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5 Random Things I Did This Weekend

It’s no longer summer. But hey, things are heating up in the watch realm instead – so I’ve got that for ya! Here’s what I was up to this past weekend as the leaves start to change, and the weather gets solidly less awesome.

1) Picking up the Fitbit Versa 3

Not unlike most years, September has been a crazy sweep of new wearables: Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, Garmin FR745, Garmin Venu SQ, Fitbit Versa 3, Fitbit Sense, and then some spillover from August including the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. I prioritize based on a blend of expected reader interest, and product availability (when a company gets it to me).

Of course, I’m ultimately limited to just two wrists, and I don’t usually wear more than one watch per wrist for workouts or 24×7 usage. So with the Fitbit Sense in-depth review behind me, I switched over to picking up the Fitbit Versa 3.

In my case, for review purposes, Fitbit asked which one I’d prefer first for earlier access, and I said the Sense. Thus, no Versa 3 handy. So I solved that by meandering down to our local big box tech store. I had also placed an order for one too with another major Dutch tech retailer, but they failed to do what they said they’d do. So this was plan B.

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The reality is that the Versa 3 is basically just a Fitbit Sense without ECG, EDA, or Skin Temperature. Still, I treat them separately from a data collection and validation standpoint. One never knows if a company perhaps gives components more or less power since they lack a different feature.

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Full in-depth review likely coming up later this week, short of stumbling upon something I didn’t expect.

2) Reallocating DCR Cave Resources

As summer has given way to fall, the weather has as well. So the kids spent considerable time outdoors since even beyond summer (spring had amazing weather, thankfully, for lockdown). I mean, let’s be honest, the Dutch schooling system (rightfully) throws the kids outdoors even when it’s raining. Which, it does basically every day in some capacity.

Point being, we’ve been having a little bit of trouble getting them to re-adjust their ‘outside voices’ to ‘inside voices’.

But then I remembered the Yacker Tracker! You’ve of course seen this in countless indoor trainer and smart bike videos I’ve made, as a simple way to gauge decibel levels. Here’s the video from when I first got it in Paris (and it was also a fair bit cheaper then). It’s basically designed for kids’ classrooms to keep things in check.

But I use it less and less both in general, and this time of year with virtually all the new trainers announced. The reason I use it less in general is simply that trainers over the last 2ish years have largely gotten to incredibly quiet levels, such that it’s no longer a major purchasing decision factor.

In any case, on Friday night I wedged the stoplight into the back of the rear bike basket, and pedaled on home. There I installed it in the kitchen, near the table.

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I can change the decibel threshold level, as well as specify whether or not it makes an alarm sound if the kids go into red. Also, it has a counter up top.

That said, I’m not terribly certain it’s effective…but hey, it’s early days still.

3) Trying to Zwift

Saturday morning while the two oldest Peanuts went to soccer practice and the younger one was down for a nap, I did a bit of garage/shed cleaning. Organizing really. After moving in a month ago, like most people things tend to stay in boxes until they need to be found for a specific purpose. That included my weeknight and weekend training spot.

As you probably guessed, I do most of my workouts at the DCR Cave/Studio, especially indoor ones. It’s where the bulk of my gear is. But on weekends I tend to run from home, or ride on a trainer. Occasionally I’ll do outdoor rides on weekends, but that’s pretty rare unless I’m going out with a friend or such (which is also pretty rare). It’s just more effective for me to thread the kids nap needle for a workout, and be home with the rodeo of three little ones.

Point being, I re-setup my indoor training spot. Which is nothing fancy at all. A bike, a trainer, and a workbench next to it. Because my iPad ran out of storage space and I couldn’t re-install Zwift after it offloaded it to save space. So I just used my laptop today. Which, would turn out to be a poor decision.

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For the trainer, I’m using a Tacx NEO 2 (older one, not the NEO 2T). I’d be just fine with the original NEO. I kinda like the road feel aspects in Zwift, which is the main reason I usually default to it. Also, I like the no-calibration aspects. But realistically, I’d be just as happy with a KICKR there too. I wouldn’t overthink too much which exact models I use at home. Oftentimes it’s just a case of ‘whatever I grabbed first out the door one random weekend’.

Anyway, I decided to go with a structured workout, Jon’s Mix (longer variant). It’s a good way to test things, and I needed to test some things. All started out just fine and began the warm-up.

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And then as I got into the 2nd round of stuff, just as the end of one of the intervals and it was supposed to transition power, it crashed Zwift (closed the app) entirely.

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No warning, no reason, just…poof. And…in a super-rare scenario, it didn’t even upload the pre-crash workout later on. That’s my laptop, with Zwift now closed and gone.

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At that point I didn’t really feel like restarting that structured workout (perhaps only to have it happen again), so I joined one of the newish pacer bot groups.

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I rather like these. It’s like the fun of a group ride without having to wait for a specific ride to start. The downside being all the ones offered this day were in Watopia, and some on courses I didn’t really feel like riding. But hey, I did it anyway.

I finished up my allocated time on the day and called it macaroni.

4) SRM X Pedals Take Two:

Sometime long ago in a far away galaxy I started testing the SRM X power meter pedals, which are SPD-based. That went well…until it didn’t (one side was producing hopelessly invalid numbers). And then I’ve been lazy-volleying with SRM over the course of the summer to try and fix it. Ultimately, they believe that the issues were related to being a very early production run with the units, and some manufacturing changes early on (as in, way back in Feb or March) likely have already resolved the issues.

All of which led to a new set being sent out and arriving a couple of weeks ago (right at the start of craziness on new releases). But, I finally got them installed this weekend. Also, this second set was blue this time.

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Unlike the SRM road bike pedals, installation on these is pretty much a breeze. Done in 1-2 minutes tops.

And, because this post is way too long already, the initial data looks pretty good. No major complaints on this first one for now. Looks like a little bit of settling in the first chunks of the workout, but that’s normal for pedals on first install.

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Of course, out on the road is what matters. I’ll do some road riding first, and then switch to mountain biking to finish it up.

5) Out for a Run

Finally, Sunday while the kids ate lunch I bailed for a nice hour-ish loop. A bit of river, a bit of forest, and a bit of forgettable suburbia. Though, the old Amstelveen station is kinda neat. A bit of sun, a bit of wind, and a few drips from the rain still on trees earlier. But, all good.

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I was running with the Fitbit Versa 3 (left wrist), Apple Watch Series 6 (right wrist), and then as an extra data point the Garmin FR745 (hand-held paired to chest strap). I also had a Polar OH1 Plus, Garmin HRM-PRO, and Whoop strap for extra HR sensor data.

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The run was nice, just cruising along at a fairly casual pace. Every 3mi/5km I’d do a bit of a sprint for 60-seconds, mostly just to cause the heart rate sensors grief. I’ll do a track workout on Monday or Tuesday, but this worked in the meantime. The results aren’t surprising. Like with the Fitbit Sense, the optical HR sensor of the Versa 3 struggles far more than any other sensor (even more than Whoop, though Whoop was also inaccurate). You can see some of that below. Fitbit in yellow.

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(Note: I changed the position of the Garmin HRM-PRO at 2-minutes in from lower chest to upper chest, hence the bobble.)

Now, while the Fitbit was the least accurate on this run, it did mostly get the 1st/2nd/3rd intervals correct, though struggled instead at other points (the beginning of course, but also appears to suffer cadence lock issues at other times).

I do have to figure out though why the Apple Watch file export on this run didn’t export with either HR or GPS (and I tried both the export from Strava as well as HealthFit. Super weird.). In watching the Apple Watch’s heart rate numbers throughout the run, it was virtually lock-step with the HRM-PRO chest strap, so I’d be surprised if there’s anything funky. Everything I’ve thrown at it to date it handles with ease. I suspect it’s one track workout away from taking back the crown of best optical HR sensor in a watch (it lost that crown with the Series 5).

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The only quirky thing I can’t quite figure out is why the Apple Watch ended up with such a longer distance (~.20mi/320m). Looking at the distance accumulation graph in the DCR Analyzer, it did it slowly over the entire run, ever so gradually increasing distance faster than the other two. There were no obvious GPS ‘extra bits’ here or there along the route.

In any case…will sort that out in the coming days.

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

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34 Comments

  1. Arno Smit

    I have the feeling my apple watch series 5 also gives slightly more distance compared to my garmin forerunner 935.

    • Pavel Vishnyakov

      Same here. Sometimes is stays completely in sync for first several km but then drifts away. But interestingly enough it always ends up with the same difference of about 300 m from Garmin

    • To me it almost seemed like what you’d see if one was using a miscalibrated footpod where the variance is stable throughout the run, but ever-impacting the total distance.

  2. Phil S

    Thanks Ray
    Just wondering why you still keep taking the Whoop band out with you when you consistently slam its HR performance.
    Are you expecting an improvement?

  3. Sam Brown

    I’ve heard that some people have had issues with losing health data with iOS 14/ watchos7, the autosleep watch app advised people against updating because they were getting support emails about people losing health data.

    According to this thread apple support confirmed it’s an issue link to discussions.apple.com

  4. There was the Bosbaan triathlon in your back yard both days. It was exciting to join a real race after so many months, in quite a corono-proof way. Surprised to see that you managed to find a spot to do a run and make a picture with no other people in view!

    • Congrats!

      Yeah, I remembered it early last week and was semi-tempted to sign-up…then I looked at the weather and it looked miserable. 🙂

      Though, for a sprint triathlon in a mostly sheltered course I suppose it can only get so bad. 😉

  5. Sarah

    Are you planning on reviewing the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3? Ive watched a lot of reviews but I dont trust them as much as yours!

    • I picked one up last week as well. I’ve got it all unboxed, but realistically it’ll be probably about 8-10 days before it can hit my wrist. But I expect a review in October.

    • And by “I’ve got it all unboxed”, I technically mean The Girl did the unboxing. 😉

    • Sarah

      Haha awesome! That’s great to hear, looking forward to your review! Gonna buy a new watch based on your review/recommendations for sure. I was planning on picking up the fitbit sense but decided against it after I saw your video

    • Thomas

      Thanks for putting it on your schedule. I’m another person who held off on the Fitbit Sense based on your in-depth reviews and am waiting to see what you think of the Galaxy Watch 3’s fitness accuracy before deciding whether to purchase.

    • Mark

      I’m also very interested in this one, but hoping to see maximum duration for activity tracking with GPS and heartrate – i.e. freshly charged at the start of an activity, how long will it keep tracking both? This seems to be a hard-to-find spec!

      I’d been close to going shopping for one, but when finishing a 12 hour bike ride on the weekend I found myself wondering if a watch would have lasted the day tracking my ride…

    • Hmm…that’s honestly gonna be a rough tough stat to fully test out to 12hrs. The challenge is my historical ‘garden test’ doesn’t really work these days, as watches go into low-power mode when they don’t detect movement. Or if they don’t detect a HR, they turn off the HR sensor, and so on.

      That said, I can extrapolate based on a 2hr activity, and hope it carries through (in my experience, it almost always does).

  6. Ryan

    What’s a good activity/sleep/recovery tracker to buy? I know wearable reviews here are mostly focused on more fully-featured watches here, but I just want something where I can track HRV and 24×7 HR (I already have a tri watch for workouts). Priorities are accuracy, battery life, and meaningful HRV output metrics.

  7. benfield

    Regarding the no HR and GPS from the apple watch: I contacted Apple regarding this as an issue with some of my workouts and they said it was a known issue and the dev’s were working on it. I reset and re-paired my watch with my phone and it started working again.

  8. Mike

    Can’t wait to see review and data based on your outdoor rides with the SRM X power meter pedals! If that looks solid, I’ll be buying a pair for sure.

  9. Good stuff Ray, once I had got past the “CAMERA’S” on the store front in the first pic!

  10. Joseph

    Compared to my Garmin 945, the S6 is overestimating distance by 1.5% when using the default Workout app. I suspect it’s related to how the Apple Watch accelerometer, pedometer is used to influence GPS-based speed and distance when using the default Workout app. My S4 would consistently overestimate distance by 2% compared to my Garmin 945. Like my S4, using iSmoothRun with a Stryd still appears to be the best bet for accurate distance when running with the S6.

  11. Oscar

    Just came to say that this 5 random things for are really not that random 🙂
    What is the last movie you watched? No judgments.

  12. Chris

    Are you aware of the massive iOS14 bug that has stripped location data from all new and PREVIOUS workouts stored in Apple Fitness. New workouts logged with the native workout app will have correct HR and distance splits but the location will just show the star of the activity. All location data has been stripped from previous workouts which is very disturbing. Fortunately logging a workout with a 3rd party app (workoutdoors is what I’m using) works but this is unacceptable. Apparently this bug only affects some users but it has still not been addressed with apple’s iOS 14.0.1 update. A search of the Apple forums and Reddit will confirm that this issue is quite wide spread. I spoke with Apple support a week ago and they are aware of the issue but couldn’t commit to a timeline for a fix. It would be awesome if you could weigh in on this, or use provide some insight given the channels you have with Apple. Thanks for putting out such amazing content, you are my go to source before I buy any new fitness tech!

    • Indeed, I’ve seen the stories. Luckily, I haven’t had those issues.

      I think that one workout was a one-off, and even just re-trying exporting now via HealthFit I get the HR data, whereas previously I didn’t. I literally have both files saved side by side, and one is missing and one isn’t. Same with the Strava export, missing the data when I tried to export, but visible on the site. Super weird.

      Anyway, I’ve been exporting lots of files, and this was the only weird one, and it’s happy now…

    • Mike Richie

      I believe the issue may have more to do with updated watches and phones rather than new devices. Also it appears it may have more to do with the new Fitness (old Activity) app. For me, would not record GPS (just showed start point) but clearly was using it as it produced my most accurate distance results. Also it wiped out all my old GPS tracks and most of my old HR charts. Doing a full unpair, reset and restore of iPhone, re-pair and restore of watch got me back to recording full data but did not restore my old data, at least as far as I looked (before my screen seemed to have died – I have Genius appt. to try to fix all this tomorrow.) Luckily I also use a Garmin.

  13. pattn

    The extra distance seems to come from the pedometer. Workoutdoors allows to show you the recorded GPS Distance, which was almost identical with the Data of my buddys FR945. Calculated Distance was 1.4% longer then GPS.

    I will deactivate the Pedometer for some runs and gibe it a try

  14. Pbase

    Really looking forward to the SPD review. Trying to be patient with SEM, but seriously considering doing the Assioma hack at this point.