Choosing The Best Garmin for Mountain Biking in 2024

Whether you're a novice or a seasoned mountain biker, venturing into the realm of bike GPS computers or watches opens up a multiverse of options.
James Mackie racing the california enduro mountain bike race with the Best Garmin For Mountain Biking.

 

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to Mountain Biking or not, if you’re ready to buy a bike GPS computer or watch, you’re basically stepping into a multiverse. That’s no exaggeration, even when you stick to one manufacturer. 

Take the current Fenix 7 line up of Garmin wearables as an example. If you’re on the market for the best Garmin for mountain biking, you’ll be facing a choice of 14 different watches under that model name alone. 

 

Admittedly, it’s one of their larger lines (the Forerunners number in the teens as well) and when it comes down to it, some of the segmentation is pretty straight forward. Starting your search by looking at watch size is always good because it comes down to simply matching one to your wrist/body size and personal preference. GPS watches can be bulky, so the right size truly matters.

 

A GPS device takes your mountain biking experience into new realms, but the hard truth is a mountain biker can’t make the best choice for themselves until they know what each watch or bike computer line is all about. Other considerations such as battery life, GPS accuracy, dual-band GPS, ride data and much more come into play. And Promountain Bike is here to help find the best MTB GPS computer FOR YOU.

 

Whether you elect to go with one of Garmin’s GPS watches or cycling GPS computers, you will be getting:

 

 

    • A fantastic array of training and performance feedback features
    • Some of these even offer an informed window into future performance
    • Accurate GPS tracking with detailed maps and in-depth route data
    • All the “normal” functions you’d expect from a smart watch
    • And more!

 

So, if you’re ready to take your riding to new heights with the help of a Garmin bike computer or watch, we’d like to set the stage and give you a bit of a road map into that world.

Table of Contents

GPS bike computers are a varied bunch. Your mobile phone can be a bike computer. There isn’t much that can match a dedicated GPS bike computer mounted on your bars though, and Garmin’s pedigree speaks for itself.

There is significant overlap in functionality with their wearables, but the benefits of Garmin’s bike computers are worth considering:

      • Much larger screen real estate
      • Information more clearly presented
      • Offers a few features that aren’t possible on watch displays (eg: Climb Pro)
      • Offer a disconnect from data and analysis when you’re off your bike, which is very important to some riders
      • Consistently accurate readings/recording and performance monitoring when paired with a compatible heart-rate monitor (HRM), while a watch on the wrist can experience hiccups while on rough MTB trails
      • Full accessibility to the advanced features available from modern GPS units – the watches are catching up but there still is a slight advantage to having a bike computer

    The above is why many consider a cycling computer to be their go-to GPS device for mountain biking. Let’s see what they have to offer and what has put the Garmin Edge line-up among the best bike computers you can find today.

    Garmin Edge 1040 Solar and Non-Solar

    Best Garmin For Mountain Biking: Garmin Edge 1040 Solar and Non-Solar - front and back

    In a Nutshell

    Price: Solar – $749 | Non-solar – $599

    Launched in 2022, the Garmin Edge 1040 Solar is the creme de la creme of the company’s bike computer stable and, for Garmin aficionados, the best in the cycling world at the time of writing. And they have a compelling argument for that claim.

    The 1040 launched with a screen that matched that of its predecessor, the Edge 1030 (which is still well worth considering among bike computers of any brand), at 3.5 inches but comes with an overhauled user interface (UI) and some significant strides in terms of functionality when used out in the real world.

    Garmin Edge 1040 Solar and Non-Solar: Side Profile

    Inside Look

    Selected specifications and characteristics:

        • Solar model has 64GB storage, non-solar has 32GB

        • Redesigned User Interface

        • 3.5 inch screen

        • 133 gram weight

        • Excellent battery life with a max of 45 hours (with Multi-Band GPS on and Solar)

        • USB-C connection/charging

        • Polar Glass on solar version puts solar panels across the entire front surface
              • Outer edges have 100% solar capability while the screen has 15%

          • Metal backmount

          • Multi-band GPS (ie dual frequency) option for increased GPS accuracy (uses more power)

          • Pre-loaded maps
                • Garmin’s entire catalog of downloadable maps is accessible

            • Improved operation/calculation speed over prior models

            • New searchable option for “Bike Shops” and “Water Stops”

          Garmin Edge 1040 Solar and Non-Solar: Display and graphics

          In the Real World

          The Edge 1040 allows for courses/routes to be preloaded into the device, which will then give riders the ability to see what is coming up ahead of them in terms of climb/descent intensity and gradient. 

          With previous Garmin bike computers, if you find yourself without a preloaded route, nothing was displayed about what’s ahead. The software has been leveled up and now even if you don’t have anything loaded, the 1040 will give you a heads up about what is coming up, if you so choose to ride that way. 

          Then when you cross what it deems to be the beginning of a climb, it will load in the gradient and elevation stats so you see the full shebang. This is a very good upgrade/evolution to a function known as ClimbPro, and it’s a real win in our book.

          This “auto route selection” works almost every time. On climbs where there is a clear end and the trail keeps going in one direction without any other choice, it nails it. But when there is choice and you decide to follow an alternate route, the computers may choose incorrectly and things get messy for a bit. It does this by choosing the most likely route you will take from shared ride data, and Garmin have said that they will be fine tuning the function over time. Overall, still a good and needed step for the company’s GPS devices.

          Other great features include the ability to search for climbs nearby (Climb Explore function), even during a ride, and filter your results by search radius, terrain type, difficulty and more. 

          Performance feedback features on the Garmin Edge 1040 include:

              • In-depth customization of what information is displayed

              • Navigation and elevation is very accurate

              • A revamped Training Status function that calculates:
                    • Your VO2 Max and Acute Load stats

                    • Your Cycling Ability, categorized into Anaerobic Capacity, Aerobic Capacity and Aerobic Endurance
                          • Cycling Ability can be applied to courses that are loaded or saved on your device
                                • Estimated times, splits, power output during the course and more, all adjusted for your “goal effort” slider setting to indicate how hard you want to push

                        • Create events and set up a training regime leading up to that event (eg: a race)
                              • The device creates daily workouts for you in phases

                    Pros of the Garmin Edge 1040 Solar and Non-Solar:

                        1. Impressive Battery Life: The Garmin Edge 1040 offers excellent battery life, with a maximum of 45 hours, especially when using Multi-Band GPS and Solar features. This means you can go on long rides without constantly worrying about recharging.

                        1. Solar Charging Option: For those opting for the Solar model, you get the added benefit of solar charging. The Polar Glass on the solar version features solar panels across the entire front surface, with 100% solar capability on the outer edges and 15% on the screen.

                        1. Redesigned User Interface: The device comes with a revamped user interface (UI), providing a more intuitive and user-friendly experience.

                        1. Detailed Maps and Navigation: Pre-loaded maps and access to Garmin’s full catalog of downloadable maps make navigation a breeze, ensuring you won’t get lost on your rides.

                        1. Auto Route Selection: The Edge 1040’s auto route selection feature is a game-changer. Even without a preloaded route, it provides information about upcoming climbs and descents, enhancing your ride planning.

                        1. ClimbPro Function: The ClimbPro function offers real-time data on gradient and elevation, helping you tackle climbs with more confidence.

                        1. Training Insights: The Edge 1040 provides detailed training statistics, including VO2 Max estimates, Acute Load stats, and Cycling Ability, enabling you to track your progress and optimize your training regime.

                        1. Customization: You can personalize the information displayed on the device to suit your specific needs and preferences.

                      Cons of the Garmin Edge 1040 Solar and Non-Solar:

                          1. Higher Price Tag: The Garmin Edge 1040, especially the Solar version, comes with a premium price. While it offers top-tier features, it may not be budget-friendly for all cyclists.

                          1. Solar Model Weight: The Solar version is slightly heavier due to the solar panels, which might be a concern for those looking for the lightest possible setup.

                          1. Occasional Auto Route Selection Inaccuracy: The auto route selection feature, while generally reliable, may occasionally choose routes that don’t align with your preferences. Garmin is continuously refining this function, but it can still lead to minor inconveniences.

                          1. Competition from Smaller Models: Garmin has introduced smaller, more affordable models like the Edge 540/840, which offer similar features to the Edge 1040. If portability and cost are priorities, these smaller models might be more attractive.

                        In the End

                        So, is Garmin’s flagship bike computer still a winner the year after its initial launch? The answer is a resounding YES. However, there is a big caveat to that, because as you’ll see below, Garmin has given its big dog some direct in-house competition from the Edge 540/840, which pack all the features of the Garmin Edge 1040 Solar into smaller packages and smaller price points. 

                        Garmin Edge 540/840 Solar

                        Garmin Edge 540/840 Solar: Front & Back

                        In a Nutshell

                        Price:

                        Edge 840

                            • Solar – $549.99

                            • Non-solar – $449.99

                          Edge 540

                              • Solar – $447.29

                              • Non-solar – $349.99

                            The Garmin Edge 540/840 can easily be considered the best value for money bike computer, definitely within the current selection of Garmin bike computers and arguably across all brands. The reason is because, in terms of features and software, it is identical to the top-of-the-line 1040 but comes in at a much lower price point while only “sacrificing” size. 

                            Garmin Edge 540/840 Solar: Side Profile

                            Inside Look

                            Selected specifications and characteristics:

                            The Edge 540 and 840 have the same dimensions and seven-button setup, the only difference is that the Edge 840 has a touch screen.  

                            Garmin has created some heavyweight contenders disguised as middleweights here, because these cycling computers punch well above their apparent power. Buy an Edge 540 or 840 and you’re getting all the software and functionality of the big boss Garmin Edge 1040 Solar in a smaller form factor. 

                            Having the same buttons on the touch screen version is new for Garmin, who usually have fewer buttons on touch-enabled models. We see this as very positive and it actually works in favor of the 840 because when you’re on the move the buttons offer a much more tactile and precise alternative to the touch screen. Then, when you’re moving slowly or stopped, the touch screen’s ease of use shines. 

                            The smaller units do not share the same metal mount on the back of the devices, but they have made it so the plastic mounts are removable via a pair of screws. So, if you break a mount somehow, it can be replaced.

                            Garmin Edge 540/840 Solar: Display & Graphics

                            In the Real World

                            Like their more costly 1040 sibling, the 540 and 840 allow for courses/routes to be preloaded into the device, which will then give riders the ability to see what is coming up ahead of them in terms of climb/descent intensity and gradient. 

                            All cycling computers in the 540/840 range benefit from the updated features and performance feedback functions that come with the Edge 1040, including:

                                • ClimbPro activation showing upcoming climbs even if a route is not loaded

                                • Auto route selection based on shared ride data – an imperfect development but still welcome

                                • Climb Explore function that lets you search and filter nearby climbs

                                  • Display layout customization

                                  • Accurate GPS tracking and elevation

                                  • A revamped Training Status function that calculates:
                                        • Your VO2 Max and Acute Load stats

                                        • Your Cycling Ability, categorized into Anaerobic Capacity, Aerobic Capacity and Aerobic Endurance
                                              • Cycling Ability can be applied to courses that are loaded or saved on your device to analyze how you would perform, providing:
                                                    • Estimated times, splits, power output during the course and more, all adjusted for your “goal effort” slider setting to indicate how hard you want to push

                                            • Create events and set up a training regime leading up to that event (eg: a race)
                                                  • The device creates daily workouts for you in phases

                                        In the End

                                        It’s a tough debate. Buy a Garmin Edge 1040 Solar and have a bigger screen and more battery life, or save up to $200 and have the same functionality but in a smaller package? 

                                        If you ask us, we think the Garmin Edge 540 and 840 take the cake among bike computers. They have all the tricks and the smaller display does not impact usage much in our experience. BUT, and it is a big but, there is no substitute for comfort out on the trail. If the 1040 was priced $500 higher, we’d say go for the smaller computers all day long, but the difference is not that large if you like what the bigger one has to offer.

                                        We really are spoiled for choice when it comes to cycling computers in 2024, and the mind-blowing thing is that this article only focuses on one brand!

                                        Pros of the Garmin Edge 540/840 Solar:

                                            1. Value for Money: The Garmin Edge 540/840 offers exceptional value for money. It provides the same features and software as the top-tier Garmin Edge 1040 Solar but at a significantly lower price point.

                                            1. Feature Parity: Despite the lower cost, these models retain all the software and functionality of the premium Garmin Edge 1040 Solar. You get powerful features without breaking the bank.

                                            1. Compact Size: The Edge 540 and 840 have a smaller form factor compared to the Edge 1040, making them more portable and user-friendly.

                                            1. Affordable Solar Option: With solar editions available for $450 (Edge 540) and $550 (Edge 840), these models provide solar charging at a reasonable price, extending battery life without a substantial cost increase.

                                            1. User-Friendly Buttons: Both models feature a button-based interface that offers tactile and precise control, making it easier to use while on the move.

                                            1. Customizable Display: You can customize the display layout to suit your preferences, allowing you to focus on the data that matters most to you.

                                            1. Reliable GPS and Elevation Tracking: Just like the Edge 1040, the Edge 540/840 provides accurate GPS tracking and elevation data, ensuring you have reliable ride metrics.

                                            1. Training Insights: These models come with training features, including VO2 Max estimate, Cycling Ability, and event preparation tools, helping you optimize your performance.

                                          Cons of the Garmin Edge 540/840 Solar:

                                              1. Smaller Screen: While the smaller size is an advantage in terms of portability, it does mean a smaller screen. Some users may prefer a larger display for better visibility.

                                              1. Imperfect Auto Route Selection: The auto route selection based on shared ride data, while welcome, may occasionally make sub-optimal route choices, which could be inconvenient during rides.

                                            Fun Fact: The GPS bike computers market was valued at around USD 542.5 million in 2021, and it is expected to reach USD 768.0 million by 2027, registering a CAGR of about 6.0% during the forecast period (2022 – 2027).

                                            Best Garmin For Mountain Biking: Watches

                                            Wearables. Smart Watches. Precursor to the Borg. Whatever you wish to call them, watches geared toward athletes these days are fantastic tools. They’re a body sensor, scientist and nagging trainer/coach rolled into one then wrapped around your wrist. For many, a modern wearable GPS unit is a far smarter choice than any of the cycling computers on the market.

                                            You don’t have to be an elite athlete, as long as you’re serious about your health, performance and the great sport of Mountain Biking, your life will be changed when you buy a Garmin watch, even outside of your mountain biking adventures. They have surprisingly detailed maps that belie their screen size, match or even exceed the capabilities of most GPS computers, some come with in-depth health tracking features, and exceptional battery life in most cases (especially when compared to any Apple Watch), the list goes on and on. Then, link your Garmin watch to any pairable cadence sensors and power meters and they firmly land among the best bike computers out there.

                                            If you’re on the fence because you like having something mounted to your bike while you ride, aftermarket watch mounts are an easy solution, which will necessitate the use of an HRM to get heart rate data.

                                            With a breadth of models to choose from, which is the best Garmin watch for mountain biking and for you?

                                            There is a lot to consider:

                                                • Functions

                                                • Ease of use/User Interface

                                                • Size

                                                • Weight

                                                • Battery life

                                                • GPS tracking accuracy

                                              The pride of the fleet is currently the Garmin Enduro 2, a bulky but well-designed watch stacked with features that easily rival Garmin’s best bike computer, the Edge 1040. Riders shouldn’t let the 1040’s bright lights (it does have a very capable flashlight) blind them to the rest of the options. If you choose to buy any Garmin watch that fits your needs, it will be capable of taking your life into new territory.

                                              Garmin Enduro 2

                                              Garmin Enduro 2_ Smart Watch

                                              In a Nutshell

                                              To understand how Garmin wanted their new flagship watch to stand out from the crowd, you don’t even need to turn it on. In the box, just like with the original Enduro, you’ll see that there are two bands included. Is that a big deal? Yes. 

                                              You get one silicone band that is pretty standard but of good quality that you would expect from Garmin, while the other is the UltraFit band, a supremely designed and well thought out nylon strap. It is very comfortable, stays securely fastened, has just the right amount of stretch, seems to repel odors, and weighs 20 grams less than the silicone band. Anyone who tries the UltraFit band tends to fall madly in love with its feel and quality. As of yet, while Garmin does sell the UltraFit separately, it does not come in alternative sizes/widths other than 26 mm.

                                              This search for peak performance extends throughout the Enduro 2’s advanced features, not to mention the longer battery life it has over Garmin’s other wearable GPS units.

                                              Garmin Enduro 2: Side Profiles

                                              Inside Look

                                              Comparing the Enduro 2 to its predecessor, the Enduro 1, is an impractical exercise because the two are worlds apart. The OG Enduro lacked the map functions that emerged in the Fenix 6 series onward. 

                                              The Enduro 2 watch is essentially a Fenix 7X – which is no slouch itself – and has “base” features/characteristics that include:

                                                  • Excellent battery life upwards of 34 days (46 days using solar) if using the base smartwatch functions, upwards of 150 hours in GPS-mode, 81 in Multi-Band

                                                  • Music

                                                  • Garmin Pay

                                                  • WiFi

                                                  • Downloadable maps
                                                        • Skiing and golf maps are preloaded

                                                    • Touchscreen

                                                    • Built-in solar

                                                    • Multi-band GPS (dual frequency)
                                                          • Often not necessary for good accuracy, and leaving it off helps extend battery life

                                                      • Sapphire glass

                                                      • 17mm case thickness

                                                      • Flashlight (twice as bright as the Fenix 7X)

                                                    In the Real World

                                                    Garmin added other quality-of-life features that make it a substantial leap forward over the first Enduro, which have subsequently made their way into other model lines such as the Fenix 7 and Epix. Useful developments you’ll find on the Enduro 2 include:

                                                        • There are now chevrons (arrows) that show the direction of travel along the selected map course – a small but very welcome addition

                                                        • SatIQ – a function that chooses the most suitable GPS settings for you depending on location/signal strength, which can greatly improve battery life when Multi-Band GPS is not necessary

                                                        • Auto Rest Timer that starts/stops automatically when you come to a stop during a ride
                                                              • What’s really cool is if you manually go into rest mode with a button press, when you start again, the watch will continue automatically! Thumbs up, Garmin!

                                                          • Grade Adjusted Pace adjusts your pace depending on trail gradient, a common feature with other software but new to Garmin at the time

                                                        Garmin Enduro 2: Front & Back

                                                        Pros of the Garmin Enduro 2:

                                                            1. Dual Band Compatibility: The Enduro 2 comes with dual-band GPS (Multi-Band GPS), which can enhance GPS accuracy in challenging environments, making it a valuable tool for outdoor enthusiasts.

                                                            1. Extended Battery Life: The Enduro 2 boasts impressive battery life, with up to 34 days of usage on a single charge or 46 days when utilizing solar power. For GPS activities, it can last up to 150 hours, ensuring you won’t run out of power during long adventures.

                                                            1. Comfortable UltraFit Band: The inclusion of the UltraFit band in addition to a standard silicone band provides a comfortable and stylish option for users. The UltraFit band is lightweight, well-designed, and repels odors, making it a favorite among wearers.

                                                            1. Map Functions: Unlike its predecessor, the Enduro 2 offers map functions, enhancing navigation and location tracking. Preloaded maps for skiing and golf add to its versatility.

                                                            1. Sapphire Glass: The device features sapphire glass, providing a high level of durability and scratch resistance for the display.

                                                            1. Quality-of-Life Features: Garmin has introduced several quality-of-life features, including chevrons showing the direction of travel on selected map courses, SatIQ for optimizing GPS settings, and an Auto Rest Timer for convenience during activities.

                                                            1. Grade Adjusted Pace: The Grade Adjusted Pace feature, which adapts your pace based on trail gradient, is a notable addition for trail runners and hikers.

                                                            1. Flashlight: The built-in flashlight is significantly brighter than previous models, providing added safety and functionality in the dark.

                                                          Cons of the Garmin Enduro 2:

                                                              1. Premium Price: While the Enduro 2 offers a range of advanced features, it comes with a premium price tag that may be a significant investment for some potential buyers.

                                                              1. Complexity for Beginners: The watch offers a wealth of features and settings, which may be overwhelming for users who are new to Garmin’s ecosystem or smartwatches in general, but after the initial learning curve, using a Garmin watch becomes intuitive.

                                                            In the End

                                                            the Garmin Enduro 2 is a top-tier smartwatch designed for outdoor and fitness enthusiasts. It excels in terms of battery life, comfort, and advanced features. However, the price and potential complexity of the device may not suit everyone, particularly those looking for a more straightforward or budget-friendly smartwatch.

                                                            Garmin Fenix 7 Pro

                                                            Garmin Fenix 7 Pro: Front

                                                            In a Nutshell

                                                            The Garmin Fenix 7 Pro series adds 3 additional watches to an already stacked Fenix line up. One may think this makes it even harder to choose the right Garmin watch for you but in actuality, maybe not. 

                                                            With the added features we’ll talk about below, we feel that Garmin has almost made the decision for us, and if we were leaning toward the Enduro 2 to begin with, the new Pro series of the Fenix and Epix lines are a clear clarion call to reconsider. 

                                                            Let’s check out why.

                                                            Inside Look

                                                            Garmin’s Fenix 7 Pro line is essentially the Enduro 2 with shorter but still great battery life, but in addition to the great navigation, performance feedback functions and comprehensive smartwatch features, the Pro brings some pretty robust upgrades.

                                                            Sizing:

                                                            Fenix 7S Pro – 42mm

                                                            Fenix 7 Pro – 47mm

                                                            Fenix 7X Pro – 51mm

                                                            Note: the 7 Pro and 7X Pro come in both stainless steel/gorilla glass and titanium/sapphire versions.

                                                            You will get all the smartwatch functionality that can be found in the existing Fenix 7X model.

                                                            Garmin Fenix 7 Pro: Maps & Graphics

                                                            In the Real World

                                                            Useful additions to the Fenix Pro line include:

                                                                • All 3 sizes get a new and improved LED flashlight, a feature only on the top model previously – the new one is brighter
                                                                      • This flashlight may seem like a gimmick, but it is very useful

                                                                  • New Endurance score added to performance feedback features, adding to VO2 max and training load
                                                                        • Analyzes multiple data points to give you a rating 

                                                                    • Hill Score metric added which analyzes your climb performance but this doesn’t apply to cycling (We thought we’d include it for the multi-disciplined outdoor warriors out there)

                                                                    • Map overlays
                                                                          • Shading the maps to visually distinguish terrain height differences, which can be easier to read than using the contour lines

                                                                          • Weather function can overlay rain, temperature, or wind direction onto the map
                                                                                • Only accessible through the weather widget and cannot be viewed during workouts

                                                                            • New layouts that allow split screen and also perimeter positioned information displays

                                                                        • All Pro models get Multi-Band GPS, solar charging and 32GB of storage, as opposed to the varying specs in previous Fenix 7 lines

                                                                        • New 5th-gen heart rate sensor with 6 LEDs (up from 2 in previous gen)
                                                                              • Uses 2 LEDs during normal usage

                                                                              • Uses all 6 LEDs during workouts to give noticeably improved accuracy over previous models

                                                                              • Metallic contacts are present which seems to indicate Garmin wants to add other sensor functionality pending approval from health authorities

                                                                          • Next generation display
                                                                                • Brighter but also more energy efficient, which means it shouldn’t impact battery usageGarmin Chroma Display (Memory In Pixel) reflects ambient light and sunlight for great visibility outdoors and better energy efficiency compared to LED displaysGarmin Fenix 7 Pro: Front & Back

                                                                          In the End

                                                                          On its own, the Fenix 7 Pro line is eye-catching and an attractive upgrade. But consider this: all the upgraded software features such as map overlays, endurance score and more will be rolled out as updates for all the existing Fenix 7 models, which are seeing price reductions across the board alongside the rollout of the Fenix 7 Pro models.

                                                                          This is actually a win. If you want a fully capable watch with all the latest Garmin software gizmos, you can get significant savings when you buy Garmin Fenix 7 models outside the Pro line up. If the flashlight, next-gen heart rate sensor and Multi-Band GPS are all something you want, then the Pro line is where you will land. 

                                                                          Now, the real competition may come from another model entirely. The new Epix Pro also comes in 3 sizes, and essentially shares every function of the Fenix 7 Pros but has a crispy bright AMOLED display that some riders may prefer. More on that below.

                                                                          Garmin Fenix 7 Pro: Side Profiles

                                                                          Pros of the Garmin Fenix 7 Pro:

                                                                              1. Variety of Models: The Garmin Fenix 7 Pro series offers a variety of models with different sizes and materials, allowing users to choose the one that suits their preferences and style.

                                                                              1. Improved LED Flashlight: All three sizes of the Fenix 7 Pro now feature an improved LED flashlight, which can be quite useful in various outdoor situations.

                                                                              1. Endurance Score: The addition of the Endurance score to the performance feedback features provides users with a comprehensive rating based on multiple data points, helping them gauge their fitness and training progress.

                                                                              1. Hill Score Metric: The Hill Score metric is a valuable addition for outdoor enthusiasts, offering insights into climb performance. While not applicable to cycling, it caters to a broader audience of outdoor adventurers.

                                                                              1. Map Overlays: The Fenix 7 Pro introduces map overlays, which enhance navigation by visually distinguishing terrain height differences and overlaying weather information onto the map.

                                                                              1. Next-Gen Heart Rate Sensor: The watch features a new 5th-generation heart rate sensor with six LEDs, improving accuracy during workouts and suggesting potential for additional health-related sensor functionality.

                                                                              1. Brighter Display: The next-generation display is not only brighter but also more energy-efficient, ensuring great visibility outdoors without significantly impacting battery life.

                                                                              1. Multi-Band GPS: All Fenix 7 Pro models come equipped with Multi-Band GPS, providing more accurate and reliable location tracking.

                                                                              1. Chroma Display: The Garmin Chroma Display offers excellent visibility in various lighting conditions and better energy efficiency compared to LED displays.

                                                                            Cons of the Garmin Fenix 7 Pro:

                                                                                1. Price: The Garmin Fenix 7 Pro series comes with a premium price tag, which may be a deterrent for budget-conscious consumers. The cost can increase significantly when opting for the titanium/sapphire versions.

                                                                                1. Complexity: The watch offers an array of advanced features and settings, which can be overwhelming for those new to Garmin’s ecosystem or smartwatches in general, but after the initial learning curve, using a Garmin watch becomes intuitive.

                                                                                1. Competition from Other Models: The introduction of the Epix Pro with a crisp AMOLED display may divert potential buyers, as it offers similar functions but with a different display technology.

                                                                              Garmin Epix Pro

                                                                              Garmin Epix Pro: Front

                                                                              In a Nutshell

                                                                              Okay, so it’s time to take a look at the Epix Pro line up. Let’s start off by saying the Pro ranges of both the Fenix and Epix have the same core ingredients with different seasonings. But just because you’ve had one chicken dinner recipe, doesn’t mean you’ve had them all. The devil is in the details when you’re after a watch that suits who you are.

                                                                              Garmin really aren’t just lazily stuffing the same tech into all their wearables and trying to paint over the similarities. Once you get down to the nitty gritty, you can see their nuanced approach that allows everyone to have amazing functionality in their watches, with key differences that make each line stand out for their own particular reasons.

                                                                              Garmin Epix Pro: Graphics

                                                                              Inside Look

                                                                              Like the Epix models released before it, the Epix Pro is about offering an AMOLED display, which, to us, make it one of the prettiest GPS units of any kind, though it does lead to shorter battery life.

                                                                              There are three sizes under the Pro moniker, all with the new and improved heart rate sensor and the updated flashlight, the latter being a function that sounds gimmicky but turned out to be very useful and popular enough that Garmin is now throwing it into new models as a must-have.

                                                                              Sizes:

                                                                              They are all called simply Epix Pro with no name differentiation across

                                                                                  • 51mm

                                                                                  • 47mm

                                                                                  • 42mm

                                                                                All the sizes come in stainless steel/gorilla glass and titanium/sapphire versions. The GPS/GNSS chipsets do not differ across stainless steel and titanium this time, all come with Multi-Band GPS and 32GB of storage.

                                                                                Garmin Epix Pro

                                                                                In the Real World

                                                                                With identical features and functionality between the Fenix Pro and Epix Pro lines, it really does come down to a preference in how you want your Garmin watch display to look. Now, while the Epix may have crisper colors and a clearer look to it, this does not mean the Fenix Pro watches are less clear. Remember, they have the updated Garmin Chroma Display (Memory In Pixel) which uses ambient light and has great contrast. 

                                                                                The difference you’ll see will be in the richness of colors and a crisp digital look the Epix Pro displays have that differentiate them from the Epix Pro. It is a simple question of what you feel better using.

                                                                                The AMOLED displays on the Epix Pros do draw more battery, with Garmin claiming the following numbers:

                                                                                Epix Pro 42 lasts up to 10 days just using smartwatch functions, down to 4 days with Always On Display (AOD) turned on.

                                                                                Epix Pro 47 lasts up to 16 days just using smartwatch functions, down to 6 days with AOD turned on.

                                                                                Then there is the Epix Pro 51, which jumps up to 31 days using just smartwatch functions, down to 11 with AOD turned on. This is thanks to the implementation of the big boy battery from the Enduro 2.

                                                                                Epix Pro models do not benefit from solar technology due to the AMOLED screen real estate taking up the whole front, but funnily enough it is this lack of a solar layer and the thinner cross section of the AMOLED that allows the Enduro 2 battery to go into the Epix Pro 51.

                                                                                Remember that the battery life will plummet to a matter of hours if you turn on any of the navigation functions, with Multi-Band GPS pulling the most energy. 

                                                                                However, with real use, having a daily workout that lasts about an hour or so, with AOD activated, the numbers turn out to be quite accurate, with some feedback showing the 51mm lasting 10-11 days. Everyone except riders who go on days-long expedition-like rides will be absolutely fine using the Epix Pros.

                                                                                Garmin Epix Pro: Profile

                                                                                Pros of the Garmin Epix Pro:

                                                                                    1. AMOLED Display: The Epix Pro features a vibrant AMOLED display, making it one of the most visually appealing GPS watches available. The AMOLED screen offers rich colors and excellent clarity.

                                                                                    1. Variety of Sizes: Garmin offers three different sizes for the Epix Pro (42mm 47mm, 51mm), allowing users to choose the one that best fits their wrist and preferences.

                                                                                    1. Upgraded Heart Rate Sensor: The Epix Pro comes with an updated heart rate sensor, improving accuracy during workouts and daily activity tracking.

                                                                                    1. New LED Flashlight: The inclusion of an improved LED flashlight is a practical feature that can be handy in various outdoor situations.

                                                                                    1. Long Battery Life: Despite the energy-hungry AMOLED display, the Epix Pro offers respectable battery life, especially in its larger 51mm size. Users can enjoy extended use with the convenience of Always On Display (AOD) turned on.

                                                                                    1. Multi-Band GPS: The watch features Multi-Band GPS for precise location tracking, enhancing its navigation capabilities.

                                                                                    1. Storage: With 32GB of storage, users have ample space for storing maps, music, and other data.

                                                                                  Cons of the Garmin Epix Pro:

                                                                                      1. Shorter Battery Life with AOD: While the Epix Pro offers good battery life, the usage duration decreases when the Always On Display (AOD) is turned on. In the smaller sizes, it can be as short as a few days.

                                                                                      1. Lack of Solar Technology: The Epix Pro models do not feature solar charging due to the AMOLED screen taking up the entire front of the watch. This means users must rely solely on standard charging methods.

                                                                                      1. Navigation Functions Drain Battery: Activating navigation functions, especially Multi-Band GPS, significantly reduces battery life, which may be a concern for extended outdoor adventures.

                                                                                    In the End

                                                                                    So, if the AMOLED rings your bell, you’ll have to sacrifice some battery life, but practical testing shows that this won’t matter except for the really adventurous who are out in the boonies for days/weeks on end. 

                                                                                    All the bells and whistles, plus a gorgeous display. What more could one ask for?

                                                                                    In Conclusion

                                                                                    One thing is for sure, you can’t go wrong with Garmin GPS devices.

                                                                                    They have some stiff competition from other manufacturers but with the quality of their navigation and continuous refinement of every feature and design they offer, we at Promountain Bike have grown to have great confidence in all Garmin devices. 

                                                                                    With that in mind, while we have covered the top models above, we highly recommend at least having a quick look at the entire range of Garmin mountain bike products. Their quality is high enough across the board that you are sacrificing very little by going for something smaller or cheaper. 

                                                                                    If you ask for our honest opinion regarding the best Garmin for mountain biking covered above, we definitely have favorites.

                                                                                    The Garmin watch we would choose:

                                                                                        • Garmin Fenix Pro (whichever size suits you) : Packed to the gills with the very best Garmin features and functionality, the only thing the Garmin Enduro 2 flagship model has over this is longer battery life, and the Fenix Pro line up is still outstanding in that category anyway. Fenix Pros also beat out the Garmin Epix Pro series for us due to integrated solar charging. Who needs a bike computer when you have one of these?

                                                                                      The Garmin bike computer we would choose:

                                                                                          • Garmin Edge 840 Solar : Software functions on par with the bigger 1040, we feel the screen size is not enough of a draw to spend more on the flagship model. The 840 also wins over the 540 because it has a touch screen alongside the exact same button layout, giving you more versatility in operation. We have no reservations saying that when it comes to cycling computers in 2024, the Garmin Edge 840 Solar is top of the pile.

                                                                                        No matter what you choose, you’re going to have a major mountain biking GPS unit strapped to your wrist or handlebar, and combined with the Garmin Connect App on mobile or web, you’re going to have fantastic insight into your performance, progress and recovery.

                                                                                        Related Article: Other Mountain Biking Accessories

                                                                                        FAQ’s

                                                                                        1. How do I choose the best Garmin for mountain biking in 2024?

                                                                                        – This depends on various factors, including your preferences and needs. The first question to answer is whether you prefer a wearable device or a bike-mounted computer. For both types, size is a consideration, but for wearables/watches independently, screen brightness, battery life, and more come into play.

                                                                                        2. Are there specific Garmin models recommended for beginners in mountain biking?

                                                                                        – Garmin’s ergonomics and ecosystems across all their devices are well designed and intuitive. Even for a beginner, after the initial familiarity stage, you’ll find using a Garmin wearable or bike computer to be a breeze.

                                                                                        3. How do I determine the right size for a GPS watch for mountain biking?

                                                                                        – The best way to do this is to try on something with similar dimensions and weight, which you can find among more conventional watches. From there, it’s almost completely personal preference. Some of our team members have small wrists but like big watches and vice versa.

                                                                                        4. What are the essential features to consider when selecting a Garmin GPS device for mountain biking?

                                                                                        – Factors such as battery life, GPS accuracy, dual-band GPS, ride data, and more should be considered. It provides insights into how these features can impact your mountain biking experience.

                                                                                        5. How can I make an informed choice between a Garmin GPS watch and a cycling GPS computer?

                                                                                        – There are many reasons to choose one over the other, but the crux of the decision will lie in

                                                                                        1. If you want to track your fitness and progress while off the bike – which means getting a watch, or you just want to leave all the stats with your bike rides, which means using a GPS computer/

                                                                                        2. If you like having all your info at an easy glance during a ride, which tends to push a rider toward computers due to the larger screen sizes.

                                                                                        Please note that Garmin watches can be mounted on handlebars too.

                                                                                        6. Do the recommendations in the article include options for different budget ranges?

                                                                                        – Yes, there is a significant difference between the prices among models of both Garmin bike computers and watches, allowing riders to find something in their budget range.

                                                                                        7. Is there information on where and how to purchase the recommended Garmin devices for mountain biking?

                                                                                        – Promountain Bike offers direct links to reliable online retailers who offer the products reviewed in this article. Purchasing through these links will not affect the retail price of the products

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