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5 Random Things I Did This Weekend

After countless non-stop tech weekends, it was finally a little bit more relaxing on the sports tech gadget testing front. Still, I was carrying out some less critical tests over the course of the weekend which I suspect some of you might find interesting. Also, there’s pancakes, bikes, and goats for everyone else.

1) Picked up AirPods, but PowerBeats Pro Ordering Fail

With the Forerunner 945 and Forerunner 245 last week, I was curious if anything had changed on the Apple AirPods compatibility front. While I didn’t own AirPods previously, I’d long known (both from Garmin and readers alike) that connectivity was rough at best.  This was mostly because both companies were tweaking their tiny devices to be at the absolute edge of Bluetooth connectivity. They wanted to provide just enough power to work, but not an ounce more. Unfortunately, in the case of wearables (where both companies definitely aren’t working together), it’s a fine line between success and failure. And previously, this relationship was a failure.

Of course, I wasn’t much interested in the AirPods personally. I think they mostly look hideous with a side-dish of pretentious. Still, with Apple on AirPods V2, and Garmin now 4-5 music devices down the road since the original Garmin Forerunner 645, I decided to give it a whirl.

Turns out, buying said AirPods in Amsterdam was surprisingly difficult. Nobody had them in stock. Not either Apple Store, nor any of the electronics stores. So, I had to order them and wait. But, now I have them.

IMG_9081

I’ll talk about them later in this post.

So just shortly after I got them on Friday morning, I tried to order the new PowerBeats Pro – which are basically a blend of the red PowerBeats I’ve long had around (and you’ve seen in my reviews) with the AirPods. They’ve made them totally wireless and added in the AirPods magic. They opened for ordering on Friday at 4PM Amsterdam time. They’re more athletic focused than regular PowerBeats.

image

Except, as I discovered – they’re apparently not available to order in the Netherlands. Sad panda. So…no testing on that front for you. Maybe at some point down the road they’ll be available here, or I’ll pick them up on a trip somewhere else.

2) Cycling GPS Battery Tests

Usually once I finish a review I often go back and add in long-life battery tests to the review. Or at least, test it somewhere. The reason it’s tough to do pre-review is that I don’t usually have the time to set aside a unit for 1-3 days to test it out.

So this weekend I kerplunked the Edge 530, Edge 830, and Wahoo ROAM in the garden and then set up a dedicated laptop to broadcast ANT+ signals simulating a cycling power meter and a chest strap, to all the units. The power meter was configured to mirror that of a PowerTap hub, so it also sent speed and cadence information (which meant distance incremented too).

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Then I kerplunked the units on the kids’ play area and let them be. The laptop was inside two meters away, broadcasting through the window. Works surprisingly well.

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In the ‘old days’ these sorts of tests were easier to get realistic numbers. In those days there were no ambient light sensors or phone connectivity, let alone stuff like accelerometers monitoring for crashes/incidents or counting mountain bike jumps. Let alone smart algorithms that reduced GPS antenna power when there was no movement detected. For better or worse, those aren’t the days anymore.

In order to make these all equal, the settings were as follows:

Backlight: Manually turned off on all units (so they wouldn’t burn backlight battery overnight)
Phone: Manually disabled on all units (because I didn’t have a spare phone at the time paired to all of them)
Sensors: Power meter (SPD/CAD/PWR) + heart rate sensor, both ANT+ driven
Data screens: Fields showing the actual data being updated, to force the screens to update

Of course, if I wanted to burn more battery I’d have to:

A) Find a way to shake/rattle/roll the units, so the accelerometers wouldn’t rest (and the programming atop them)
B) Connect a phone to them the entire duration
C) Simulate button presses
D) Potentially simulate navigation/mapping/routes (or leaving it on the mapping screen)

But the goal isn’t to see how quickly you can burn the battery, the goal is to see if their claims hold water.  As of this writing (exactly 24hrs after I started the test, the results are as follows:

Wahoo ROAM: Lasted 18 hours 18 minutes (claimed battery life of 17 hours)
Garmin Edge 530: After 24hrs, currently has 41% battery remaining (claimed battery life in non-saver mode is 20 hours)
Garmin Edge 830: After 24hrs, currently has 48% battery remaining (claimed battery life in non-saver mode is 20 hours)

At this point, it’s clear that either phone connectivity or accelerometer aspects negatively impacts the Garmin units far more than I would have assumed (thus why it’s way overachieving on battery life). So I’ve got a solution for that. For the phones, I’m going to pair up some old phones to it for the next round of testing.

And then, I’m going to buy this turn-table. I can modify it with a few ‘bumps’ such that the units are forced to tumble a little bit. It makes sense in my head anyway. Says it’ll arrive later this week. So I’ll try again next weekend. Though, I’ll have to figure out creative ways to protect against rain. During the last 24 hours it’s both rained and hailed – so these units didn’t exactly get the easy pass.

3) A Run Around The Museum:

Sunday morning I went out for a 10KM or so run around Vondelpark. It was a nice quiet morning. Perhaps a tiny bit on the cold side for early May, but not too bad. Very few people in the park for a Sunday morning:

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On this run I had the Vantage V Titan out for its maiden voyage, as well as the Garmin FR945 with the AirPods out for their first run too.

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Once I got towards the end of Vondelpark I decided to do some loops around the Museumplein, though, also including Vondelpark.

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It was about 2KM per loop, and all of it just nice and easy cruisin’. One to the left of the museum, one to the right, and one directly under it.

Processed with VSCO with fs16 preset

This made it fun for GPS testing as well, DCR Analyzer link here.

From an AirPods perspective, I was ready for total failure. At least, that’s what everyone had told me the last year when trying to use Garmin wearables + AirPods together. For this one, I loaded up Spotify on the FR945 with one of the canned workout playlists, and then paired them up to the AirPods.  Of course, I’d been testing this for a few days around home and the DCR Cave – and even leaving a watch on my desk I could make it all the way across the DCR Cave (three rooms away) – before I’d find some dropouts (and only partially). But otherwise, it never dropped out on me inside.

And outside? Just once – while I was standing there getting the watches all ready, there was a single blip. But never during the entire 6.86mi run did it drop the music.  Though, I did drop one of the AirPods. I went to brush some sweat off the side of my head and pulled it right out of my ear – and out it went onto the path.

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Thankfully I noticed it, though only just barely. I could easily see how you’d lose them while running and not noticing one has fallen out (since with a Garmin, it didn’t auto-pause music when you remove one from your ear, like it does on an iPhone), as the music in one keeps playing, and there was plenty of street/etc noise around.

Because my curiosity level is high, I’ve now pulled out all the other past Garmin music wearables, and will get them updated. I’m interested to see if the success is to due to AirPods V2 (versus V1), or due to something on the Forerunner 945 that makes it better than past units. I know for example that Garmin introduced improvements in the Fenix 5 Plus over the earlier Forerunner 645 Music around Bluetooth music specifically, based on what they learned over that 6 month lead period. Perhaps in the nearly 1-year since the Fenix 5 Plus, more has been learned.

Or perhaps, I’ve just gotten lucky. More to come….

4) Pancakes and bikes

After my run it was off with the kiddos and my parents who are in town to find pancakes in the woods. And deer. And peacocks. Though, ‘find’ is probably a strong word. Both I and the kiddos know exactly where the pancakes are (and the animals). It’s one of our favorite places out in the forest in the southern part of Amsterdam.

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We’d bike out there as always, passing by horses, fuzzy long-haired cows, and boats. Plus old vintage trolley’s running on Sunday’s. All the things that the kids love to see. Of course – all in the aim of pancakes.

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Then afterwards we’d play on the playground at the pancake house. It’s part petting zoo, part pancake house, part playground, and part farm.

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Whatever it is, it’s awesome for kids – but also perfectly great for adults that just want Dutch pancakes.

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We’re lucky in that by bike it’s only 2.5KM away from the DCR Cave/Studio, and not much further away from home. So it’s quick and easy to get to.

5) Back to the Goats

After pancakes we decided to press deeper into the Bos (forest), this time going back to the goat farmhouse that we’d visited a number of weeks back. It’s here that you can pet pigs, cows, horses, ponies, goats, and even chickens if you can catch one.

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But mostly, it’s about the goats:

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You can go in and pet, as well as give bottles of milk to baby goats. There are seriously more little goats than you can goat. I think three barns full of them. Plus the other farm animals. All of the goats are friendly too. And everything is free, unless you want to feed them, in which case you pick up a baby bottle of milk from the café for 1EUR.

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Like the pancake place, there’s plenty to do here – even roaming down to a bush maze of sorts. Or, you can just walk around the farm.

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After we were done, we peddled slowly on back. It didn’t take long for either of the Peanuts to fall victim to the cargo bike’s sleepy powers. By the time we got home, both were totally out.

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And yup – another good weekend in the books.

With that – thanks for reading, and have a great week ahead!

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69 Comments

  1. Fred Lee

    @Ray, regarding your battery life test, specifically broadcasting speed data to the units, question:

    I have an Edge 810 and most of my bikes have Garmin speed sensors on the front wheel. The speed sensor is picked up by the 810. I have noticed when I ride under a canopy of trees and lose GPS signal the 810 will not report speed correctly. It’s as if it’s prioritizing the GPS speed data over the speed sensor. Have you ever seen that?

    • Hmm, it should have the speed sensor override the GPS automatically. Maybe double-check the wheel circumference is entered in correctly (as in, perhaps it’s not set at all).

    • FD

      That also happened on my 810! there’s a particular downhill with some trees and the garmin unit would never pick up the speed sensor.

    • Andrew M

      Low battery on the speed sensor? Enough juice to start the sensor, but dies out on the road, with the GPS speed taking over.

  2. usr

    Sweet, a goat scrubbing machine! I’ve only ever seen those for cows and they look sooo happy using it. Would love to see a review of those, any chance you’ll extend your publishing empire from fitness tech to livestock keeping?

    • P

      Mechanical brushes are thought to be pretty important to the health and well-being of livestock. I believe Denmark was the first country to require them.

      Yes, I lived in Iowa.

    • I don’t think I’ll expand my publishing in that direction, though, I do have a 30-second video of the goat taking full advantage of the massage machine.

  3. Derek Chan

    You could put the turn table in one of those big transparent ikea bins.

  4. Matthew

    Ray,

    For battery testing, maybe adding an automatic watch winder like this – link to amazon.com – would enhance the realism, as this would activate the accelerators.

    • Matthew

      accelerators should have been accelerometers

    • That’s super interesting.

      My only concern would be that device might be too perfect. I’d assume that accelerometers would be triggered by any movement, but if there’s no acceleration, I wonder if it changes things? I’d guess the gyro would be triggered though due to inversion.Still, I like it!

  5. PeterF

    Any chance you can do the battery test in the cold as well (ie stick them in the fridge at 4 degrees C). My 820 seems to last only about 3 hours in winter…

    • Yeah, I used to do that. My only challenge is getting a test where GPS is on in the fridge. However, I’ve got GPS repeaters that I need to install, so I could actually bring a GPS repeater into the fridge.

    • Fred Lee

      Or just put them in a cooler with the top open. Put it in the shade and swap in new ice once or twice during the test as necessary.

  6. GH

    I’ve noticed that i have more issues with my 1030 crashing when my phone is paired. Has anyone else experienced this?

    • GLT

      I ride paired w/ phone three or four times a week with no E1030 crashes. The only issues I’ve had were the power meters dropping off in mid-ride, but that ceased with v7.30 firmware update.

    • Yeah, no issues with crashing on the Edge 1030 (and one of them is on almost every ride I take) – always phone connected.

      It’s probably worth opening a support case with Garmin, as they can look at the crash log and tell you why it’s crashing. It could be something silly and totally unrelated that you might be able to fix (such as a corrupted file somewhere).

    • GH

      Good advice – i’ll give that a try. Thank you

  7. Fred Lee

    Instead of the turntable, how about a model train? Use it for the testing, and then it’s still fun for the kids!

    I worry that putting GPS units on a (mostly) stationary platform will enable the GPS units to power-save more than if they’re actually under motion.

    As a randonneur (well, former but plan to jump back in soon) I really appreciate the battery tests. I remember 15 years ago using my old garmin etrex on rides, and then progressively stepping up to newer GPS units over the years. Realistically 15 hours was about the most one could count on, which meant they’d work for a moderately quick 400K but nothing longer unless you start bringing along a battery pack (annoying).

    Getting 20-30 hours out of a unit would be spectacular.

    • My thought with a stationary platform was that it would rotate around (albeit a small platform) and likely tumble while it was at it, which would be enough to keep things awake.

      That said – I like the model train idea. Any ones that are outdoor-friendly though (waterproof)?

    • Shaun Moran

      Yep – Dick Debartolo (Mad Magazine writer) runs trains outdoors 365/year in his new york backyard link to youtube.com

    • Florian

      Check out L.G.B trains (link to lgb.com). They are specifically made for use in the garden and pretty weatherproof as far as I’m aware. They are also big, so putting a GPS unit onto them won’t be an issue at all.

    • Yikes….those trainers are cool, but I don’t think I’d get approval at those prices! 🙂

  8. DJ

    I recently purchased the Garmin 245M this past week so have used on about 4 runs. I did pair my first gen air pods and have been happy with them. I was also worried about the drop issue people have described but maybe happened once in the 4 runs I have done with them. So happy with the 245M thus far!

    • In talking with Garmin a bit more about the AirPods side of things today (after I posted), it sounds like you should be in really good hands with the FR245M/AirPods combo (1st or 2nd gen).

    • AJ Gator

      Any feedback on compatibility with the Fenix 5+? I had some connectivity issues with a pair of JLab wireless headphones right after I bought the watch and now I’m gun shy on buying any new headphones for fear they’ll be incompatible.

    • Lauren Axelrod

      Any word at all about future headphone support with the FR245M? I bought both that and a pair of the Powerbeats Pro (PHENOMENAL) and as I had read that you used Powerbeats with your FR245M I assumed any Powerbeats would work. Wrong! I can’t get it to pair at all. Garmin has produced two different lists of what headphones work with these units, which makes things even more confusing.

      I’m now trying to decide if I should return the FR245M since I haven’t even worn it yet? Or do I hold out for hope headphone support will improve? I can tell you if I’m kicking one to the curb it isn’t the Pros. Believe the hype on those!

      Thoughts?

    • Lauren

      Well, as much as I’d like to be able to remove that comment, I figure just posting my own reply may help others.

      I was all set to blame Garmin – my excuse is down to the poor communication and documentation that they often suffer from. But I read about one other option for Powerbeats that involved treating the Garmin as if it was an Android (which makes sense as PB is Apple). This involved holding down the button in the case and having the light flash – boom! Paired.

  9. Fred Lee

    Speaking of phone pairing; I’ve been having issues with Garmin Connect. It drains my iPhone’s battery like there is no tomorrow. It’s bad enough that I keep it uninstalled, and re-install it when needed, which is a pain in the neck. Happens on both my previous iPhone SE and iPhone7.

    Lots of internet posts about this, so I’m not the only one. The practical impact is that I think twice about using my Garmin anymore, on about 2/3 of rides I’ll just run Strava on my iPhone, since that’s easier than syncing over USB.

    Of course the Edge 530 finally supports syncing over wi-fi, so maybe it’s time to upgrade…

  10. Mr T.

    Huh. My experience has been the opposite. I used 1st gen airpods with my 645M with almost no issues. On my Fenix 5s plus it’s been horrible.

    But then most Bluetooth headphones have been horrible with my fenix.

    • Steve Roach

      I’ve been looking at this watch and wonder about downloading music to it. Is it possible to load it to the watch with all music in iTunes? Thanks for the help

    • Paul Erickson

      I use the AfterShokz Trekz Air bluetooth headphones with no issues connecting to my Fenix 5, iPhone, or Android phone.

      Bonus is that they’re bone-conducting units, so I can still hear the environment around me. 🙂

  11. Ian Marchant

    You could rig something up with the turntable and mount it on some large ish speaker. then play a bunch music sufficient to rattle the whole lot up and down. Saw something similar for testing lamp filaments and it worked well

    • Haha…that’s awesome.

      Though, given this is exactly 1 meter away from the kids bedroom…that seems like it won’t go over well. 🙂

      My current though is basically using turntable with a trip on it, so that as it goes around there’s a speed-bump glued to the table, and then another hanging just above it, forcing it to bump over the bump. My second thought was simply mounting the turntable at a 45* angle, and then glueing a small shelf to it so it basically lifts it up, and then drops it down again (and for both of these, making a shield to keep the units on the turntable). The only challenge with either is ensuring the stop/start buttons don’t get pressed (would have to lock it).

    • Ian Marchant

      I suppose you could cut most of the cardboard cone away so it didn’t make as much noise 🙂

  12. Sauli Pieniniemi

    I have used AirPods with a Garmin Fenix 5+ for a year without issues. Once in awhile when doing strength training, I’ll lose one ear for a few seconds but then it comes back. No problems at all while running. I didn’t even know it was a concern with anyone.

  13. Vinicius Batista

    Concerning AirPods compatibility, I believe that was greatly improved after firmware upgrade to 7.1. My AirPods connection are rocky solid now

  14. Rich

    Hi Ray. Thanks for the reviews on the Garmin 530 and the Wahoo Roam.
    I’m looking to replace my trusty old Garmin 810. Which one of the above two would you recommend? The Roam/530?
    Cheers

  15. Steve

    Had to share this about AirPods:
    link to theregister.co.uk

  16. IanM

    Testbed for battery life…..
    I used to work in a lab testing Cars in the 1980’s and we had a great testing environment for Noise Vibration Harshness.
    We did extensive work on simulation of a road test on the rigs. Our partner was MTS
    link to mts.com

    The complexity and understanding to have the rig simulate real life was amazing.
    Just a simple replay of a testing track loop on a rig was a major undertaking.
    Eventually we got the formula down saving years of road test by compressing them into weeks.
    Fatigue is: The number of cycles after a major event. If you want to simulate a fatigue fracture: Hit the 6 inch pothole on the first corner. Then failure is just a matter of cycles! If we had understood that first we would got to the formula much quicker!

    Sounds like battery testing is entering the same complex environment replication phase.
    Maybe you need you own GPS zone in the lab to simulate route traversal.

    What do phone review sites do to monitor battery life?
    How does the phone battery level affect the Head unit?
    I am guessing temperature will have an effect.
    Is BLE/ANT+ signal strength to the phone a major factor?

    Good luck

  17. Ahbe

    Concerning the AirPods, I’ve been using a pair of JLab Epic Air Elite headphones with my Garmin Fenix 5x Plus with mixed results. It’s fine in the gym, but they were unusable when running outdoors. I wear my watch on my left wrist in standard fashion. I would get audio cutouts every few seconds. However, I happen to notice if I rotated my wrist so the watch had a line of sight view to my headphones without passing through my wrist the audio was fine. It seems to me wrist placement makes a huge difference when outdoors with truly wireless headphones. But, this wrist rotation is inconvenient and bothersome. I pre-ordered the Powerbeats Pro with hopes they will work (and sound) better than my JLab’s. I’d be curious to hear other peoples experiences with truly wireless headphones.
    link to jlabaudio.com

  18. B.Martin

    You should put the gps units on a carriage on a toy train track in the back yard, that will be way more fun data and photos in the report.

  19. Andrew

    Any chance of a Polar Vantage M vs V vs T GPS test?

  20. Lauri

    Can you add 1030 as well on the next test. It would be nice to see, how it compares with 530 and 830.

  21. Itai

    Hi Ray, Thank you so much for testing the new 945 with Airpods V2, this was the only thing stopping me from pulling the trigger on the 945 (what can I say, the airpods are my go everywhere in ear set..).

  22. Jan

    Concerning the issue to shake/rattle/roll the units: it made me think about our baby mobile. See the second half of this video for an example: link to youtube.com (you can turn off the sound! 😉 ). It seems like a nice stumble every round, to keep the accelerometers busy. Just replace the fluffy animals with bike computers.

    And always nice to see you enjoy Amsterdam! We moved out around the same time you moved in after living there for about ten years. And I grew up close to the Ronde Hoep (Abcoude). Recognise just about all the places you share in your posts.

    • Jan

      After-thought: I’m not sure if it will automatically stop after a while. Guess that could be a problem for testing purposes. If you want, I could give it a try.

  23. Kris

    I read you can preorder the Powerbeats Pro in the Netherlands in June.
    link to iculture.nl

  24. Eric

    Do the 530/830 have the needed hardware for bluetooth music? Or will it be the next generation of cycling computers before this option rolls out?

    • I suspect technically speaking there’s the hardware in there for music, but I’d say there’s a 0% chance Garmin would add that. They don’t even allow non-text based smartphone messages to come through, so adding something like music while riding would be pretty unlikely (for safety reasons).

  25. Thomas

    Hi Ray,
    Have you tried cycling with the AirPods? Do they produce a lot of wind noise? Because my current bluetooth headphones (JBL Reflect Mini) are impossible to cycle with because of they wind noise they produce.
    Kind regards,
    Thomas

    • No, I haven’t. I’m generally not a fan of cycling with anything blocking my ear (even my COROS helmet I don’t use a ton from a audio standpoint, though, that doesn’t block outside noise).

    • Ivo

      I have used ear buds before and for the last year AirPods while cycling, usually just listening to podcasts, while riding around a closed to traffic bike path. If the AirPods fit your ears well enough and don’t tend to fall out while walking/running you should have no problems cycling with them.

      There is wind noise present, but to be honest not much worse then when riding with nothing in your ears. The only way to prevent it is to use in ear monitor type headphones, something that seals with your ears better. That improves the wind noise, but also blocks out the rest of the world, so not something to use on the road.

      I use the AirPods despite the wind noise and average audio because of the huge benefit of them being wireless and the great integration with the Apple ecosystem. I ride with an Apple Watch and being able to skip and adjust volume on the go is super convenient.

  26. DJS

    Hi Ray,

    For me the most important in a comparison between Garmin and Wahoo would be how much battery life is impacted by constant map rendering/refreshment during a ride when following a (breadcrumb) route. Have you taken these devices on the same ride and checked remaining battery life after the rides or at similar (60 min) intervals? Temperature, as asked for earlier, would also be interesting, but for me the major deciding point between the two platforms would be battery life out in the real world.

    Dankjewel!
    DJ

  27. Stefan

    Electric toothbrush maybe?

  28. Your kids are too cute. The lazy Susan is going to be fantastic for product shots. You should be able to time it with the slider to get a perfect logo reveal or whatever effect you’re going for. Awesome that it’ll double as an accelerometer trigger.

    • Thanks!

      Yeah, the lazy Susan I originally had planned to order for exactly that on product shots (versus what I was doing which was re-purposing a Syrp Geni Mini). Given that’s like $250, it’s serious overkill for the job (and frankly, finicky for what I want).

      Both units arrive Friday. Woot!

  29. Raul Freitas

    Hi Ray, based on the picture of the 3 bike computers, it seems that the ROAM had no glare while the Garmins have a lot… Readability, especially outdoors, is a key feature for most…
    Can you please compare and comment?
    Cheers

    • The problem with glare is more photos than real-life. I’ve got zero issues with glare on either unit in real-life, but taking photos/video can be a @#$#@, depending on sun angle.

  30. Hello Ray,

    can you tell me something about how got the powerbeats fit with (cycling) glasses and helmets?
    I struggle buying a pair because of this.

    Thanks!

  31. zac

    Off topic question, but thought it was worth the write — anything that is a Must-Do in Amsterdam? I’ll be visiting Rotterdam for some work this coming week and have a few spare days to kill. I’d love to hear of some suggestions for food, drink, and touristy-stuff. Thanks!

  32. marc steingrand

    Hello ray,
    my question on the air pods is more likely if they are sweet proof/waterproof which level, I think they are quiet expensive and than having them and after a while not working would frust me a lot..

    cheers marc

  33. Rob

    I got my Edge 530 this weekend, for some real world battery experience this was what I saw.

    I did an 8 hour elapsed (7.5 moving) ride on Sunday with temperatures between 3-17c, I was following a Strava route, with my Pixel 3 connected by Bluetooth, 4iii left side and Wahoo Tickr both connecting with ant+ with no battery saving mode enabled. From fully charged it used exactly 50% of the battery