Triathlon is the ultimate expression of obsession when it comes to the gear available. At the simplest level, all you need is a triathlon kit, swim goggles, a bike, and sneakers. That said, there is no limit on what all you can buy and use.
For many of us, our watches are our “badge of honor,” and we can always spot another triathlete from their training watch. In the triathlon world, Garmin has become the “gold standard,” but there are tons of other brands out there.
I, for example, have personally owned and used their 201, 205, 301, 305, 310XT, 910XT, 920XT, Fenix 3, 935, and 945 over my career. And a few of these models I owned up to five individual units over the model’s life span due to things from theft to bike crashes! I have put these watches through their paces from airborne missions with the Army to ultra marathons and IRONMANs.
Over the years, I have also coached athletes who used their Apple Watch, smart-phone, TomTom watch, or Polar watch to capture training. Eventually, all of the athletes have converted to a Garmin for ease of use, battery life, customer support, and third-party integrations. At this time, Garmin is the leader in multisport training watches for endurance athletes.
The 920XT, 935, and 945 are the ideal watches for triathletes as they have the best mix of battery performance, weight, and features over other Garmin watches. The 945 adds numerous features over the 935 that are “nice to have” but not required, such as music, Garmin Pay, virtual run support (Zwift), and additional health metrics. It also helps to purchase the latest models if finances support as they will have the best support for use with emerging tech.
Talking about support, Garmin has a strong customer support record. Garmin is quick to replace anything under warranty and has a great replacement program for out of warranty watches. Garmin allows users to purchase replacement watches or refurbished watches for out of warranty issues for around $79-99 depending on the model even if it is an outdated model.
No matter which brand or model you select, remember that wrist-based Heart Rate Monitors (HRM) are not as accurate as chest based. Thus, make sure to pair the watch with an external HRM. The Garmin HRM-Tri, HRM-Run, and HRM-Swim offer the best functions for endurance athletes. Wahoo and Polar also make great heart rate monitors depending on the overall needs of the athlete.
It is essential to consider which devices you will capture your data with as well for HRMs, as computers and mobile devices will require a BlueTooth enabled HRM. Bluetooth capabilities are important for apps like Zwift. There are ways to work around this, though, such as recording data to Zwift and your watch or purchasing a Bluetooth specific HRM like the Garmin HRM-Dual or the new Garmin HRM-Pro which combines the functions of the HRM-Tri and Dual.
To maximize savings on the higher end HRMs paired with the watch, I recommend purchasing the bundles.
- Garmin 945 (Bundle) – SwimOutlet, Amazon
- Garmin 945 (Watch Only) – Amazon
- Garmin 935 (Bundle) – Amazon
- Garmin 935 (Watch Only) – Amazon
- Garmin HRM-Pro – CleverTraining
This page contains only products tested and used by our athletes and coaches. That said, the team does receive a small percentage of sales through SwimOutlet and Amazon. When reading our reviews, remember that some of the brands such as Gu Energy, BASE Performance, and ROKA offer discounts to our members. Members can check the Partner Discount’s page to maximize your discounts