DC Rainmaker http://www.dcrainmaker.com Thu, 26 Nov 2015 05:19:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.1 Black Friday Sales Kickoff: $100 off Fenix3, Withings Scales from $69, and more http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2015/11/kickoff-withings-scales.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2015/11/kickoff-withings-scales.html#comments Thu, 26 Nov 2015 05:19:00 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=52966 Well then, that’s getting things off to a bang.  A crap-top of sales just launched today and late last night.  Below is but a snippet of just some of the launched sales this morning – the rest I’ve put into … Read More Here ]]> IMG_2221_thumb

Well then, that’s getting things off to a bang.  A crap-top of sales just launched today and late last night.  Below is but a snippet of just some of the launched sales this morning – the rest I’ve put into my continually updated Black Friday page:

Garmin Fenix3 – $100 off:  This puts it down to $399 for the main Fenix3 units (sans HR strap).  But it also applies to any bundles, and even the Sapphire ones as well as the new rose gold and leather variants.  Like the FR920XT last week, we’ve never seen deals this low before.  Available on Clever Training (select drop-down for model/bundle), not combinable with the DCR discount, but you do get free US shipping!  Deal ends Monday, Nov 30th, 2015.


Withings WS-30 WiFi Scale down to $69: Seriously, this is flipping awesome.  You’ll see my WiFi shoot-out post later today, but really – this is the best deal we’ve seen on this scale in years.  Oh, and the WS-50 is down to $99 too!  Amazon and Clever Training.  End Nov 30th.


Wahoo RFLKT down to $49: Very sweet deal given the recent firmware update adding in support for smartphone notifications.  This makes for a great bike commuter computer. Available on WahooFitness.com

Not to mention the Vivoactive dropping further now down to $169, the Vivofit2 down to $69, and the TomTom Multisport GPS to $99 (as well as the FR15)!  Plus Power2Max deals and the Withings Activité Pop to $99.  Tons more details here and another 20+ products.  And that’s not even covering Friday’s announcements.

The rest are all listed on my consolidated and continually updated post here – just click the giant picture.  You can find the landing page on the right side of the site too – just look for ‘Holiday Deals’!


Just click on the above – I’m updating it as often as once per hour over the next 3-4 days, as I see new deals.


Garmin Forerunner 230 & 235 In-Depth Review http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2015/11/garmin-fr230-fr235-review.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2015/11/garmin-fr230-fr235-review.html#comments Thu, 26 Nov 2015 02:30:08 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=52784 It’s been almost exactly a month since Garmin announced their lineup of fall running watches, including three new units: The Forerunner 230, 235, and 630.  Each of those units replacing previous iterations of the FR220, 225, and 620.  The FR230 … Read More Here ]]> IMG_1496

It’s been almost exactly a month since Garmin announced their lineup of fall running watches, including three new units: The Forerunner 230, 235, and 630.  Each of those units replacing previous iterations of the FR220, 225, and 620.  The FR230 and FR235 were unique though in that this time around they got pretty significant feature updates, bringing them far more in line with the FR620 of yesteryear, than other mid-range watches.  Meanwhile, the FR235 also got a new optical sensor – this one developed fully in-house by Garmin.

This review will focus on the FR230 & FR235.  While next week I’ll publish a review of the FR630.  The only difference between the FR230 and FR235 is the optical sensor in the FR235 – that’s it.  All other baseline features are the same.

For this review I was sent both a FR230 and FR235 to borrow from Garmin.  Both are final production units, and this review is based on final production firmware (3.10+).  After this review, I’ll be sending back all the demo units as usual to Garmin and getting my own – just the way I roll.

With that intro out of the way, let’s dive into things.


Since this is a dual FR230 & FR235 product review, it would mean I have two boxes and thus two unboxing sections.  However, in this case I’m temporarily going to provide you with a FR230 unboxing, and then follow-up with the official FR235 unboxing photos at a slightly later date (a week or so).  The reason being simple: The FR230 arrived boxed, while the FR235 (final production unit) arrived naked in order to get it to me quicker.  Don’t worry, it’s the same unit you have.

As for the differences between the two – well, one includes a HR strap (if on bundle) and one doesn’t…and the end.  But let’s start at the beginning, with the box:


Once we crack it open we’ll find this small assortment of goodness worth of parts:



Removing the plastic, we get this:


Ultimately, that comes down to four things: The FR230, the FR230 charger, the HRM4 heart rate strap, and some paper manual stuff.

The charging cable used on the FR230 is the same as on the FR235 and FR630.  It is not compatible with any other Garmin units (I tried, really, don’t do it – bad things happen due to the pins being different).



For the HR strap, note that it’s only included on the FR230 bundle including the heart rate strap.  If you buy a FR235 you won’t get one (you’ll get an optical sensor).  And if you buy just the base FR230 – again, no strap.  In any case, here’s the strap (HRM4):



The above strap does NOT have Running Dynamics (that’s the HRM-RUN & HRM-TRI).  It doesn’t matter though what strap you pair to the FR230/FR235, it won’t read Running Dynamics data from it.

Next we’ve got the unit itself, first the FR230:


Then the FR235 with it.  The easiest way to tell my two units apart is that the black FR230 has a white trim, whereas the black FR235 lacks such trim.



With everything unboxed, let’s compare sizes.

Weight & Size Comparisons:

Next, let’s take a look at the weight.  The FR230 & FR235 are very similar in weight, only 1g apart! The FR230 weighs 41g, and the FR235 weighs 42g.



If you compare that to the TomTom Spark, it weighs in at 47g (depending on band):


Next, here’s a side-profile view of many modern GPS running watches on the market.  From left to right we’ve got:


From left to right: Garmin Epix, Garmin FR920XT, Suunto Traverse, Suunto Ambit3 Peak, Polar V800, Garmin FR225, Garmin FR630, Garmin FR235, TomTom Spark, Garmin FR25.


So basically, I’ve pretty much showed what we already knew – the FR235 is a super-slim GPS running watch that doesn’t weigh much.



To start a run, you’ll press the power button once, which triggers a screen enabling you to select an activity profile (note though, in this most recent public beta, this behavior changes slightly to minimize one of these steps).  It’s here that you’ll select to Run outdoors or indoors:


Note that on the FR230/235, you get four activity profiles: Run Indoors, Run Outdoors, Bike Outdoors, and ‘Other’.  On the FR230/235 you cannot rename these profiles, or create new ones.  On the FR630 however, you can create your own.


Once you’ve selected one, the unit goes off and finds satellite coverage.  In most cases, if you’ve been in the same spot as previous and downloaded the satellite cache (happens automatically with the Garmin Connect and Garmin Express apps), this usually takes under 15 seconds.

Once that’s done, it’ll bring you to the main data page (you can still see satellite status up top until you start).

These data pages are totally customizable, with up to four data fields each.


You get a bunch of pages, some tweakable, some not.  Here’s the rundown:

Customizable Data Page 1 (1-4 fields)
Customizable Data Page 2 (1-4 fields)
Heart Rate Screen (Split: HR bpm & HR zone)
HR Zone Gauge (a little gauge of your HR)
Clock Page (current date/time)

Each of these can be enabled/disabled as you see fit.  Here’s what they all look like:

IMG_1538 IMG_1541 IMG_1542 IMG_1545 IMG_1548 IMG_1549 IMG_1550 IMG_1551

As far as sensors goes, the FR230 & FR235 both support connecting to ANT+ heart rate sensors, ANT+ footpods, and ANT+ cycling speed/cadence sensors (more on the bike stuff later).  For the FR235, you can choose whether to use the internal sensor, or an external HR sensor.  Note however, that at present the footpod is really only useful for indoors, and not outdoors – since you can’t select to use it for pace outdoors.

With that all set, let’s start the run.  At this point, the unit will show you current pace from GPS as well as distance and any other metrics you choose.


The unit includes basics like Auto Pause (which pauses the watch recording when you stop at a traffic light), Auto Lap (to automatically create laps at a distance of your choosing), and alerts.  Standard alerts can be configured for Time, Pace, Distance, Calories, Heart Rate, or Run/Walk.  Additionally, you can create custom alerts to remind you to Drink, Eat, Turn Around, or ‘Go Home’.  These custom ones essentially work on a time/distance parameter – such as ‘every 10 minutes drink’, or ‘go home after 30 mins’.

In the event you want to do a custom workout, you’ve got a few options.  One way is to create a workout on Garmin Connect (using a desktop computer), and then transfer it to the watch using either USB or your phone.  In this case, you can create complex custom workouts like the below:


Additionally, you can also create an interval workout using a more simplified interval option on the unit itself.  This allows you to program various steps in without too much complexity:


Now for the most part all of this stuff I’ve talked about to date is standard stuff for Garmin running units.

Where it starts to get interesting is new features like the ‘Finish Time’ estimator.  This feature will automatically estimate how much time you have remaining until you hit a goal distance (such as 5K, 10K, etc…).  You can enter a custom distance in as well as standard ones, using miles or kilometers.  It’ll simply figure out what your estimated time of completion is based on how fast you’re running thus far.



Next, we’ve got some post-run metrics.  The FR230 & FR235 both support VO2Max, even using the optical sensor (a rarity in the industry).  In this case, the unit will give you a VO2Max value after each run (if it changes).  It’ll also plot this online.  Right now the FR235 estimates my VO2Max at 55, which is a touch bit below where I’ve had it measured previously.  However, at the same time, the FR630 is measuring it also at 55 right now.  Note though that historically these features can take many weeks – specifically of harder runs – to even out on the watch as it learns from you.


Similarly, I’ve been doing tests using a FR230 and FR630 with HR straps, while also using the FR235 with the optical sensor – looking at recovery time.  IN most cases, they’re within an hour of each other (even if I think they’re a bit high overall).

Additionally, post-workout you’ll also get a TE (Training Effect) score too, if you look at the summary information:


Again, this is also listed online too on the Garmin Connect page (different run below):


So what about GPS accuracy?  So far so good.  You’ve got two options when it comes to GPS, one is to use just the default GPS option, and the second is to enable GLONASS.  Doing so would take a slight hit on battery (usually about 20%).  For me, I’m OK with that.  I’ve been doing a bunch of runs in/around the city (and in snowy weather), without seeing any real issues.  For example, here’s going right along buildings without any GPS variance:


Here’s an example from actually earlier tonight where four GPS watches all slightly struggled through just one 100m section of the run – though the FR235 and Ambit3 tracked the least problematic until the turn, though then temporarily seemed offset for another 100m across the bridge before joining back up.  To be fair, this is one of the hardest little sections of roadway I have around my home, since it’s a tiny road between two sets of tall buildings.


The rest of the run was largely spot-on between the units, or within a meter or two of each other.



If you’d like to look at a few different GPS track comparisons, I’ve made a small table to allow you to dive into them below, using comparisons as well:

(Table to be uploaded Thursday Nov 27th, though files available now here)

Again, I’m not seeing anything that sticks out as concerning here (I’m also not doing a lot of trail running either right now, so if that’s more your thing you may need to wait and see what others say).

Finally, note one exciting feature on both the FR230 & FR235 is the ability to enable 1-second recording, as opposed to smart recording.  That’ll help make your tracks look smoother (even if the distance under the hood is still theoretically the same).  You can enable that in the settings menu.



Next, the Garmin FR230 & FR235 has a cycling mode that supports ANT+ Speed/Cadence sensors.  This means that you can pair it to any ANT+ Speed-only, Cadence-only, or Speed/Cadence combo sensor.  It does not support Bluetooth Smart sensors (of any type).

I’m not going to spend a huge amount of time in this section because it’s primarily a running watch, not a cycling watch.


The main use for a cycling mode on the FR230/235 is simply that it categorizes your rides correctly for upload to Garmin Connect.  This ensures things like PR’s (Personal Records) aren’t all dorked up on the running front, from cycling activities (such as fastest 5K times).

In my riding with the FR235, it works just fine as a record-keeper of where you rode.  Both it and the multiple Edge units came up with near identical GPS results:

FR235: 25.61mi
Edge 520 #1: 25.66mi
Edge 520 #2: 25.63mi
Edge 520 #3: 25.68mi
Edge 810: 25.54mi

And afterwards, if you look on Garmin Connect, you’ll get speed/cadence data as you’d expect from any other Garmin device.  This also includes speed, heart rate, distance and a map of where you went (here’s a link to one of my activities):


Note that for HR accuracy on the FR235 using the optical sensor, see my optical sensor accuracy section a bit a later in the post.

Finally, note that there’s a wee bit of confusion regarding whether or not there is or is not an Indoor Cycling mode on the FR230/235.  I’ve discussed this in my ‘Bugs, Quirks & Tidbits’ section at the end of the review.  If things change there – I’ll note that here as well.  Failing changes there, you can always just turn off the GPS to use the unit indoors.

The FR235 Optical Sensor – Background & Rebroadcasting:


Without question the most important difference between the FR230 and FR235 is the optical heart rate sensor stuffed into the back of the FR235.  This would mark Garmin’s 3rd product with an optical sensor, following the Forerunner 225 earlier this summer, and the Vivosmart HR (announced just a few days from the FR235).

In the case of the FR225, it leveraged an optical sensor package licensed from Mio.  Whereas for the FR235 and Vivosmart HR, Garmin decided to make their own optical sensor, which they’ve branded ‘Elevate’.  While the sensors between the FR235 and Vivosmart HR are similar, there are subtle differences to the surrounding units – making performance quite different.

Anytime a company introduces their own optical HR sensor, I shudder.  Because the vast majority of companies screw it up, or don’t spend sufficient time testing.  This is even more true in the athletic space (versus just resting HR sensors).  Thus, it’s probably the most important thing I tested in the FR235, and where I spent the majority of my time digging into results.


The sensor includes three green LED’s, which record not just workouts but 24×7 HR as well.  In that mode, the unit samples at a variable rate dependent on what you’re doing.  More activity means more HR data, while less activity means it reduces the HR sampling to save battery life.  Meanwhile, in workout mode it records data at industry standard once per second (1s).

This HR is displayed just like it would be from a HR strap.  Once you’re in an activity, there’s no difference there:


Further, outside of the workout mode as noted the unit is continually sampling your HR dependent on activity.  But I dive into this more during the ‘Activity Tracker’ section a bit later.

Lastly, the FR235 can have its HR signal ‘rebroadcasted’ to other ANT+ capable devices.  The unit rebroadcasts the HR over ANT+, identically to that of a heart rate strap.  In effect, it turns your FR235 into a HR sensor for other devices – such as a Garmin Edge or a Recon Jet HUD unit.  It does NOT broadcast your HR over Bluetooth Smart.

To enable this, you’ll start from the main time page and press down till you see this HR page:


Then, you’ll HOLD the up button down for a few seconds, which gives you this little nugget:


After selecting it, you’ll see your HR and time broadcast for all the world to pickup:


If you wander to another device – like an Edge series one, you can search for the HR signal and find it.  And then boom – HR on the Edge, from the FR235:


Note that in this mode you cannot start an activity.  It’s only offered as a standalone option, which kinda makes sense.  It’s sorta silly to record two activities of the same type to Garmin Connect.  Though, I’m sure there’s edge cases that make sense too – such as the Recon Jet example where you want to record your bike ride on the FR235, while also getting HR up to the Recon Platform.  Hopefully they’ll look at allowing/enabling a broadcast mode during a recorded workout as well.

As for signal strength, I haven’t seen any dropouts when using it on my wrist, paired to an Edge cycling computer on my bike (a relatively short distance).  Additionally, in looking at signal strength as measured by a NPE WASP unit, things look on-par with a Garmin HRM4  Both were at the same distance from the WASP (which was on my handlebars), with one measuring –32db (HRM4) and one at –28db (FR235).  The numbers are displayed negative, the closer to zero the better.  Of course, even just moving an inch or two causes the numbers to fluctuate a bit – so don’t overthink the slight difference there – it’s just where the pic was taken.


For fun, I then put the WASP module outside the room and half-way up the stairs, to see how well it’d pick up things.  Sure enough, no problems with either displaying (now at –52 & –46):


I haven’t done as much with re-broadcasting as just native recording though in my testing, so it’s possible there’s some edge case I haven’t hit yet.  Still, things look positive there from a functionality perspective.  Of course, whether or not the data is terribly useful (i.e. accurate) in cycling is a totally different matter.

The FR235 Optical Sensor – Workout Accuracy:


Now that we’ve got the optical sensor background pieces out of the way, let’s dive straight into accuracy testing.  Because honestly, that’s all most of you care about anyway.  For accuracy testing I’ve been using a production unit on production firmware for the past 2-3 weeks, with near-daily workouts of both cycling and running.  I have not yet tried it swimming (since it’s not a swimming watch).

In my case, my testing setup is pretty straightforward, I’ve got the following on most activities:

A) Garmin FR235 (Optical HR Sensor) – Right Wrist
B) TomTom Spark or Polar A360 (Optical HR Sensors) – Left Wrist
C) Garmin HRM-TRI & HRM-RUNv2 HR Chest Straps (Upper chest)
D) Stryd Power & HR Chest Strap (Lower Chest)
E) Scosche Rhythm+ Optical HR Sensor (Upper right arm)

Note, in the above test I’m careful to not put two optical HR sensors on the same wrist area.  This can impact accuracy adversely for some sensors – so I don’t want to impact results adversely that wouldn’t otherwise be normal.

For data collection, the three non-wrist-worn units were funneled to a variety of FR920XT, Suunto Ambit3, and FR630 units that I usually wore in a SPIBELT.  These were purely there for HR data collection, and not GPS accuracy data.  In the case of cycling, most of the data was instead funneled to Garmin Edge units for record-keeping.  Finally, all of this data is available at the end of the post for your own poking.

Ok, enough talk – let’s walk through results.  First up is a hill repeat session I did back a few weeks ago.


Below is the key for the above.  Note, those are not averages, but just wherever my curser was at that time.  What you see above is that things track very well for Mr. Purple (the FR235).  The brief issue you see at the start with the Scosche is because the strap caught/pulled loose on my clothing and I had to fix it while running – so it was flapping around.


The only issue you see on the Garmin FR235 side is some delay on the HR recovery as I ran down a hill.  You see a small hint of this again later in the run too.  But otherwise, it’s pretty much locked on the other units.


Next, let’s look at another hill repeat session I did – this one up in northern Finland in the snow.  I’ll let you take this in for a second.


So yeah.  Basically, what you see is that things are all good on the Garmin FR235 front until the recovery of each hill repeat (the part where I run downhill).  So the FR235 nails the plot on the rise, but stumbles on the recovery.  This particular hill was steep, and I was running in YakTraxs on ice, which meant that my stride rate actually increased a bit.  What do we see then?  The FR235 locks onto that instead of HR.  In order to ‘reset’ it I basically stopped walking before starting my next repeat, which you see does the trick.

Now for fun, I then did a 10-minute sustained tempo portion after that.  The unit tracks beautifully there – really nailing it.

So, to test my theory about the hill, the short hill from the main road down to our little snowy cabin was also equally steep.  Sure enough, it did the exact same thing there when I ran the same way down it.


Now what’s interesting, is that in a later run down the same hill (you’ll see it two examples from now), I ran down the hill faster – so with a longer stride.  That’s because I wasn’t in the recovery portion of an interval.  When I had that longer/more natural stride – it had no problems.  Just like it didn’t really have any major problems on my other hill repeats before in Paris.

Next, let’s look at a ‘simple’ run.  This was basically just me wandering along at an easy Z2 pace, with a clean build.  I finished with some short sprints.  As you see here, the FR235 is kinda really ‘sharp’, as in, jagged.


Here, let me zoom in a bit to explain.  See how generally smooth the red & green lines are?  Then look at the teal FR235 line (or the TomTom Spark line) – they’re much more variable.


Still, despite that – it’s generally quite close most of the time – so for the above run, I’m content with the results, even if a tiny bit more variable (which they likely can easily address).

Next, let’s look at a run I did tonight.  If I had to give this run a name, it’d basically be a “Let’s Hose It Up” test run.  Essentially, optical sensors usually have issues with hard and fast pace changes.  So after a short warm-up, I basically did some all-out chunks for 1-2 minutes.  The average pace for these sections was about 5:35/mile (3:28/km).


During the warm-up, all four units tracked fairly well.  However, what you see is the first and second intervals throw the Scosche for a loop, but also confused the Garmin FR235 too.  The HRM4 and HRM-TRI had no problems tracking identically.

The third interval though the Scosche got the plot, but the FR235 struggled until about half-way through.  Then finally, after that it got all happy and tracked the rest of the run quite nice.  This could be simply because it took that long to get blood-flow up enough on a cooler evening for the optical sensors to catch-up.  Yet, I didn’t tend to see such issues in the Arctic.  The question is how often you do all-out intervals, and would it matter?  As you’ll see in a moment, when I did those all-out sprint sections later in the run after more warm-up, it handled quite nicely.

Here’s my final Arctic run.  In this case I basically warmed up nice and easy and kept it steady for about 30 minutes.  Then I made for a hard run up a steep hill, before recovering briefly.  From there, I did 30×30’s (30-seconds hard sprint, 30 seconds walk).  A great way to test/look at recovery.

The guide for this in blue is actually both Scosche & FR235 (colors were auto-picked unfortunately), though thankfully it didn’t matter on this graph.  The green is the Polar A360, and the red is the HRM-RUNv2 strap.  Not that the colors matter, the FR235 nailed this easily.  Not sure what the A360 was doing.


Here’s a closer look at the 30/30 portion.  Again, green is the Polar A360, the others are the HRM-RUN HR strap, the Garmin FR235, and the Scosche Rhythm+ optical.


Very solid on that, despite the cold weather and the watch being partially exposed.

Next, on cycling.  It’s outdoors that’s challenging for optical sensors on the wrist.  This is because you’re ‘straining’ your wrist gripping the handlebars, and then any road vibrations nail the watch.  And sure enough, it’s hard on the FR235 (sorta like I saw on the TomTom Spark sensor).  It did better than the TomTom, but it’s super-jumpy.  For example, in the below data plot I even added a 3s smoothing to it, just to make it easier to find the two lines given how jumpy it was.  Here, compare before and after smoothing:

Before graph smoothing:


After smoothing:


What you notice is that while it gets the general concept if you’re looking at it from 50,000ft.  But as you zoom in you realize there’s just a lot of cases where it doesn’t track quite as fast, or is much more variable, for example these sprints (this is showing some 12 minutes of time too!).  That’s examples where things are dramatically different for 20-30 seconds at a time.


So where does that leave things overall?  First off, keep in mind I usually use these sections to highlight ‘problem children’ sections, yet the vast majority of the run was otherwise fine.

So for the running side I’m giving it a very similar grade right now to that of the TomTom Spark: B+.  There are cases where both units trip-up a bit.  In most cases, those aren’t deal breakers, but I expect/hope that Garmin can tweak them over the coming months as they get more familiar with their own tech and the nuances.  Some of the issues I had weren’t totally reproducible (for example, the downhill section on one of those hill repeats – but not other hill repeats).  I probably wouldn’t use the FR235 as my primary HR sensor for cycling right now though – that’s just a bit too rough.

Activity Tracker:


Like all recent Garmin wearables, the FR230/FR235 acts as an activity tracker as well.  This means it’ll track your steps, calories, distance walked, and sleep.  The functionality on the FR230/FR235 in these core areas is basically the same as other Garmin devices.  So for example, you can tap down twice to get to the activity tracker widget page:


This shows your total steps for the day, progress towards a goal, as well as distance and calories.


Additionally, see the red bar above? That’s the move bar – or basically the lazy bar.  If that bar is filled up it means that you haven’t moved in an hour.  Your goal in life is to keep that move bar from chirping at you at the end of the hour.  You’ll do this by walking approximately 100m over the course of that time period.  You can turn off the inactivity alerts if you’d like.


Next, you’ve got sleep metrics, which occur automatically with the FR230/235.  You fall asleep, it records it.  Garmin has made good strides over the past year in this area, adding much more depth than it did in the past.  The only thing you’ll need to set (which happens automatically when you pair the watch to your phone) is the estimated sleep times.  I just set mine randomly to 2AM-7AM, but from what I’ve seen it has no impact on the unit’s ability to estimate sleep.  You don’t manually trigger it on the watch anymore.  Instead, afterwards on Garmin Connect you’ll see sleep metrics:


Finally, on the FR235-only, you’ve got the ability to display and record 24×7 heart rate – more commonly called continuous HR.  The main benefit of this (aside from geek factor) is to track resting HR.

You can access your instant/continuous HR anytime you’d like by just tapping the down button once, which shows this page:


On the upper left you’ll see your current HR, while on the upper right you’ve got your resting HR for the day.  Along the bottom is a graph for the last four hours, plus the high/lows during that time period.

The unit doesn’t sample or record this data at a straight rate of X times per minute/hour/etc, but rather does so variably, based on activity.  You’ll notice that if you’re sitting still, it’ll sample far less often than if you’re up walking around.  You can see this below where this morning I was sitting uninterrupted from roughly 8:45AM till 10:25AM (after riding cross-town round 8:25AM), so much so that there’s a few gaps in there where it didn’t sample at all.  Yet as soon as I moved about – such as going for a short break/walk at 10:25AM, or my pedal home at 12:15PM, it shows more variability:


Back on the watch, you can also show your 7-day resting HR averages, which is (in my opinion) one of the best ways to see if you’re about to struggle in training.


For example, I know my resting HR numbers well enough to know that if they rise above about 44-46bpm, I’m probably about to get sick – or having trouble recovering from travel.  In the 50-52bpm range, I start to see my workouts diminish.  Though oddly, some days appear to be missing from GC, despite showing up on the watch.


Of course, every person is different here.  My resting HR is very low – 39-41BPM is the norm for me, and these numbers align quite nicely with what multiple other devices have shown for me in the past (including just simple HR straps for testing these values).

Again, the continuous HR options are only found on the FR235 and not on the FR230.  You CANNOT pair another HR sensor to the FR230 to try and get the same features – no such pairing option exists.  It’s only with the optical sensor.

Oh – one final interesting tidbit, you can indeed wear the watch while charging it at the same time, such as this:


It might be a bit finicky to do this while running since the clamp design isn’t super-secure, but it would probably work if you were careful about how you arranged it.  The unit DOES record during GPS activities while plugged into a USB battery pack.  It does NOT record if plugged into a computer.  Additionally, it does NOT record continuous HR while plugged in (likely because that lets in too much light).

Smartphone Notifications & Connect IQ Support:


Like activity tracking, smartphone notifications and Connect IQ support is present on most Garmin wearables these days – and the FR230 & FR235 is no exception.  In fact, this is probably one of the biggest changes from the FR220/FR225 – since it lacks these features.

To start, on smartphone notifications the unit uses the standard notification control panels from iOS and Android.  So any notifications you setup on those devices are piped to the FR230/FR235.  They’ll show up instantly on your watch, vibrating or beeping depending on what you’ve selected.


You can dismiss these notifications or open them up for more detail.


Further, you can access existing notifications through the widgets menu, in case you want to catch-up on previously displayed ones.


Notifications do NOT require the Garmin Connect app be open.  However, for some other smartphone features like accessing your calendar, showing the weather, finding your phone, or syncing data, that does require the Garmin Connect app be open somewhere in the background of your phone.  Here’s shots from all of those pages:

IMG_1515 IMG_1516 IMG_1518 IMG_1520 IMG_1522 IMG_1523 IMG_1525 IMG_1514

On the notifications front, I haven’t had any problems with the unit ‘forgetting’ my phone – it’s been working great the last few weeks for me.  I’m not sure if that’s improvements in the Bluetooth stack on the iPhone, improvements from the Garmin side on the device, or just plain luck.  But either way – I’m happy.

Next, we’ve got Connect IQ.  This allows you to download various widgets, watch faces, data fields, and apps to your FR230/235.  This in turn enables 3rd party developers to create things/apps for your watch that can extend/replace functionality of the device.  I talk a ton more about that in these posts here.

In my testing, I tend to keep things fairly vanilla during the initial period (sans-Connect IQ), so in the event something goes wrong, I know it’s definitely a Garmin problem versus an app problem.

Bugs, Quirks, and Oddities


The FR230 & FR235 aren’t without their oddities.  Most of these are fairly subtle, yet others are more concerning.  Here’s a round-up of where things stand.  If/when these get addressed, I’ll note it accordingly:

– FR235 Battery Life: It’s bad.  Really bad.  It’s about 2-2.5 days for me, using the optical HR sensor on its usual continuous mode (24×7).  It’s supposed to be 9-11 days.  Garmin says they’re aware of the issues and are working on it, with hopes to issue a firmware update in a few weeks.  I’m sorta realistic though that something will have to give here – such as reduced sampling rates.  Perhaps I’ll be proven wrong, but it’s a pretty big jump to increase battery life 4x over what’s there today without any negative impacts.

– FR235 optical HR is a bit…jaggy: For lack of better term, perhaps spikey, the optical HR signal seems to be a bit non-smoothed.  It’s rare that I ask for something to have more smoothing, but it seems like that might be called for here.  I’m sure there are other ways they can address it, but it’s just a touch bit too variable.  This isn’t a deal breaker right now, but is something they should address.

– FR235 optical HR quirks with fast pace shifts and some hill sections: As noted in the accuracy section.

– A few minor quirks, such as if you power off the unit temporarily (i.e. to reboot), it’ll actually fail to show the 4hr continuous HR graph upon powering back up (such as faintly seen in the background of the bug photo above).

Next, is the curious case of the indoor bike mode.  This appears to be available on some people’s units, yet not other units.  When I asked Garmin about this yesterday, they said it wasn’t a feature they planned on offering – yet it’s clearly on existing production units shipped to real customers.  Oddly enough, my unit doesn’t have it as an activity profile I can enable (simply missing).  I’ve re-checked in again today asking them to provide some clarification.

This mode was simply just like the outdoor cycling mode, but indoors.  The only real purpose here is to automatically categorize the workouts on Garmin Connect as indoor cycling.  You can otherwise replicate the same functionality by just turning off the GPS in cycling mode.  Still, it has some benefit (and matches functionality seen on cheaper watches from TomTom and Polar).

Finally, we get to one particularly sore point – which is Garmin’s inability to get their specifications correct on their own website.  Since announcement, the Garmin has listed Virtual Racer as a feature on the FR230/235.  Yet, it’s not present.  When I asked Garmin about this yesterday morning, they noted it was a mistake and would be removed shortly.  As of this morning, it was still present.


Now, you may think this would be a minor mistake if not for the fact that it’s been there a month!  Further, if this had been the first instance of it occurring, I’d be less concerned.  But almost every product Garmin has released in the last year has had Garmin.com specifications errors that takes days to weeks to clean up.  Quite honestly, this isn’t very hard.  All they have to do is have a short meeting in a conference room with the web content folks and the product team folks and just scroll down the page and triple-check everything.  It would take perhaps 10-15 mins to go through all 3-4 pages.

So yes, this is a clear ‘calling them out’ moment on repeated errors that are so easy to fix, yet significantly impact the consumer if they’re looking for that feature after purchase.  In this case, Garmin says there are no plans to include the feature in the FR230/235.

Product Comparisons:

Like all products I’ve reviewed, you’ll find the FR230 & FR235 in the product comparison tool/database.  This means you can mix and match features against other products I’ve reviewed or used.  In the case of below, I’ve placed the FR225, FR230, FR235, and TomTom Spark all on the table for comparison.  But you can easily mix and match your own comparison table right here.

Function/FeatureGarmin Forerunner 225Garmin Forerunner 230Garmin Forerunner 235TomTom Spark
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 25th, 2015 @ 10:51 pmNew Window Expand table for more results
Price$299$249$329$149-$199 (Features Vary)
Product Announcement DateMay 12th, 2015Oct 21st, 2015Oct 21st, 2015Sept 3rd, 2015
Actual Availability/Shipping DateJuly 2015November 2015November 2015October 1st, 2015
Data TransferUSB, Bluetooth SmartUSB, Bluetooth SmartUSB, Bluetooth SmartUSB/Bluetooth Smart
Waterproofing50 Meters50 Meters50 Meters50m
Battery Life (GPS)7-10 hours16 hoursUp to 16 hoursUp to 11 hours (varies)
Recording IntervalSMART RECORDING (VARIABLE)1-second & Smart1-second & Smart1s
Satellite Pre-Loading via ComputerYes, 7 daysYesYes3 days
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatYesYEsYes
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceNoYesYesNo

Remember, you can mix and match your own comparison table here in the product comparison database.



Overall I think the FR230 & FR235 may be the best bang for your buck running-specific watches that Garmin has released to date – even if there are still some minor kinks to work out on the optical HR pieces.  If you look at the FR230 for example, it’s taking almost everything the FR620 had (except Running Dynamics) and porting it into a product slightly more than half the price of the higher end watches.  And while Running Dynamics may be geeky-interesting, I don’t find them that interesting long term.

When it comes to the optical sensor on the FR235, from my testing it generally works quite well in normal runs, though there were a few edge cases where I managed to trick it briefly (such as the snowy hill descent, and the ‘Hose it up’ test run).  Even when befuddled, it does seem to realize it, and snap back onto the right track.  I suspect like most optical sensors it may be a bit of time before it’s 100% spot-on.  Having seen the progression at various points over the past two months, I’m pretty optimistic about how much progress they’ve made on that front.

As for whether or not the FR235 will become my daily running watch? Hard to say, I think if they can work out some of the optical HR kinks, then it probably will.  I don’t think I’d have any problems using it for long runs, and tempo runs – it worked well there.  Even if they didn’t work out the kinks, then the FR230 would most definitely fit my bill.  I tend to like lighter running watches over bigger ones (i.e. FR920XT/Fenix3), but that’s more a personal preference.  And as nice as the FR630 may be, I’ve gotta say the buttons on the FR230/235 are just easier for me going into winter (than a touch screen).

With that – thanks for reading!

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Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers exclusive benefits on all products purchased.  By joining the Clever Training VIP program you get a bunch of money-saving benefits, which you can read about here.  By doing so, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get to enjoy the significant partnership benefits that are just for DC Rainmaker readers. And, since this item is more than $75, you get free 3-day US shipping as well.

Garmin Forerunner 230 (select drop-down for colors/bundles)
Garmin Forerunner 235 (select drop-down for colors)

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Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible.

My Winter 2015-2016 Sports Gadget Recommendations http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2015/11/winter-sports-gadget-recommendations.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2015/11/winter-sports-gadget-recommendations.html#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2015 05:02:00 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=52617 Introduction: (Before we start, you can find my Black Friday deals post here, expect a massive update of products on sale on Thursday morning when many deals kick off.  This guide attempts to as best as possible take into account … Read More Here ]]> IMG_1422


(Before we start, you can find my Black Friday deals post here, expect a massive update of products on sale on Thursday morning when many deals kick off.  This guide attempts to as best as possible take into account those price changes, while also providing guidance beyond this weekend.)

It’s once again that time of year for my recommendations guide.  I tend to time this to be just ahead of the holiday buying season, but more importantly to take into account what is usually a glut of new devices that have arrived over the past 45-60 days.  I’ve been holding off just a few weeks longer than I’d normally want to, simply to ensure adequate time with all of these devices before making recommendations.  That said, there are a couple of ‘provisional recommendations’ based on devices that have just arrived in the last few days or weeks where I don’t feel like I quite have the time I want to make a solid recommendation.  Yet, ignoring them would be equally wonky.

My goal here being to give my specific recommendations – exactly the same recommendations I’d give to my own friends and family.  This post isn’t here to list every option on the market in an effort to make every manufacturer happy.  Nope, it’s a clear cut ‘what I’d buy’ for certain use cases.  Of course as more and more companies get into the market, there ends up being more and more possible scenarios as the products expand in functionality.

If you’re looking for a listing of what I use day to day, check out my ‘Gear I Use’ list, as well as The Girl’s list too (about the only thing that might change on my list is using the FR235 instead of the FR620 for running, we’ll see…).

Finally, if you use either the Amazon or Clever Training links, you help support the site.  I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers exclusive benefits on all products purchased. You can read more about the benefits of this partnership here. You can pickup most devices below through Clever Training using the links in the tables. By doing so, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get to enjoy the significant partnership benefits that are just for DC Rainmaker readers (like saving 10% on non-clearance/deep-sale items). And, if you are picking up items that are more than $75, you can get free US shipping as well.

With that, let’s dive into it!

Running GPS Watches:


Note that I’ve re-split up these recommendations this year a bit.  Also note that in this case I’m specifically referring to running watches, not multisport watches, they have their own category.  For this category I assume that you’re going to spend 80%+ of your time running.

Do keep in mind that this category is semi-heavy Garmin, because quite frankly – neither Polar or Suunto have released new running-specific watches this year (just variants of existing products).  Or even last year either in the case of Polar.  The only other mainstream entrant that deserved to be here was TomTom, which you’ll find below.

Road Running – Best All Arounder: Garmin FR230/235

I think Garmin really nailed it with the FR230/235 series.  The singular difference between these watches is the optical sensor in the FR235, which the FR230 lacks.  This unit replaces the FR220/225 products of the past, which I felt were overpriced in the mid-range arena compared to Polar’s M400.  But with the FR230, Garmin added in a slew of features once previously only seen on the $400 watches, now at $250.

The FR235 meanwhile has optical HR in it.  In my testing it’s good.  Not perfect yet, but generally very strong for running (less so cycling).  I think the gaps that I have seen with it, they’ll be able to solve – such as more smoothing needed, as well as an already planned upcoming battery improvement fix.  You’ll see my full in-depth review of it sometime late Wednesday (today).

I suspect that the FR235 will become my primary running watch.  Whether or not I end up using the optical sensor on it 100% of the time might be up for debate still, but it checks all the boxes I care about in a running watch today.

Road Running – Geekful of data: Garmin FR630

This is a bit of a new category.  Previously I’ve done it more by price breakouts, but I think that with the slight change in product lineups by comparing geeky data features it deserves its own category.

Right now, there’s no watch that gives as much geeky running data as the FR630.  Sure, the Fenix3 and FR920XT are soon getting the Gen2 Running Dynamics, but the FR630 does contain things like the Lactate Threshold testing and music/playlist control from your phone.  More than that though, it’s just a heck of a lot smaller.

To be clear, you can get about 95% of the stuff in the FR630 on a Fenix3/FR920XT, but it’s really the size as the reason people go smaller.  Some won’t care about that – but for others that’s hugely important.

(Note: This recommendation is semi-provisional right now, since my in-depth review is still pending, likely publishing early next week.  Right now things are mostly quite good, though there are a few hiccups on the touch screen I’m still working through.)

Running – With Music: TomTom Spark

Ok, at the expense of creating a category for the sake of creating a category – too many people asked about this in years past.  So let’s keep this simple: If you want music with your running GPS watch, go out and get the TomTom Spark.  You can get it with or without optical heart rate.  You could also look at the Adidas Smart Run GPS, but I find that awkwardly big for most people, and it tends to be a bit pricier.

The TomTom Spark includes 3GB of music storage, and you can use any Bluetooth headphones to connect to it.  Otherwise, it’s a pretty clean and straightforward mid-range GPS running watch.

Running – Best Sub-$200 Watch: TomTom Runner2 Variants

Now this one is tricky.  Yes, there’s the Garmin FR25 that’s out there – and it’s a great little watch that has smart notifications.  It sits in there around $169.  But, at the same time, there’s the TomTom Runner & Spark/Runner2 units.  The base TomTom Spark/Runner2 is at $149, which makes it far more functional than the FR25, minus the text notifications (but that’s coming soon anyway).  It just has more features.  Though the FR25 is smaller on the wrist. Of course, the Polar M400 is often in the same price range too – though it seems to have long term issues with the USB connector. Still, it’s a good running watch and thus something you can consider and compare features.

Yet it gets even messier.  See, the original TomTom Runner also often goes on sale for sub-$99 (it’s currently $99), making it even better than the FR10/15 below.  So you’ve gotta be a little bit aware of things there.  If you see the original TomTom units sub-$100, go for them over the Garmin’s.  Otherwise, for that $100-$199 range, hit up the TomTom Runner2/Spark.

Running – Best Sub-$100 Watch: FR10/15 on big sale, TomTom Runner otherwise

Finally, heed the advice in the previous paragraph first, and then assuming none of them are sub-$100, then dig around for the FR10/FR15 on sale.  I’ve seen it for as low as $50, off and on lately on random sales.  Otherwise, the TomTom Runner is $99 most of the time and a sweet deal.

Sure, there are other cheap watches in that ballpark (usually more $60-$80), but overwhelmingly the complaints I hear from folks is that the software on those platforms is flaky at best, and cumbersome at worst.  In my occasional testing of units out there (I buy a lot of random stuff to try out), I find the user interfaces super-old school and support rough.  It’s usually just worth an extra Starbucks Frappuccino or two to get a unit from Garmin or TomTom here.

Hiking/Trail/Ultra Running – Best in Class: Fenix3, or Ambit 3 on sale.

My advice here is nearly the same as last year – if you’re spending time out in the woods, get the Fenix3.  It’s simply the best all around option for people spending time out in the trails.  It has everything the FR920XT does, except more navigation related features.  Oh, and it looks a heck of a lot more classy.  So for some of you, you’ll get it just because it’s classy looking.  Note that you can easily swap any of my recommendations above on running (or triathlon below) for the Fenix3 if you’d like.  It’s simply that I believe the Fenix3 is overkill for most runners, albeit just as easy to use as the other watches.

However, you’ll note the Ambit3 is in there.  Some believe the Ambit3 has better GPS accuracy in harder conditions than the Fenix3.  I think that may be barely true, but only to a certain point.  I did some hiking this summer and found that in the hardest of conditions, all three companies (Garmin/Polar/Suunto) can get into trouble just as much as each other.  However, if you can find a good deal on the Ambit3, then it’s still a superb product. Just one that lacks all of the features of the Fenix3 lineup.  Simply decide if you need those features.

The one caveat would be if you really really really want mapping, then Epix is honestly your only choice.  It has all the features of the Fenix3, but also with visual maps you can load and buy.  But in general it just doesn’t make my general recommendations guide.  I think it’s usually a good device, but just not my cup of tea.

‘2015 Winter Recommendations: Running Watches’ compatiblePriceAmazon LinkClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programReview
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 25th, 2015 @ 7:01 am
TomTom Spark$149-$199 (Features Vary)LinkLinkLink
Garmin Forerunner 230$249LinkLinkLink
Garmin Forerunner 235$329LinkLinkLink
Garmin Forerunner 630$399LinkLinkLink
Garmin Fenix3$499LinkLinkLink
Garmin Epix$549LinkLinkLink
Suunto Ambit3 Peak$499LinkLinkLink
Garmin Forerunner 15$139LinkLinkLink
TomTom Runner$99LinkLinkLink
Garmin Forerunner 10$129LinkLinkLink

Triathlon GPS Watches:


This category is for what the industry calls ‘multisport’ watches, but that typically just translates to triathlon watches.  They track your time/distance/etc… within the three sports – swim/bike/run.  From a non-triathlon multisport aspect, these watches are often used by everyone from wind surfers to skaters, mostly because of their versatility and flexibility in configuration and display customization.

Overall Best in Class: Garmin FR920XT and Fenix3

I’m not really sure there’s any surprise here.  Garmin dominates this category for good reason – it’s simply got the most features for the buck – and it’s got more flexibility than other watches.  They’re the only units that offer a quick release for moving from swim to bike to run, as well as offering far superior power meter capabilities than either Suunto or Polar.

As for choosing between the two, it’s honestly mostly going to come down to style choice and display preferences.  The Fenix3 is more fashionable in an office setting, whereas the FR920XT tends to be more sporty in a Newton shoes sense.  The Fenix3 also offers more navigational features, in the event you’re doing hiking and the like.

Note that the Epix does actually have all the software features of the FR920XT & Fenix3 from a triathlon standpoint, and of course includes maps too, but it’s bigger and costs more.  And for 99.99% of people out there, it’s probably unnecessary for triathlon.

Budget Options: Suunto Ambits on Sale

Now if you’re looking for a budget watch, the Suunto Ambit’s when on sale tend to be great alternatives.  Both Peak and Sport models are strong contenders in triathlon realm, though they lack really strong power meter support – so if you have a power meter, you might want to look elsewhere.  But if you’re getting into the sport, there can be some great deals here.  Note that the Ambit3 Run does NOT include swimming or cycling sensor support – so you’ll want to avoid that.  But the Ambit3 Peak and Sport both include it, and I often use the Ambit3 as a solid reference unit in openwater swim tests (I find it consistently tends to perform the best there out of all openwater swim units I use).

As for deciding between Peak and Sport, the key difference is the barometric altimeter.  I find that Suunto has done a superb job with GPS based elevation, so I think the Peak is less valuable for triathletes (but more valuable if you’re out on a trail/hike).

Note: For triathlon I do NOT recommend the TomTom Cardio/Spark or Vivoactive:

I want to be really clear on this.  The reason I don’t recommend these watches is twofold, but mainly centers on the fact that they don’t support a multisport mode.  Yes, it supports running, and cycling, and indoor swimming.  But you can’t tie all those together in a race or training.  Further, it doesn’t support openwater swimming.

This is pretty similar for some of the other running watches like the Polar M400 or Garmin FR230/235/620/630.  Yes, they all support running and cycling, but none support swimming metrics and none support multisport modes.  If you cycle sparingly and don’t swim, then they’re all still viable options.

‘2015 Winter Recommendations: Triathlon Watches’ compatiblePriceAmazon LinkClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programReview
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 25th, 2015 @ 7:01 am
Garmin Fenix3$499LinkLinkLink
Garmin Forerunner 920XT$449LinkLinkLink
Suunto Ambit3 Sport$399LinkLinkLink
Suunto Ambit3 Peak$499LinkLinkLink
Suunto Ambit2 R$250LinkLinkLink
Suunto Ambit2$319LinkLinkLink
Suunto Ambit2 S$219LinkLinkLink

Cycling GPS Units:


This field has mostly seen competitors abandon it.  No, really, they have.  Sure PowerTap has released a slightly updated version of the Joule GPS+ with Bluetooth capabilities, and Mio has pretty much stopped updating their cycling series with anything meaningful.  Cateye has made some inroads in the lower-end market, but that’s it.

Really the only one who’s given it a go is Polar, for which they submitted a rock star entry this past summer in the M450.  We of course also have Wahoo with their pending ELEMNT, which looks like it could be a very solid first go at the GPS bike computers, however, it just got delayed till January – so it can’t make the cut for now, but is certainly something to keep tabs on.

Best All Around Cycling GPS: Garmin Edge 520:

Over the last few months, I’ve totally transitioned my bike computers to being a fleet of Edge 520’s.  Of course, I use multiple head units for recording data, and these days I’ve literally got four of them up on my handlebars for day to day rides recording power meter data.

For everyone else though – it’s my best overall recommendation on a bike computer.  It’s got built-in Strava segment support, while also having the ability to add maps to it for basic navigation/awareness.  Plus upcoming Connect IQ support for 3rd party apps.  And, it’s just about the right size and really nails the experience.  This hands-down wins this category.

Best Budget GPS Unit: Polar M450

Now, at half the price of the Edge 520 is the Polar M450.  It was announced about two weeks prior to the Edge 520, and is a sweet little unit for $169.  It’s essentially the core features you want on a GPS bike computer, in a rather nice little size.  It can sync your rides afterwards via Bluetooth Smart, and soon also send those completed rides to Strava wirelessly (a major step forward for Polar).  Basically, if you don’t have a power meter, don’t care about on-unit mapping, and don’t care about Strava Segment integration, then I’d definitely consider this unit – especially if you have Bluetooth Smart sensors.

Best Commuter Options: Wahoo RFLKT

Now this is a super-interesting option right now, in light of Wahoo’s Black Friday sale that will put the base RFLKT at $49.  Even more so since last week they announced smartphone notifications will now appear on the RFLKT, plus a bunch of other backend changes they’ve made in recent firmware, based on Wahoo ELEMNT learning’s.  For $49 you get something that you can easily pop on a commuter bike and ride with to record stats and quickly upload them to various sites.  Plus, you can connect to Bluetooth Smart sensors too (if you get the RFLKT+ version, you can also connect to ANT+ sensors).

I think if post-Black Friday they keep the price in the $69-$79 range, sorta like the Bontrager Node units used to be, it’d be a fascinatingly compelling price point/product.

‘2015 Winter Recommendations: Cycling Units’ compatiblePrice / Street PriceAmazon LinkClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programReview / More Info
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 25th, 2015 @ 7:01 am
Garmin Edge 520$299LinkLinkLink
Polar M450$169LinkLinkLink
Wahoo Fitness RFLKT+$130LinkN/ALink



Swimming devices continue to be a funny realm that mostly gets ignored by companies, since many competitive swimmers don’t like to wear tech (or even a basic watch).  So it’s hard to make inroads into the category with such a small market.  Still, here’s some thoughts.

MP3 Players: FINIS Neptune*

This has been my mainstay recommendation for a swimming MP3 player for about two years now, mostly because I like the display aspect, since it makes it easy to get things queued up, while the sound quality is also just fine for a pool.  And then finally, the buttons also makes it easy.  If I look at reader feedback, most are quite happy as well there – with the only complaints coming from folks that require swappage of the device after significant use (which FINIS covers).

*You’ll notice an asterisk, that’s because FINIS just last week started shipping their new Duo (pictured above).  This sorta combines the Neptune functionality with that of the original SwiMP3, it also fixes much of the charging issues with the SwiMP3.  I just haven’t had time to really dig into it yet, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Indoor Pool Watch: “It’s Complicated”…with a side of Vivoactive.

This one is also messy, because I’ve previously recommended (and loved) the Garmin Swim watch.  It was roughly sub-$150, but also now like 3-4 years old and basically untouched.  From a functionality standpoint it was great having a year-long battery life so it just hung out in your swim bag and sync’d when it was close to your computer.  However, it lacked Bluetooth Smart for your phone to download that way, so it’s kinda lost favored nation status.

Instead, your next best bet is the Vivoactive, which is sub-$200 these days.  It’s slimmer than the Garmin Swim was, and just as capable in the pool.  Plus, it has running and cycling and activity tracking and all sorts of other jazz.  Still, I wish there was a Garmin Swim2 with Bluetooth…and done.

Openwater Swim: No good answer

Quite frankly, nobody makes a good dedicated outdoor swim watch.  Your best bet here is to either get one of the multisport/triathlon watches for openwater swim mode (on your wrist).  Or, to otherwise just use any GPS you have and plop it in your swimcap using the swimcap method.

Sensors and mounts:


If you’re getting any of the units listed above, you may be in the market for accessories.  Obviously, some bundles include accessories, while others do not.  Here’s what I recommend based on having entire buckets worth of accessories to test with.

Before I get started, I’ll note that when possible I’d highly recommend folks buy dual ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart (BLE) sensors.  These are available in almost all categories now.  The reason for going dual is simple: It allows you the flexibility to choose whichever device you want and know it’ll work with it.

Heart Rate Sensor: Scosche Rhythm+ (Optical Sensor)

This is my primary and singular running/cycling/hiking/etc heart rate sensor (when not testing something else).  I just love it.  While I liked the Mio Link wrist straps, I’ve found the signal too weak in some cases and then also not quite as stable as the Scosche from a measurement standpoint.  The Scosche is dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, so it can transmit to just about anything.  I’ve used it now as my primary strap for almost two years.  You’ll see it in almost all my tests these days.

Speed/Cadence: Wahoo BlueSCv2

Wahoo’s BlueSCv2 is what I use when I want a combo speed/cadence sensor, which includes both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart (dual)  Thus, two for the price of one.  I love this model though because of the quick release bands making it easy to move between bikes if you need to.  You’ll find this on all my bikes where I’m doing power meter testing, as I use the magnets as a ‘known good’ for validating cadence readings.

If however, you’re looking for a cheaper (ANT+ only) combo option, just simply pickup the Garmin GSC-10 – which usually hovers around $30-$35.  I believe Bontrager also has a dual option out these days too, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Cadence-Only: Wahoo RPMv2

This one is another unit that you’ll find on many of my test bikes, mostly because of portability.  I also take it with me travelling when I’m using a hotel spin bike.  It’s a small pod that attaches to the side of your bike crank and it transmits on both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart, so you can use it with your Garmin device or your smart phone.

Speed-Only: Garmin Speed-Only Sensor

Since Wahoo hasn’t yet come out with a dual ANT+/BLE speed sensor, it’s the Garmin one for the win.  This little sensor is perfect if you only want speed.  It requires no magnets and no zipties, and just simply clips on your back (or front) wheel.  I wrote up a thing on it here previously.

Note: You can also try out the Velocomp dual ANT+/BLE sensors, which I’ve been using on and off – but I just haven’t tried the BLE portion out as much yet.

Running Footpods (ANT+): The Timex, Suunto, and Garmin mini-footpods (whatever is cheapest that day)

As long as you pickup any of those three above they all work the exact same way and all function with any ANT+ device.  In other words, just pickup whatever is cheapest that day.  Ensure that you aren’t picking up the giganto footpods of yesteryear.

If/when in doubt, check out my post on ‘All you ever wanted to know about the ANT+ footpod’.

Running Footpods (Bluetooth Smart) : Adidas miCoach Bluetooth Smart Footpod

For Bluetooth Smart footpod capable devices or apps, I’d go with the Adidas one.  It’s the smallest BLE footpod on the market and works great with most devices.

Best ANT+ to BLE Bridging Solution: 4iiii Viiiiva

While this may seem an odd category, I keep getting requests for it – so I’m putting it here to assist folks in my recommendation.  There is really only one other competitor in this space, which is the Mio Velo.  However, I find that 4iiii has done a much better job with the overall ‘package’ on the Viiiiva, which just got a huge pile of cool updates even this week (years after release), including the ability to save data while away from the phone and the ability to work with ANT+ gym equipment (something Garmin watches used to do).  Oh, and it’s still a dual ANT+/BLE HR strap.

Bike Computer Mounts (just computer): Barfly Mounts

I love my Barfly, specifically for triathlon, the TT/Aero Barfly.  I reviewed it back here, but it just works perfectly.  While K-Edge does make some great (and really darn sturdy) mounts for Garmin units, I simply don’t think your Garmin unit needs that much mount durability to justify the price.  Note that I easily recommend the Barfly for just the bike computer, but if you plan on attaching an action camera to the same mount, read on…

Bike Computer/Action Cam Combo Mount: K-Edge Combo Mounts:

In the event you’re going to hang an action cam from your bike computer mount, that’s where I typically recommend you transition away from the Barfly mount and more to the K-Edge mount, due to the stability for cameras.  Read more on that in my action-cam section though.

‘2015 Winter Recommendations: Sensors’ compatibleStreet Price / PriceAmazon LinkClever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10MHD)More Info / Review
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 25th, 2015 @ 7:01 am
Wahoo Blue SCv2 - Bluetooth Smart/ANT+ Speed/Cadence Sensor$59LinkN/AN/A
Wahoo Fitness RPM2 (Bluetooth Smart/ANT+ Cadence Sensor)$49LinkN/AN/A
Adidas Running Footpood (Bluetooth Smart)$79LinkN/ALink
Scosche RHYTHM+$79LinkLinkLink
Garmin Speed-Only ANT+ Sensor (magnet-less)$39LinkLinkLink
K-Edge Action Cam MountsVariesLinkLinkLink
4iiii's Viiiiva ANT+ to Bluetooth Smart HR Strap & Bridge$79.00LinkLinkLink
Timex ANT+ Running Footpod (Mini)$51.00LinkN/ALink
Suunto ANT/ANT+ Running Footpod (good for both ANT types)$70.00LinkN/ALink
Garmin ANT+ Running Footpod (Mini)$45LinkLinkLink
Barfly Tate Labs Timetrial/Triathlon Bike Mount (for all Edge units, 310XT/910XT/920XT with quick release kit)$37LinkLinkLink
Barfly Tate Labs Road/Mountain Bike Handlebar Mount (for all Edge units, FR310XT/910XT/920XT with quick release kit)$25LinkLinkLink

Weight Scales (Connected):


Best Options: Fitbit Aria or Withings WS-30/WS-50*

I’ve been including little snippets of these scales in my Fitbit Surge and Withings Activité reviews.  Overall, either scale is a solid option and really just depends on if you’re aligned to either of those platforms already (Fitbit or Withings).  If not, poke at the slight differences with 3rd party partners, and see if either of those partnerships matters.  Failing that…flip a coin.

Seriously – they’re near identical scales (exempting the more advanced WS-50 with pulse and air monitoring, and body fat).  Any other relevant differences are partnerships or platforms.  And, again, they’re both great scales.  I use them both, frankly just depending on which bathroom I’m in.

*The one exception here is the new Garmin Index scale, if you’re heavily aligned to Garmin.  I have a fully separate post coming out on Thursday talking in detail about choosing a WiFi weight scale (yes, perfectly timed to your Thanksgiving self-stuffing).  But basically, if you’re really into having all your Garmin data in one spot, then the Index makes a ton of sense (and thus far, it works pretty darn well for me).  But if you’ve got data in other spots/partners – then it makes less sense to get the Index since they partner with only a single site: MyFitnessPal.

‘2015 Winter Recommendations: Weight Scales’ compatibleStreet PriceAmazon LinkClever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10MHD)More Info
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 25th, 2015 @ 7:01 am
Garmin Index Smart WiFi Scale$149LinkLinkLink
Withings WS-50/Smart Body Analyzer WiFi Weight Scale$149LinkLinkLink
Withings WS-30 WiFi Weight Scale$99LinkLinkLink
FitBit Aria WiFi Weight Scale$110LinkLinkLink

Action Cameras:


Best All Around Action Cam: GoPro Hero4 Silver

I love my little Hero4 Silver.  Seriously, you’re not taking it from me.  It’s not just one thing that makes it awesome.  It’s the quality of the lens/resolution I get on both photo and video, it’s the super-crisp touch screen on the back, it’s the fact that the app is super-mature and easy to use (and far faster than Garmin’s), plus the size makes it easy to use.  I bring this everywhere; it’s always with me on every trip and the vast majority of runs and rides.  Plus, when I want to shoot 2.7K, I can do that.

I have virtually no complaints about the camera, except I wish that it also did what Garmin’s VIRB XE does with dashboard metrics.

Best Cam for Sports Metrics: Garmin VIRB XE

So why the VIRB XE if I love the Hero4 Silver?  Well, there are cases where I want to share videos with various dashboard metrics overlaid on it – like power, speed, pace, etc… For this, the Garmin VIRB XE rocks.  They’ve taken all of the quirks of the original VIRB and really cleaned them up, and the desktop software is just super easy to use and produces really pretty videos.  I do find the phone app often flaky and slow though.

So why not just use the GoPro combined with a Garmin wearable to record the data and mix after the fact?  Well, it’s just one more thing to deal with.  For me, I find the time savings worth it.  So if I’m shooting something that I want to share that type of info (i.e. a ride or something else that would have data overlaid), I’m going to go for the VIRB XE.  I do find that the photo performance in low-light far lags behind the Hero4 Silver, but in good sunny conditions it does quite well.

Best Safety Cam: Cycliq Fly6

Next we’ve got the Fly6.  If you’re not familiar, this isn’t an action cam per se, but it’s the closest category I’ve got.  It combines a rear light (which you’d want anyway) with a camera.  Basically, this is a safety cam.  And not in the sense that it’s going to save your ass, but rather, it’s like an insurance policy for later.  I have it on my bikes while riding around the vast majority of the time and it’s just silly easy to use.

Now, this isn’t really a replacement for a GoPro or the like, it’s not got that level of quality.  Rather – it’s just so in the event something bad happens to you – you can prove it wasn’t your fault, or even better – catch the person if they left you at the scene.

Action Cam Mounts: K-Edge Action Cam Mounts

Now, while I often use the Barfly for my Garmin Edge, I really prefer the K-Edge mounts for my action cams.  I’ve come to love the sturdiness of the K-Edge mounts, especially the new combo mounts they’ve made (Garmin + GoPro).  It’s hard to explain to someone how incredibly rock-solid these mounts are until you attach a camera to them and don’t even get a sliver of a millimeter of sway on them (unlike a stock mount).  Incredible.  I’ve bought front/back mounts for every bike I have, love them.

‘2015 Winter Recommendations: Action Cameras’ compatibleStreet Price / PriceAmazon LinkClever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10MHD)More Info / Review
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 25th, 2015 @ 7:01 am
Cycliq Fly6 Bike Camera$169LinkLinkLink
Garmin VIRB XE$399LinkLinkLink
GoPro Hero4 Silver$399LinkLinkLink
K-Edge Action Cam MountsVariesLinkLinkLink

Activity Trackers:

So…here’s the thing, in the past, I used to have a section here on activity trackers.  But the market has simply gotten so big, and the features in general overlap each other on so many units.  It’s nearly impossible to simply say “Go get a Fitbit” or “Go get a Polar Loop” or “Go Get a Jawbone”.

Instead, it’s really best to look at whatever activity trackers either:

A) Your friends are using
B) Your existing device is on

Seriously.  If you’re motivated by competing with friends, then you want to be on the same platform as them.  So if they’re all on Fitbit – go get a Fitbit.  And same goes for Garmin or Withings, or anyone else.

Secondly, if you already have (for example) a Garmin device, heck, it’s likely it has an activity tracker in it.  But say you want something else – in that case, get something on the same platform as that – so you can track everything in one place.  It’d make no sense to have a Fitbit activity tracker and a Garmin GPS watch.

Next to last – the vast majority of activity trackers are roughly accurate.  To that I meant that no activity tracker on the market is perfect.  None.  Instead, they are estimations – treat them as such.  Each company tries to fine tune their algorithms for various use cases.  Some might be better at guarding against false positives in the shower, but less so doing dishes.  Others the inverse.  What matters is that at the end of the day if you’re activity tracker said you only did 2,000 steps, and you’re goal was 10,000 steps – then you were…lazy.  Meanwhile, if it says you did 9,782 steps and you think you really did 9,923 or 9,458 – just go walk around the block an extra time.  It’s about tracking trends – not exacts.

Lastly, in general I prefer activity trackers that have a display on them.  If I didn’t need a display, then most phones these days can track 99% of your awake time anyway.  So for me, I want to be able to glance at my wrist and see how many steps I have and how far from a goal I am.

Cycling Power Meters:


Choosing a power meter is a tough decision matrix.  Anyone who answers the question “Which power meter should I choose?” and instantly names a specific brand name/model upfront, is full of crap.  The correct answer is “Tell me more about your usage plans?”

There are so many variables that go into that decision beyond just price.  For example: How many bikes?  What type of bike? What type of pedals? Do you want to move it around a lot? Race wheels or not? What do you want to measure?  And on and on.

The good news is that I cover these in-depth in my Power Meter Buyer’s Guide from this fall.   Nothing has changed there since then (neither in products nor in my opinions), and I don’t expect any shifts in the near future.

Cycling Trainers:


The best way to cover this section is to go read my complete 2015 cycling trainers guide, so again like power meters, I’d go over and check out that post for all my recommendations (a massive list on a slew of categories).

Obviously, given it’s now basically the trainer season, there’s no more trainers coming out till at the earliest mid-next year, with most announcements typically happening at Eurobike in August each year.

Don’t forget the Comparison Tool!

Ok, lots of recommendations.  If there’s a category I’ve missed (entirely plausible) – just drop a note in the comments and I’ll try and come up with a recommendation and add it above.

More importantly though, you can mix and match just about everything I’ve talked about above, with in-depth comparison tables over at the product comparison calculator, which today supports: Action Cameras, Heart Rate Straps, Watches/Bike Computers, Power Meters, Activity Monitors, and Trainers.

Select product use/budget for a comparison from the drop down menus:

Select product type:

Note: While many running watches have a basic bike mode, only running units that are multi-sport focused are also included in the bike-only results (in addition to bike-specific units). Hiking units are those that include a Barometric Altimeter, Magnetic Compass and navigational functions.

Or select products for comparison by clicking the product boxes below:

Adidas Smart Run GPS
Bryton Cardio 60 Multisport Watch
CycleOps Joule 2.0 (Original)
CycleOps Joule GPS
Epson SF-810
FINIS Swimsense
Fitbit Surge
Garmin Edge 1000
Garmin Edge 20
Garmin Edge 200
Garmin Edge 25
Garmin Edge 500
Garmin Edge 510
Garmin Edge 520
Garmin Edge 705
Garmin Edge 800
Garmin Edge 810
Garmin Edge Touring (Normal)
Garmin Edge Touring (Plus)
Garmin Epix
Garmin Fenix
Garmin Fenix2/Fenix2 SE
Garmin Fenix3
Garmin Forerunner 10
Garmin Forerunner 110
Garmin Forerunner 15
Garmin Forerunner 210
Garmin Forerunner 220
Garmin Forerunner 225
Garmin Forerunner 230
Garmin Forerunner 235
Garmin Forerunner 25
Garmin Forerunner 305
Garmin Forerunner 310XT
Garmin Forerunner 405
Garmin Forerunner 410
Garmin Forerunner 60/70
Garmin Forerunner 610
Garmin Forerunner 620
Garmin Forerunner 630
Garmin Forerunner 910XT
Garmin Forerunner 920XT
Garmin Swim
Garmin Tactix
Garmin Vivoactive
Leikr GPS
Magellan Echo
Magellan Switch & Switch Up
Mio Alpha Optical HR Monitor
Motorola Motoactv
Nike+ GPS Sportwatch
O-Synce Navi2Coach
Polar A300
Polar M400
Polar M450
Polar RC3
Polar RCX3
Polar RCX5
Polar V650
Polar V800
Soleus 1.0 GPS
Soleus 2.0 GPS
Suunto Ambit
Suunto Ambit2
Suunto Ambit2 R
Suunto Ambit2 S
Suunto Ambit3 Peak
Suunto Ambit3 Sport
Timex Cycle Trainer 2.0 GPS
Timex Global Trainer
Timex Marathon GPS
Timex One GPS+
Timex Run Trainer GPS 1.0
Timex Run Trainer GPS 2.0
Timex Run x20 GPS
Timex Run x50
TomTom Multisport
TomTom Multisport Cardio
TomTom Runner
TomTom Runner Cardio
TomTom Spark

As always, thanks for reading – and supporting the site!

Verve Infocrank Power Meter In-Depth Review http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2015/11/verve-infocrank-review.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2015/11/verve-infocrank-review.html#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 18:25:03 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=52619 Power meters tend to be products that I test for the longest duration prior to posting a review.  This is often due to wanting to validate products across a wide range of weather and environmental conditions: Heat, humidity, cold, cobbles, … Read More Here ]]> IMG_8540

Power meters tend to be products that I test for the longest duration prior to posting a review.  This is often due to wanting to validate products across a wide range of weather and environmental conditions: Heat, humidity, cold, cobbles, indoors, outdoors, etc…  However, my test of the Verve Infocrank might just take the cake for the longest.  I’ve been using it on and off for roughly the past year, across huge range of conditions.  I’ve brought the unit on my bike travelling with me to New Zealand, as well as the Alps of France, Switzerland, and Austria.  Plus all of the rambling around my local hood for the last year in all four seasons.

At this point, I know more about the Infocrank than I ever ventured to know.  I can tell you wonky things like which little stores in the Swiss alps sell the right batteries on a Saturday evening…as well as the many that don’t.  I can also tell you how each of the different Garmin units reacts to the Infocrank, which turns out to be slightly different for different models.  And of course – I can tell you boatloads about accuracy of the Infocrank.

So with that, let’s get cooking.  Note that Verve sent a usual media loaner Infocrank for me to test. I’ll be handing that back to them when they swing through town in a few weeks.  Otherwise, all other products seen are mine that I’ve bought.


Now I’ve technically done two different unboxings of the Verve Infocrank.  When I first started this whole review process they were using one set of boxes.  However, given some time has gone by, they’re now using a different set of boxes.  So in the interest of keeping things all current, they sent over another unit to be unboxed.

(Funny semi-unrelated story: Unboxing photos are usually among the least loved things I do.  This evening, for a totally different product, The Girl mistakenly said she was bored.  So I talked her into doing her first unboxing photo shoot of a new swim product.  Turns out, it had one of those horrible plastic clamshell designs that’s both super-reflective, and a serious pain in the butt to open, let alone do so in a pretty non-bloody manner.  Following that experience, she’s sworn off future unboxings for me.)

In any case, I’m going to walk through the new box shots, but also include a brief gallery of the old box shots.  The reason I’m doing that is that they’re two slightly different bundles.  The new one is just the crank arms, whereas the old one was with the chain rings and all sorts of other jazz.  Let’s get started though:


The box is roughly like an oversized shoe box, except that it’s heavier and built to be tossed off a tall building.


That structural integrity is apparent once you crack it open:



After we de-layer it, we’ll find the following.  It’s sorta like looking at core samples:


Basically, we’ve got four things:

A) The drive-side crank arm/spider
B) The non-drive-side crank arm
C) Four batteries
D) A pile of manuals/paper

Here they all are:


Now you’ll notice that in this case it did not include chain rings.  Again, that totally depends on which unit/bundle you’ve purchased.

Here’s a closer look at the unboxed crank arms from all sorts of directions in a mini-gallery:

IMG_1286 IMG_1287 IMG_1289 IMG_1292

You will also likely have magnets in your box, which you’ll see in the below unboxing of my first box.

Next, as promised, here’s a gallery of the initial box, which includes chain rings and other goodness.  It’s older of course, and not as stylish as the new box.  Notably, the new box is designed in an incredibly ‘tight’ configuration.  Meaning, everything is super-snug and doesn’t flop around.  Whereas the old box sorta unfolded itself like a water balloon being punctured – stuff went everywhere.

IMG_0063 IMG_0073 IMG_0023 IMG_0025 IMG_0026 IMG_0031 IMG_0042 IMG_0051 IMG_0053 IMG_0061

With that, let’s get this puppy installed.



Now when it comes to installation, it’s actually a bit of a funny story.  And by funny, I mean complex.  Like most crank/spider based power meters you have to be somewhat aware of any compatibility issues with your bike (frame).  In my case, I decided to install it on my Cervelo P3C as my first choice of steeds.

So I went quite a ways down that installation routine, as I usually do, without really thinking it through.  As you can see below in my mini-gallery, I got all the way to the part of spinning the crank arms after tightening it, before I found an itty-bitty problem: It would hit my frame.


So, I circled back and consulted with the Verve folks, and we took a quick inventory of my bikes.  My newest road bike that I purchased last fall would indeed fit the bill, provided they included a beta bottom bracket from Praxis (now long since available on the market).  So we did that instead.

Assuming you’re somewhat handy with bike tools and brackets, this overall process isn’t too tough and in-line with other crank based power meters.  Also note that the exact steps will vary depending on what package you bought.  For example, in my latest unboxing photos you’ll notice it didn’t include chain rings, whereas the initial gallery did.  So obviously you’ll have to install chain rings first regardless of the source (super-easy).

In any case, first up is to get rid of your existing crank, and if applicable – existing bottom bracket.  So that’ll roughly leave here:


In my case, I first had to install a new bottom bracket, because I was swapping things out there:


Then, it’s actually just a case of sliding through the drive-side crank set into the bottom bracket and through to the other side, where you’ll attach the non-drive side:


I don’t have a ton of photos here, because I took a ton of photos of the first attempt on my initial bike (that wasn’t compatible), but didn’t think to re-take them on the second bike.

Now at the very end you’ve got installation of magnets (seen above).  This is the part that takes you back to kindergarten arts and crafts day.  You have to essentially trim the magnets using scissors to fit your frame area, and then you’ll install the magnets using the sticky stuff that’s on the magnet backing.


All while ensuring you don’t get the magnet to attract to the power meter itself in the process.


Alternatively, you can use the ring based magnets, but they had a horrible bolt design that made it easy to strip/break.  Thankfully both have since been redesigned to be a bit better.



But even better than all of that is that coming early next year, they’ll release a firmware update which does away with needing magnets at all.  You can still certainly use the magnets if you want, or if you plan to go into cadence ranges where it might be important (i.e. above 180-210RPM).  But otherwise, they’re saying accuracy is just as good without them.  You’ll remember that almost all other companies have gone the same direction as well (most using an accelerometer, though Infocrank is actually using just the strain gauges – more on that later), and we just haven’t seen issues on most of these products in the last few years.


In any case, with that all setup, we’re ready to roll.  Note that in my case I did find the magnets fiddly, and they fell off more than once (and then mated with the power meters due to magnet prowess).  The solution I employed there was good ole super glue to my frame. Serious.

So obviously, I’m happy to hear they’re going magnetless soon.

General Use Overview:


Now that you’ve got it all installed, it’s time to use it.  I promise you, it’ll be easier/cleaner than the install was.  The unit will automatically wake up when you turn the cranks, assuming the magnets are still where you left them.  Like other magnet-requiring power meters, if the magnets do become dislodged, that’s usually the primary cause of the crank not waking up – since it doesn’t trigger the unit rotating (just as a troubleshooting tip).

Once you rotate the crank arms, it wakes up both sides of the power meter.  While the power meter appears to you as a single unit, it’s actually two physically separate power meters, each measuring its own side.  They communicate wirelessly via a private ANT channel between each other, but then broadcast as a single unit to your head unit.


When it comes to compatibility, the Infocrank is compatible with all head units that support the ANT+ power meter device profile.  It does NOT transmit Bluetooth Smart however, so it would not be compatible with non-ANT+ devices.

Examples of ANT+ power meter head units would be: O-Synce Navi2Coach, Garmin Edge series, Suunto Ambit2/2S, and PowerTap head units.  Additionally, devices like the Recon Jet and apps like TrainerRoad or Zwift, that support power meters can be used with it.

As with all ANT+ power meters sold these days, the Verve Infocrank has a single ANT+ ID. – typically a 5-6 digit number that identifies it to your head unit.  This is no different than heart rate straps or cadence sensors.  Now interestingly (totally random but kinda fun), the ANT+ ID on the Infocrank is the same as the serial number of the product.  This ID number is printed just to the side of each of the two little bubbles that house the communications pod:


So in the above case, the ANT+ ID would be 842.  Whereas the other crank set I had was #340, so the ANT+ ID was simply 340.

These ID’s are then displayed within most head units or applications, so you can ensure proper pairing if more than one person is around.  Or, in my case, when you’ve got 4+ power meters on your bike.



On the metrics side, the Verve Infocrank currently transmits total power, cadence, left/right power, pedal smoothness, and torque effectiveness (all via ANT+)

You can see all of these metrics within the head unit itself, as well as online after the fact on various training applications.  For example, going with the simplest one here – we’ve got Garmin Connect, showing first the total power, then the left/right power balance.


Here’s a closer look at Left/Right balance:


Now do remember that there’s no specific study or even recommendation that says you want power to be 50% evenly left & right balanced.  In fact, there’s a growing body of folks who are quite clear that when you try and artificially maintain balance, it detriments your total power.  Instead, it’s best to just let your legs do their own things.

The area where power balance is useful however is injury recovery on a single leg, to be able to see improvements in wattage on the impacted leg.

Note that in the event the battery dies on a single arm (such as the right side), it’ll continue to broadcast out of the left arm, effectively acting as a single-sided power meter (à la Stages).  It’ll simply double that power.  I had this happen on one ride this past summer, and you can see the left/right balance disappears in that case – but total power (derived from the left leg) and cadence are still available.


Speaking of batteries, this is really one of the few pain in the butt aspects of the Infocrank unit.  See, almost everyone else in the power meter world uses CR2032 batteries these days, which makes them super-easy to find the world around.  You can stop in any grocery store in pretty much any tiny town anywhere and find replacements for them.  The Infocrank however uses SR44 silver oxide batteries (aka 357):


These are basically hearing aid batteries, and are far more difficult to find in smaller towns.  The type of towns that luck will have it your batteries will run out on when on a trip.  Trust me, mine did.  In fact, they ran out twice while travelling.  The first was on my second ride after having arrived in New Zealand – so one of my first duties then was trying to find replacements.  And then again, this past summer while in the Swiss Alps…on a Saturday evening.  For those in Europe, you’ll know that’s just about the worst time to find a new battery since everything closes earlier, and stays closed till Monday.

In my case, I found a non-perfect replacement at a grocery store in the final few minutes of closing (after checking 4-5 other stores).  It worked because it was the same form factor, but it was the wrong type (alkaline) – so Verve doesn’t recommend it long term for best battery performance.  Still, no negative impacts for the short term to get you through in a pinch (a few days as was my case).


The unit requires two batteries per crank arm side.  So obviously it’s best to get a small pile of them and just stick them in your saddlebag or other location that always travels near your bike.


Finally, when it comes to performing a zero offset, the company maintains that you need not do so.  A zero offset is technically different than calibration, though the terms are often used interchangeably on head units.  I tested this theory a bit, especially on days where I was riding with significant temperature swings – or had just brought out the bike from a hot place to a cold place.  Indeed, I saw no issues during any of these.


Of course, most power meters do have some form of temperature compensation (active or passive) built within them.  In the case of the Infocrank, when you do a zero offset, it will report back to you a value.  Note that you would want to follow their instructions, as if you had the cranks positioned horizontally during a calibration event, it could impact accuracy of the unit.

If you do go down that path, you can actually take these values and understand the impact of them in wattage, using a simple chart they’ve created.  It’s pretty cool.

Power Meter Accuracy Test Results:


For my testing, the Verve Infocrank was tested on a single compatible road bike of mine, the Giant Defy.  Though, all of my bikes I use for power meter testing are fairly similar in terms of ancillary power meters to compare against.  Each has a rear PowerTap G3 wheel on it.  And each has a different crank based power meter in test on it, in this case, the Infocrank.  Additionally, for all tests I also had either a PowerTap P1 or Garmin Vector pedals on the bike.  All in, I’d have no less than three power meters.  For indoor tests, I’d place it onto a trainer that supported rear wheel usage (generally the CompuTrainer, so I could keep the PowerTap hub on the bike).

From a data collection standpoint, virtually all of the data used in the analysis was collected using Garmin Edge 510/520/810/1000 units.  I also record some data with NPE WASP units, as well as other applications.  Data analysis is largely done in a custom toolset I use to ferret out differences, while also using more widely available tools like Golden Cheetah, Excel and Training Peaks to validate the results.

With that, let’s dive into things.  I’m going to pick a few random rides that talk to specific conditions (i.e. temperature changes), sprints, stable power, cobbles, etc…  The goal being to ferret out any oddities that I might see.  You can download all the ride data used in this review at the end of this section (plus a bunch of other random data I tossed in there now shown here in graphs).

First, here’s a ride out to Versailles I did last February.  This is with Garmin Vector, the PowerTap G3, and the Infocrank.  First up – the overview, smoothed at 30s to make it easy to read.  Also, in this case I chopped off the first five minutes of the graph, where the Vector unit had something odd in one of the pods, so it was wonky values till I reset it.  It was happy after that.


Now you can see quite clearly that there’s almost no divergence of any of the lines.  Seriously, it’s like white on rice – they never leave each other.

Now, we’re going to dive into edge cases in a minute in other examples – but one of the charts that’s most useful for comparing power meters is the mean/max chart.  It shows how different units handled over the course of the ride – by showing the max wattages for a given time period along the bottom.  You’ll note these are scary-close to perfect. Seriously, check out that 4-second max value – within 1w of each other.  Yes, in theory the PT should be lower, and the Vector a touch bit higher, but to have them all within a very close ballpark at those wattages is really ideal.


Next, we’ve got a nice 3hr ride I did in the Swiss Alps, this one with a significant 2,100ft elevation gain in the span of a single hour (while a storm front was moving through).  This is notable because it allows you to look at temperature shifts on climbs – which I’ve seen in the past can be challenging for power meters due to lack of stopping to allow them to re-zero.  So, I like these sorts of tests when possible.  This test was on an Infocrank, bePRO, and PowerTap G3.

Here’s the quick overview with a 30s smoothing factor just to make it easier to see.  The values you see are simple point in time values from wherever my mouse was highlighting.  They are NOT averages.


That said, for averages (a very low and useless bar to use), they do align nicely.  Specifically that the PowerTap is the lowest, then the Infocrank, and then the bePRO.  That’s considered ‘proper’ ordering based on the highest being closest to your foot (output of power).


Next, we’ll dive into the climb portion a bit, to see if there’s any variance going on there:


What you’re looking for here is divergence of lines.  Specifically if a given power meter slowly creeps up/down from the rest of the pack.  In this case, all three units stay together.  You see a tiny bit towards the last 2-3 minutes where the bePRO unit starts to offset, but I believe that’s actually because I had mostly popped out of my pedals at that point since I was on steep gravel (the road ended) and wanted a wee bit more flexibility in case I had to catch a fall.  So basically, nothing to worry about.

Next, after I coasted downhill back to the base, you look at the first few minutes as I start riding again – are the units in lockstep? And the answer is again – yes.  As is usually the case you’ll see each power meter react slightly differently in the first few seconds upon waking up/reacting to force, but then they track well together.


In fact, the bePRO and Verve Infocrank are so close together it’s really damn impressive.  I rarely see that level of closeness (in case you’re wondering, the tools I use actually enumerate out the individual power meter serial numbers from each Garmin file, just to ensure I don’t mix anything up).  The PowerTap is a bit lower – but that makes total sense given it’s ‘downstream’ after you consider drivetrain loss/etc…

Next, let’s look at a night last month where I was out doing a cross-town ride, then some loops around a popular cycling area, before waiting on the side of the road a bit for a package drop-off, and then my ride home down the pavé of the Champs-Élysées.


The first 25ish minutes is crossing town, so a fair bit of stop and go.  Then from 25mins till 60mins is mostly loops in/around a group of cyclists.  Diving in on that a second, we see all three units track well.  I’d say that perhaps the bePRO is a tiny bit high in some sections where it diverges from the other two – but the Infocrank and G3 are very consistently glued to each other at the same offset.


Now if I take off the 30-second smoothing, and pull it back to a 3-second smoothing factor, we can take a look at one of the sprints I did here.  This one was up a short climb where the Infocrank had me hit a max of 830w.  Of course, with the 3-second smoothing applied below, that tops out at 781w.  What we’re looking at here though is how quickly they track when you apply significant power, as well as how quickly the power disappears:


You’ll notice that the three units track very well in terms of going up, and down (with the bePRO appearing to register the zero-power stop slightly differently than the other two – it’s unclear who is right there).

For fun, I removed all smoothing (so 1s smoothing), and then re-loaded the chart.  in this case, the PowerTap G3 and Infocrank were within 1w of each other for max power on that segment.  While the bePRO was lower.


Note that in general I don’t put too much stock in 1s max power comparisons – because it’s honestly more about timing of signals/communications between the head unit and the power meter than anything else.

Ultimately, no matter how many graphs I create, I’m seeing the same thing over and over again – which is that the Infocrank just aligns to other power meters I’ve compared.  I really can’t seem to find any cases where I think something went amiss.  There’s a few more files that I analyzed with the Infocrank mixed in there as part of my bePRO review as well – for those interested.  But again, they all show the same story – even in adverse conditions.

I love the fact that from an accuracy standpoint it’s very dependable ride in and ride out, with nothing to do on the end-user standpoint (for fun, a few of those days in the Alps I specifically DIDN’T do any zero offsets, to see how it might do – no issues).

For those curious, you can find a huge pile of my power meter data here in this zip folder.  Generally speaking the naming conventions speak for themselves.  I have more data I’ll try and add in here over the next few days, just digging out some of my older data to add to it.  Newer data is categorized a bit better these days making it easier to enumerate.

Power Meter Recommendations:


Note that while this is a power meter review, I tend not to put purchasing recommendations/comparisons to the rest of the market in these.  The reason being simply that I’ve created an entire post dedicated to that – with boat loads of information about all the options available on the market.

Now the only thing to consider when using that post as a buying guide is that, as I discuss elsewhere here, Verve is set to announce price changes shortly.  Those price changes would definitely change the picture a bit.  Now until those happen, my buyer’s guide stands as-is.  However, once those are announced, I’ll go back and update the buyers guide with pricing as makes sense.

Also note some of the features discussed in the next section are not in the buyer’s guide, because again, they haven’t happened yet.  The buyer’s guide tends to be a point in time snapshot of ‘what’s real’ versus future planned changes.

In any event – grab a cup of your favorite caffeinated beverage and swing on over to that guide for more than you ever wanted to know.

A Few Thoughts That Didn’t Fit Elsewhere:


There’s a lot of interesting points and counterpoints about the Verve Infocrank system that didn’t really fit elsewhere in this post, or that I wanted to specifically call out.  So I’m doing these as partly a Q&A and partly an internal debate in my head.  Some of these points came out from a discussion I recently had with the company, on why specifically they had done things a certain way.  Thus it made sense to explain it in more detail by itself.

Magnetless Plans: Starting in January, they’ll roll out a firmware update that no longer requires the magnets.  They aren’t using accelerometers, but rather are actually using the strain gauges and the ability to read the tangential load.  They’ve validated RPM’s up to 180RM, but are working to hit 210RPM.  This is huge news, especially because it gets away from one of the most finicky parts of the setup.

Installation Flexibility: Probably one of the biggest challenges for the company to date has been some of the limitations on bike, crank arms and chain ring support.  Going into next year, they’ll be rolling out more sizes, which they say will cover: 24mm & 30mm spindles, 110 & 130BCD, as well as arm sizes of 155mm, 160mm, 165mm, 170mm, 172.5mm, and 175mm.  They noted in my case the Cervelo limitation will go away because of the 24mm spindle and the doing away of magnets would solve my P3C challenges.

Pedal Stroke Analysis: In January, they’ll launch a firmware update that’ll allow you to use their torque analysis and pedal stroke analysis app.  This will take readings at 256 times a second and also pipe that information into the pedal smoothness metrics.  But folks will be able to look at the raw data within the software suite directly.

Bluetooth Support: Finally, longer term they noted that they recognize the need for Bluetooth, but that it’s not a short-term item, but probably more around the Eurobike next year timeframe.  At present there isn’t a ton of Bluetooth-only head units that appeal to power meter folks, so they can probably get away with this until then.

Pricing: Up until this point, pricing is really the biggest challenge I’ve had with the Infocrank.  It’s just priced too high ($1,750USD), no matter how you slice it.  However, in my discussions with Verve over the last few days, they plan to announce a global price restructuring (read: getting cheaper) in the next few weeks.  Given that, I’m optimistic /hopeful that they’ll address my main concerns here.



When I think of the Infocrank power meter, my brain re-words it as ‘Infotank’.  The unit feels like it’s built like a tank, and in many ways operates like a tank.  By that I mean that it’s really good at doing the core things right – measuring your power.  I’ve had no issues on that front – it does that very well and is very reliable there.  Yet, like a tank it tends to skip over some of the non-mission critical trimmings – such as dual ANT+/BLE support, crank arm flexibility, or easily found batteries.  A luxury sedan this is not, and for some people – that’s OK.

The good news though is that this past summer I would have said that I didn’t think Infocrank as a company ‘got it’.  I would have said (and did say) they were repeating the market mistakes of SRM, without the brand of SRM to carry them through those mistakes.  However, my recent discussions with them shows that they ‘get it’.  Their upcoming global pricing change should help considerably, as will their focus on adding functionality that is commonplace to most other power meters in the market – filling in what were previously gaps.  If they can nail the pricing aspect (since that’s still unreleased), they could definitely be a very valid player for those wanting a dual-leg crank-based solution.

Like I said, accuracy isn’t an issue for me.  While I place virtually no value on the certificate of accuracy certificate they have – I do place value on months and months of testing with the unit in all assortment of conditions.  And in those tests, I simply don’t see any variance that’s of concern, or any situations where things went south.

With that – thanks for reading.  Feel free to drop any questions below in the comments and I’d be happy to try and answer them, or sucker someone else into answering them.

5 Random Things From A Week in The Arctic Circle http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2015/11/things-arctic-circle.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2015/11/things-arctic-circle.html#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 12:20:07 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=52555 So the last week I’ve spent up in Finland and Norway, far from civilization – a place where reindeer far outnumber people, and darkness far outweighs light.  Here’s what it’s been like. 1) Getting there Back a number of months … Read More Here ]]> So the last week I’ve spent up in Finland and Norway, far from civilization – a place where reindeer far outnumber people, and darkness far outweighs light.  Here’s what it’s been like.

1) Getting there

Back a number of months ago The Girl and I, along with a few friends, decided that we wanted to go check out the Northern Lights.  After a boatload of research, we settled on a tour operator in Northern Finland.  Though, only just barely Northern Finland, a few hundred yards away was the border to Norway.  Either way, it was well into the Arctic Circle, and well away from everyone:


Getting there took about as long as it would to fly non-stop to Tokyo.  We left for the airport at 8AM Monday morning, and got into the camp around 10:30PM.  That included a ~2.5 hour flight to Helsinki, then a few hour layover, then another ~2hr flight to Ivalo.  Then waiting for the group to group-up, then another ~2.5hr drive north on snow and ice to the camp.


The camp was four small cabins on the Anarjohka River that divides Norway from Finland in that area.  Nothing fancy, we’d cook all our own food for the week based on what we got at the grocery store on the way up.  The guides were mostly just there to drive us around the countryside at night finding holes in the clouds, and in the event we found a hole in the cloud, then they’d assist in terms of explaining the auroras and/or finding better places to see them.


Note that the airport in Ivalo has precisely two flights per day.  One in the morning, and one in the evening.  Interestingly though, it has 6 gates.


Though, I believe the term ‘gates’ is used rather flexibly, given there were no jetways, just a giant slab of concrete for the planes:


Still, it’s the thought that counts.

2) The Northern Lights

Our main goal of being up here was to see the Northern Lights.  While I’ve seen them once before from an airplane over Alaska, they were pretty faint.  So we went to the source this time.

The thing is, seeing northern lights basically comes down to two factors:

A) Is it cloudy?
B) Is there magnetic activity?

In our case, the answer to both questions was regretfully yes.  Almost the entire time.  While we had awesome magnetic activity…we lacked a clear sky.  Instead, we got 5 days of cloud cover:


Lots and lots of cloud cover:


The way the tours worked is that they’d drive around trying to find ‘holes’ in the clouds, from which you could then see the lights above it.  On average we’d drive about 5 hours each night in the van:


It was a lot of driving around on icy roads.  No really, a crapton of time.

In our case, luck wasn’t really on our side.  For all of that time driving around, we got one pit stop worth where the clouds parted briefly in a small hole above our head, allowing us just a handful of shots:



And that’s about it.  We’d often see the green hue of the lights through the clouds – but nothing that’d really come out well in photos unfortunately.

Still, the guide was great and super-knowledgeable, but ultimately there’s only so much you can do if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Now that we somewhat understand how the ‘system works’, we might just pick a time in January or February and come back up and give it another whirl on our own.  Hopefully to a spot that’s a little bit easier to get to than Utgard.

Of course, it’s unlikely that if you went DIY style that your camp would have a teepee, which we did luck out on.




The teepee was the place to be!

3) Rudolf the Reindeer


Just down the road from us was a gigantic reindeer farm.  But in reality, you could see reindeer all over the place, occasionally on the road in front of us and often near the roads too.  The above sign is actually I think for a moose, but, same-same (sorta).


A few minute walk from the cabins was a small house that had a single reindeer kept on their side yard in a fairly large chunk of enclosed land.  This reindeer was not exactly the most fearless, as we’d have to stand there a heck of a long time for it to become comfortable with us and wander closer.


I’d run by it twice each run as well, for which it didn’t seem happy about.  Imagine if I had put bells on my shoes (again), it’d been even more unhappy.

Here’s another photo of reindeer, this one on the way back to the airport Friday night.  Not a great shot, just on my cell phone:


Would have been cool to see them out in daylight more, but alas not a lot of luck there.

4) Lots of snow & ice running

The one thing we did get in though is a lot of snow and ice running.  There weren’t really any maintained hiking trails in the area, but they did keep a running path along the road cleaned up (removed excess snow).  So we ran all but one day there.


Once the running path ended near the border though, it was just onto the roads.  So we pretty much tried to keep our running to the couple of daylight hours we had each day.

With our favorite spot definitely being the border between the two countries, as it spanned a river.  It was also lit by lights for the border control officer, so kinda nice for the twilight hours.


Some runs we did together, and then others we did separately.  Just depended on the goal for the run:


One of the best parts about running this past week has been all of the cold-weather optical HR testing I’ve been able to do.  A great place to do it!  Also been interesting looking at changes/shifts in various running metrics while on snow, like running power (Stryd), Running Dynamics (Garmin), and the metrics that RunScribe has.

Now, what was even better is that for some odd reason our cabin had a gigantic drying fridge in it (the other cabins didn’t, though they had LCD screens whereas we had a VHS deck with an equally old TV).  This fridge-sized drying machine basically just had racks in it to dry your stuff.  You flipped a switch and 2,500w of heating awesomeness dried (and warmed) pretty much anything in a matter of 30-45 minutes.


For those that want to look at maps, you can find all my runs uploaded to Strava here.

5) Hello Helsinki!


Late Friday night we drove back to Ivalo and then for the two-segment flight back to Helsinki down south.  This would take us out of the Arctic Circle, though not out of Finland.

We spent most of Saturday just wandering around and exploring the city.  I’ve been to Helsinki before (in much much colder times, and also warmer times), but never to see much of the city.  Luckily, Saturday was Restaurant Day, where the city comes alive with impromptu food stalls everywhere.


As explained to me, the idea behind this was initially rooted in a form of protest against the complexities and bureaucracies in opening a restaurant.  So many would come out and sell something, anything at all.  We saw countless kids that had variants of baked good stands, to other people selling even more random things that were definitely cooked out of their home kitchen.



Of course, there were also many restaurants selling food too that looked like they were pretty established.



I had enquired on Twitter earlier in the day for recommendations on restaurants.  Many folks replied back with great options.  Regrettably, everything was booked up.  We had checked availability online earlier in the day, and found nuttin.  But then we called around 4-5PM as the places opened up and found zilch.  We probably called 30-40 restaurants.  We did however manage to snag a table at Ravintoli Emo, which had an awesome tasting course menu:


Here’s a handful of photos from that.  While it was in theory a ‘surprise’ menu, in reality basically all the dishes except one seemed to come from the à la carte list above.

IMG_2961 IMG_2962 IMG_2965 IMG_2959

Still, great food – with the deer and dessert being our favorites.

On Sunday, The Girl and I headed on a bit of a running tour around Helsinki, mostly just following the water’s edge:


I’ve always found it super-easy to run in Helsinki, since you can largely just run on the running paths that trace the shoreline.  So tons of options.



Following that we headed off to the airport and about three hours later found ourselves back home in Paris.  Now ready for a crazy busy week ahead with tons of sports tech sales on the docket.

Thanks for reading!

Reminder: Deal ends tomorrow on $329 FR920XT & 20% off Wahoo KICKR’s http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2015/11/reminder-tomorrow-fr920xt.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2015/11/reminder-tomorrow-fr920xt.html#comments Sun, 22 Nov 2015 17:36:51 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=52523 Wahoo KICKR’s Sale: Some readers have brought to my attention the reality that my initial deal post two weeks ago didn’t actually include the Wahoo KICKR or KICKR SNAP 20% off sale, and as such, a large portion of readers probably … Read More Here ]]> Wahoo KICKR’s Sale:


Some readers have brought to my attention the reality that my initial deal post two weeks ago didn’t actually include the Wahoo KICKR or KICKR SNAP 20% off sale, and as such, a large portion of readers probably don’t realize it yet.  So this will serve as the briefest of brief FYI’s, since these two trainers have never been cheaper.

Wahoo KICKR Trainer – $959 (normally $1,199): With member coupon code 15FALLMEM. Ends Nov 23rd.
Wahoo KICKR SNAP Trainer – $680 (normally $850): With member coupon code 15FALLMEM. Ends Nov 23rd.

For both of the above, you’ll need to be an REI member (if not, it’s $20 more).  You can get free shipping on the KICKR by simply selecting to do a pickup at your REI store a few days later (option on checkout).  Also, a few of you have asked what happened to the KICKR 10-speed version (only 11-speed now offered).  In short, Wahoo ran out of inventory globally on it.  They’re working on getting another production run for 10-speed versions, but it’s not a ‘next week’ type of thing.  Of course, you can always just swap out for your own 10-speed cassette, which typically cost about $50-$60 for a Shimano Ultegra version. Both of the above deals disappear at the end of Monday.

Some of you have asked whether or not I’d go with the usual recommendation of the Tacx Vortex at $529, or the KICKR SNAP at $680.  In general you’ll have wider Bluetooth app compatibility with the KICKR SNAP, and you get slightly more resistance (incline specifically) on the KICKR SNAP.  But both trainers are already supported by Zwift, TrainerRoad, and others. I don’t find any real noise differences there, nor road-like feel differences.  There are some minor other differences, but those are the main ones.  Simply comes down to how much you value $135.

FR920XT Sale


Next, a totally different reminder that the FR920XT sale that’s on right now ends tomorrow night too.  There’s two options on this, one with the heart rate strap (HRM-RUN), and one without.  This is the cheapest this product has ever been:

Garmin FR920XT for $329 (normally $449) – Deal ends Nov 23rd.
Garmin FR920XT with HRM-RUN for $369 (normally $499) – Deal ends Nov 23rd.

Note that the newly introduced FR920XT triathlon bundle is not on sale (Garmin decides these things, not retailers).

Also note that interestingly, Garmin just introduced Running Dynamics Gen2 metrics to the Fenix3 over the weekend (via a beta firmware update), using existing HRM-RUN straps that simply get a software update to give them new capabilities.  These were the ones that were announced for the FR630.  It’s unclear whether or not the FR920XT will get these metrics, but usually the FR920XT/Fenix3/Epix products stay in lock-step (give or take a few weeks) on these things.  The obvious exceptions being something that’s specific to a higher end product line like mapping or advanced navigation.  Of course, most return policies would more than encompass that few week lag between products updates should this not come true.

Next Black Friday Deals Post:

I’ll be posting all of the other Black Friday sales on Thursday (for announced deals), I’ll do a brief reminder/FYI post at that time pointing to my main BF deals page located here.  In general, I don’t expect to see any manufacturers undercut existing sales on the same products, because that’s a nightmare for retailers (customers would simply request refunds and/or returns).  So you usually see adjacent products get sales, or just extensions of existing sales (what’s old is new again).  And as with before, in general don’t expect any products released in the last few months to be put on sale – companies simply don’t do that since they’re already selling well enough.

Finally, between now and then you’ll get the Winter 2015-2016 Gadget Recommendations Guide, and the Garmin FR230/235 In-Depth Review.  Plus 1-2 other in-depth reviews this week.  It’s gonna be crazy pants.

Thanks for the quick read and the support!

Week in Review–Nov 22nd, 2015 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2015/11/reviewnov-22nd-2015.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2015/11/reviewnov-22nd-2015.html#comments Sun, 22 Nov 2015 17:11:08 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=52517 The Week in Review is a collection of both all the goodness I’ve written during the past week around the internet, as well as a small pile of links I found interesting – generally endurance sports related. I’ve often wondered … Read More Here ]]> Week days signpost

The Week in Review is a collection of both all the goodness I’ve written during the past week around the internet, as well as a small pile of links I found interesting – generally endurance sports related. I’ve often wondered what to do with all of the coolness that people write, and while I share a lot of it on Twitter and Facebook, this is a better forum for sending it on to y’all. Most times these different streams don’t overlap, so be on the lookout at all these places for good stuff!

So with that, let’s get into the action!

DCRainmaker.com posts in the past week:

Here’s all the goodness that ended up on the main page of DCRainmaker.com this past week.

Monday: Paris
Tuesday: A November Garmin (Fancy) Fenix3 Giveaway
Wednesday: LIMITS Responds: Says they aren’t a scam (but still lie)
Thursday: TomTom Spark In-Depth Review
Friday: Arctic Circle Cross Border Hill Repeats: A Finland-Norway Runaround

The DCR Podcast:

Here’s the low-down on what was covered this past week in the DCR podcast:

(The interwebs were not strong enough for a Skype call at our little spot in the Arctic Circle, just horrible quality, sorry. We’ll double-down this week though!)

Thanks for listening! Subscribing and rating in iTunes is much appreciated, and be sure to send in your questions via the voice mail widget at the bottom of the podcast page!

Stuff that I found interesting around the interwebs:

Here’s a not-so-small smattering of all the random things that I stumbled on while doing my civic duty to find the end of the Internet:

1) Man climbs Eiffel Tower with GoPro: These days, this stunt unapproved would probably get you shot off the side of the Eiffel Tower.  Based on the tree cover though, this definitely wasn’t in the last few weeks (the leaves turned here about a month ago).

2) New Balance 3D prints running shoe: And apparently they’re going to go into production with this setup next year.  The idea here is being able to offer far more customization on-demand.  Sorta like Dell does for computers.

3) Garmin on track to get denied expansion: It’s always crazy to me when folks in smaller cities/towns try to limit growth in companies that disproportionally make up the majority of employment in that town.  Never ends well for that locale. (via David)

4) Wanna ride your bike to the south pole? How about a guided tour then?  Oh, I’d so do this…well, except the $70K price tag.  Eeks! (via  J. Michael W.)

5) “I’ve always liked to run and drink beer: Yes, that’s the actual quote from the runner that Brooks just signed a sponsorship deal with, also happens to be Beer Mile World Record holder. (via Randy)

6) Bangkok Half-Marathon was somehow 17-miles long: No, this wasn’t an errant GPS watch, but literally the entire race was long by 4 miles.  Also known as a crapton long. (also via Randy)

7) Marine Corps Marathon issues lifetime ban to runner: Sweetness!  Nailing cheaters, love it.

8) FirstBeat Athlete Software Discontinued: A few of you sent this in to me a week or two ago.  Semi-surprising, but also somewhat expected.  Simply put: There just isn’t a market for HRV type apps these days.  I think if the company had done more to simplify the process (such as making it online, integrating with Garmin/Polar/Suunto back ends for instant-access, etc…), it would be more attractive.

9) What different pro athletes use on their GPS watches: Interesting little summary of what a few different pro athletes have as their data screens.

10) Could the Paris attacks impact the Tour de France and cycling? Lots of talk about changes, but do remember there have been many terrorist attacks on Paris over the decades – so hopefully things will stay just as they’ve been for decades.

Sports Technology Software/Firmware Updates This Week:

Each week I quickly highlight some of the new firmware, app, software and website service updates that I see go out. If you’re a sports technology company and release an update – shoot me a quick note (just one liners is perfect, or Tweet it at me is even better) and I’ll make mention of it here. If I don’t know about it, I won’t be able to post about it. Sound good?

Polar releases Pro Trainer 5 to Polar Flow ability: Well well…for those longtime Polar users, this is a pretty big ticket to getting your data into Flow.

4iiii adds tons of new features to Viiiiva: Didn’t expect this one, but Viiiiva got some pretty sweet new functionality, including the ability to connect to Fitness Equipment.

Garmin Fenix3 Beta Firmware Update: This adds in Gen2 Running Dynamics support, among a few other things.  No, I don’t know when/if this will come to the FR920XT, but typically the FR920XT/Fenix3/Epix stay pretty tightly coupled together feature-wise.

Recon Instruments releases updated Jet SDK: This also applies to their snow goggles as well as the cycling/running heads up display system.

Thanks of reading!

Arctic Circle Cross Border Hill Repeats: A Finland-Norway Runaround http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2015/11/repeats-finland-runaround.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2015/11/repeats-finland-runaround.html#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2015 05:00:00 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=52505 People always talk about running XC (cross country) in school, but today, I truly ran cross-country.  I crossed an international border over and over again as part of my hill repeats. Here, let me explain.  The Girl and I are … Read More Here ]]> People always talk about running XC (cross country) in school, but today, I truly ran cross-country.  I crossed an international border over and over again as part of my hill repeats.

Here, let me explain.  The Girl and I are up in Northern Finland for the week checking out the Northern Lights with some friends.  I’ll cover that more later in the weekend.  We’re staying in a tiny little cabin along a river.  Which, is about as descriptive as you can get about this pretty place.  If you can find the Middle of Nowhere on a map, we’re perhaps a kilometer or two from there.  We are heavily outnumbered by reindeer.  Serious.

Now during the day there isn’t a lot to do up here.  And by day, I mean all four hours of it.  Right now it lasts from roughly 10AM till 2PM, though the 9-10AM and 2-3PM timeframes could be debated.  So the last two days we’ve gone for runs.  Here’s one from yesterday where The Girl and I did a nice 10K from our cabin out to the nearby village, and then across a bridge to Norway:



It was a great little run, and we had no problems using YakTrax as usual for snow running (we have a long history of running in the snow together).  If you’re running on ice, they’re the best $20-$30 you can spend.


This day, we split up for our respective runs.  In my case, I decided to go for some hill repeats.  I did this because it was getting towards sunset and the light was pretty thin.  I didn’t want to be out on a lonely snow/ice road without light.  Whereas the bridge over the border/river up to the border shack had a handful of lights.


Note, when I say border crossing, I basically mean a small shack.  And even that is only used for large transport trucks.  All other cars just pass through.

In any case, after a 15-minute warm-up, I got started on my hill repeats.  Each time I’d start from just on the Finland side of the border, then up the hill to the border crossing, before recovering while returning across to the Norwegian side of the border.  You can see the beginning of the hill just at the start of the lights.


Rinse…and repeat…five times.


All my hill photos came out fuzzy, so instead, here’s the river where I started each set (and the official border between the two countries).


There’s a small two-sided sign in the middle of the river indicating the crossing of countries.  And in the case of traveling into Finland, there’s an additional sign indicating entering the European Union.


After my repeats I decided to then do a 10-minute tempo run back to the cabin, slightly up-hill, and passing a single reindeer.  Nothing fancy, but it was enough to trigger the FR630’s lactate threshold value along the way, so that was neat to see post-run.

I’d note that there were no Strava Segments on my route either of the first two days.  Nothing at all:


So I created one, from the border to the top of the hill.  Now, I’m literally the King of the Mountain.


I’ll be sure to do a real solid go of things on Friday before I leave, since the above was from an easier run. Open season for anyone who wishes to travel this far. Smile

Finally, for those curious on the tech side, I had a slew of watches with me.  I was using the FR235, FR630, and carrying along the FR920XT and Suunto Traverse.


In addition, I was also testing the Polar A360.  For the two optical units (FR235/A360), they were on my wrists (one each).  While the others were being toted along, mostly for data collection.  For example I was interested in the new Running Dynamics metrics on the FR630, and then using the FR920XT for gathering Stryd Power data.  And the Traverse, just cause I’m curious what it’s all about.  I figure it’s fitting that I’d use the Suunto Traverse while in Finland, given both Suunto and Polar are Finnish companies.



In any case – more to come!