When it comes to swimming, biking, or run training the numbers always matter! How do you know if your becoming faster or even training at the pace required to get faster? Simple, a triathlon watch. They can provide paces when swimming, biking, or running, ultimately they can become your training partner. Plus, if you utilize a coach and programs like Training Peaks they can be a lifesaver on data entry time. However, first let’s figure out what is the best triathlon watch for you and how they can play a huge part in your training and triathlon racing.
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1. Garmin Forerunner 935 –
Price: Average | Rating: 9.8
When it comes to finding the best triathlon watch Garmin Forerunner has been a leading make for nearly a decade. The forerunner started out as just a running pace watch and has evolved into the best triathlon watch on the market. The Forerunner model’s newest is the 935, built for running or more specifically triathletes. Yet it’s a triathlon watch that is equipped with numerous features and benefits that allow you to wear the triathlon watch all day long.
First and foremost the watch is equipped with a built-in barometer; altimeter and compass which allows you to track your elevation gain and loss while running or biking. The Forerunner 935 gives you a lot of data when it comes to training. If you are someone that needs that added motivation to keep moving or push hard. The 935 even has an indicator to let you know when you are undertraining or overtraining, along with numerous performance indicators. I know for myself when I began training for triathlons. I had no idea what stride length or cadence really even meant. Now with watches like the Garmin 935, it provides this data for you while you swim, bike or run. It’s almost too easy to improve with this type of technology.
Battery Life –
My largest concern with watches is battery life. For example, I know the iwatch tends to lack in this department. Hence, why I don’t think they make the best triathlon watch. However, with triathlon specific watches especially Garmin. You get a very long lasting battery life. With normal watch mode, the Forerunner 935 can get over 2 weeks of battery life. If you are continuously using the GPS, this is where it chews up battery life. You get about 24 hours. Lastly, in UltraTrac mode you get about 50-60 hours of battery life. However, to give you an idea of real life battery usage. If you’re training for a 140.6 triathlon. You will easily get through a week’s worth of training on a single charge. Which is really good considering the benefits a triathlon watch can have for training.
When it comes to comfort the watch is fitted with QuickFit bands. Which allow you to easily swap out the band color making this watch not only customizable but perfect for any event. Therefore, you can have the silicone bands for training and the classic leather for more formal events. The watch is also only about 50 grams making it feel pretty light on your wrist. Lastly, the face of the triathlon watch is slim and doesn’t seem to get caught on clothes or a wetsuit for that matter. I’ve had watches in the past that are so oversized they are a pain to wear all day.
When it comes to the technology that the Forerunner 935 can harvest and deliver it’s mind-blowing. Ok maybe you can be the judge of that, but it has so many data points for every possible training activity it’s overwhelming. For example, you have the ability to select your workout, from swimming, pool swimming, running, treadmill running, cycling, indoor cycling. You name it has the ability to train with you in any condition. It can report your training status, performance, goals, best paces, and the newest feature your anaerobic training effect. Therefore, allowing you to get insights into critical parts of your training allowing you to push harder when necessary.
Lastly, when it comes to its ability to work with training apps. Garmin connect gives you the power to auto-download your workout and allows it to sync with apps like Training Peaks. Therefore, it saves you tons of time loading workouts in for your coach to analyze. I know for myself and the business between kids, jobs, and family. This feature saved quite a bit of my time.
When it comes to the disadvantages the first is the price. The forerunner triathlon watch is quite expensive. Therefore, first-time triathletes it can be quite a big amount to budget for. However, one thing I’ve learned in triathlon training is that nothing is ever cheap. The second disadvantage is with technology issues always seems to surface eventually. I’ve found that there can be times where the sync doesn’t seem to work or pair. However, I have called their customer support and have been helped immediately. So it does give me reassurance in knowing issues will be handled quickly.
2. Suunto Spartan Sport HR –
Price: Average | Rating: 9.6
When you are in need of a watch company that was built with a legacy for precision and adventure. Look no further than Sunnto. With over 80 years in watch making, with an emphasis on orientation and outdoors. Sunnto is an innovator for sports watches designed for some of the most rugged outdoor enthusiasts. Sunnto means “direction” in Finnish, and they are headed in the right direction with the Suunto Spartan Sport triathlon watch.
However, more recently the company has been able to “dive” into the triathlon watch scene with their Sunnto Spartan watch. Originally released in 2016, the Spartan utilizes Sunnto’s unmatched GPS capabilities and has a durable bright touchscreen. Offering training tools and heatmaps.
The Suunto Spartan is a solution for athletes and multisport adventures who need the training data at their fingertips. It features some of the best GPS/GLONASS route navigation views compared to other models. Since Sunnto first started in the navigation and orientation segment. You’ll be sure to find that the Suunto Spartan Triathlon watch is very accurate. One of the best features that it offers is the durable touchscreen. Most watches remain to use buttons, (which it has as well) since it can be submerged and utilized in water. The Spartan has a user-friendly touch screen making it easy to access various modes.
Plus when it comes to versatility the Spartan offers the most. From a max 100m water resistance rating to a sport expertise and support for over 80 sports and racing intervals. The Spartan has a lot to offer not just for the triathlete, but for the outdoors adventurer. No need to worry when it comes to durability Suunto has equipped the bezel with Titanium for its rust free top-notch durability. Additionally, the glass is sapphire to help prevent any scratches or abrasions.
Battery Life –
The Spartan is designed similar to the Forerunner, the more features you are using the more battery life will be consumed. Therefore, in training mode, the battery is designed to last 10 hours, and in power saving mode it will last a total of 80+ hours.
The Spartan has a silicon style wristband that is offered in just about every color. You can select the style and color when you purchase, you don’t have the ability to make quick changes to the band style. However, the watch is very comfortable and the face being a touchscreen it’s oversized. However, it’s not bulky are too big for your wrist.
Suunto Spartan is one of the most comprehensive watches when it comes to sport modes. From Nordic skiing to interval running. The Spartan has a setting/mode for over 80 sports. So when it comes to triathlon training you only need about a half dozen. However, with the spartan, you can find some cross training and weight lifting modes to help you push through the offseason.
The biggest disadvantage with the Spartan triathlon watch is that its battery life is limited compared to other models. It would be nice to see it last a few more days. However, it’s simple to charge and quite fast. The other thing is that the Spartan is a triathlon watch, however, it’s designed to be many more things than just that. Therefore, it can have a few too many settings adding to the complexity of the watch.
3. Garmin Forerunner 735XT –
Price: Average | Rating: 9.2
One of the best things about Garmin is that they offer numerous models and price points. Therefore, the Garmin Forerunner 735XT, still in the same model line up, but offers a few different features at a lower price point than the Forerunner 935 model. The Forerunner 735XT is still one of the best Triathlon watches to get for any triathlete looking to measure their training and racing levels.
The Forerunner 735XT is the best triathlon watch for entry level triathletes or athlete that is looking at needing a multisport watch but for a lower cost. Yet, you still get a watch that offers, swimming, running, and biking advanced data that includes time, stride length, vertical ratio, VO2 max, lactate threshold, and much more.
The best feature that the watch offers is a lighter and slimmer profile than the Forerunner 935. I would recommend considering this for female athletes as it has a much nicer look and feel on your wrist, says my wife. Yet it still has the full capabilities needed for training and racing. You’ll find activity profiles for running, cycling, swimming, and cross-training exercises, such as paddling, hiking, and trail running. You even have the ability to create your own workouts and review them in Garmin connect.
Battery Life –
When it comes to battery life and the importance of it the Forerunner 735XT has an 11-day smartwatch mode battery life. As for in GPS mode it can last up to 14 hours and 24 hours in UltraTrac mode. We found with training for a 70.3 race you can get a full weeks worth of training exercises on one full charge.
Since the watch is a little lighter than the other Garmin models and it still utilizes it’s silicone band. It’s extremely comfortable when racing or just wearing as a day to day watch. Since it has the smartwatch capabilities it’s really nice to keep this watch on at all times. However, you don’t get the QuickFit watch band ability such as the 935 and Fenix models have.
As for the syncing and technology supported on the Forerunner 735XT, the triathlon watch has GPS, GLONASS, HR, Compass, and Accelerometer. It also allows you to view steps counter, calories burned, distance traveled, sleep monitoring and much more. Plus you have the ability to sync with Garmin Connect to upload your training workouts into Training Peaks and other triathlon training apps.
The main disadvantage of the 735XT compared to the Garmin 935 is that you lose a few features such as Thermometer, Barometric altimeter, and gyroscope. The battery life is also a little shorter, but the light weight makes up for that compromise. You’ll also lose a few features that the 935 has such as training status and training load features. However, when it comes to training and racing the Forerunner 735XT is more than capable of giving you the data you need to get faster and stronger.
4. Polar V800 –
Price: Average | Rating: 8.9
Adding in a third triathlon watch brand is the next step to help you decide which make and model fits your budget, training habits, and style. Polar has been an innovator in technology and heart rate monitors since 1977. Tailoring to athletes who desire a look into their core training fitness level. With over 1200 employees and servicing over 35,000 retail outlets. You could say Polar is one of the best triathlon watch brands on the market.
When data and training results are what you are looking for in your triathlon training. Then the Polar V800 is going to deliver results. Plus if you’ve had poor experiences with Garmin or Suunto, then Polar is going to be the best option for you to try something new.
No matter how you look at it, when you are looking for a triathlon watch you need numerous training features. That’s exactly, what the Polar V800 has and much more. First, you have the ability to view your training load, or how your training affects your body. Therefore, if you need to know your limits and learn how to tune your intensity levels. The Polar V800 gives you that ability. In addition to intensity levels, it also shows you when and how long your recovery times should be to optimize performance.
When you need to test your limits you can use the built-in Orthostatic test to see your current conditions. Therefore, showing you how your heart rate responds to training and other factors. The best part is that it’s all at the convenience of your fingertips. The Polar V800 even gives you the ability to select different activity guides, running programs and fitness tests.
Battery Life –
The Polar V800 is a fully rechargeable 350mAh lithium polymer battery that allows up to 13 hours of training time when using the GPS and sensors. If you choose to use the GPS low power mode you can get up to 50 hours of battery life. Overall, you get a rechargeable triathlon watch that will easily last a week’s worth of training.
When it comes to wearing the Polar triathlon watch, it’s very sleek and fits your wrist in a lower profile than other models. It has a silicone band that is fully adjustable for nearly every sized wrist. Lastly, the face is made of Gorilla glass and the shell is all aluminum and stainless steel. Hence, durability is the number one feature that Polar has built into this V800 triathlon watch.
When it comes to Polar they are one of the best for connectivity and number of apps that they can connect with. For example, Polar connects with Strava, Training Peaks, Stages Cycling, Look, and Rotor Bike Components, power tap, STRYD, and 4iiii. As a result, you can be sure with the Polar triathlon watch you’ll have full access to the numerous training products on the market.
The largest issue that Polar has is when it comes to pairing with a few lower level apps. Since there are new apps coming out every year Polar has focused on the top 10. Therefore, some of the newer ones are less supported compared to the more known apps such as Training Peaks. Lastly, since Polar isn’t the scale of Garmin or Suunto, they have had some bug issues in their software over the years. Not that they affect everyone. However, there is the chance with any technology that you’re going to have some issues.
Best Triathlon Watch Tips & Buyers Guide –
As you begin to select your triathlon watch there are numerous makes and models to choose from. However, to help with the process we have broken down the most important features and specs to look for and be aware of. First and foremost since your looking at a triathlon watch it has to be durable and reliable.
As the choices are robust and a triathlon watch is a large investment. Be sure to keep the following buying topics and features top of mind.
What To Look For When Buying The Best Triathlon Watch –
Duh… if you’re looking for a triathlon watch it has to be multi-sport capable. Seems simple, but I know numerous people that find a Garmin Forerunner on sale, buy it and realize that it’s only designed for running. Be careful, not all watches are multisport capable. Plus some watches are multisport, but they don’t include the triathlon specifics we all need; swimming, biking, and running. Some watches are designed for hiking and rock climbing. Therefore, claiming multisport can mean more than one thing. So be careful when buying.
The second part of buying a multisport watch is to find a watch that has triathlon specific features included. Being able to train for a specific sport and yet use it when racing as well is important. Having a triathlon watch that has numerous settings and profiles is going to give you the best triathlon watch to buy.
Water Resistance –
Again this is one of those no-brainer categories. However, you’d be surprised how many people buy a low budget watch and get in the water the first time and see their invest tank. Look for watches that can fully function in the water. Even if you aren’t going to swim with a multisport watch, you’ll for sure sweat or it may rain and having a waterproof triathlon watch will be necessary.
Most watches will have a ATM rating so be sure to look for one that says 50-100 meters of water resistance. The ones listed in this review have water ratings that you can swim in any pool or lake so no need to worry.
Battery Life –
Battery life is one of the most important features to consider. Having a watch that can last through numerous training days, or even a full race is a top priority. What’s the point of spending hundreds of dollars if you can’t even run an entire 140.6 race with it? Plus no one wants another item to charge every day like your cell phone. Instead look for high-quality battery life that fits your training plans and time requirements.
Data Transfer –
Another top component of using a triathlon watch is for the data to be transferred via Bluetooth or USB. If you can get a watch that allows for ANT or Bluetooth. You’ll save yourself numerous hours of struggling to transfer your workouts. For example, when you use a Garmin Forerunner series they can sync and pair with your phone and as soon as you save your workout. They sync to your phone which can pair with your Training Peaks. What used to take countless minutes putting in data. Now all you have to do is save your workout and your coach can view your training results.
Therefore, stick to buying the triathlon watches that have these features and opt out of inexpensive models.
Triathlon Watch Apps & Programs –
Lastly, make sure you get a triathlon watch that can pair with your training tools. For example, if you use a PowerTap power meter on your bike. Make sure your watch can record the data output from these devices. The worst thing is getting an expensive training tool that makes an older one obsolete. All of the products on this list will pair with the leading training hardware. But it’s best to double check before you buy.