There is a good reason Suunto are making their second appearance on my top 5 list for cycling trackers. Their products are not only competitive features-wise but are also slightly cheaper than the competition and are therefore a very tempting offer for a lot of people. The Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch has a wide range of functions but does its features make it a good cycling watch? Well, in this review I will try to answer this question and compare it to its direct rivals from brands like Polar and Garmin.
My verdict: While sophisticated to its core, the Suunto 9 can be everything you’d ever ask for from a performance fitness watch. It is rigid enough to handle any type of weather conditions and will give you the necessary cycling and workout information you need in order to keep pushing forward. With more than 80 tracking programs and a well-performing sensor array, it will fit any type of cycling training. Still, if you go for the base version, you won’t get a chest strap HR sensor and won’t enjoy the added sensors of the “Baro” version which is quite more expensive. Either way the regular Suunto 9 is a good bang for your buck and is one of the more reliable watches out there.
For more of my thoughts on some of the best fitness trackers for cycling, visit my Buyer’s Guide. Now, let’s jump straight into this!
Overview & Features
Just as a disclaimer, here I am reviewing the Non-baro model, while there are two more – Baro, and Baro+Heart Rate belt which are more expensive and have a worse price-to-value ratio than this version here which only lacks a few things compared to the other versions.
In terms of tracking, the Suunto 9 does a great job at handling everything you can possibly throw at it. Apart from cycling, ti has 80+ other sports modes and multisport event modes that combine the data from any type of activity. It also tracks altitude changes and hill incline and gives you a live graph of the terrain you go through. It has storm alarms and reminders for sunset and sunrise. The baro version also has alti- and baro- profiles, as well as pressure changes and temperature fluctuations.
This watch also uses Suunto’s FusedTrack algorithms which combine the data from the motion sensors with the one from the GPS signal. That improves the accuracy of your distance you travel and the live data of your current location. This also allows for the GPS to not work constantly which helps the battery optimize its performance.
Another thing I like here is the advanced sleep tracking capabilities with its wrist HR sensor. It can track sleep duration and your average HR during your sleep. When that information is used by almost any health app, it can determine your sleep stages and sleep quality. Sleep tracking is actually quite a rare feature on these performance-oriented watches as they primarily focus on the field results and not so much on recovery and sleep.
If you need something to track triathlon training better and combine all the data seamlessly, I suggest checking out the Polar Vantage V Multisport Watch. It is slightly more expensive but also has a very precise chest-strap HR monitor and is dead reliable in any occasion. Now, back to the Suunto 9 and it’s sensors…
As I mentioned earlier, the base version doesn’t get a chest strap HR sensor but it does have a good enough wrist IR sensor which performs surprisingly well even if your hand is wet. It has the option to track 24/7 and will measure calories burned, your resting heart rate, average heart rate throughout the day, steps taken, and track your sleep. When working out, though, I suggest using their chest strap which isn’t the cheapest one out there but works flawlessly with their devices (as expected) and is really reliable in its readings.
Design & Build Quality
The build quality of this watch is where it shines the most. It is really built to last and is Suunto’s toughest model by far. It has a stainless steel bezel, sapphire crystal glass and is also waterproof of up to 100m. The silicone wrist strap is comfortable and soft enough to not cause any discomfort when cycling and has a good grippy fit to it. The rigid construction does add a bit of weight to the watch, though, making it almost 80 grams heavy, which is significantly more than some Garmin models which are in the realm of 50-60 grams. The case is made out of glass fiber reinforced polyamide which seems to be a common choice among manufacturers nowadays.
This watch has a surprisingly large 50mm display which is colored and touchscreen, both features that some Garmin watches lack. It also has a 320×300 pixel resolution which is quite high and makes for a very sharp and crystal clear images.
On the right side of the display, there are three buttons that control all of the features as well, in case your hands are wet or you don’t want to use the touchscreen.
As with other Suunto models, there are special battery modes here that enable the watch to extend its battery life based on your preferences. The three modes are Performance, Endurance, and Ultra with each getting accordingly 25, 50, and 120 hours of tracking time before the battery dies. This is done through clever usage of the GPS signal in various intervals ranging from 1 to 60 seconds. When the GPS signal isn’t coming through, the watch is using its motion sensors’ data to determine where exactly you’re heading. This, as I mentioned earlier, improves location and distance tracking without needing the GPS to run constantly. That feature is especially vital for cyclists that go on for hours at a time.
On top of all that, the Suunto 9 also uses smart reminders which follow your activity history and determine how much charge you will need when going out for a cycling workout. When the watch calculates that you are running low on your battery during your workout, it will also suggest changing to a more battery-friendly mode in order to keep tracking your progress.
In “Time” mode only, the watch can last for up to 15 days, which isn’t that bad in case you want to use it simply as an everyday watch. Another thing that will save a lot on your battery is not using the wrist HR sensor which is quite heavy on battery usage, just like the GPS. If you use an HR belt, you will significantly improve the battery’s life on a single charge.
This might not sound as much but is quite the clever use of GPS and tracking and is perhaps the future of battery-saving software which is one of the slowest developing fields of modern smartwatches.
Software & App
In terms of software, the Suunto 9 uses Suunto’s own OS instead of Android’s Wear OS. There are quite a few things you can do with it, though, despite it not taking advantage of the large Android ecosystem. You can connect to most health apps, including Suunto’s Movescount App and even download different watch faces.
The watch pairs with Android and iOS devices via Bluetooth and can receive calls, emails, text notifications, and show you calendar alerts.
Cycling With The Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch
Cycling with this watch is a breeze and it can pair with your bike computer and other sensors across your gear via Bluetooth (not ANT+ sadly). It will also give you live data on a variety of metrics such as speed, distance traveled, your cardiovascular metrics, and even hill incline and altitude changes. The Baro version will give you further information about your surroundings and will measure the altitude a bit more accurately.
Advantages & Disadvantages
- Very durable and reliable
- Battery performs well
- Sensors are accurate
- Easy to read display
- Waterproof up to 100m
- Pairs with devices easily
- A bit too heavy
- The base version doesn’t get a barometric sensor and a chest strap HR sensor
Cycling is no easy feat and preparing your body for a riding session isn’t easy, especially if you are going for the country roads! I’ve compiled a whole article on the topic of warming up where you might learn a thing or two about how to tune in your body to the task that lies ahead.
Conclusion and Rating
There aren’t many ways in which you can discredit what Suunto has done with their Suunto 9 model. It is by far one of their best watch versions and is a flagship that leads the brand forward. The Suunto 9 GPS Sports Watch is really durable and has a lot of smart features up its sleeve that make it a trustworthy companion when you are out cycling and need a good source of information on all of your performance metrics. If you really like the model I suggest going for the Baro version with the HR strap, although that costs quite a bit more and also goes into the price bracket of some very serious competitors.