What’s so smart about a smartwatch anyway? Well, like your cell phone, it’s packed with as many features as possible to manage a variety of data collection and information sharing tasks, all while communicating with your pocket computer in almost any way you want it to. There are heaps of clever functions included in the Garmin Enduro, and we will focus on the ones that affect trail riding herein.
Fit and tactile functionality
On the all-day fit front, this watch is cozier than its large body might suggest. It weighs 71g with the feathery nylon band, and there’s a titanium version that drops weight by 10g for an extra $100. Retailing at $799 for the steel version I tested (sold at REI and other online retailers), or $899 in titanium, that weight savings better feel significant. It’s not far from the heft of the Polar Grit X we reviewed last season that hit the scale at 64g. When you chillin’ at home or walking about, the size and feel of the watch is easy to get used to.
Out on the trail, that added mass strapped to your wrist may require a longer adjustment period. I have dainty wrists, and most larger watches end up bruising and cutting me while bouncing about on the trail. This one was no different. If I ride with gloves or put it under the cuff of a tight long sleeve jersey, it’s usually okay. Without gloves, the front of the watch will cut through and cause bleeding by the end of the first long descent no matter how tight I strap it. I tried it on the underside of my wrist as well, to no avail. As long as I have gloves on the cuff keeps the watch from shimmying forward and cutting me, rendering this a non-issue. The watch also stayed in one place better once there was sufficient sweat under it. I let a larger-boned friend borrow the Enduro to make sure this wasn’t just my issue, and they also ended up with a bloody wrist at the end of the trail.
That little added weight makes for a tough watch that should outlast several bands and multiple software updates. The steel bezel and Power Glass lens are going to be hard to break. I didn’t manage to scratch them despite a few long slides down the trail. The display is easy to see under sunlight, and there’s a button on the top left to light it up on night rides. The two buttons below that toggle through functions, and there’s a main selector switch and backup button on the right side. The backside of the watch is smooth and clean, and I haven’t had any issues with trail detritus becoming logged in the charging port. There’s a small solar panel that wraps close to the bezel to increase battery life and a larger one behind the display that also takes in a little light.
The ultralight strap can be swapped out for something more substantial if you prefer, and a stickier material might help with the movement issue mentioned above. It’s comfortable and easy to put on and take off, with velcro closures on either side that surprisingly stay closed on the trail.
Trail riding and training
Battery longevity is possibly the brightest shining corner of the Enduro. If you’re using it solely as a watch it will last between 50 and 65 days, depending on solar conditions. Garmin says that number can bump up to 130 days in battery saver mode. The battery life stays high at 70 to 80 hours with all of the data reading meters turned up to ten, and the saver mode will more than double that duration.
In addition to daily rides at home, I took the Enduro on a few work trips to the Alps, recording daily rides, and didn’t plug it in once. In fact, I didn’t even pay attention to the battery, whereas I would have to charge most other devices almost daily. It also recorded a long slog over the Via del Sale route on the French/Italian border, with a twelve-hour pedal followed by a ten-hour day, and didn’t manage to dent the battery life. If you’re into massive bikepacking or adventure-racing sorts of fun this watch can record it for you.
Wayfinding on those long adventures is clearer and simpler with the Enduro than it has been with similarly capable and costly smartwatches I’ve tested. The easiest method I’ve found for loading a track is to download the file on a phone or computer, slide it into the Garmin Connect software, and then sync the watch. Bingo, the file can then be selected and followed from start to finish.
Similar to Garmin’s handlebar-mounted computers, the Enduro will share turn-by-turn directions along the route and sound an alarm if you take a trail that’s not part of the planned route. You can also route back to the start or stop using the file if you find a better direction to steer the ride. As ever, the breadcrumb map display is tricky to follow if you’re in a tight knot of trails, where one track may be too close to another to know if you’re in the correct spot. Fortunately, those sorts of trail systems often braid back together at some point, and it may not always matter if you’re on the correct singletrack. Outside of those trail-pretzels, the watch is easy to follow and the audible alerts are helpful when you don’t want to look down to see if you’re on track.
The range of data you can view while riding with this watch is extensive and impressive. There are a number of metrics around elevation, heart rate, speed, time, power and HR data, wayfinding, temperature, interval data, heading, and too many others to list. For general riding, I find it helpful to keep one page with most of what I want to see: total ride time, distance, total ascent, and current elevation. Those cover what I want to know while out on the trail, and I can look at the other data when I arrive warm at home. I keep other pages that display the time of day, heading, and temperature, but I only toggle between them when out on a longer exploration where I need to keep track of daylight and to see if the temp has changed or if it’s just my blood sugar level that’s creating cooler feelings.
All the typical sensors and trackers are included in the Enduro, and you can connect any sort of power meter or egg-timer your heart desires. The pairing process is quick and simple, with no need for a computer science degree to manage it. The built-in heart rate monitor (HRM) functions as well as most of them, which is to say that it’s a bit spotty and takes some time to start displaying data. Part of the lag might be due to the dark tattoos on my wrist, though my ink-free friend who tried the watch had a similar experience. It can take between five and fifteen minutes for the watch to start displaying beats, and that could be frustrating if you’re on a quick lunch ride and need to do intervals at a specific heart rate. I did have better luck with the HRM once my wrist became sweaty, and wetting it first seems to have some effect on the initial performance. Pairing the watch with a chest-strapped beat-meter may speed up the process, which is the case with most smartwatch heart rate monitors. Garmin says that the Enduro also measures heart rate underwater, though I didn’t get a chance to test this variable beyond a few fast dips in cold lakes.
Apart from cycling, the Enduro can track nearly any sport or activity you participate in, or you can create a profile for whatever new game you’re into. There are heaps of built-in data tracking features for the usual suspects of running, golf, swimming, lifting, hiking, and countless others. Need to track your stats for single-footed beer-pong jousting? You can likely find a way. You can also have a look at your sleep patterns and rest intervals, both of which can make for a more effective training plan.
The altimeter can let you know how fast you’re ascending or descending, and paired with a reading of your blood oxygen level, you can calculate when you might want to rest during a high altitude hike or pedal. On the pressure side, the barometer can also help with storm alerts, which will come in handy during long backcountry excursions when you can’t check the forecast.
Of course, you can pair the Enduro with your phone to receive all manner of text messages and calendar alerts if your life requires that. You can also change songs on your phone, pay for things with GarminPay, and use the “find my phone” or “find my watch” features to locate your stuff. I tested the alerts briefly, and they all work great. I then promptly turned them off, as my life allows for distraction-free time in the forest. I do leave the movement remainders turned on so I remember to throw some pushups between typing paragraphs. My colleagues might appreciate it if I set up some meeting reminders in there…
Data analysis software
Garmin Connect ride analysis software is well known by most riders so I won’t belabor the finer points. There are two cool elements for mountain biking that I occasionally enjoy perusing after that hot post-ride shower.
The Flow score tells you how well you maintained speed over a given section of trail This can be a cool variable to compare across a few laps of the same track. If you’re working to improve braking or cornering technique, or both, the Flow score is there to evaluate just that. It uses a scale where a Flow score of 0-1 is considered a smooth ride, 1-20 is within the moderate Flow scale, and everything above 20 is a rough ride. This analysis can provide a cool way to get faster since you have to brake less and generally ride smoother to improve it. While your overall time may not be faster, you will know where the lost time sits.
Another trail-specific analysis variable is the Grit score. This is a measure of how much climbing and undulation happens over a ride, creating a metric for how difficult one trail is compared to another. This could help riders evaluate the most physically challenging trails in a given system and compare them. It could also help with recovery by allowing you to see if a trail is as difficult as it felt, or if you are due for a rest.
As with any ride analysis software, Garmin Connect allows you to link and share your ride files wherever you like, or to load rides you would like to check out in the future. You can set the account public in case your coach or riding buddies need to see your data as soon as you hit save, or you can keep it private and share a link with them when you wish.
The Enduro smartwatch fits under an umbrella that has the phrase “top-level trail tools” scrawled across its arched waterproof material. Apart from the initial skin abrasion it fits and functions exceedingly well, and the few faults it has don’t entice me to swap it for another. Folks who are into other sports will likely love the versatility and functionality that goes beyond two wheels and trails, and it works great for riding or racing mountain bikes. While it is an expensive piece of gear, it’s also wicked tough and should last for a lot of years. If you crash with it on you don’t have to fret over breaking it or losing it in the bushes like a handlebar-mounted unit, which might make the high cost a little more palatable. If you have the funds for a watch that will do it all, this may be the one for your wrist.
- Industry leading battery life
- Tracks nearly any activity
- Sturdy build and featherweight strap
- Easy to follow ride directions
Pros and cons of the Garmin Enduro
- Can irritate skin if not setup properly
- Breadcrumb can be tricky in tight trail systems