DC Rainmaker https://www.dcrainmaker.com Fri, 18 Oct 2019 01:57:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.12 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/images/2017/03/dcrainmaker-dc-logo-square-40x40.png DC Rainmaker https://www.dcrainmaker.com 32 32 DCR Cave Winter Open House Registration Is Now Open! Nov 30th, 2019 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/10/winter-house-registration.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/10/winter-house-registration.html#comments Thu, 17 Oct 2019 23:57:06 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=104346 Read More Here ]]>

Yup, you read the title right! It’s the annual winter DCR Cave Open House! We’re keeping things to the exact same weekend as last year, which almost means we’re getting organized and consistent these days. Almost. But far more important is that both Des of DesFit and GPLama (Shane Miller) will be making the trek again up to the Cave. And, we’ll be adding in the live ‘studio audience’ FIT File Podcast recording as well! This is our 6th annual winter open house (plus the summer one we did this past July).

Here’s the first, second, thirdfourth, fifth, and finally summer edition, DCR Open Houses!

Last year’s open house was massive! With nearly 200 people showing up, despite strong and windy sideways rain (in other words, just another Saturday in Amsterdam). Additionally, last year the open house registration filled up super quick (we’re capping it again), though we will have a waitlist again, just in case someone else decides they have something better to do (what?!?).

As with all years, the event is broken up into two basic pieces: The morning run, and the evening open house party. First up in the morning we’ll head out for a group run. We’ve mostly lucked out on weather ever year we’ve done this…ignoring the one time it was well below the freezing point. So hopefully the trend holds true. The run is ‘no-drop’, so nobody is left behind, and we’ll do about 10KM at a fun pace, stopping to take a few photos along the way.

After that it’s a great time to explore Amsterdam for the day, especially if you’re coming from out of town (about 30-40% of folks last year came from around beyond the Netherlands, and even the US!). A lot of people make a fun weekend out of it. Come in Friday after work, enjoy the Amsterdam nightlife, do a morning run and then spend the weekend seeing the sights. Your significant other is more than welcome at the Open House!

The open house portion is where you’ll explore the DCR Cave, and all the goodness inside of it. We’ve got a crazy pile of gear right now in there, from the Wahoo KICKR Bike to the Oreka bike platform, to the True Kinetix Bike, and maybe even the Saris MP1 platform by time the end of next month rolls around. Or, you can just stare into the ever-bright overkill amount of studio lights.

We’ll be doing a live recording of the FIT File Podcast like we did this past summer, including a bulky Q&A section for all your questions. It should be lots of fun! And this time we’re actually recording the whole thing on video too (we’ll see on Nov 30th how prepared I actually am….).

Of course – there’s an endless supply of beer and wine. I think we had more than 800 servings last winter. Seriously folks, you know how to party! Oh, and The Girl rocks the bar for bartending:

Plus of course, everyone can just chat and catch up. Lama, Des, and myself will be floating around for all the geek-talk you can imagine (how do I not have a good pic of all three of us together?!? Someone remind me this year!).

And lastly, we’ll have a giveaway. It wouldn’t be complete without an epic giveaway!

Looking for recaps of last year? No problem, ask and you shall receive! First up the complete event recap (put together by Des):

And then Shane (GPLAMA) put together a preview walk-through of the DCR Cave about 90 minutes before the open house. You can still see us all working as efficiently as possible to set things up before everyone arrived.

And then Des delivered hilarity on the highest order of magnitude with this short video:

With that – I’m looking forward to seeing everyone there, hit up the registration link down below to get started!


For the Open House:

Date: Saturday, November 30th, 2019 – 7PM (19:00)
Location: Exact location sent via e-mail a few days ahead, but near the VU Medisch Centrum (VU University Medical Center/Hospital) in Amsterdam Zuid
Closest Tram Stop: VU Medisch Centrum – Tram Line #24 (2-minute walk)
Bike Parking: Plenty, more than you’d know what to do with
Car Parking: There is limited parking in the general vicinity
Food: We’ll have various appetizer & dessert items…and lots of beer and wine!
Price: Free of course!

For the DCR Group Run:

Date: Saturday, November 30th, 2019 – 9:30AM
Address: We’ll start somewhere more central Amsterdam, likely from near the western side of Vondelpark

This group run will take us on an approximately 10KM route around Amsterdam. While the famous IAmsterdam sign in front of the Rijksmuseum is no longer there (last year we managed a group photo the day before they removed it!), we’ll certainly try and find an equally iconic spot for the annual group photo. And ya never know, maybe the roaming signs will be within running distance!

Like last year we’ll have a place for you to store any bags/clothes/Haribo you want to leave during the run. Actually, scratch that – I can’t guarantee secure Haribo storage, but for everything else I’ve got ya covered!

Upon return, we’ll have some goodies to help you replenish your nutrition for a few hours. And again, we’ll leave nobody behind on the run – so fear not!

Get Registered!

For the open house simply use the form below to sign-up (just so I can figure out how much cheese, beer, and wine to buy…and cupcakes to make!). We’re using a different registration system this year, which I hope will make things way easier (mainly for me, but also for you). If you want to register multiple people (such as your lovely significant other), you can easily do so. Plus, it’ll make it easier for me to send you updates along the way.


I’ll use the e-mail provided to send the final details (and a reminder) as we get closer to the date. See ya there!

Note: Folks from various sports tech companies are of course more than welcome! Just be sure to bring enough devices for everyone. Kidding! Or not.

Polar Releases Major New Features to Vantage M & V Series https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/10/polar-releases-major-new-features-to-vantage-m-v-series.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/10/polar-releases-major-new-features-to-vantage-m-v-series.html#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2019 13:55:20 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=104331 Read More Here ]]> DSC_7876

Remember back in June when Polar announced the Polar Ignite GPS watch? That unit had a huge amount of new features not previously seen on any Polar device. The $220 device was mainly targeted at non-endurance athletes though, competing for the same dollars as an Apple Watch, Fitbit Ionic, or Garmin Vivoactive series. At the time Polar didn’t anticipate exactly how much endurance sports folks would want these features, specifically, folks that bought the Vantage V or Vantage M units.

It was actually an interesting discussion with them at the time, because some of these features (namely FitSpark and Nightly Recharge) are in some ways diametrically opposed to the higher end training load and recovery features found on the Vantage series. By and large, the endurance-focused Vantage series tries to get you from doing too much to aide recovery, whereas the Ignite series somewhat takes the approach of trying to get you to workout, even if you’ve already worked out.

Now today’s update doesn’t quite require us to sort that issue yet, as FitSpark isn’t coming till December. Instead, most of the updates today are around the less contentious features, such as sleep insights and even added Galileo satellite support.

Here’s everything the Vantage V & M got today:

– Sleep Quality Insights & Sleep Plus Stages: Gives you a sleep score as well as provides REM/Light/Deep sleep data
– Recovery Insight & Nightly Recharge Option: Looks at breathing rate/heart rate/heart rate variability (ANS data) to figure out if you’re recovering at night
– Serene guided breathing exercises: Guided breathing exercises
– Added Galileo satellite support: Another satellite system that can in some cases provide better coverage or accuracy
– Added QZSS satellite support: Satellite system focused on Japan/Asia/Oceania
– Added footpod manual sensor calibration: Ideal for footpod users to manually configure their calibration factor
– Added Zone Lock for heart rate/pace/running power/cycling power: Brings back the older Polar feature for the Vantage series
– Added fitness test using the internal optical HR sensor: This wasn’t previously available.

Further, in December, the Vantage V & M will receive another update, which will bring:

– FitSpark: This offers one-off workouts on-demand, kinda like having a workout robot in your watch
– Race Pace: Running focused feature from the V800 that’s for pacing races
– Strava Live Segments (Vantage V only): Tells you how far ahead/behind you are to leaders on a given Strava Segment

Atop all those changes, the company also added a new color variant to both the Vantage V & Vantage M: Blue. I appreciate that Polar just calls it blue, and not something like Frost Blue like some other companies…cough, Fitbit, Garmin, and Apple.  These bands can be purchased separately for $39 (Vantage V) and $24 (Vantage M). Finally, there’s also a ‘black copper’ version of the Vantage M coming on Thursday.


Got all that? Good.

Let’s do a quick look through some of these features and how they appear: First up is the Sleep Quality insights and Sleep Plus Stages. These are largely viewed within the app though you can view much of this on the watch itself, it’s just not as pretty:

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Now there’s also Nightly Recharge, but that requires three days’ worth of data to get lit up, and at present I’ve only got one night’s worth of data on the new firmware.

DSC_7882 DSC_7881

But just to give you a picture of what it looks like, here it is on the Polar Ignite watch:

Note that even after one night though, you’ll start getting the ANS sleep details showing up, on both watch and app:

DSC_7883 DSC_7884

Next, if you’re on a Vantage V, you’ll be able to make the choice between Nightly Recharge, and Recovery Pro.  Remember, this goes a bit back to features targeted at two different crowds. Polar’s put up an entire page on how to decide which one makes the most sense for you at that point in time. It’s likely for example that you might go with Nightly Recharge for the off-season, but Recovery Pro for mid-season. Another Polar Ignite watch feature was Serene, which is a breathing exercise focused feature. That’s now accessible by pressing the lower left button, right next to settings.

DSC_7885 DSC_7886

After that, Zone Lock has been added. This falls into the camp of ‘V800 things that are finally on the Vantage series’. This allows you to specify a heart rate target zone, but also a power or speed zone. And notably, Polar allows you to do so for running power as well as cycling power. Of course, if you’re on the Vantage V there’s also wrist-based running power too.


Next, if you’ve got a running footpod, you can go ahead and manually calibrate this. To which a lot of people are like ‘WTF, finally!’. This impacts not just Polar’s own footpod, but also companies like Stryd.

DSC_7888 DSC_7889

Finally, there’s the new Galileo satellite option. By default, Polar will still specify GPS+GLONASS (as does Garmin), but now you can manually change your preference over to Galileo. In talking to Polar, they recommended for my home training area to stay on GLONASS. This mirrors what Garmin says as well, though I suspect this frankly has less to do with my training area or Galileo, but more to do with the Sony GPS chipset both companies are using being less awesome in Galileo (versus the MediaTek chipset from yesteryear where I get excellent Galileo results).

In addition, they also added GPS + QZSS, which is aimed primarily at Japan/Asia/Oceania.


Now I’ve only done two workouts with the new firmware. First was yesterday, an openwater swim, and in that case, I was using GLONASS (since that’s what Polar recommended). Though, perhaps I should have tried out Galileo because the Vantage M track was definitely the worst of the bunch.


This morning I had a pool swim workout, so no GPS – nor really any of the new features. Though I did have issues where it didn’t track my distance at all. It just was null the entire swim. On the bright side, heart rate worked. This may or may not be related to the firmware update, I don’t know. I don’t typically take the Vantage M for pool swims, it was just sorta a case of the watch was on my wrist from the night sleep tracking, and off to the pool I went.

Still, bugs aside – I’m really looking forward to the continued updates here. Whether it be bringing back previously discarded features (as with the Zone Lock), or bringing in the new Ignite features, it’s good to see Polar hitting the release timeframes they’ve promised, especially when new features are involved.

With that – thanks for reading!

Garmin Swim 2 GPS Watch In-Depth Review https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/10/garmin-swim-2-openwater-pool-gps-watch-review.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/10/garmin-swim-2-openwater-pool-gps-watch-review.html#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2019 11:00:00 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=104288 Read More Here ]]> DSC_7808

Yes, for real: The Garmin Swim is back, baby. Over 7 years later and Garmin has finally incremented to the second edition in their swimmers-only watch. And, it’s basically exactly what you’d expect in a swimming first watch from Garmin in 2019. Unlike the previous edition, this one now supports openwater swimming with GPS, while also recording/displaying your heart rate in real-time via the optical HR sensor on the back. It has all the activity/sleep/stress/life tracking stuff you’ll find in any other Garmin watch. And it can even track your run, ride, or gym workout.

But more than that – it’s actually got new swim-specific features not seen on any other Garmin device to date. This includes auto-rest for intervals, Critical Swim Speed tracking (kinda like FTP, but for swimmers), real-time pacing alerts, and new improvements to structured workouts that can also be executed on the watch. It sounds like those features are set to be added to some existing 2019 Garmin watches as well, but no timeframes yet.

About the only downside compared to the OG Garmin Swim watch? It costs $100 more. Now it’s $249 versus the original $149 that the Swim 1 came out at. Also, the original Swim 1 just used a coin-cell battery that lasted forever in your swim bag (like, many many months). Whereas this new one is more akin to a typical connected smartwatch that you’ll need to recharge every week depending on usage (official claim is 7 days smartwatch mode, 13 hours GPS-on mode, and 72 hours of pool swimming time with optical HR).

Oh, and finally, as always, I use devices like wilderness trails – leave nothing behind. These are media loaner units that go back to Garmin shortly. You can help support the site here by checking out the links at the end of the post. Doing so makes you awesome.

The Basics (Non-Swim Stuff):


If you’re familiar with Garmin wearables then honestly you can skip this section. In this chunk I’m going to outline all the general bits of the Garmin Swim 2 watch, from the activity tracking to sleep tracking, heart rate stuffs and more. All the basics, but nothing touching on swimming specifically. That’s all the remaining sections.

To begin, you’ve got the watch face. You can mix and match from a slate of pre-installed watch faces, or thousands more from Garmin Connect IQ (like Mario I found below). For the pre-installed ones, you can tweak the accent color, but can’t customize the individual data fields on each watch face (Garmin’s higher-end watches allow that). The default watch face includes the total swam distance that week (in kilometers, no matter your settings), as well as your steps for the day. But other watch faces also include your current heart rate as well.

DSC_7812 DSC_7810

If you press up or down, you’ll iterate through the widget roll. These include bits like weather, steps, 24×7 heart rate, stress, body battery, and your last swim details (including dedicated pages for openwater versus pool swims). You can customize which of these pages are shown or not shown, and most of them allow you to open them for further details. Here’s a quick gallery of the different pages:

Some of the icons are pretty darn subtle. For example, two wave lines below a swimmer means ‘pool swim’ versus three lines means ‘openwater swim’, specifically on the weekly total pages. You can configure if you want your week to start on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.

The watch will track your steps and general wandering around activity using the accelerometer (it also has GPS too, but that’s for workouts specifically).  You can see your step totals on most of the watch faces, but also on the steps widget, which you can then dive into for more details:

DSC_7820 DSC_7821

Or, you can crack open the Garmin Connect Mobile smartphone app, which shows all your step data in numerous slice and diceable ways:

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Note that the Garmin Swim 2 doesn’t have a barometric altimeter in it, and thus doesn’t track stairs climbed.

On the back you’ll have found that blinking green light, that’s the optical heart rate sensor – the same one found in the Garmin Forerunner 45 watches. It tracks your heart rate 24×7 as well as during workouts.


You can see your heart rate on some of the watch faces, but also there’s a four-hour graph as well in the widgets. And atop that you can look at your resting heart rate tracking, which is probably the most useful portion of it.

DSC_7824 DSC_7825

Like steps and everything else on your watch, this is transferred to Garmin Connect and you can do longer term analytics there as well:

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Next on the activity tracking front is the non-active bits: Sleep. The watch will track your sleep automatically each night, no button presses required. I find it pretty solid on the exact wake/sleep times. In fact, with a two week old newborn in the house, I’m impressed with how well it’s handling that. Check out these graphs:

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Note that like most companies, Garmin still doesn’t track naps. So those just disappear like a fart in the wind, no credit for them. And let me tell you, I could use some extra sleeping credit these last few weeks.

Last but not least on the general features front is the smartphone notifications. These will show from any app that you’ve configured your phone for notifications on. So this includes anything from phone calls to text messages, and apps like Twitter or even Candy Crush. You can configure whether or not to display these, as well as whether or not to display them in a workout. When a notification comes in, you can either cancel/clear it immediately, or you can open it up to get more information:

DSC_7826 DSC_7828

There’s no method however to reply to a text message (at least on iOS, due to Apple restrictions), so it’s more of a confirmation thing than anything else. Still, it’s easy and simple. You can silence these at night using either the do not disturb function on your phone or on the watch itself. Your choice.

Pool Swimming Details:


We’re gonna jump straight into the pool on this one. Though, technically the unit does support five sports in total: Pool Swim, Open Water Swim, Run, Bike, and Cardio (Indoor). Note that if you want walking/hiking, you can just use running, there’s no practical difference in terms of data fields or anything.

To start a pool swim, you’ll press the upper right button, and by default the first selection will be pool swim:


Press it again and you’ll be on the waiting screen where you can see your current pool length, heart rate status, time, and then selection of options.


If you press down to options you’ve got a pile of things: Workouts, data screen configuration, alerts, pool size, stroke detection, countdown start, and auto rest. I’ll explain them all one after another.


First up is workouts. This is where you can launch custom workouts created on Garmin Connect/Garmin Connect Mobile and then downloaded to your watch. Garmin says they’ve made some tweaks timed to the launch of the Swim 2 that add additional features, specifically that you can now enable more than two steps in a repeat block, and that you can also enable nested repeat blocks.

DSC_7840 DSC_7839

Here’s how that looks on Garmin Connect, creating a structured workout:


On the watch, there’s actually a single custom workout already, which is the CSS Test. I’ll talk more about that later, but technically speaking that’s just a custom workout they’ve pre-loaded. I’d love to see them pre-load a few more workouts, akin to what they do on the Vivo series for a handful of workouts pre-loaded.

Next back in the options is the data screen customization. This works like any other Garmin watch and allows you to customize data pages and add some as well. In total, you can have five customizable data pages, plus a ‘Drill Log’ page, a ‘Heart Rate Zone’ page, and the ‘Time/Date’ page. Each custom page can have up to three data metrics on it.

DSC_7845 DSC_7846

Here’s a listing of all the data metrics you can use within your data fields above:

Timer Fields: Timer, Swim Time, Interval Time, Elapsed Time
Distance Fields: Distance, Interval Distance
Pace Fields: Average Pace (whole workout), Interval Pace, Last Length Pace
Heart Rate Fields: Heart Rate (current), Average HR (whole workout), HR Zone, Aerobic Training Effect, Anaerobic Training Effect, HR %Max, % Heart Rate Reserve, Avg. HR %Max, Avg. %HRR, Int Avg HR, Int Avg %HRR, Int Avg %Max, Int Max HR, Int Max %HR, Int Max. %Max, Time in Zone
Stroke Fields: Interval Stroke Type, Last Length Stroke Type, Last Length Strokes, Average Strokes per Length, Interval Strokes per Length
Length Fields: Lengths, Interval Lengths
Swolf Fields: Average Swolf, Interval Swolf, Last Length Swolf
Rest Fields: Rest Timer, Repeat On
Other Fields: Calories, Time of Day, Intervals

Phew, got all that? Yes, it was as much fun to type-up as it was for you to read.

Also for lack of anywhere else to stick it – the unit can only connect to HR sensors. It cannot connect to running footpods, cycling sensors, or any other type of sensors. Just heart rate sensors.

Next, there’s alerts. You can create alerts for time, distance, or pacing. With pacing being the most notable/important new one here. The way it works is that it’s kinda akin to something like the FINIS Tempo trainer in that it’ll vibrate/chirp your wrist each time you should be hitting the wall for the pace you specify:


So if you set a given pace – say 1:30/100m, then it’ll do the math based on your pool size and remind you each 18 seconds, which ideally lines up to when you hit the wall. It will both buzz and well as make this bird in a blender chirping sound.

DSC_7850 DSC_7849

You can adjust these pacing alerts on the fly in the pool by holding the up button, and you can also mute them as well – again, all mid-workout.

Next, there’s pool size. This one is easy, and it’s where you set your pool size. There’s a few quick access sizes: 25 meters, 25 yards, 50 meters, 33 1/3 meters, 33 1/3 yards, and then Custom. Custom allows you to set from 14m to 150m, or 15y to 150y.

DSC_7852 DSC_7853

After that, there’s ‘Stroke Detection’. By default this is on, but if you’re like me (a lowly triathlete who only swims freestyle), then you could consider turning it off. Which is basically like saying ‘I don’t want to hear when you’ve detected my stroke wrong because I just don’t care’. Roughly.


Following that there’s ‘Countdown Start’ (off by default), which allows you a three-second count down when you press start. Or, if you were more nefarious, a three-second head start. The point though is to allow you to press start, and then go at exactly 0 seconds. Ideal for starting from the blocks, or for those of us that just want every last millisecond of time on our splits.

And last but definitely not least (in fact, arguably the best feature) is the new Auto Rest.


This essentially is like Garmin’s Auto Pause in Running/Cycling, but for the pool. It’ll automatically create laps (sets) as you stop at the wall each time. And once you go, it’ll start the next set. There’s no button pressing at all. You could literally do your entire workout by memory from start to finish and never touch your watch, while still getting your set information. Here’s exactly that from just this morning:


The way it works is that in the pool you’ll see the screen on a white background indicating you’re mid-lap. But when it goes to a black background, it means you’re in rest:

DSC_7856 DSC_7859

And in fact, you’ll see the difference on the interval timer specific screen, because it shows the last interval time, and any repeat time as well.

In discussing this feature with Garmin, they noted that it’s not going to be for everyone. It’s mostly accurate, but not always perfectly accurate. If you’re Type-A like me and want each set timed to the second perfect, you’ll probably want to stick to buttons. Garmin says that both intervals and rest durations (times) could be off “occasionally” by as much as 5-10 seconds. Further, if you’re doing shorter rest durations  (Garmin says under 15 seconds), they wouldn’t recommend it there either. Finally, you can’t use this in conjunction with any structured/custom workouts – those require manual button pressing.

As for my actual experience with it – it’s consistently within 2-3 seconds for me. And there’s technically two elements to that. First is the real-time display and when exactly it switches from swim to rest screen. I find that lagged about 3-4 seconds in almost every case. However, as soon as it switches modes, it actually goes back and ‘credits’ you back those seconds. You’ll see that in real-time. So if you finished the lap in 36 seconds, but it kept counting till 41 on the screen until it switched to rest, then it’ll almost always show the actual interval time as 36-37 seconds in my testing. Said differently: It works out.

I had exactly one lap in all of my pool swimming where it went beyond that 2-4 second period and took about 10-12 seconds to realize it was in rest mode, but it still went back and retroactively got the actual split within a few seconds. Woot!

Ok, with all those features explained, let’s head back to the main screen and press start:

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Once you do that you should start swimming, and with that, you’ll start seeing data on the data pages you’ve configured. Now it’s a bit tricky capturing this data at my local pools, since all but one of them outlaw cameras/phones. And the one that does allow cameras? It has lighting to match an underground rave. Seriously, it’s hideously useless for product photography. Tomorrow’s destination will be better.

Unlike running or cycling, there’s very little interaction you’re going to have with the watch once you’ve started swimming. I find the best time to see the watch is a very slight wrist twist just after pushing off the wall on any given length, which I can easily and clearly make out the numbers on the watch. Of course, I’m lucky in that my eyesight is pretty good – but even in the disco pool it’s not an issue.

I’ve already discussed the pacing bit above, so no need to re-hash that. I’ve had good luck with swim length accuracy, and no false laps in any of my sets. Though I’ve also been absurdly lucky in my pool swims lately to only share the line with 0 or 1 other persons, which is a significant drop from the dozen+ people I’d often get in other lanes/pools. I find most of my accuracy errors come from people doing stupid @#$# in front of me, which in turn causes me to stop swimming (and fantasize about beating them up with a pull buoy).

You see, all indoor swim watches or goggles work on roughly the same premise: They use accelerometers and gyros to determine whether you’re swimming consistently, or if you’ve just turned at the wall. So if you stop to beat someone up, then to the watch, that looks like you just did a flip turn at the wall (and you’ll get extra laps). As has been the case for a decade in my reviews of swim watches, my advice is simple: Do as little non-swimming stuff as possible while swimming.

No dancing, no re-enacting the YMCA song to your buddies in between sets. And if you’ve got Auto Rest on, for the love of god don’t try picking up that Girl or Guy in the lane next to you by pretending to be a coach and flailing your arms about demonstrating proper catch and elbow placement in between sets. All of which will cause bad things to happen, no matter the device.

Just swim. Oh, and if you go to the bathroom mid-set (in the restroom, not the pool, ideally), then pause your watch. Otherwise it might think you’re swimming then too. Got it? Good.

Next, end the pool swim. When you do so you’ll be given your set summary:

DSC_7862 DSC_7866 DSC_7864

In addition, if you hit any PR’s (such as fastest 100m, 500m, etc… paces), it’ll tell you that too. Otherwise, it’ll use Bluetooth Smart to quietly sync to your phone behind the scenes. Usually within a minute or two. If you’ve got it connected to any 3rd party training log platforms like TrainingPeaks, Today’s Plan, or Strava – they’ll get copies of it immediately as well.

Here’s what it looks like on Garmin Connect (you can click this link to dig into my swim):



(One minor bug I’ve seen: It seems to put roughly the last known openwater swim GPS location on Garmin Connect for your indoor pool swims. Garmin Connect Mobile doesn’t show this bug. Assuming it’s an easy thing for them to correct.)

You’ll see all your set splits, heart rate, and plenty of additional swim metrics like SWOLF and number of strokes per length. There isn’t however any way to edit anything, so in the event something is wrong (or crazy lady interrupted your swim), then it is what it is. Oh, and in case you’re curious, that single random 40m blip in the middle is correct. That was crazy lady not once in less than 30 seconds managing to be on the wrong side of the line. I had no incorrect data though on this set (or any sets for that matter). Slow data, but not incorrect data.

Finally, let’s talk CSS – or Critical Swim Speed. This is new to Garmin, though it isn’t actually Garmin-specific. You can find more details on it here. Essentially though it’s a metric to track your lactate threshold swim speed. It’s not something you do daily, but rather is designed to test every month or so. Garmin and others compare it in the same sort of ballpark as FTP would be for cyclists.

Within the Swim 2, you can execute the CSS test at any point, which is just a structured workout.


It’s got a super simple structure:

10 minute easy warm-up
400m at race pace
10 minute easy
200m at race pace

There is also a calculator on the site as well, if you just want to do this test manually:


Once you’re done you’ll receive an alert at the end of the workout that you’ve got a new CSS value (for those triathletes, it’s identical to the FTP and lactate threshold messages on your watch). Or, you can override it manually at any time:


The idea though is that you’ll trend this over time. Though at present, it’s not viewable anywhere within Garmin Connect or Garmin Connect Mobile. I’ve gotta believe that’s on the way, since there are so many other performance metrics that are trended over time already on Garmin Connect.

Openwater Swimming Details:

2019-10-11 14.39.03

Next, we head outside into openwater. This is any body of water that you’re going to use GPS for – so that’d be lakes, oceans, rivers, or that crazy-ass pool in Chile that’s like 24 kilometers long. You never want to use GPS though for any normal-sized lap pool, even when it’s outside. It’s just not great for short distances like that.

As with indoor swimming, you can use the optical HR sensor on the back of the unit, or you can use an HRM-TRI or HRM-SWIM chest straps. Both of those support downloading data from the chest strap to your watch after the swim set is done. It has to wait until the swim set is complete to download that data because neither ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart travel more than about 2-3cm underwater. Note that other brand straps won’t work here, because they haven’t implemented the correct ANT+ protocols to support the cached downloading bits (meaning, no, you can’t use a Polar/Suunto/anyone else strap/sensor).

What’s cool though is that (and all of this applies to pool swimming too), you can use the optical HR sensor in the watch during the swim to see your data, and then you can still download from the chest strap post-swim to get more accurate data. It’ll simply replace the optical HR swim data automatically.

In any case, to start an openwater swim you’ll head back to the sport menu and choose openwater:

2019-10-11 14.00.38

There’s not many options for openwater swim, leaving you with just: Data screen configuration (basically same as indoor, except without the pool-specific fields), alerts (time/distance/stroke rate only), laps (autolap or manual), and GPS type (GPS/GPS+GLONASS/GPS+Galileo).

Otherwise, once it’s found GPS it’ll show you that, as well as your heart rate. In my experience it’ll find GPS within a few seconds if you’ve been outside recently or if you’ve synced with your phone or computer recently so it can pre-cache the satellite information.

After that, simply hit the start button and start swimming. As you’re swimming you can iterate through your data fields, and you’ll get real-time distance stats. You can pause it if you have to wait for boats to go across the channel, or you can just let it ride, like I did below.

2019-10-11 14.17.33

One of the things I’ve been looking for specific here is that it doesn’t crap itself and stop recording distance randomly (usually at just a few dozen meters into the swim). It’s been an issue with recent Garmin watches until this summer when they put a bunch of resources into solving it. I’m happy to say I haven’t seen it in any of my openwater swims to date. When I asked back in August about the status of it, Garmin seemed to indicate they think they had solved it, and their employees in testing the beta firmware had gone through hundreds of swims without a single freeze (a massive accomplishment, so I was at a 50% failure rate).  While I can’t prove a negative, I can at least say I’ve not yet had it happen to me on any swims.

But just as important as that is the accuracy bits. Which we’ll get to in a second. Once you’re done with your swim, you’ll press the pause button, and then press it again to stop. There’s no auto-rest functionality in open water. After which, you’ll get a summary of your swim on the watch itself:

2019-10-14 14.10.44 2019-10-14 14.10.54

And then up on Garmin Connect you’ll see the swim details as well:


And of course, if you’re on Garmin Connect Mobile (the smartphone app), you’ll see that there too.

From an openwater swim perspective, things are working super well for me. Arguably the best openwater swim watch I’ve ever had, even including the rock-solid Suunto Ambit 2/3 units, which was one of the most accurate GPS watches of all time. In fact, spoiler alert for the next section – I’d argue this is the most accurate openwater swim watch ever (for on-wrist usage).

GPS & Heart Rate Accuracy:


So let’s talk accuracy. There are two elements to this: Heart rate accuracy, and GPS accuracy. For heart rate recording, you’ve got two options: The first is to use the internal optical HR sensor, and the second is to use a Garmin HRM-TRI or HRM-SWIM chest strap. For the purposes of this conversation, we’re just focused on the optical HR sensor accuracy. Chest straps are a pretty well understood thing, and Garmin’s chest strap has been around years.

When it comes to swimming HR in general, I don’t actually find it super useful. The reason is that swimming HR tends to lag significantly compared to running or cycling HR. It’s just not ideal for pacing shorter intervals in the pool (HR is rarely good for super short pacing in any sport, but especially swimming). It is good however for pacing longer intervals. Next, there’s the aspect of optical heart rate while swimming. Every company from Polar to Suunto to Garmin and probably even Apple, if you get them drunk enough, will tell you that measuring optical HR underwater is at best an iffy proposition. It depends heavily on the light not reflecting/refracting in the wrong direction and is super variable human to human. In other words, put it in the camp of: It may work great for me, but suck for you. Or vice versa.

Got all that? Good. Let’s take a look at a few swims then. First is an openwater swim. For this swim I had the Apple Watch Series 5 on my right wrist, the Garmin Swim 2 on my left wrist, a Polar OH-1 Plus under my wetsuit, and then a Wahoo TICKR-X chest strap also under my wetsuit. Lots of data (except that the TICKR-X is currently shooting blanks, so no data there). Here’s what that all looked like:


So…yeah. I have no idea. I’d say the Garmin Swim 2 is the most stable out of all of them (it was a non-stop swim at relatively even pace), but that doesn’t make it correct.

How about another swim. Here’s this morning’s swim comparing a Polar Vantage M to the Garmin Swim 2, both optical HR sensors (sorry, no chest strap, forgot that):


Well hey there! At least those two agree. And, I’d say they’re fairly close. You do however see though that there’s a few of the intervals that the Polar Vantage M fails to catch initially, namely the shorter 100m ones. The Garmin Swim 2 easily catches all of those. In fact, it missed none of them. Though, it did appear to briefly spike at the beginning, which probably wasn’t real (around the 50-second marker).

Well, that’s not terribly conclusive either. So let’s go back to openwater from last week. Apple Watch on one wrist, Garmin Swim 2 on the other. Polar OH-1 Plus again, and Wahoo TICKR-X again. Oh, wait – what’s that? The Apple Watch actually didn’t record a single HR value the entire time? Ok…umm…what about the TICKR-X? Oh, that too also didn’t capture any values in the exported file? Sigh. Fine, here’s the Polar OH-1 Plus vs the Garmin Swim 2:


So what you see here is that while things are a bit jaggy, they’re actually not that far apart if you were talking general effort. The Polar OH1 appears to lag slightly behind the Swim 2 from a responsiveness standpoint (such as after those breaks), but otherwise it’s in the same rough ballpark. Kinda, sorta.

Look, I’d put things in the mostly plausible camps. The HR’s from the Swim 2 seem to be about right with my efforts, but with some variability between all the data sources, I can’t really get any agreement on which one is actually correct.

So let’s go to something much simpler: GPS data. It doesn’t lie, and is super easy to analyze. Let’s start with yesterday’s openwater swim. For this I’ve got the Polar Vantage M (I selected that since it’s the closest openwater swim capable GPS watch price-wise) on one wrist, the Garmin Swim 2 on the other, and then a Garmin FR935 attached to a swim buoy behind me as the reference track (it’s above the water in running mode recording at 1-second intervals – the well-accepted practice on how to create reference tracks). Here’s that data set:


The swim track of the Garmin Swim 2 can be a bit hard to see, being the constant wobbles and misdirection of the Polar Vantage M’s swim track. So let’s get rid of that for a second as it’s not even close.


Woah – much easier to see now. But let’s zoom in a bunch and look at a few key points. Overall this is exactly where I swam, it’s super close (also, you can click on the set link above to zoom in too).

But in particular, there are some well anchored marine traffic channel markers that I right up next to, and it’s super impressive how close this gets. Both the reference track and the Swim 2 got the correct side of the buoy – very very close.


On the next buoy, I went around the outside of it (without stopping). The reference track catches that correctly, but not the Swim 2. Keep in mind, almost no other GPS units would actually pass this test in openwater swim mode:


Here’s adding back in the Polar Vantage M to demonstrate that:


It’s a super-super good GPS track. Really accurate. Here’s the total distances between the three units. You’ll see the reference track and Swim 2 are a mere 30 meters apart after some 1,700m.


Next, let’s look at another set. This time swapping out the Polar Vantage M for the Apple Watch Series 5. Previously I’d have said that was the reigning king for openwater swim GPS accuracy. But, as you can see – that’s no longer the case. Here’s the data set:


Now, the Apple Watch didn’t make any major mistakes, and overall it’s very good. But you can see as I started off on the first crossing of the channel, it wasn’t spot-on:


It’s hard to see in teal, but it basically cuts across in the wrong spot, and then does a weird loop-de-loop on the other side. The Swim 2 and FR945 reference track are near identical.

If we go down a ways till when I cross back over again, you’ll see a small quirk. I had to wait here a few seconds for a ship to pass through. It looks like I drifted very slightly, which both the reference track and Apple Watch Series 5 picked up. We’re only talking a few meters extra, but the Swim 2 appeared to smooth that out.


Meanwhile, on the other side of the lake when I made my next turn you see the Apple Watch cut the corner a little bit again, whereas the Swim 2 handled it nicely.


On the last buoy, I went to the left of it. Here it shows me going through it on the Swim 2, and to the right of it on the others. Of course, it’s totally possible the buoy has moved slightly. Either way, pretty darn accurate.


And finally, one last one for fun. Same set of devices as before, just a different route. Here’s that data set:


There’s a bit of funkiness in the lower right corner up there, so we’ll come back to that in a second. But, first off, here’s crossing the channel, with everything on the correct sides of the buoy, and also the correct side of the piers at the top of the image. You’ll notice some squiggles again, that’s from another ship passing that I had to wait briefly for. But all the units held their position nicely.


At the other turn, we see no corner-cutting from the Swim 2, though very slight corner-cutting from the Apple Watch:


Interestingly, once across the channel, we see the singular error in all my openwater swims – a brief errant loop-de-loop shown on the Swim 2 track. I had paused here to take photos/video, and so my arm was below the water a bit (which is no different than anyone else treading water waiting for a swim buddy). It appeared to cause some minor confusion for the GPS.


Finally, there’s the extremely rare reference track failure. For whatever reason, the watch went all squirrely in this corner near the dock (which I’ve drawn in, in blue). But the Swim 2 and Apple watch were fine. And yes, I did go back and forth there. I was closing in on 1-mile and didn’t want to end the swim at .97 miles. Obviously one can’t do that.


Ok, enough maps.

I think it’s super clear, and for anyone that’s looked at openwater swim tracks over the years you’ll be thinking the same thing: Damn, that’s really really really good. As I said before, I’ve previously found the Apple Watch 3/4/5 openwater swim tracks to be industry leading. But with the Swim 2, they’ve lost that title. Not by a ton, but lost it nonetheless. The Garmin Swim 2 is the new king of openwater GPS swim accuracy. Sure, it’s a niche title, but I’d rather be the king of something, than nothing at all.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy portions were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)



If we just step back and look at the name of the watch itself, it basically had one job: Not screw up swimming. Or, as the internet would say: “You had one job.” And thankfully, it appears that it nails that single job. As I said above, it’s easily producing the most accurate openwater swim tracks out there, period. And for heart rate accuracy, it’s definitely well into the ‘plausible’ camp, if not the most accurate wrist-based optical HR sensor for swimming (again, perhaps not the pinnacle of fancy titles, but hey, it fits).

There are some very minor quirky bugs that need to be worked out. Things like the GPS position showing up in pool swims after the fact online on Garmin Connect, or some minor user interface quirks in the menus that just need flushing out. None of it impacting actual day to day use, just things that are more stuff I’d notice and I suspect others wouldn’t.

Price-wise it feels perhaps a touch bit high, especially with the $250 price point. I think it would have sold extremely well at $199, maybe even $219 – but $249 might be tougher for the average swimmer. On the flip side, it’s accurate – so there’s that. Also, it’s still a running and cycling watch, and a daily activity tracker. So again, there’s that too. Time will tell of course on pricing. And since it was 7 years since the last version, Garmin has plenty of time to decide by 2026 whether they’ll do a Swim 3 if the pricing is right.

With that – thanks for reading!

Found this review useful? Or just want a good deal? Here’s how:

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 will earn 10% points on this item and 10% off (instantly) on thousands of other fitness products and accessories.  Points can be used on your very next purchase at Clever Training for anything site-wide.  You can read more about the details here.  By joining, 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 $49, you get free 3-day (or less) US shipping as well.

Garmin Swim 2 GPS Watch
Garmin Swim 2 GPS Watch (EU/UK readers, save 10% with DCR10BTF)
Garmin HRM-TRI (triathlon-focused swim strap – review here)
Garmin HRM-SWIM (indoor-swimming focused swim strap – review here)

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.

Week in Review–Oct 14th, 2019 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/10/week-in-review-oct-14th-2019.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/10/week-in-review-oct-14th-2019.html#comments Mon, 14 Oct 2019 09:20:44 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=104137 Read More Here ]]> WeekinReview_thumb3_thumb_thumb1_thu

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 this past week:

Monday: 5 Random Things I Did This Weekend
Wednesday: Kinomap Rolls out Coached Workout Functionality, Revamped User Interface, Apple TV App
Thursday: First Sports Tech Cloud Platform & Incubator Announced by Zone5 Ventures
Saturday: Kona Bike Count 2019 Power Meter Analysis: 10 Years of Data
Sunday: Continued Expansion of the DCR Team: Hello P3!


Sports Tech Deals:

Here’s the quick line-up of deals, mostly trainer focused:

1) There’s currently a bundle deal on the Wahoo KICKR18 (most current model for this upcoming winter) and the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB, which saves you $200. We don’t generally see sales on Wahoo gear outside of the Black Friday and spring sales, so if you’re looking for a deal on these particular items, it’s solid. Plus, you’ve basically just made yourself a Wahoo KICKR Bike for half the price. You can spend the savings compared to the KICKR Bike on approximately 400-500 pints of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. Oh, and free US shipping and immediate availability.

2) There’s currently a deal on the original CycleOps/Saris Hammer (H1) down to $649, from the usual $1,000.  This is basically on clearance, given it’s been superseded by the Hammer 2 (H2) and just announced H3 units. Though the H1 did actually get a substantial firmware update this past summer that increases accuracy on sprints considerably.

3) There’s currently a deal on the Tacx NEO 2 for $200 off, down to $1,199. This reduces down last year’s Tacx NEO 2 by a considerable bit, whereas the new NEO 2T takes its place as the top-spot. And heck, at the moment I’d actually take the one-year-old NEO 2 over the NEO 2T (until they fix the 2T firmware anyway).

FIT File Podcast This Week:


Episode 89 of the podcast is up! FIT89 Ride it like you stole it: The Zwift/British Cycling Cheating Scandal Explainer

October has arrived on the sports tech scene full of turbulence, here’s what was on tap this week:

– The entertaining stories of our smart bike deliveries
– Wahoo acquires Speedplay Pedals, what does it mean?
– Ray costs Shane more Money: GoPro Hero 8 released
– Skydio 2 drone announced: Yet more financial distress for Shane?
– InsideRide KICKR E-Flex Accessory Announced
– Zwift Mountain Bike Steering released to public
– The Zwift/British Cycling Cheating Fiasco
— Part 1: Technical explainer
— Part 2: Admission & Penalties
— Part 3: Debunking excuses
— Part 4: Punishment worthy of the crime?

Listen here, or four options for where to find the podcast:

A) iTunes: If you’ve got an Apple device, we’re there!
B) Google Play Music: Yup, we’re here too (and on Google Podcasts app)
C) Spotify: Of course we’re on Spotify now – you can even cache it on your wearable too!
D) RSS Feed: Follow along using the direct RSS feed

apple-podcasts-badge google_podcasts_badge@2x

Stuff 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 (and in this case, some of these are from the past few weeks…as my backlog is a bit longer coming out of summer):

1) Behind the Scenes on the GoPro launch video: Some interesting tidbits here from one of the Engadget folks that went out with the GoPro crews – probably most notably that the Hero 8 launch video isn’t actually filmed entirely on Hero 8 cameras. The first clue was the table full of Hero 7 cameras (you can tell by the battery door), but also later in the article it’s discussing this in text.

2) Speaking of that launch video: If you want one of the lead dudes at GoPro who edits that video (and takes incredible shots) preset settings and what settings to use for what things, check out his presets post. He’s also got a detailed Hero 8 Black detailed features post, which roughly is kinda like my review, but with all the tidbits that only an engineering person might know (and of course, given from a GoPro employee, perhaps skipping over some of my frustrations). Still, hands-down always my favorite annual GoPro post out there for any new unit.

3) Peloton sues cycling rival Echelon: Oh Peloton, always suing everyone. Except, when getting sued by others. As good as Peloton’s product is (really, it’s very good – I think it’s excellent), they’ve got an onslaught of competitors about to jump down their throats. Big name competitors with big money. Will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out.

4) Zwift’s Kona Tri Team House Tour: Well then, that’s an impressive setup for the team. Dang – is there really any tri team that’s better equipped out there? Maybe Bahrain, I guess?

5) Inside Cirque du Soleil’s Technology Lab: I love me a good Cirque show, and this is a cool look behind the scenes at some of the shifts the company is having to make to adapt to shorter audience attention spans, from a tech standpoint.

6) Oktoberfest E-Scooter Debacle – Hundreds of Drunken Riders Lose Their Driver’s Licenses: What would be interesting is whether or not cyclists also lost their licenses (or what-not) too, or if there was enforcement there? Perhaps there’s a headline on that somewhere that didn’t make US coverage.

7) Massive analysis of a single Strava climb: Super cool study (full PDF here). See, this is the type of thing Strava needs to encourage. Today, it actually bans this, as it doesn’t allow any automation against their platform (perhaps the study got permission). But these types of things result in huge PR boosts – such as the CyclingTips post and countless others. Plus, it doesn’t cost Strava anything to do this.

Sports Tech Device 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 are 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?  Oh – and if you want to get a head start on things, this page is a great resource for watching Garmin and a few other firmware updates.

Acer’s Xplova removes camera cloud functionality: Normally this section is reserved for feature adds, not removals. But the Xplova bike computers will no longer have cloud storage for short video clips. My guess here is this isn’t a cost reduction issue, but rather more likely related to lawsuits of camera clips for people that haven’t given permission to have their video stored online (meaning, other people caught on camera). Just a hunch.

Garmin Edge 130 Firmware Update: Minor bug fixes.

Garmin Edge 530/830/1030 BETA Firmware Update: Mostly bug fixes, however, a little feature listed around indoor trainer control support to actually show the map and elevation profile of the course you’re riding from outdoors. This is a good example of some of the upcoming integration Garmin has hinted at following the Tacx acquisition, though, this works for any ANT+ FE-C trainer (which is all of them).

Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Series: Various bug fixes.

Garmin Forerunner 45 Firmware Update: Various bug fixes.

Garmin Vivomove Firmware Update: Minor bug fix.

Garmin Vivosport Firmware Update: Minor bug fix.

Polar V650 Firmware Update: Yes, really, the V650. Unlisted bug fixes.

Wahoo ELEMNT/BOLT/ROAM Firmware Update: Improvements to turn by turn navigation, and map improvements.

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

Continued Expansion of the DCR Team: Hello P3! https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/10/continued-expansion-of-the-dcr-team-hello-p3.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/10/continued-expansion-of-the-dcr-team-hello-p3.html#comments Sun, 13 Oct 2019 19:06:26 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=104129 Read More Here ]]> 2019-10-12 11.25.22

So I’m a wee bit behind on this, and those of you following The Girl’s Instagram will notice as such, but – we recently unboxed a new addition to the DCR Family: P3 (short for Peanut 3). She joined her two sisters (and fur sister Lucy) two weekends ago. Everyone is doing well, and she’s already been logging time on the bike in the last few weeks.

As with P1 & P2, there were no unboxing photos or video shots for this product. Though, the Dutch hospitals did offer multiple times to assist in such a production, which we politely declined. Of course, like any parent, we have overcompensated for that with plenty of photos since then.

As is also normal in the Netherlands, she came home just over 3.5 hours post birth (around 12AM), where she got to meet both P1 & P2 in the morning when they woke up (and Lucy):

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The little nugget is healthy and pretty happy. And Mom is also doing super well too. In fact, she’s already up and pedaling around on the bike…because…Amsterdam? How else would she get around?

As you’ve probably gathered, she was born here in Amsterdam (her sisters were both born in Paris). But like her siblings, she won’t gather EU citizenship anytime soon. Instead, she’ll soon pick up both American and Canadian citizenship once we get her taken to the passport photo place around the corner and get that always hideously bad baby passport photo taken.  Though if we’re here long enough, she could eventually pick up her Dutch credentials.  If nothing else, she’ll always have a birth certificate that says Amsterdam.

Both Peanut 1 & 2 love having her around, and trying to be mommy to her. Lucy is also gently tolerant of her, though, clearly realizes her position on the totem pole continues to slip.

2019-10-05 16.10.12 2019-10-05 16.17.27

P3 enjoys the bike like her sisters. We’ve got her situated in the Urban Arrow using a Maxi-Cosi adapter (or car-seat adapter for Americans). Then the two other kids sit on the bench.

2019-10-12 11.19.35 2019-10-12 11.35.54

We also have room for one more kid on the back, though that’s reserved mostly as the time-out position (or, a place to stash scooters this weekend). Trust us, three Peanuts is enough love in this household. Any more love and all my fitness trackers will give-up entirely on sleep tracking.

Speaking of which, like P2 we use virtually no smart baby tech with P3. I don’t even think we’ve pulled out the baby scale yet for her. We tried a sock monitoring thing with P1, but she disliked it significantly and we never bothered with P2. P3 is happy to just chillax all day long in your arms or nearby. No monitoring or tracking needed here. Don’t worry, once they become teenagers I’ll install ankle bracelet GPS trackers – obviously.

With that – hope everyone had a great weekend!

(P.S.: While it hasn’t been updated for P3, here’s our large list of mom/baby/kids gear that we’ve been using with the three kiddos. A lot of you have asked, so we put it in one handy place! From a sport-specific standpoint, the main thing we use is the running stroller. Though P3 is still a bit too young for that, but both P1 & P2 get usage on that.)

Kona Bike Count 2019 Power Meter Analysis: 10 Years of Data https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/10/kona-bike-count-2019-power-meter-analysis-10-years-of-data.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/10/kona-bike-count-2019-power-meter-analysis-10-years-of-data.html#comments Sat, 12 Oct 2019 19:48:31 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=104111 Read More Here ]]> image

Once again, it’s time for the big dance that is Kona. Or more technically – the Vega Ironman World Championships. It’s when the fastest long-course triathletes in the world gather on a small island to collectively consume more electrolyte-filled drinks and gel packets in a day than most cities could ever down.

However, this marks the 10th year that power meters have been tracked at Kona. In that time we’ve also seen a pretty dramatic shift in the market and the players. And in the last 2-3 years I think we’ve really seen things start to stabilize, at least for now. I expect this will remain fairly constant until Shimano gets around to putting an (accurate) power meter in their Ultegra cranksets with either a minimal or minor price increase. Meaning, until they make it a no brainer.

Of course, this data set is part of the larger annual Kona bike count that looks at which bike frames and components are most popular. But like past years – I’m most interested in the geeky data, specifically, the power meter data.  As I’ve done for a crap-ton of years in the past, I’ll analyze the power meter count data that was released this morning by Triathlete Magazine, and talk about the trends.

A Bit of Backstory

For those not familiar, historically Lava Magazine and now these days Triathlete Magazine, in conjunction with a bunch of industry folks, count all of the bikes entering the transition areas.  By ‘count’, I mean that they give them a complete rubber-glove exam of componentry.  While this might be an interesting consumer publication tidbit, it’s really about industry marketing.  It enables big companies to brag about domination in the bike industry for everything from the bikes themselves to helmets to wheels.

For example, here’s an ad from a few years back (2014) that Quarq did almost immediately following the bike count numbers.

Starting in 2009, the Kona bike count added power meters to the list of counted parts.  So we’ve now got almost a decade of power meter numbers to work from.  Enough to start developing some interesting trends.  For many that follow the industry, these trends won’t really be a huge surprise.

By the same token, it’s really important to understand that these numbers don’t paint an accurate picture of power meter usage across the board.  Why’s that?

Because Kona Qualifiers are the pointy end of the pack.  The super-pointy end.  They also tend to be well beyond the normal triathlete Type-A mentality (that I fit into as well), which means that in addition to spending all their time on their sport they also spend all their money.  They tend to gravitate to the more expensive options, especially for things like weight savings or if the word ‘carbon’ is involved.

Whereas the more weekend warrior road bike rider might not spend the same proportion of income in the sport, and thus is far more likely to buy cheaper power meters (à la Stages, 4iiii, Favero, etc…).

Next, remember that these are for units on the market as of the first few weeks of October.  But in reality, I’d wager that 95% of athletes qualifying for Kona will have a fairly locked down mentality on gear – so likely any major bike changes, such as a power meter purchase, would have been done back in the spring (or at worst mid-summer), to be able to leverage that data for training all season. We haven’t seen any meaningful new power meter announcements this past summer (or this year), so we’re not looking at a scenario where you’ve got some brand new units on the market that might not be accounted for (such as two years ago in 2017 when both Favero and Garmin announced units over the summer, though we now see the impact of that in 2019).

Finally, note that the field at Kona is very dynamic in that while the age groupers on the podium at Kona will often return year over year, much of the age group field tends to view going to Kona as aspirational – and thus aren’t likely to be there 5 years running.  Still, excluding the lottery winners, the overall athletic class of athlete tends to remain quite consistent year over year (and getting faster).

The Numbers:

To begin, let’s start off with all the raw data from the past decade.  I’ve ported it into a single table to make it easy to deal with.  See the links at the bottom if you want to look at the individual yearly data straight from Triathlete Magazine.  I’ve compiled it into some spreadsheets, and color-coded it for fun.


A crapton of quick technicalities to note here (seriously these are important):

– This year I have much higher confidence in the count compared to last year. Last year we saw a lot of oddities around pedal based power meters that were likely missed, especially Favero. This year the pedal counts matched the power meter counts (last year they didn’t).

– There’s no breakout of models, so we don’t know on PowerTap for example, how many are hubs vs chain-ring vs pedals. However, this year with the pedal counts we can deduce at least how many of those PowerTap units are pedals specifically – so that’s cool (130 pedals of 177 PowerTap products).

– Inversely, some brands like Ergomo have long died off, but I kept them for historical reasons.

– I suspect there are cases where other relative unknowns might have been missed. It appears they’ve caught most brands, but if something is mostly unheard of (such as an Avio power meter), it might not be seen. These folks have to work super-fast and are likely not expecting the unknowns. But I’d consider any of these negligible in the grand scheme of things

Here’s what I was referring to on the pedals of power meters front. The Garmin numbers match, which is great, and the PowerTap numbers don’t match – which makes total sense. Undoubtedly the majority of PowerTap people these days are using PowerTap P1/P2 pedals, with the remainder using PowerTap C1 or G3/etc hubs.


So what about power meter adoption?  Simply put – it continues to climb, albeit slightly – but it climbed again as with every year prior:


One of the challenges that we always have at Kona is that disc wheels are not permitted, primarily due to safety concerns with strong crosswinds on certain sections of the course.  As such, people that may have PowerTap hubs in disc wheels aren’t really accounted for here.  That said, year after year I suspect that’s a dwindling number of people, especially among the Kona crowd.

Next, let’s look at the brands more carefully:


First off, sorry there are duplicate colors. There are only so many colors to work with, and I just let Excel do its thing. All you really need to know to decode it is that blue section on the bottom is Quarq, and the yellow section in the middle is Garmin.

Of course, most of the trends we see here aren’t surprising.  Back in 2009, there were really only a few brands (Quarq, SRM, PowerTap, Polar, Ergomo).  But it’s really PowerTap and SRM that dominated back then. Ironically, those two continue to see their numbers dwindle, albeit due to entirely different reasons. In the case of SRM it’s that the power meter world surpassed them in pricing and functionality. In the case of PowerTap it’s a bit harder to pinpoint, given they have the P1/P2 pedals, but those have struggled to compete with Garmin – likely due to form factor. Perhaps the SRAM acquisition this past winter will change that.

Quarq continues to go strong, though no longer holds #1 – these days it’s a very strong #2 which is actually really impressive for a lot of reasons, namely their price point, but also that Shimano groupsets dominate SRAM groupsets at Kona (1,927 to 430).

But ultimately, the core reason that Garmin is winning the overall power meter category is likely just distribution (with a side blend of practicality to switch bikes more easily). That one can buy Garmin pedals at virtually any bike shop on earth matters. Same goes for online stores too. While Quarq has similar reach via SRAM’s ownership, stocking Quarq cranksets is a far higher bar than stocking a single type of Garmin pedals.

Now, keep in mind that the numbers probably would be even higher if Garmin hadn’t been embroiled in the general $h!tshow that has been the Garmin Vector 3 battery cap fiasco. One only has to look at comments on reviews and posts to see how many customers Garmin lost to Favero. While Favero went from 0 to 70 here, that’s mostly because last year it wasn’t counted properly.

Let’s talk about some of the other stand-outs in this list though. In mostly order of volume shipped:

Quarq: The company did well this year, slightly growing total units this year from 345 to 367, which is solid in a market that doesn’t really favor more expensive crankset/spider based power meters.

PowerTap: Like Quarq, PowerTap also grew numbers (156 to 177), after retracting from 2017 to 2018 (as did Quarq). Again, I suspect in the case of PowerTap these growths were undoubtedly due to Garmin’s fumbles in this segment. It’s also impressive too given that there’s been virtually no PowerTap brand marketing since the company was sold to SRAM/Quarq earlier this year. Some of this might be due to the PowerTap P2, but since that was more or less just a minor internals change and new paint job, it’s unlikely that was a core driver.

Power2Max: Despite doing once again no marketing, the company remained roughly static (after a number of years of strong growth). They lost a few units from 181 to 177 (even though total bikes increased by about 50). Again, I’d consider this a solid performance for them given they display an almost SRM-like lack of interest in making gains in the market from a distribution/marketing standpoint.

Stages: The company shrunk slightly this year from 126 to 117. Like with Power2Max, this was roughly a wash, but it’s still 8% or so. I suspect the main driver here is just that pedals are just cheaper than ever before (remember, Favero dropped prices again last December). It’s really as simple as that.

Favero: This was the first year they showed up on the charts, though as noted I’m sure they had quantiles last year, but just were overlooked. Still, 70 is a respectable first date, and I suspect just being on this list will continue to see them grow next year. My bet? We’ll see them hit 150-200 next year. We’ll see how I do in 12 months.

SRM: No amount of finicky SRM EXAKT pedals was going to save their numbers this year, which continued to plummet to the lowest point ever – a mere 63 units. They used to be the majority of units. Now? A mere 4%.

Beyond those, almost everyone else stayed roughly the same.

Wrap Up:

Despite a relatively quiet year for new power meters (and by quiet, I mean basically non-existent), we continue to see power meters grow within the Kona ranks. Though admittedly slightly less than I’d expect these days. I’d have assumed power meter adoption would easily be 70-75% at Kona, if not higher – given the type-A gear mentality that is pervasive at the Ironman World Championships. I’d love to be able to ask people as they checked in their bikes that didn’t have a power meter: Why not?

Which isn’t a negative question, as it is a curiosity. There’s no more perfect scenario for a power meter than an Ironman race, and within that – no better race from a pacing standpoint than Kona. Between the winds and the adrenaline of the event, there’s frankly no better event to use a power meter on that I can think of.

Like in the past, we continue to have startups waiting in the wings with the promise of cheaper power meters, such as IQ2 and others. But as with every previous year, these startups have struggled to gain a foothold. Or, just to ship products. Remember last year we lost WatTeam shortly after Kona (despite managing to land a single unit in last year’s count).

And like last year, it’ll be interesting to see if anyone is riding with any aero sensors out on the course. For those that are excessively bored, rummaging through race day photos to find Notio Konect sensors or VeloComp’s AeroPod out on real-world bikes. Both have been shipping for a year now, though I’m not sure either company is making major progress in the market. I continue to think it’s got huge potential, but is slowed by the challenge of understanding how to use the data to make oneself faster without having experienced coaches and aero professionals giving you the exact tips on what to change.

With that – thanks for reading!

Note: This year, and many of years past data is from Lava Magazine and Triathlete Magazine by a collection of industry folks that survey the bikes upon check-in.  Links to all past data sources are listed here: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.

First Sports Tech Cloud Platform & Incubator Announced by Zone5 Ventures https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/10/first-sports-tech-cloud-platform-incubator-announced-by-zone5-ventures.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/10/first-sports-tech-cloud-platform-incubator-announced-by-zone5-ventures.html#comments Thu, 10 Oct 2019 10:02:26 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=104087 Read More Here ]]> image

Today’s post is gonna be a bit more on the geeky/industry side of things, though, I suspect most of you can see how this will ultimately carry itself through to more choice in consumer products down the road. Or, just simply better consumer products. Plus, the backstory and cast of characters here is surprisingly deep for a new company that’s theoretically instantiated from mid-air.

As of today, an entity known as Zone5 Ventures has instantiated itself as both a cloud platform for companies to store sports-tech data on (and they already have a long client list), as well as an incubator style investment firm. But the real kicker? They now own Today’s Plan, one of the larger online endurance sports online training platforms out there.

Today’s Plan is now a subsidiary of this newly instantiated entity, in roughly the same way that Google proper is technically a subsidiary of Alphabet, Inc. Some of this is merely moving sand into different buckets – but a lot of it with Zone5 is very much new buckets of new sand. Real humans will be getting real employment contracts that move them out of Today’s Plan and into new job roles doing new things in a new company with a different name.

Ultimately, the goal of Zone5 Ventures is to act a bit like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure, but for sports-specific data. They’re aiming to handle all the file-formatting and storage mess out of it, and keeping startups and big companies alike focused on all the other features of their app or platform.

(Random Note: There’s no connection of any sort between Zone5 Ventures that this post is about, and Zone Five Software, makers of Sport Tracks and SportTracks Mobi.)

The Cloud Platform:


(Every good tech company needs a single head-tilting slide with numerous arrows and bubbles that tries to explain it all. Zone5 Ventures entrant into that competition is above.)

One of the things that almost every sports technology company underestimates initially is the challenge of the actual sports data files themselves. Sure, there are standards like .FIT files and .TCX files, but that doesn’t mean the companies follow those standards. Nor does it mean those files, companies, or standards don’t change. It can and is a nightmare for smaller platforms to try and keep up with all these tweaks, especially if their platform is looking to integrate with 3rd party services or data.

To give a very specific ‘me’ example, we have the DCR Analyzer. That’s the thing I use in my reviews to compare data sets, and thousands of you use as well. One of the biggest challenges we have is other companies doing ‘special’ things to data structures without bothering to tell anyone. Sure, you have plenty of smaller companies that just don’t understand .FIT files correctly and need help to navigate that. But, we also run into the frequency challenges of big players introducing breakages for their own internal reasons. For example last spring Garmin quietly changed how they store elevation and speed data within a .FIT file, they went from 16-bit integers to 32-bit integers. Not all units use this method, only the newer ones. Or, Suunto leaving zero and null-values in the distance accumulation data sets in their .FIT files. In our cases, these were relatively easy fixes. But these sorts of things happen constantly.

Now imagine you’re an up and coming app trying to figure it out. That’s a nightmare. I’m lucky in that the lead developer for the DCR Analyzer is also behind the FitFileTools site, and also works with Final Surge to assist them too in navigating these waters. So we tend to catch most of these quirks quickly. But if you’re trying to create the next Strava, dealing with all these nuances is impossible from a fresh start.

And that’s ultimately what Zone5 Ventures is trying to address. They’re leveraging the same backend experience we have, but in their case via Today’s Plan. They see all the same daily file formatting wonk we do, but actually have even more complicated systems to have to handle it.  Which is why over the last few years Today’s Plan has actually been running more sites than just Today’s Plan. Some of them have been pretty visible – such as Stage’s site, which is back-ended on Today’s Plan. While others are less obvious, such as the Zwift Academy, or Stryd.

All of these 3rd party entities’ partnerships now fall under the Zone5 Ventures bit. In fact, here’s a partial (public) list of them below. Zone5 Ventures says that there are numerous other companies for which the relationship isn’t yet public (and may never be).


So what are they actually doing? Well, it’s essentially a collection of API (Application Programming Interfaces) endpoints into what are cloud storage pools for sports-tech specific data. They want to take any sort of fitness data and fitness sensor data and act as that normalized pool, with then further connections to 3rd party platforms and services. The idea being that if you want to create a new running app, or a cycling app, you can simply offload all of the data storage and processing bits to them. So rather than figuring out how to properly format files or anything else, you just leverage their API and you’re done.  In talking with Chris Yu (one of Zone5’s founders) about it, he noted that “Just getting the basics, being able to feed data in at the top of the funnel and have that processed through to give them basic ride metrics is a huge task in and of itself”.

They’re (very specific) goal for onboarding is that a person who’s just read Coding Swift for Dummies can turn around and use their fitness cloud platform without any additional knowledge.

But it’s not just limited to app developers, in fact, they see a blank canvas when talking to other groups as well, Ben Bowley (founder of Today’s Plan) said that “The volume of inquiry we get from that kind of stuff is really quite significant, and is something that Today’s Plan is already doing. We think there’s this incredible opportunity whether it be entrepreneur or scientists.”

Which is true. The same issues that apply to a fitness startup also apply to someone trying to do research on fitness data. I see that constantly with sport-specific studies that screw up understanding sport-specific data.

Now as of right now the platform requires a bit of manual onboarding with a dedicated team. That team is currently based in Canberra, and are technically Today’s Plan employees. However, they’ll shortly be given new employment contracts and transitioned to be legit Zone5 Ventures employees where their complete time will be focused on 3rd party customers. Ultimately though, they want the entire provisioning to be completely self-service, so that a startup never has to talk to a human if they don’t want to (just like AWS or Azure).

The main blocker of that right now isn’t actually so much technology, but rather just working through the pricing pieces – which at the moment is custom from customer to customer. But their goal is that within 6-months to have super clear on-website pricing similar to what Amazon or Microsoft has for cloud services (which is largely usage driven).

They also talked about down the road offering a user-consented and opt-in anonymized sports-specific data set that would be offered to researches, some of it via grants. We see a bit of this today within the Golden Cheetah OpenData set, but looking at the scale of companies involved above, this would undoubtedly dwarf it – again, assuming users consented to their data being used for that.

Also, just like AWS or Azure, the primary goal here is a platform for other companies to build their own apps and services on – not as a data set to monetize. Zone5 says that ultimately those platforms and systems will be cordoned off from a security standpoint in the same manner as Amazon/Google/Microsoft cloud services, though, they didn’t have any specific details on how exactly that’s being achieved from a security standpoint.

They did note though that they have no issues with competitors to Today’s Plan wanting to leverage their platform (just like Apple’s iTunes leveraged Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS platforms for years).

The Incubator Arm:

So what if you don’t have money but still need cloud platform access? Well, you can sell your soul.

Or, more alternatively – you can offload a small bit of equity.

There’s effectively two major components of Zone5 (aside from Today’s Plan), and the second piece is the venture arm, though, they noted that they are not a venture capital company “at all”. They see themselves as a bit more like an incubator arm, akin to Y-Combinator, but without giving physical space away. Instead, the Boulder-based division will give access to the cloud platform (and expertise in the sports tech realm) in exchange for equity. Technically though in addition to the cloud pillar, there’s the Incubator group, Research Group, and Portfolio group. But practically speaking Incubator and Portfolio groups are more or less the same today. And the Research group I covered under the cloud platform section.

In discussing the venture with them, one of the realities that came up is that typical Silicon Valley VC groups are generally bad at figuring out sports tech. They are easily distracted by things that have been done and died before (or are poorly thought out because they lack the knowledge of sports tech), but also inversely they’ll skip over ideas that have legit good merits because they don’t see the potential. There are surprisingly very few sports-tech specific funding groups in the space.

Interestingly though – the investment arm is open to not just entrepreneurs, but also other investors that may want to join in. However, they cautioned that they aren’t just opening the door to people with money. Today’s Plan’s Ben Bowley noted that “It’s frustrating trying to talk to people to who don’t understand this space, and it’s super hard. You end up with some in the VC space that have a personal interest in cycling, but that doesn’t always carry over to how they invest their money.”

He went on to say that the type of investors they would be interested in bringing onboard are people that have actual industry experience, rather than just an enjoyment of cycling or yoga.

And this may be as good a time as any to talk about some of the players involved here.  As you’ve surmised by now, one of the founders is Ben Bowley of Today’s Plan. With him is Chris Yu of Specialized Wind Tunnel & related tech projects fame (he’s remaining at Specialized, though is splitting his time). In fact, there’s a number of Specialized-linked folks here throwing in their personal time or money. For example, Specialized’s own founder – Mike Sinyard, is personally investing funds into it. As is John Rangle, the current CFO of Specialized. There are other major investors, people I’d actually categorize as massively larger figures in the sports tech space, though, those individuals aren’t quite ready to be listed yet due to pending projects they haven’t yet announced.

It’ll be super interesting to see how this evolves. I’m often asked by startups if they know of investments that are specific to this industry, and as I noted above – the number of investors I know that actually know what they’re doing in this industry is relatively thin. And concurrently, the number of sports-tech specific services companies are also relatively thin. I could see Zone5 potentially expanding their offerings around the services side of things – potentially to include hardware/sensor consulting/advisement as well (similar to what NPE does behind the scenes for a number of major customers and gear you’ve very likely got in your pain cave today and don’t even realize it). All areas that new (and old) companies struggle with.

And of course, I’m interested to see how quickly Zone5 can shift from manual onboarding of customers into the cloud to a fully automated and self-service platform, which is key to getting 1-3 person startups onboard that don’t really want to deal with lots of administrative or contractual overhead. If they can hit their 6-month timeframe, that’d be pretty impressive.

In any case, hope ya found this interesting, and thanks for reading!

Kinomap Rolls out Coached Workout Functionality, Revamped User Interface, Apple TV App https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/10/kinomap-rolls-out-coached-workout-functionality-revamped-user-interface-apple-tv-app.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2019/10/kinomap-rolls-out-coached-workout-functionality-revamped-user-interface-apple-tv-app.html#comments Wed, 09 Oct 2019 15:25:57 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=104073 Read More Here ]]> DSC_7772

Kinomap has launched their slate of Winter 2019-2020 platform updates, which include not just a revamped and refreshed user interface, but also a new capability that allows coaches to upload their own videos to the platform and have users/athletes iterate through, even showing you in real-time how you’ve compared against your friends in those workouts.

In addition, they’ve rolled out a connected Apple TV app. I say ‘connected’, because it requires you still run the main app on another device (like a phone), while the Apple TV app is used for the pretty stuff on a big screen, while the companion app is used for the app user interface bits. Somewhat akin to what Road Grand Tours does. But more on that later.

Before we get too far into things, it’s probably worthwhile noting that over time Kinomap as a company has somewhat shifted in their core audience. While the company has historically targeted cyclists on indoor trainers (via ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart), the reality is that makes up only about 30.8% of their total customer base. The biggest portion of their base is connected exercise bikes, like you’d see in gyms. With rowing machines and treadmills also in the mix. So in some ways, while these features are definitely targeting the individual consumer, the coaching sessions as you’ll see has far greater potential reach when they look to gyms and a Peloton-style model that they’ve done some trial runs with.

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Also, as noted they have revamped the user interface a bit – a trend we’ve seen across the board over the past year with different apps. As I’ve said countless times, I think it’s one of the most important pieces of the indoor trainer app side of things. It’s the make or break element between whether a user loves an app or puts up with an app, even if they don’t realize it.

I’m not going to cover every UI detail in this post within a separate section – instead, you’ll just see it as I try out the other new standalone features. Oh, and all of this is now live on the production apps, which started from Monday afternoon.

Coached Sessions:

This next bit is probably one of the more unique offerings on the market, which enables coaches to create video sessions with specific coached workouts…and the ability to have multiple athletes in the session at the same time. So think Peloton instructors meets Sufferfest structured workouts but with a video of the coach instead of scenic rides like currently in Sufferfest.

When you crack open the app you’ll see the browse tab, which allows you to go into the three core areas: Videos (of outside rides), Coaching (coached sessions), and Intervals (pain).

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For quick reference, the videos have mostly made up the core of Kinomap’s fame historically. You can even upload/create your own videos, as I’ve done a number of years ago. These allow you to re-ride outdoor rides on your smart trainer, with the gradient changing. There’s thousands upon thousands of videos. To be precise, there’s more than 100,000 videos from 90 countries. Seriously, lots of places.

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But, if you click on the above screenshots to a usably large size, you’ll notice it’s not just rides. Remember that chart at the front? Yup – you’ll see rowing videos in there, allowing you to connect up a rowing machine and re-row that indoors. Same goes for running, which they did as part of a big partnership last year with the NHS for a Couch to 5K program.

However, none of that has to do with the new coaching functionality, so we’ll get off our distraction train and back into the coached sections. Once you tap ‘Coaching’ from the main menu, you’re taken here. In this case I’ve applied a filter to only show me cycling-related workouts, but in reality there are also rowing ones and others too.

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You’ll see there’s a blend of English and French ones, given that Kinomap is based in France – it makes sense to see this mixture. I tapped on one of the ones in English from Tailwind Endurance. I’ve heard the name, and Google tells me they’re an endurance sports studio out of NYC that also does in-person studio rides too (probably why there’s a flotilla of KICKR’s floating around in the background).

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You’ll see above there’s the workout structure, including both power and cadence targets. Right now the power targets are % based (on a difficulty scale), however, Kinomap says that wattage-specific targets are in the plans.

On the next screen you’ll confirm any equipment settings. In my case I was using the Wahoo KICKR Bike with a Wahoo TICKR X heart rate strap. I didn’t need any extra cadence sensors since the KICKR Bike sends that over. I selected ‘Full HD’ for the video quality, and then whacked the start button.

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The first portion of this workout is a warm-up, as expected. The camera angles change automatically as the instructor (Sarah) explains the workout, just like would happen in a fitness studio. Her microphone quality was good, and the lighting was good as well – both super important qualities on video workouts. Of course, this wasn’t a Peloton studio either. There was no fancy robotic camera on an arced track above the instructor, nor audio and lighting professionals shifting through moods.

But it was perfectly functional. Plus, the stack of TT bikes in the background on the wall probably cost more than a Peloton studio anyway. You can watch another video snippet from Tailwind here on YouTube on Kinomap’s channel. It won’t have the overlays seen below of course, but shows you what’s underneath.

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On the left side of the screen you see other athletes. These aren’t live, but rather are other people you follow. Live workouts aren’t yet in the platform, though Kinomap has some tests planned for this winter. In the upper left corner is your current wattage/speed/distance/calories/HR/cadence, depending on the sensors you’ve used of course.

Now as you get into the workout you’ll see in the upper right corner an overview of the workout. The blue portions are actually the cadence targets, whereas the pink line is the wattage targets. After the warm-up the first portion of this workout was actually some higher cadence work, so no specific wattage target was assigned (common for cadence drills in workouts), and then from there you see the pink line go up in steps.

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Below that it says ‘60% 90 RPM’, which is my current target, whereas above the blue graph chunks is the next structured workout target and the time remaining (19 seconds) until that target.

Finally, you’ll have noticed the difficulty is set to 100%. The challenge here is this seems somewhat nebulous. Obviously, you can see that I’m still working my way through these steps and this particular segment is coming in at a cool 358w. There’s no wattage-specific targets for these displayed yet, though Kinomap says that’s coming. They didn’t do so initially due to the diversity of equipment that people end up on (again, remember that first device pie chart at the start of the post). Still, it made it challenging to complete the workout as-is.

Ultimately, I’d end up reducing the difficulty level down in order to get through these sets, as the next step had me clearing 400w+, for what I think were 1-minute chunks and increasing. Still, that’s a technical thing that can be resolved, especially with being able to tie in some sort of target limiter, like using FTP or such.

Once your workout is complete you’ll get a summary screen displayed, as well as the data transmitted to all the usual sites like Strava, TrainingPeaks, and so on.

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And you can also get a bit more detailed analytics too:

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So here’s my thinking: Kinomap is close here. It’s not perfect, but it’s one of the best endurance-sports specific attempts I’ve seen at this. Sure, we’ve had coached videos before, but what we don’t get is the ability to do it in pseudo real-time with others (or eventually live), and to see those other’s metrics. Just like with the massively popular Peloton, there’s a motivational factor to seeing those other names on the left side of the screen and ensuring your target cadence/power/etc is on-point:

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(Before I continue, yes, I know this post is about Kinomap, but when I see other opportunities for the technology, I’m going to talk about it. That’s the inner geek in me.)

And, as I’ve argued for quite some time – it’s exactly this sort of execution that I think competitor app TrainerRoad is missing out on (and to a lesser extent, Sufferfest). Taking TrainerRoad as an example, they have a celebrity style personality with Coach Chad via their highly popular podcast. People would undoubtedly be happy to join in on workouts with him, live or otherwise (or various guests they bring onboard). The bones of what Kinomap has here is exactly what TrainerRoad should be doing. And after all, it’s largely his workouts that people are executing, and his written text people are following mid-workout.

Further, it would also potentially give TrainerRoad additional revenue because they could plausibly charge slightly more for a ‘Pro’ or ‘Premium’ tier that has live video coached workouts in it. Or, they could just keep prices the same and reach out to a new market portion that doesn’t want to just stare at numbers. In other words, just like Kinomap has done here. They’re not just adding coached videos for the fun of it, nor because Peloton is doing it (ok, maybe a bit because Peloton is doing it). No, they’re adding it because it’s a way to diversify their app a bit, and reach new user bases.

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In any case – it’s worth noting that Kinomap also has the ability to do playlists and other groupings of coached videos from within the app. And in the case of some of the French ones, they’ve teamed up with a few different groups to do some far higher production-values type videos too. So the potential is certainly there to see this get kicked up a notch.

Finally of note is that there is a revenue sharing model available for coaches, and there’s also a pretty extensive how-to guide (PDF) available for coaches. It goes through everything from creating the workouts, to production tips. Kinomap says they’re talking with other coaches, as well as even various fitness YouTuber’s about getting on the platform. And lastly, for coaches they have an agreement with a music service for legal usage of any music within their videos, thus avoiding a Peloton-style lawsuit situation.

Apple TV & Remote Display:

Finally, there’s both the new Apple TV app as well as the ‘Remote Display’ capability. In some ways, they’re one and the same. First, there’s an Apple TV app:

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You can install it on any Apple TV that supports apps, just like the Zwift, FulGaz, Rouvy, or Road Grand Tours apps. However, unlike Zwift/FulGaz/Rouvy, you can’t operate this app standalone. So that makes it more like Road Grand Tours. Instead, you’ll need to run the new Kinomap app on your smartphone or tablet, which as of right now is the Android version only. But it allows you to then pair it to any screen you can find with a compatible web browser pointing it to this URL. Or, you can use the Apple TV app as that big screen. Ultimately, this means that all the big-screen content ends up on the main screen, while your phone is used mainly as a controller and for additional data metrics.

In my case, I forgot my Android phone this morning, so I was out of luck on iOS as that app isn’t going to release until Nov 17th. But, I got to see a bit of a demonstration video on how it works, and you can see how the phone is used as a more detailed controller while the TV is showing the bulk of the content:


This is good stuff and has its use cases, though ultimately I really just want to be able to use a single Apple TV app and not be required to mirror items across devices. Of course, for a company like Kinomap it may be hard to justify the added development cost for that, especially given so much of their device base is diversified into the gym space (where Apple TVs would be less prevalent).

Ultimately though – all of these changes are good for Kinomap, and I think the user interface bits will help considerably. While the coaching aspect is still early days, it seems to be on the right path for increased appeal to athletes – especially if they can hook a few more influential coaches. As Peloton has oft talked about, the secret to their long term retention rate success isn’t the bike, or the fancy studios, or even the questionably obtained music. Rather: It’s the draw of the coaches and the desire for people to be willing to jump on a bike at 6AM sharp to not be late for a session with a given/specific coach.

Of course, this shouldn’t really be a surprise for anyone: Spin studios have followed this model for decades to great success.

With that- thanks for reading!