DC Rainmaker https://www.dcrainmaker.com Thu, 01 Oct 2020 16:12:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.15 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/images/2017/03/dcrainmaker-dc-logo-square-40x40.png DC Rainmaker https://www.dcrainmaker.com 32 32 Wahoo Rolls Out KICKR Bike ANT+ Power Broadcasting Firmware Update https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/10/wahoo-rolls-out-kickr-bike-ant-power-broadcasting-firmware-update.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/10/wahoo-rolls-out-kickr-bike-ant-power-broadcasting-firmware-update.html#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2020 10:17:31 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=118287 Read More Here ]]> Wahoo-KICKR-Bike-Firmware-Update

This post is gonna be a quickie, mostly cause in the grand scheme of things it’s probably not going to be of relevance to that many people since there’s not that many people with KICKR Bike’s out there. But, for those that do have such a bike, you’ve now got a new feature: Power broadcasting from the KICKR Bike.

Now – about now some of you are probably like: Wait, the KICKR Bike didn’t broadcast ANT+ power?

To which the answer is…umm…nope. Not exactly. While Wahoo trainers did, the KICKR Bike didn’t.

The Details:

See, the KICKR Bike at launch about a year ago and until today, only connected with ANT+ FE-C (ANT+ trainer control) and Bluetooth Smart trainer control (Wahoo’s own variant, not quite FTMS). For apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, The Sufferfest, or just about anything else – that was really all you needed. Life was grand!

Except, if you had a watch you wanted to connect. Or, really and other non-trainer app that you just wanted to record power so you can have it be tracked within your ecosystem. For example, for Garmin or Polar users that’d include things like training load and recovery metrics. Since the files from Zwift and TrainerRoad synced to Garmin Connect still don’t inexplicably update/impact training load, that means you had to dual record if you wanted these metrics…which…is kinda a reason you’d buy a higher end Garmin watch. The Wahoo KICKR Bike was the only bike that didn’t broadcast power from all of the indoor smart bikes in this segment (Stages/Elite/Tacx/Wattbike/Wahoo, Peloton does not broadcast power however).

Now, while Garmin started rolling out in beta this summer the ability to connect to ANT+ FE-C trainers, that’s really only for the latest and most special watches. Not the 142 generations of watches before that. Nor for people’s Edge units that might record it either sans-FE-C. And the earlier added Bluetooth Smart power broadcasting to the KICKR Bike in a different firmware update didn’t solve the issue for people with slightly older Garmin units that didn’t support Bluetooth Smart power meters.

Anyway, point is – now you can. First, you’ll need to connect to the KICKR Bike and grab the update via the Wahoo Fitness app – either by the prompt on the home page, or via the sensors page:

KICKR-Bike-Firmware1 KICKR-Bike-Firmware2

A few minutes it’ll complete the update to 1.16:

KICKR-Bike-Firmware3 KICKR-Bike-Firmware4

By the way, it’s around this point that I renewed my stance that smart bikes should have WiFi built in for this sorta thing. They should just update quietly in the background at night. Just like your watch does, your phone does, the Peloton bikes do, your car might, and countless other devices. If you want to manually disable that, fine, but really, c’mon – just update the darn thing behind the scenes and keep it current. This isn’t directed to Wahoo specifically, but the entire group of mainstream indoor smart bikes for this segment are without WiFi (the TrueKinetix bike does have WiFi, as does the aforementioned Peloton bikes, and a few others).

In any event, once that’s done, grab your Garmin watch of choice (or any other devices that supports an ANT+ power meter). Anything that supports a power meter now works to find the KICKR Bike:

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Also, there is the Bluetooth Smart channel as well, though that was added previously.

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You just simply pair it up as a power meter and you’re good to go. Remember, in regular power meter paired mode it won’t “control” the bike. It’s just listening to the power signal and recording the data. This includes the cadence as well.

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Here’s a very short test snippet shown on Garmin Connect from it:

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And afterwards you’ll get your usual training load status bits too now properly filled in:

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So with that, go forth and connect your things.

Wrap-Up:

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Ironically, this was basically the last item I was waiting on with the KICKR Bike from a ‘completion’ standpoint. The bike has been largely sitting off to the side in my hallway waiting for this firmware update, which sounded like it was coming last fall, then last winter, then last spring, and now finally…now. As such, the KICKR Bike gets its boxes in the coming days to go back home to Wahoo as usual.

The question some of you might be asking is: Will I go out and buy one myself?

And that’s trickier, most for two reasons.

First, is the simple reality that while I spend a lot of time on a trainer (or bike), every year, I spend a fair chunk of it on various other devices testing. For example, the last few months has been on the Wattbike ATOM 2020 – and before that the Wahoo KICKR V5, or the Direto XR, etc. Starting today that’s the Elite Tuo, and so on. So in some ways, me spending $3,500 for a bike that frankly won’t get the usage it deserves is kinda silly. That said, I’m not opposed to silly.

The second, more relevant question is whether I’d recommend others buy one. And frankly, that depends on how much cash you’ve got. Is the KICKR Bike the best indoor smart bike for a Zwift/TrainerRoad/etc type person? Yes, I think so at this point. It’s got the best feel, the best shifting, and I think the best overall experience. It’s not perfect. My early production unit here squeaks (which, has been addressed I’m told), while other more recent units still have the audible resonance sounds at certain cadence ranges. It also doesn’t have TT bar shifters yet, or other features like steering that Zwift has started to roll out to regular trainers with the Elite Sterzo Smart. A case where a $119 accessory has something the $2,000-$3,500 all-inclusive bikes don’t (which isn’t Wahoo’s fault, btw, that’s 100% on Zwift).

Thus, I don’t know if it’s “worth” $3,500 in terms of the evolutionary progress of technology. That again, depends on your bank account. I wouldn’t buy a KICKR Bike as a “I’m still gonna love it in 5 years” type purchase. Whereas, if you’re more of the mindset of “I want the best smart bike money can buy in 2020, future be damned”, then definitely – go forth.

So as I go forward into the fall and shift out of testing new trainers/bikes (simply due to seasonal release cycles), I don’t know what I’ll want to settle on for the winter. I’m generally pretty content on a smart trainer, though, perhaps I’ll get antsy. But I think at this juncture, if I’m spending $2,500+ on a smart bike – I don’t see any scenario where it’s not the KICKR Bike. It’s just whether I want to spend that on a bike or not. I truly don’t know.

Hopefully that makes sense to someone.

With that – thanks for reading!

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Suunto Announces Final Steps for Movescount Transition, Not All Bad News https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/09/suunto-announces-final-steps-for-movescount-transition-not-all-bad-news.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/09/suunto-announces-final-steps-for-movescount-transition-not-all-bad-news.html#comments Tue, 29 Sep 2020 10:36:41 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=118224 Read More Here ]]> SuuntoBook

In many ways, the Suunto Movescount closure saga is kinda like of those class action lawsuits you signed up for hoping for a big payout, but that goes on for so long and through so many courts that by the time it reaches the conclusion years later, you forgot what the heck the thing was even about. But hey, here we are – and it’s not dead yet and you’re getting 23 cents for your efforts. And in fact, if you’re one of those people on a much older Suunto watch – then you kinda-sorta got a new feature (you also lost a feature too though), and a legit discount on new watches.

As a refresher for this drama series, Suunto announced last decade that they were killing off their online training log and analytics platform, Movescount. Instead, they’d be moving to the ‘Suunto App’, which is a smartphone app-based strategy whereby they offload more advanced tasks to partner sites (aka Strava, TrainingPeaks, etc…).

The problem with that was that when they first announced it (back when Lauri Kristian Relander was still the president of Finland), they didn’t include a way for older Ambit & Traverse users to get to said new platform. In other words, as it was originally announced, those users got a silent Finnish shrug, with the implication that those devices wouldn’t be supported anymore. Of course, that went over like…err…a lead balloon. Suunto had to backtrack, sidetrack, and generally go off-track.

There’s been so many chapters here over the last few years my head hurts.

But here’s what they’ve announced today in as concise manner as I can make it:

1) Starting today, Ambit 1/2/3/Traverse users can also use the new SuuntoLink desktop uploader to upload to the Suunto App instead
2) On October 13th, Suunto 9 & Spartan users won’t be able to create new activity uploads or sync settings with Movescount
3) On October 27th, Ambit 1/2/3/Traverse users won’t be able to create new activity uploads to Movescount
4) All those users can still change settings via the SuuntoLink desktop uploader, and upload via SuuntoLink to the new Suunto App platform
5) Your existing data remains accessible on Movescount, and is also synced to the newer Suunto App platform

So, what’s the ‘good news’ here? Well, these last two bullets:

6) Ambit/Traverse users now get access to all the partner data sync sites that weren’t on Movescount but are on Suunto App
7) Those users get 30% off new devices (scroll to the end of the post)

These partner sites are all listed here, but there’s way more of them than Movescount ever had.

Of course, there’s plenty of downsides still. For one, there’s no official web-based option for users like there was with the Movescount site. Sure, technically the backend for the mobile app (Suunto App) is the Sports-Tracker.com site, and yes, you can access all your data there just fine. But, as any Movescount user will tell you – that site is a bit…basic.

Suunto says there will be some minor maintenance and streamlining type stuff for the Sports-Tracker site (they own it, after all), but it doesn’t sound like any new features are coming there. No surprise really. Suunto says they *REALLY* want people to use the Suunto App + their partners to fill in any gaps that Movescount used to have.

Finally, Suunto says that for Ambit 1/2/3/Traverse users, you should be able to use the SuuntoLink + the desktop cable to configure any settings/data pages/fields/sports you want. Roughly like this:

image

Also, they’ve got a nifty little site that lets you pick which watch you have, and then what you’ll need to do to get data uploaded going forward.

image

And if you look at the bottom of that site, they’ve got a 30% off upgrade coupon path for older watch users to get them onto the newer Suunto 3/5/7/9 Baro watches. Valid from now until two pandemics from now. Except not valid during the holidays. Presumably because they’ll be discounting these watches during that timeframe I’d guess.

image

In any event, I’d guess that if you’ve got one of those older units listed above, this is probably a pretty good deal overall, unless you really preferred Movescount as a platform (don’t worry, I did too). And also, fear not, this will undoubtedly not be the last chapter. After all, Movescount isn’t dead yet. It still supports changing of settings and routes according to the current situation. So at some point that’ll likely get killed off too. Or, maybe they’ll just start sending out free watches in another year or two, begging people to leave Movescount instead.

[Update: Just to be clear for folks, there are countless examples of tech companies sending newer free products or refunds to people when a service is deprecated. Eventually, Suunto will have to make a decision on how they want to handle Movescount being shut-off and potentially stranding watches.]

Not sure.

With that, thanks for reading!

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RAD Cycling Trainer Desk: For when you just can’t justify the Wahoo KICKR Desk Price https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/09/rad-lifeline-conquer-cycling-trainer-desk-cheaper-wahoo-desk.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/09/rad-lifeline-conquer-cycling-trainer-desk-cheaper-wahoo-desk.html#comments Mon, 28 Sep 2020 16:00:30 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=118201 Read More Here ]]> Lifeline-RAD-Cycling-TrainerDesk

Want the Wahoo KICKR Desk (which work with any brand trainer), but can’t exactly justify spending $250 on an indoor trainer desk? No problem, there’s an alternative – the RAD Cycling Desk, also branded as the Lifeline Cycling Trainer Desk, Conquer Cycling Trainer Desk, as well as some truly special brand names. This ‘I can’t decide what I want to be called desk’, is almost a direct knock-off of the KICKR Desk.

The difference though? It actually has more features…for less than half the price.

Look, I’m no fan of direct knock-offs. I think there’s valid reasons why you should support the engineering pipeline of companies that do that original innovating. But, there’s also a point in time for every company to innovate on existing designs or address noted shortcomings. Yes, I love the Wahoo KICKR Desk I bought nearly 5 years ago, as does almost everyone that buys one (despite the price). But in that initial review there were only two complaints I had with the original Wahoo design. Both of which could easily have been rectified down the road in minor revisions. Neither happened. Instead, a mostly no-name company was apparently this listening. And implemented both of them, for half the price.

And so, because obviously I need two KICKR/Wannabe KICKR desks in the DCR Cave, I went out and bought another one (at full price too). This time the Lifeline Cycling Trainer Desk. And thus, this is my review of that desk. Note: I’ve never talked to said random company. I assume they have 32 other names in various countries they go by.

Now, if you’d like to see this thing in action, then just hit play below. Everything’s better with action.

I’ll try my hardest to keep this review shorter than 12,000 words. But realistically, I can’t make any promises. The TDLR: It’s better than the KICKR Desk in most ways that matter but isn’t quite as sexy. If desks can be sexy. But hey, it costs less than half as much in most countries, and I’ve been using it for most of this year, side by side with the KICKR Desk.

What’s in the box:

DSC_3311

There is no fancy box here. It’s just a cardboard box imprinted with the product name and the retailer it was destined for. As well as the Sharpie’d quantity for that lot. In my case, I bought mine (at full price) from Chain Reaction, which is owned by Wiggle. It was the only place I could find it earlier this year in Europe in-stock. Now though, it’s in a boatload of places under different names (all linked at the end). In the US, you can get it on Amazon. Perhaps those boxes say ‘Amazon’ on the side.

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After I removed all the parts, here’s what I’ve got:

DSC_3316

Basically there’s the following things:

– Table top
– Floor base (the u-shaped thing)
– Legs (pretty obvious)
– Three Wheels
– Four bolts
– Allen key and wrench
– A quick-start manual you might actually read

Here’s a close look at those pieces for fun:

And, the unboxing section is done.

Setup:

DSC_3321

Putting together is pretty straightforward. In my case, I selected to do so on the most awkward surface I had – the unboxing table. I wouldn’t recommend building a rolling table on top of another table. Poor life events can happen that way. But that’s how I roll.

I put the wheels on first (stupid idea), then put the legs on.

DSC_3328

On the bright side, the wheels do have locks on them, which helps…assuming all those legs actually fit on our table top.

Then I stuck the legs on:

DSC_3330 DSC_3331

About the only quirky part here was inserting the table top into the base. It didn’t lock at first, but I think that was just user error. Once it locked in by pressing the buttons, then it was nice and crispy from there on out.

DSC_3335

Total DCR install time: 10 minutes including taking a pile of unnecessary photos and shooting video too. Normal person assembly time: 3 minutes tops.

Daily Usage:

DSC_9845

The whole point of a trainer desk is simply a place to stash all your crap while you ride. That could be things like nutrition, but also stuff like a laptop,  tablet, your phone, or Haribo. In my situation my primary use cases are:

A) Hold my iPad for training apps (special groove to keep it upright)
B) Place to stick my phone, sometimes charging too
C) Place to stash the 18 extra bike computers I’m recording data from
D) Place to stash Apple TV remote

Plus of course, sometimes things like cameras or whatever else I need to have up there.

And yes, since the days of the KICKR Desk people have selected all sorts of hospital side-table desk & musical instruments things that are cheaper, as well as other contraptions. All of which is cool. I think the point of this desk is basically splitting the difference for something that’s purpose-built, but won’t set you back as much as a mid-range GPS watch.

DSC_9857

(The above $7 Apple TV remote case is amazeballs for trainers, it’s a non-slipper silicone that goes around it, while including a strap. It also often hangs on my handlebars.)

The first thing you’ll want to do is adjust the height of the desk. You’ll simply press the two blue buttons and then push/pull to adjust to where you want it.

DSC_9859

In general, you’ll want this to clear your handlebars, so that you can have it rest over the edge of it if you want to. Also, if you have a KICKR CLIMB, remember that’s going to go up and down, so do consider that elevation situation prior to your first ride (and find it goes up into the desk and throws your laptop, water bottle, and Haribo all over the ground). Further, if you have an Elite Sterzo or Sterzo Smart, consider that your handlebars will turn. My bike is probably about as tall as you’re gonna get height-wise, and it barely clears under the desk at it’s highest when I rotate the handlebars fully. But there’s no reason you really need to have it overlapping if you don’t want it.

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Meanwhile, down at the base are the wheels. This allows you to roll it front/backwards, useful if perhaps you just want your screen further out of the sweat drip-zone. And most notably, wheel locks.

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This is one of the two core features I found the Wahoo KICKR Desk lacked. It mattered to me when I reviewed it because in the Paris DCR Cave, the floor wasn’t level. So much so the KICKR Desk would literally roll away (no joke). So I had to always block it wish something so my desk wouldn’t end up on the other end of the cave.

DSC_9865

While we’re down here, you’ll see that the base bar structure is higher off the ground than the KICKR Desk. This is notable if you’re a Wahoo Headwind fan user *AND* also put your Headwind fan atop that base bar (that’s why there’s a cut-out in the Headwind design, it’s made to perfectly fit the KICKR Desk). So on the RAD/Lifeline desk it ends up just looking a bit weird.

DSC_9898 DSC_9899

That said, I don’t tend to use my fan there, since about the only thing it’ll then cool is my crotch. And while my junk’s hotness levels might be off the charts, I can’t say it’s a major priority compared to cooling my chest/head. So I tend to put the fans off to the side anyway.

Meanwhile, back up top desk-side, you’ve got the two towel holders, interestingly, the RAD/Lifeline desk has slightly larger towel holder slots, which is nice cause it makes it easier to actually get the towel back in again. Though, most times it just ends up on my handlebars anyway since the holes are on the ‘far side’ of things.

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(Above: KICKR Desk left, Lifeline desk right)

And then up front the two water bottle holders. Why do water bottle holders matter when the KICKR Desk doesn’t have them? Because, as any KICKR-desk owner will tell you, one slight bonk of the desk and off goes the water bottles. This solves that. Also, it makes for a great place to put snacks and such.

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Then there’s two sets of grooves. These allow you to place a tablet in there and have it stand up at a slight angle. Here’s the two positions. Note that you can fit a phone in there just fine, but not a phone with a case. I’ve never had my iPad fall out of it (or the KICKR desk for that matter), it’s pretty solid.

DSC_9867 DSC_9868

You’ll notice at the base of the grooves there’s cut-outs, so that you can wire a very slim cable up if you want. Or, they also act as drains if they fill with sweat or whatever, it’ll simply drain out and not become a swimming pool.

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Next, there’s the surface. It’s got a bit of a non-slip surface atop it, so that things don’t slid off. It’s the exact same surface as the KICKR Desk.

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Still, keep in mind my Wahoo KICKR Desk is just shy of 5 years old now, which is a @#$#@ crap-ton of trainer rides. So in the grand scheme of things it looks pretty good. It’s more that photographically close-up it’s not quite as sharp.

Finally, note that there’s no power in it. In my case, I just have a longer USB-C cord and longer Apple Lightning cord nearby that I can drag up there if I need to charge things. The SARIS TD-1 desk does have two USB ports and two AC outlets, super handy. In fact, it’s also sitting in my cave. Expect a review of that in a few weeks.

In any case, day to day wise I’m pretty darn happy with this variant.

Compared to KICKR Desk:

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So I’ve been using both decks, literally side by side, since earlier this year. Some days I’m at the RAD/Lifeline desk, and some days I’m at the KICKR Desk. It’s purely dependent on which bike or trainer spot I’m at.

In general, at a high level, you probably wouldn’t notice the difference between them. But, you don’t come here for high-level differences. Here’s the nuances:

– RAD/Lifeline desk has two water bottle holders (Wahoo has none)
– RAD/Lifeline desk has wheel locks for uneven surfaces so it doesn’t roll away (like the DCR Paris Cave was) – Wahoo has none
– RAD/Lifeline desk has slightly larger towel holes than Wahoo
– Wahoo Desk has better and silkier wheels than RAD/Lifeline, which a professional rollerblader might notice. Didn’t matter to me.
– Wahoo Desk fits the Wahoo Headwind Fan perfectly (by design), so you can stick it over the front bar. The RAD/Lifeline desk is raised slightly too high. You can make it work, it’s just not pretty. That said, the fan works better when it’s not pointed at your crotch anyway, so I usually place it off to the side (for either desk)
– Wahoo’s frame base is definitely prettier being rounded surfaces versus the squared look of the RAD/Lifeline. Not sure if anyone would notice unless I said something.
– RAD/Lifeline desk’s wheels can actually rotate, useful when you need to rotate it out of a tight space, the KICKR desk only goes forward/backwards
– Non-slip textured surface is the same on both
– Tablet holder situation is the same on both
– Usable surface area is the same on both
– Max/min adjustable height is the same on both
– Both can withstand my entire body weight (see the video!)

As I said, I’ve been using both side by side for quite a while now, and probably even use the RAD/Lifeline desk more since it’s in the position closest to the wall (which is what I consider my primary trainer spot).

The biggest advantage for me is really the water bottle holders…but as noted, not actually for water bottles. Instead, I put my remotes in there most times. I just find it easier to grab. Also, sometimes I put nutrition in there. But yeah, I’ve one water bottle too.

Wrap-Up:

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In general, knock-offs across numerous consumer product categories tend to be lesser devices. Usually sacrificing something (often notable) in quality or functionality compared to the original products. Not always, but often. However, in this rare case, I think the RAD/Lifeline trainer desk is actually better than Wahoo’s KICKR Desk. Simply put, it’s got two water bottle holders and wheel locks that Wahoo lacks. These are functionally useful. Plus, obviously it’s roughly half the price of Wahoo’s option.

As for downsides, about the only thing I could possibly nitpick on is the base legs aren’t as pretty as the KICKR Desk. Also, if you have a Wahoo Headwind fan, it doesn’t fit over the legs of the RAD/Lifeline desk as seamlessly as the Wahoo KICKR desk. But frankly, if you spent $250 for the Wahoo fan, I have a funny feeling you might have already spent $250 for the KICKR Desk anyway.

Of course, I’d love to see Wahoo iterate on their desk. Not massively, just slightly. The two features added were ones I identified in my Wahoo KICKR Desk review 5 years ago. Nothing has changed in Wahoo’s Desk since then. I’d want those features incorporated, and most notably, some element of power. Specifically 1-2 international outlets, and then 2-3 USB ports.

But if you’re looking for a trainer desk, you won’t go wrong with this one. And I’ll probably even pick-up another too for home, since this one has pretty much exclusively lived at the DCR Cave.

With that – thanks for reading!

Found this review useful? Support the site:

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.

You’ll find the RAD/Lifeline/Conquer/PPWear Cycling Trainer Desk on Amazon under either brand depending on which country you’re in. Here’s those specific links.

RAD Cycling Trainer Desk – Amazon US (blue accents)
Conquer Cycling Trainer Desk – Amazon US (orange accents)
RAD Cycling Trainer desk – Amazon Canada
RAD Cycling Trainer Desk– Amazon UK
PPWear Cycling Trainer Desk – Amazon Germany
PPWear Cycling Trainer Desk – Amazon Spain

For European/Australian/New Zealand readers, you can also pick up the unit via Wiggle at the links below, which helps support the site too!

Lifeline Cycling Trainer Desk (EU/UK/AU/NZ – Wiggle) – [Out of stock, but best deal at 111EUR/99GBP]

Or, anything else you pick up on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells). If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.

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5 Random Things I Did This Weekend https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/09/5-random-things-i-did-this-weekend-108.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/09/5-random-things-i-did-this-weekend-108.html#comments Mon, 28 Sep 2020 05:00:00 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=118142 Read More Here ]]> It’s no longer summer. But hey, things are heating up in the watch realm instead – so I’ve got that for ya! Here’s what I was up to this past weekend as the leaves start to change, and the weather gets solidly less awesome.

1) Picking up the Fitbit Versa 3

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

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

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

2020-09-25 15.46.55

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

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

2) Reallocating DCR Cave Resources

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

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

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

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

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

2020-09-25 19.05.52-1

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

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

3) Trying to Zwift

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

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

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

2020-09-26 12.19.43

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

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

2020-09-26 12.39.45

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

2020-09-26 12.50.26

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

2020-09-26 12.53.22

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

2020-09-26 13.07.46

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

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

4) SRM X Pedals Take Two:

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

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

2020-09-27 18.36.32

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

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

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

5) Out for a Run

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

2020-09-27 13.05.56

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

2020-09-27 13.20.49

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

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

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

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

2020-09-27 13.31.23-1

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

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

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

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Week in Review–Sept 26th, 2020 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/09/week-in-review-sept-26th-2020.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/09/week-in-review-sept-26th-2020.html#comments Sat, 26 Sep 2020 17:16:37 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=118108 Read More Here ]]> WeekInReview22

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!

Sports Tech Deals of Note:

Some nice little savings on the latest Apple Watch Series 6 in here, as well as the new iPad. Not major, but hey, if you were gonna pick one up…this be the way to save enough for an extra couple pints of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

ProductSale PriceAmazonClever TrainingOther siteSale Notes
Garmin Vivoactive 4 - 31% off$239⚡ This is by *FAR* the lowest price I've seen for the Garmin Vivoactive 4. A very solid deal. My guess here is that they're just trying to offload some inventory, as I don't expect a replacement given Garmin just announced it's Venu SQ (and typically Garmin would concurrently announce the Venu/Vivoactive series at the same time). This unit has music (with Spotify), and an always-on screen. This is $61 lower than any price I've seen.
Wahoo KICKR + CLIMB Bundle - $200 off!$1,599This is a simple bundle of the Wahoo KICKR 2018 + the KICKR CLIMB, for $1,599 (versus the normal cost of $1,799).

DCRAINMAKER.COM Posts in the Past Week:

Here’s all the goodness that ended up on the main page this past week, as noted last week, I planned for this past week to be pretty quiet as I prep for this upcoming week

Monday: Apple Watch Series SE: A Fitness First Impressions Untangled
Tuesday: Fitbit Sense In-Depth Review: All the Data Without the Clarity
Wednesday: Garmin Venu SQ In-Depth Review
Thursday: How to Get Fitbit Non-GPS Activities to Strava
Friday: It’s Coming Back! Strava Begins Bluetooth Sensor Beta Test

It’s been a busy last 10 days…yet hang tight, more goodness is inbound!

YouTube Videos This Past Week:

Here’s what hit the tubes over on the You of Tube, definitely don’t forget to subscribe there to get notified of videos the second they hit!

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:

1) Awesome article on accuracy of SpO2 sensors in watches today: While headlined as for the Apple Watch Series 6, the reality is this also applies to Fitbit, Garmin, Withings, and others. Super well written and detailed.

2) Tidbits and highlights from Peloton’s Investor & Analyst Session: Lots of interesting items in here and a few linked subsequent posts.

3) How to buy Apple Watch Faces in watchOS7…sorta: The reality is, as the article notes, the 3rd party watch face limitations on Apple Watch remain mostly a giant dumpster fire. It’s also surprised me, for a company so good at having a developer ecosystem for all other aspects of their hardware, this singular piece that is usually the easiest of things to accomplish watch-platform wise (where most brands start before offering full apps), has never really happened.

4) TrainingPeaks rolls out new notes feature: Kinda handy, the ability to add notes to a calendar back and forth with a coach.

5) Strava makes ‘Metro’ data free to urban city planners: This is the long-standing program that helps cities figure out where to invest in bike infrastructure. Previously Strava sold this, and while the price was reportedly high, the reality is this was a small revenue source in the grand scheme of things for Strava.

6) Echelon launches Amazon Prime Bike…then Unlaunches it: As I said in a tweet, I suspect there’s way more to this story than Amazon is letting on. And if nothing else, they just learned there’s a @#$#-ton of interest for such a thing (even if Walmart already sells the exact same bike for $500).

7) Polar adds HRV Export Option to Site: This was a week or two ago, but it’s definitely worth noting. Polar added this from their Polar Flow website. Cool stuff.

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, Wahoo, Polar, and a few other firmware updates.

Garmin Forerunner 245/Music BETA Firmware update: This adds new track mode, plus new recovery time.

Garmin Forerunner 945 BETA Firmware Update: This adds the new track mode, plus daily suggested workouts, and the new recovery time. Also adds Grit/Flow for MTB as well as Bouldering/Indoor Climb profiles.

Garmin Fenix 6 Series BETA Firmware Update: Same as FR945, plus new breathwork profiles (it already had Bouldering/Indoor Climb), and a bunch of other line items.

Garmin MARQ Series BETA Firmware Update: Same as Fenix 6.

Garmin Fenix 5 Series Firmware Update: Just bug fixes.

With that –thanks for reading!

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23
It’s Coming Back! Strava Begins Bluetooth Sensor Beta Test https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/09/strava-testing-bluetooth-sensors.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/09/strava-testing-bluetooth-sensors.html#comments Fri, 25 Sep 2020 17:30:11 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=118095 Read More Here ]]> DSC_9837

A year ago Strava killed off sensor support, earning the ire of millions…perhaps even if they rarely used the feature. As users, our collective annoyance was more about principle than anything else. It also didn’t help that Strava’s reasoning at the time basically threw their own development/engineering team under the bus, making them look incompetent, saying then “Supporting Bluetooth devices was causing the app to crash during recording, whether or not a sensor was connected. Disabling this feature significantly improves recording stability for all athletes.”

Well, good news is here: Bluetooth sensor support is coming back.

To what extent, and when, and to whom, or even what’s changed circumstance or tech-wise….is all a wee bit fuzzy.

The only statement Strava’s willing to give, is saying the following:

“For a small part of the Strava community, BLE support — especially for heart rate — continues to be a high value feature and frequent feature request. We’re exploring how to bring it back in a way that works for these athletes and the community at large.”

Ultimately, the core thing to know is that as of today Strava is *SLOWLY* starting to roll it out in beta to random people (and, some non-random people, like me). Beginning about two hours ago, with the latest Strava app updates, you may get offered the ability to pair Bluetooth (BLE) heart rate sensors to the Strava iOS and Android apps.

Here’s a super quick video on how it works:

So let’s do a short tour: ‘What’s old is new again!’ Edition:

How it works:

Assuming you get selected as one of the anointed ones (where no precise qualification criteria exists), then using it is silly easy. First, you’ll load up the record screen like you’re going to record a ride directly within Strava (that’s pressing the ‘Record’ button at the bottom center). This will then show your location as usual. However, you’ll notice a new ‘heart’ icon along the bottom row. Simply tap that.

2020-09-25 17.09.08 2020-09-25 17.09.25

Now it’ll ask for permission to access Bluetooth, so it can find your Bluetooth Smart sensors. After you’ve agreed to Strava using your goods, then it’ll enumerate a list of nearby and turned on Bluetooth Smart HR sensors. It won’t show any other sensor types in my testing.

2020-09-25 17.01.47 2020-09-25 17.01.50

Now, simply tap on a sensor, and it’ll add it to the list of ‘your sensors’. After which, you’ll also see the icon at the bottom of the record screen has changed and shows your heart rate:

2020-09-25 17.02.01 2020-09-25 17.11.34

Next, start your activity and do your thing. Your heart rate is displayed in real-time on the main data page (also known as…the only data page). You’ll also see the HR sensor shown in the ‘Settings’ page as well. It’ll also remember previously saved sensors, and automatically re-connect to them for the next session, so you don’t have to re-pair again. You can also easily remove the sensors that are paired in the same sensors menu that you saw above. Easy stuff.

2020-09-25 17.03.40 2020-09-25 17.12.32 2020-09-25 18.31.40

One odd quirk though of Strava’s activity recording feature is you can’t actually make a non-GPS activity. Meaning, you can’t actually make an indoor activity. Which…yeah. Strava says you can modify it to be an indoor activity later, but really, it’s bizarre (and has always been bizarre).

Once you’re done, you simply save it like normal. It’ll then show up on your activity feed like normal.

I’ll be doing a longer workout in a short bit to see if there’s any data consistency quirks to be aware of, but in my short test thus far, things seem normal.

Wrap-Up:

DSC_9839

This is a good move, and I appreciate it. Do I use Bluetooth sensors with Strava frequently? No, not generally. But I’m probably not normal either. I’m currently wearing two watches and an extra sensor band. However, there are lots of people that use Strava to record their workouts and want an extra layer of data but don’t want to buy a watch (my brother is one of those people actually). Sure, they could have used a 3rd party app from Wahoo or otherwise, but it’s rarely a good idea to push core functionality out of your own app. This looks to start to realize that.

It also seems to be part of Strava’s long efforts this year to Make Strava Great Again with new feature after new feature after new feature…following years of nothingness. I mean, unless you’re not a paying subscriber – in which case this year has been mostly a disaster for you. While the Segments bits got all the media attention, the reality is that Strava has continued to slowly remove features from non-paying members each month…as many of you send me notes about.

We don’t know though whether this will be a Strava Subscriber feature or not actually, Strava’s not saying. So perhaps non-subscribers will get something out of this. Or, perhaps you’ll lose some more features to make up for it. I don’t know.

But what I do know is that this post is already too long, and being Friday night – I’ve got pizzas to make with the kiddos.

With that – thanks for reading!

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How to Get Fitbit Non-GPS Activities to Strava https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/09/how-to-get-fitbit-non-gps-activities-to-strava.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/09/how-to-get-fitbit-non-gps-activities-to-strava.html#comments Thu, 24 Sep 2020 15:31:28 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=118053 Read More Here ]]> DSC_9707

This post is going to be incredibly niche. And I’m OK with that. Heck, this post might just be more for me remembering this site than you. Sometimes I use this blog as a personal notepad. Like when I take photos of the power supplies for trainers. I appreciate that you might get value out of that, but realistically I’m doing that 100% for my own benefit, so I can figure which one goes to which trainer 8 months or 3 years later.

In any case, one challenge I’ve always had reviewing Fitbit devices over the (many) years I’ve been reviewing them is that there’s actually no way to export a Fitbit indoor workout. For realz. When you go to export a non-GPS workout from Fitbit’s site, it pretends to export something, but all it actually does is give you a virtually empty 1KB file. See, the button is here:

image

And then when you export it out, here’s what’s in that 1KB file:

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It’s basically empty. It just has a TCX header that says “Yo, Fitbit data goes here. Sorry, not home!”.

Again, it’s been like this for years, I’ve complained about it for years, Fitbit has acknowledged it during my discussions with them for years…and, it’s still broken.

However, what actually matters here is that this also means 3rd party platforms don’t get Fitbit uploads for non-GPS workouts either. So if you do a SoulCycle class with your Fitbit, it won’t upload that data to Strava. Nor will it do so for a core workout. Or anything else not involving GPS.

In my case though, it means I can’t actually analyze any of the heart rate data from Fitbit devices for any indoor workouts, because I can’t get the actual data. Just a little picture of it. Which, isn’t good enough for the level of accuracy I need.

Until now.

Today, while bumbling along looking for something else, I found this old post on Fitbit’s forums, where someone got just as annoyed as me…except instead of complaining to the engineers like I’ve been doing, he just made a tool to fix his issue. He literally made a simple standalone site called FitToStrava.com, where the sole purpose is grabbing your non-GPS Fitbit activities and posting them to Strava.

image

So obviously, I had to try it out! And, to save you the hassle, it’s super simple. It uses proper developer OAuth authentication programs for both Fitbit and Strava (meaning, it follows all the rules/etc set in place by both companies for how users control/access data).

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Once you’ve done it on both sides, you’ll choose a date and choose ‘Sync with Fitbit’, which, will pull your activities down. From there, you can export to Strava:

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A couple of seconds after hitting that button, you’ve got yourself an activity over on Strava:

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And, in my case, the ability to download the file, by choosing the pencil:

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Boom! And, the file is full of data properly formatted! And it works perfectly in the DCR Analyzer:

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I mean, sure, the Fitbit Sense was still as inaccurate as the Whoop strap on this ride (which, was a pretty easy test being just on an indoor bike, but it still shorted all the high-intensity areas by 8-10bpm), but hey…at least I can easily show that for indoor workouts now.

Note that it does not appear to automatically sync it over. But hey, I’m OK with that. His little site solves my problem, and thus I was also happy to use his Donate button at the bottom too. Also, I’m sure there’s other ways to get this data, but I stumbled upon this and I’m pretty excited about it.

And with that, that’s all I’ve got for now. I now return you to Thursday.

Thanks for reading!

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27
Garmin Venu SQ In-Depth Review https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/09/garmin-venu-sq-in-depth-review.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/09/garmin-venu-sq-in-depth-review.html#comments Wed, 23 Sep 2020 11:22:36 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=117990 Read More Here ]]> Garmin-Venu-SQ-In-Depth-Review

Roughly a year after Garmin introduced their first AMOLED display unit, the Garmin Venu, the company is back at it with a stripped-down rectangular version – the Venu SQ. This less expensive variant still packs the vast majority of the features of the higher-end Venu, while finding itself back nearer the original roots of the Garmin Vivo-series lineup in terms of its rectangular design. And yes, it looks a little bit like an Apple Watch.

But first, the most important piece: How to pronounce it.

I asked. And the answer is officially by pronouncing both SQ letters individually – S….Q. Not square, nor squared, nor squiggle face, or anything else. Which, means I’ll definitely call it something else.

Unlike virtually every other watch Garmin has released lately, this one actually doesn’t pack any new or unique features that aren’t already in the Garmin stable. Instead, it’s simply taking the vast majority of the Venu features and putting them into a lower price point watch, $199 for the Venu SQ, and $249 for the music-enabled edition. Super simple.

Now, if you want a side by side comparison of the Venu & Venu SQ, then look no further than the following video:

With that, I’ve been quietly using this watch alongside many other new wearables lately – including the Apple Watch SE, Fitbit Sense, Apple Watch Series 6, and others. Once I’m done with this media loaner I’ll send it back to Garmin and go pick up my own unit via normal retail channels. If you found this review useful, simply hit up the links at the end of the post. Or, consider joining to become a DCR Supporter, which makes you extra awesome.

With that, let’s get into it.

What’s Different:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-vs-Venu-WhatsDifferentv2

So rather than a ‘What’s new’ section, let’s talk about how it differs from the original Venu. Keeping in mind that the original Venu and Vivoactive 4 are incredibly similar, with the main difference being the display (Venu has AMOLED, Vivoactive doesn’t), so when mentally considering those watches, you’ll want to determine what type of display/battery life you want first.

In any case, let’s dive into the differences (and similarities) between the bigger Venu and the smaller Venu SQ.

– Changed from circle-design to rectangular watch
– AMOLED Screen size was 1.2” diameter on Venu, now it’s 1.3” Color LCD screen on Venu SQ (diagonal)
– Both are Corning Gorilla Glass touchscreen displays
– Venu SQ GPS battery life is 14 hours, versus 20 hours for the full Venu
– Standby battery life is 6 days for both
– Both have ~3.4GB of usable music storage (Venu SQ Music Edition only)
– Both have two physical buttons on the right side
– Removed barometric altimeter in Venu SQ (GPS altimeter used instead)
– Removed floor/stairs tracking (depends on altimeter), and ascent/descent tracking in workouts
– Removed gyro sensors in Venu SQ
– Removed workout animations (namely for Yoga/Strength/Cardio/Pilates)
– Removed Live Watch faces (those were the fancy ones, regular watch faces and Connect IQ watch faces still there)

As far as all the major features that are still there (which is literally everything else):

– Optical HR sensor with PulseOx (SpO2 tracking)
– GPS with GLONASS & Galileo options for workout tracking
– Downloadable structured workout support
– Music storage and streaming with Spotify/Deezer (music edition only)
– Contactless Payments with Garmin Pay
– Respiration rate, 24×7 HR, stress tracking, body battery
– Sleep tracking, step/activity tracking, nacho cheese usage tracking
– Female menstrual cycle tracking
– Connecting to ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors
– LiveTrack for workouts & safety alerts for day to day usage

And of course, a gazillion other features I’m not thinking of. But I figured I’d mention those core ones above, since that establishes a bit of a baseline for those that might be new to the Garmin ecosystem.

Also, it’s worth noting that we have routinely seen the full-sized Venu at $299 (and occasionally below) over the last 6-9 months. As such, the jump up to $299 from $249 isn’t massive if you’re looking for those extra items.

Now, let’s get it unboxed.

Unboxing:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Unboxing-Section

The Venu SQ comes in the same looking box as basically every other Garmin device made in the last…many years. Except the MARQ series of course, because that costs $2,000. Gotta have standards I guess.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-BoxInside

There’s not much inside, just the USB charging cable with the standard Garmin wearable connector used on most things the last few years, as well as the watch itself. And a small pile of paper you’ll never read.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Box-Contents-Table

See, a closer look at that pile of paper:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Manual

And the charging cable:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Charging-Cable

And finally the watch, complete with sticker still on it:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Watch-Stickerized

The back of the watch includes the charging port and the same Garmin Elevate optical sensor with PulseOx found on most Garmin devices in the last 18 months or so.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Watch-Back

And with that, you’ll simply do a quick setup with your phone. Unfortunately, there’s still no configuration/setup of data fields from your phone. But as you’ll see later it’s not that hard to do on the device itself given there are far less configuration options than something like a Fenix series watch.

DSC_9178

And finally, for a quick size comparison to the original Garmin Venu, here’s the two side by side:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-vs-Venu

And thickness-wise, basically they’re identical:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-vs-Venu-Thickness

Since we’re on a roll, the backs of both:

DSC_9692

And finally, weight of the Venu SQ, which comes in at 38g, versus 47g for the round Venu:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Weight Garmin-Venu-Weight

Got all that? Let’s start using it.

The Basics:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Basics

To begin, the Garmin Venu SQ is a touch-screen display, just like the Venu before it. And like that watch as well, it’s got two buttons on the right side. These buttons are most helpful while working out, but they’re also just as useful for quickly navigating menus, performing as Yes/Confirm and Escape/Back type options.

Garmin-Venu-Screen-Buttons

The Venu SQ by default will come in ‘raise to wake’ mode, which means the display turns off when not looking at it. However, you can toggle always-on mode, which means the display stays on, which is how I’ve been using it. Btw, speaking of battery life – the official claim is 6 days in not-always-on mode, 14 hours of GPS-on time, and 6 hours of GPS+Music time.

Garmin-Venu-Display-TimeOut

When you use the ‘Always on’ option (by also changing the timeout setting above from ‘Long’ to ‘Always on’), it’ll essentially remove the background of your watch face to save battery when your wrist is down, so you see the time/date, but not other metrics.

The watch face is customizable, both on the unit itself, as well as via 3rd party Connect IQ watch faces downloadable via the app. At the start of this section is a two-second variation I whipped up using a default background, and then choosing the clock style and each of the four metrics.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Watch-Face-Customization

Or again, you can just go to the Garmin Connect IQ app store and download one of a gazillion watch faces. Well, eventually. Right now the Venu SQ is actually one of the fairly rare Garmin watches that’s got a rectangular watch face, versus the round faces that have proliferated Garmin devices over the last few years since the Garmin FR920XT days. So, I was only able to choose from a handful. I’m sure in due time it’ll bloom again. Speaking of which, here’s one of the handful of available watch faces:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Bloom-WatchFace

The Venu SQ can accept widgets, data fields, watch faces, and full-blown apps. Also, the music version can install music apps. Though I suspect there will be some teething initially on the sizing/layout. Keep in mind the 7MB shown below is for Connect IQ apps (which are tiny), not things like music/etc.

2020-09-23 00.48.24 2020-09-23 00.48.19

Anyway, moving along to activity tracking, the unit will monitor your steps/sleep/distance using the accelerometer inside it. You can add that to various watch faces (as shown above), or, simply swipe down into the widgets to see the first ‘My Day’ widget, which includes stats for the day:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-MyDay

Note however that since the Venu SQ doesn’t have a barometric altimeter you won’t get flights/stairs climbed.  All these steps/distance/etc type stats are also shown/recorded in Garmin Connect Mobile on your smartphone, as well as Garmin Connect Web online:

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If we swipe down again you’ll find the ‘Health Stats’ for the day, which are basically all the stats driven by the 24×7 optical HR sensor. These include heart rate, stress level, body battery, and respiration (breathing) rate. Also, if you enable PulseOx it’ll include that SpO2 information as well.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-MyHealthStats Garmin-Venu-SQ-HealthMetrics

You can tap on this to get more detailed information on each of these stats, with what is generally the last 4 hours of data shown for each stat, in the case below, Body Battery.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Stress-Score

If we keep swiping down we’ll find a dedicated page to heart rate, which includes the last 4 hours of heart rate data, but when we tap it we get the resting HR values for the last 7 days. Note, on the RHR chart to the left, the higher value for today (Wednesday), is cause I took this photo around 2-3AM, and haven’t quite stopped moving yet. Thus, the only values it has are of higher levels.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-HR-Chart Garmin-Venu-SQ-RHR-Chart

In this bundle of things is PulseOx, or SpO2 tracking. Garmin offers two ways to do this (three if you include just turning it off, which is the default to save battery). The first is behind the scenes at night while you sleep. This puts it in line with what Fitbit does, except Garmin gives you far more granularity of data control/access. The second is both at sleep and the rest of the day. And then with either of those, you can take manual readings whenever you want (similar to Apple’s new Series 6 watch).

Garmin-Venu-SQ-PulseOx

In general, I don’t put a ton of faith in the values produced here, mostly due to the variability. For example, I just got off the Peloton bike and watched as the red light lit up taking my PulseOx reading mid-workout. That’s going to result in an accurate reading (as it did, about 92%), and adversely impact the real benefit of this stat if trended over time. Though even that benefit is questionable at best right now. Still, the data is there for the taking.

2020-09-23 03.19.50 2020-09-23 03.19.54

Sliding down we can see the Body Battery and Stress widgets, which can also be overlaid together. Body battery is as the name implies and attempts to offer a look at how much energy you have, sorta like the old Street Fighter gauge. In general, I actually find it reasonably close to how I feel. Though I find it tends to struggle a bit at the extremes (for example a 20 hour day or something), where I got beyond what it typically charts me against. This same information is shown on Garmin Connect Mobile as well, both with and without stress:

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There are also widgets for calendar information, weather, and smartphone notifications. Further, you can setup/configure/add widgets for other things like music, menstrual tracking, Garmin Coach, Garmin Varia cycling lights, last workout details, and more. Plus whatever you download from Garmin Connect IQ.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Weather Garmin-Venu-SQ-Smartphone-Notifications

When it comes to smartphone notifications, it’s simply reading them and dismissing them. You can’t (on iOS anyway) respond to them, due to a limitation imposed by Apple on all companies.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Smartphone-Notification-Details

Finally, a quick look at sleep tracking. The unit uses Garmin’s ‘older’ style sleep tracking where it quietly does its thing in the background and sends it off to Garmin Connect for processing. Then you’ll see your sleep stats on the Garmin Connect mobile app, but not on the watch itself. This includes sleep stages, respiration rate, and then if enabled, Pulse Ox (see above a few paragraphs for that screenshot while sleeping).

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I get that the ‘new style’ is still only a couple of months old for Garmin, but it would have seemed like this would have been a good time to launch it on Venu/Venu SQ as part of the product launch. After all, all their competitor devices now have on-device sleep display (Apple Watch SE, Fitbit Versa 3, Polar Ignite/Unite, and so on). It’s time for that to be a baseline for all Garmin devices.

Oh – and in terms of sleep accuracy, I’ve found the Garmin Venu SQ to be pretty much spot on for going to sleep/wake times, as well as when I was up in the middle of the night. Note that it won’t track/record naps. And also, I’ve got no viable way to test the sleep phases/stages that it records.

Finally, on charging and stuffs, it uses the same charging port as virtually every other recent Garmin device:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Charging-Port

That cable works for both charging and data sync to our computer. You can use that, or pick up 3rd party chargers like this awesome puck one I reviewed last year. It’s how I just charged the unit a few hours ago actually.  Battery life seems pretty consistent with what they’ve said of approximately 6 days for raise to wake. I’ve been using a mix, mostly being in always-on mode the last few days – all with about 1-1.5hrs a day of GPS workout activity.

Sport Mode:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Sport-Mode-Review

One would presume that the reason you picked up a Garmin watch is that you’re of the sporty type. Or perhaps the ambitiously sporty type. It’s not that Garmin does the other stuff poorly per se, but just that they specialize in the sports side of the house.

The Venu SQ, as part of the greater Vivo family, attempts to straddle that divide between Garmin’s higher-end Forerunner and Fenix lineups, with features that have more widespread usage. To be clear – you can absolutely use the Venu family to run a marathon or train for any sort of other event. It’s got scheduled workouts and far more sport features than any stock Apple Watch or Fitbit. Where you see the gaps to the higher end Forerunner/Fenix lineups are for things like advanced training load/recovery metrics, PacePro/ClimbPro, audio coaching, and more advanced cycling sensor support (among numerous other things). But, most people wouldn’t know (or perhaps even care) about those things unless you’re into endurance sports.

To start a workout on the Venu SQ you’ll tap the upper right button, which opens the sport menu. Here’s where you’ll choose the sport you want to start, and then down below there are plenty more sports to choose from:

Garmin-Venu-Sport-Mode-Listing Garmin-Venu-SQ-Sport-mode-Full-list

In total there’s: Run, Bike, Bike Indoor, Treadmill, Indoor Track, Walk, Walk Indoor, Pool Swim, Golf, Ski, Snowboard, XC Classic Ski, SUP, Strength, Cardio, Yoga, Pilates, Breathwork, Elliptical, Stair Stepper, Row, Row Indoor, Navigate, other.

And before you get too far into sport mode, you can hold down menu and pair up ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors (this is also where you can pair up headphones too).

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Sensor-Pairing-Menu

The supported sensor types are: Headphones, Heart Rate, Cycling Speed/Cadence, Running Footpods, Tempe (Temperature), ANT+ Cycling Lights, ANT+ Cycling Radar, Golf Club sensors. Note; Running dynamics are not support on the Venu/Vivoactive series.

Anyway, back to the sport mode. In our case, we’ll go with a standard outdoor run. Once you’ve done that it’ll go off and find GPS satellites, as well as confirm your heart rate lock via the optical HR sensor (or an ANT+/Bluetooth HR sensor if you prefer instead).

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Waiting-Satellite

However, you can swipe up and access structured workouts. There’s a handful of run workouts Garmin has pre-loaded on the watch (as well as ones for other sports):

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Structured-Workouts-Run

Or, you can download a boatload more from Garmin Connect that you make, or from any training plan site that syncs to it, or from Garmin Coach. Or…or….or, seriously, there’s so many options here, it’s nuts.

In fact, in my case, TrainerRoad had pushed a workout to the watch ready to go, and scheduled for today. As such, it’ll be offered when I start an indoor bike for example (since it’s a bike workout):

Garmin-Venu-SQ-TrainerRoad-Workout

Training Calendar and Garmin Coach workouts automatically appear on the days they’re scheduled, and you can also pull them up easily if you miss them a day too.

When it comes to customization of data screens mid-workout, there are three customizable data screens, each with up to three data fields. In addition there’s a HR zone gauge.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-DataField-Pages-Configuration Garmin-Venu-SQ-Data-Field-Three-Panel

You can also configure alerts for heart rate, run/walk, pace, time, distance, cadence, and calories. Which is different than auto-lap, which can be configured for a distance of your choosing, all the way down to 0.10 miles to 99.99 miles. Most of us probably just leave it on 1mi/1km. Or, simply turn it off altogether and manual lap instead (or, do both). There’s also auto-pause and auto-scroll (which automatically iterates through your data pages).

Also, you can enable LiveTrack to automatically notify a predefined list of recipients every time you start a workout, which sends them an e-mailed link with your exact position and historical data for that workout (including heart rate/pace/speed/etc…). Note that the Venu doesn’t support courses, so it doesn’t send them that.

In any case, let’s start this workout to get cookin’. Once we’ve started we’ll see our data live on the display, which is also recorded as expected.

 

I haven’t had any issues with pace stability on the Venu SQ in my workouts, nor with pace responsiveness. I’ve been able to pace short 200m sprints without issues for example, using only GPS/accelerometer pacing.

If you’ve loaded a structured workout, it’ll step through each portion of the workout, including listing the targets for that workout. You can pause the workout at any time by pressing the upper right button, and in the case of structured workouts you can skip ahead a segment by pressing the lap button.

Once you’re done with your workout you’ll stop the workout, which then gives you the option to save or discard it:

Garmin-venu-SQ-Save-discard

After that, you’ll get a summary screen which includes a GPS track, as well as your VO2Max value at the top. Keep in mind the VO2Max value tends to take a few runs to settle in.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Running-Vo2Max Garmin-Venu_SQ-Map

Also, you’ll get this screen (seen on a different run). And it’s this screen below that makes me cringe, especially compared to the Fitbit Versa series/Fitbit Sense, as well as the Apple Watch Series 3. While I appreciate the data they’re trying to convey, it’s just such a terribly ugly screen that feels like it was served up on an eHarmony date between CompuServe and AOL. I’m far from a user interface designer, but so many elements are clunky. Why display this gigantic grey area below a resting HR value for a workout? Why display thin grey sidebars at all? Why doesn’t it take advantage of the entire width of the screen? Why do we care about the lowest HR value for a workout? When has that *EVER* been valuable?

2020-09-17 14.24.43

And I know some will think I’m nitpicking. And some in Kansas will roll their eyes (probably because they’ve gotten used to it by now) – but here’s the deal: A constant criticism lobbed at Garmin is that it feels ‘aged’, compared to a Fitbit or Apple or Samsung or pick your flavor ‘modern’ watch. And this single screen above demonstrates that exceptionally well. It’s not super functional compared to what it could be, nor does it feel in any way like the rest of the Garmin user interface on the watch.

In any case, you can scroll down to see other summary stats, as well as dive into the lap details and zone details:

Gamin-venu-SQ-final-Summary-Run-Data Garmin-Venu-SQ-Lap-Summary-Data Garmin-Venu-SQ-Zone-Data

All of this information is uploaded to Garmin Connect via Garmin Connect Mobile (smartphone app via Bluetooth Smart), via WiFi, or via USB cable. Whatever you want. Once there, you can pull it up on the smartphone app. Here’s an example of all the data from a recent run with the Venu SQ:

It’s also accessible via Garmin Connect web online too:

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And of course, all this will sync off to 3rd parties like Strava, TrainingPeaks, and plenty more automatically. That usually happens a few seconds after the workout uploads, which usually happens a few seconds after I press save.

Finally, a brief note that while the Venu SQ does include Yoga and Pilates (as well as strength training), and also structured workouts for both of those activities, they do *NOT* include the animations found on the Venu and Vivoactive 4. Meaning, you’ll see the steps listed, below, but you won’t see any actual animations.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Yoga-vs-Venu

This is a bit quirky since I wouldn’t have expected that there would be any display issues with showing those. It also means I’m more unlikely to do these workout types on the Garmin, since I’ve got no idea what the movements are without them.

In any case, just a quick reminder on that. But otherwise the workout features have worked well for me, both indoors and out.

Music & Payments:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Music-Payments

The Venu SQ supports both music and contactless payments. In the case of music, that includes both loading music onto it (à la MP3-style), as well as streaming services including Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer. In my case, I used it with Spotify (+ Beats PowerBeats Pro).

The setup process for the Venu SQ and music via a streaming service is pretty straightforward. You’ll crack open the music control panel on the watch, and then it’ll go off and authenticate you with that service via your smartphone. This is a one-time process. Once that’s done, you’ll go into the music service (Spotify in my case), and choose the playlists you want. It’ll sync those playlists to your watch.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Loading-Music-Options Garmin-Venu-SQ-Loading-Spotify-Music

It recommends you plug your watch into power while it does this, also, it’ll do this over WiFi. This will take a bit of time, it’s not super fast. Simple math is 5-10 seconds per minute depending on your connection, tidal conditions, and moon phases. Syncing a 60 track playlist took about 10 minutes this morning, I’ve had others take less time on other days.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Spotify-Sync

Once that’s done, you can playback the music both in a workout or outside a workout using the music widget. You can change playlists, skip songs, change volume, pause/play. All the usual music stuffs.

Note that you’ll need to ‘check-in’ at least once per month by opening the app when your phone is nearby, for the streaming services to keep your music as valid (meaning, it checks to see if you’re still paying your music provider). But that’s not a big deal, and it’ll also update any dynamic playlists if you have any. The Venu SQ has ~3.4GB of usable storage, which is the same as the Venu.

Meanwhile, switching to another unchanged technology here, is the Garmin Pay contactless payments. For this, you’ll need your bank to be supported by Garmin. That’s many of the big banks in the US, but beyond that it varies quite a bit. It’s hit or miss. A full list is here.

Adding your credit card to the Garmin watch takes about 2-3 minutes to complete, and usually includes an authentication/validation message from your bank via text.

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As part of that, you’ll set up a pin code, for when you access the Garmin Pay section. The pin code isn’t needed otherwise. Also, as long as you haven’t removed the watch from your wrist, it won’t ask you the pin code more than once per 24 hours. To access the Garmin Pay wallet, simply long-hold the upper right button.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-PaymentGarminPay Garmin-Venu-SQ-Payment-Pin-Code

Once that’s entered, you’ll then have a reasonable window of time to tap your watch near-enough the payment scanner to pay for whatever it is you’re paying for. In this case, a DCR Water Bottle. Why yes, I finally got a NFC card reader at the DCR Studio (though, I also paid for milk this morning at the mini-mart).

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Payment-Being-Made-NFC

Afterwards you’ll get a confirmation on your device, though you won’t get a mini-receipt confirmation like you do on Apple Watch. It just goes back to doing whatever you were doing.

Garmin-Venu-SQ-Payment-Approved

As always with contactless payments, you’ll want to know for sure the store/merchant you’re going to supports contactless payments and the card you plan to use, before relying on it 100%. Meaning, if you’re travelling (2020?) to a new city, and go out for a run and expect to pay for a coffee at a random café afterwards, you might find they don’t accept contactless payments (becoming more rare, but hey, depends on your area). Whereas if you’re nearby home and know which coffee shops accept contactless payments then you’re good to depend on that. No different than phone payments.

Again, nothing in this section has changed from the Venu in the past, or any other Garmin wearables that support payments or music.

GPS & HR Accuracy:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-GPS-Accuracy

We’ll start off with some heart rate charts. Here’s a run I did on Sunday, compared with the Garmin HRM-PRO chest strap, Fitbit Sense on the other wrist, and a Whoop strap on the upper arm. As you can see it was largely pretty darn close to the chest strap. Oh, and you can dive more deeply into the data here at this link as well:

image

However, it did struggle the first minute or two and was slightly low:

image

And later in the run it easily nailed the short sprints I did without problem:image

Next, let’s take a look at an easier lower-intensity run I did. In this case, we see that it’s pretty similar for most of it, however, we’ll want to dig slightly deeper:

image

In particular, for this little section. It’s here that the Venu SQ went off the rails for about 10-15 seconds. So did the Fitbit Sense, but honestly, it was mostly off the rails since the beginning of this run, and continued being lost for quite a bit longer. I looked back at cadence, pace, position, and where I was, and I don’t see anything odd/unique about this spot. So not sure what happened there to both units.

image

Towards the end of the run my wife decided to sprint it out. She always does this, mostly cause she knows she can usually out-sprint me. But, that gave way to a nice interval HR increase. You see the optical HR sensor of the Venu SQ lagged very slightly – about 2-3 seconds, behind the chest strap HRM-PRO. However, the Fitbit Sense lagged considerably more, and then wobbled at the top-end. A 2-3 second lag for optical HR sensors is completely normal, and frankly, you’d never notice it.

image

Next, let’s take a look at an indoor cycling workout, this one on Peloton. This was a high intensity interval workout, which was essentially 30×30 repeats. It’s a good test for any optical sensor (or…cycling power meter), and shows how well things respond. And, as you can see at a high level, things are pretty darn close across this set. This is compared to the Apple Watch Series 6 on the other wrist, a Polar OH1 Plus, Garmin HRM-PRO chest strap, and Whoop arm band.

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However, it’s not perfect. There are two mostly minor errors here. The first is during one of the recoveries, the Venu SQ was a bit latent, and seemed to miss the message that it was recovery time:

image

And then later on, towards the end, it spiked the HR briefly for a couple of seconds, up about 9bpm over all the other sensors.

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But otherwise, this set was pretty solid, especially notable since I did the recovery of each one of these standing, holding onto the bars, and thus exerting pressure onto the wrists, which typically can cause optical HR issues. Also of note – the Apple Watch Series 6 was basically flawless again.

Switching over to GPS, here’s a run against the Forerunner 745, Fitbit Sense, and yes, the FR735XT. Look, it was charged, sitting on my desk, and I was curious. At a high level, they look pretty similar.

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Zooming in it seems to vary. In the forest, it’s mostly close, but there are some cases where either the Venu SQ or the Fitbit Sense flip-flop on being most or least correct. For example here the Venu SQ takes the lead:

image

And here the Fitbit Sense is more correct:

image

Neither are quite as good as the Garmin FR745 across the entirety of the forest, but they aren’t horrible either.

Here’s a different run in a different direction – this time initially on a tree-lined path with a tunnel/bridge, and then off to cow fields.

image

On the tunnel section, both the Fitbit Sense and Venu SQ slightly offset the exit from under the bridge, where it doesn’t plot that exit point. Though, they only messed up on one direction, not both. This is a trickier bridge in that you actually turn coming in/out of it, so it’s confusing.

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Meanwhile, out on the cow fields, it was just fine as expected:

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And here’s another attempt at that bridge on a different run, with again the Venu SQ and Fitbit Sense struggling in one direction.

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But otherwise plotting perfectly fine GPS data for the rest of the run.

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So the general gist of things is that the Venu SQ plots largely acceptable/fine GPS tracks, though does seem to be perplexed easily coming out of tunnels (as does the Fitbit Sense). But it doesn’t Mario Kart around many corners like the Apple Watch SE does. It’s not quite as accurate as the FR745 GPS-wise, which may be a form-factor thing.

On optical HR, it’s mostly pretty good there too, save what seems to be the first couple of minutes where it’s more susceptible to issues. But always corrects itself quickly. That’s not terribly uncommon for optical HR sensors, though as you warm-up in those first few minutes more accurate readings become easier.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections 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, more details here.)

Product Comparison:

I’ve added the Garmin Venu SQ into the product comparison database, allowing you to compare it against other products that I’ve reviewed in the past.

For the purposes of below I’ve compared it against the Garmin Venu (non-SQ), Fitbit Versa 3, and Apple Watch Series 3 –  which are the ones most people will be comparing it against from a sports/fitness standpoint.

Note that with all these watches – but especially the Apple Watch, there are many cases below where “with 3rd party apps” can be used.  The same is largely true of Garmin, Samsung, and somewhat with Fitbit.  But the Apple Watch tends to offload more core fitness functionality to 3rd party apps than the others. I’ve tried to thread the needle of apps that I roughly know exist where I’ve listed that.  But it’s not perfection in terms of knowing every app on earth.  Ultimately, I don’t think any consumer does (or should). Plus, we’ve actually seen a pulling back of wearable apps from companies over the last year (basically, they stop updating them). Making it even harder to know an up to date app from a dysfunctional one dying on the vine.

Function/FeatureGarmin Venu SQGarmin VenuApple Watch Series 3Fitbit Versa 3
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated September 26th, 2020 @ 11:14 amNew Window Expand table for more results
Price$199/$249 with Music$349$169-$179$229
Product Announcement DateSept 23rd, 2020Sept 5th, 2019Sept 12th, 2017Sept 2020
Actual Availability/Shipping DateSept 23rd, 2020Sept 5th, 2019Sept 22nd, 2017Sept 25th, 2020
Data TransferUSB, BLUETOOTH SMART, WiFiUSB, BLUETOOTH SMART, WiFiBluetooth SmartBluetooth Smart
Waterproofing50 meters50 meters50m50m
Battery Life (GPS)14 hrs (just GPS), up to 6hrs GPS+Music20 hrs (just GPS), up to 6hrs GPS+Music5hrs GPS on time (24-48hrs standby)12 hours (6 days standby)
Recording Interval1s or Smart Recording1s or Smart RecordingVaries1-second
Quick Satellite ReceptionGreatGreatNot generallyYes
AlertsVibrate/VisualVibrate/VisualVibration/Audio/VisualVisual/Vibrate
Streaming ServicesSpotify, Amazon Music, DeezerSpotify, Amazon Music, DeezerApple Music, Spotify (but not offline yet)Pandora, Deezer

And again – don’t forget you can make your own product comparison charts comparing any products using the product comparison database.

Wrap-Up:

Garmin-Venu-SQ-ReviewSummary

In an interesting contrast to yesterday’s Fitbit Sense review, the Garmin Venu SQ has actually grown on me slightly since I started using it (whereas I got more confused the more I used the Fitbit Sense). I think perhaps because it’s a good example of Garmin pricing things correctly, and perhaps because for the most part, this is a pretty well-oiled machine/watch by now. After all, it’s basically just a square Venu, with a few more things removed. It’s largely a known good, versus a complete revamp.

But with that, it starts to show its age. While the Fitbit Sense may have fallen flat functionally speaking, the user interface on that and the Versa 3 series is far ahead of Garmin in the AMOLED/LCD display realm (which they both use). Same goes for the Apple Watch SE, a mere $29 more than the music-SQ. The display, and more importantly, how Apple (or Fitbit) utilizes that display, aren’t close to comparable. Nowhere was this more apparent to me than when I finished my first workout and saw the HR summary graph at the top, I could only cringe at the lack of UI cleanliness on those pages. While on my other wrist the Fitbit looked stunning. Both have similar battery life.

And look – I get why Garmin has opted for a simplistic user interface. It’s not trying to be an Apple Watch, and I think that’s a good thing. But there’s also no reason for basic graphical cringe either. And as I think Garmin looks towards 2021, it’s probably time to re-think elements of their AMOLED/LCD-screen units from a user interface standpoint.

Still, for what the Venu SQ is today, and where it’s targeted today – it largely nails it. It accurately tracks my workouts in an easy to use way that doesn’t require waiting on a slow interface, or daily charging. The ‘just work’s factor is super high right now, and if you’re looking for a lightweight low maintenance sports watch that also does music and 24×7 activity tracking, it’s certainly a contender to consider.

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 Amazon & REI, who stocks the Venu SQ, which helps support the site here when you purchase through them.

Garmin Venu SQ (Amazon)
Garmin Venu SQ (REI)
Garmin Venu SQ with Music (Amazon)

And finally, here’s a handy list of some of my favorite Garmin-specific accessories for the Garmin watches. Of course, being ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart compatible, you don’t have to limit things to just Garmin.

ProductAmazon LinkNote
Garmin Cadence Sensor V2This is a dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart cycling cadence sensor that you strap to your crank arm, but also does dual Bluetooth Smart, so you can pair it both to Zwift and another Bluetooth Smart app at once if you want.
Garmin HRM-DUAL Chest StrapThis is one of the top two straps I use daily for accuracy comparisons (the other being the Polar H9/H10). It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, and in fact dual-Bluetooth Smart too, in case you need multiple connectons.
Garmin HRM-PROThis is the pinnacle of Garmin chest straps, and includes dual ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, Swimming support, Running Dynamics, as well as back-fill of HR/Steps/Intensity Minutes/Calories if not wearing the watch in certain sports.
Garmin HRM-TRI/HRM-SWIM StrapsWhile optical HR works on some newer Garmin watches, if you're looking for higher levels of accuracy, the HRM-TRI or HRM-SWIM are the best Garmin-compatible options out there to fill the gap.
Garmin Puck ChargerSeriously, this will change your life. $9 for a two-pack of these puck Garmin chargers that stay put and stay connected. One for the office, one for your bedside, another for your bag, and one for your dogs house. Just in case.
Garmin Speed Sensor V2This speed sensor is unique in that it can record offline (sans-watch), making it perfect for a commuter bike quietly recording your rides. But it's also a standard ANT+/BLE sensor that pairs to your device. It's become my go-to speed sensor.

Or, anything else you pick up on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells). If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.

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.

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