Can a smartphone and smartwatch replace a fancy bike computer?

Well-trained guys on expensive bicycles will say: training without a normal cycling computer is not training, but rather a coffee ride. On the forums, they are answered: a waste of money, all the same can be done by a smartphone that many have in their pockets. And we took and checked both of these statements. We went to training with a cool gadget, but we also took a smartphone with a smart watch along with us - maybe it really will turn out to be no worse? Another day, under a hundred kilometers in length, along the picturesque surroundings of a big city and the most honest test in the field - let's go!

Cycling computer or smartwatch smartphone?

What do we have?

On the road, we equipped ourselves in full, taking with us a fancy Garmin - a Wireless Bike Computer respected by both professionals and advanced cyclists. This is one of the undisputed market leaders, and, perhaps, many do not need to introduce him, but nevertheless, we will indicate that the kit includes three main sensors: heart rate, speed, and cadence. They make professional cycling computers a full-fledged brain center of the training process, and the competitive one too. Without sensors, the most sophisticated device becomes a colossus with feet of clay, which independently knows how to track the route and speed using GPS, but all really useful functions remain, alas, not used.

The heart rate sensor is attached to the chest under the clothes, the other two are attached directly to the bike (the cadence sensor is attached to the connecting rod, and the speed sensor is attached to one of the bushings).

The computer itself is located on the stem or on the handlebars so that it is constantly in line of sight of the cyclist. And, looking ahead, we note that this is the first of the strong trump cards of profile cycling equipment with third-party gadgets. Does it make a lot of sense to get data about the current state and intensity of the workout, if you need to contrive to see them. Be that as it may, a smartphone mounted on the steering wheel will never be as convenient and organic as a bike computer. And you will drain the battery of your gadget in one single workout (with the screen always on) - "jamb". We add that the bike computer is compatible with the same smartphone, which makes it possible to instantly upload training information in any application you like, and at the same time upload incoming notifications.

But these are just those bells and whistles, the need for which is denied by some forum experts. Therefore, in the opposite corner of the ring, we have two gadgets at once, which many use in everyday life. On the road, we took what was closer to the body - the Samsung Galaxy S8, synchronized with the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 smartwatch. And let's immediately wink at those who are on the forums: without a watch or some similar device, a smartphone in any form will not be able to compete with a complete cycle computer. You need something that will act as a heart rate monitor, transmitting data to the software. Otherwise, the same GPS will remain, which quite well (although not infallibly at times) gives an idea of ​​the route and the current speed.

 But with such a kit, we almost balanced the original data. It's time to go to work out.

While we are quietly leaving the city with sidewalks, we will designate an important nuance. In fact, the smartphone software makes it possible to bind to it the same sensors that are used by the bike computer. The numbers will be the same, the sensors can be bought separately, and, perhaps, this is a kind of way to save money. But the problem of data availability during a trip is not solved in any way (with a watch it is simpler, but it is still inconvenient to look at it regularly). And the profile gadget still copes with the information received from the sensors much better than the software available on the phone.

And yet, what the opponents of all kinds of rising in the cost of the training process are talking about has its own reason. Many people have a smartphone (and often a smartwatch or at least a heart rate monitor). Is it really necessary to spend money on another fancy gadget or, for that matter, why spend money on it?

Who needs it?

Setting off on the road, we decided to check at a medium distance how both devices work, how convenient they are in operation, how much the data that will be obtained thanks to them will coincide. Well, will there be any use from all this data for the average cyclist?

The first twenty from the city is always a warm-up and addiction. The weather is good, the rolls are great, so there is a little time to chat about this and that.

That same average cycling business, as you deepen into your hobby, turns into a very friendly manufacturer of all kinds of bicycle stuff (and marketers as well). He is ready to buy, he wants to be like a pro, and he believes that by investing enough money and thus pumping, he will achieve his goal. This is partly the case. One can say a lot about the fact that for a hundred years cyclists have been racing in any conditions without any numbers before their eyes - and this is true. But today has presented the opportunity, without special education and skills, to receive fairly accurate information about your physical condition in a broad sense and readiness at a single moment. With the right approach, this allows you to adjust your workouts to achieve maximum results, and it does not matter if you want to win the Tour de France in the overall standings or just intend to drive off excess fat: if you do it wisely (read - with the necessary information about yourself), everything will turn out much better.
For a professional today, there is no question of the need for a cycling computer and telemetry (data collection) as such. Everyone uses this, albeit in different ways. But more on that later. We slowly drive through the most beautiful landscapes and make the first comparison. 

Data comparison
Let's start with a simple one: do the data provided by the cycling computer and the South Korean pair of "synchronized" smartphones - watches correspond to us? It seems that no one has ever questioned the accuracy of top cycle computers, so it would be more correct to define our query like this: is the data from our everyday gadgets different, and how much?

So far, we are examining only the basic parameters: speed, route, and, most importantly, heart rate. A smartphone with a watch cannot measure a cadence without a corresponding sensor, so this point by default remains behind the profile sensor. However, we remember that he has a rich package bundle.

But there is something to please the minimalists too: the GPS of the smartphone is in order - and the route draws as it should, and conveys plus or minus reliably. The reservation arose from the fact that this speed at the moment did not coincide with the one shown by the bike computer, as if it was catching up with it with a difference of a couple of seconds. But even at these moments, the distance did not exceed 2–3 km / h, which is not a fundamental point for analyzing the arrival, especially since the averaged parameter, as well as the distance traveled, is a coincidence.

The same goes for the heart rate. It was possible to catch the moment when both gadgets showed the same value, then the data diverged by a couple of beats per minute, and then converged again. As we see it, this does not affect the message about the current zone, so such a discrepancy will not become something fatal.

We go further, entertaining ourselves with another story.

What are other heart rate zones?

As the attitude towards training and sports in general, even amateur, acquired scientific outlines, the importance of measuring the heart rate - pulse - came to the fore. Here we can talk about the necessary oxygen saturation and the ability to endure the load, but in a purely philistine way it is important to understand one thing: the more meaningfully we treat how our heart works, the more prolonged and effective training we will be able to carry out.
For simplicity, the scale of the pulse permissible for a person was divided into five zones, and for each border of these zones will be different - that's how we are all different. There is no need to strive to establish absolutely accurate values, but it is important to understand the following: we can raise the heart rate, and quite high, going into the anaerobic zone or even the zone of maximum load, but we cannot do this chaotically and constantly. You need to spend your resources wisely, so as not to wear out the internal "motor" and at the same time achieve the result possible for you, pushing where you can push, and letting yourself breathe where it is necessary. For this, if quite simplified, and you need to monitor the heart rate zones. And the truth is that both a bike computer and a watch can do this, but while sitting on a bike it is more convenient to look into a computer.

And what, does everyone really bother like that?

If we talk about professional sports - yes, everyone bothers. There is nothing you can do: faster, higher, stronger - that's all, oh, how it encourages you to fight for every second, which means squeezing every drop out of yourself.

Amateurs, of course, have a choice. And here it is nice to imagine another side of this high-tech and very fashionable medal. They say that if you look at the numbers for a very long time, then addiction sets in. By the way, many bicycle fans around the world swear at this. They say: “Sport has ceased to be spontaneous, they all ride like computers. And we want madness, we want emotions! "

All of this is true, and many of the old-school racers have not fully adjusted to this new reality, although, of course, they must correspond (and correspond) to it. Let's talk about one famous cyclist, winner of very prestigious races and stages of grand tours, who, although he rides with a computer, often either puts it in the pocket of his bike or glues his screen so as not to distract him. A person drives as he feels, but he feels that he will add now, go to anything and rush to the stars, hit the jackpot! And the bike computer is like, “Hey, buddy, wait. You are out of the correct heart rate zone, and there are ten kilometers of the climb ahead. You get hammered and die halfway - people will make fun. Don't drive your horses! “And that's all, the magical moment of rapture with one's own power has been missed. In my head - mathematics and caution, and a gallant cavalry attack die before starting. The fans are in mourning, the athletes are cautious until the finish line and arrive in the third ten, right after those who were bolder, or to whom the computer said something encouraging.
Do you see what we are driving at? It is important to achieve your goals. You can do this with all the resources available, but it's great to stay. Numbers helped someone to win seven super multi-days. And someone is prevented from rolling for pleasure - this also happens.

There is, however, one way to combine, let's finish the story about this driver. Why in general does he carry a bicycle computer if it interferes with him? And so that, after finishing the race the way he wanted, attacking where he decided, and winning or not winning, the athlete, together with the specialists, sat down at the computer at their leisure and studied all the received and stored data. This is always important information that allows you to analyze your actions, your form, make adjustments to the training process or learn racing experience.

You don't have to be a pro to do the same - after catching your breath and restoring your water balance, see in which pulse zones the recent race took place, why it was so covered on that very rise, or was almost enough for the last five kilometers. Try it, it's fun.

And yes, this particular task is within the power of both a cool cycling computer and a sensational pair of synchronized interpreters.

Wilds. Favorite breaks away

Kilometers-kilometers ... The most honest are those that rush under the wheel of a bicycle. Both devices indicate that behind the jokes, jokes, we wound up a lot against the background of fields shining with gold. There is work: combine harvesters harvest bread, and storks in beautiful tailcoats follow - take work.

It's time to go back to the course. This is also about the effort: you go and go - it seems that everything is fine. Then the battery starts to sit down: you go to the U-turn and realize that there are as many more ahead. Well, okay, we replenish food and water supplies at the nearest gas station and recognize the inevitable potential of a pair of smartphones - the watch is, in fact, exhausted. This is a completely effective solution in order to draw the route of the trip, find out the speed (at the moment and the average), build a graph with a breakdown by zones, and even see the drawn relief of the route. The resulting information can be immediately uploaded to the application that you are used to using - all this is possible. But that's all: we couldn't squeeze out more of the usual, but non-core gadgets. However, this is also not bad, especially considering that having such a set in everyday life, I did not have to spend a penny on pumping.

Well, the capabilities of the cycling computer, in fact, have not even begun to unfold. Its task is not only to display some data on a conveniently located display. A fancy computer is a full-fledged trainer, well, or at least prepared for training at any level. He will tell you about your organization, provide a training plan, and, in a sense, supervise their implementation.

It's really impressive when, after finishing your workout, the device informs you about the number of calories burned and lost fluids, to what extent you would need to replenish all this during the race. And then, after analyzing all the collected data, the bike computer will even share the estimated recovery time with you.

After our test, for example, the computer recommended to recover for three days - after all, they slightly went over the load. But cyclists' recovery still takes place in the saddle, just with less effort. A kind of recovery skating - for coffee, or what, go?

The finish. Output

Let's imagine a road. This is the same multi-lane, along the side of which we made today's route. On one side of this road is a professional who has devoted part of his life to sports achievements, on the other - a person who rides a bike from time to time, mainly for coffee or in the park on a fine day. Have you presented?
person who rides a bike from time to time
It depends on which side you are closer to, how useful these or those devices will be for you. Are you an amateur, but you make a few thousand a years and expect to improve your fitness? Or do not have sports ambitions, but use a fitness bike, wanting to do it with maximum efficiency? Or maybe your cycle route is just beginning and you would be curious to try all these things? Try, choose, ride your bike on your favorite road and chase your goal at a speed that is comfortable for you personally. We are sure that whichever gadget you choose will be useful for you along the way.