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The Best Triathlon Watch

Adam Nakada

If you’ve just started doing triathlon or you’re a seasoned age grouper who’s ready to get to the nitty-gritty of your training stats, a triathlon watch is your best option for measuring your swimming, biking, and running metrics.  While there are many watches on the market that can do this and much, much more, we felt these three were outstanding for their features and quality:

  1. Garmin Forerunner 935

This particular watch is one of Garmin’s best watch ever released. It is just loaded with so many features, while still being lightweight with excellent battery life (a maximum of 24 hours while using GPS). All its features are geared towards helping you race, train, and make an analysis of your activities.  It even evaluates your training status to indicate if you’re undertraining or overdoing it - and offers additional performance monitoring features.

It provides advanced dynamics for running, cycling and swimming, including ground contact time balance, stride length and more. During a run, it gives you an analysis of the cadence, the pace, and the distance covered. Other activities it can help you with include golf, skiing, paddling, course, and cycling. It is compatible with chest-strap HRM and can track your heart rate on the wrist. Its battery lasts for two weeks in watch mode, up to 24 hours in GPS mode or up to 50 hours in UltraTrac mode, making it great for long-course triathletes and ultrarunners. It also has this neat feature: You can download data over Wi-Fi or connect to third-party apps to add more fun to your workouts.

  1. Garmin Fenix 5

Though bulkier than the Forerunner 935,  this watch does come with many features including sapphire lens, routable cycling maps, Wi-Fi connection as well as other navigation features. It is water resistant to a depth of up to 100 meters, which is a guarantee of ultimate performance for swimmers.

The watch can make a track of your steps, the oscillations and ratio, sleep, stress test, the length of your strides, lactate threshold and many more. The elevated heart rate monitors will show you how far you are in terms of calories burned as well as quantifying how intense your workout is. Outdoor sensors include GPS and GLONASS satellite reception as well as a 3-axis compass with gyroscope and barometric altimeter. These features are a big bonus for those who train outdoors as they are more reliable than GPS alone.

Its display will allow you to view calls, texts, or email notifications, with the option to add additional widgets data. The Wi-Fi connectivity incorporated into the watch allows you to automatically upload your activity directly to your Garmin Connect -as long as you are within the connectivity’s range. Additionally, this watch allows you to track activities such as golf, paddling, skiing, and hiking. It’s heavier than our top pick and still very pricey, especially if you only plan on using some of its features.

  1. The Garmin F735orerunner 

This watch is about $100 less than our top two but still offers so much for triathletes. It’s lightweight, and its ability to transition seamlessly from run to bike to swim with a quick click of a button makes it the perfect training partner for aspiring amateurs and professional athletes alike. Most notably in comparison to other smartwatches available, the 735XT incorporates Garmin's new and proprietary Elevate optical sensor at the wrist, eliminating the need for a chest strap. Garmin coaches Elevate as freedom from heart rate straps on race day but recommend pairing the 735XT with a heart rate strap for precise data tracking during training and additional features such as ground contact time balance, stride length, and vertical ratio running dynamics

The heart rate monitor for swimming, which can be purchased as part of a tri-bundle, can be used either in a pool or open water and is chemical resistant. It even comes with suction power to aid in ensuring it stays in place throughout the activity.

The only cons we found were that it can be less than stellar in counting pool laps, and the new Elevate technology might not be as trusty as a traditional heart rate monitor. However, this watch is lightweight and has usual functionality that we've grown to expect from Garmin triathlon watches, including text and call notifications, steps taken, calories burned, and sleep patterns, so you can stay on top of nutrition and recovery.

Things to Consider While Buying Triathlon Watch

  • Multi-Sport

This is one of the key features to consider in a triathlon training watch. A watch with this characteristic will make it simple to transition from one activity to another. The watch will allow you to switch modes simply by the push of a button. This transitions it from running to cycling or swimming. How it does this also involves the marking of the split in time as it transitions to another sport. Later on, you can review the information. During the transition, the display also changes to the mode you choose, for example, the changes in speed from miles an hour to miles a minute when you change it from cycling to running.

Other watches do not have this feature and they involve manual stopping of the activity, configuring the settings, and starting a new profile for every transition.

  • Quick Release

The quick release is particularly helpful for those who want to move the watch from their wrists to the bike. Not all of the watches available on the market have this feature, and its importance, however, depends entirely on your needs. But you should know that if you actively engage yourself in cycling, this feature is a must-have for better tracking. Your other option is to purchase a foam handlebar mount and strap the watch on.

  • Battery Life

Another important factor to give a priority is battery life. A watch that might die during a triathlon will add stress you don’t need. Get a watch that comes with sufficient battery life that is longer than your daily exercise routine.

  • Connectivity with Workout Accessories

Compatibility with other fitness accessories is one important consideration that you shouldn’t pass up. Some watches have multi-sport features but aren’t compatible with heart rate monitors, speed sensors, or the cadence. These features are some of the most important in triathlon training watches. Some watches, however, have Bluetooth sensors heart rate monitors that are compatible with other smart devices like phones and tablets.

  • Data Transfer

To keep a complete track of changes in your workouts, calories, and other important metrics, you need a watch that allows you to store everything online. This calls for data connectivity. Some have Wi-Fi connections while others do not. Those that allow internet connectivity will enable you to upload the data to either a fitness app or an online account.

With an online account, you can evaluate your performance and even share most of your achievements with your family members or friends through social media. Again, this feature is highly dependent on you. It might not be such a great deal if you don’t need it.

FAQs

Do tri watches have a specific water resistance power?

Most triathlon GPS watches are water resistant. However, it doesn’t mean that they are ideal for all water activities. For example, there are some that are fit for use both in pools and open waters like the Garmin Fenix and Forerunners. On the other hand, others are only compatible for use in pools only.

How long should the battery life last?

Most of the time, this feature is highly dependent on the number of features the watch has as well as how you use it. If a watch can perform multiple functions at the same time, the battery life will only run out faster than if it only does a single function. This is also to say that a watch that has few features will last way longer.

Conclusion

Everyone has their own specific goals for triathlon training and race day. You might want to pick a specific goal that you which to achieve (say, reaching your target heart rate) and choose a watch that will allow you to do so in each activity.  For others, connectivity is key, as seeing and sharing stats will be the motivation they need to keep themselves challenged. Whatever you decide, remember that you’re the only one who has to wear it, so pick something you know you can live with design and price-wise, and happy training!

The Best Triathlon Watch

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