Triathlon multisport watches: 6 of the best
Multisport watches now let you monitor nearly every physiological variable known to man, from heart rate to calories. But do they improve your triathlon performance, and how accurate are they? Let’s find out…
Much noise around the latest Apple watch was generated by GPS inclusion and waterproofing – both desirable for tri. The latter’s great and the open-water swim feature is one of the most reliable on test. (There’s also a neat water-ejection mechanism to spit out water.) Sadly, the GPS is erratic so you’re uncertain of pacing and distance. Apple incorporate two methods of measuring your heart rate at the wrist via an optical sensor for sporting efforts and infrared for 24/7 tracking. Both are proficient enough for the general population but lack the accuracy triathletes demand. On the positive, it’s the most comfortable watch here and, being Apple, comes with loads of features to satisfy every work and personal-life whim. And that’s the problem. This is a great watch but, seen through serious sporting eyes, there are too many gaps.
Verdict: Impressive smartwatch; less-impressive serious sportswatch 70%
Buy from www.argos.co.uk
Polar’s V800 hit the market three years ago but has benefited from firmware updates. It’s now pool, open-water and tri compatible, and it also syncs to third-party platforms. GPS pick-up’s swift, relayed on a high-res display, though comfort isn’t as seamless as the Apple. Extras include running efficiency. Taken over time, this builds up a Running Index that predicts your event finish times for several run distances. Uniquely, there’s an orthostatic test that’s designed to measure state of readiness like HRV (heart-rate variability) training, though it fails to consider factors like hormonal profile. It’s also an activity tracker (the usual caveats about accuracy of sleep monitoring based on wrist movement apply), and you can do further analysis on Polar’s improving Flow app. The V800’s available for £339.00 without heart-rate chest strap. www.polar.com
Verdict: A solid sportswatch that’s improved over the years; great for the run in particular 80%
Buy from www.tredz.co.uk
TomTom’s remained loyal to its unique sports-watch design: that large square button scrolling through a list of options including GPS tracking for swimming, cycling (indoor and out) and running, as well as skiing, hiking and trails. The large button adds weight but makes feature choice simple and accessible. And there are numerous options including a built-in heart rate monitor. Standard issues apply regarding optical-sensor tech. There’s also no chest-strap option. Those who enjoy listening to beats when running will appreciate the music player, which wirelessly transmits tunes to your headphones. The Adventurer can store 500 songs, downloaded from the TomTom Sports App. Like the watch itself, it’s easy to use and intuitive. With only 10hrs of battery life, however, again it’ll have minimal use for most iron athletes. www.tomtom.com
Verdict: TomTom’s cheaper Cardio number is, well, cheaper... and just as useful for triathletes 76%
buy from www.tomtom.com
The final verdict
As technology’s shrunk, the potential of multisport watches has grown. Where once you’d settle for lap times, now you can download a forthcoming bike route, record your power output and wirelessly share it with your clubmates before you’ve had time to down your protein shake.
The rise of smartphones has increased the performance potential of watches further, which makes the Timex Ironman Classic 40 an incongruous fit. For £50 you’d expect at least heart-rate monitoring via a chest strap but this is essentially a glorified stopwatch. Yes, it has a cute retro feel, but is that what you’re after in a performance watch?
The remaining five all have their virtues: Polar’s V800 integrates interesting performance metrics that we’ve not seen elsewhere; TomTom’s Adventurer is easy to use and will appeal because of its wireless-music capabilities; and the Suunto Spartan measures every fitness parameter you can think of. Then there’s the second-generation Apple Watch, of course, which looks stunning and fits beautifully, but lacks the accuracy and detail of a pure triathlon watch.
That can’t be levelled at the winner – the Garmin FR935. Garmin’s triathlon and sporting heritage shines bright with arguably the finest multisport watch they’ve ever produced. Yes, Garmin’s top-end Fenix 5 is impressive but the FR935 is cheaper (although £469.99 is still a large price) and has more focused triathlon-friendly features