Multisport watch VS dedicated bike computer- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Multisport watch VS dedicated bike computer

    I'm currently using an older Cateye GPS computer, it suits most of my needs however it's no longer supported by strava and the GPS seems to be getting a bit wonky.

    I'd like to upgrade to something more modern. I don't use power meters or cadence, however I would be interested in trying heart rate monitors. I don't use live segments either. I need a fairly basic unit.

    Are many folks using watches like a Garmin 235 or similar? I do some hiking and backcountry snowboarding and don't need it for that but I would use it. I am more concerned about having cycle functionality. Are the watches as good as a cycle computer? There is some deals on Suunto out there and the Polar stuff looks good too. What are folks running?

  2. #2
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    I used a Garmin Forerunner 310XT triathlon watch on my mtb for years.

    Dunno about the newer watches, but the smaller display meant for fewer data fields displayed, and the ones that were displayed were in smaller text.

    In all honesty, the biggest reason I don't ride with it anymore is specific to that device. That device could only upload rides to the computer via ANT+. No bluetooth. No wifi. No physical data cable. ANT+ is super flaky for data transfer like that, which is why you don't see it on any other devices. I moved to an Edge 520, which was the most basic bike-specific device made at the time, that wasn't excessively basic for me.

    It sounds to me like the Edge 130 would serve your uses well.

    For mtb uses, I strongly recommend wheel sensors for each mtb if you care about reported distance. An accurate GPS-only distance measurement will ALWAYS display short (it will shortcut corners), and the gap gets bigger the twistier the trail is, and the more difficult the reception. Where I live, it's probably even a good idea if you ride road, since the Blue Ridge Parkway is a very popular roadie route and has lots of tunnels. The GPS drops out in them and might get wildly inaccurate just before that happens, and a wheel sensor keeps your reported distance straight.

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    I'm not super critical about the mileage being perfect, a little variance is fine. I like to have a general idea. I also like to know elevation gain.

    Wondering if there is any watches similar in capabilities to the 130.

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    I used to use a Vivofit HR? I can't remember. But basically the base model Garmin step tracker with the optical HRM and GPS. It worked perfect if all you cared about is what you are describing with no mapping. Battery fully charged was good for about 6 hours I think. I replaced it with a Fenix and gave it to my GF.

    It will connect with a HRM strap and cadence sensor, I think a speed sensor too, but never did a speed sensor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ALS650L View Post
    I'm not super critical about the mileage being perfect, a little variance is fine. I like to have a general idea. I also like to know elevation gain.

    Wondering if there is any watches similar in capabilities to the 130.
    10-25% short without a wheel sensor is not uncommon. Replaced the battery in my wife's wheel sensor today because her computer was reporting sometimes more than a mile less than mine on rides less than 10mi.

    If you want even a halfway decent idea of elevation, you want a barometric altimeter. GPS-derived elevation is pretty horrendous and every file upload site I know throws it out and recalculates based on digital elevation models. But on the device, elevation will be less than worthless unless you have a barometric altimeter.

  6. #6
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    I've been following these threads for a bit now, this 130 maybe what I want. Its a bummer it doesn't have navigation, but I guess I can do that w/my old phone. In the near future I will have more time to ride/explore.

    Can you add multiple bikes to it? (sorry the mini-hijack OP)
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcd46 View Post
    I've been following these threads for a bit now, this 130 maybe what I want. Its a bummer it doesn't have navigation, but I guess I can do that w/my old phone. In the near future I will have more time to ride/explore.

    Can you add multiple bikes to it? (sorry the mini-hijack OP)
    It does the "sensor pool" type of thing.
    It doesn't separate the bikes as such.
    You just jump on a bike and go. It picks up the sensors it can see and is away. You can even put the cadence sensor off one bike and the speed sensor off another on a bike and go for a ride without issue.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by NordieBoy View Post
    It does the "sensor pool" type of thing.
    It doesn't separate the bikes as such.
    You just jump on a bike and go. It picks up the sensors it can see and is away. You can even put the cadence sensor off one bike and the speed sensor off another on a bike and go for a ride without issue.
    Thanks, the only thing I plan to use is a HRM - I guess I can update my bikes on Strava, I just like to keep track of each bike's mileage.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcd46 View Post
    I've been following these threads for a bit now, this 130 maybe what I want. Its a bummer it doesn't have navigation, but I guess I can do that w/my old phone. In the near future I will have more time to ride/explore.

    Can you add multiple bikes to it? (sorry the mini-hijack OP)
    It does have navigation. I've been thinking about getting something and this might work for me.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by chazpat View Post
    It does have navigation. I've been thinking about getting something and this might work for me.
    I just went through this: (in case you have not seen it)

    https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2018/04/...th-review.html
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcd46 View Post
    I just went through this: (in case you have not seen it)

    https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2018/04/...th-review.html
    It appears you can download maps and it will provide navigation based on that map, but it won't map your ride itself. Is that what you mean?
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    Quote Originally Posted by chazpat View Post
    It appears you can download maps and it will provide navigation based on that map, but it won't map your ride itself. Is that what you mean?
    Yes, and no access to TrailForks but that's not a big deal right now. I have that on my phone.
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    I'm not concerned with having navigation at all.

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    Is anyone using a watch? I want to be able to upload to Strava, but not lose any of the cycling features.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ALS650L View Post
    Is anyone using a watch? I want to be able to upload to Strava, but not lose any of the cycling features.
    Why are you fixated on a watch?

    I hate wearing crap on my wrists when I ride (my wrists swell as blood flow increases, and something snug on my wrist before the ride gets too tight later, and messing with watch straps is irritating). The "mounts" to put watches on handlebars mostly suck. The one nice thing about using the Forerunner 310XT is that I was able to get an adapter that allowed me to remove the band and mount it to the plain ol Garmin 1/4 turn mount on my stem. THAT worked well, but is not available for most watches. I'm not even sure if you can get it for newer tri watches.

    But yes, some people do use watches now. They just haven't posted yet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ALS650L View Post
    Is anyone using a watch? I want to be able to upload to Strava, but not lose any of the cycling features.
    I use my Garmin 935 with cadence, HR, speed and sometimes power sensors.
    Uploads to Garmin Connect and automatically from there to Strava.
    I use a Garmin 25, 130 or 810 on the bars depending what I want to see during the ride/race. The more racey, the smaller and lighter the device I want on the bars.
    The watch is only 43g on the wrist.

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    I'm using Polar v800 for years. MTB was never my primary sport (xc skiing is), so I never even wanted cycling specific computer. For mtb, I put my Polar to handlebar, so it's pretty much same as you would have "proper" cycling computer, except that Polar works better then any Garmin ever did And when I go do something else (xc skiing, back country skiing, running...) I have same watch and same environment (Polar Flow) for those things.
    Sure, v800 doesn't support ANT, but who cares about that. Unless you have some ancient sensors, everything at least remotely recent supports BT, so you are fine.
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  18. #18
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    I use one of these, took a while to set up how I like it (my brain doesnt understand Garmin Menu trees), the only criticism I have is battery life could be better.
    I use it solely for bike (mtb & road) and then on the trainer when Im in hotels.

    https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/p/57.../010-01769-01#
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    Why are you fixated on a watch?
    I'm interested in a watch for the ability to track other activities. I primarily mountain bike, however I do other stuff too!

    I'd like to know peoples experiences with using watches for cycling.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cmg View Post
    I use one of these, took a while to set up how I like it (my brain doesnt understand Garmin Menu trees), the only criticism I have is battery life could be better.
    I use it solely for bike (mtb & road) and then on the trainer when Im in hotels.

    https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/p/57.../010-01769-01#
    Do you use the Garmin speed sensor when you use it on the trainer? What is your typical battery life? I've been looking at the Instinct which is a ruggedize version of the Vivoactive. It has some different features and lacks some of the Vivo line.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by ALS650L View Post
    Do you use the Garmin speed sensor when you use it on the trainer? What is your typical battery life? I've been looking at the Instinct which is a ruggedize version of the Vivoactive. It has some different features and lacks some of the Vivo line.
    No I dont use a speed sensor, just to monitor heartrate, I only use trainers when Im in hotels and have never tried to connect to one.
    Battery life is ok its just that I'd prefer more, the GPS can run for 10 hrs (Ive done this) and it still had about 15%, but on "biking holidays Im charging it everynight, although it also charges fast (empty to full in 2hrs).
    For commuting (2hrs each day) I charge it every second/third day.

    I dont use it to see my speed though, I generally start it and ride then stop it. Instant info is not really what Im after when riding.
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  22. #22
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    If you want to do other stuff besides cycling and cant afford/justify multiple devices, the a watch is the way to go. It's nowhere near as good for viewing stuff while riding, but then again if mtbing then you probably shouldn't be looking at it anyway haha.

    I've found my garmin 645 to be pretty close to my edge 1000, usually longer by 100 or so meters, but I always start it first if I wear both.

    The 645 I normally ger about 10 hours of use out of it, my GF has a 935 that seems to run forever that she uses for triathlons
    All the gear and no idea.

  23. #23
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    The Vivoactive 3 has impressed me, or at least, it has pissed be off way less than my Edge520+, at a bit over half the cost. I tracks pretty much every cycling metric except power, and works way better with my phone then the 520+. The built in wrist HRM give questionable readings when cycling, but of course the Edge needs a chest band anyways. No navigation of any type though.

    I'd still like to see speed, distance, and time on the bars, but I supposed a much cheaper unit, even non-gps, could serve that purpose if you were tracking with the watch.
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  24. #24
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    I use a Garmin Fenix 5 watch. If I could only have one device, that would be it. I don't pay much attention to my data when I am riding, unless I am doing specific intervals. When I am trail riding, I don't care about any of the data. And when I am racing, it is 99% on feel (the data just confirms how I feel, or tells me to HTFU). I do like having a watch though as a watch. It helps me pay attention to my sleep and such too just like a regular health tracker.

    -LONG battery life, which is important to me. I am an endurance athlete. I've run 50 miles (10 hours), iron distance triathlon (13 hours), 12 hour MTB races, etc.
    -Will do mapping. Depending on model, you can either download from phone or internal.
    -All sensor options.
    -Triathlon ready.
    -I can use my 520+ as a remote display. The Fenix collects the data, the 520+ just displays it.
    -Optical HR isn't important to me, but a nice option if I want to roughly track my HR without wearing a strap. I do that on outside of intervals and racing (I do have power on my bikes).

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    I've been riding with the Garmin 405cx (watch) for a few years now.

    I've owned it since 2009 or 2010 for running. I didn't ride with it for a long time. I had bike computer to track my mileage, non GPS units.

    I run very little these days but use the watch on the bike every ride. It's showing some wear now as it gets splattered with mud. Is covered in dust. Gets hit with tree branches.

    So if you want a watch for other activities and care about the appearance, a watch may not be the best.

    I'm about over it -ready to get a bike computer. Been thinking about it for several months but didn't feel like paying out the cash. I sold my road bike and will use that money to purchase the unit and a couple speed sensors (1 for each of the 2 bikes).

    I have zero issue using the watch for riding. It uploaded to Garmin Connect and I have gear setup for tracking purposes. I use it for running, bicycle (road and MTB). Snowboarding and dirt bike use. It has really never let me down.
    I also use Strava phon app, in addition. Garmin will upload to Strava if you feel like only wearing a watch (or forget a phone).

    Maybe consider what you want from the watch. Can you get the same thing with a Garmin bike computer? If you want to hike -toss the Garmin in your backpack. Not sure how well it will work, but my Strava app works perfectly in a fully enclosed phone case then dropped into my back pack. Also when it's in a jersey pocket. Maybe you can track your hikes, if that is the goal. A bike computer won't be an effective run tracker though unless you wear big shorts with a zippered closure and prefer it to bounce around during the run.

    To answer your questions "does anybody wear a watch". Yes I do, every ride.
    Ditching the watch will also reduce a watch tan line.

    Oh, and I've used the HR monitor with it and it's fine.

  26. #26
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    I bought a Garmin Forerunner 35 recently for biking, a bit of running and hiking. Basically use it for getting rough data. It does it's job. It comfortable and it is cheap ($99+tax off amazon). Ugly though. If had of had extra money to spend I would have bought a Suunto Traverse.

    I don't wear it daily though cause I am a bit of a watch nerd and would prefer to wear my mechanical watches.
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    Thanks for the replies from watch users. I don't watch my stats much while riding, typically I will look at time or distance while stopped so having the display on the bars isn't a huge deal. I've never used a HRM but I think I would be interested in trying it out, I like looking at the data after. Sounds like nobody has any real complaints with using a watch for cycling purposes either. Ideally I would like to have one unit and not spend a ton of cash buying multiple devices. As far as using a phone for other activities I don't really like to, cell service is poor or non-existent in a lot of places here and it just ends up killing the battery. I also have an older phone, not one to upgrade it just for the sake of upgrading.

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    Good luck on whatever you choose.
    I bet it is safe to say I've been wearing my watch for 3 years, easy.
    If I still did run training I may not be using it as a bike tracking device only because I'd want the reliability of the watch for running as my primary unit. I can use my phone on a jersey pocket or back pack but don't have a way to not wear a watch while running.

    You can't go wrong, as long as the things outlined in this thread don't sound negative to you.

    I will semi-retire my watch once I get a bike computer. Retire only to uses for the runs which are a couple times a month at best.

    As for visibility, I used to watch it often on runs to keep track of training paces. I never use it on a bike though. In part my eyes aren't good enough to see the data anymore while riding and trying to read a watch face for some metric.
    I don't expect a bike computer to be any better for visibility, or not MUCH better, if at all. However, I don't need it while riding anyway because I am a person that doesn't need to see the ride data immediately. The new 530 model has the hill which I could look at while climbing, but that's 4mph so I could probably be okay.
    It also has the jump metrics. No way will I be looking at that -I'm not a good enough jumper to have a split second distraction from the trail for jumping, never mind long enough to look and process the numbers I see.

    For me the reason I want to switch to a bike computer is so I can simply swap it to the other bike I ride that day and go without having to wear the watch and continue risking damage. It's old and works and I'd hate to replace it now for running as they are more expensive than I'd need for the minimal runs I run.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by ALS650L View Post
    Sounds like nobody has any real complaints with using a watch for cycling purposes either.
    Except me. But you're discounting my opinion, because I don't currently wear a watch when riding. I used a watch when riding in the past (more than one model), and didn't like it on my wrist because of the pressure, so I no longer do so.

  30. #30
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    I use a Fenix 5S for recording my rides and find it works well for mtb rides where I'm not frequently looking at the display and as an all day smartwatch as the notifications and music controls are very handy. I prefer having a bigger display on the handlebars when I'm on the road bike though so use an Edge 1030 for it.

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    I used to be like Harold and hated the pressure of the swollen wrists. Same on the bike (for me) as when I would run often.

    I learned to be okay with one notch looser. I had to loosed it during the run anyway as it would become tighter than I preferred. It took a long time to get used to the watch moving around on the bike with all the jarring. More than the time it took to become used to it with the arm swing as a runner.

    I guess for me it was either accept the loose watch (or tight if that's your preference) or go without data.

    The watches I wear as a normal watch are loose fitting as well. One is slight too loose, need to cinch it up a link. That's another story though. But yes, preference is a watch with a bit of slippage for me.

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    Hey, for what it is worth, I use my “retired” Vivoactive HR on my bars with the Garmin Multisport watch mount ($12 on amazon) and I love it. I just disabled the HR tracking portion since it’s not on my wrist.

    I still wear my Apple Watch to get my “workout credit” and heart rate but much prefer the Garmin interface to what Apple spits out, and I detest Strava.

    I thought about getting an Edge 25 or the new 130, but just couldn’t justify the cost for the little bit of stats that I collect that are important to me.

    Hope that helps





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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    Except me. But you're discounting my opinion, because I don't currently wear a watch when riding. I used a watch when riding in the past (more than one model), and didn't like it on my wrist because of the pressure, so I no longer do so.
    I guess I should have been more specific, complaints with the functionality of the watch for tracking rides while cycling. Your issues is valid and that is something I am concerned about. I have gone through spells where I wear regular watches, but haven't recently and I don't recall using them while riding.

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    that one time I tried to use my old 310XT for lift-serviced DH was wrist-pain-day by any other name.

    It didn't bother me much on my other bikes, and now the (admittedly much smaller) vivoactive3 is unnoticeable on my road bike and XC bike.

    But I haven't done any DH in years, so I'm not sure if the smaller watch would make any difference in that application.
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    I used a ForeTrex 350 for a while. On the wrist it was a nightmare. My Forerunner 910XT, 920XT and now 935 are brilliant.
    The 945 looks to be even moar betterer - drool...

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    Everyone having issues with watches on wrist, you do know there's perfectly fine mounts that enables you to have watch on handlebar? With Polar it actually comes with watch when you get it in package with bike sensors. No problems with "pains", and on top of that even much better visibility of data
    Primoz

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by primoz View Post
    Everyone having issues with watches on wrist, you do know there's perfectly fine mounts that enables you to have watch on handlebar? With Polar it actually comes with watch when you get it in package with bike sensors. No problems with "pains", and on top of that even much better visibility of data
    "perfectly fine" is a very subjective term. The one blaklabl uses is the type that I hate. It's not "perfectly fine" for me. I have a quick release kit for my Forerunner 310xt that I actually liked (even if that device pissed me off in other ways). But similar quick release kits are model specific and it looks like the one Garmin currently sells is only compatible with the Forerunner 935 and 945.

    https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/p/pn...251-0S#devices

    I wouldn't buy a watch for bike use unless it had a similar mount. But I'm also not spending $600 for a bike computer. Why bother?

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    "perfectly fine" is a very subjective term. The one blaklabl uses is the type that I hate. It's not "perfectly fine" for me.
    Show us on the doll where my Garmin mount hurt you...

    Jeez dude, do you want me to delete the picture? Is it that painful?
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  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by blaklabl View Post
    Show us on the doll where my Garmin mount hurt you...

    Jeez dude, do you want me to delete the picture? Is it that painful?
    I have strong preferences. So what? Show me on the doll where my opinion hurt you.

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  40. #40
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    Like I said, if you want something for riding, then a bike computer is the way to go, it's superior to a watch (well I guess unless you want HR but don't want to wear a strap).
    But if you do other stuff, and biking is just one of your activities, then a watch is so much more versatile. If you can only have 1 then a watch is the way to go.
    Can you take a bike computer for other stuff, sure, but it's not designed for that and it's not "easy" as such, whereas a watch can happily do duty as a bike computer.
    All the gear and no idea.

  41. #41
    cmg
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    what about a GPS, Etrex 35 or similar?
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    Quote Originally Posted by mik_git View Post
    Like I said, if you want something for riding, then a bike computer is the way to go, it's superior to a watch (well I guess unless you want HR but don't want to wear a strap).
    But if you do other stuff, and biking is just one of your activities, then a watch is so much more versatile. If you can only have 1 then a watch is the way to go.
    Can you take a bike computer for other stuff, sure, but it's not designed for that and it's not "easy" as such, whereas a watch can happily do duty as a bike computer.
    I'm not disputing any of that. I've done that in the past, and I strongly prefer the quick release style of mount that lets me remove the computer itself from the band when I use it on the bike. And even though I don't really use that old Forerunner 310xt anymore, I've occasionally put my Edge 520 on the wrist band that has the qr mount attached to it when I do a short hike that doesn't really warrant pulling out the Oregon. It would actually be really handy if Garmin sold a bare wrist band with 1/4 turn adapter installed on it already for exactly this sort of thing. Unfortunately, the only Garmins that offer the quick release adapter right now are very expensive watches, it looks like.

    I've also described other prior poor experiences with specific models (really, it's more like prior poor experiences with specific functions/features), which aren't exactly major issues now (since Garmin realizes they made poor decisions in the past and has changed newer models), but are things to be aware of. Though Garmin now uses BT or Wifi for wireless data transfers now instead of ANT+ (poor use of that protocol, IMO), I personally wouldn't buy a watch that ONLY does data transfer wirelessly. I would require wired data transfer to at least be one option, in case something goes south with the wireless transfer. It looks like Garmin offers watches that go either way, so I think it's something important to check.

    Minus the 1/4 turn quick release adapter for switching to the bike, it looks like the Forerunner 235 is a solid running watch that can do bike duty with a couple of sensors on the bikes, even. Looks like the charging cradle for it will do duty for data transfers, but it'll also do wireless data transfers through BT.

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