Best Garmin For Mountain Biking? (Watches, Computers & Sensors)

The sports wearable industry has been dominated by Garmin for years now, and there is no doubt that the company has an impressive line of gear for MTB.

In the past decade, we have witnessed the evolution of Garmin watches from a basic GPS and activity tracker to a fully-fledged training partner. These watches can now track a raft of health and performance metrics not only for cyclists and runners but a  diverse range of athletes of all levels. Garmin Bike computers are no different. Whereas, there are tons of external sensors by the company now that help you to create and follow data-driven training plans.

We would discuss here the best watches, bike computers, and external sensors the company has to offer for mountain biking. Of course, we have picked devices for all budget ranges.

Best Garmin GPS Watches For MTB/Cycling:

Garmin Forerunner 945: Best For Triathletes

Garmin Forerunner 945

Screen size: 30.4mm Screen type: Colour Control: Buttons Weight: 50g Onboard GPS: Yes Onboard HRM: Yes Connectivity: ANT+ / BLE App: Yes

The Forerunner 945 is a great watch for athletes of all levels. It is the cheapest option in this roundup and is currently the best smartwatch for triathletes.

The watch can be paired to external sensors via Bluetooth or ANT+ (HRM strap, Speed/cadence, Power meter) for better accuracy and advanced cycling metrics. There is a separate profile for Mountain Biking that tracks the basics of cycling, but advanced features like MTB dynamics are not available for now.

The watch allows you to navigate your way around with great ease. You can easily find your way around with the help of the GPS-enabled turn-by-turn direction and full-color mapping. In addition, you can also sync music directly from a popular music streaming services. This will allow you to enjoy your favorite tunes without having to lug your hefty smartphone around.

The watch can track a range of health and performance metrics. We have found the heart rate and sleep tracking features up to the mark. The training-related features include training metrics, VO2 Max, Training Effect, ClimbPro, Recovery Time, Training Load, Heat and Altitude Acclimation, Training Status, HRV Stress Test, and Heart Rate Variability.

There are plenty of safety features that may help you out in the wild. If you are stuck, there is an option to save your current location and send it via messages or email/SMS for others to find your way back.

The battery life lasts about 36 hours with continuous GPS and Heart Rate tracking, which is great considering its competition offers around. However, we would have loved the solar option on the watch.

Garmin Fenix 7X Solar: Best for Outdoor

Garmin Fenix 7X Solar

Screen size: 51mm  Screen type: Colour  (Touch Screen) Control: Buttons Weight: 96 g (case only: 68 g) Onboard GPS: Yes Onboard HRM: Yes Connectivity: ANT+ / BLE / Wi-Fi App: Yes

Garmin Fenix 7 made its debut this year with a touchscreen display, a first in the series. It is available in three sizes to fit all wrist sizes. It offers all the features we covered in the Forerunner 945 with an addition of MTB Dynamics and also better battery performance and a rugged design for outdoor adventures.

Also, Garmin featured the new ELEVATE 4.0 sensor on the watch, first introduced in Garmin Venu 2. So there is a lot of improvement in the accuracy of health metrics.

Garmin Epix: Fenix 7 on Steroids

Garmin Epix

Screen size: 47 mm  Screen type: Color  (Touch Screen) Control: Buttons Weight: 76 g (case only: 53 g) Onboard GPS: Yes Onboard HRM: Yes Connectivity: ANT+ / BLE / Wi-Fi App: Yes

Garmin EPIX is an overpriced watch with almost the same features and capabilities as the Fenix 7 but with a little twist. EPIX features a vibrant AMOLED display that takes the turn-to-turn navigations to another level.  Also, it lags in battery performance by a little margin.

Best Garmin Bike Computer for MTB:

The company is a pioneer in Bike computers with plenty of options for mountain bikers. Designed to handle the rugged trails, these bike computers are a must-have in your biking gear.

The prime features offered in these computers include a solid GPS chip, multiple connectivity options (ANT+, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi), advanced metrics (Speed, Distance, Power). You can sync the data from these computers to popular cycling apps i.e. Strava.

We have picked the top 3 Garmin GPS computers for you, let’s discuss them in order of budget.

Garmin Edge 530: Budget Pick

Garmin Edge 530

  • Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth, WiFi
  • Companion App: Garmin Connect (Komoot, YELP, Accuweather, TrailForks within store)
  • Navigation: Garmin Cycle Maps, Trail Forks Map
  • Claimed battery life: 20-hours (normal use)
  • Screen size: 2.6in/66mm diagonal
  • Budget: <$300
  • Display: 2.6 inch colour display with 246×322 pixels resolution
  • Weight: 75.8g
  • Storage capacity: 200 waypoints/locations, 100 routes & up to 200 hours of history
  • Water resistant: IPX7
  • Sensors: GPS/GLONASS/Galileo, barometric altimeter
  • Battery: Rechargeable

The bike computer was released in April 2019 as a successor to the Edge 520 Series. Garmin improved the mapping and overall speed with a fast processor, without raising the price too high. Plus, the company added new performance metrics to the mix.

The computer claims a battery performance of 20 hours with normal use, but the real-time performance varies with the usage of battery hogs like GPS, backlight. You can always invest in the external battery if you are planning long backcountry trips. The GPS works without hiccups and the pairing to external sensors is seamless (only if they are from Garmin).

We can’t discuss each and every feature here, but the most important ones deserve a mention.

  • You get onscreen mapping with those turn-by-turn navigations.
  • Climb Pro: Gives you ascent, distance, and gradient) of upcoming climbs
  • ‘Find my edge’: This can help you find the lost Garmin device.
  • Performance metrics: Training Load, Load Focus, Stress evaluation, Training Zones, and so on.

The most important addition to the computer that year was of  ‘Flow’ and ‘Grit’ metrics. As per the Garmin Website, the former helps Mountain bikers by assigning difficulty score to a particular trail by accessing its position and elevation data, whereas the latter evaluate the performance of the biker. The computer also tracks the hang time, jump count, and jump distance.

Garmin Edge 830:

Garmin Edge 830

  • Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth, WiFi
  • Companion App: Garmin Connect (Komoot, YELP, Accuweather, TrailForks within store)
  • Navigation: Garmin Cycle Maps, Trail Forks Map, OpenStreet Map
  • Claimed battery life: 24-hours (Rechargable)
  • Screen size: 50 x 82 x 20 mm , full colour, touchscreen, 246 x 322 pixels
  • Budget: <$400
  • Weight: 79.1 g
  • Storage capacity: 200 waypoints/locations, 100 routes & up to 200 hours of history, 16 GB internal memory
  • Water-resistant: IPX7
  • Sensors: GPS/GLONASS/Galileo, barometric altimeter

Edge 830 is similar to the 530 as both are launched together. However, you would have to pay extra for the former as it offers touchscreen and on-device route planning.  To explain, both devices feature turn-by-turn navigation, but on 830 you can pin down specific addresses and points of interest, and the computer will guide you along the way.

Edge 830 hits the sweet spot between price and performance. In comparison, Edge 1030 Plus is overpriced and 530 is too fiddly to use.

Garmin Edge 1030 Plus:

Garmin Edge 1030 Plus

  • Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth, WiFi
  • Companion App: Garmin Connect (Komoot, YELP, Accuweather, TrailForks within store)
  • Navigation: Garmin Cycle Maps, Trail Forks Map, OpenStreet Map
  • Claimed battery life: 36-hours (Rechargable)
  • Screen size: 3.5in/89mm diagonal, full colour, touchscreen
  • Budget: >$600
  • Weight: 126g
  • Storage capacity: 200 waypoints/locations, 100 routes & up to 200 hours of history
  • Water resistant: IPX7
  • Sensors: GPS/GLONASS/Galileo, barometric altimeter

Edge 1030 Plus is the largest and the heaviest member of the Garmin family of bike computers, with a price tag that would put a hole in your pocket. Another noticeable distinction is its battery life, which lasts almost 48 hours or 36 hours with continuous GPS usage.

On the Edge 1030 Plus you get pre-loaded high-quality maps, daily workout suggestions, Time & date display, new re-routing options, and On-Device Course Creator in addition to all the features offered in the EDGE 830.

For mountain biking, most of the new features are dispensable so you won’t have to pay $150 more unless you want a big screen and a better battery performance.

Best Garmin Sensors For Cycling/MTB:

Garmin has a great collection of sensors to offer for mountain biking and cycling. Here we have listed the top speed/cadence sensor, HRM chest Strap, Power meter by the company. But before you pick any one of them, let’s have a look at the pros and cons.

Reasons to prefer Garmin Sensors:

  1. They are some of the most accurate on the market and provide you with precise data about your speed, cadence, heart rate, and most importantly, power output.
  2. Also, they are very durable and can withstand even the roughest trails. 
  3. They are easy to use and can be integrated into your bike’s computer system very easily.

Reasons to Ditch Garmin Sensors:

  1. They are expensive. Alternatives from Wahoo and Polars offer similar data and are much cheaper.
  2. Garmin sensors are the default best for the company’s own cycling gear, but they lack universal device compatibility

Now that you have the idea of the pros and cons, let’s check out what are the best Garmin MTB sensors.

Garmin Speed 2 & Cadence 2 Bundle:

This duo as their names suggest gives you the speed and cadence as you ride the challenging terrains. The speed sensor has an odometer that can measure the distance of a trip while you ride.

Thanks to ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity, they have wide compatibility across different Garmin devices and beyond ( Bike computers, Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch).

Installation of the sensors is very easy and can be done in a matter of minutes. The speed sensor simply attaches to the hub of the wheel, and the cadence sensor can be attached to the crank arms of any size. There is no need for a head unit, as the sensors transmit data wirelessly to compatible devices.

However, they might interfere with your Bike power meter. You should install them on alternate wheels.

If the price is too high for you, there are affordable alternatives from Wahoo, Polar, CooSpo, and more.

Garmin HRM PRO: Bluetooth Chest Strap

The Garmin HRM PRO is one of the most popular chest straps among MTB enthusiasts and cyclists overall.

You can take full advantage of the strap only when you pair it with a compatible Garmin device. But as far as basic heart rate tracking is concerned, it offers nothing more than Polar H10 or Wahoo Tickr X (affordable alternatives with comparable performance).

The strap is made of soft and comfortable fabric, and the module snaps securely into place. You can use the strap for a range of activities including swimming.

The HRM PRO features Bluetooth Smart technology, which allows it to pair with compatible Garmin watches (including the Forerunner 935, Fenix 5 Plus, and Vivoactive 3 Music), Bike computers, and Apple Watch for real-time heart rate data.

Also, it stores heart rate data for hours on the device and off-loads the data on a comparable device.

Overall, this HRM only justifies the hefty investment if you are into triathlon and have a compatible Garmin Watch to pair with it.

Garmin Vector 3: Power Meter

We won’t recommend you to add an expensive power meter to your mountain bike unless you are into serious training for the next off-road racing.

Just like the HRM Pro, you get the best out of Vector 3 only when you pair it with a Garmin bike computer. This way, you get advanced Mountain Bike dynamics (Grit, Flow, and Jumps) in addition to basic power data that it gives on non-Garmin Devices.

The power meter is simple to swap between bikes. The end of the pedal spindle has a tidy LED indicator. It flashes red to indicate that it’s operational and working properly. One pedal searches for the other in three successive green flashes.

Garmin promises a battery life of 120 hours for Vector 3, but real-time testing has found it to last for only 90 hours.