Across the US, mountain biking trails are showing a 100-500% increased usage compared to 2019. It is obvious that mountain biking is becoming increasingly popular, with bike makers continuing to see a surge in sales.
Serious mountain bikers like to use their mounted bike computers to track their routes, however, with the technological advancement in recent years, GPS smartwatches are becoming more and more common among serious bikers.
While handlebar-mounted bike computers are great for GPS, smartwatches offer the same quality GPS along with other essential features in a compact wristwatch design.
The desirable qualities in a smartwatch will vary from person to person, based on their needs and priorities. However, there are a few general things to look for when searching for the perfect smartwatch for mountain biking.
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Desirable Smartwatch features
- Accurate and Reliable GPS
A built-in GPS is essential for using a smartwatch outdoors. It makes it easier for cyclists to navigate different places and makes the tracking of attitude gain, location, and distance much more accurate. Mounted bike computers often cost extra, so making sure your fitness tracker has a built-in, accurate GPS will eliminate this extra cost.
- Long Battery Life
Probably the most important feature, long battery life is essential for outdoor watches. This is for the simple fact of not being able to charge them when out and about. The minimum that a smartwatch should last between charges is one week.
Comfort is so important when choosing a fitness tracker. The last thing you want is to spend a ton of money on a watch, only for it to be super uncomfortable. Make sure you pay attention to the watch strap, as this can seriously improve or reduce the level of comfort. It is also important to make sure the watch isn’t too bulky.
- Health Tracking Features
Most smartwatches have advanced health tracking features such as a heart rate monitor, pulse oximeters (SpO2), hydration monitor, stress monitor, and sleep monitor. These are helpful when mountain biking as it helps you to stay in control of your health and performance.
Some fitness trackers have a lifesaving, fall detection feature. This feature sends a notification, along with your location, to your emergency contacts if you suffer a bad fall. However, not all fitness trackers have this feature, so make sure to look for it.
Our Top Recommendations
While the best watch for you is a matter of personal preference, we’ve gone ahead and reviewed dozens of smartwatches at a variety of price points. Here we break down the pros and cons of more than a dozen fitness trackers to help you decide which smartwatch best suits your goals and needs.
Focused on outdoor sports and fitness, and offering high-quality and robust GPS watches, Garmin is regarded as the all-time best smartwatch brand out there.
Chances are, if you’re searching for a fitness tracker for outdoor sports, you’ve probably come across many recommendations for Garmin smartwatches. Garmin watches are so popular due to their wide range of services and advanced features.
These watches offer exceptional battery life, advanced tracking, and plenty of features. You really can’t go wrong with a Garmin smartwatch.
Garmin Forerunner 245
The Garmin Forerunner 245 is full of premium features, making it stand out from other smartwatches. It has accurate GPS to track your speed, distance, and pace. It offers a crisp, bright display along with a 1.2” dial, ideal for any wrist size. The watch is lightweight and designed with a silicone band, delivering optimum comfort.
Its safety tracking feature allows you to cycle without worry. If faced with an accident, this feature automatically sends an SMS and your location to your emergency contacts.
Forerunner 245 comes with a variety of other essential sports and fitness tracking features such as wrist-based heart rate, women’s health tracking, training status, pulse oximeter, and many more. It also includes an advanced live tracking feature allowing your friends to follow your location and view your pre-planned course.
The Garmin Forerunner series contains the best multisport watches on the market, and the Forerunner is at the top of the list. Offering weeklong battery life and music support, it makes your long trips easier and more enjoyable.
- Weeklong battery life.
- Lightweight and comfortable.
- Supports music.
- Fall detection safety feature.
- No ABC sensor.
- Clunky interface.
Garmin Forerunner 945
Offering everything needed for a serious mountain biker, the Garmin Forerunner 945 is one of the best Garmin smartwatches for outdoor activity.
The Garmin Forerunner 945 comes with all of the ‘bells and whistles” you could ask for. Featuring acclimation checking, recovery time, advanced GPS, and heart rate tracking, you couldn’t ask for more.
It also has a superb battery life, lasting up to two weeks from a single charge, and provides up to 36 hours of battery life while in GPS mode. It also has a water rating of 5ATM and is music compatible, storing up to 1000 songs.
- Accurate GPS
- Accurate heart rate
- Full-color maps
- Excellent battery life
- Rugged and durable
- Bulky and clunky
Garmin Forerunner 745
A streamlined version of the Garmin Forerunner 945, the Forerunner 745 is an incredibly good choice for mountain biking.
It includes detailed daily workout suggestions and a 7-day training load, suggesting recovery time, and informing you of overexertion.
The Forerunner 745 measures heart rate, oxygen saturation and is ANT+ compatible, meaning it can connect to devices such as power meters.
It has a slightly lower battery life than the Forerunner 945, however, will still give one-week battery life in smartwatch mode and 6 hours in GPS on a full charge.
- Daily workout suggestions
- Advanced GPS
- Advanced heart rate monitor
- Lower battery life than other Garmin watches
Garmin Venu 2
Having only been introduced in April 2021, Garmin Venu 2 is highly advanced in its health and fitness tracking features.
It features a wrist-based heart rate monitor, stress monitoring, sleep monitoring and sleep analyzing, hydration tracking, and blood oxygen monitoring. The Venu 2 saves and secures your health data for proper tracking and analysis via the Health Snapshot.
It includes a dedicated cycling mode, along with over 20 other GPS sports modes enabling you to track and monitor your daily activities.
If you’re looking to intensify your mountain biking experience, then this watch is right for you. With its HIIT mode, Smart Power Management, AMOLED display, and large storage, you can greatly intensify your mountain biking.
- Longer battery life.
- Advanced GPS tracking.
- Advanced health and cycling tracker.
- The heart rate monitor could be improved.
Garmin Fenix 6
Known for their durability, Fenix watches are perfect for outdoor adventures. And the Garmin Fenix 6 is no exception.
The Fenix 6 has been updated from the Fenix 5, this time offering advanced GPS tracking, daily workout suggestions, sleep tracking tools, hydration tracking, Pulse OX sensor, sports modes, and much more.
Strength training is a crucial part of mountain biking, and the Fenix 6 allows you to record your strength training activities. It assists you in tracking your reps and sets and can determine how long your recovery time should be.
The Fenix 6 offers advanced GPS that is more accurate than in previous models. The Multi GNSS support is fast and precise, using multiple satellite systems and provides tracking in more challenging and deserted environments.
Its ABC sensor provides a 3-axis compass, gyroscope, and barometric altimeter. It also tracks weather conditions.
The most robust smartwatch on the market, the Fenix 6 offers two weeks of battery power in smartwatch mode, 48 days in battery saver mode, and 36 hours in GPS mode.
Despite being a bit clunky, yet comfortable, the Fenix 6 stands out from other watches by offering interchangeable straps. Plus, 24/7 heart rate monitoring, three preloaded cycling profiles (bike, MTB, and indoor biking), and offering trackback that allows riders to retrace their route back to the starting point make this a great watch for mountain biking.
- Two-week battery life.
- Robust and durable.
- Advanced GPS with satellite.
- ABC sensor.
- Great for indoor and outdoor activities.
- Allows you to track strength training.
- Slightly clunky.
Including a wide range of sports modes, premium health-tracking features, and extra-long battery life, Garmin Enduro is an outstanding sports watch.
Its power glass uses a solar panel, automatically charging the battery and allowing for extra-long battery life. It has a 1.4” always-on, sunlight-optimized display, allowing for easy viewing.
It is rugged, durable, and includes advanced fitness tracking features, allowing you to track all your physical aspects during your mountain biking adventures. These features include VO2 Max, Power Manager, Heat, Hydration, Respiration, Heart health, and more.
The Garmin Enduro is a great training watch, with all the tools of the Fenix line, plus, bonus features that may be missing from other Garmin watches.
- Excellent battery life.
- Rugged and durable.
- Accurate GPS tracking.
- Most of the sports modes aren’t for regular use.
Garmin Vivoactive 4/4S
If you are looking for a great all-around fitness watch look no further than the Garmin Vivoactive 4. This mid-priced fitness tracker offers all the features that an avid mountain biker requires and more.
Serious riders will love its dedicated cycling mode, accurate GPS, safety features such as crash detection that alerts your contact of your exact GPS position. It has the ability to interface with compatible biking apps such as Strava. Plus, it offers other GPS sports modes and over 20 built-in sports apps including strength training to track and monitor your daily activities.
The Vivoactive features a wrist-based heart rate monitor, stress monitoring, sleep monitoring and sleep analysis, women’s health monitoring, hydration tracking, and SpO2 sensors.
If fashion is important to you, this smartwatch offers a fashion-forward design including two sizes (40 and 45mm) as well as a choice of bezels and bands.
And finally, the Vivoactive is water-resistant up to 5ATM, includes Garmin Pay, smartphone compatibility, and music storage.
- Third-Party Interface
- Accurate GPS tracking.
- Water resistance to 5 ATM
- Women’s health tracking
- No ABC sensor.
- Shorter battery life
Garmin smartwatches can be expensive, so here are a few cheaper options, all with similar quality features to Garmin.
The next best brand after Garmin for high quality, premium sports watches, Polar is a great choice of smartwatch brand.
Polar Vantage V2
The Polar Vantage V2 is the premium watch for this brand, offering lots of high-end features. With a durable and sleek design, this watch offers a brighter, easy-to-read watch face.
It shows you deep into your day-to-day activities, the only watch that does so. It also guides you on each step of your training.
The Polar Vantage V2 has advanced GPS tracking. It offers GLONASS, Galileo, and QZSS, with assisted GPS for fast fix times. With Kamoot, you can pre-plan your route and import it to Polar Vantage V2.
With lots of advanced features and a slightly lower price tag, this watch is a great budget option for those not wanting to spend a fortune on a fitness tracker.
It has ABC sensors that track altitude, weather conditions, and directions. It also includes many fitness features such as advanced heart rate monitoring, running performance text, cycling performance test, sleep plus stages, sports profiles, energy source, and much more.
- Not as expensive as other smartwatches.
- Sleek, durable, and comfortable design.
- Excellent battery life.
- High-quality display.
- No music support.
A great mountain biking watch, and a great health tracker too. The Polar Ignite provides detailed information about your daily activities through features such as calorie tracking, sleep tracking, breathing exercises, heart rate monitoring, and many more.
The different types of sports modes help you with a variety of both indoor and outdoor activities.
While hiking, mountain biking, or cycling, the integrated GPS tracker measures your speed, distance, and pace. GPS is accurate and shows quick data. However, the downsides of this watch are that it lacks GLONASS and ABC sensors.
The Polar Flow app is a brilliant app that allows you to look at in-depth statistics of your daily data.
Polar ignite is an excellent choice of smartwatch, with a design that is both elegant and comfortable. With five days of battery life and lots of advanced features, this watch is a great option.
- Accurate heart rate monitoring
- Advanced GPS
- Elegant and comfortable design
- No ABC sensor
- Short Battery life
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, released last year, is another great option for a mountain biking smartwatch. It has many high-end features that continue to dazzle users.
It has a rugged design that is perfect for outdoor adventures. While using in rough and challenging conditions, you don’t need to worry about scratches or damage.
It has a 1.4” display visible in sunlight, with 360 x 360-pixel resolution and Gorilla Glass dx protection, offering easy viewing while riding.
It also includes the fall detection feature, allowing you to ride safely. This feature handily alerts your emergency contacts that you have had an accident and lets them know your location.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 includes excellent health and fitness features for mountain bikers. It has an optical heart rate monitor, an ECG monitor, and an SpO2 sensor that enhance the accuracy of the user’s data.
- Direct sunlight visibility
- Music compatible
- Advanced, reliable GPS
- Google Assist is more reliable than Bixby
Apple Watch Series 6
Another great, and highly popular option is the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch Series 6 is especially good for mountain biking.
This watch comes with a workout app that is accessible from the home screen, allowing you to track all your mountain biking workouts and view your stats.
Apple Watch Series 6 is a product made by Apple, meaning it can sync to other products made by Apple. The iPhone has an Apple Watch app making it easy for you to customize your data and add other stats you would like to track (calories burned, average speed, etc).
This watch also offers third-party apps, including Strava. Strava is a popular app for mountain bikers, however, not all smartwatches offer it.
- Good battery life
- Third-party apps – including Strava
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Not as robust as other smartwatches
Suunto 9 Peak
An advanced smartwatch made for peak sports experiences, the Suunto 9 Peak is made with sapphire crystal glass, Titanium Grade 5 bezels, and a silicone strap allowing for excellent comfort and durability.
It offers tracking for lots of different sports, including cycling, running, jogging, and more. It has an incredible GPS and the Suunto app allows easy route planning.
This watch offers 25 hours of battery power in GPS mode and charges fully from 0 to 100% in less than 60 minutes.
The Suunto 9 Peak is a great choice. With long battery life, a comfortable and durable design, and an advanced GPS, it has everything you’re looking for.
- Lightweight design
- Wrist-based heart rate monitoring
- Long battery life
- No music support
Amazfit T Rex Pro
The Amazfit T Rex Pro is a rugged but lightweight smartwatch. It has a slightly bulky finish; however, it is lightweight and comfortable and can withstand bumps and scratches on your rides. The silicone strap is soft and stretchy, allowing for optimal comfort.
It has a built-in heart rate monitor and a 1.3” AMOLED panel and a screen built from Gorilla Glass 3 material. The battery life is excellent, lasting up to 20 days on a single charge. It also has a very appealing price point, meaning it is a great budget option for those who don’t want to spend a lot of money on a smartwatch.
- Good price point
- Excellent battery life
- Bulky design
Our Top Picks
Overall, the best smartwatch for mountain biking is the Garmin Fenix 6. The long battery life, lightweight and durable design, built-in GPS, extra features, and cellular connectivity make it easily the best choice.
However, if you don’t want to spend a ton of money on the absolute best smartwatch, and just want one that is durable and gets the job done, the Amazfit T Rex Pro is a great alternative.
Smartwatches are a great investment, especially for outdoor sports. Having access to GPS or being able to track your heart rate right on your wrist gives you added convenience that handlebar-mounted computers cannot provide. They simply make your experience more enjoyable.