high head winds and mild drizzle.
Garmin Vivoactive HR - Bronze model
Garmin is something of a cycle-tracking specialist, with its bike computers some of the best on the market. It's latest wrist-based fitness trackers keep this reputation going, with reliable data capture and a bulging features list.
Wareable verdict: Garmin Vivoactive HR review
It's not the prettiest of the bunch, it's basic blocky design isn't going to win any style awards off the bike, but it's got a full set of features, with everything from an inbuilt heart rate sensor to integrated GPS making the cut. If you want more cycling metrics you can always pair it with one of Garmin's cadence sensors but you'll need to pay out extra for that.
The GPS isn't the quickest to secure a signal, but once locked, we experienced no drop outs or falters in its reliability. Ultimately, however, this is a device for the enthusiast rather than the casual cyclist - and not just because of its lofty price tag.
Instead of drip feeding you data one line at a time, the Vivoactive HR offers up a three way hit of information per screen. With distance, time and speed taking up the first screen, you can view a lap window or heart rate view that, as well as your current biometric reading, shows the HR Zone you're working in and your average BPM during the ride.
This is great for those who want a lot of live data, but could feel slightly overwhelming for the casual commuter or occasional weekend rider. Using the touchscreen to swipe down the list of real time data is easy, unless you're wearing cycling gloves that is, then you'll be left sticking with your decision until you make a stop.
Read this:How to pick the perfect Garmin watch
Syncing to the smart, sophisticated Garmin Connect app, there's plenty that you can do with your data. Realising what cyclists like, the app prioritises things like average speed and total elevation gain over less useful and insightful metrics.
There are individual graphs for your speed, heart rate and elevation during each ride, but the app really comes into its own when you build these up with overlays letting you accurately track how your pace dropped or heart rate rose as the evolution climbed and dropped. As well as giving the casual user their quick hit of information, there's enough depth to appeal to hardened cyclists.
Moov Now - Silver medal
The Moov Now isn't your usual cycle-friendly fitness tracker. Instead of being yet another arm appendage, you strap it to your ankle, with its silicone strap and small sensor pod sitting comfortably, even during longer rides.
Wareable verdict: Moov Now in-depth review
This ensures more accurate motion tracking, with cadence - a key metric for cyclists - tracked alongside all the usual distance and calorie burn stats. In this group, this puts the Moov out on its own in terms of bike-friendly abilities.
Knowing how many rotations per minute you're putting through the pedals and how this fluctuates as you tire is a great way to discover areas you can improve. It's not without its shortcomings though.
With the Now strapped to your ankle, and featuring no screen in the first place, there's no glanceable real time data available. You could get a bike mount for your phone - you're going to need it with you anyway given the Now's lack of inbuilt GPS - but that's a clunky solution.
Instead, however, Moov has built in an inbuilt coach, with the training aid giving audio feedback throughout your ride. This is an active coach rather than a simple passive addition too. As well as standard split markers each kilometre, the coach knows how your cadence is changing, letting it offer tips such as knocking down a couple of gears to keep your rhythm up.
While this can provide an invaluable boost as you're struggling up a steep incline, as you slow your rotations as you approach traffic, it can, occasionally be a bit quick to judge and pipe up.
There's another downside too. Many cyclists, us included, don't like riding with headphones - it's a bit of safety nightmare. Instead though, storing our phone in our backpack, volume cranked to the max, we were able to get live feedback without losing sound of approaching cars. It's not the most sociable solution, but it works.
Read this: Moov Now tips and tricks
Despite the device's wallet-friendly price tag, the app is one of the best we've used. It might not be the fanciest or most sophisticated of trackers, but it brings the captured data to life in unparalleled fashion.
As well as all the customary quick hit data - time, distance, calories - the Moov takes things a step further by highlighting key cycling-specific metrics such as your tallest climb and route difficulty. For the price, the Moov Now is hard to beat, it's lack of heart rate sensor, however, is a major drawback.
Polar M200 - Gold medal
The Polar M200 might be at the affordable end of the company's fitness tracker lines, but its versatility is far greater than many more expensive devices. Dozens of sports-specific tracking modes can be downloaded through the app and instantly uploaded onto the watch, with cycling one of these that you can give primary billing to.
Wareable verdict: Polar M200 in-depth review
Thanks to its integrated GPS skills and an inbuilt heart rate sensor, the M200 is capable of tracking every metric you'd want from a wrist-based cycling tracker. Accurately too. What's more, if you've got your phone with you - you don't need it for accurate metrics - you'll also get call and message alerts come through to your wrist.
While riding, the watch's big round screen offers easily glanceable real time data. It's not the most graphically impressive, but it's simple and clear, and when you're bombing along, that's exactly what you want.
You're not restricted to a single metric, either. With pace and distance present as standard, pressing the watch's physical button - easy to do when cycling - lets you cycle through live lap times, speed and heart rate data.
It's not just on the device that you're offered detailed data, either. Break the app out and things get even better.
OK, no, it's not the prettiest app going - it's a bit more bold, basic and clinical than those offered by the likes of Fitbit and Samsung - but the data offered is deep and detailed. As well as giving quick-hit insights to your core metrics - distance, average heart rate, calorie burn, speed and ascent - there's also plenty more in-depth bits to explore.
Read this: An essential guide to Polar Flow
You can overlay the speed and heart rate graphics to bring context to your rising levels, and in map mode you can slide through the every second of your ride, gaining speed and heart rate data at each and every point along your route. This is great for those with regular routes who want to track their progress and improving fitness levels.
You're not restricted solely to Polar's own app either. The M200 plays nice with the world's most popular cycle-tracking app, Strava, direct from the box, giving you a like-minded community to share your impressive data with.
If you're serious about cycling - we're talking weekend 100 milers not just daily trips to the shops - the Garmin Vivoactive HR is the most sophisticated of the group. What it possesses in terms of sheer power and extensive features lists, however, it lacks in finesse, meaning it's not going to be right for everyone.
For those who are looking to add cycling as another element of their regular exercise regimes, the Fitbit Charge 2 and Samsung Gear Fit 2 will each take you through regular rides with few issues and a comprehensive breakdown of your performance at the end. It's apparent from the off that cyclists aren't their primary target, but they tick the boxes anyway.
Keep on cycling
It's the Moov Now that's the real surprise here though. The most affordable of the bunch and one that, given its lack of real time data providing display, stands out for all the wrong reasons, it impresses with its deep, compelling data capture and coaching system.
This is a wearable for those who don't just want to track their cycling sessions, but improve their technique while they work on their fitness too. It's not a device that's going to appeal to everyone, but anyone who tries it will be pleasantly surprised by its comprehensive abilities and true cyclist-friendly data breakdowns.
Ultimately, however, it's the Polar M200 is the perfect balance. It's a tracker that will take you from your morning commute to your weekly high miler with consummate easy and transform a mass of data into an easy to understand collection of high engaging metrics. It's a safe bet, and one that's sure to impress.