Recording your ride has been a thing way before the days of Strava. When Garmin came out with their first cycling computers, it opened up a new world where you can record your ride and capture not only where you rode and how fast…but also your heart rate, power and multiple other data inputs. These days the options are really limitless and other tracking and hardware companies have entered the mix.
This year I decided it was time to ditch the computer on my bike. This decision came at the same time I decided to get rid of another device I have been using for years – my Apple Watch.
The day I switched from the Apple Watch to my Garmin Fenix 6…everything changed and got simplified in regards to my data tracking and riding. There are some pro’s and con’s to going to this setup so let’s get into the details.
What is good about just using a Garmin Watch
First…the Pro’s of only using a Garmin Watch.
Simplicity of One Device for All
There is no denying that going from two devices to one will simplify things. There is one less device mounted to your bike. There is one less device to charge. The watch is always on you so there is one less thing to remember to take out on the ride. The simplicity of just using the Garmin watch literally took away part of the checklist I do before every ride. How many rides did you get to the trailhead and figure out you either forgot your computer or it wasn’t charged enough to finish the ride? That problem just goes away.
The Garmin watches are not cheap but you only have to buy one. When you add up the cost of an Apple Watch and a decent cycling computer, you are above the cost of just getting the Garmin watch as your only device.
Multi Sport Use
When you go with just a Garmin watch, all of your sports get an upgrade. You get the Garmin technology with everything you do. I like to do a jog in the morning to keep fitness up and the data that the Garmin records vs. the Apple watch is much better. The best way I can describe it is that the Apple Watch is a smart watch that records activities. The Garmin watch is a sports and activity tracker that has smart watch functions.
Heart Rate Monitoring
I personally hate chest heart rate monitors. I wore them but hated it. Adding to that…I have extra bone cartalidge on my sternom that would push the sensor down making it so that I had to pull it back up constantly. In the tests that I have done on the same ride with both tracking, the Garmin watch will keep pace with a heart rate monitor within a range of about 5-10%. I am not a professional athlete so this window is completely acceptable and I get to ditch that annoying strap.
One less device to worry about means that you only have to worry about how much your watch is charged. It is also on your wrist and something that you are monitoring regularly. In comparison with the Apple Watch, there is no comparison. The Apple Watch has to be recharged every night where the Garmin can go 7 days with EVERYTHING on all of the time. If you tweak the settings, you are going weeks or even a month.
Wrecks / Device Protection
Cycling computers are almost always in the worst spot when it comes to wrecks. Whether you mount it on your stem or out in front of the bars, if the bike goes tumbling…that expensive computer is in a bad spot. Bike computers have gotten a lot more durable over the years but I have lost computers because of wrecks. I have find out much less likely to lose a watch out on the trail than a computer.
No Starring At Your Data
There are other riders that I know that are a lot better at this but I can not stop starring at my data when it is right in front of my face. I obsess over it. Where is my heart rate, how far have we gone, how far is left…it can be very distracting. By taking that data and putting it out of sight, I find I worry about it a lot less.
What are the drawbacks of only using a Garmin watch?
Next…the Con’s of only using a Garmin Watch
Maps and Directions
If you are doing a new ride that you do not know well, maps are a great feature to keep you headed where you are planning to go. It is more difficult to follow directions on the watch. The same reason I like my data away from me on a ride is a drawback when it comes to following routes. The screen is also smaller and there is not as much detail. The mapping function works fine on the watch but it isn’t the same experience as you get with a dedicated cycling computer.
Smart Watch Functions
As I said before, an Apple Watch is a smart watch with activity tracking functions while the Garmin watch is a sports and fitness tracker with smart watch functions. The app integration on the Apple Watch is miles away from the Garmin’s. So when it comes to things like controlling music, answering texts and emails or any other alerts and functions, the Garmin just doesn’t stack up.
You will have to balance how much you use your watch as an extension of your phone and which of those features you are willing to compromise on. For me, it wasn’t a huge deal but for many it may be.
Have to Turn Your Wrist to See Data
I know I actually listed this as a pro initially but if you need to see your data, it is harder. You have to turn your wrist on the ride to see your current data and there isn’t as much data on each screen. When you want to change screens…your arm has to reach all the way across the bars instead of just to the center where your computer used to be. This does take some getting used to.