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Is the Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar the best triathlon watch?

Impressive battery life and lots of triathlon-friendly features make this an outstanding choice for serious triathletes

When it comes to the ultimate triathlon watch, it’s hard to imagine what more you could want, or need, than what you get in Garmin’s 955 Solar. Heck, we raved about the Garmin 945 and wondered what more you could possibly want when it came to a triathlon watch, and the 955 is even better.

Now, we get that many of you will be wondering about the title of this story based on the fact that Garmin has launched the Forerunner 965, which takes things to a new level thanks to the bright, 1.4-inch AMOLED screen. Here’s the reason we’re focussing on the 955 – while the 965 can actually outlast the 955 solar by a few days in Smartwatch mode, if you turn the always-on display on in the 965, the smartwatch mode drops from 23 days to 7 days. That still annihilates the competition, but when you consider the Forerunner 955 Solar can get a whopping 20 days in Smartwatch mode, it makes it a prime contender as your triathlon training watch choice. That’s especially true thanks to the Solar charging feature that extends the battery life – an hour run in sunny conditions can add 10 to 15 per cent to the charge.

The Garmin 955 Solar retails for CAD$810

Don’t get us wrong – if you’re more interested in a smartwatch with a bright screen, the 965 might be your best choice. If you’re looking for a watch most directed to tracking your training and racing that will save you a bit of money, and also go for much longer between charges, the 955 Solar might be the answer thanks to its battery life – 20 days in smartwatch mode, 49 hours in GPS mode and up to 110 hours in UltraTrac mode. While the screen won’t be as bright, the colour screen provides excellent contrast, so you’ll have no problems seeing your data. You also have the advantage of being able to scroll through screens thanks to the responsive touchscreen, but for those who still love to use buttons, there remains the classic five-button set up Garmin users are used to.

Training features

It is hard to do justice to everything this watch can do without writing a few thousand words. Since we’re not going to plague with all that reading, hopefully you can trust us that there’s not much the 955 Solar won’t do for you when it comes to training. Here’s a brief overview of what you can expect.

This lightweight wonder (52 g – just two g more than the 945) can sync to your power meter, track your pace or speed or altitude or, well, think of any metric you want and this watch will handle it – even oxygen saturation at altitude. When it comes to the basics of tracking swimming, biking and running data, the 955 Solar has your covered. GPS tracking is extremely accurate and you even have access to maps to keep track of where you’re at and offer up turn-by-turn instructions. The optical HR sensor does a great job of tracking heart rate data and you also can sync with Ant+ and Bluetooth sensors to track other data, too. For us the ability to sync with Garmin’s Rally pedals is a game changer – the Forerunner 945 Solar serves as a running watch and bike computer all in one, providing all the data we need for either sport. (The same goes for the pool, too –  the 955 Solar is a great “swimming watch,” too, and will track distance, pace and stroke rate, and even help you determine your critical swim speed (CSS) – the pace you should be able to maintain through a race effort.) In terms of running, you do have access to power measurement, but you will have to connect either a Running Dynamics Pod or HRM-Pro monitor to get other metrics such as cadence, stride length, ground contact time, etc. The PacePro feature will help you stay on pace, even offering grade-adjusted guidance and help with pace suggestions based on the terrain, too.

Garmin launches new Rally power meter pedals

In addition to providing excellent data while you’re swimming, the 955 Solar really shines as a triathlon watch, allowing you to also track brick workouts and races with ease. You can even use certain Garmin bike computers to mirror your screen while you’re racing, so you don’t have to worry about fiddling with another computer. Once you’re finished a workout it’s a breeze to get everything synced – you can use Garmin Connect Mobile on your phone, or Garmin Connect on your computer, to download all your data. From there it’s easy to get it all synced on Training Peaks or whatever training program you’re using.

Training Readiness

The 945 Solar builds on the impressive features in the 945 that included predicting performances and measuring VO2 Max. This is taken a huge step further now thanks to the “Training Readiness” feature that helps you figure out whether you’re ready for a hard day based on your sleep quality, recovery, training load, heart rate variability, and other factors. All that is provided in a morning report that offers up a an overview of your sleep, recovery, training outlook and even factors in the weather. You also have access to adaptive training plans through Garmin Coach, so your day can also start with a suggested workout.

With all that this watch does, it’s worth spending some time learning all the ins and outs, but you certainly can get yourself started quickly and easily. The menus are easy to work through and, for those who have used a Garmin watch before, will be quite intuitive. The 955 Solar is so small and light compared to other high-end multisport watches that you’ll have no qualms wearing it all the time to get the most out of its many features.

Smart Watch Features

The Forerunner 955 Solar  allows you to stay connected while you’re training, too. Thanks to the whopping 32 GB of storage, you can download up to 2,000 songs along with playlists from various music apps. You can make contactless payments through Garmin Pay, and receive emails, texts and alerts if you pair the watch to your Apple or Android powered phone. You can even control your Tacx Smart trainer through an ANT+ connection. It won’t be long before the 945 Solar becomes an integral part of your day.

First look: Garmin adds solar charging to Edge 840 and 540 overhaul

The ultimate triathlon training watch?

For those looking for a top-of-the-line multisport watch coupled with a very capable smart watch, Garmin’s 955 Solar is hard to beat. While the Apple Watch Ultra might offer more “smartwatch” features, there’s simply no comparison in terms of battery life, and you also lose the ability to sync with power pedals and other ANT+ or Bluetooth equipment.

What we loved most about training with the Forerunner 955 Solar is that it can cover all your training and racing needs. If you’re travelling and end up renting a bike, if you’ve brought your own power pedals you’ll be able to track all your data without needing to bring a bike computer with you, too. Even if you’re staying at home, the 955 might be the answer if you’re trying to keep your cockpit as sleek as possible, too. (Our reviewer found himself in both those situations during his review!)

For those who aren’t die-hard Apple fans, picking the 955 Solar as your triathlon training watch is certainly one of your best options. If you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of battery life, and pay a bit more, the Forerunner 965 is well worth a look, too. We have a feeling, though, that many serious triathletes will lean towards the 955 Solar. And they certainly won’t regret it.