Long known as a manufacturer of heart rate monitors, Polar has, in recent years, also produced more cycling specific technology as well. There's a developing trend for wrist-mounted tech, and specifically a 'one gadget to rule them all' mentality, nurtured by the continuing rise in numbers of multi-sport enthusiasts. The Polar V800 Sports Watch with GPS is part of this new breed, and although there are better value, more useable cycling-specific computers out there, this genuinely does deliver on its multi-sport promises at a good price.
The V800 is squarely aimed at the multi-sport market rather than being an out and out cycle training gadget. It has more features than you can shake a stick at, with standard GPS-enabled options including speed, distance and pace. Heart rate information comes via the strap and sensor supplied with the watch.
The watch is fully customisable, online at Polar Flow, with training alerts, smart coaching, activity trackers, sport-specific tailoring and predicted recovery times. Actual attachment to the bike is only an option by using an aftermarket bar-mount block.
Cycling-specific functionality is increased by the V800's Bluetooth capability, meaning it will work with most Bluetooth Smart-enabled cadence sensors (there is one available from Polar at £34.50), and speed can also be non-GPS managed (ideal for indoor training use) with a Bluetooth Smart Speed sensor, which Polar does in a package together with the Cadence sensor for £54.50.
Aside from heart rate, speed, cadence and so on, the V800 also makes use of its GPS enabling to provide route info in a pictorial form on the Polar Flow website, though not on the watch itself, and there is no turn-by-turn navigation facility. The GPS also enables barometric and altitude information.
The data collected by the watch is definitely best viewed and managed via the Polar Flow website and software (there's an app for smartphones too). Viewing data as you ride can be tricky and it's best set up via the website to display what data you're particularly interested in, and then left to display that rather than trying to change it on the fly. The website isn't quite as easy and intuitive to use as Garmin's software, but it is far more comprehensive and customisable. The number of options available are quite mind blowing and unless you're an elite athlete, or training to be one, chances are you won't be getting even close to maximising its potential.
One of the most entertaining functions of the website is the 'relive' option which allows you to go through your route data as a little film, accompanied by cheesy music and clips from Google street view to make things more interesting. Endless hours of fun!
The one thing that was quite difficult to get used to was Polar's activity tracking mechanism. It was hard to see exactly what was being included as 'steps' and how. In essence, to make the most of that, you'd need to be treating the watch as a 24/7 activity tracker and it's a little bulky for that in my opinion.
The GPS took a little while to pick up the requisite number of satellites but wasn't tediously long and reception was strong and reliable once it got going.
Comfort levels aren't wonderful for those with a smaller wrist, but they're acceptable and the watch strap design means it does at least stay put. Comfort would be fine for a larger wrist, and the chest strap is fine.
All in all, it would be an expensive and slightly inconvenient investment for cycling alone, but for those who also run, swim (pool or open water), tri, walk, or even 'other outdoor', it's a brilliant and comprehensive piece of kit. Time and effort does need to be put in, though, to really get to grips with setting it up correctly for your needs and working with its full training potential.
Extremely sophisticated training gadget for multi-sport athletes rather than just cyclists
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Polar V800 GPS Sports Watch
Size tested: Black/Blue, V800 with heart rate sensor
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Aimed at multi-sport athletes.
Polar says: "Smart Coaching and GPS for peak performance
"For professional and devoted athletes who want to reach peak performance"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Measures every training session and daily 24/7 activity.
Helps you understand your training load and recovery need
Tracks speed, distance and route with integrated GPS
Fully customisable sport profiles
Supports multi-sport training with transition times
Gives heart rate even in water with dual-mode transmitter
Polar Flow app available for smartphone interaction
Speed Bluetooth Smart Sensor
Cadence Bluetooth Smart Sensor
Keo Power Bluetooth Smart Sensor
Superbly well made with a real feeling of quality and ruggedness.
Performed extremely well.
Can't see it going anywhere in a hurry.
On a par with other wrist-top multi-sport computers.
Watch was a little broad for smaller wrists but not too bad.
Only really good value if you are genuinely going to use its multi-sport and training capabilities. Better value elsewhere for just a cycling computer.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well indeed as a multi-sport computer.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Design, ruggedness, comprehensive data and level of customisability.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Slightly tricky to scroll through options on the watch itself. Better to pre-select settings and view on the website and leave it at that, rather than trying anything on the fly.
Did you enjoy using the product? Very much indeed.
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, especially triathletes.
Use this box to explain your score
The Polar V800 is an incredibly sophisticated and capable training and data analysis tool for multi-sport practitioners. It's well made and effective and can be customised to suit the individual. Not worth buying as a standalone cycling computer but really comes into its own for triathletes and those who just enjoy mixing it up a bit.
About the tester
Age: 42 Height: 1.65m Weight: 73kg
I usually ride: Boardman Hybrid Fi My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.