In the old days wrist watches only had one role, tell time. But, with the help of technology, the special triathlon watches can now provide more than just minutes and hours. Now, you can have access to inputs like your heart rate, pace, distances covered, zone training, and even your vitals.
These innovations are what enabled such modern watches to be viable in other activities, including triathlon. With the help of triathlon watches, you can now have a better gauge on your statistics, and a more accessible way to monitor your performance before, during, and after, your race. If you’re looking to buy one, reading on will give you information on 6 of the best triathlon watches you can currently buy.
Top 6 Triathlon Watches
There are only a handful of sports watches that are truly viable in a triathlon. However, there are those that still manage to stand out. And for this product, these 6 are the best, in no particular order:
Water-rated to 100 meters, the Garmin Fenix 3 sports watch can survive any amount of water you cross during the race. Although it has an elevate wrist heart rate technology that measures your pulse, it is strongly recommended to train and compete with chest strap. You can connect chest straps especially for running or swimming but there is also a special triathlon chest strap that can be used for all three sports.
For training, you might have to buy the separate accessories if you want features such as the VO2 Max estimator, which can measure your oxygen volume intake per minute. It can even do a stress test and a lactate threshold analysis.
The Garmin Fenix 3 model also features an Omni-directional EXO™ antenna, with GPS/GLONASS satellite reception capability, giving you better navigation on difficult terrains. In terms of metrics, this Garmin unit can provide data on your ground contact time, steps per minute, stride length, and even your vertical ratio (bounce).
For swimming, the Garmin Fenix 3 can measure your distance covered, number of strokes, and pace. You can select outdoor swimming or even indoor pool swimming with a smart calculation on the amount of laps, distances, lap times etc.
Next to be useful for the three triathlon sports, you can also use the Garmin Fenix 3 for skiing (measure the speed and distance), climbing (elevation and descent), hiking (distance and time), trail running (distance, pace, timer), SUP boarding (distance, strokes, pace and time), rowing (distance, strokes, time), being used as a gps watch for golf (need to load the golf courses first) and walking (distance, pace, timer). When used as a daily watch, it can record as an activity tracker and measure the amount of steps, stairs and calories burned.
Other than all these, the Fenix 3 HR functions like any other smart watch, like e-mail and text notifications, weather reports and more.
The forerunner 920XT is one of Garmin’s sport watches that has a square head. It offers running dynamics, which includes measurements of your cadence, vertical oscillation, as well as ground contact time. When cycling, you’ll get to see your speed, and power reading, granted you have the power meter connected.
Much like the Garmin Fenix 3 HR, the Forerunner 920XT can also feature the VO2 Max estimator, and will serve a similar purpose, which is to monitor your fitness rate. For swimming metrics, you can get data on your swim distance, stroke count and rate, as well as SWOLF score, which is great for pace estimation. The Garmin Forerunner 920XT is also capable of smart notifications, live tracking, and social media sharing.
Many triathletes consider the Garmin Forerunner 920XT to be the used triathlon watch since the price/specifications ratio is so good.
This one is another great addition to Garmin’s sports watch lineup. When it comes to heart rate monitoring, it is recommend to use the chest straps for accurate measurements. Although it can measure HR directly from the wrist, which is similar to the first model on this list.
It also has built-in activity profiles, which enables you to separately keep track of your different activities, in just a push of a button. This makes it easier to get references specific to your cycling, swimming, and running, performances.
The Forerunner 735XT is also compatible with the Vector technology, and has an optional bike speed/cadence sensor, giving you better statistics on your cycling. For swimming, you get data on stroke number, distance, pace, and calories. It can also identify the type of stroke you’re doing.
Moreover, there are also several activity tracking features in the Garmin Forerunner 735XT watch, which includes an auto goal maker, a step counter, move bar, and sleep monitoring.
The Suunto Ambit3 is another great multi-sports watch that you can use for your triathlons. Whether you’re swimming on open water, cycling, or running, this watch does it all in an easy and straightforward manner. The Suunto Ambit3 also has an activity tracker, and can be used for other outdoor activities, such as hiking.
Although it can’t measure your vitals directly from the wrist, it does come with a chest strap, which not only monitors your heart rate, but can also do so while you’re underwater.
The Suunto Ambit3 watch can easily strap on to your bike as well, which when paired with the right ANT+ sensor, can get you data like speed, cadence, and power, or a combination of the former two.
The Spartan Ultra is the latest addition to Suunto’s multi-sports watch lineup. It features heart rate measurements with calories, along with Peak Training Effect and recovery time features. For running mode, it provides a real-time lap table with pace and heart rate data. Plus, with its unique FusedSpeed™ technology, the pace measurement becomes even more precise.
As for cycling mode, you get real-time metrics for power and speed, as well as a table for laps and vitals. The Suunto Spartan Ultra watch also has 100-meter water resistance, so using it on open water is perfectly fine. Metrics for swimming includes pace and distance, lap, and stroke data. And, much like the Ambit3, you can also monitor your heart rate underwater with the smart sensor on this Suunto Spartan Ultra.
When it comes to cycling and running metrics, the Polar V800 performs great. But, not so much on swimming. This device’s GPS mode will measure your running distance, pace, and speed. However, you need to connect separate monitors in order to get data like heart rate and cadence.
Cycling mode on the other hand will let you access metrics like speed, distance, and even altitude. Or, you can connect the power meter to receive other cycling statistics. Sadly, the Polar V800’s swimming mode seems to be the weak link compared to the other mentioned models. Metrics like stroke count, stroke rate, and distance, are lacking on this watch. However, it does have the ability to monitor you heart rate underwater.
What is a triathlon watch?
A triathlon watch is a type of sport device that yields information of an individual’s metrics. Some of the most popular brands that make sports watches include, Garmin, Suunto, and Polar. But, only a handful of units are viable in triathlons.
One of the reason why the variety of triathlon watches is somewhat limited is because of the sport’s multi-stage nature. Triathlon is divided into multiple sports weaved into one long endurance test. And it’s for this reason that only a few brands have so far been successful at catering to a triathlete’s needs.
A good triathlon watch must be able to track metrics not only for runners, but also for swimmers and cyclists. Even though there are specific sports watches or devices for each three, a single triathlon watch can generally cover all fields.
While the cycling and running parts of a triathlon are more or less the same, in terms of taking place on dry land, the swimming section on the other hand calls for a different approach. This is precisely why water-proofing is a must on this type of sports gear.
What makes a good triathlon watch?
Like mentioned above, a triathlon watch must be able to provide information on different sports, specifically cycling, swimming, and running. Furthermore, it also has to be completely waterproof and immersible, and not just the water-resistant type, as seen on most sports watches.
Other than the abovementioned functions, the true potential of this type of watch lies in its metrics. The amount of data that this kind of device can offer determines if it’s good or mediocre. Since metrics will serve as your reference for making goals and setting up objectives, you need to be able to trust the statistics that the watch provides in order to accurately check your progress.
To elaborate on this, here are some of the basic features that you should seek on a triathlon watch:
This refers to the duration of your race, from start to finish. It’s probably one of the most important features that a triathlon watch, or any other sports watch for that matter, to have. Without accurate timing, you won’t be able to observe how fast or how slow you’re going. And every athlete knows how significant those two data are, for performance assessment.
Distance is another key figure that this type of watch should offer. This, in combination with timing, will help you have a better visual on the tracks you’re expected to race on. Specifically on how far one point is to the other, and how much time it’ll take for you to cover it.
Maintaining a single pace throughout the three races in a triathlon is impossible. Therefore, you’ll have to form a strategy on how you approach each track, particularly on when to slow down, steady, or pick up, the pace. With a good triathlon watch, your pace will be calculated for you, allowing for better tactic formulation.
Heart rate monitoring is another great feature that you should look for in this sort of sports gear. It will help you asses your health, and is a great indicator on your physical and physiological limitations during intense trainings and actual races. Some watch can even estimate how much oxygen you’re consuming during performance.
Benefits Of Triathlon Watches
A common triathlon event will consist of a swimming section, cycling, and then running, respectively. These three courses are enough to make an average man burn out and expend all energy. This is why triathletes undergo intense training weeks, some even months, before the competition.
Whether or not you’re new to this sport, you’ll still likely go through the same rigorous preparations, or something similar at least. This is where the triathlon watch comes into play. Even before the main race, this type of watch will already contribute a lot to your practice routine.
In fact, having the ability to monitor your training statistics is probably better than getting on-the-spot data, or after the race, since you can still adjust your performance way ahead of time. Your documented numbers will also help you come up with a record goal, which is great for testing your limits, and to see how far you can push yourself.
Now let’s take a closer look at each watch and compare them based on price, technology as well as ease of use and maintenance.
This will always be a prime factor when you buy a product. And having a budget range will help thin out your options and choose more practically.
Out of all the listed items here, Suunto’s Spartan Ultra takes the number one spot as the most expensive, which is to be expected, given its newer release status and being packed with amazing innovations. The next in line for the highest priced is the Fenix 3 HR by Garmin, which also bolsters impressive multi-sports features.
Next are the two Forerunner models in the list and the Polar V800, with the former ones having the same price tags, and the latter slightly lower. As for the cheapest, the Suunto Ambit3 takes the cake.
All units listed here have their own unique and remarkable features. But, the Suunto Spartan Ultra and Garmin Fenix 3 HR seems to go heel to heel in terms of possessing the most notable technologies.
Both these models offer high-res color displays, and amazing metric tracking features. For the Fenix 3 HR, you get the outstanding Omni-directional stainless steel EXO™ antenna, with GPS/GLONASS compatibility. The Spartan Ultra on the other hand offers a unique compass and barometric altitude with FusedAlti™ technology.
Ease of Use and Maintenance
With a simple and straightforward design, the Suunto Ambit 3 is perhaps the easiest to use out of all the other listed devices. It also pairs with your smartphone rather efficiently, and only ever needs one smart sensor to be effective, so maintenance is also effortless.
While triathletes may not have the biggest catalogue when it comes to sports watches, the 6 models enumerated here indicates that your options are impressive. Regardless of which one you choose, you’re guaranteed to get your money’s worth.
But, if you still can’t decide which one you want, either because you have a limited budget or unsure of some features, then the Forerunner 920XT’s mid-range cost and dedicated features for all three triathlon sports, should ease your worry.
If you want the highest quality and best features in your new triathlon watch, you can either opt for the Suunto Spartan Ultra or the Garmin Fenix 3. Both of them have many special triathlon functions and are the highest performance watches currently available.
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