I’m sporting a new FitBit Versa smartwatch. While I didn’t get it for tracking cycling (because I have a dedicated cycling computer), here’s my experience with it as a fitness watch.
First of all, it doesn’t have GPS like the FitBit Ionic. It needs your Android or iOS smartphone to connect with for the entire ride. This could put strain on your smartphone’s battery, but otherwise I suspect most of us take our phones with us. It acts as a decent screen so you don’t need to have your phone out with the display on, which puts even more strain on your phone’s battery.
It does have a cycling mode in the Exercise app and will do a great job tracking your ride, or run, or swim. Hello Triathletes.
Real Time Cycling Stats
The Versa activates automatically when you turn your wrist, which isn’t an ideal action when you’re pedaling, and it tracks a number of stats for you like speed, distance, average speed, and heartrate but due to the small screen you need to swipe through them to see the different stats. You can probably find a screen that has the information that you use most and leave it there.
If you’re a stats junky while you’re riding, you may not be satisfied with the form factor of a watch, but if you’re ok with set it and go and see what happened at the end, it’s great. For in-ride visuals, you’ll get so much more out of a dedicated cycling computer like the Wahoo Elemnt or Garmin Edge.
A nice feature is that it will optionally automatically detect a workout and start it for you. How many times have you forgotten to start your ride on other apps?
The watch will track your route, heartrate, and all the stats and store it to the FitBit app like any other tracking app.
Syncing with other apps
Plain and simple, FitBit doesn’t link very well to other third party apps. Though it does automatically sync with Strava, so that’s a relief for me. Otherwise, it seems FitBit isn’t interested in playing nice with others. I didn’t think about this much before purchasing and it was a bit of a surprise.
Not only does it not sync with many apps, it doesn’t work directly with other smartphone apps that may use the heartrate monitor.
And most frustrating is that it does not support the iPhone Health app as a source, which just seems to be another business decision that FitBit has made as there’s no technical reason why it isn’t possible.
However, there are many iPhone apps in the app store that will sync your fitbit data with the iOS Health app, though even those have limitations as FitBit doesn’t make intraday data available. There are free and paid options, and currently myFitnessSync seems to be the most liked. Though it’s pricey at $4.99.
For syncing to other web-based apps, I’ve essentially been using Strava as an intermediary. Strava will pick up workouts automatically, and the other apps I use will pick up workouts from Strava. The delays can be anywhere from minutes to hours.
The good news here is that the FitBit iOS app is very robust and has all the tracking that you could really want. I primarily got it for the sleep tracking, which I’ll write about separately. The community features are great too, which can have you competing with your friends on steps.
The FitBit Versa has very good battery life. I’ve used it for a few days without a recharge, and it feels like it’ll go the advertised 4-5 days. This was one thing that kept me from pulling the trigger on an apple watch, as I felt like I’d have it charging when I wanted to be wearing it (like to track sleep AND workouts).
This is a pretty big deal. There’s nothing that kills my motivation for a long ride or run like one of my battery powered devices being low on juice.
I’ve struggled for a long time with the decision to get a smart watch, and while the apple watch is finally there with features that make me want one, the price is a bit much. The FitBit Versa goes for $199 most places, like here at Amazon (that’s an affiliate link) and you may be able to find it on sale if you’re patient. Unlike me.