While Garmin’s line of products is a bit hard to understand sometimes, there are some models that easily stand out from the rest thanks to their unique design and tracking capabilities. The Garmin Forerunner 735XT is definitely not one of the brand’s newest models but it still is one of the best cycling trackers out there and because of its age you can get it for a bargain deal nowadays.
My verdict: Reasonably priced and extremely potent, the Forerunner 735XT is the dream tool for everyone training for a triathlon or any other individual sport. It has a comfortable fit and isn’t too bulky compared to other GPS trackers. It also comes with two chest straps which will provide you with the necessary heart rate information whether you are in the water or out running or cycling.
Overview & Features
Stylistically speaking, this is my favorite model ever since it came out. There are fitness trackers and smartwatches out there that nail it in the design department and this is one of them. If you want your watch to also double as an everyday accessory, the 735XT is my honest recommendation. Now, let’s go through its features and see how it holds up to the modern competition even after being into production for a few years.
When this watch starts tracking, you have the option to toggle through different sport modes such as running, cycling, swimming, all can be either indoor or outdoor.
It has an accurate GPS and GLONASS systems, as well as a compass and accelerometer. The 735XT tracks your daily progress, steps, speed, strides, distance traveled, calories burned, intensity intervals, and other aspects of your workout. For cycling, there is a course guidance mode with audio prompts and alerts when you reach your goals such as distance, time, heart rate or burned calories during your cycling session. It also measures bike lap times, lap maximum power, and your functional threshold power (with additional accessories). It is also compatible with Varia Vision which is a bike computer and other Varia accessories such as their rear-facing radar and lights. If you have a cadence sensor that connects via Bluetooth it can pair to the Forerunner as well, further padding the data you get.
Whether chest straps are more accurate than wrist sensors has been a long discussion and with the advancement of IR technologies, wristwatches are becoming more and more accurate in their cardiovascular readings. Click here to read more on this topic!
While it has a wrist HR sensor that is fairly accurate and up to Garmin’s standards, the two chest straps that come with it are far more reliable if you really want to trust your metrics. Why there are two of them you wonder? Well, one of them is the swimming strap which is entirely waterproof, while the other one is just water-resistant well-enough to be able to withstand heavy sweating. This is a particularly good combination if you are into triathlon training but if you don’t swim I suggest getting the smaller package with just the running strap since that will save you some money.
The Elevate wrist HR sensor still keeps a track of your heart rate throughout the day, though, and is very useful for when you need to monitor your recovery periods and how your heart handles rest. It also tracks sleep and the various sleep stages quite well.
If you decide to use this tracker and its straps for running, you will be pleasantly surprised by the fact that it also measures contact time, stride length, vertical oscillations, and more. It will also estimate your VO2 max, the lactate threshold of your body and will give you good advice on how to recover after a workout no matter what type of training you did. These metrics won’t really matter to you at first, but the more you progress into the world of cycling and the harder you train, the more important these little factors will be in how well you perform and how good of a rest your body gets after each workout.
Design & Build Quality
The design of this watch is one of its strongest features and is a key selling point, as many people love the way it fits your wrist and more importantly – the way it looks. Not only it is a trustworthy training companion but is also an everyday watch that you can wear anywhere. It has a chemically strengthened glass lens and a composite body that contributes to both durability and weight reduction. In fact, this watch is the lightest I’ve reviewed on this site weighing at just 40 grams.
The strap is silicone which is something I always look for in a watch. You can get it in either black or this killer-looking midnight blue color.
The whole construction is water sealed and is waterproof of up to 5 ATM. That, combined with the waterproof chest strap, makes it perfect for swimmers or even if you train for a triathlon and switch between cycling, running, and swimming all the time.
The display here is bigger than some other Garmin models and is quite vibrant. It has a sunlight-visible texture and can be easily read even under direct sunlight. It is a 1.23 inch display with a resolution of 215 x 180 pixels making it ultra sharp and crisp. It isn’t touchscreen, though, but that is easily compensated by the good amount of buttons you get on each side.
The battery life here is slightly compromised by the narrow body which doesn’t leave too much space for a bigger battery. Still, you get up to 11 days on standard usage. With the GPS turned on, the watch easily lasts more than 10 hours and, similar to other Garmin models, it has an UltraTrac mode which reduces the frequency of GPS signal checks and removes the wrist heart rate measuring option to increase the battery life up to a full day of tracking. That isn’t ideal for cycling as it won’t give you an exact reading on your location at all times but is perfect for any other activity where you move relatively slower.
Software & App
This watch works with all the modern fitness tracking apps and both iOS and Android devices. The metrics tracked with this watch are stored on its memory unless you pair it to a fitness app or even Garmin’s own app. It can track and store up to 80 hours of activity.
In terms of compatibility with your mobile device, it can sync and get all your phone’s notifications, control its media player, calendar entries, weather information, and if you install Garmin’s Connect IQ you can download watch faces, widgets, and a ton of apps through your phone and sync them with the watch.
One other cool feature I like is the find my phone/watch option which can either track your phone through the watch or track the watch through the phone’s app. It is excellent for people like me that leave their stuff everywhere in the house.
If you are looking for a similarly detailed approach to your training metrics but for nearly half the price, I suggest checking out the Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch. Now, let’s move on to the most important advantages and disadvantages of the 735XT!
Cycling With The Garmin Forerunner 735XT
Cycling with this watch is really easy, especially if you have other sensors paired to it to extract more detailed data about your sessions. With the help of additional sensors, it can measure lap maximum power, bike laps, your cadence, live average speed, and your functional threshold power. Thanks to its minimalistic design it is also really easy to wear and won’t cause discomfort on your wrist when riding for a longer duration. It also has built-in alerts for when you reach your goals such as a pre-set time, distance, burned calories or heart rate.
That being said, let’s summarize this model’s strong and weak sides now and head over to my conclusion…
Advantages & Disadvantages
- Very Comfortable
- Comes with two special chest straps
- Excellent design for daily activities
- Accurate heart rate monitoring
- Decent battery life
- Solid construction
- Ultra lightweight
- There are some reported issues with the display and heart rate monitors where they just stop working after a few months of usage. That hasn’t happened to any device I’ve tried so it might be a specific issue to the said customers.
- Battery life tends to deteriorate over time
- Garmin’s customer support isn’t exactly 5 stars
If you don’t always trust your heart rate monitor’s readings, knowing how to measure your heart rate without a tracker might be a skill that can come in handy. Head over to my article to learn more about the various ways you can do that!
Conclusion and Rating
As a whole, there aren’t many bad things I could say about the Garmin Forerunner 735XT, since it is a fairly reliable and durable, comfortable, and great-looking fitness smartwatch. Its all-purpose nature makes it ideal for not only cyclists but runners, swimmers, or hikers. The sensors work well between each other and there are no connectivity issues when paired with other Bluetooth sensors that are attached to your bike. Still, it isn’t exactly cheap, and being a few years old, this price won’t really seem justified to a lot of people, especially when there are some Suunto models that do essentially the same things for less money. I gave it a four and a half out of five stars rating.