The truth about cycling with a Garmin Forerunner 45 or 55


Garmin Forerunner 45 and 55 watches are designed and marketed as sports watches for runners. In the world of Garmin watches, these two models are low-budget watches from the Forerunner Serie. But what if you aren’t just a runner, and would also like to record your bike rides? Are Garmin Forerunner 45 & 55 up to the job? Or should you look for another product line, like the Venu series or the Vivoactive series?

I will tell you all about Garmin Forerunner 45 & 55 from the perspective of cycling in this article. We all know you can record a ride in running mode, but it’s not very practical. Is there a cycling mode embedded in these watches? Which type of cyclist is it for? Let’s see all of that in this article.

Can you use Garmin Forerunner 55 for cycling?

You can use Garmin Forerunner 55 for cycling. Two modes are included for cycling: ‘bike’ and ‘bike indoor’. It will allow you to connect speed and cadence sensors and let you do interval training of your choice.

Garmin Forerunner 55, buy it on Amazon here.

How to start the cycling mode

Garmin Forerunner 55 – button names
  1. Press on the start | stop button to enter the activity mode
  2. Scroll down in the list to select an activity, using the down button

If you don’t see the activity you want, keep scrolling until you see a “+” button with a green background. This means you can enter this menu to search for more activity profiles. The other ones are active by default as a shortcut.

  1. Press start | stop to select an activity of your choice

To cycle, you have two options: Bike to ride outside using the GPS function or Bike indoor to ride on a trainer indoors. If you choose to ride indoors, speed and distance data won’t get recorded unless you connect your watch to an external speed sensor like Garmin speed sensor.

  1. Press start | stop again to start recording the activity

Interval training when cycling with Garmin Forerunner 55

You can do interval training when cycling with Garmin Forerunner 55. You can either create it on the watch or much easier create it on Garmin Connect and send it to the watch via Bluetooth.

To create a cycling interval training on the watch:

  • Go to the Bike mode
  • Press ‘up’ to enter the options
  • Select ‘intervals’
  • Select ‘edit’

Now you can edit as you wish the interval session you want to do. The options are more limited on the watch to create a nice interval session. I recommend you use Garmin Connect app to make the workout of your choice and then send it to the watch.

If you do that, you will find your training workout in the activity options also, under ‘Training’.

Limitations of cycling with Garmin Forerunner 55

Garmin Forerunner 55 has a couple of limitations in terms of cycling:

  • Sensors: it only allows you to connect to a speed sensor, a cadence sensor or an external heart rate monitor. You can’t connect a power meter or Garmin Varia radar.
  • Data: you cannot get your VO2max nor your FTP in cycling mode.
  • Display: the size of the watch is quite small and only allows you to display up to 4 data fields in one page. It’s also very small to read while cycling. One way to deal with this issue is to mount your watch on the handlebars with this lovely device. You can wear a strap like this one to record your heart rate, if you still wish to record it. In fact, heart rate straps are more reliable than the heart monitor of watches!
  • Navigation: it’s not possible to follow a map or a trace on this watch, but that’s normal for this price range.

What’s good for cycling in Garmin Forerunner 55?

  • GPS Battery life: 20h

This is a really good battery life in GPS mode. This can allow you to go on a day trip on your bike and record all day long. If you enjoy taking your time, visiting places while cycling, what we call touring, the watch will be able to record your GPS track without issue. Of course, it’s not the best device for touring but it’s ok to go out for a long time and use the watch in GPS mode.

This is Garmin’s app store for their devices. With this watch, you can use Connect IQ store to get different apps and metrics. It’s not just accessing different watch faces, you can really download apps and get extra data like power etc. Have a look at what’s available on the store to make up your mind!

What type of cyclist is Garmin Forerunner 55 really for?

Garmin Forerunner 55 is quite basic for cycling. It’s perfect for commuters (who don’t need a map to follow) and for people who just cycle for fun without an objective in mind. If you are taking cycling really seriously, this watch is lacking some cycling features essential for training and racing (like connecting to a power meter).

So Garmin Forerunner 55 is really a great low-budget watch. It’s really incredible for running and it’s not letting you down if you also enjoy cycling. You can do a bit of home trainer / stationary bike in the winter, do your commutes, and do family bike rides. You can even do some interval training. But the watch is a bit small, and difficult to read while cycling, and it doesn’t connect to a power meter. Thus, it’s as Garmin marketed it, it’s not a watch dedicated to keen cyclists. But in my opinion, it’s a really good package for an occasional cyclist.

Can you use Garmin Forerunner 45 / 45S for cycling?

Garmin Forerunner 45/45S models can be used for cycling. There is a dedicated activity mode for cycling and even one for indoor cycling. It allows you to do interval training and you can connect a speed and a cadence sensor.

Garmin Forerunner 45, buy it on Amazon here.

Garmin Forerunner 45S is just the smaller version of the Garmin Forerunner 45 in terms of casing. In terms of software and display size, they are identical. So everything I will mention below will be valid for both models. I will only refer to Garmin Forerunner 45 for simplicity.

There is a new model available for this watch, which I explained in detail earlier in this article, the Garmin Forerunner 55. However, Garmin Forerunner 45 is still a great watch that can be bought new (except on Garmin’s website) or easily found as a second-hand watch. You can easily find it new for less than $160.

How to start the cycling mode on Garmin Forerunner 45

Garmin Forerunner 45 – button names
  1. Press on the start | stop button to enter the activity mode
  2. Scroll down in the list to select an activity, using the down button
  3. Press start | stop to select an activity of your choice

To cycle, you have two options: “Bike” to ride outside using the GPS function or “Bike indoor” to ride on a trainer. If you choose to ride indoors, speed and distance data won’t get recorded unless you connect your watch to an external speed sensor like Garmin speed sensor.

Interval training when cycling with Garmin Forerunner 45

It’s possible to do interval training with the Garmin Forerunner 45 when cycling. You can find this menu available in the options when your select the bike mode. Before starting the activity, just press ‘up’ to reach the ‘option’ menu and then scroll down to view the ‘intervals’ menu. You can then choose to create your training in the app with the ‘edit’ menu, or choose a workout imported from Garmin Connect.

For this second option, you first need to create a workout on Garmin Connect and send it to your watch via the app on your mobile phone.

Limitations of cycling with Garmin Forerunner 45

Garmin Forerunner 45 has a couple of limitations in terms of cycling:

  • Sensors: it only allows you to connect to a speed sensor, a cadence sensor or an external heart rate monitor. You can’t connect a power meter or Garmin Varia radar.
  • Data: you cannot get your VO2max nor your FTP in cycling mode
  • Display: small display size of 26mm which only allows you to display up to 3 data fields in one page. It’s also very small to read while cycling.
    One way to deal with this issue is to mount your watch on the handlebars with this device and wear a strap like this one to record your heart rate, if you still wish to record it.
  • Navigation: it’s not possible to follow a map or a trace on this watch, but that’s normal for this price range.

Main differences with the newest Garmin Forerunner 55?

If we focus on cycling, the main differences between Garmin Forerunner 45 and Garmin Forerunner 55 are:

  • GPS battery life: 13h for Garmin 45 vs 20h for Garmin 55
  • Data screen: you can only view 3 data fields in one page on the Garmin 45 (that’s like distance, speed, and time), while you can see an extra field on Garmin Forerunner 55 (which could allow you to see your heart rate directly on the same page)
  • Connect IQ store: on the Garmin 45 you can only access the watch faces, while on the forerunner 55 you can use the full store and download apps too.

The main differences between these two watches are not really on the cycling aspect of the watch. To help you decide, here are some of the most interesting new features in Garmin Forerunner 55:

  • PacePro for dynamic running pacing during races
  • Daily suggested workout for running
  • Track mode (much more accurate than running with GPS on a track)
  • Finish time estimator (for running)
  • Women health tracking of menstrual cycle
  • Recovery time, a metric to help you rest after your workouts
  • New activities: Pool Swimming & HIIT training
  • Standby battery life has increased by a week, and as we have seen already the GPS battery has increased by 7h (+54%).

What type of cyclist is Garmin Forerunner 45 really for?

Garmin Forerunner 45 is meant for runners of course, but if you are a cyclist at heart or an occasional cyclist, it’s still a watch you can use. It’s really good for tracking a ride accurately, like daily commutes, or weekend errands and family bike rides. If you wish to use this watch for intense cycling training towards a race or a triathlon, it’s not ideal. You won’t be able to connect all your sensors, especially a power meter. But really for me the main issue is the screen size: it’s really small and you can’t have much data available at the same time on the screen. So not very practical for training and racing.

So all things considered, it’s good for occasional riders.

Should you buy Garmin Forerunner 55 instead of the 45?

In terms of cycling, there isn’t much difference between Garmin Forerunner 45 and 55, except for the GPS battery life. So if you are only using it casually and don’t mind having to think of charging it before going for a ride it’s ok to buy the 45 model. Especially if you can find it much cheaper than the 55.

Overall, if you also enjoy going to the pool from time to time, or really want to improve your running, Garmin Forerunner 55 is better suited for you. For a casual runner and cyclist, Garmin Forerunner 45 is already really good and you probably don’t need to spend an extra $40 or more.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also be interested in the following articles I wrote:

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