DC Rainmaker https://www.dcrainmaker.com Tue, 23 May 2017 10:48:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.11 https://media.dcrainmaker.com/images/2017/03/dcrainmaker-dc-logo-square-40x40.png DC Rainmaker https://www.dcrainmaker.com 32 32 Week in Review–May 22nd, 2017 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/05/week-in-reviewmay-22nd-2017.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/05/week-in-reviewmay-22nd-2017.html#comments Mon, 22 May 2017 09:17:46 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=74693 Read More Here ]]> WeekInReview_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]

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

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

DCRainmaker.com posts in the past week:

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

Sunday: Week in Review–May 14th, 2017
Monday: 5 Random Things I Did This Weekend
Tuesday: The DCR Analyzer Is Now Available For You To Use!
Wednesday: Giro d’Italia 2017–The Trainers, Power Meters and Gadgets of the Pro Peloton
Thursday: Giro d’Italia 2017: Spectating and behind the scenes!
Saturday: The Day in May DCR $500 Gadget Giveaway!

Sports Tech Deals This Week:

We’re into the final push of solid May sales – with many new ones this week returning.  As I’ve noted in more detail on my sales landing page, May sales are very common.  One of the best deals here is the Garmin FR735 for $315 (normally $450).  It’s still receiving Connect IQ and feature updates and is just barely one year old.  Great little lightweight tri/running watch.

Oh – and for some weird reason an entry in the table for ‘All Suunto gear is 25% off’ isn’t showing up.  I’ve got some techies trying to figure it out, but FYI.  Note that the only watch excluded is the Wrist HR model on that one.

Current DealsRegular PriceSale PriceStartEndAmazonClever Training - Save a bunch with Clever Training VIP programOther siteSale Notes
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated May 22nd, 2017 @ 6:12 pm
All Suunto gear!-25% offMay 19 2017May 29 2017LinkExcept Spartan Sport Wrist HR. But regular Spartan Ultra/Sport do work!
All Trainers!!! (Elite, Kinetic, Tacx, Bkool)-21% Off!May 19 2017May 29 2017LinkCompetitive Cyclist Only: With coupon code ITALY100. <<< Use 'other' link
CycleOps Hammer$1,199USD$947May 19 2019May 29 2017LinkLinkLinkCompetitive Cyclist Only: With coupon code ITALY100. <<< Use 'other' link
CycleOps Magnus$599$473May 19 2017May 29 2017LinkLinkLinkCompetitive Cyclist Only: With coupon code ITALY100. <<< Use 'other' link
CycleOps Trainers-20% off!May 19 2017May 31 2017LinkLinkAll CycleOps 20% off (except Magnus/Hammer)
Elite Drivo$1,299/€1,390/£1,099$1,026May 19 2017May 29 2017LinkLinkLinkCompetitive Cyclist Only: With coupon code ITALY100. <<< Use 'other' link
Garmin Edge 25$169$119May 19 2017May 29 2017LinkLink30% off all Edge 25 variants, including both base and bundle
Garmin Forerunner 35$199$169May 19 2017May 29 2017LinkLink
Garmin Forerunner 735XT$449$315May 19 2017May 29 2017LinkLink30% off all FR735 variants (including bundles and tri bundles)!
Garmin Vivoactive HR$249$199May 19 2017May 29 2017LinkLinkLowest price to date!
Garmin Vivofit Jr$79$69May 19 2017May 29 2017LinkLink
Garmin Vivofit3$99$69May 19 2017May 29 2017LinkLink
Garmin Vivosmart HR+$199$149May 19 2017May 29 2017LinkLink
PowerTap C1 Chainring$699$559May 19 2017May 29 2017LinkLinkLinkBackcountry Only: With coupon code BCTWENTY. <<< Use 'other' link
PowerTap P1 Pedals$1,199$959May 19 2017May 29 2017LinkLinkLinkBackcountry Only: With coupon code BCTWENTY. <<< Use 'other' link
Suunto GPS Watches-25% offMay 18 2017May 29 2017LinkExcept Spartan Sport Wrist HR. But regular Spartan Ultra/Sport do work!
Tacx Flux$899USD/799EUR$720May 19 2017May 29 2017N/ALinkLinkREI Only: 20% off with Coupon Code ANNV17!
Tacx NEO Smart$1,599USD/1,399EUR$1280May 19 2017May 29 2017LinkLinkLinkREI Only: 20% off with Coupon Code ANNV17!
Wahoo Fitness KICKR2 (2016)$1,199$960May 19 2017May 29 2017LinkLinkLinkREI Only: 20% off with Coupon Code ANNV17!

All of the above links help support the blog!

YouTube Videos I Published!

Here’s some YouTube goodness that I published this past week, don’t forget to subscribe!

Stuff that I found interesting around the interwebs:

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

1) Kickstarter adds hardware studio offering to help creators: This is a good step towards trying to minimize the countless delayed hardware projects on Kickstarter.  But a better step would be Kickstarter adding repercussions for hardware startups that don’t have realistic plans to begin with.  You know, accountability and all that.  Still far too many projects pass through Kickstarter’s supposed filters that just aren’t viable with the timelines they set out.

2) Secrets of a Pro Photographer: Maven has done some awesome Giro vlogs, especially in the last few days.  Between this one and the one yesterday – he’s really finding his groove.  I would say on the photographer one that yes, it’s a bit long.  And it might seem a bit ‘cold’ earlier on in the first few minutes, but then it feels like Jered warms up a bit and the content is really interesting.

3) Tour of California Data Numbers: While many teams publish pro data as part of larger compilations, this blog series is actually fairly detailed with a Q&A with the rider themselves on different data aspects.  Cool stuff.

4) Inside the Race Caravan at the ToC: Speaking of the Tour of California, this is an awesome piece by Neal Rogers written in real-time from inside one of the Team Sky vehicles.  I think this could turn into a great series.

5) Sniper vs GoPro: And I now know how I’m going to justify any future GoPro purchases to The Girl: “But it could save my life!!!”. Seriously though, glad this guy is (mostly) OK. (sent in via Ken)

6) Tidbit on a Runners World vs Nike feud: Interesting post outlining what happened when Runners World published a piece that said Nike wasn’t the best shoe model one year. Looks a bit like Lance Armstrong tactics.  On the flipside, when you (a publisher) bite the hand that feeds you (advertising)…and that’s what’s wrong with that model when it comes to reviews. (via Steve Magness)

7) Endless pool swimming file creator: This is pretty nifty.  If you’ve got an endless pool you can insert your time and pace, and then the app will automatically determine distance.  From there it creates a .TCX file you can upload to various swim platforms.  Brilliant.  Would love to see this in some sort of watch-app form as well.

8) Heli mountain biking? Why yes, I’d be happy to complete a detailed review of your rack (done in flight of course). I’m glad you asked!

Sports Technology Software/Firmware Updates This Week:

Each week I quickly highlight some of the new firmware, app, software and website service updates that I see go out. If you’re a sports technology company and release an update – shoot me a quick note (just one-liners 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 firmware updates.

Garmin Fenix 5/5S/5X/Chronos BETA firmware update: New features, plus some fixes.

Wahoo KICKR: Bug fix related to units locking up on performing a spindown.

Thanks for reading, have a great week ahead!

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The Day in May DCR $500 Gadget Giveaway! https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/05/the-gadget-giveaway.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/05/the-gadget-giveaway.html#comments Sat, 20 May 2017 16:09:11 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=74685 Read More Here ]]> Garmin-FR935-Constant-HR_thumb

It’s a day in May.  No, not May Day.  That, according to Wikipedia is May 1st.  Rather, it’s May 20th – which I reason is 20 times better than May 1st (albeit, less awesome than May 5th).  Why’s it better?  Because I’m giving away gadget awesomeness.  I originally planned to give away the Garmin FR935 GPS watch, the backorder is basically down to almost nothing.  But then I figured – you can choose anything you’d like.  Perhaps you’re more of a cyclist, or you just want a large pile of compression sleeves instead.  Your choice.

Speaking of coverage – if you didn’t see my tweet yesterday, there’s a BOATLOAD of sales on right now (both from Clever Training as well as others).  The best deal being 30% off the Garmin FR735XT GPS watch.  But also some solid 20% off deals on power meters, trainers, and 25% off on Suunto gear.  The full details are here!

In any case, the winner will get a $500 credit to CleverTraining.com, my most excellent partner in this giveaway crime.  By supporting the site through Clever Training you also can save 10% on basically anything they sell (or get points instead).  If you win, you can use that credit for anything from the GoPro Hero5 Black to that Garmin FR935, to a random pair of socks to the PowerTap C1 power meter, or heck, even towards a new trainer.  With that kind of credit, the world is your oyster (except…they don’t sell oysters).

How to enter:

Simply leave a note about what athletic adventures you’re up to this weekend.  Easy as that!

Oh – and you’ll likely avoid the SPAM filters if you’re more detailed than just the word ‘run’.  Nobody likes to get sandwiched between two pieces of SPAM. Got all that?

Good luck!

The giveaway entry period will run through Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017 until 11:59PM US Eastern Time.  Winner will be selected randomly.  One entry per person.  The selected product/products will then be ordered immediately and shipped immediately, assuming they’re in stock.

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Giro d’Italia 2017: Spectating and behind the scenes! https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/05/giro-ditalia-spectating-behind-the-scenes.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/05/giro-ditalia-spectating-behind-the-scenes.html#comments Thu, 18 May 2017 18:18:17 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=74665 Read More Here ]]> DSC_2215

My day at Stage 10 of the Giro was jam-packed. It basically couldn’t get any more packed.  I arrived into the small town where the stage was starting from around 10:30PM the night prior, and by 4:17PM the next day I was already ‘briskly’ rushing back to the airport to catch my flight.

Thus, over the course of about the 8 or so hours there I walked some 17,000 steps checking out bikes and goodness at the Giro, both in the starting area but also at various other points along the course.  Now if you didn’t check out yesterday’s post – that’s all about the bike tech.  Power meters, bike trainers, gizmos and gadgets.  But this post is about just being a cycling fan and spectating.  Or, at least as much of that as I could do.

Here’s how that all went down.

Checking out team buses:

First order of the day was spending a bit of time (or 3 hours) checking out all the gear at the team buses.  Depending on the stage, the team vans/buses/vehicles cruise on in anywhere from 2-4 hours before the start.  With a time trial (TT) stage they tend to get there earlier since often times they’ve gotta re-order things a bit to get the TT bikes out, trainers out, etc… Plus, these days the crew is there for the long-haul, so it tends to be a bit bigger setup.  Versus a normal stage where the buses usually leave not long after the riders.

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The mechanics are out early doing everything from cleaning bikes, to setting up crowd barrier lines and trainers.

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Heck, they’re even cleaning car windshields.

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A typical grand tour setup involves one large bus, one large truck/vehicle with bikes, a bunch of follow-cars (for in race usage), and then usually a few vans and such used by the team to ferry staff around.  Most of this arrives at the start in a bit of a convoy.  Once on the grounds, the race organizers have a set location for the buses to line-up.  Sometimes teams are assigned specific spots, and sometimes it’s first come first serve.  You can clearly see certain teams where drivers have picked more creatively what to park against.  For example, Team Orica parked aside this hedge, giving them a secondary ‘fence’ for free.

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Meanwhile, Team Sky notoriously parks in the most non-public facing way possible. At every stage and every race I go to they find a way to block as much of the team from public view as possible, and this was the case here as well.  They parked the two buses/trucks up against a wall that dropped down 3-5 meters, so nobody could see them from that side.  And then they used another vehicle to block off the open end, creating a bit of a blockade.  No other team goes anywhere near these lengths, or does it as consistently.

Trainers-Wahoo

With this stage, the team vehicles were pretty much out in the open for fans to wander around.  Some of that varies by stage and really town design.  I’ve seen some Tour stages where all they had to work with was a large private parking lot – so it ends up being one giant invite-only area with no fans allowed.  Whereas other times all they’ve got is tiny village streets, so it ends up being very open (even for Team Sky), since the buses are just parked in a line end to end down a street.

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In any case – almost all teams have a posted schedule for TT days, listing exactly when each rider heads out, but also the day’s layout for that rider.  Here’s Team Sky’s (click to expand):

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And then we’ve got FDJ’s (left) and Lotto Soudal’s (right).

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Once close to their start time, the riders usually do some sort of warm-up on the myriad of trainers I showed yesterday.  Some teams also have giant vans and water sprayers too.  While others simply sweat it out:

Trainers-CCC

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It’s during the warm-up that most riders place their own bike computer onto their bike.  Rarely do I see mechanics do this.  Sorta like your wallet, you own/handle that.

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After the riders complete their warm-up they head straight over to the starting line.  In this case it was about a kilometer ride, which was partially barricaded in some areas, and then open on small pedestrian streets in other parts.  Throughout it there was crowd control to keep people from getting run over.  Don’t worry about the people in the way, the riders are barely going walking speeds here.

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Sometimes along the way riders will give autographs, but usually that’s closer to the start line itself.

Along the way they’ll have passed through a bit of a sponsor village that’s setup.  This is something that The Tour lacks, as there’s nothing open to the general public like here at the Giro.

DSC_2219

On the flip side, The Tour does have the grand caravan, which is a 30-minute long parade that throws free stuff at you (see my detailed post on that here).  In the case of the Giro, the caravan/parade is honestly a bit lame and lasts about 18 seconds long with no free stuff.

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Both have about equal amounts of vendors to buy goods though.  Both The Giro and The Tour have these official merchandise roaming vans, which sell lower-quality stuff.

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And then at the start and finish there are also higher quality merchandise pop-up shops (also official) to get branded goods as well.

A Detour – Media credentials:

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As I was bumbling around checking off teams in my list, I stumbled into an Airstream looking RV that said media on the outside and something about accreditation.

I hadn’t bothered to apply for media accreditation for the Giro, because it wasn’t really something that I had set in stone.  But last week once I narrowed down some scheduling, I shot over an e-mail and filled out a form…but never heard back.  No worries, it was late and I wasn’t really expecting a response (and quite frankly – everything I shot in these two posts except the picture of the placards below didn’t need a media pass).

Still, I saw a person or two standing in line that looked slightly less professional than I did. Which isn’t saying I looked professional – because as any cycling journalist will tell you – it’s just about being comfortable while sweating your balls off for 5-7 hours in the sun.  But, on the mental scale of whether or not I could pull this off better than them – I gave myself a slightly higher chance of success.

And sure enough, I pretty much walked up and explained that I had shot over stuff late and was curious if I could still get credentials.  Within about 90 seconds I filled out a paper form like at a doctor’s office, and about 3 minutes later a lady took my photo on a webcam that appeared to be pointed at the ceiling (hence why I’m not looking at the camera).

2017-05-16 11.44.47

No discussion of site numbers or anything.  Oh, and I got media car decals too. Stampa means press in Italian.

2017-05-16 11.49.38

It probably helped that I had a backpack from the Tour Down Under (this one!), as well as had a big-ass camera lens on a big-ass DSLR around my neck.  And that I was just simply friendly.

Now with these newfound car decals – I knew what I had to do: Decorate my convertible.

Wait, you didn’t know I got a convertible?  Shame on you – you need to follow me on Twitter.

Apparently, due to a mixup with Expedia’s site, it offset my time-zones on my rental by 9 hours from what I set versus what they got.  So they already gave away my car (the cheapest one they had when I went online).  There wasn’t much left, but since it was just 24 hours they offered this for no additional charge.  Obviously, I said yes.

Here’s a little story about my first time putting stickers on my car.  I’d rate myself a B+ for the front sticker, and a C- on the rear sticker.  Note that the C- is accompanied by a helping of “let’s be honest, I’m applying it to a sports car…does it matter?”

And because I found this entire situation hilarious, here’s a few more photos:

DSC_2384 DSC_2395DSC_2387

At this juncture I pretty much had the coolest car with Giro decals on it in the race.  Or at least any media sticker on it.  I definitely turned a few heads.  Ok…turned all heads.

Back to the race, the starting line:

As we left off – racers were heading over to the starting area.  Along the way they pass the team cars in the queue to the starting area.  This is sorta like the on-deck circle before they join the actual moving queue to the starting line.

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Meanwhile, the rider gets his bike inspected by UCI officials.  This only takes a few moments.

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By the way – at some point along the way they’ll have likely added race radios to themselves.  You can see the wire going from the ear down to a small wireless pack under the clothes:

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From there the rider will head over to the starting tent, where they’ll join others in the queue.  Typically at The Tour I see a far smaller queue (1-2 riders).  But here the guys were jammed in there like a college team bus.

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Back on the car side of things, the team cars get plates affixed to them with the name of the rider and number.  These are all lined up by starting order under a tent:

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And then this man places it on the front of the car:

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Finally, the rider heads up into the starting platform and roughly every 60 seconds one starts his 39.8 kilometer time trial to Montefalco.

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Immediately after him his team car will follow, staying with him for the duration.  In some cases riders won’t get follow cars from their own teams, but rather neutral cars.  It mostly depends on timing for the team and whether their cars can complete the loop back to the start for the next rider.  In addition there are also photo motos and official race motos as well floating around.

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The riders then made their way about 700-1000m out of the village, weaving their way down small streets.

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Before finally crossing a bridge over a moat-like river that surrounds the city.

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It’s here they head out into the wild blue yonder for their roughly 1-hour journey.

Meanwhile, 30KM up the course:

After seeing all there was to see in the starting village, I decided to make my way to the finish line.  While the riders have to go some 39KM, there’s actually a shortcut between the two towns which only takes 10KM.  So that seemed pretty nearby with a car.

Unfortunately, while attempting to execute on that shortcut (which all teams/media/etc… use to shuttle back and forth), they had blocked the road about 4KM away from the finish town, and required you to use a bus.  This seemed a bit peculiar to me given I was credentialed at this point, but my Italian is limited to ‘pizza’ – so arguing was somewhat moot.  I could see other media trying to argue as well without success.

In my case, I lacked the time to deal with a bus (in case it took forever, which I’ll explain in a bit).  So instead I just picked a random road that I figured would intersect the course elsewhere.  And sure enough it did a few kilometers later (and it was actually a stunningly beautiful connector road among vineyards).

I then walked about another kilometer from where they blocked the road up to the race course itself:

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And it was here that I found the banner for the 30KM marker.

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It’s also the same spot that at least one rider went down on the sharp 90° turn and the yellow barrier you see below.

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I stayed here for while watching folks go by.  There was a small crowd of perhaps 25-30 people here, but otherwise it was pretty empty.  I suspect deeper into the town there’d be more folks.

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One of the cool things about the TT stage is watching one rider pass another, as happened right when I first arrived.  Even though the riders were separated by about a minute at the starting line, once you get 40 minutes into a race, that skill variability can cause that gap to evaporate.

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As regular readers know – I like to hop around as much as possible during a stage.  In today’s case I spent more time documenting team gear (about 3-3.5 hours worth), so that cost me some of my wandering time.  Still – it was cool to get elsewhere on the course and check things out!

And then I expired:

After I finished up at the 30KM marker I had about 30 minutes to get some shots I needed down for a product review coming out next week.  Though, you’ll likely see some teasers from said company later today.  Given I had the vehicle and gorgeousness of the Italian countryside – it seemed like a great place for it.

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So I spent some time doing that.  About 47 minutes of time.  Which was about 17 more minutes of time than I should have.  Or actually about 37 minutes more time than I should have once you accounted for the fact that I miscalculated how long it’d take to get back to the airport.

And of course, there’s no better vehicle to avoid raising an eyebrow than a bright red convertible screaming across the countryside driven by a sunburned tall non-Italian looking dude.  Or not.

No worries though – I successfully made it to the airport security line about 28 minutes before my flight departed.  And I wasn’t the last one onboard either.  Nope, that honor would go to the two standby passengers behind me.  See…all’s good!

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With that – thanks for reading!  Next up…Le Tour!

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Giro d’Italia 2017–The Trainers, Power Meters and Gadgets of the Pro Peloton https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/05/giro-ditalia-2017-trainers-powermeters-tech.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/05/giro-ditalia-2017-trainers-powermeters-tech.html#comments Wed, 17 May 2017 12:00:27 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=74459 Read More Here ]]> DSC_2244

Yesterday I spent the full day at the Giro d’Italia checking out all the sports tech goods the pro teams had on hand.  In the case of this stage, it was an individual time trial – which means that each rider starts individually, one after another.  While that rider will ‘only’ ride 39KM solo, the entire procession of all pro riders takes about 5 hours from start to finish.

This gives me tons of time to check out bikes and related tech.  But more importantly – it gives a slightly different insight into the gadgets the pro teams are using.  See, with time trial stages you not only get different bikes (TT/triathlon bikes instead of road bikes), but you also get the teams using trainers at the team buses.

So I started off right as the first team vehicles started pulling into the small town of Foligno.  I’d make sweeps through over and over again, first to account for the general baseline of the teams’ bikes (i.e. what most riders are using), but then kept checking back on certain teams of interest that may have individual riders on different/unique equipment.  This can be done for testing purposes, sponsorship demands, or simply rider preferences.  In general riders ‘get away’ with a bit more equipment leniency on a time trial day, since it’s somewhat of a one-off.

I was tracking everything in a spreadsheet on my phone (just Google Sheets), as well as photographing each component from each team.  Sometimes that’s a bit trickier than others, for example, the handful of Continental Teams (non-World Tour teams), don’t tend to be as organized as the major teams.  So you end up spending more time either tracking those down or just sifting through the significant differences you tend to find on their equipment.

Oh – and don’t worry, I’ve got a non-tech post from the Giro coming up either later today or tomorrow morning.  Once I finish editing all the photos.  With that, let’s start with power meters.

Power Meters:

Power-Quick-Step

Starting with the Tour Down Under back in January, we’ve seen a bit more stabilization of power meters within the pro peloton.  Of course, just because pro teams are riding it doesn’t make it the best.  It just makes it sponsored.  This is true of every bike component I talk about here.  Sure, there are cases where teams will pick one component over another for performance reasons – but frankly those are few and far between.  Teams follow the money, as they should in pro cycling.  After all, it’s a business for profit – not a weekend sport.

Still, it’s fun to look to see what teams are using.  In general, my thoughts for each brand are:

SRM: Is heavily used…but less often in a standard way.  When I looked at bikes, it was almost non-existent for the exact same SRM model to be used across a given team’s bikes.  Rather, it’s was sorta a mixed bag of different models from different years.  There were some exceptions to this of course, but by and large there’s not much standardization for most teams running SRM.  This again could be rider preferences or if SRM isn’t sponsoring that team officially, they might be pulling power meters from a variety of sources, thus the scramble of units.

4iiii Precision (dual model): They sponsored two UCI WorldTour Pro teams this year, and both teams are riding the dual setup (measures left and right power).  In this case, the teams were largely standardized on basically just a couple of models that 4iiii makes in the dual setup (they have far more options in the left-only arena).  You’ll remember that 4iiii started shipping the dual config in the second half of 2016.

Power2Max: Power2Max was equally popular here again with pro teams.  Most of what I saw though was previous models and not the newer NG units that they started shipping earlier this year.  In most cases pro teams tend to put a cutoff of around December for new gear to be used on bikes going forward.  So it’s likely it didn’t make the cut.  Sometimes you see some mixing up of things in between the Giro and the Tour de France, but that’s rarely team-wide, and tends to be individual rider tests.

ROTOR (2INpower): ROTOR was present with two teams on their 2INpower setup that I just published a review on last week.  ROTOR has a pretty long history of having pro teams sponsored on their power meters, so it’s definitely no surprise to see them here as well.

Pioneer: Like ROTOR they continued into 2017 with sponsoring two full teams.  This year though with Giant apparently deciding to rebrand make a bike computer, Team Sunweb with Giant as a major sponsor is using Giant’s bike computer instead of the Pioneer one (versus last year both teams used the Pioneer units).  As an aside, I do like the fact that Pioneer gets into matching the color scheme on their power meters to the pro teams they sponsor.  I remember Power2Max doing that in the past as well (and SRM does it for their head units).

Quarq: One team was using Quarq, which is a bit of a downgrade from last year.  And that team wasn’t running the DZero units either (though those too just started shipping around late December/January).  I wouldn’t read into this too much, since Quarq/SRAM also expanded out sponsorships in other areas like the women’s teams (as I noted at the Tour Down Under).

bePRO: One of the Italian continental teams (these are kinda like wildcard teams, local to Italy, given slots for the Giro) was using bePRO.  You may remember bePRO is an Italian brand, so it’s fitting.

Keep in mind that one thing all power meter companies are trying to do is establish credibility (newer players), or maintain creditability (some existing players).  For long term power meter companies like Quarq and PowerTap, there’s little reason to deal with the hassle and overhead of a pro team.  Athletes know their power meters are solid, and their name is well known.  And the same is true of SRM, but I think the tables are slightly different there.  In their case, they’re looking to maintain their name in the news (like this very piece). So it’s not so much a case of maintaining creditability, but instead maintaining brand awareness.

Finally, one thing to note is that I did not see Shimano’s power meter out on any bikes.  Though, if the Tour Down Under (and even the Tour de France last year) is any indication, it’s likely on only a rider or two per day. In some cases teams have positioned bikes where I simply can’t see them at the times I went by, thus my bet is someone out there is riding it…but no team has it as the stock config right now.

In any case, here’s the full table of teams:

Giro 2017 Power Meters

TeamPower Meter
AG2R La MondialeSRM
AstanaPower2Max
Bahrain-MeridaSRM
BMC Racing TeamSRM
Bora-Hansgrohe4iiii (dual left/right)
Cannondale-DrapacSRM
Team Dimension DataRotor 2INPower
FDJSRM
Team Katusha-AlpecinQuarq
LottoNL-JumboPioneer
Lotto-SoudalSRM (but not all bikes)
Movistar TeamPower2Max
Orica-ScottSRM
Quick-Step Floors4iiii (dual left/right)
Team SkyStages (dual left/right)
Team SunwebPioneer
Trek-SegafredoSRM
Bardiani-CSF (Conti Team)bePRO
CCC-Sprandi-Polkowice (Conti Team)Power2Max (only half the bikes)
Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia (Conti Team)SRM (only one bike)

And here’s a pile of power meter photos (you can hover over any given power meter to see the name of the team):

Power-AG2R Power-Astana Power-Bahrain Power-Bardiani1 Power-Bardiani2 Power-Bora Power-Cannondale Power-Cannondale2 Power-CCC Power-DimensionData Power-KatushaQuarq Power-LottoJumbo Power-LottoSoudal Power-Movistar Power-Quick-Step Power-Sunweb Power-TeamSkyLeft Power-TeamSkyRight Power-Trek Power-Wilier

Got all that? Good…let’s get rolling onto trainers.

Trainers:

Trainers-BMC

When it comes to bike trainers, two brands dominate the team buses: Elite and Tacx.

They account for every team except three.  The three remaining teams split up three other brands, one each: Wahoo, CycleOps, Feedback Sports (Haven’t heard of them? Don’t worry…more on that in a second).

Now in some ways, this is a bit of a shoo-in for Elite and Tacx.  With both companies being based in Europe and both companies sponsoring teams in other ways (water bottles, water bottle cages, etc…) – there’s a lot of history there for them to pitch trainers.

However, what we have seen this year is both Elite and Tacx up the ante when it comes to the trainers being used.  Gone are the days of low-end sub-$300 models being stashed on the team bus for time trial day.  These days both companies have teams using their high-end Elite Drivo and Tacx Neo trainers.  In Tacx’s case, every single team sponsored by them was using the Neo.  And with Elite, almost everyone was on Drivo, with only a couple stragglers splitting up their team with half Drivo, half other lower end (lighter) options.

Giro 2017 Trainers

TeamTrainer
AG2R La MondialeElite blend
AstanaTacx Neo
Bahrain-MeridaElite Drivo
BMC Racing TeamElite Drivo
Bora-HansgroheTacx Neo
Cannondale-DrapacTacx Neo
Team Dimension DataTacx Neo
FDJElite blend
Team Katusha-AlpecinTacx Neo
LottoNL-JumboTacx Neo
Lotto-SoudalOmnium Track
Movistar TeamElite
Orica-ScottElite
Quick-Step FloorsTacx Neo
Team SkyWahoo KICKR2
Team SunwebElite Drivo
Trek-SegafredoCycleops
Bardiani-CSF (Conti Team)Elite Blend
CCC-Sprandi-Polkowice (Conti Team)Elite blend
Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia (Conti Team)Elite blend

Now there was one interesting little exception to the ‘everything Tacx is Neo’ mantra – which is this Tacx Satori Smart I saw stashed below one bus.  Turns out there’s a reason for that: It’s for a podium winner to cool-down while waiting for awards.

DSC_2237

See, with the Neo weighing some 48lbs/21kg, it’s a beast to transport by hand (trust me, I’ve dragged one of them close to a mile).  Since team buses are rarely placed next to the finish area, this allows the team to carry the far lighter (about 17lbs/7kg) Satori Smart to the finish line.  Neat, huh?

Oh – and finally, not much to say on the remaining three.  Wahoo has long sponsored Team Sky for their trainers (but not head units).  And the CycleOps trainers for Trek is likely just because Trek and CycleOps have a long history, largely because they’re located very close to one another.

As for Feedback Sports?  Well…I guess just something to keep me on my toes:

Trainers-LottoSoudal

I had immediately recognized the design, but not the brand.  I had recognized it as the Omnium trainer, which indeed it is.  But the actual company name is Feedback Sports with these trainer products all branded Omnium.

In any case, here’s the full gallery of trainers from today:

Trainers-AG2R Trainers-Astana Trainers-Bahrain Trainers-Bardiani Trainers-BMC Trainers-Bora Trainers-Cannondale Trainers-DimensionData Trainers-FDJ Trainers-LottoSoudal Trainers-QuickStep Trainers-Sunweb Trainers-Trek Trainers-Wahoo

Again, remember you can hover over a given trainer to see the team.

King of the Mounts:

Mounts-Bora

I’m going to keep this quick – there’s frankly no competition here: K-Edge dominates when it comes to 3rd party options. Like, full-on world domination dominating.  For the most part the only teams not using K-Edge for their bike mounts are doing so because the bike had a built-in mount already (or funky aerobars that didn’t work well for a K-Edge mount), or because the team was using a specific sponsor mount (Zipp in one case, SRM in most other cases).  Here’s the run-down (including bike computers):

Giro 2017 Bike Computers/Mounts

TeamComputer MountBike Computer
AG2R La MondialeK-EdgeSRM
AstanaK-EdgeGarmin
Bahrain-MeridaStockSRM PC8
BMC Racing TeamStockSRM
Bora-HansgroheK-EdgeGarmin
Cannondale-DrapacStockGarmin
Team Dimension DataStockGarmin/Edge 820
FDJZipp blacked outGarmin
Team Katusha-AlpecinZippGarmin
LottoNL-JumboStockPioneer
Lotto-SoudalK-EdgeSRM
Movistar TeamGeneric Tri MountGarmin
Orica-ScottK-EdgeSRM PC8
Quick-Step FloorsK-EdgeGarmin
Team SkyK-EdgeGarmin/Edge 820
Team SunwebStockGiant NeosTrack
Trek-SegafredoStockSRM PC8
Bardiani-CSF (Conti Team)BlendGarmin/Edge 520
CCC-Sprandi-Polkowice (Conti Team)BlendBlend
Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia (Conti Team)StockBlend

Now do keep in mind that in the case of a time trial stage like this, you’re going to see a totally different mount game than a road bike stage. They’re physically separate mounts, and wouldn’t work for the other purpose.  As such, I typically see more K-Edge on time trial stages than not, since most bike computers don’t include TT-style mounts.  Thus, teams will go out and buy/partner/whatever for the TT mounts.  Which doesn’t take away anything from K-Edge, as there are certainly competitive options out there (i.e. BarFly), so teams are making a choice here.  But rather, just to put the numbers in perspective.

Mounts-AG2R Mounts-Bora Mounts-Cannondale2 Mounts-CannondaleEdge Mounts-CCC-Band Mounts-CCC-K-Edge Mounts-DimensionData Mounts-FDJ Mounts-LottoSoudal Mounts-QuickStep Mounts-TeamSky Mounts-Trek

So what about bike computers?

Well, they’re actually really tricky to count – unless I stayed at the physical start line all day long (which was probably a kilometer from the buses).  That’s because teams don’t put out head units prior to the rider arriving for their warm-up.  And even then, many times the rider will place a towel over the head unit – making it even more difficult to see.

Trainers-CCC

Not to mention that, for a number of teams, the head units aren’t actually standardized.  Sure, some like SRM sponsored Bahrain-Merida are (gold SRM PC8), as is Team Sunweb (Giant’s head unit), and Lotto Jumbo on Pioneer.  But in the case of Team Sky they went out and bought Edge 820’s straight-up.  Tons of Edge 520’s abound.

Mounts-Trek Mounts-CannondaleEdge

And other teams appear to be a complete blend, with at least two guys riding everything from Edge 1000 (we’ll ignore how much time they cost themselves…).

Mounts-QuickStep Mounts-Cannondale

So I largely account for mount types (i.e. Garmin, SRM, Pioneer, etc…) more than anything.  Nobody in the pro peloton is using a non-Garmin computer in a Garmin quarter-turn mount.  Thus, process of elimination makes it easy.

Shifting:

Shifting-TeamSky

This is a super quick and easy category, since it’s somewhat like the K-Edge story – domination by one brand: Shimano.

This is a pretty big shift, no pun intended, from last year which saw a much more broader usage of SRAM RED eTAP.  I suspect the reason here is largely sponsorship driven.  Shimano is prolific in sponsorship of pro teams, and pays handsomely for that privilege.  When eTAP was launched, it was more important to the company to get brand awareness out there – and to demonstrate it as good enough for pro riders in the Grand Tours.  But these days everyone knows it’s solid, so there’s little reason to spend that money.

Shifting-Orica Power-KatushaQuarq

Here’s the run-down:

Giro 2017 Shifting

TeamShifting
AG2R La MondialeShimano Di2
AstanaShimano Di2
Bahrain-MeridaShimano Di2
BMC Racing TeamShimano Di2
Bora-HansgroheShimano Di2
Cannondale-DrapacShimano Di2
Team Dimension DataShimano Di2
FDJShimano Di2
Team Katusha-AlpecinSRAM eTAP
LottoNL-JumboShimano Di2
Lotto-SoudalCampagnolo EPS
Movistar TeamCampagnolo EPS
Orica-ScottShimano Di2
Quick-Step FloorsShimano Di2
Team SkyShimano Di2
Team SunwebShimano Di2
Trek-SegafredoShimano Di2
Bardiani-CSF (Conti Team)Campagnolo EPS
CCC-Sprandi-Polkowice (Conti Team)Campagnolo EPS and Mechanical
Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia (Conti Team)Shimano Mechanical

Do note that sometimes we see variations between TT bikes and road bikes in this category, but I wouldn’t expect any cross-brand differences.

Random Gadgets:

A few things caught my attention that didn’t fall into the above categories.  First up was Trek riding with Bontrager rear tail lights (these are also ANT+ enabled too – here’s a piece on them I did last year).  Bontrager is a Trek brand, and the company (arm in arm with Garmin) has made a significant bike light push not just for the sake of selling product – but to try and improve rider safety.  So, sure enough the guys were riding them during the TT, and even had turned them on (logically) when they went out to start.

Gadgets-Trek

Gadgets-Trek2

Next, I found it funny that *front wheel* speed sensors are still a thing. At least a thing on road bikes during a time trial.  GPS speed is generally considered more than accurate enough for road riding, especially in cases like a time trial where the route tends to be more forgiving to GPS due to higher speeds.  For mountain biking, sure, totally understand.  And rear wheels for trainers to get speed indoors – also understand.

Gadgets-AG2R

My guess here though is that this bike was probably using an SRM PC7 or earlier, which doesn’t have GPS, and thus needs a speed sensor.  At the time I was there the bike just had an SRM mount, but no bike computer installed yet.  The SRM PC8 uses GPS of course.

And finally – this mysterious device thingy.  It appears to be a holder of some sort, which was on Sean De Bie’s bike of Lotto Soudal.  As I was taking photos of it one of the Velon guys came around and briefly conferred with the mechanic about it, so my guess is something related to that (perhaps a live TV transmission device)?  This was about 75 minutes prior to his start time, so whatever device was on it wasn’t installed yet.

Gadgets-LottoSoudal1 Gadgets-LottoSoudal2

I attempted to make it back in time to catch him start – but didn’t quite make it.  So be curious if anyone has any idea what it is, or video/images of it in action.

With that – thanks for reading!  And remember, I’ve got a non-gadget Giro post coming up either later today or tomorrow morning.  The weather is looking mighty nice out right now…so may be time to escape out for a hot ride!

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The DCR Analyzer Is Now Available For You To Use! https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/05/the-dcr-analyzer-is-now-available-for-you-to-use.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/05/the-dcr-analyzer-is-now-available-for-you-to-use.html#comments Tue, 16 May 2017 04:00:00 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=74454 Read More Here ]]> DSC_7355

And by now…I mean like 5 months ago. But no matter, I’m finally getting around to telling you about it in some manner that might be noticeable.  Or even semi-formal.

But wait – what’s the DCR Analyzer?

You know in my in-depth reviews (you do read those, right?) where I’ve got all these fancy charts that compare one power meter to another (or 4 others)?  Or one heart rate strap to another or three?  Or possibly one GPS track to 7 others?  Well, that’s the DCR Analyzer.

It’s a purpose built tool that I’ve been using for almost two years now, designed specifically for comparing two theoretically like things.  So how does one power meter track against another on the same ride.  Or how does one optical HR sensor compare to a heart rate strap.  That’s the goal.

It originated from my frustration with spending 15-45 minutes per ride/run/activity trying to normalize and compare the data using off the shelf tools.  I used to use a combination of Golden Cheetah, Excel, and a large hammer to make everything work.  The problem was that no tool exactly fit what I needed.  And with a typical in-depth review having anywhere from 10-30 sets of data contained within it, it became a nightmare to quickly generate the core data that the reviews are often based around.

Hence…the DCR Analyzer was born!

I worked closely with a developer (of FitFileTools.com) to inch our way towards a pretty sweet toolset for comparing data from the same activity.  And early last year (2016) a smattering of you started beta testing it as well.  Then earlier this past year (January 2017) I opened the doors to anyone who wanted to use it.

Since then, far more of you than I ever expected have been making comparative data sets and seeing how your devices measure up.  It’s been really cool to see!  Especially cooler to see it being used throughout the industry, and even some of the UCI World Tour Pro Cycling teams are now using it for analyzing and validating data.

FullCapture_thumb

Now there are free options out there to do similar things.  But there are a bunch of nuanced reasons why I feel the DCR Analyzer is better suited for data comparisons:

– Automatic Alignment: It automatically aligns files based on GPS timestamps (or any timestamps).  So you don’t have to worry about pressing start at the same time, or about pauses
– Data file support: It doesn’t barf on files with the latest data types.  Many 3rd party tools have trouble with file format specs that are updated with new data types.  Since I use the tool on usually unreleased products, I get these supported in the Analyzer well before you even know the products exist. :)
– Sensor support: The DCR Analyzer allows you to save your sensors and then automatically recognize them for .FIT files.  This is great if you record lots of things at once and accidentally mix up which unit recorded which.
– Proper mapping: The ability to get true 1-second recording data tracks on the map is really important to me.  A lot of sites/tools won’t properly display all the data points on the GPS map, which sorta defeats the purpose for analysis reasons.
– Constant improvements: We’re super open to adding features that make comparative analysis quicker and easier.  I’ve got lots of ideas for how to keep improving the suite of tools for this purpose – without losing sight of the fundamental purpose: Comparing data files
– Data Types: It supports comparing a slew of data types: Heart rate data, Power meter data, Cadence data, Elevation data, Distance data, GPS Tracks

Now, to be clear – this is NOT a training log site.  It’s not designed to replace sites like Training Peaks, Strava, SportTracks…or apps like WKO+ or SportTracks.  Rather, it’s simply a tool to compare multiple sensors/tracks/whatever’s on the same activity.  I still use all those tools myself as my training log.  The DCR Analyzer is more like a graphing calculator than logbook.

image_thumb24

So how do you get started?  Well, there’s two options.  First is a day pass, and then an annual pass.  The day pass gives you 24 hours to create up to 3 sets of data (each set contains multiple files), and then you’ve got indefinite read-access after that.  This is great if you’ve got a quick one-time use for it.  This is $5.

The second option is the all you can eat annual pass.  This allows you to create unlimited sets for an entire year.  All 365 days of it!  This costs $29 for the year, and like the day pass, your sets remain active indefinitely, even beyond your membership.

You can hit the account creation page here!

No matter which option you choose you can share the sets with public links, just like I do in my reviews (and you can also keep things totally private too).  With public links you can post links to forums or e-mail, Snapchat or on a giant sign by the side of the road.  Whatever floats your boat.

If you want to check out more about all the technical capabilities of it, you can read-up on the manual of sorts that I’ve put together here.  This covers how to use the Analyzer, and some of my pro tips for analyzing hundreds of data sets with it.

With that – thanks for reading- and enjoy!

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5 Random Things I Did This Weekend https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/05/random-things-did-this-weekend-47.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/05/random-things-did-this-weekend-47.html#comments Mon, 15 May 2017 10:13:31 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=74441 Read More Here ]]> The weather continues to get warmer here in Paris – and this weekend was quite nice. Here’s what I was up to!

1) A quick lunch run

I headed out Friday midday for a short lunch run.  It was part testing and part just fitting in a very brief run in an otherwise busy day.

DCIM\106GOPRO\GOPR0302.JPG

It was only about 25-30 minutes, as I just needed the time to get some photos of the Suunto Spartan interval mode while actually running.  Sure, I could have just taken them while standing there and they would have looked nicer, but in this case I thought it useful to show what it looked like mid-run.

DCIM\106GOPRO\GOPR0375.JPG

The side benefit of that being I got in a short interval workout.  Albeit really too short to have any meaningful impact from a fitness standpoint.  But at least I got the shots.

2) Finding a bread cutter

2017-05-13 16.26.55-1

We’ve been living in France almost five years now.  In fact, our first house-hunting trip here was 5 years ago this past weekend (remember this?!? Or the house hunting itself?).  And in these 5 years I’ve been hunting for this one item that has proved very difficult to find. An antique baguette cutter.

See the restaurant next door, that we visit on a near weekly basis, has this awesome old-school baguette cutter that I love.  It’s part antique, and part random cool kitchen gadget.  Many of you know I’m as much a kitchen gadget guy as a sports tech gadget guy (except automatic can openers, I think those are stupid).

In any case, I’ve been looking for this baguette contraption for years at various antique (brocante) markets that constantly pop up around the city.  This weekend there was a massive antique market across the river, so we took a wander on Saturday for the fun of it.  You could find just about anything there – including whatever the heck that plastic women is/was:

2017-05-13 16.41.26 2017-05-13 16.39.24-1 2017-05-13 16.38.26 2017-05-13 16.27.28

And astoundingly, I actually found the baguette cutter – early on in fact.  But it wasn’t a French one, rather instead from the Nordics.  I had been somewhat looking for an old-school French one, given our time here.

2017-05-13 16.11.11

It was also incredibly expensive, so I passed on it for now.  I’ll probably regret doing that down the road, but at least the quest continues.

3) Next up…Power2Max NG

DSC_2145

I started getting the Power2Max Next Generation (NG) all situated as my next power meter to test.  I’ll finally be down to just a single power meter left in the queue (this one).  Of course, I expect with products from FSA (the PowerBox), as well as likely others that have been recently announced soon on their way, it won’t stay a short queue for long.

Like most new power meters on the market, the NG is dual ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart.  I wrote about it last fall when it was announced.  And it started shipping this past winter, though I think they’re only somewhat recently getting caught-up in terms of order backlog.

DSC_2149

My plan will be around the first 5-10 days of June for an in-depth review.  I have some travel in between now and then that slows things a bit since I won’t likely be bringing my bike.

4) Riding the sun

DCIM\106GOPRO\GOPR0393.JPG

Speaking of riding – I headed out Sunday mid-afternoon for a short 75-80 minute ride.  Being Mother’s Day I didn’t want to stay away too long.  So I knocked out a brisk ride from the house to Longchamp where I did a few loops, and then back home.

DSC_2168

It had been a bit of a tumultuous day in terms of weather.  It was largely sunny, except when it decided to rain Florida-style, in which case it would drench everything in sight for a period of 5-8 minutes.  Just enough to show who’s boss, but not quite enough to keep you indoors the rest of the day.

Thankfully it didn’t hit while I was out riding.  And the ride was all good.  I wasn’t actually testing too much on this ride – just a few things, like the Polar M460 and Polar M430.  The M460 being the new bike computer, and the M430 being the new GPS watch.

DSC_2164

The M460 was also configured with Strava Live Segments as well, which seemed to work well enough though my specific route only had a handful of Segments on it…and most regrettably traffic got in the way of me putting down a stellar effort.  Win some, lose some.

5) Off to the Giro…for a day!

image

Later on this evening I’ll grab a quick 90 minutes flight down to Florence (Italy, not South Carolina).  From there I’ll drive about 2 hours to the town of Foligno.

It’s here that on Tuesday morning the individual time trial will start.  It’ll then roam some 39.8km to the town of Montefalco, where it’ll end.  I’ve often tried to visit grand tours on time trial days, because it’s the best bang for the buck.  You get to watch one rider after another for the entire day.  It’s a sweet deal.

I didn’t apply for a Giro media pass, so we’ll see what type of access I manage to wrangle.  Maybe I’ll do a Giro bike tech round-up, maybe not.  But there will definitely be some sort of DCR Giro goodness.  Though, I’ve never had a media pass for the Tour de France in the past, and have done quite well for getting behind the scenes type photos.  If ya see me out and about on Tuesday – say Hi!

But I’m a bit tight on time this week, so once the time trial finishes up I’m going to be rushing back to Florence airport to catch the last flight of the night back home.

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Week in Review–May 14th, 2017 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/05/week-in-reviewmay-14th-2017.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/05/week-in-reviewmay-14th-2017.html#comments Sun, 14 May 2017 11:14:30 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=74416 Read More Here ]]> WeekInReview_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb

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

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

DCRainmaker.com posts in the past week:

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

Sunday: Week in Review–May 7th, 2017
Monday: 5 Random Things I Did This Weekend
Monday: Thoughts on GoPro’s new Fusion 360° 5.2K camera
Tuesday: ROTOR 2INpower In-Depth Review
Friday: Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR In-Depth Review

Sports Tech Deals This Week:

While the big 20% off sale ended this past week, there are two minor sets of details remaining.  One is on Garmin stuff that ends next weekend, and another on TomTom stuff that ends later today.  First up is the Garmin stuff:

Garmin Vivofit Jr – Save $10 (Amazon/Clever Training)
Garmin Forerunner 35 – Save $30 (Amazon/Clever Training)
Garmin Vivofit 3 – Save $30 (Amazon/Clever Training)
Garmin Vivosmart HR+ (the one with GPS): Save $30 (Amazon/Clever Training)
Garmin Vivoactive HR (also with GPS): Save $50 – down to $199 – solid deal (Amazon/Clever Training)

And here’s the TomTom specific sales, which run through May 14th:

TomTom Spark 3 – $20 off (Amazon/Clever Training)
TomTom Spark 3 Music – $20 off (Amazon/Clever Training)
TomTom Spark 3 Cardio – $20 off (Amazon/Clever Training)
TomTom Spark 3 Cardio Music – $20 off (Amazon/Clever Training)
TomTom Adventurer – $50 off (Amazon/Clever Training)
TomTom Touch – $10 off (Amazon/Clever Training)

All of the above links help support the blog!

Stuff that I found interesting around the interwebs:

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

1) Subscription running race pass: Pretty interesting concept.  I’m not sold on the pricing unless you knew how to game it a bit.  But I like the general thought here. (via Steve Fleck)

2) Apple buys Beddit Sleep Tracking: A long time ago I bought a Beddit.  Not the whole company though, just one unit.  Haven’t used it much since. Still, their much newer products look cooler.  Will be interesting to see if Apple’s grand plan is to incorporate the tech into their watches, or if it’s to branch out into additional categories of products.

3) GoPro’s trade-up program (this is a good deal!): I keep forgetting to mention this, as when it first launched it didn’t work (even the pages) from outside the US.  And that’s still true.  But basically you get $100 off for returning *any* GoPro, no matter how old, broken, or otherwise f’d up that GoPro is, as long as you return it, you get $100 off a new GoPro.  Sweet!

3) Skier falls into 60 foot crevasse…while GoPro is filming: Speaking of that very camera, a well-edited sequence here of something that could have gone much much worse:

4) You needn’t outrun the bear, just your friends: And sure enough, this seems to be the case here.

5) Looking to create that 4K Zwift setup? Ask no further.  Now…if only I had a 4K TV.  Sigh.

6) Swearing while exercising will make you stronger: Damn straight it will mofos!

7) Don’t put that there: Living abroad we have many expat friends. Over time though, most move on.  Either back home or onwards to another country for work relocation. While nothing to do with sports (though they are avid runners), I found this post from our friends that left us last fall pretty funny. It’s talking about the hilariously wonky ways that they have to sort trash in South Korea (where they relocated to).

8) Large power meter accuracy study: Lots of chatter about this 54 units study.  It’s interesting stuff, and I’ve chatted with one of the folks doing it a bit as well this week.  Overall I don’t see any core issues with what they did.  As they noted in an e-mail to me though, it only focuses on indoor – which limits things a bit.  One of the challenges with power meters these days is that the overwhelming majority of accuracy issues actually happen outdoors (temperature changes, road conditions, humidity shifts, etc…).  Note on models that most of them tended to be older units, rather than newer units.  Pros and cons to that both ways actually. Still, this is an impressive pile of data to put together, good stuff!

Sports Technology Software/Firmware Updates This Week:

Each week I quickly highlight some of the new firmware, app, software and website service updates that I see go out. If you’re a sports technology company and release an update – shoot me a quick note (just one-liners 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 firmware updates

Garmin Forerunner 230/235/630/920XT Firmware Update: Bug fixes.

Garmin Fenix 3/Tactix Bravo/Quatix 3/Fenix 3HR Firmware Update: Bug fixes.

Garmin Fenix 5/5S/5X/Chronos Firmware Update: Pile of new features and settings, along with even bigger pile of performance improvements/bug fixes.

Garmin FR935 Firmware Update: Same as Fenix 5 firmware update.

Quarq DZero Firmware Update: Improvements to accelerometer cadence and Bluetooth Smart head unit compatibility.

Thanks for reading…oh…and Happy Mother’s Day (for those North Americans, for French folks…you gotta wait two more weeks!).

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Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR In-Depth Review https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/05/suunto-spartan-sport-wrist-hr-review.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2017/05/suunto-spartan-sport-wrist-hr-review.html#comments Fri, 12 May 2017 14:23:24 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=74407 Read More Here ]]> DSC_2093

Last summer (2016) amidst Suunto announcing the Spartan series, they made note of a planned optical heart rate enabled version that would be released down the road.  Fast forward to this past January (2017) and at CES they did just that – the ‘Wrist HR’ lineup, often just abbreviated as WHR.  This lineup took the existing Suunto Spartan Sport and added a Valencell optical heart rate sensor into it, giving you heart rate data directly from your wrist during both workouts and any other time you wanted it.

They started shipping the units back on March 31st – in conjunction with another major firmware update for the Spartan series.

Now as you may remember, I reviewed the Spartan series last fall when it first came out.  By Suunto’s own admission, that release was a wee bit premature.  Simply put: The product wasn’t ready.  But a lot has changed since then.  They’ve added back in tons of features previously found on the prior Suunto watch lineups, plus some new ones. Accuracy has improved and generally speaking people are boatloads happier with it than they were nine months ago.

So this review will really be focused on two core things:

A) Is the optical HR sensor within the Wrist HR accurate? And how does it work?
B) Some of the changes that have occurred since my previous review of the Spartan series

I note that because my goal this spring has been to minimize writing ‘churn’. Meaning, re-writing the same stuff I wrote before. Be it this Suunto Wrist HR review, or the Garmin FR935 review – I’m trying to get better at covering what’s new/unique/different about the unit in comparison to before.  So while I’ve used it for many basics like smartphone notifications, I’m not going to dive as-deeply into those areas since they work just fine.  Instead, I want to dive deeper into the things that are more unique about the product.

With that – let’s get cooking.  Oh, and as usual, I’ll be sending back this loaner unit to Suunto once I wrap up this review.  From there I’ll go out and get a unit through normal retail channels.  Onwards we go!

Unboxing:

First up is getting the unit out of the box.  If you’re a Suunto regular you’ll find the box setup here virtually identical to most of their past watches, including the rest of the Spartan series.

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Once you crack it open you’ll find the watch sitting there looking up at you. Inside we’ve got a small smattering of parts:

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This includes the paper manual stuffs that you’ll probably never read (especially after this post).  Then we’ve got the charging cable.  This is the same charging cable used on the rest of the Spartan series, though it is different from that used on the previous Ambit series.  I definitely prefer this one, as the magnetic clip system works better than the side-clip thingy from the past.

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And finally, the watch itself:

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It’s pretty simple – there’s not much else within the box to talk about.  That said, I did make an entire unboxing video that includes not just the unboxing but also a walk-through size comparison against numerous other watch models.  You can find that goodness below:

For those that prefer pictures and text, you’ll also find the size comparisons below.

Model and Size Comparison:

So how does it stack up in terms of size?  Ask and you shall receive! Here’s a lineup of watches to ponder. Left to right: Forerunner 935, Fenix 5, Fenix 5X, Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR, and Suunto Ambit 3 Peak.

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And then here’s the same, looking at the stack height (depth) on them:

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As for weights? Ask and you shall receive:

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And again, remember in the video above – starting around the 4:11 marker – you can see a boatload of other watches and much more commentary on all the nuances of size, including the older Suunto units too.

The Basics:

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Ok, I know I said I wasn’t going to cover all the basic stuff, but I’ve gotta at least cover some basics.  Don’t worry, we’re going to keep this brisk and then move onto other areas.  Also, you’ll note much of what I highlight here is more unique to updates since last fall.

So like the rest of the Suunto Spartan series the unit has all of the smartphone connected features you’d come to expect from most smart-watches these days.  That means you’ll get smartphone notifications on your watch (from any app, not just calls/texts), which can be dismissed from the watch itself once read.

This connection uses Bluetooth Smart and is maintained anytime your phone is nearby the watch.  It does not require the Suunto Movescount mobile app on your phone to be opened up for generic smartphone notifications.  Whereas the Movescount mobile app is used for syncing workouts and settings.

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Within this app, you can configure basic profile settings, as well as which sports are sync’d to the watch itself.  You cannot, however, configure specific data screens/fields/pages for your watch, as that must be done using the full Suunto website (like past Suunto watches, it can’t be done on the watch either).

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Generally speaking, most workouts will sync in less than a minute, though that varies a bit based on the length of the workout as well as how many sensors you’ve connected and whether or not GPS is involved.

When it comes to the watch itself, the display is a touchscreen, enabling you to swipe up/down through the menus.  You can also use the buttons to do so as well, which can be a good idea in tougher conditions like snow or rain where touch can be a bit trickier.

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While Suunto has made good gains in terms of improving the speed of the user interface, I’d argue it still feels sluggish at times.  Not so much in sport modes (it’s fine there), but just navigating through the generic screens like the settings.  It’s hardly a deal-killer, but I know some will ask about that.

The main screen can be customized with some different watch faces if you like.  You can’t create your own watch faces, but they’ve got a few to choose from.  These can be selected on the watch itself.

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If you scroll down from the main screen you get into the activity as well as training and load screens.  First up is the activity screen, which shows your current steps against the goal for the day. If you tap the screen it shows you calories.  And then you can also swipe left to see daily steps per day.

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And these days, this activity tracking properly shows up on the smartphone app and web as well – something it didn’t do in the past!  Note however that at this time Suunto does not track any sleep metrics (at all), nor do they track distance walked (at all).  So compared to most daily activity trackers, they’re a bit far behind.

If you swipe right, you’ll get to your instantaneous/continuous heart rate graphs.  But I’ll come back to that in just a second – hang tight!

Scrolling down, you get to your recent training load pages.  The first is a bar graph showing sports and totals per sports.  Note this does reset after each firmware update, though it sounds like the next firmware update in June will rectify that issue.

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If you swipe to the left you’ll see more details of the latest sport type you’ve completed, cycling in my case:

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Meanwhile, if you swipe right, you’ll see upcoming training as per Movescount.  These aren’t structured trainings per se, but rather just reminders to do workouts.  Think of them like the digital equivalent of a sticky note telling you to do a 45-minute run.  It’s not going to give you instructions during the run but is just a casual way of reminding you to run in the first place.  This is different from what Polar and Garmin have, which actually executes the structured workouts during the run, with each step as you run.

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Finally, scrolling down one more time you’ll see your current recovery time, which is based on heart rate inclusive workouts and is cumulative across workouts.

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But let’s back up a second to the continuous heart rate piece I briefly mentioned a moment ago.  Within the Spartan Wrist HR, you get the ability to check your heart rate at any time by navigating through the menu to the activity page, and then swiping to the right.  You’ll see the below page which will immediately start monitoring your HR and do so with a trailing 10-minute graph.

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Note that it will only show your heart rate while looking at that data page, not otherwise.  However, you can tap that page and then see the last 12 hours of heart rate data.  When you do that the unit will be polling every 10 minutes to get a heart rate reading.  It’ll stay lit up to 60 seconds each time to get a lock on your heart rate.

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When in this mode it does seem to pretty significantly reduce the battery life of the watch – I can’t really get anywhere near a full week once I include a daily workout of an hour in there (with GPS).  On the screen above you’ll also see your average calorie burn rate over the last 12 hours (whereas on the 10-minute screen you see the hourly burn rate based on that 10 minutes).  It’ll also show you the lowest HR achieved during that 12 hours, which is most often considered your resting heart rate (RHR).

Note that you do have to enable this menu option, which is under the Settings > Activity > Daily HR.

Also, note that at present none of the continuous heart rate data is saved to Movescount or visible on the Movescount app or site.  It’s all fart in the wind stuff.  Once beyond the 12 hours, the data is gone.  That said, Suunto is looking into getting this data saved later this year, but doesn’t have a super-specific timeline on it yet.

The value in this data is more for resting heart rate trending.  To understand that, see this separate detailed post I put together last year.

Finally, to wrap things up, I want to at least mention navigation. The unit has added new navigation functions since last fall, which make it more competitive.  And then coming next month, it gets even more (Track back to start).

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However, one of the things folks have been asking for is an update in general for my original Spartan Ultra/Sport review.  So I’m writing a new navigation section covering all Spartan devices (they’re all identical), and I’ll be pasting it into both reviews.  That’ll happen over the next week at the latest.

Still, I’ve gotta say – one of my favorite things ever on the Suunto platform is really the heat maps.  It just makes finding spots to train so much easier.  Which in turn can be used for creating routes on Movescount to then send to your unit.  In particular, my favorite part is that I can filter by sport.  This is excellent for example when trying to find swimming routes.  Or to filter out people winter skiing if you’re trying to find summer hiking trails on a ski resort.

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But again, more on that shortly!  With that, let’s dive into sport usage.

Sport Usage:

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To start with sport usage, it’s probably best to start with actually customizing your watch to display the data and fields you want.  This is an important area that wasn’t previously available last fall when the Spartan series first launched, but has since become an option.  Note that virtually everything I talk about in this section is applicable to all Suunto Spartan series watches (unless otherwise noted).

To configure your settings, you’ll go onto Movescount and then select ‘Watches’ from the dropdown menu in the upper right corner, where you can select your specific paired watch.  If you don’t have 28 Suunto watches paired to your account like I do, you’ll likely see fewer watches listed.  Like 1 or something.

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Here you’ll see all the settings for your watch.  Each settings area is expandable to dig into more settings, the biggest of which is ‘Sport modes’.

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Within this, I can add any of the gazillion different sport modes that Suunto offers to my watch (which can have up to 20 on the quick access list).  And each sport mode umbrella group (like ‘Cycling’) can have variants within it – such as cycling with power, or in a group, etc… Allowing you to tweak settings slightly for that particular purpose.

One weird oddity though is that you can’t simply customize existing sport modes. Instead, you’ve got to recreate a new sport mode anytime you want to tweak a data field or layout.  Which…is somewhat annoying.

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You can start off by choosing the specific data page layout you want:

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Then from there you’ll select the fields within it.  You can do up to 7 data fields in a page – which is quite a bit more than Garmin maxing out at 4 fields (though, there are some Connect IQ apps to get around that).  Still, it’s a distinct advantage for Suunto:

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As I’ve mentioned before – one of my favorites is actually the lap summary screen, which isn’t found on many other wearables out there.  It lists the laps as you go through it.  But I’ll show some real-life pictures of that in a moment.

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Beyond the data pages, it’s here that you can customize sport-specific settings like Autolap or GPS accuracy.  Some of these can also be tweaked on the device (such as GPS accuracy).  While others must be done via the website.

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Lastly, down below the sport profile settings are more generic options for the device as a whole.  Most of these haven’t changed since last fall.

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With all that out of the way, let’s head out for an activity.  Running in this case, though for the most part all sports work pretty similar in terms of ‘workflow’.  To begin, you’ll either swipe or button-press up to the ‘Exercise’ menu:

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Then from there you’ll select your specific sport mode.  You can iterate through any of the modes you’ve configured.  You can also press down within a sport mode and access some settings like GPS accuracy or the interval feature.

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Speaking of which, Suunto has introduced this new interval feature which is the first time we’ve seen such a capability on a Suunto watch.  Previously you had to use a hodgepodge of 3rd party apps (on the Ambit series), or had no solution at all.  Now though, you can access the interval menu from below the sport settings and it’s quick and easy to setup.

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Once enabled you’ll select how many reps you want, as well as the duration or distance.  You’ll also specify the recovery duration or distance.

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With that all configured, it’s back to heading outside for a run.  While outside you’ll want to ensure you have a heart rate lock (the HR icon stays lit), and GPS lock (the location icon stays lit too).

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Once that’s done – you hit start and it’ll start showing you the metrics you’ve setup.  You can either swipe through the data pages, or press the physical buttons to change data pages.

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With Suunto’s interval mode, there is no predefined warm-up or cool-down.  Rather, you’re in control of when you start the interval portion.  So you’ll swipe over to the interval screen once ready, then press to begin.

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Within the interval screen (which you can customize) it’ll show your current pace, distance of the interval, and time.

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At the end of the predefined work portion, it’ll automatically switch to the rest portion, and then show you a summary screen that’s quite detailed, for the just-completed work portion:

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This will iterate until complete, at which point you can either re-start the interval session, or just carry-on with the rest of your run.  Once you’ve decided you’ve run enough, you can stop the workout using the upper right button. Upon completion, it’ll ask you how the workout felt.

From there it’ll show you the summary stats as well as lap summary stats.  Now interestingly, on Movescount it’ll show you detailed stats for the interval-only portion of the workout, making it simple to filter on just those portions.

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Speaking of Movescount, here’s a look at an activity on it.  I generally like what I see there.  Some folks prefer Movescount, and others prefer Garmin Connect. There are pros and cons to both.  I mostly find it a wash for things like running.

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Now, while I’ve focused on running up until this point, the reality is that from a sport mode standpoint all of the general sport pieces work basically the same across all sports.  Take for example cycling – about the only difference is that you’ll select the screen labeled ‘Cycling’ instead of ‘Running’.

However, with cycling, you get into areas like sensors.  The Spartan Wrist HR continues with the same trend as the Ambit3 and rest of the Spartan series which supports only Bluetooth Smart sensors (not ANT+).  Still, it does support virtually all major Bluetooth Smart sensors in the cycling world.  And in recent updates Suunto now supports setting important power meter configuration items like crank length as well as doing a zero offset of the power meter.

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The same goes for running, which of course supports heart rate sensors (all sports do), but also even the Stryd running power meter sensor, as well as generic running footpods.

One final area of note is swimming, which is where Wrist HR does have one unique capability over the Garmin Fenix 3HR/Fenix 5/FR935 units: It supports displaying and recording your optical HR data.

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While in the water the optical HR sensor will remain enabled like any other sport, allowing you to view your heart rate in real-time as well as record it.  Now Suunto doesn’t make a lot of promises here, and for good reason.  Measuring your HR while in the water swimming is one of the toughest things for an optical HR sensor to get right.  For some people it works well, and for others…not at all.  In my case, it was a mixed bag (as I’ll show in the HR accuracy section).  It roughly showed the trend correctly, but didn’t get the nuances of brief higher efforts.  So while it’s better than nothing, I probably wouldn’t make second by second pacing decisions from it.

Note that you can still pick up Suunto’s Smart Sense heart rate strap to record HR data more accurately in the water, which syncs up afterwards and download the data to the watch.  It won’t show you live on the watch data mid-swim, but will be there for after the swim.  This is also useful for sports like tennis where you may not use the watch during the sport itself, but rather keep it on the sidelines and just want to record heart rate.

With the sport overview covered, let’s dive into whether or not this optical HR sensor is actually accurate.

Heart Rate Sensor Accuracy:

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The Suunto Wrist HR series includes Valencell’s optical HR sensor built into the bottom of it.  This is notable because Valencell’s sensor is found in one device that I tend to consider my most trusted optical HR sensor unit – the Scosche Rhythm+.  And thousands upon thousands of DCR readers have agreed – the accuracy of that unit is amazing.  So when Suunto announced they were going with Valencell, that had the potential to be quite significant.

With the Valencell sensor, the Wrist HR samples and records your heart rate data every second during workouts, as other companies in the market do.  However, as noted earlier, they do not record 24×7 data like some other companies do.  Thus, I’m really just going to focus this section on workout HR accuracy.  Mostly because I didn’t really see any issues with the spot-check HR accuracy mode when I looked at it (non-workout), it generally matched.

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Before we move on to the test results, note that optical HR sensor accuracy is rather varied from individual to individual.  Aspects such as skin color, hair density, and position can impact accuracy.  Position and how the band is worn are *the most important* pieces.  A unit with an optical HR sensor should be snug.  It doesn’t need to leave marks, but you shouldn’t be able to slide a finger under the band (at least during workouts).  You can wear it a tiny bit looser the rest of the day.

Ok, so in my testing, I simply use the watch throughout my normal workouts.  Those workouts include a wide variety of intensities and conditions, making them great for accuracy testing.  I’ve got long/steady runs, hard interval workouts on both bike and running, as well as tempo runs and rides.  Not to mention skiing and hiking.  Night and day, sun and snow.  I’ve got it all!

For each test, I’m wearing additional devices, usually 3-4, which capture data from other sensors.  Typically I’d wear a chest strap (usually the HRM-TRI or Wahoo TICKR X), as well as often another optical HR sensor made by Scosche and in some cases also a Garmin Fenix 5.  Note that the numbers you see in the upper right corner are *not* the averages, but rather just the exact point my mouse is sitting over.  Note all this data is analyzed using the DCR Analyzer, details here.

Now, I’m going to give you a bit of a spoiler here: The data is confusing.  For the first few weeks while using Wrist HR, I got generally horrible optical HR data.  So much so that I’d say it was pretty much the worst optical HR sensor I’ve ever seen.  But then something odd happened: Over time it actually got better.

I had tried all manner of different things in terms of positioning/tightness, and none seemed to make any difference.  Inversely, now almost two months later – changing positions and stuff doesn’t make it worse – things are pretty good these days for running (cycling is still a mixed bag).

Here, let me show you what I mean.  If we go back to late March, here’s a simple and relatively easy run with three clear intervals in it:

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You can see that maroon line is the Wrist HR.  It misses pretty badly the first 7-8 minutes, then gets with the program until the 3rd interval, which it misses as well.

At this point I’d have considered it not great, but not the ‘worst I’ve ever seen’.  But then I did another run…and it got even worse.  Any change in pace/intensity hosed it up.

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What about cycling you ask?  Well, that’s a complete mess.  Only one of these four doesn’t match (hint: It was the Suunto).  Surprisingly, the FR935 actually got it right most of the time (historically a rarity for Garmin’s optical HR sensors while cycling).

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Meanwhile, if I brought it in on an indoor trainer, it was a mixed bag.  The first portion was a mess, but then it matched nicely the rest of the workout:

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But then something weird started happening: It started getting better. Check out this next indoor trainer ride.  It beautifully locked on perfectly.

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Ok, maybe not every ride. Just not outside cycling it seemed.  This ride two days later was a mess too (green is Spartan, others are TICKR-X and FR935 Optical):

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But aside from that, I started seeing improvements in running too.  Check out this interval workout that the Suunto was definitely the most correct on (even in that wonky-ass section at the beginning).

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And again, this 10-miler run, even with pushing a stroller, it had no issues throughout the entire run.

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But there were occasional quirks – almost always within the first 2-3 minutes, like these two runs.  First in San Francisco and then in Monterey.  Still, throughout the run, the units agreed nicely.

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Heck, at this point I even got some largely decent cycling results out of it (vs Scosche and TICKR-X).  Again, minor blip in the first couple minutes, but otherwise good through lots of shifts in intensity.

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And again, no issues at this point in running either – even with intervals.

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In fact, here’s an interval session from just yesterday.  While I still see oddities occasionally in those first few minutes, once warmed up it’s pretty happy.  Even briefly correctly outperforming both other units in that first interval.

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So where does this leave me?

Well, somewhat confused.  Kinda like the ROTOR 2INpower in-depth review two days ago where I saw certain quirks that neither myself or the company could explain it.  In the case of Suunto and the optical HR sensor, I had extensive calls over the last 3-4 weeks with not only Suunto, but also Valencell (the maker of the sensor).

The long and the short of it is that nobody seems to have a clear idea as to why it trends that way.  They noted that they had seen some similar cases where units had ‘improved’ over time, similar to what I saw.  There’s no learning inside it from a software standpoint.  They hypothesized that users that may not be familiar with optical HR sensors may just need a few workouts to figure out what works best for them.  That’s certainly a logical explanation for others, but not exactly for me.  I know rather well how to wear it – and even now many weeks later I can wear it any way I like (less restrictive), and it’s fine.  Previously no matter how perfectly I wore it, it sucked.

The other idea they brought up is that perhaps the band material might be softening a bit over time, resulting in a better fit since it allows more flexibility.  That’s definitely a valid idea, though I don’t have two units side by side to see how they feel now comparatively.

Note that at no point during this period was there a software update impacting the optical HR sensor.  The next update for the optical HR sensor from a firmware standpoint isn’t expected till the end of 2017.

Finally – some DCR readers saw a similar pattern (based on the comments you’ve left in the comments sections of the preview post).  Initial workouts were horrible, but then it unexplainably improved.

Which puts me in the category of: If I see all accuracy numbers like those over the last 4 weeks (versus those in the first 2 weeks), then I have zero issues recommending it for running, and it seems like a bit of a mixed bag on cycling (though perhaps slightly better than Garmin’s optical HR sensor on the Fenix 5/FR935).  By the way, for swimming, which you can see some data in the tables, it’s slow to react for me, but it does at least get the general trends correct.

I guess my recommendation here would be from an accuracy standpoint – just ensure you’ve got a good return policy, and to give it 2-3 weeks to see if it starts getting better if you run into issues.

Finally – here’s a table of all of the data/workout files, including many files I didn’t highlight within this review.  You can dive into them using the DCR Analyzer, as well as download the original files.

Suunto Wrist HR Data

DateWorkout TypeData TypeUnits UsedComparison Link
May 11th*RunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fenix 5 Optical HR, Fenix3 with TICKR X HR StrapAnalyze
May 10thOpenwater SwimGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fenix 5, Fenix3 (Reference Swim Buoy)Analyze
May 10thCyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fenix 5, Edge 820 with TICKRX HR StrapAnalyze
May 4thCyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Edge 820 with TICKRX HR Strap, Stages Dash with TICKR X HR StrapAnalyze
May 2ndRunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fenix 5 Optical HRAnalyze
APR 30th*RunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fitbit Alta HR (Optical), Fenix 5 with TICKR X HR Strap, Fenix 3 with ScoscheAnalyze
APR 28th*RunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fitbit Alta HR (Optical), Fenix 5 with TICKR X HR Strap, Fenix 3 with ScoscheAnalyze
APR 27thCyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Edge 820 with TICKRX HR StrapAnalyze
APR 24th*CyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fenix 3 with Scosche, Edge 820 with TICKR X HR StrapAnalyze
APR 15thRunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, FR935 Optical HRAnalyze
APR 13thRunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, FR935 Optical HRAnalyze
APR 11th*Cycling TrainerHRSpartan Wrist HR, Vivosmart 3 Optical HR, FR935 with TICKR X HR Strap, Edge 520, Edge 820 with ScoscheAnalyze
APR 9th*CyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Vivosmart 3 Optical HR, FR935 with Scosche HR, Edge 520, Xplova X5, Edge 820 with TICKR X HR StrapAnalyze
APR 8th*RunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Vivosmart 3 Optical HR, FR935 with Scosche HR, Fenix3 with HRM-RUN HR StrapAnalyze
APR 6th*CyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, FR935 Optical HR, Wahoo BOLT, Edge 520, Xplova X5, Edge 820 with TICKR X HR StrapAnalyze
APR 5th*RunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Polar M430 Optical HR, Fenix 3 with Scosche HR, FR935 with TICKR X HR StrapAnalyze
Apr 2ndCyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, FR935 Optical HR, Edge 820 with Scosche, Edge 520, Xplova X5 GPS, Wahoo BOLT with TICKRX HRAnalyze
Mar 30thCycling TrainerHRSpartan Wrist HR, FR935 Optical HR, Edge 1000 with TICKR X HR Strap, Edge 820 with Scosche HRAnalyze
Mar 26th*CyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, FR935 Optical HR, FR735XT with Scosche, Edge 820 with TICKR X HR StrapAnalyze
Mar 25th*RunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, FR935 Optical HR, FR735XT with Scosche, Fenix3 with HRM-RUN StrapAnalyze
May 24th*Cycling TrainerHRSpartan Wrist HR, FR935 Optical HR, Fenix3 with HRM-RUN, Edge 820 with ScoscheAnalyze
Mar 22nd*RunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, FR735XT with Scosche, Fenix3 with HRM-RUN StrapAnalyze
Mar 21stRunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fenix 5 Optical HR, Fenix3 with HRM-RUN StrapAnalyze
Mar 20th*RunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fenix 5 Optical HR, FR935 with HRM-RUN StrapAnalyze
Mar 19th*CyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fenix 5 Optical HR, Edge 1000 with TICKR X HR StrapAnalyze

Note that the ones with asterisks on them are generally the ones I included in this review up above.

GPS Accuracy:

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There’s likely no topic that stirs as much discussion and passion as GPS accuracy.  A watch could fall apart and give you dire electrical shocks while doing so, but if it shows you on the wrong side of the road?  Oh hell no, bring on the fury of the internet!

GPS accuracy can be looked at in a number of different ways, but I prefer to look at it using a number of devices in real-world scenarios across a vast number of activities.  I use 2-6 other devices at once, trying to get a clear picture of how a given set of devices handles conditions on a certain day.  Conditions include everything from tree/building cover to weather.

Over the years I’ve continued to tweak my GPS testing methodology.  For example, I try to not place two units next to each other on my wrists, as that can impact signal. If I do so, I’ll put a thin fabric spacer of about 1”/3cm between them (I didn’t do that on any of my Suunto Spartan Wrist HR runs).  But often I’ll simply carry other units by the straps, or attach them to my shoulder straps of a CamelBak.  Plus, wearing multiple watches on the same wrist is well known to impact optical HR accuracy too.

Next, as noted, I use just my daily training routes.  Using a single route over and over again isn’t really indicative of real-world conditions, it’s just indicative of one trail.  The workouts you see here are just my normal daily workouts.

These have included the following condition types:

Dryer desert terrain, cliff-laden mountains, the highest peaks in the Alps, tons of city running/cycling, light forests/suburbia, coastal roads, rivers

First, let’s just start off with a run.  Note all this data is analyzed using the DCR Analyzer, a tool you can use as well.  Details here.

This interval run was actually yesterday, and started off elsewhere in town. Though there’s not much interesting there as that’s just running along the river and GPS accuracy was fine there.  What’s more interesting to look at is the park I did numerous loops in, as that allows us to see very easily how it handles on the same sections.  The majority of this run within the park is under large tree cover.

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What you see is that it’s generally pretty good.  The straightaways are straight, and the turns and corners are exactly where I went.  Good stuff.

Let’s look at a shorter bike ride out of the city to go swimming, to see if we see any cutting of corners at higher speeds.  Here’s the overview.

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And let’s dive in on the crossing of the bridge.  In one direction I was on the road.  Whereas in another direction I was actually under the metro line (subway) that runs there on a bike path, which meant massive chunks of concrete obscuring the GPS view.  That said, it did very well both directions.  You see a tiny bit of offset GPS track to the left on the main road coming up to the bridge from the Suunto unit, but we’re only talking a few meters out of alignment.

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Let’s look at another run, this a more difficult (GPS-wise) city run in San Diego.  I ran alongside plenty of large buildings (including a stadium), but also did some running along the waterfront too.

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Let’s dive into the tall building section to see how it held.  Just to get a feel for the area, let me show you the aerial image first:

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Now since that’s kinda hard to make sense of, let’s zip back to the map.  Here you can see that both the Fenix 5 and Suunto unit struggled in the heaviest building area near the stadium.  They were both plotting points inside some buildings, though not horribly off.  I’ve seen much worse in downtown locations than this.  So it wasn’t ideal, but it’s not horrible.  Both units resumed proper tracking once leaving the downtown core.

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Finally, one more run to throw in there – this one up in Finland.  You can see at a high level that everything looks pretty good:

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All the units track very closely to one another on this.  If I look closely in one bridge section, I see that on one side of the bridge the Suunto unit shorts the trail up to the bridge, whereas on the other side the Garmin unit slightly shorts it.  I guess they were considering it equal then or something.  I see on the left side of the bank, the Suunto unit does seem incorrectly offset from the two Garmin units which appear more on the trail.  But I think we’re only talking a couple meters difference here. So not something I’d fret about.

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Overall – I’m seeing good stuff with the Spartan Wrist HR when it comes to GPS accuracy.  Note that due to weather I was only able to get a very short 300m swim in (two days ago), and that was cut short when I was pulled over by the police (mid-swim).  So…you’ll have to wait for more swim data over the coming weeks as it gets warmer out here.  I included that data nonetheless within the files, but the GPS tracks from both wrist units were pretty much dismal.  Not sure what to make of that.

Anyway – at this point I see very little (if any) differences in how the Suunto Wrist HR performs in comparison to the Garmin Fenix 5 or FR935.  They’re all pretty darn similar.  They are general quite good, but like any GPS unit can have their quirks (as demonstrated).

Note that again, you can download any of the GPS files from all of my workouts with the unit.  I think that’s really important that you can look at the actual files and not have the data obscured through statistics that may not tell the actual story.  I want you to see what the tracks look like and the circumstances related to each one.  Also, note that for *ALL* of my data I select to record at the highest fidelity possible (1-second/best recording rates, and generally GLONASS enabled).  Again, if you don’t enable 1-second/best recording rates when comparing GPS tracks, your data is useless from a comparative standpoint, your data isn’t worth any more than a half-eaten Dorito chip sitting on the side of the road.  In any case, all my data:

Suunto Wrist HR Data

DateWorkout TypeData TypeUnits UsedComparison Link
May 11th*RunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fenix 5 Optical HR, Fenix3 with TICKR X HR StrapAnalyze
May 10thOpenwater SwimGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fenix 5, Fenix3 (Reference Swim Buoy)Analyze
May 10thCyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fenix 5, Edge 820 with TICKRX HR StrapAnalyze
May 4thCyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Edge 820 with TICKRX HR Strap, Stages Dash with TICKR X HR StrapAnalyze
May 2ndRunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fenix 5 Optical HRAnalyze
APR 30th*RunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fitbit Alta HR (Optical), Fenix 5 with TICKR X HR Strap, Fenix 3 with ScoscheAnalyze
APR 28th*RunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fitbit Alta HR (Optical), Fenix 5 with TICKR X HR Strap, Fenix 3 with ScoscheAnalyze
APR 27thCyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Edge 820 with TICKRX HR StrapAnalyze
APR 24th*CyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fenix 3 with Scosche, Edge 820 with TICKR X HR StrapAnalyze
APR 15thRunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, FR935 Optical HRAnalyze
APR 13thRunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, FR935 Optical HRAnalyze
APR 11th*Cycling TrainerHRSpartan Wrist HR, Vivosmart 3 Optical HR, FR935 with TICKR X HR Strap, Edge 520, Edge 820 with ScoscheAnalyze
APR 9th*CyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Vivosmart 3 Optical HR, FR935 with Scosche HR, Edge 520, Xplova X5, Edge 820 with TICKR X HR StrapAnalyze
APR 8th*RunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Vivosmart 3 Optical HR, FR935 with Scosche HR, Fenix3 with HRM-RUN HR StrapAnalyze
APR 6th*CyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, FR935 Optical HR, Wahoo BOLT, Edge 520, Xplova X5, Edge 820 with TICKR X HR StrapAnalyze
APR 5th*RunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Polar M430 Optical HR, Fenix 3 with Scosche HR, FR935 with TICKR X HR StrapAnalyze
Apr 2ndCyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, FR935 Optical HR, Edge 820 with Scosche, Edge 520, Xplova X5 GPS, Wahoo BOLT with TICKRX HRAnalyze
Mar 30thCycling TrainerHRSpartan Wrist HR, FR935 Optical HR, Edge 1000 with TICKR X HR Strap, Edge 820 with Scosche HRAnalyze
Mar 26th*CyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, FR935 Optical HR, FR735XT with Scosche, Edge 820 with TICKR X HR StrapAnalyze
Mar 25th*RunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, FR935 Optical HR, FR735XT with Scosche, Fenix3 with HRM-RUN StrapAnalyze
May 24th*Cycling TrainerHRSpartan Wrist HR, FR935 Optical HR, Fenix3 with HRM-RUN, Edge 820 with ScoscheAnalyze
Mar 22nd*RunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, FR735XT with Scosche, Fenix3 with HRM-RUN StrapAnalyze
Mar 21stRunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fenix 5 Optical HR, Fenix3 with HRM-RUN StrapAnalyze
Mar 20th*RunningGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fenix 5 Optical HR, FR935 with HRM-RUN StrapAnalyze
Mar 19th*CyclingGPS/HRSpartan Wrist HR, Fenix 5 Optical HR, Edge 1000 with TICKR X HR StrapAnalyze

Note that I didn’t spend much time in this review evaluating the elevation accuracy, in large part because the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR unit doesn’t include a barometric altimeter.  Still, the elevation accuracy is generally better than other GPS-based altimeter units I’ve seen.  In fact, you can look at any activity within the table above and compare the elevation graphs as you see fit.  You’ll find it tracks quite closely to other barometric altimeter units I have on-hand.

Bugs & Quirks:

I often include a section in my review about specific bugs and quirks seen in the product.  From a software development standpoint, there’s often a fine line between a bug that needs fixing – and what the software industry calls ‘by design’.  Meaning it’s not technically a bug, but rather something that’s designed that way (however sucky that might be).  In my case, I’m going to call those ‘quirks’.

Note that I’m specifically looking at issues *I’ve encountered* during run/bike/swim/ski/hike/daily use/etc…  This isn’t designed to be the end-all-be-all of bugs that may exist in the product.

With that, here’s where I stand:

Bug – Optical HR sensor accuracy: As noted extensively in the section dedicated to it above, I just see variable reasons that I can’t really explain.  Other DCR readers seem to be a mixed bag as well when it comes to accuracy.  Why it’s gotten better over time is a bit of a mystery to me (and Suunto).

Bug – Phone App Sync issues: The phone app often fails to sync workouts or settings.  So often that I rarely even bother to try using it these days.  It doesn’t seem to impact smartphone notifications though, which continue to work just fine for me.

Bug – Exporting files from Movescount: Movescount does funky stuff with .FIT exports, which result in extraneous data points being added, primarily to HR data.  It doesn’t properly follow the spec.  This makes it a bit of a mess in certain services.  Suunto is aware of this and is working to address it.

Quirk – Data page customization: You can’t customize data pages without adding a new sport mode. Once you’ve selected the data fields for your given sport, you can’t just tweak them. Instead, you have to start all over again with that sport mode. Kinda annoying.

Quirk – Battery life: While it’s spec’d at 8 hours of GPS time, I question if I’m getting that. I admit that turning on the continuous HR piece does certainly negatively impact that further, I’ve had numerous cases where the battery ran out mid-workout just a day or two after I last fully charged it.  And I certainly wasn’t doing 4-6 hour workouts those days either.  I suspect that Suunto is probably hitting their numbers here, but that I’m just not used to having an endurance sport watch with this little battery life in it.

Now, I won’t list above some of the ‘annoyances’ I have that aren’t really bugs or quirks, but are definitely challenging.  For example, the lack of a way to record 24×7/RHR data is a bummer.  Same goes for lack of 3rd party on-watch app options – that too is a downgrade from the Ambit series and industry trends in general.

Also, for lack of anywhere else to point this out, the screen can appear dark – primarily/especially in photos.  You can invert the display during workouts to a much lighter scheme, though that’s not possible throughout the rest of the user interface.  In general, it’s not a big deal, but history has told me that some may find it annoying.

Product Comparison Tool:

I’ve added the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR into the product comparison tool, enabling you to see how it sizes up against other watches.  This includes units from Suunto as well as competitors like Garmin and Polar.  For the purposes of the below, I’ve compared it against three specific units I think are the most relevant competitors: Garmin Fenix 5, Suunto Spartan Sport (non-HR), and the Garmin Forerunner 935.  But if you’re looking to compare it against something else – no problem! You can use the product comparison tool to do just that and compare till your heart’s content and create your own charts!

Function/FeatureGarmin Fenix5 (5/5S/5X)Garmin Forerunner 935Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HRSuunto Spartan Ultra
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated May 17th, 2017 @ 2:53 pmNew Window Expand table for more results
Price$599$499$499$699
Product Announcement DateJan 4th, 2017Mar 29th, 2017Jan 4th, 2017June 7th, 2016
Actual Availability/Shipping DateMarch 2017Mar 29th, 2017Mar 31st, 2017August 2016
Data TransferUSB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFi (Sapphire only)USB/Bluetooth Smart/WiFiUSB & Bluetooth SmartUSB & Bluetooth Smart
WaterproofingYes - 100mYes - 50mYes - 100mYes - 100m
Battery Life (GPS)Up to 24hrs in GPS-on, up to 75hrs in UltraTrac GPSUp to 24hrs in GPS-on, up to 50hrs in UltraTrac GPSUp to 50 hoursUp to 65 hours
Recording Interval1S or Smart1S or SmartVariableVariable
AlertsVibrate/Sound/VisualVibrate/Sound/VisualSound/Visual/VibrateSound/Visual/Vibrate
Ability to download custom apps to unit/deviceYEsYesNoNo
Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)YesYesSteps only (not distance/sleep)Steps only (not distance/sleep)

Remember, you can use the full product comparison tool to create your own charts and compare watches as you see fit across virtually any watch I’ve written about.

Summary:

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Suunto has made a lot of good improvements to the Spartan series since last year when it was first released.  The number of features added is quite significant.  Though, keep in mind that many of those features were getting it back to the same point the previous generation Ambit series was at.  So in many ways it was more catch-up, than forge ahead of competitors.

Still, that work has paid off.  For example, GPS accuracy is quite good now, and core items like being able to customize data fields are back.  Their new interval functionality (the first we’ve seen on any Suunto unit), is also pretty darn good.  It not only works well enough on the unit itself, but also does a good job of tying in that data to Suunto’s site on Movescount in a meaningful interval-focused way.  And I continue to love their lap summary screen mid-workout.  It’s a super-easy way to see how you’re trending, be it on a long run or doing some sort of structured workout.

One of the challenges Suunto has though is finding a way to differentiate themselves.  With the Wrist HR, they wisely undercut Garmin’s Fenix 5/FR935 price.  Simply put: Suunto can’t compete with Garmin on features.  It’s not even close.  And accuracy between the Fenix 5/FR935 and Spartan Wrist HR is a wash.  So they’ve gotta compete in other areas, such as price.  With the Wrist HR being $499, it’s a full $100 cheaper than the Fenix 5 at $599.  On the flipside, the FR935 is $499 as well, and has all the same features as the Fenix 5.

Still, I think Suunto gets that.  I flew up to meet with them (on my own dime) just before the release of the Wrist HR.  It’s clear the company has shifted thinking into focusing almost everything on prioritizing feedback from Spartan series owners.  Their survey they sent out last year is the driving force for any new software features being made.  My hope is that they can continue the trend of notable firmware updates (they just announced a new one for next month, yesterday).  And I think they understand that they need to transition from being in Spartan feature ‘catch-up mode’ to adding ‘innovative unseen before cool-new-shit mode’.  The progress they’ve made over the last 9 months shows they are capable of righting that ship.

With that – thanks for reading!

Found this review useful? Or just wanna save a bundle of cash? Here’s how:

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

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers an exclusive 10% discount across the board on all products (except clearance items). You can pick up the Suunto Spartan Wrist HR  variants below. Then receive 10% off of everything in your cart by adding code DCR10BTF at checkout. By doing so, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get a sweet discount. And, since this item is more than $49, you get free US shipping as well.

Suunto Spartan Wrist HR (select drop-down for variants)
Suunto Spartan Wrist HR (For European Readers, ships from Europe!)

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

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