About fitness trackers for e-bikes in a nutshell:
- Fitness trackers are available as pulse belts, wristbands or smartwatches. The most accurate data is provided by classic chest belts, but they need their own device to read out data.
- If you are looking for apps that support you in your sporty e-bike riding, you have the choice between pure fitness apps such as Strava or Garmin Connect and broad-based e-bike apps with fitness functions.
- The most popular models are the Apple Watch, the Garmin fitness tracker, the Wahoo chest strap and the Suunto Multisport GPS sports watch.
- If you want to use an e-bike tracker as a motivational aid, you can use e-bike apps like the PowUnity app for the BikeTrax GPS tracker. The tracker is built into the e-bike and automatically records all your routes including data. The hard- and software duo is also a reliable GPS anti-theft device for e-bikes.
E-bikes are not only suitable for getting from A to B. You can also use them to improve your fitness and muscle strength. Bicycle or e-bike apps help you – by supporting you in route planning, recording the routes you ride and connecting you with other sports enthusiasts.
If you use fitness trackers, you can also measure your heart rate, calorie consumption and other training or health data while you are on your bike. Not only professional athletes benefit from this.
But how does the interaction between smartphone, bike and heart rate monitor work, what are the differences between the different types of fitness trackers and is a smartwatch always better than a heart rate monitor?
Here we look at the topic of “e-bikes and fitness trackers”. You’ll find out what fitness trackers are, how they differ and how you can use them with your smartphone on a bike ride. We also introduce you to product lines of well-known brands and give you tips on how to choose fitness tracker.
How do fitness trackers work and what types do exist?
How fitness trackers work
Fitness trackers are small electronic devices that record data for sports or general health. You wear them close to your body, for example as a wristband or chest strap. Sometimes you need a second device to show you the results. Watches and wristbands with a display also work solo.
The first generation of fitness trackers were simple motion sensors. Their successors, on the other hand, are much more powerful today.
Depending on the model, they measure the following values:
- Pulse rate
- Calorie consumption
- Body fat
- Blood pressure
- Sleep quality
- and much more.
The advantage: You can use this information to assess your performance, optimise your training and put your everyday habits to the test. For example, a tracker makes it easier for you to train in different stress zones. It will tell you how well you’re sleeping, how many calories you’re burning and whether you should get up from your desk and take a few steps today or not.
Keep in mind, however, that even the best fitness tracker is no match for a medical meter. Its data will give you some clues. How accurate it is depends on the external conditions and the type of measurement.
Good to know: Fitness tracker or activity tracker? Doesn’t matter. As a rule, both mean the same thing. What is important is what the device in question can do. We will come back to this later.
Wristband, watch, heart rate monitor – what are the different types?
Before you take a closer look at trackers from the relevant brands, ask yourself what kind of fitness tracker you want to use.
After all, the devices come in different versions:
- Pulse belts: Pulse belts that you strap around your chest seem old-fashioned in the “smartwatch age”. This is not only because of the look. You also need a second device to read out the data and you can’t use a chest strap for chatting or making phone calls. However, heart rate belts have one big advantage: the measurement via electrodes is more accurate than the optical measurement of wristbands or watches. That is why many ambitious athletes remain loyal to the classics.
- Wristband: Wristbands measure heart rate by transmitting light through the skin. The reflection of the light hits an optical sensor that determines the pulse rate based on the blood volume. A clever principle, but not always entirely accurate. On the other hand, wristbands are more comfortable than a chest strap, have their own display and (usually) a wider range of functions.
- Smartwatches: Fitness tracker wristbands and sports watches are closely related. However, full-blown smartwatches can usually do much more than just display performance data. Depending on the product, you can use it to chat, check emails or view appointments in your calendar. Plus, many smartwatches actually look like watches and are popular among casual cyclists.
Conclusion: The most accurate data is provided by classic chest straps. Wristbands and smartwatches, on the other hand, are comfortable and have a wider range of functions. The decisive factor for your choice is whether you are really looking for an activity tracker or a device with communication functions. We will come back to this later.
Fitness trackers for e-bike riding – important information
Basically, fitness trackers are suitable for almost all types of exercise – including e-biking. You don’t have to train for world championships to benefit from them, and you don’t need a professional chest strap whose data you meticulously analyse after every ride or exercise.
Often a smartwatch on your wrist or third party apps (for example a tracking app) is enough to make your everyday ride more effective (and healthier). Sometime in the near future, you will be able to link fitness trackers directly to your e-bike. Then e-bikes will automatically adjust the motor support to your heart rate with or without display notifications.
Until then, you have to react yourself. The necessary ride data are presented to you by your smartphone in combination with the right app.
At PowUnity, we want to support you in discovering the e-bike as a healthy and sustainable alternative to the car. The PowUnity app automatically records all your routes. You can save them, export them to fitness apps and share them with others – without having to remember to press a button.
How the data exchange between smartphone and app works
The data exchange between tracker and device usually works via Bluetooth or Ant+. Modern fitness trackers usually support both standards.
However, this does not mean that you can combine every tracker with every smartphone and every app.
Want to know more about what makes a good e-bike app? Read our guide “How to find the best e-bike app for your needs”.
Suitable fitness apps – differences
If you’re looking for apps to help you with your sporty e-bike riding, you have a choice of two:
- pure fitness apps like Strava or Garmin Connect
- broad-based e-bike apps with fitness functions
Unfortunately, this means you don’t always have a choice. With the second option, you are usually dependent on the apps of the manufacturer of your e-bike or its motor. So you have to hope that it can be combined with your fitness tracker or your sport or gps watch and that it works reliably. Both are not a matter of course. Unfortunately, the combination of Apple smartwatches and Android phones is also not an option.
Apart from that, an app that covers many functions, not only e-bike fitness features, has advantages. Ideally, you can navigate, view training data and keep an eye on other details like the battery life on one screen – without having to switch back and forth between two devices.
Conversely, fitness-only apps are often particularly good at helping you train as they provide for example fitness metrics, heart rate data, recovery time, training plans etc.
Route recording with GPS
Are calorie consumption, heart rate and cadence not enough for you? You want to record additional routes?
No problem with GPS.
Your tracker always knows exactly where you and your e-bike are. If your tracker does not have GPS, you can use the GPS mode on your mobile phone. In this case, you can combine all data with the help of the right app and combine fitness tracking and route recording.
Examples of current fitness trackers
Whether it’s a heart rate monitor, smartwatch or wristband, there are more fitness trackers and wearable devices than we could possibly discuss here. Nevertheless, we would like to introduce you to a few selected models.
The Apple Watch is the Ferrari of smartwatches. This is not only due to its chic appearance. Depending on the year or model, the smartwatch provides you with a wealth of training and health data. You can also use an Apple Watch to make phone calls, send text messages and access the App Store for other functions.
If you’re out and about on your bike, it’s a good idea to have an iPhone holder for your bike. This is because it can be easily paired with the Apple Watch. This way you can enjoy the watch’s range of functions on the larger screen. With an Android mobile phone, you are unfortunately at a disadvantage.
- Wide range of functions
- Stylish appearance
- Can be expanded with many apps
- expensive depending on modelg
- Cannot be paired with Android phones
Tip: No matter which tracker you choose, if you want to read data on your mobile phone while cycling, you will need a mobile phone holder. You can find out which models suit you best and what is important when choosing one in our article “E-bike phone holder: e-bike, road and smartphone at a glance”.
Garmin Fitness Tracker
Garmin offers a wide range of sports watches and other trackers. Wristbands like the models in the vivosmart series score points with a wide range of functions and new features. They measure heart rate, oxygen saturation and numerous other data like fluid intake and help you assess the quality of your sleep. You can also pair the smart devices with your smartphone so you get notifications directly to your wrist. Not a smartwatch, but almost.
- Wide range of functions
- Smart functions depending on the model
- Easy to use
- Not a real smartwatch
Wahoo chest straps
The Wahoo brand is inextricably linked with the development of fitness and activity trackers. The TICKR heart rate monitors are available both as wristbands and as chest straps. The latter can be connected to several devices simultaneously via Bluetooth. In addition to heart rate and calorie consumption, they also tell you your indoor cadence.
The secure fit of the strap and the low weight of the heart rate monitor are not only advantageous for e-bike riders. In addition, the measurement proved to be extremely accurate in tests. With Wahoo Fitness, the brand also offers its own app. From there, you can export data to Strava, for example.
- Exact measurement
- Light weight
- Good fit
- Handles up to three Bluetooth connections at the same time
- No communication functions
- High price for a chest strap
Suunto multisport GPS watches
While an Apple Watch can pass for a fashion accessory in everyday life, Suunto makes no secret of the fact that the focus here is on sport: whether running, mountain climbing, diving or riding e-mountain bikes is up to you. Depending on the model, the brand’s ultra-light sports watches not only tell you your wrist based heart rate, blood oxygen or the altitude at which you are moving. As a GPS receiver, you can even use them for navigation.
Suunto sports watches are also waterproof, extremely robust and very thin – a convincing combination. Connected to your smartphone, you can add the tracker to various apps, starting with Strava and Komoot. Alternatively, you can get a cycling computer from Suunto. The fact that Suunto sports watches are made with 100 percent renewable energy makes the Finnish brand even more likeable.
- Very robust and light
- Many functions for outdoor sports
- Including navigation via GPS
- Primarily suitable for sports and not everyday life.
Choosing fitness trackers for e-bikes – the most important criteria
Fitness trackers can enrich every workout, no matter if you are on your regular bike or e-bike, running or doing cardio in the gym. They also provide valuable data in combination with e-bikes.
However, you are spoilt for choice. There is a wide range of activity trackers or gps watches to choose from.
The following questions will help you find the right model in a comparison.
- For what activity and what goals do you want to use the tracker? Depending on whether you are pursuing ambitious sporting goals with your non electric bike or e-bike, want to train your fitness, to interval training or want to have an overview of your everyday activities, different trackers come into question. In the first case, for example, a chest strap can be a good option, but if the second or third option applies, you will probably go for a wristband or a smartwatch.
- What data is important to you? Heart rate and calories burned are collected data of every good fitness tracker. It’s a different story if you want the device to collect a lot of health data, such as heart condition, oxygen saturation or sleep quality.
- Do you need additional communication functions? Expensive smartwatches are increasingly becoming communication devices in their own right. You can even use them to exchange messages and read emails.
- How and with what do you want to connect the tracker? Does your e-bike have a cycling computer that you want to connect the tracker to, or do you use your smartphone? In both cases, it is crucial that the tracker and the end device can be connected without any problems. This is also where compatibility with your favourite apps comes into play.
- Do you also want to wear it as a watch in normal everyday life? Do you want your fitness tracker to be both a training device and a watch? You want to go to work with it, but also use it for sports? Then we recommend a smartwatch with a chic watch look.
In the future, fitness training will become even smarter
We have already mentioned it: In all likelihood, it will soon be possible to connect fitness trackers and e-bikes directly. Then you will not only be able to read your heart rate on your smartphone. For example, you will have the option of letting your e-bike react automatically to your pulse: If it exceeds a range defined by you, the motor support is adjusted. Sporty and challenging or relaxed, you decide about your training.
While this is still a dream of the future, the combination of e-bike and fitness tracker already holds great potential today. By connecting the tracker to a suitable app on your smartphone, you can read important values while riding and adjust your training accordingly. This works with different types of trackers. Professional athletes tend to use precise heart rate belts and sophisticated GPS sports watches. If you are looking for a device with which you can collect health data, chat and go to the office, a smartwatch is a good choice.
If you want to use an e-bike tracker as a motivational aid and see how far or how high you have ridden, then existing e-bike apps such as the PowUnity app for the BikeTrax GPS tracker can give you a boost so that you don’t lose sight of your goals. The fact that BikeTrax with its PowUnity app is also a reliable digital anti-theft device for e-bikes is certainly also practical.
In any case, compatibility plays an important role. Because the combination of smartphone, tracker and e-bike app only pays off as long as all components fit together.