DC Rainmaker https://www.dcrainmaker.com Tue, 27 Jul 2021 01:10:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.18 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/images/2017/03/dcrainmaker-dc-logo-square-40x40.png DC Rainmaker https://www.dcrainmaker.com 32 32 Elite RIZER In-Depth Review: Incline & Steering Simulation Accessory https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2021/07/elite-rizer-review-steering-simulation-accessory.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2021/07/elite-rizer-review-steering-simulation-accessory.html#comments Mon, 26 Jul 2021 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=127677 Read More Here ]]> DSC_5738

The simplest way to explain the new Elite RIZER is that they merged a Wahoo CLIMB with an Elite Sterzo Smart, marrying both the steering aspects of the Sterzo Smart with the up and down functionality of the Wahoo CLIMB. Except, that’d probably ignore perhaps the most interesting piece here: It’s not tied to one brand’s hardware.

Anyone with a smart trainer that allows the rear axle to move can use the RIZER to simulate grades as well as steering. Sure, there’s some added bits in the Elite trainer’s firmware that provides a slightly better experience today, but ultimately, it technologically it works with any ANT+ FE-C trainer on the market (which, is all of them). But we’ll get into that later on. Just like I’ll talk about some interesting little configuration bits they’ve got in there to address things that annoyed Zwift users on the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB.

Now, I’ve been using the RIZER on and off since earlier this spring. First on a prototype unit, then a near-final production unit, and now a final-final production unit. Once I’m done with this ever-growing pile of poles I’ll have two options: The first to glue them all together and consider a career in exotic dancing, or the second, to send them back to Elite. Given nobody wants to see my pole dance, I’ll get them all re-boxed and have them pick them up. That’s just the way I roll.

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What’s in the Box:

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The Elite RIZER box is..shall we say, well constructed. This thing is clearly designed so that your RIZER doesn’t arrive broken. Roughly the size of a small university fridge, you can easily repurpose it later as a fort.

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Inside, you’re basically gonna find three things: The fully assembled RIZER itself, a massive power brick, a box of power adapters and axle adapters. Oh, and some paper stuff – including one bright orange piece when opened that’s cleverly glued to the top in a way that clearly says “For the love of @#$# just read me, I’m only 2.5 pages of 120pt font”:

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Here’s the parts laid out:

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I know I’ve said it in both the Elite Direto XR review last summer and the Suito review prior to that – but I appreciate Elite’s focus on having things pre-built rather than playing technician. Granted, the Elite Tuo was a strong outlier there.

Here’s a close look at the axle adapters:

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And the power brick:

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And also the various country cables up there too (EU/US/UK):

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Technically it’s a three part cable, with the portion that’s attached to the RIZER permanently, then the middle beast-brick, then the part that connects to the wall:

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Ok, with that all set, we’ll jump right into setting it up.

Trainer Compatibility:

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This section will be quick. Unlike the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB which is just limited to Wahoo trainers, the Elite RIZER technically supports any trainer out there that supports ANT+ FE-C. But in reality, there’s essentially two parts to the word ‘Support’, which are:

A) Does it support the ANT+ FE-C specification: This is common on virtually every trainer you could have bought for the last number of years, and is used behind the scenes (even when using Bluetooth) to monitor what the trainer is being told gradient-wise, and then mirror it. There are some further nuances to this, but by and large this isn’t the line-item you need to worry about.

B) Does the trainer support rotation at the rear axle: Next, in order to enable the RIZER to go up and down, it needs to be able to rotate your bike. Now if you look at your bike on your trainer you’ll notice that in most cases you can generally pick up the front of the bike without problem, likely quite far. However, going ‘down’ can often be an issue, as some trainers (such as the older KICKR’s) have portions of the case that bump out and would cause damage to your frame on the rear chainstay. You don’t want that. Further, on the going up piece, you’ll want to ensure it’s buttery smooth, and not herky-jerky and actually clamped down.

For Elite smart trainers, Elite has confirmed complete and full compatibility (including updated firmware for better performance) with the:

– Elite Direto XR
– Elite Direto XR-T (simply the cassette not included version)
– Elite Suito
– Elite Suito-T (again, no cassette included)
– Elite Tuo

They’ve also confirmed that the older Direto & Direto X are *NOT COMPATIBLE*, as they don’t have the rear rotation clearance.

Now for 3rd party trainers, it gets tricky. At this point Elite isn’t going to speak on behalf of any trainer companies here, because they’re not stupid. Instead, it’ll be up to 3rd party companies to confirm hardware clearance compatibility – so that if that company misspeaks, it doesn’t hurt your bike. That said, we ‘know’ some trainers are compatible, given they already support the up and down of the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB, those being:

– Wahoo KICKR 2017/V3
– Wahoo KICKR 2018/V4
– Wahoo KICKR 2020/V5
– Wahoo KICKR CORE
– Wahoo KICKR SNAP V2

From a usability standpoint I’ve only tested the KICKR 2020/V5 though, which mostly worked OK. Physically speaking, zero problems in terms of the pieces all tying together and pairing up. Steering also worked flawlessly. The incline pieces though while roughly following the terrain with the KICKR V5 weren’t as exact, which Elite says is because they have to calculate the gradient based on the speed broadcast from the trainer (and your weight). It largely works, with it only becoming a bit wobbly when you change your speed while on an incline. Elite says that other trainers could add the gradient to their data stream, which they’ll be making available, to make that just as clean/responsive as the Elite trainers. I show this in the video a bit as well.

If we look at other trainers, I haven’t fully tried them. Folks might remember the now infamous chat thread between Wahoo & TACX years ago where Wahoo’s CEO agreed to providing compatibility with the lead Tacx engineer, only to step back away from that for competitive reasons. Thus presumably, some editions of the NEO’s are probably compatible too. But again, that’d really be up to individual companies to validate.

Setting it up:

As you’ll see, setup is silly easy. First up, go ahead and figure out which axle adapter you’ll need. There’s four sets of them included in the box, for both quick release and thru-axle:

A) Quick release adapter
B) 12x100mm
C) 15x100mm
D) 15x110mm

Here’s the stack of them:

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Next, simply stick one adapter on each side of the RIZER front-axle adapter thingy. That’s the rubber chunk sticking off the front of the RIZER itself:

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Then, go ahead and stick your skewer through it (if quick release). Easy peasy:

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Now, go ahead and plug it in. Simply find the right cord adapter for your country in the box and plug it in.

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Before we go any further, if you’ve got multiple smart trainers in the room right now, unplug them. Otherwise, it might inadvertently pair to the wrong one. You can fix it later, but this will save you a few seconds.

At this point it’ll turn on and move up and down (it does this every time you add power). For the first time it does this, I’d recommend not having your bike on it. While in theory it won’t touch your bike, it’s best to simply ensure you’re in control of that inaugural flag raising rather than it. You’ll see the lights powered on.

Now, go ahead and attach your bike to it and your smart trainer. I presume you’re fully capable of sorting that by yourself:

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At this point, you can plug in your smart trainer if you haven’t already, and it’ll actually automatically pair to it. If it doesn’t though, simply hold down the lock icon for a few seconds until it starts blinking, then wait a bit longer till it stops blinking. The right light at the base will turn green, indicating it’s successfully paired up.

With pairing complete, you’re ready to roll. Err…rise.

Grade Simulation:

Using the RIZER is frankly a fairly simple affair. You get on your bike and pedal, and it goes up and down. If you turn the handlebars, then in Zwift it’ll turn left or right, the same way steering normally works on the Elite Sterzo (or, semi-similar to how it works on smart bikes). But let’s dive into each piece separately – first up, the up and down part.

There’s actually two elements at play here. The first is the vertical column, which your front fork is connected to. This column allows you to simulate grades upwards to 20% and downwards to -10%. Your front fork connects via the various adapters we talked about earlier. The connection is super stable. If the ascent is quick/sharp (like a brief steep hill), you’ll hear the relatively quiet motor moving you up. If it’s a more casual ramp, you’ll never hear it. smoothness wise seems pretty good too – nothing crazy or jerky.

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From a max loading standpoint, it’s 120KG, or 265LBS, which should cover the majority of riders. Internally, the system is a screw, which is different than the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB, which uses a belt system.  We’ve seen belt snaps on the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB over the last few years (albeit very rarely). In those cases, the cyclist got to practice their mountain biking skills momentarily, which nobody said felt great – but nobody was injured to my knowledge either.

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The outside of the case is aluminum, and then the base is a beastly stainless steel. Seriously, this thing is not at all light. Speaking of which, at the base are two LED lights. Using a combination of blue and green lights, you’ve got a wide assortment of confirmation and status messages:

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Realistically, you’ll need to have the manual nearby to decode all these though, but at least the manual is actually pretty helpful here:

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And then atop the pole you’ve got three buttons and another LED. The two arrows allow you to manually control the RIZER (up and down), while the middle lock button lets apps take control of it. Inversely, you can press it again to disallow app control. That’s useful if a small child or pet wanders nearby, so it doesn’t get squished underneath.

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Note that unlike the KICKR CLIMB, there’s no tethered remote here to control this, you’d have to reach down to the buttons. That’s not a big deal, but it’s worth mentioning. Alternatively, you can use the Elite RIZER app, which allows control as well:

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Also in the app are controls to configure individual rider profiles, including max and min incline/decline, as well as toggle the trainer difficulty and safety settings. If I switch back to Zwift, you’ll find that the RIZER properly matches the gradient in Zwift going up, assuming your trainer difficulty is set to 100%:

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Remember in Zwift that the default trainer difficulty level is 50%, which means that it’ll half any climb grades. Such that 12% becomes 6%. That doesn’t affect your speed at all, but it does affect how the trainer feels – and in turn, how high up you’ll go. I always prefer to set mine to 100%. After all, why buy a fancy trainer or grade simulation device to wimp out on the realistic feel?

However, Elite has an alternative solution for this (that the KICKR CLIMB doesn’t). Within the app there’s a setting that allows you to set the difficulty level. This way your trainer still replicates the 50% difficulty, but the RIZER goes full mast at 100% range of motion:

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Switching over to descents, it’s a bit trickier. Zwift will *ALWAYS* half your decline value, even if you’ve set Zwift to 100% trainer difficulty. They’ve done this forever, no matter how annoying it is. However, with the Elite setting toggled here, it’ll override that and have the RIZER actually go to 10% down when you’re at 10% down. Boom!

Finally, swapping back to the hardware for a second, there’s one little detail that’s worth pointing out: The entire thing actually slides forwards and backwards. As you might have realized by now, when your fork goes up and down, it’s not only changing positions vertically, but also laterally (forward/back). Thus, it has to move to account for that. To do so they’ve got these two rails, and the unit quietly slides back and forth on these as you both go up/down, as well as steer (since that changes the position slightly of the fork).

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You can see this in the video more clearly as well, if you take a look there. It’s notable that these rails aren’t loose and sliding around like a slip and slide though. It takes a fair bit of force to move it, thus, you might not even notice unless you were paying attention to the gap sizes on either side.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the RIZER from a grade simulation standpoint. It basically feels like a KICKR CLIMB to me. When I go up ascents, it goes up as it should, and down again like it should – good stuff.

Steering Simulation:

Next up, we’ve go the steering simulation. Simply put – this is virtually identical in core functionality to that of the Elite Sterzo Smart they released last summer.

At present the only app that supports steering in the smart trainer world is Zwift. Previously, Zwift had an exclusive on the Sterzo Smart, but that isn’t the case with the RIZER – so perhaps we’ll see some other apps support it. To pair up the RIZER with Zwift, you’ll go into the pairing menu and select the steering icon on the left side (which should only show up when a steering device is sensed). This works over both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart. Then, select RIZER (or, STERZO in my case because it’s prior to August and Zwift won’t show the name RIZER till August):

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At this point it’ll pair it up. Normally it’ll also show a small number, indicating any offset there to the left or right (so you can adjust the unit to make it straight). But the current Zwift production builds won’t show that for the RIZER, but will later in August.

Note that for Apple TV users, you’ll still be limited to two concurrent connections though, so just like with the Sterzo Smart if you want to also pair a heart rate sensor, you’ll have to either use the phone app or not use Apple TV (since the trainer is one connection, RIZER is another, and then the heart rate sensor would be the 3rd).

Once you select a route and start riding, you’ll get an overview screen on how steering works:

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After you dismiss that screen, you’ll notice at the top the steering icon in your display bar, indicating it’s paired and active:

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As you ride, you can control your position on the road between the centerline and the edge of the road. In other words, you can place your person anywhere in the red section I’ve highlighted like a toddler below. Like bumper bowling, you can’t leave the roadway.

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See, Zwift effectively has a default line that riders (without steering) stay on. Sure, you move around the road for various minor changes in position, by that’s all under Zwift’s control, and usually doesn’t adhere to the best line for a route. With steering, you gain an advantage. However, since launch, Zwift has sorta knee-capped steering by not enabling it for races and really not promoting its use in any way/shape/form. Thus, only a handful of races use it, and otherwise you’re just riding around by yourself steering tighter corners.

All of this is identical to how steering works on the Sterzo smart.

From a hardware standpoint, the steering simply uses your front fork rotation on the small rubber thingy that sticks out the RIZER, detecting which direction you want to go. I know there’s been more than enough discussion about the fact that on a real bike you ‘lean’ as opposed to steering (which is both correct and incorrect), but honestly, a year later, that entire discussion is well worn. Nobody that has a Sterzo Smart has had any issue with intuitively turning their handlebars to steer – because we as modern humans in the last 30 years have all played enough video games and car driving to know how to turn a device to change our direction.

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About the only tiny complaint I have about the RIZER and steering is that it’ll take a minute or so the first time you set it up to ensure that your bike/trainer/RIZER are all properly in a nice perfectly straight line. With the Sterzo Smart it seemed a little bit easier to just throw it down and it’ll all be straight. But with you attaching the RIZER to the front fork, it’s a tiny bit trickier for whatever reason to get all perfectly lined up. But again, that’s a minor nit that you rarely have to do once the RIZER is down on its spot (since it’s so darn heavy it won’t move anywhere).

RIZER vs CLIMB:

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No review would be complete without a comparison to the KICKR CLIMB. After all, the RIZER is clearly modeled after it. And in many ways they’re very similar devices. For the most part, the RIZER has more features than the CLIMB, but there are a handful of things that the CLIMB does differently.

As such, there’s no better way to illustrate differences than a table. While I’d prefer food be on the table, I’ll take one like the below instead:

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Essentially the four big differences are:

A) RIZER does steering, CLIMB doesn’t
B) RIZER works with any trainer, CLIMB only Wahoo
C) CLIMB has a handlebar remote for manual override mode, RIZER only via app
D) The price, obviously.

There are then more nuanced changes beyond that:

A) RIZER is best if you’ve got an Elite trainer
B) CLIMB is probably best if you’ve got a Wahoo trainer
C) RIZER is more expensive than the CLIMB, but it’s also got steering that the CLIMB doesn’t
D) RIZER can be adjusted to override Zwift’s Trainer Difficulty setting (specific to gradient simulation)
E) RIZER can be adjusted to compensate for Zwift’s 50% downhill gradient quirk

My recommendation here would mostly be based on how much you like steering, and then if that doesn’t matter to you it’d be based on what brand your trainer is. If you’ve got a KICKR trainer, I’d probably stick with Wahoo for more seamless integration. Whereas if you’ve got anything else, then frankly RIZER is your only choice – but now you’ve at least got an option (and a good one at that).

Wrap-Up:

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The Elite RIZER appears to be a very solidly built piece of hardware, with some pretty cool tricks up its sleeve for incline simulation. Some of those tricks might seem minor, but these minor software tweaks easily address some of the pain points people have had with the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB and Zwift. Beyond that of course, there’s the steering and open compatibility nature of the RIZER, both of which are ideal if you’re not in the Wahoo ecosystem.

In terms of the feeling of the incline simulation, it’s spot on with the Elite Direto XR that I did most of my testing with. I’m pretty happy with the smoothness and matching aspects there, pretty much on par with what Wahoo has with the KICKR+ KICKR CLIMB. On the steering side, it too was basically on-par with what we see with the Elite Sterzo Smart – the only slight difference is that it doesn’t ‘snap-back’ to the center line like the Sterzo Smart does when you let go. It didn’t have any impact though on my usage, though certainly some people may prefer one or the other.

As far as 3rd party trainers go, as I said above, it’s not a perfect solution in terms of responsiveness of the gradient simulation, at least until other companies implement the transmitted gradient in the data stream. Elite says they’re more than willing to share that with any trainer company that asks for it. Whether or not others take them up on that, I’ve got no idea. I could see the business case for and against. There was opportunity to cooperate years ago, before it got squashed. Perhaps that’ll happen again. After all, that’s the entire point of protocols and ecosystems – to allow consumer choice and increase competitiveness on the merits of their own products, rather than just ecosystem lock-in.

Finally, there’s the price aspect. The USD pricing on the Elite RIZER is tough, and Elite admits that. They’ve noted that the cargo container shipping cost from Europe to the US has increased for them by 400% since last August – and ultimately, is the singular reason the price of the RIZER isn’t closer to parity. They said they don’t like it any more than anyone else, but that’s the card they (and virtually every other company on this planet) have been dealt. They said once those costs come down, they’d love to reduce the USD price of RIZER, as they acknowledge it’s hard to be competitive there. Nonetheless, for Europeans – the pricing is more competitive once you consider the added features (or the fact that it’s available for any trainer).

Elite has started production of the RIZER, and you should see these arrive later in August in Europe, and then into September or early October for North America markets. That timeline is basically how Elite does production each year for new products.

With that – thanks for reading!

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Suunto 9 Peak In-Depth Review https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2021/07/suunto-9-peak-gps-watch-in-depth-review.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2021/07/suunto-9-peak-gps-watch-in-depth-review.html#comments Wed, 21 Jul 2021 18:38:33 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=127592 Read More Here ]]> DSC_4753

I’ve been wearing the Suunto 9 Peak for about two months now, getting a feel for how it handles workouts as well as day-to-day wear. In many ways, the Suunto 9’s biggest changes are physical in nature – the design, shape, and size. And for a lot of potential buyers, these were seen as must-have changes in order to consider a Suunto. In my eyes, Suunto has never made a nicer looking watch.

Internally though, there’s also changes. Be it in the optical heart rate sensor hardware package with new SpO2 monitoring, or the software updates with new features like Snap to Route, for perfect GPS tracks on pre-planned routes. Though, many of the software-focused updates Suunto made available to existing Suunto 9 and Suunto 5 users a few weeks later, a nice touch and departure from what I expected. Thus for a lot of people – the Suunto 9 Peak vs Suunto 9 Baro decision is going to come down more to hardware looks than software features.

In any case, in this review I’ll dive through all the new features, what works well and what doesn’t, plus the usual bits like accuracy. Plus, we’ll talk a bit about where Suunto stays on the competitive landscape in mid-2021.

Oh, speaking of which, these are media loaner units, and both sets will go back to Suunto afterwards. If you found this post useful, consider becoming a DCR Supporter which makes the site ad-free, while also getting access to a mostly weekly video series behind the scenes of the DCR Cave. And of course, it makes you awesome.

What’s New:

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The Suunto 9 Peak is in many ways still the same software you’d find on a previous Suunto 9 unit. Thus it’s a full-featured multisport watch that connects to Bluetooth sensors and syncs all that data to your phone via the Suunto App, and then onwards to TrainingPeaks, Strava, and countless other partners. If you’ve had a Suunto 3/5/9 watch in the past (or a Suunto Spartan series watch), you’ll be pretty familiar with the core of the Suunto 9 Peak – most of it hasn’t changed.

However, there are a pile of things that have changed, and I’ve tried to consolidate all of them into this simple bulleted list:

– New exterior design, far thinner at 10.6mm (compared to 15.4mm on the Suunto 9 Baro)
– New 1.2” trans reflective display
– New optical heart rate sensor from LifeQ (same company as on Suunto 7)
– New blood oxygen/Sp02 sensor
– New magnetic charging cable design (doesn’t need to be precisely placed anymore)
– New fast charging (1hr to full, versus 4hrs to full previously)
– New Snap to Route GPS track option
– New Tour Mode (this technically was added to Suunto 9 Baro two months ago though)
– New wireless firmware updates over Bluetooth Smart
– New ambient light sensor for automatic backlight illumination
– New light (white) watch face themes (as opposed to black only)
– New Suunto App first use pairing (to sync in your profile + date/time)
– New SuuntoPlus Ghost Runner screen option
– New standard 22mm watch straps (woot!)
– All Suunto 9 units include a barometric altimeter (previously, the lower-end Suunto 9 didn’t)

Got all that? Good.

No? No problem, this video explains everything in one go:

Pricing wise, there’s two simple pricing tiers – one at $699/699EUR which is for the titanium models, which are 15% lighter (54g vs 62g), while the $569/569EUR models are stainless steel. All models have a barometric altimeter, and identical battery/feature specs. You’re simply paying for the bezel/weight/case/strap differences here.

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On the Suunto 9, as noted all units include a barometric altimeter. This is notable not because that’s, of course, the way it should be in 2021 at this price point (or even 5 years ago), but because Suunto explicitly noted it in their press materials, saying “We have decided that all our flagship products will contain the barometric altitude without needing to state that in the name (like we did with the previous Suunto 9 [Baro])”. That’s good – and I’m happy to see both that, as well as the reduced naming confusion.

Size & Weight Differences:

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Before we dive into features, let’s just take a quick look at some of the material and size differences, as well as some quick comparisons. The differences are massive compared to the original Suunto 9 units:

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And while the original band of the Suunto 9 was technically removable, you still had the beastly watch strap connection towers to contend with, no matter what band you put on there.

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With the Peak, they’re pretty much normal sized:

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Here’s a comparison against the Polar Grit X:

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And the Garmin Fenix 6S (that’s the most similar size-wise to the Suunto 9 Peak, and essentially the same price):

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And the COROS Vertix:

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Weight-wise, they came in on my little scale at 54g for the titanium, and 62g for the stainless steel:

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It’s one of the nicest looking watches I’ve had in quite a while. The side bezels almost feel Apple-like, kinda like the new iPad Pro or such, with the flat edges. Or I suppose, like the older iPhones. Either way – I like it.

Now, if you want the full unboxing experience, then check out this video I just uploaded – complete with the unboxing and size/weight comparison of every Suunto 9 Peak model, to a slew of different Garmin/Wahoo/COROS/Suunto watches:

Ok, now let’s start using the thing.

The Basics:

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This review has two core chunks to it – this first chunk is all about the ‘Basics’ of the watch, things like 24×7 activity tracking, the smartphone app, and general usability. Whereas in the ‘Sport Usage’ section I dive into the nuances of workouts and sweaty stuff.

To begin, as you’ve likely deduced by now, the watch has three buttons. In addition, it’s also a touchscreen within non-sport settings, mainly for things like swiping and confirming choices. In most cases though, I find it easier to use the buttons.

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The three button layout has been the same through a number of Suunto generations. And seemingly with it, whatever processor is used on the Suunto 9 Peak. If I had to narrow down to just one complaint, it’s simply that it’s slow and laggy in the menus/interface. Given most other competitors are relatively snappy, it’s most noticed when doing things like navigating to a sport mode. Once in a sport and working out, you don’t tend to notice it as much, unless you change data pages. I show this a bit in the various videos in this review.

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However, what Suunto lacks in processor changes, they made up with changes to the charging cable for the Suunto 9 Peak. They’ve ditched their previous design for a new round charging puck. The older design often misaligned, resulting in you not actually charging your watch. The new one is also magnetic, but self-aligns itself properly, and is near impossible to incorrectly attach. I like it!

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Also, it charges really fast. Like, faster than my brain expects it to, usually filling up from under 10% to near 100% in under an hour.

Next to the charging port you’ll find the straps, which are removable for any stock 22mm strap. While the previous Suunto 9 Baro straps were also removable, they sorta formed a plastic arch that if you swapped out, kinda looked odd. But with the new straps, you can buy whatever the heck you want online.

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Now directly inside the charging port is the new optical heart rate sensor package. Suunto has ditched Valencell for this, and gone with LifeQ – the same company that they used on the Suunto 7. In addition, with it they’ve added a SpO2 blood oxygen sensor. The green LED lights monitor your heart rate 24×7, though only records at 10-minute intervals to the app. That’s substantially below industry norms of every second, but perhaps things might change. See, while the Suunto 9 Peak only *RECORDS* the data once per 10 minutes, the sensor is actually on constantly (versus prior, the sensor only lit up once per 10 mins).

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Within the watch menu you can swipe down to get to the heart rate screen, where you can see your current heart rate (for one-off checks) – as well as pull open the last 12 hours of your heart rate readings.

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Regardless of whether or not you do spot checks, your data is saved and synced with the Suunto App, where you can look at the breakdown as you see fit by picking the date on the calendar, then scrolling down. You can’t zoom in or anything else though from that screen.

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Meanwhile, back on the watch at the heart rate screen, if you then tap the small blood drop icon, you can then get a blood oxygen level reading:

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Over the last few years we’ve seen many companies go into the blood oxygen realm, including Garmin, Apple, COROS, Fitbit, and more. There’s two main areas of interest. The first is sleep-related metrics and tracking SpO2 readings, which can be used around sleep conditions like sleep apnea. For the Suunto 9 Peak though, Suunto doesn’t care about that. As such, they don’t do any 24×7 type recordings/tracking – only one-off manual measurements.

Instead, they care about the second scenario, which is taking a point in time reading primarily at high altitude. Blood oxygen measurements have long been used in high altitude climbing to assess whether it’s safe to continue. That’s Suunto’s main focus here. The question is, is it accurate?

Simply put: Sometimes. Sometimes not.

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Understanding that I’ve talked at length over the years about SpO2 measurement and specifically how these compare to medical-grade devices (in both use case and accuracy), I have a certified medical-grade device to measure and compare. In general, the best case scenario (and what the FDA certifies medical devices against) is that you’re sitting still in a chair when the measurement is taken – not trouncing about the side of a mountain. Thus, I’ll use the chair as my baseline, since that’s comparing apples to apples. When I hold perfectly still for extra long, I usually get the same results (within 1%):

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However, if there’s even the slightest bit of movement – sometimes after the reading shows actually, it’ll change the results drastically – to something in the mid-80’s or low 90’s. I think the core issue is Suunto is TOO lenient with respect to movement. Both Apple & Garmin quickly discard attempts when there’s even the slightest movement, and Suunto needs to do the same to ensure proper accuracy is maintained.

Tied into heart rate driven metrics is both Stress & Body Resources. Both of these metrics are supplied using Firstbeat technologies – meaning that they’ll be identical whether they’re on a Garmin watch or a Suunto watch. Both companies call it stress, but for Resources, Garmin calls it Body Battery (versus just ‘Resources’ for Suunto).

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Next, we’ve got more general stats like steps and active calories, which can be viewed on a per day basis or a per week basis:

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As with the heart rate, you can see these stats in the smartphone app as well:

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After that there’s an altimeter screen, showing your current altitude and barometric pressure, using the barometric altimeter. You can also toggle to the temperature too, though, that’ll be impacted by your skin temperature.

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Then below that is training load, shown weekly. Since this is a bit earlier in the week, the numbers are still a bit low. You can tweak your goal within the app too, not only for weekly training goal, but also steps, calories, and sleep:

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After that are your sleep details. This is recorded nightly automatically, and you can see a weekly trend of how your sleep is, as well as your resting heart rate values for each night:

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In fact, when you first wake up, it’ll theoretically show a screen showing your sleep summary (waiting for you). But I find in practice, you’ll miss it unless you catch those few seconds that it quietly shows itself. I prefer what we see Apple do with the Apple Watch wake-up screen when you first wake up, just being there until you dismiss it.

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And again, all of this is viewable in the smartphone app too:

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The last widget is your current fitness level and fitness age. In this case, it’s showing your estimated VO2Max as your fitness level, and the fitness age too. Neither of these seem correct to me. Not even the most optimistic fitness age would have me at 20 years old (I’m 38), most put me in the upper 20’s (for fitness age). Nor is my VO2Max down at 52-53, where the Suunto thinks it is.

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In any event, we’ll round up this section with a few quick odds and ends. First up, there’s a settings menu. In that you’ll find things like pairing sensors (more on that later), pairing your phone, changing the watch face, and other boring settings.

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From a watch face standpoint, it’s not super exciting either. There’s no customization of watch faces like you’d see on a Garmin, Apple, Samsung, Wear OS, etc… watch. It’s just a handful of generic ones.

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You can set alarms including sleep alarms, a storm alarm, sunrise, and sunset alarms.  The sleep alarm allows you to configure it based on weekdays or daily (or a one-off), for a specific time. There’s no sleep-stage/cycle type alarms here (which are honestly pretty rare across the board in sport watches).

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With that, we’ve covered pretty much all the non-sport basics. So, let’s get into why you actually bought this watch.

Sport Usage:

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If you’re picking up the Suunto 9 Peak, it’s likely for its sporting and/or navigation uses. Both of these features virtually mirror that of the existing Suunto 9 series, so if you’re familiar with those, it’s basically the same firmware here. I’m mostly going to focus on the sports workout side in this section, and then touch on the newer Snap to Route navigational features in the next section (which includes following/navigation of a track/route). For more general navigation features, check out my original Suunto 9 review, that gives the handful of things leftover outside of that.

To start a workout, you’ll swipe up to the ‘Exercise’ screen, it’s here that you can choose from a boatload of sports:

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Each sport has various specifics about it, such as data fields, that can be customized within the Suunto smartphone app. Within the app (while connected to the watch), choose the watch icon in the upper left corner, and then select ‘Sport Mode Customization’. From there you’ve got a list of sports to choose from that are loaded in the watch. These default modes aren’t customizable, but if you want to create your own customizable mode, then you can tap to do so, which allows you to choose from all the same sport modes and actually customize the data fields. Realistically, it’s silly you can’t just customize the default modes (which is what Suunto used to allow years ago).

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You can select up to four data pages, with up to 7 data fields on it, as well as interval pages and graph pages. The user interface here is pretty clean and easy to use.

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Here’s a complete list of data fields you can choose across the platform. This is relatively comparable to the fields you’d find on a Garmin, Polar, or COROS sports-focused watch.

The main gaps you’ll see here are mostly around cycling power data fields, lacking things like TSS/NP/IF, advanced pedaling metrics, or power balance (e.g. power meter pedals). None of those exist here. Technically Suunto allows you to add another data field called SuuntoPlus, which can cover at least the TSS power metrics, via their TrainingPeaks Cycling Power field:

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But you have to remember to add that *EVERY TIME* you start a new workout, and it’s sorta a sloppy-seconds solution. When Suunto first came out with the SuuntoPlus concept for data fields it seemed like a good minor stopgap compared to Garmin’s Connect IQ data field customization. But these days, it just needs to be rolled in as a data field you can select like any other (and remember it).

Once you’ve got your sport mode selected on the watch, you can swipe down to customize per-run features, such as the SuuntoPlus page I just mentioned. Same goes for configuring zones, as well as setting a target for that workout (simply a duration or distance).

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Below that is the option for navigation, and this is where you can choose breadcrumb, POIs, Routes, Bearing, or Snap to Route:

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All of these pull from things (Routes or POI’s) that you’ve pushed to your watch from the app. Suunto has spent a fair bit of time over the last two years in expanding out their Suunto App navigation and routing engine, and it’s really quite good these days for finding and creating routes, including detailed heatmap layers and searching for popular starting locations.

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We’ll dive into the navigation bits a bit more in the Snap to Route section.

Below that you’ve got the ability to create/add intervals. These aren’t structured workouts though, but rather one-off intervals where you define a work and recovery duration, as well as the number of repeats. Think of it as on the fly intervals more than something super complex and heavily pre-planned.

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Finally, you’ve got a slate of options that basically influence battery life and sensors. You can toggle whether to search for power meters, whether or not your wrist HR sensor is enabled (which burns battery), as well the exact battery mode you’re in (which in turn tweaks other settings to improve battery life). You can toggle the various battery modes, even mid-workout, in order to ensure your watch will make it. In fact, once the watch learns your weekly patterns it’ll remind you the night before what it presumes might be a long run/ride to charge if it thinks you won’t have enough juice.

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Now before we start the activity, let’s briefly talk about sensor connectivity, such as external heart rate sensors, power meters, and speed/cadence sensors. The Suunto 9 Peak supports all of these (mostly). To pair a sensor you head into the settings menu and you can pair a new sensor from one of these categories:

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The problem though is that you can only have a single sensor saved, pushing the rest out. So if you’ve got two bikes, you’re hosed, as it deletes the previous power meter (or trainer) when you pair a new one. All other manufacturers have long moved past that to having multiple sensors saved, making it easy to switch bikes. Making matters worse is that if you forget to add a new sensor before a ride, there’s no way to access that menu mid-ride. But even if you do realize it while waiting for the sensor to show up on the Exercise Sport screen, you’ve got to navigate all the way from that screen all the way back through the sluggish user interface to the settings menu, which takes forever.

This is a good example of something that should have been addressed years ago, and somehow just keeps getting the can kicked down the road. But it’s these sorts of things (along with the other power related data fields) that cause Suunto to lose the cycling and triathlete user base to Garmin/Polar/COROS. And the triathletes especially used to be one of Suunto’s mainstays.

In any event, with all our settings sorted (and heart rate + GPS acquired), we’ll hit the start button to begin recording a workout. At this point you’ll see your data pages as configured, and fields shown. From here on, the touchscreen is disabled, so you’ll use buttons to flip between data pages.

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Screen visibility is mostly OK for me and my eyes during a workout outdoors. Whereas in regular day to day use I find it a bit dim still for my preferences, especially compared to other watches these days. With the backlight on, it’s easier to read. Also notable is that Suunto does now have the option to flip between dark and light mode for workouts, and I find the light mode far easier to read than dark.

When it comes to things like GPS pace stability, that was good for me. In running, Suunto uses a blend of GPS data with wrist-based accelerometer data, so it smooths out any GPS quirks by cross-referencing that against what your running stride (via wrist) is doing.

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After you’ve completed a workout you’ll whack the stop button and then get offered the smiley face of your choice to rank your workout. This is then saved to the Suunto App for later reference.  After that you’ll get workout summary information in a long page full of details:

All of this information is then available later on from the Suunto smartphone app, as well as then synced to any 3rd party apps like Strava or TrainingPeaks (that you’ve configured in your profile settings).

Since we’re in the app, now’s a good time to mention that you can see all your activity history here pretty easily. For example, my fairly relaxing July thus far, and depending on which part of the app you’re in, you’ll get different metrics including training load related stats (see my full post on how Suunto training load and recovery works):

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Some of these metrics are Suunto home-baked algorithms, some are TrainingPeaks algorithms, and some are FirstBeat algorithms (such as body resources and sleep).

I like the day-by-day view. For example, here’s yesterday, and you can see how it starts off with my run up top, and then I’ve got my sleep down below, followed by body resources over the course of the day, then my heart rate and steps.

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In general, Suunto has done a pretty good job at focusing on their app over the last couple of years and ramping it up, and this past spring especially, focusing on the athletic areas like the training load and recovery. I’m looking forward to seeing where that goes over the next while, as I think all watchmakers are realizing that it’s not just the watch – but the entire platform, that people want to invest in.

Snap to Route GPS:

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I suspect for most people, the new Snap to Route feature is probably of most interest, so I’ve separated out this entire feature into its own section in the review. If you read my initial hands-on post when the watch first came out, this section is largely unchanged. However, I have updated it based on usage over the past two months, including notably, my two-months later impressions towards the end of this section.

The main point of Snap to Route is essentially keeping your recorded GPS file/track ‘on track’ to a predefined GPS route. Thus, it requires you load a route ahead of time to your watch. Meaning, this is great for races or other routes where you’ve got a predetermined plan in advance. But it’s not usable/available for cases where you just go out for a random run/ride without any preset/loaded plan.

Thus, to begin, you’ll need to sync a route to your watch from the Suunto app. You can create a new route there, or you can pull in routes from files (aka a GPX file), or from Komoot. For this example, I tapped my way around a map to create a horrifically challenging GPS route under massive 8-12 lane bridges (twice), and then up and down the business district of Amsterdam, with most of the buildings at 20-25 stories tall, and tiny alleyways and streets between them. Heck, at least when running in NYC you’ve got grand avenues that give GPS a hope and a prayer.

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Next, on the watch you’ll go and choose a sport mode like normal. In my case I selected running, but you can choose whatever you want (as long as it supports routes in general). It doesn’t really matter here. Then, you’ll scroll down to Navigation, and select ‘Snap to Route’:

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After that, you’ll choose your routes of choice:

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This loads it up just like a normal route would, except, it tells the watch to snap your tracks to that route. So you’ll still get turn-by-turn directions as you would with the recent update, and you’ll still see the route shown on the map too. Here’s the route profile:

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It’ll tell you that your GPS track will follow the route:

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And now, you can go ahead and press start like normal. You’ll see your track/route as your run and the planned route (or ride/etc..):

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At this point, you basically just do what you normally do. There isn’t much of a difference here. Like before, if you go off-track or get lost, it’ll tell you as such. In my case, I followed the track without issue, including through these little gems of small streets, with 25 story buildings on both sides of me. Up and down, street after street:

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Remember, the key thing the Suunto 9 Peak is trying to do here is guard against poor GPS signal/accuracy. And while GPS units do know how many satellites they have, and whether or not that data is more or less trustworthy, those assumptions are not perfect – especially in urban canyons, where reflections off of buildings can lead to unpredictable results. Thus essentially, this technology says “I don’t trust the GPS for minor to moderate disagreements on the GPS track”. So as long as you’re within realm of the GPS track, it stays stuck on it.

Think of yourself as on a cable above a roadway, on your predefined track. You can meander around a bit, hit up a bush on the side of the road, fill up a water bottle at a fountain – and it won’t change the GPS track. You’re still close enough that the ‘leash’ it has stays snapped to the road. But go far enough away from the roadway, and eventually the leash snaps, and you are set free.

And, to fast forward to the result, here’s a comparison of what the GPS tracks looked like side by side Suunto 9 Peak (at left) versus an older Suunto 9 Baro (at right):

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And then adding in/versus a newer Gamin Forerunner 745:

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As you can easily see, the tracks look far better on the Suunto 9 Peak. As it’s virtually flawless. I say virtually because there are slight cases where my plotting of the GPS route was imprecise, so it snapped to that too, such as this one corner where I apparently misplaced the dot on the map, so it did too (in real-life I made that corner seamlessly).

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The downside here though is that sometimes your current route and your planned route are similar, but not the same. For example, yesterday on my run there’s a few times where the trail I was on splits to three separate paths: Bike, pedestrian/running, and horses (yes, really). When you arrive at that junction, the breadcrumb trail on the Suunto 9 Peak certainly isn’t detailed enough to give you any indication which is which. So, you pick one. Then, as these three mostly parallel trails separate (by about 5-10 meters each), you start to realize you were on the wrong one from what you planned.

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In 95% of use cases, it’s no big deal, the end-state distance is the same, but, it re-iterates that this is really best for races where you’re *VERY* sure of the path, and not super ideal for spur of the moment day to day runs.

So what happens when you go off-track? Well, it depends. The short version is that eventually it’ll release its grasp of you.

You can see that most easily here on this little section I did where I ignored the route (and turn), and continued to run along the river a bit longer. At first it ignored me, and then eventually it released its grip and started recording my new GPS track. However, as I started a small loop back towards the route, once I got close enough, it “snapped” me back to the route. In this case, my GPS route doesn’t show the correct place I ran (in highlighter yellow), but did its job of snapping me onto the route (attempting to guard against poor GPS signal).

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This is because while the threshold to ‘break away’ from the GPS route is 100m (away), the threshold to rejoin the route is set quite a bit lower, down to 20m. So you can see when I get within 20m of the route again, it snapped me back in. The reason for the lower threshold is to prevent oscillations when you’re near the 100m threshold.

Inversely, what happens if the route you created was wrong to begin with? Well, your new GPS track will be wrong too – at least if the route is close enough. Take a look at the below. Again, yellow where I actually ran, red where the GPS route (and the subsequent track was). In this case, while creating the route the automatic routing engine in the Suunto App happened to place me in the middle of the cow field. I didn’t catch this when I created the route, since this was a simple farm road I’ve run countless times, and it never occurred to me that it would route me through a cow field on that section. The distance between those two segments was maybe about 100m away. You’ll see that was within the threshold for the algorithm, so it kept me on the pre-determined route:

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The algorithm seems to handle lollipop-style routes well, as well as numerous crisscrossing of the route. If you thought my city route was devilishly mean, you should check out this route I created, which includes two very close to each other (30-50m) paths/trails and then me switching back and forth on those paths in both directions. The most recent beta firmware has handled this perfectly – correctly getting exactly which path I should be on in which direction and which side:

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Now granted, it helps that it knows the distance of where you should be, and can cross-reference that against not just the wrist-based accelerometer distance estimates. And again, this is still early days for the algorithm. I’m hoping we’ll continue to see more and more refinements and tweaks with it going forward to really finesse some of the minor tweaks. For example, I suspect they could narrow down both of my off-route adventures a bit more, and reduce the separation threshold too.

One has to keep in mind though that this depends on the accuracy of your initial route, as well as the underlying map data. For example – in most cities/towns, that GPS data is very good, because it’s got years of companies going out and ensuring the exact positions of those roads (and even bike paths) match GPS coordinates with highly sophisticated equipment. So that’s great and as long as you run in the same spot/line you created the route, you’re good.

However, in the mountains, this tends to be far less accurate. Most of the trails are frankly just ‘guesses’, especially when it comes to complex switchbacks against mountainsides. Even on some of the most frequented trails in and around hotspot destinations like Chamonix, you’ll find the trails per the map aren’t exact replications of reality. More like water paintings. Thus, while this can still be used in off-road adventures, it won’t likely be as solid as with more urban routes.

So let’s quickly recap where it does and doesn’t work well:

Things it will do well:

– Big city marathons with lots of buildings and GPS interference
– Routes where you might have tunnels or bridges, and want clean distance totals
– Handles trees or such that could block the GPS signal from accurately displaying your route

Things it won’t do well (or at all):

– Free-form workouts without a plan
– Places where the mapped trail accuracy (especially switchbacks) might not be good
– Fix issues with your own GPS route (such as misplacing points/dots on the map)

Now it’s funny, I imagine other GPS makers this morning are probably leaning back in their chairs drinking their morning coffee going “How cute Suunto! You fixed GPS accuracy…by simply faking the GPS track!” – along with a side of bewilderment at the brazen nature of the idea. After all, it’s so obvious it’s almost dumb. So much so that undoubtedly Garmin and Polar are saying “Are you $h!tting me? They get credit for that?”.

Yet, it’s so perfect for the intended use case. If I’m running a race, I don’t give a rat’s behind about my actual GPS track full of errors around big buildings. Instead, I want my pacing and distance during that race to be spot-on, and I want my actual GPS track afterwards to show the route I actually ran, which, for 99.9% of races is where the race course was. Everything else is tech chatter. And to that end, Suunto achieved exactly that – even if they did it via the most hilariously brazen way possible: Taking the answer sheet from the teacher.

With all that said – two months later what’s my thoughts on it? Well, I simply didn’t use it day to day (as expected). I used it yesterday for fun in a ~15KM route through the forest, but that’s about it. There’s no immediate races on my calendars here, but I would definitely use it in something like that. I did however very much appreciate knowing that my current (total) distance is exactly where I should be on this course. Meaning that the course as spec’d was 14.9KM (the point I returned to the same spot I started at). So while running, the fact that I know when passing through 14.0KM I had exactly 900 meters left, was handy. Versus on other GPS watches you’ve got some small factor of GPS inaccuracy to also account for (e.g. maybe a couple hundred meters on a distance that long).

GPS & HR Accuracy:

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There’s likely no topic that stirs as much discussion and passion as GPS or heart rate 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 don’t 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 9 Peak activities however, all workouts only had a single device per wrist).  But often I’ll simply carry other units by the straps, or attach them to the shoulder straps of my hydration backpack.  Plus, wearing multiple watches on the same wrist is well known to impact optical HR accuracy.

Meanwhile, for HR accuracy testing I’m typically wearing a chest strap (either the Polar H10 or the Garmin HRM-PRO, but also a bit of Wahoo TICKR/TICKR X too in this post) as well as another optical HR sensor watch on the bicep (mostly a blend of the Polar OH1 Plus & Polar Verity Sense, as well as the Scosche Rhythm+ 2.0, with a few Whoop 3.0 band sessions tossed in for fun). 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.

So, let’s dig right into it with a 16KM run from yesterday. This was a reasonably warm run for conditions around here, which at first glance might not mean anything accuracy-wise, but as you’ll see, sometimes it does. I had the Suunto 9 on one wrist, the Casio GSW-H1000 Wear OS watch on the other, and then a FR945LTE along for the ride (paired to a TICKR-X heart rate strap). Here’s that data set, starting with GPS first:

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At a high level, things look pretty normal – likely because this specific run is using Snap to Route (don’t worry, I’ll show non-Snap ones in a second). So let’s zoom in on a few sections. Notably, this completely boring section of straightaway followed by a turn. I note this because all units at first glance got this right. But in reality, the Suunto 9 Peak got it both right and wrong. Yes, following the Snap to Route course it was exactly where it thought it was.

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But on that left turn there (with the two red arrows), where the actual path goes in real life isn’t what the mapping provider shows. Instead, the path goes out a little ways before making that turn. However since we’re in Snap to Route mode, the Suunto 9 dutifully followed it’s predefined track, and basically cut the corner. I don’t bring this up to say Suunto did anything wrong here, instead to point out that you really want to use this mode in very specific scenarios, like this below as well:

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For fun, as I neared the end of this run, I decided to keep running a ways. You can see how it properly leaves the Snap to Route course on the left side near that intersection, and then I cross the street and all the units are nice and tidy.

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Now this particular run wasn’t super complicated GPS-wise, and thus, this is a case where probably just going with the regular GPS mode would have been a slightly more accurate choice. Whereas above, when I showed the complicated city run, that was clearly better for snap to route.

Now, looking at the heart-rate side of that run, things were a bit wild! To begin, clearly the Casio crapped itself from the beginning for about a mile or so (7-8 mins). That’s a whole separate discussion for another day. Meanwhile, the Suunto 9 Peak in blue initially for the first minute had a nice clean build, and then seemed to lose the plot briefly for about a minute. However, after that point it recovered relatively nicely. This run was pretty steady-state, so the excitement was supposed to be minimal.

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However, as the run continued on, and my sweat continued to drip, we can see the TICKR X really struggled. It was all over the map here. I’ve never seen anything like this from it before. Seriously, this is a complete dumpster fire – and the Casio isn’t helping the game either.

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Now what’s interesting here is again, this is a steady-state run. Check out the paces and cadence. The only cadence drops you see are what looks like one-off errors from the Suunto unit, but the FR945 shows basically a perfectly non-stop and stable run. Point being, there’s no good reason for the HR to look like the above, from anyone, in the last 30 minutes. The Suunto 9 Peak HR is the most stable of the bunch though, and do keep in mind that the scale of this graph makes these look worse than it is (except the TICKR X, that’s truly far worse).

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Ok, moving along to an interval run I did a few weeks ago with my wife. Disappointingly (and rarely), I didn’t record a 3rd HR channel on this one. But it’s fun to look at nonetheless. I wasn’t going to include it since I lacked a reference source, but looking at the data, it’s actually pretty darn close – most intervals were actually quite close – despite these intervals only lasting between 15 seconds and 90 seconds long.

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Looking at the GPS tracks here, it’s really easy to judge because I know exactly where I ran. Granted, it was farm roads, thus, it’d have taken a special talent to screw up. They were perfect out there.

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Meanwhile, both the FR945 and Suunto 9 Peak bobbled the train underpass section. This particular bridge really troubles a lot of GPS watches, though this is the first time I’d give non-strong marks to the FR945’s pass through it.

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Meanwhile, I’ve got plenty of relatively steady-state runs. And they’re all pretty much boring and predictably accurate, like this one in Paris last week. For some of these runs, I just wasn’t really in full blown testing mode, so I didn’t have a chest strap too. Though, we hardly need it on this one. We can see the Suunto 9 Peak characteristically missed the first few mins before catching up, and then matched the FR945LTE correctly the remainder:

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GPS meanwhile, was a bit more wobbly. Both watches have similar, if not the exact same, Sony GPS chipsets. And neither did an amazing job here. Of course, it’s dense city in the heart of Paris, so I know well enough having lived in this neighborhood for more than half a decade that it’s tough. Some sections were really good (like the left side), and others less so (like the middle of this screenshot):

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I’m not sure if both were upset at me or not, but neither did a great job either in the open areas. Neither were correct, but they mirrored each other. If they had just split the difference they would have been spot on:

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In fact, I’d even say this is one of the worst runs I’ve seen in this sections (which I’ve run hundreds and hundreds of times), from both players:

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Real quickly, here’s another Paris run. This one the Suunto 9 Peak mostly got the start right, so good here:

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On the GPS side, it was mostly fine too. Both units disagreed about exactly where I was (consistently) on the garden perimeter loop, each time, but I suppose at least they were consistent in their disagreement.

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Look at that, it’s like they were both afraid to actually be on the path:

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Again, for Strava purposes, being 1-3 meters off is no big deal. It’s just more of an interesting curiosity to me.

Let’s switch up sports though, and go to cycling. Starting indoors with an interval workout, you can see the Suunto 9 Peak easily nails it accuracy-wise (data set here):

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Outside of a slight bobble the first few seconds it matches the TICKR X chest strap and FR945 LTE Optical HR sensor near perfectly. Some minor differences between the units for 1-2BPM here and there, but basically a wash.

Next, let’s shift outside from a ride this past Sunday. About 90 minutes or so at sunset, mostly smooth roads, with one gravel section tossed it for fun. This is compared to a Wahoo TICKR (non-X), a Whoop strap, and the FR945 LTE. Here’s that data:

image

While the Suunto 9 Peak struggled to find its place in life the first 5-6 minutes, after that it really settled down and actually did a surprisingly good (and similar) job to the FR945 LTE’s optical HR sensor. More importantly though, it was very close throughout the ride to the Wahoo TICKR chest strap. There was really only a couple of moderate sprints where it detached from reality, and interestingly, so did the FR945 LTE. That’s not super uncommon, optical HR sensors often struggle cycling outdoors in sprints.

What was interesting though was that during the sprint the Suunto 9 Peak ‘dropped’ the HR (too low), while the FR945 LTE incorrectly spiked it (too high). We’d see this same pattern at the very end of the ride as well. In any case, as usual with cycling, I generally recommend either a dedicated upper-arm band optical HR sensor, or a chest strap.

Meanwhile, if we look at GPS accuracy on this ride – all units were near identical. This included the Suunto 9 Peak, Garmin Edge 1030 Plus, Wahoo BOLT V2, Garmin Edge 530, and Garmin FR945 LTE:

image

Skimming across the entire GPS track, it’s identical to all the other units – the entire time. Road cycling is pretty easy for GPS, and it’s incredibly rare to find meaningful issues. A unit has to really hose up royally.

image

I only found a single section with one turn that any unit differed, where the BOLT V2 (in green) slightly undercut the corner by I’m guessing a couple meters. But that’s it on an entire 90 min ride.

image

So, let’s go somewhere that’s more challenging – an openwater swim. While I’m going to be doing an entire openwater swim bake-off starting next week (woot, two weeks away in a warm water locale!), this swim should tide you over till then. This is compared to a FR945 LTE on one wrist, and then a GPS atop a swim buoy as the reference track.

image

As you can see, the tracks are relatively similar, but the Suunto 9 is clearly a bit more wobbly and less accurate than the FR945 LTE – notice especially in the upper right side and lower right sides where it’s off occasionally, adding distance. In the end, between the undercuts and overages, it only ended up being about 70m longer than the rest of the track, but still, that’s kinda a ways.

Interestingly, in one of the extreme rare cases of the reference track being a touch bit off, you can see as I rounded one of the channel marker towers, the GPS on the reference track cut the corner incorrectly. It’s plausible the watch flipped over on the strap, and got into the water (thus minimizing signal), or who knows what. Usually I have it pretty tight on there.

image

The FR945 LTE though on my wrist nailed this buoy turn perfectly, including that tiny bit of drift you see, as I took some photos.

Note that I don’t tend to look too much at underwater accuracy of heart rate sensors. Mostly because it varies so much by person, and even the companies themselves will all admit that wrist-based optical HR sensors during swimming are a crapshoot at best. And that sets aside the fact that for most swimmers, HR is a very lagging indicator (at best). Just to see how different these two were, check this out:

image

I don’t know which one was right. Honestly, I think it was probably halfway between them. This was a relatively easy swim. Not quite 120bpm easy, but not quite 155bpm hard. Like, 130-145 maybe? I don’t know, but I do know these two very much didn’t agree.

So overall when looking at GPS accuracy, I don’t really see any major issues (beyond the norm for GPS anyway). It seems roughly on par with other devices that I’ve tested across both running and cycling. A little less accurate in openwater swimming, which makes sense, as that’s where you separate from hardware selection (being on the Sony GPS chipset) to a blend of hardware + software openwater swim algorithms.

As for the optical HR accuracy – it too is mostly good. Not quite as strong as Garmin’s latest ELEVATE optical HR sensor, but pretty darn close.

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

Wrap-Up:

DSC_5658

In many ways, the Suunto 9 is the best Suunto sports-focused watch they’ve ever made. Partially because the Suunto watch firmware/platform continues to evolve, and partially because in my opinion the Suunto 9 Peak hardware is nailed. Undoubtedly, they’ll be some that like the bulkier original Suunto 9 style, but I think overwhelmingly most are preferring the look and size of the Suunto 9 Peak.

Since launch/announcement of the Suunto 9 Peak though, Suunto has also updated the firmware on the original Suunto 9 series units, as well as the Suunto 5, effectively giving them some of the same key features like Snap to Routes. That’s great to hear, and probably helps take the edge off some of the anguish that Suunto customers have had to deal with the past few years (primarily on the app/web/platform side). These new features are cool, and there’s nothing like Snap to Route by anyone else in the market today. Sure, it won’t be used on every run (or even the majority of your runs). Instead, you’ll use it on the runs that arguably matter the most: Your races. Heck, maybe ‘Race Snap’ might have been a better term for it. Either way, I think it’s great for that.

That said, part of the challenge I think Suunto has is that as many updates as the watch firmware has had, it still feels slow and aging. Whether it’s the sluggish user interface, or more simplistic things (such as the inability to pair multiple sensors of the same type) – these start to considerably eat into the user experience. Especially with the likes of COROS (and even Wahoo) adding new features frequently. Which isn’t to say that either COROS or Wahoo has the same depth as Suunto in every area, but in certain areas they do. And arguably do it better, and ultimately – for cheaper. Given the Suunto 9 Peak’s price is $569, that puts it nearly double Wahoo’s & COROS’s prices (triple if you count the Pace 2). And far more challenging for Suunto, it puts it at essentially the same price as Garmin’s top of the line Fenix 6 watches (Fenix 6 non-Pro for main stainless steel model, and matching Fenix 6 Pro pricing for Suunto 9 Peak Titanium model). That’s dangerous territory.

At the moment Suunto is at an intersection. At this juncture they’ve got good hardware to work from, and a good app to lean on. What they really need to do though is substantially ramp up their watch firmware features and really take a look at the competition. Not just the big ticket features like running track mode or structured workouts (both of which they lack), but also the flotilla of little features that you come to expect on both midrange and premium GPS watches today – like multi-sensor pairing, better 24×7 data recording, or customizing watch faces.

Still, despite all that – I like the direction Suunto is going in here. And I think it’s one of the best looking GPS watches on the market, but of course, we all vary there. With that – thanks for reading!

Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!

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

If you're shopping for the Suunto 9 Peak or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you use Backcountry.com or Competitive Cyclist with coupon code DCRAINMAKER, first time users save 15% on applicable products!

And finally, here’s a handy list of accessories that work well with the Suunto watches. Given the unit pairs with standard Bluetooth Smart sensors, you can use just about anything though. I'd recommend the Garmin bike sensors over the Wahoo ones, merely because the Garmin have two concurrent Bluetooth channels versus one for the Wahoo RPM/SPEED sensors.

This is a great strap, especially if you're going to the gym. It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, but it also supports the 5kHz analog heart rate transmission for older gym equipment. Note that it only accepts a single Bluetooth connection, versus dual-connections for the Polar H10.

This is a dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart cycling cadence sensor that you strap to your crank arm, but also does dual Bluetooth Smart, so you can pair it both to Zwift and another Bluetooth Smart app at once if you want.

This is one of the top straps I use daily for accuracy comparisons (the others Polar H9/H10 and Wahoo TICKR X). It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, and in fact dual-Bluetooth Smart too, in case you need multiple connectons.

This speed sensor is unique in that it can record offline (sans-watch), making it perfect for a commuter bike quietly recording your rides. But it's also a standard ANT+/BLE sensor that pairs to your device. It's become my go-to speed sensor.

The Wahoo TICKR is their baseline dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart chest strap that includes basic broadcasting of heart rate data to apps. If you don't care about all the fancy features of the TICKR X, this is one of the best straps out there. The 'just works' factor is high.

And of course – you can always sign-up to be a DCR Supporter! That gets you an ad-free DCR, access to the DCR Quarantine Corner video series packed with behind the scenes tidbits...and it also makes you awesome. And being awesome is what it’s all about!

Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!

Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!

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

If you're shopping for the Suunto 9 Peak or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you use Backcountry.com or Competitive Cyclist with coupon code DCRAINMAKER, first time users save 15% on applicable products!

And finally, here’s a handy list of accessories that work well with the Suunto watches. Given the unit pairs with standard Bluetooth Smart sensors, you can use just about anything though. I'd recommend the Garmin bike sensors over the Wahoo ones, merely because the Garmin have two concurrent Bluetooth channels versus one for the Wahoo RPM/SPEED sensors.

This is a great strap, especially if you're going to the gym. It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, but it also supports the 5kHz analog heart rate transmission for older gym equipment. Note that it only accepts a single Bluetooth connection, versus dual-connections for the Polar H10.

This is a dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart cycling cadence sensor that you strap to your crank arm, but also does dual Bluetooth Smart, so you can pair it both to Zwift and another Bluetooth Smart app at once if you want.

This is one of the top straps I use daily for accuracy comparisons (the others Polar H9/H10 and Wahoo TICKR X). It's dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, and in fact dual-Bluetooth Smart too, in case you need multiple connectons.

This speed sensor is unique in that it can record offline (sans-watch), making it perfect for a commuter bike quietly recording your rides. But it's also a standard ANT+/BLE sensor that pairs to your device. It's become my go-to speed sensor.

The Wahoo TICKR is their baseline dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart chest strap that includes basic broadcasting of heart rate data to apps. If you don't care about all the fancy features of the TICKR X, this is one of the best straps out there. The 'just works' factor is high.

And of course – you can always sign-up to be a DCR Supporter! That gets you an ad-free DCR, access to the DCR Quarantine Corner video series packed with behind the scenes tidbits...and it also makes you awesome. And being awesome is what it’s all about!

Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!

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Favero Assioma DUO-Shi Power Meter In-Depth Review (Shimano SPD-SL variant) https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2021/07/assioma-shimano-variant.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2021/07/assioma-shimano-variant.html#comments Mon, 19 Jul 2021 10:09:00 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=127358 Read More Here ]]>

Favero has launched their newest Assioma variant today, the DUO-Shi, which simply takes the existing Favero Assioma pedals, but now with Shimano SPD-SL compatibility. Sorta.

See, while that’s the end-point, the DUO-Shi product is actually just the pedal spindles (for $589USD or ~589EUR including VAT (VAT inclusive pricing varies based on exact EU country). You’ll need to go out and buy the Shimano SPD-SL compatibility pedals of your own choosing. The good news there is that makes this product roughly $500-$600 cheaper than Garmin’s Rally SPD-SL variant. The bad news is you’ve got an arts and crafts project, plus some other technical things to consider. Don’t worry, we’ll talk about that in a second.

In any case, I’ve actually been quietly testing them for more than a *year*. Yes, an actual year. On and off (literally and figuratively), compared to a wide range of power meters, bikes, and smart trainers. Quietly removing them before photoshoots, but otherwise using them just like any other Favero Assioma pedal (because, they are exactly the same).

More recently I got the final production version in, which…are exactly the same internally as well. But with that comes final packaging and all the final goodness you’d expect. So that’s what I’m focusing on in this review. Oh, speaking of which, these are media loaner units, and both sets will go back to Favero afterwards. I’ve already got a few other Favero Assioma sets I’ve bought over the years that I use around the DCR Cave.

If you found this post useful, consider becoming a DCR Supporter which makes the site ad-free, while also getting access to a mostly weekly video series behind the scenes of the DCR Cave. And of course, it makes you awesome.

What’s New & Unique:

DSC_5433

In short, nothing is new. This is the exact same Favero Assioma spindle as the previous edition, except it’s got a small oil retainer glued on. Instead, that tiny cap enables it to be inserted properly into a Shimano pedal, which in turn will measure your power exactly like the previous Favero Assioma. Favero says though that the gluing of that small retainer on the pedal spindle requires them to have a factory calibration procedure, which is why they can’t just offer a simple $20 conversion kit.

Otherwise, Favero states it’s exactly the same spindle as before. So this means that the pod remains as before.

Now – what’s important to know here is that this isn’t a completed product you can take home and install immediately on your bike. Instead, you will ALSO need to buy compatible Shimano pedal bodies (or perhaps you already have them), and then insert the Favero spindle into the Shimano pedals. This requires two wrenches that you probably have at home, and about 3-5 minutes of work.

The Assioma Duo-SHI are compatible with the following Shimano SPD-SL (road) type pedals (and thus SPD-SL cleats):

Shimano PD-R8000
Shimano PD-R7000
Shimano PD-6800
Shimano PD-R550
Shimano PD-R540

Note that Shimano’s DuraAce pedals use a different internal spindle, and thus are not compatible.

When all that is said and done, you’ll have a Shimano Favero Assioma power meter system, though with a slightly expanded Q-Factor, from 54mm to 65mm. The q-factor is the measurement of the distance between the pedal bodies (specifically the point the pedal is inserted into the crank arm). However, in this case, that would incorrectly not account for the pedal platforms being further out, thus, in reality, a better comparative measurement here is to the center of the pedal platform.

Q-Factor is confusingly stated as a measurement of one of two things:

1) The distance between the crank arms on both sides of the bike
2) The distance between the crank arm and the center of the pedal platform.

Much will be made about the increased q-factor by Favero. For some people, it’s everything and a deal-breaker. For the other 98% of us…shrug. The reason? Almost every bike type has a different q-factor. For fun, here’s my collection of bikes:

My road bike (Canyon Ultimate CF SL): 140mm
My triathlon bike (Cervelo P3C): ~150mm
My mountain bike (Canyon Exceed CF SL 5.0): 170mm
My cargo bike (Urban Arrow): 170mm

And then here’s a pile of popular indoor bikes, and their q-factors, for reference:

Stages Bike SB20: 157mm
Peloton Bike/Bike+: 170mm
Tacx NEO Smart Bike: 147mm
True Kinetix TrueBike: 155mm
Wattbike Pro: 173mm
Wattbike ATOM: 160mm
Wahoo KICKR Bike: 150mm

And remember, your pedal q-factor is technically atop these measurements. So, when it comes to pedal measurement, we’re talking this bit here, shown on an older Favero Assioma (standard) image:

Q-Factor

Variations in pedals, as measured from the edge of the crankset arm to the center of the pedal:

Garmin Vector 3/Rally Series: 53mm (55mm with their stock spacer)
PowerTap P1/P2: 54mm
Favero Assioma: 54mm (55mm with their stock spacer)
Favero Assioma Shimano: 65mm
Shimano Ultegra (non-power): 53mm
SRM X Power: 54mm

So yes, this pedal q-factor is different than others – but so are all your other bikes. So if you’re switching between bikes, you’ll likely never notice. It was a non-event for me. I’ve been riding the Favero Assioma DUO-Shi on and off for a year, alternating days on other road pedals and bikes without ever noticing.

But again – if you’re purely a roadie, then maybe you’ll notice – and of course, if you switch between a mountain bike and road bike frequently, then those are literally a wash. Of course, to each their own. You do you, I just keep pedaling.

Unboxing:

To begin, and also to reiterate again – when you buy the DUO-Shi, you DO NOT GET PEDALS. You get spindles, for which you need to buy pedals and put them together. Whereas when you buy regular Favero Assioma pedals, you get the whole thing pre-built (but for LOOK KEO pedals). With that note, here’s the box:

DSC_5404

Crack that box open and you’ve got the two spindles poking out. Or rather, the pods poking out.

DSC_5408

Here’s a closer look at them:

DSC_5409

And, if you play peek-a-boo, you’ll find the spindle below the box top:

DSC_5410

Here’s the weight of that:

DSC_5412

Now, inside the box you’ll find yourself a pedal wrench, charger block, charger cable, different power adapters, the two spindles, and some washers.

Meanwhile, you’ll need to go out and buy compatible Shimano pedals. If you stick all this stuff in one pile, you can see which parts you need to buy, and which parts they provide. Also, as you’ll soon discover, you’ll also need another two wrenches to actually put the spindles together.

FaveroPile

And here you can see essentially how the two spindles align up to replace the two spindles that already exist in the Shimano SPD-SL pedals you’ll buy:

DSC_5416

You can also see more clearly how when inserted in, the Favero spindles increase the Q-Factor because of the fact that they’re longer, to accommodate the pod.

With that, let’s put humpty dumpty together.

Assembly:

DSC_5419

The manual is relatively straightforward, though the first time you’ll do it it’ll feel like the arts & crafts project it is. But remember, you’re saving $400-$500, so…that’s a lot of ice cream.

DSC_5420

You’ll notice above, it asks for both a 17mm wrench and a 19mm wrench. Most people have these. Now, if you’re like me you’ll probably spend half a day looking for them because they’re not organized. I easily found a 17mm wrench, but couldn’t find my 19mm wrench. So, I grabbed a well-aged/ignored adjustable wrench to fill in the gap.

DSC_5423 DSC_5422

You’ll begin by removing the existing spindle from the Shimano pedal. You’ll use the 17mm wrench for that. It really only takes like 20 seconds.

DSC_5425

Then, you’ll grab the (hopefully) correct spindle to insert into the correct pedal. As in, right with right, left with left.

DSC_5426

Then you’ll take that 19mm wrench with the Favero spindle and get things all happy and snug with the pedal. Again, takes about 20 seconds:

DSC_5427

And…done:

DSC_5428

Well, actually, you’ll now repeat that for the other side, then donezo, for realz this time:

DSC_5433

The entire thing at this point will weigh about 157g (per pedal) using the Shimano Ultegra PD-R800 pedals.

Bike Installation:

With everything assembled, we’ll need to get it affixed to our bike. This assumes you’ve removed your existing pedals using either a hex wrench (pictured below, included with the Favero Assioma pedals), or a standard pedal wrench. For the installation however, it requires the below hex wrench (included), as there’s no place to grip a pedal wrench onto due to the pods.

DSC_5443

For installation, you can choose to use either of the two spacers (per side). The general gist of this is that you don’t want the pods to touch your crank arm when screwed in. Else that can cause damage to the pods, and inaccurate readings. In most cases, a single spacer will work perfectly, and is what I use.

Then, simply hand/finger spin the pedals onto the crank arm:

DSC_5444

Once that’s snug, then go ahead and use the included hex wrench to make it nice and tight. Officially there’s a torque spec there, but since they didn’t include a torque wrench, and since I’ve been around this block long enough to know it won’t matter – you’re basically going to go with “nice and firm tight”, but not “gorilla tight”. Meaning, don’t try and break it. Just give it a mediocre arm-wrestling effort, and you’re fine. Note below how you can still see a tiny gap between the pod and the crank arm – that’s GOOD! If you can’t see any gap, add a spacer.

DSC_5445

Now repeat for the other side:

DSC_5447

Now, you’ll need to do four things:

A) Wake up the pedals using the power cord
B) Activate the pedals using the app
C) Do a couple of short 5-10 second sprints (indoors or outside, doesn’t matter) to bed them in
D) Do a zero offset

To wake up the pedals for first use, simply attach the power cord pods to them, which pulls them out of the deep-sleep state. Normally just rotating them will wake them up, but for first use, they require attaching the power cable for a second.

Next, grab the Favero Assioma app off the app store, and go through the activation process. It only takes a second, but without it your pedals won’t transmit any data. Again – no activation = no data.

clip_image001 clip_image001[6]

Now, with that set, you can do a zero offset now if you’d like. And that’s fine. We’re gonna do it again in a few minutes. So instead, go and do some hard sprints. Ideally 3-4 of them, and ideally 5-10 seconds long. Also, ideally, as ‘sharp’ as you can. Lazy sprints aren’t good here. You’re essentially trying to tighten up the pedals to the crank arm, which in turn increases accuracy. If you don’t do this, it’ll basically take about a normal ride to complete and you’ll notice slightly inaccurate data during this ride. Again, doing this on a trainer is perfectly fine.

DSC_5469

Finally, do one last zero offset (also called a ‘manual calibration’ in the app), on the app or your bike computer. And, if you haven’t already done so, validate your crank length specified in the app matches that of your crank arm (e.g. 172.5mm, 175mm, 170mm – those are the most common three).  It’s printed on the inside of your crank arm, usually near the very end. You can see mine showing 175mm:

DSC_5447

Ok, now, let’s talk day-to-day stuffs.

Basic Riding Details:

DSC_5466

We’ll first start with the app, and quickly run through some of the options there. The Favero Assioma smartphone app is how you’ll initially activate the pedals, as well as update firmware and configure any settings. For most folks, you’ll probably only touch this app once or twice a year (when Favero releases new firmware). Everything else, including recording your rides, you’ll do on your normal bike computer. This is no recording functionality here.

When you crack open the app you’ll see the option to search for pedals by tapping the magnifying glass. After that, you should see your pedals pop up, showing the ANT+ ID (even though it’s searching via Bluetooth Smart). The ANT+ ID (6624 in my case) is what you’ll see displayed on virtually every bike computer and cycling app. Go ahead and tap connect to connect to your Assioma pedals.

IMG_7036 IMG_7044

Once connected you’ll first see the screen at the left (below), showing the serial number, ANT+ ID of the set (if in a pair), and the battery level of each pedal. Tap on the settings option at the bottom and you can access all of the settings.

IMG_7047 IMG_7048

To iterate through some of these settings, the first one is manual calibration, or what’s technically known as a ‘Zero offset’. It recommends doing this with the crank arms vertically oriented, and like all power meters, you want to be clipped out of your pedals (and ideally off your bike). It doesn’t give you any specific value, just a success or fail message.

IMG_7049 IMG_7052

If you were to head back to the main page, you’ve got the previously mentioned option to set the crank length. This is important. If your crank length is set incorrectly, your wattage will be inaccurate. Not massively so, but slightly off. And since the point of buying an accurate power meter is to have accurate numbers, you’ll want to take the 5 seconds to set this correctly.

Below that is the ‘power scale factor’, which can be used for a wide assortment of non-normal situations. This can include having different crank lengths, or having a known inaccurate pedal (validated via static weight test). I’d argue if you have that scenario, you should contact support and fix it. But hey, you do you.

After that are two different app compatibility settings:

A) Double the power: This is useful for poorly programmed apps and watches (mostly) that still, half a decade later, haven’t figured out how to handle multi-channel power meters.

B) Compatibility with other apps: This is basically a variant of the first double-power category for apps that also can’t figure this out. A good example here being Zwift.

IMG_7053 IMG_7055 IMG_7054

Below all that you’ve got the ability to convert a Favero Assioma Duo into an Uno, as well as make an Uno a Duo. Then you’ve got three more options most folks won’t use:

A) Static weight test: This is if you have a calibrated weight, to validate the calibration of the power meter.

B) Travel mode: This will put it into a mode that shuts down the pedals entirely, but requires you connect a charger to wake it back up. I’d generally *strongly* recommend against this. The reason is that there’s an approximately 110% chance you’ll put your pedals into this mode thinking you’re clever while packing your bike bag for a race. However, later that evening you’ll forget to grab your charger. You’ll thus arrive at your race unable to wake up your pedals, making yourself screwed. I mean, that’s just me. Maybe you’re smarter or somehow more organized (in which case you’ll forget your charger at the race hotel, screwing yourself for when you get home a few days later). Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate Favero adding this feature. But like a McDonald’s gift card, it’s only a recipe for trouble.

C) Automatic Standby: This is below the travel mode, and allows you to change the automatic standby feature. By default it’ll go to sleep after 5 mins, and then wake-up again immediately upon pedaling. This saves batteries for café stops and such. However, if you’ve got a really finicky bike computer that doesn’t properly re-connect to sensors after a café stop, then perhaps you’d increase this timeout (at the expense of battery life).

And finally, to update firmware, you’d tap on the firmware tab, which, does exactly what you’d expect. It takes a couple of minutes, and updates the firmware via Bluetooth Smart. Favero has released numerous firmware updates over the years for their existing Assioma pedals, though that pace has slowed as the product has reached market feature maturity.

IMG_7059

Ok, so with all those things covered, we can get it paired up to our bike computer. Pretty much any brand will work with the Favero Assioma pedals. I’ve used them successfully and without issue with almost every bike computer out there, though the features will vary based on the bike computer. For example, at the ‘low end’ of Favero features you’ve got the Suunto 9 Peak I was using last night. That covers the basics of power, but not things like left/right balance.

Then, you’ve got the Wahoo BOLT V2, also used last night. That does show left/right balance, but doesn’t record attributes like Cycling Dynamics, which Favero transmits. Finally, you’ve got the Garmin series of devices, like the Edge 1030 Plus I further also used last night, which records all the other stuff, plus Favero’s variant of Cycling Dynamics.

For fun, we’ll pair it up to a Wahoo BOLT V2. To do so, go into the sensors menu and search for sensors. It’ll come back and find a power sensor (or, many in my case). You can see the POWER 6624 listed, which is the ANT+ ID of the Favero pedals, so I’ll tap Save.

IMG_7003

Once I’ve got that done, you’ll see the details of the power meter, including connection type (ANT+), the ID (6624), and the crank length properly enumerated. As a general rule of thumb for power meters, you should always pair via ANT+ over Bluetooth Smart, if able. The power meter spec is far more mature on ANT+ than Bluetooth Smart for data field types, where most advanced pedaling data metrics for most power meters simply don’t exist over Bluetooth Smart (regardless of which bike computer you use).

IMG_7005

On any bike computer you’ll be able to calibrate it, and you can see here when I do that I get back a success response of ‘0’ and that it’s complete.

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Since we’re on the BOLT, here’s what the power looks like while pedaling along. In this case I’ve configured some 30-second data fields, as well as left/right balance.

Meanwhile, if we switch over to the Garmin Edge 1030 Plus, and set it for the Cycling Dynamics data page, you can see some of the Cycling Dynamics data, specifically the ‘Power Phase’ data, shown at the top and bottom of the page, as well as the left/right breakouts. All of this is recorded to the data files.

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By default, Favero transmits this first set of ‘normal data’ to basically every bike computer/app out there:

Power (Total): Your total power being transmitted – e.g. 227w (via ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart)
Power (Balance, left/right): Your power balance between left and right side – e.g. 46%/54% (via ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart)
Cadence: Your pedaling revolutions per minute – e.g. 94rpm (via ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart)
– Torque Effectiveness: How much of the pedal stroke is actually contributing to going forward (versus lifting up on the pedal) – i.e. 74% (via ANT+)
– Pedal Smoothness: How smooth your pedal stroke is all the way around – i.e. 82% (via ANT+)

However, in addition, almost two years ago to the day, they added ANT+ Cycling Dynamics to their Favero Assioma pedals too. At present, only Garmin supports it (though other ANT+ manufacture members can certainly add it).

The ANT+ Cycling Dynamics spec allows for three additional pieces of data, for which Favero has implemented two of them:

Platform Center Offset (PCO): Not implemented on Favero Assioma
Power Phase: Yes, implemented on Assioma
Rider Position: Yes, implemented on Assioma

And again, to see any of this, you’ll basically need to be on a Garmin device. While Wahoo has implemented advanced pedaling metrics for Pioneer power meters, they don’t save the data, nor is that ANT+ Cycling Dynamics. Maybe now that Pioneer is dead, they’ll switch over. Or, maybe not, since they’ve got their own pedals coming out.

Now, after a ride you’ll be able to see this additional Cycling Dynamics data on Garmin Connect (or the mobile app), it won’t show up on sites like Strava. You can look at my ride from last night as an example.

At the top section of the graphs you’ve got cadence, then the seated/standing position (the neon green bits are me standing, blue is seated). Followed by wattage and left/right balance.

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Then below that, you’ve got the platform center offset. Except Favero doesn’t transmit this, so these will be ‘0’ across the board.

After that, there’s power phase, which can show both the start/end as well as peak power by selecting the drop-down.

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All of this data you can dig in more deeply if you want from a charting standpoint by expanding it and zooming/etc…

Down below further is a pile of summary data:

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And then you can also tap on the ‘Cycling Dynamics’ tab to view summary info there too, with pretty graphics. Except PCO won’t show up, because PCO isn’t on Favero Assioma pedals.

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I won’t re-hash how (or how not) to use Cycling Dynamics data on Favero Assioma’s, as I already wrote a long post on that here you can reference.

When it comes to charging, the Favero Assioma pedals use rechargeable batteries that are built into the pods themselves.  You’ll see the small contact points on the outer edge of the pod:

The USB-based charging connector then magnetically snaps onto these. It fits quite nicely, and illuminates once charging. Favero advertises 50 hours of battery life per charge. That seems plausible to me. I honestly don’t track my total battery hours on bikes that closely, especially since I’m often moving them around for photos/videos/etc… In general my gut check here says ‘sure, sounds fine’ (along with my gut chuck on using Favero Assioma pedals for four years otherwise).

In any event, the two charging cords connect to the dual-USB port power outlet. The cables are nice and long, so it’s easy to charge them while still on the bike.

Also – I’ve seen some concern about what happens when the batteries ‘die’, apparently in reference to how you might swap them out.  Some of this is due to misunderstandings about how rechargeable batteries die.  First off is that batteries are generally rated to a certain number of recharge cycles, in the case of the Assioma battery, that’s estimated to be about 500 cycles (per an e-mail from Assioma).  Once it reaches that number, they don’t stop working.  Instead they might slowly degrade, perhaps to 80% of battery capacity.  With an example battery life of 50 hours, and the 500 recharge cycles, that puts you at 25,000 hours of battery life before it starts to degrade.  That’s 24 years of riding 20 hours per week.  Or almost 50 years if you rode 10 hours per week.  Seriously, you’ll have long moved onto something else by then.  Battery cycle time is not your concern here.

Finally, a brief note about the pod durability.  The pods are internally sealed with a resin, which protects everything inside of them.  In my Favero BePro review nearly 6 years ago I noted that in the couple months I used my set then, that the outer shell got damaged and I was concerned about long-life durability.  Thankfully, that turned out not to be an issue, and I don’t believe I’ve received a single complaint about that being an issue for the BePro units.  And with Assioma, breaking of the pod is virtually unheard of.

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The main issue at this point, in 2021 – is that there’s a pod at all. Obviously, four years ago we had this discussion when the Assioma came out, given that neither PowerTap or Garmin had pods then. Fast forward a few years and SRM doesn’t have pods either. I think it’s a valid criticism that in four years since Assioma’s have come out, the spindle is identical to back then and the pod is still there. While Favero has come out with various firmware updates (like the Cycling Dynamics), I think a lot of people were sorta hoping to see that pod design go away, given the advances in technology.

Nonetheless, there’s something to be said for reliability and a known quantity – for which the Shimano variant of Assioma delivers upon.

Power Meter Accuracy:

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I’ve long said that if your power meter isn’t accurate, then there’s no point in spending money on one.  Strava can give you estimated power that’s ‘close enough’ for free, so if you’re gonna spend money on something, it shouldn’t be a random number generator.  Yet there are certain scenarios/products where a power meter may be less accurate than others, or perhaps it’s got known edge cases that don’t work. Neither product type is bad – but you just need to know what those use/edge cases are and whether it fits your budget or requirements.

As always, I set out to find that out.  In power meters today, one of the biggest challenges is outdoor conditions.  Generally speaking, indoor conditions are pretty easy to handle, but I still start there nonetheless.  It allows me to dig into areas like low and high cadence, as well as just how clean numbers are at steady-state power outputs.  Whereas outdoors allows me to look into water ingest concerns, temperature and humidity variations, and the all-important road surface aspects (e.g. vibrations).  For reference, the Favero Assioma DUO-Shi has a claimed accuracy rate of +/- 1.0%.

In my testing, I generally use between 2-3 other power meters on the bike at once.  I find this is the best way to validate power meters in real-world conditions.  For the final set of production pedals, I was using these other power meters or trainers concurrently in two main configurations:

Outdoor Testing Config (Canyon Ultimate CF SL)

– Favero Assioma DUO-Shi
– Quarq DZero power meter
– PowerTap G3 hub power meter (when outdoors)

Indoor Testing Config (Canyon Ultimate CF SL)

– Favero Assioma DUO-Shi
– Quarq DZero power meter
– JetBlack VOLT Smart Trainer

But the reality is I’ve literally got data sets over the last year comparing against:

TrueKinetix TrueBike (April-May 2020)
Tacx Flux 2.1 (July 2020)
Wahoo KICKR V5/2020 Trainer (August 2020)
– And many more outside sets (July 2020 – June 2021)

First off, indoors. Starting off with something relatively straightforward, an ERG workout with various intervals at three main intensities, including 30-second sprints. In this workout I’m looking for stability of the power, as well as lack of drift. A workout like this makes it easy to spot drift (such as temp drift), since you’d see things start to differentiate from start to finish. In any case, here’s the data set:

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As you can pretty easily see, that looks super crispy good. The data sets are very closely aligned between the units (Quarq DZero crankset and the JetBlack VOLT). One might argue the JetBlack should be a hair bit lower, but in the context of the Favero Assioma that’s not really the focus.

If we look at the intervals where the trainer jumps up quickly, the Favero reacts instantly, and also correctly shows when I wasn’t paying attention at the start of an interval – as you see a bit of an oscillation there. That’s real. And, interestingly, also shows where the JetBlack applies a touch bit of ‘ERG Smoothing’ to make it look like those don’t exist. But in this case, the Quarq & Favero power meters accurately show the truth (my inattention, causing the little blip, since my legs weren’t ready for it).

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Here’s another example a few interval chunks later, again, every unit is very close here, with the slight timing differences between sets mostly owed to the nuances of multiple devices and recording rates. Note however on the middle interval below, I was really focused on it, and there isn’t any sort of blip/wobble in my power. This obviously has absolutely nothing to do with accuracy, except to show how sensitive power meters can be.

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In terms of cadence, I haven’t seen any variations at all here with the DUO-Shi units. These mirror the Quarq, and even the JetBlack mirrors it. In fact, across both sets I’ve had for the past year, cadence has been absolutely spot-on.

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Next, we’ll dive over into simulation mode for a ride on Zwift. In this case, I’m starting off the first 30-35 minutes in a large group at a relatively consistent wattage, but with any sort of group ride, you get constant micro-fluctuations in wattage, making it fun to see how the different units respond. In particular, some power meters and training can do funky things with that much movement, in terms of how they handle soft-pedaling. Here’s that data set:

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As you can see, it’s incredibly similar. Let’s zoom in though on a few random chunks. The first thing I’ll note is that we generally see ‘proper’ ordering, with the VOLT as the lowest power source (since drivetrain losses occur the further away from the foot we get), and the Favero/Quarq the highest. So that’s good.

I notice that the Favero/Quarq units spike together correctly on the sprints, with the VOLT undershooting slightly. That’s somewhat common in many trainers, especially as they try and play ‘catch-up’ on quick surges. But it’s good that I don’t see any delay on the DUO-Shi or Quarq units.

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Here you can see just how close all the units are, with only the slight differences from the trainer when I surge, depending on how quickly it is that I surge (some surges the trainer is fine, others it’s a bit latent).

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If we look at this 800w sprint (keeping in mind this multi-second average graph is smoothed, so the actual value is higher), you can see it’s actually rather close to the Quarq. Whereas the Favero overshoots a bit higher. In any sort of sprint effort, it’s often rather difficult to know exactly which one is actually correct.

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Meanwhile, cadence is virtually identical across the board again on this, save the handful of times for the trainer with estimated cadence and it briefly recovering on a sprint (or rather, the afterglow of the sprint). But again, zero issues from the Assioma here.

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Ok, let’s head outside. Frankly, these sets are going to be boring. Here, let me do this backwards and instead just show you the mean-max graph for this ride from a few weeks ago (against a Quarq DZero & PowerTap G3):

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It’s incredibly close between them, and the data point shown/highlighted there is the 30-second one, but as you can see, the three plots are very close (though, perhaps too close in one way, more in a second). Here’s the actual ride data:

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Again, excruciatingly close here. The only nitpicking I’d have at this stage is that the PowerTap G3 is probably a smidge high, and the Favero a touch low. But this was after swapping bikes, so things might not have been fully settled yet (and in fact, the trainer rides later firm up nicely).

If we zoom in on a few different moments, you can see the slight variations between multiple bike computers/power meters in terms of recording/transmission rates, but these are super close for what is a multi-surge effort here:

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Really nothing super exciting or problematic here:

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Cadence is clean too. You’ll see the dips in the green graph of the PowerTap G3, as that’s an estimated cadence, and isn’t particularly great at surges for cadence estimation.

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But again, things look very close here.

So, let’s switch to one last set from last night, this was a nice warm sunset ride, where the temperature slowly cooled down – great for catching any drift issues. Also, for fun, I recorded the Assioma across three different devices too (Wahoo BOLT V2, Garmin Edge 1030 Plus, Suunto 9 Peak), to catch any recording quirks there. Here’s that data set:

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Note that you’ll see slightly different numbers at the bottom, due to the slightly different recording/transmission timings of each unit. But, the Mean-Max graph shows a much better picture of things – which is to say, it looks nearly identical.

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If we take a look at a few spots, here’s a sprint, smoothed at 5-seconds. You can see all the units travel together fairly well, though oddly we see the data from the Suunto 9 Peak a bit more quirky. That’s because the Suunto 9 Peak (like all Suunto units), only pairs to a single side of this duo, and thus we’ll see variations based on left/right balance, unless I specifically toggle the single-channel option (which, I did not).

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Still, these are very tight graphs across the board here. Again, if I were to nitpick anywhere, it’s that the G3 should be a tiny bit lower (a couple of watts, given drivetrain losses), but I think I just need to get this G3 hub in for its usual maintenance.

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And cadence looks good here too.

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There’s little reason to keep on showing more and more data sets. The data is spot-on for me, and replicates what I and many others have seen on the Favero Assioma units over the years. Given this is the same spindle (meaning, it’s the same thing), I figured it’d act the same. But as usual, I validate and verify it’s actually the same. Thus far, things look solid. And by ‘thus far’, I mean over a year’s worth of riding.

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

Summary:

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In a lot of ways the Favero Assioma DUO-Shi pedals remind me a bit of what Watteam did a few years back: Offer a cheaper product in exchange for you being the assembly factory. In other words, if you look at Garmin’s SPD-SL based product, Rally, they charge a premium for a completely assembled/supported product (among other reasons it’s premium priced, like also swapping to SPD MTB and LOOK KEO, etc..). Whereas Favero charges some $400-$500 less, but you need to source the extra parts/tools/time to complete before installation. For some folks, that’s a no-brainer trade-off. Whereas for others, the catches are less appealing.

Of course, the key difference to my Watteam harkenings is that Favero’s product isn’t fiddly and dependent on your ability to fill up water bags, and more importantly, Favero has a strong history of accuracy in their units. All three iterations of Favero pedals I’ve tested over the years (BePro, then Assioma, and now Assioma DUO-Shi) have been accurate. And not just me, but a lot of people too. I routinely use them as power meter reference devices. They’re just as accurate as the Garmin Rally pedals (really, it’s a wash in my brain).

Point being that if the assembly and q-factor limitations aren’t an issue for you, then the Favero Assioma DUO-Shi pedals are a solid option to consider when looking at power meters. Which yes, reminds me again I need to do anther power meter round-up, now that we’ve finally got some new power meters this year. Though ironically, almost everything new released this year is merely a rebrand of existing products with the same spindles. So…same same, but different. 🙂

With that – thanks for reading!

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Heads Up: 48-Hour Wahoo 10-20% off KICKR, CORE, BIKE, Speedplay & More Sale https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2021/07/heads-up-48-hour-wahoo-20-off-kickr-core-bike-speedplay-more-sale-us-only.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2021/07/heads-up-48-hour-wahoo-20-off-kickr-core-bike-speedplay-more-sale-us-only.html#comments Mon, 19 Jul 2021 06:00:00 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=127361 Read More Here ]]>

Just a super quick Monday heads up that Competitive Cyclist is running a 2-day sale on a boatload of Wahoo gear, for 10-20% off almost everything. We’ve semi-occasionally seen these 20% off sales on Wahoo products the day after the Tour de France ends (yesterday), though I don’t think we saw one last year. But it’s never included their Wahoo KICKR Bike before, and rarely this wide a range of products. Nor has the RIVAL GPS watch been on sale. For European folks, Wahoo is offering the same sale on their European site.

So if you’re in the market for any of this Wahoo gear, then frankly, you’re not going to find a better deal (and no deal to match it anytime soon). The best deals we ever see in the US market top out at 20% off Wahoo stuff (never more), and usually tied to spring and Black Friday sales (give or take a few weeks). I don’t expect this summer to be a busy one for new trainers, and I certainly don’t expect any new version of the Wahoo KICKR Bike either. There’s just no reason for Wahoo to launch a new bike right now. Instead, Wahoo has been focusing on increasing distribution of the current version and ironing out quirks.

This sale only lasts today and tomorrow, and is only available in the US. All of the links below help support the site, so if you’re considering picking up something from this list, using these links makes you awesome.

Trainer Recommendations: If you’re looking for trainer recommendations, my guide from this past fall is still 100% valid. The only change I’d make is to add the JetBlack VOLT into the mid-range recommendations guide. Given the JetBlack VOLT trainer is $50 cheaper than the KICKR CORE with similar specs/accuracy/etc, it doesn’t change the landscape much there beyond adding choice.

Smart Bike Recommendations: Like with trainers, not much has changed in the smart bike realm. The smart bike realm is a largely simple field, with the prices pretty linear to the features you get. I’d agree with the consensus that the KICKR Bike is the best smart bike of the bunch (even if not perfect), and the price reflects that. Normally the KICKR BIKE is $3,500USD (and the most expensive unit). Now it’s $3,149USD, and putting it basically at the same range as the Tacx Bike.

In any case, here’s the full list of what’s on sale, along with links to all my reviews (just click on the product name):

There are no deals currently.

This sale ends tomorrow, Tuesday, at 11:59PM US Mountain Time, or, until supplies last. As always with these high-value deals/sales, I recommend clicking buy first, and sorting out cancelling an order later if it turns out you can’t get wife/husband-acceptance-factor approval. Especially for the KICKR & KICKR Bike ones.

So basically, to summarize in simple text:

– All Wahoo KICKR, KICKR CORE, KICKR SNAP, and KICKR BIKE units
– Wahoo’s trainer accessories, notably the desk, CLIMB, and Headwind Fan, plus the KICKR V5 Direct Connect Ethernet Adapter
– All one of Wahoo’s watches (the Wahoo RIVAL)
– Wahoo’s sensor accessories (TICKR & speed/cadence sensors)
– Their Speedplay pedals & accessories

The full Wahoo sale listing on Competitive Cyclist is here, in case you prefer to browse that way.

What’s not on sale:

– Their bike computers
– Their previously sorta-announced POWRLINK Zero power meter, since pricing/availability isn’t announced yet.
– Anything else I forgot

Again, you simply won’t get any better deal any time, than 20% on Wahoo gear. That’s just the way Wahoo works. It’s been that way forever, and save some sort of weird clearance event for a discontinued product, that’s the extent of things. Thus, if you’re in the market for any of those products, go forth and be done with it. Note: I do NOT expect the full Wahoo KICKR V5/2020 (specifically that unit) stock levels to last long on this one. And these days, the 20% off Wahoo trainers specifically, Wahoo seems to have killed most of those deals with retailers over the past year.

With that, thanks for reading – and for supporting the site via the links! More unrelated sports tech goodness coming up in about 4.5 hours!

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JetBlack VOLT Smart Trainer In-Depth Review https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2021/07/jetblack-volt-smart-trainer-in-depth-review.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2021/07/jetblack-volt-smart-trainer-in-depth-review.html#comments Tue, 13 Jul 2021 09:46:09 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=127228 Read More Here ]]> DSC_5475

I like being pleasantly surprised by smaller companies that nail a product. And the JetBlack VOLT is one of those such products, from one of those such companies. Sure, in the past JetBlack didn’t always have the most competitive or accurate trainers, but with the VOLT direct drive trainer, those days are clearly gone. And perhaps most interestingly – it has one trick up its sleeve that no other trainer has, and is especially useful for Apple TV users.

The VOLT is not only a direct drive trainer, but one that comes with a cassette. Priced at about $849USD, it easily undercuts the Wahoo KICKR CORE in price – and seems to match it on real-world accuracy and sound (it’s basically silent). Plus, it’s got a nifty feature that passes through your heart rate sensor data via the trainer, allowing you to pair the entire trainer/power/cadence/heart rate as a single channel on Apple TV, saving you one further channel for steering (with Zwift). Don’t worry, I’ll explain how that works later.

I’ve been using the JetBlack VOLT for more than a month now for all my trainer rides, and frankly, if blindfolded, you’d never be able to tell this wasn’t a KICKR CORE. Of course, sometimes it’s more than just the trainer itself that makes the experience. While many users never bother opening up the manufacturer’s companion app for their trainer (except firmware updates), JetBlack has one. And if there’s any area that needs a bit more love, it’s the app. Still, as you’ll see, it’s hardly mission-critical to the day to day Zwift or TrainerRoad user.

Note that JetBlack sent over this VOLT & rocker plate media loaner, which I’ve been using to put it through its paces. Once this review is done, I’ll get it boxed back up and sent back to them.  If you found this review useful, you can use the links at the bottom, or consider becoming a DCR Supporter which makes the site ad-free, while also getting access to a semi-weekly video series behind the scenes of the DCR Cave. And of course, it makes you awesome.

With that, let’s get into it.

The Main Specs:

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This section will be quick and to the point. Here’s the top-line specs for this trainer, so, let’s dive right into it:

– Direct drive trainer: This means you remove your rear wheel
– Flywheel: It has a flywheel weight of 4.7kg
– Cassette: An 11-speed cassette is *included*, which is compatible with Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo (but an XD-R body is sold separately)
– Sound: Essentially silent. Only the sound of your drivetrain is heard.
– Handle: This unit lacks a handle, which continues to make it slightly awkward to move around.
– Protocol Compatibility: ANT+ FE-C, ANT+ Power, Bluetooth Smart Trainer Control, Bluetooth Smart Power (everything you need)
– Unique Party Trick: Can rebroadcast your heart rate sensor within a single channel, ideal for Apple TV Zwift users (who are Bluetooth channel limited)
– App Compatibility: Every app out there basically (Zwift, TrainerRoad, Rouvy, RGT, The Sufferfest, Kinomap, etc…)
– Skewer Compatibility: All the skewers and adapters you could ask for: Road 130mm, 142x12mm, 148x12mm
– Max Incline: 16% simulated grade
– Max Wattage: 1,800 watts resistance (or 1,300w @ 40KPH)
– Stated Accuracy: < +/-2.5%
– Power Cable Required: Yes, power block compatible with 100-240v
– Pricing and Availability: $849USD, 749EUR (but really about 700EUR street), already shipping

Essentially, this competes with the Wahoo KICKR CORE – except that it includes a cassette and costs less. It roughly looks like a KICKR CORE too, though the KICKR CORE is actually more akin to the Magene design than something Wahoo was first to market. But spec-wise, this competes in virtually every category with the KICKR CORE. The only meaningful differences are that the JetBlack VOLT can re-broadcast your HR (and Wahoo can’t), while the KICKR CORE has dual Bluetooth Smart transmission channels (and the JetBlack VOLT doesn’t).

With that, let’s dive into the box.

Unboxing:

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Like many (but not all) mid-range trainers, the VOLT requires assembly of the legs to the trainer. So to begin, you’ll get the box as pictured above. And then after removal of all the pieces from the box, you’ve got this:

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A bit more plastic removal, and you’re down to the core bits:

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You can see it’s essentially the two legs, the main trainer chunk, and then some skewers/adapters. Plus of course the power cable.

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Grab yourself the manual to ensure you’ve got the correct leg on the correct side (else, it’ll be tipsy), and then use the included wrench to tighten the couple of bolts on. Yes, it actually came with a wrench (you can see it above, zip-tied to the skewer).

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However, the main thing to note here is that the JetBlack VOLT includes your 11-speed skewer, just like the higher-end Wahoo KICKR does, as well as the Elite Suito & Elite Direto XR. While some people will undoubtedly swap out this cassette for a 12-speed (if on a swanky new bike), or something else, the reality is the vast majority of people have existing bikes with 11-speed cassettes – and even myself, I appreciated not having to deal with installing a new cassette for the fun of it.

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Still, if you do need to install a different cassette, it’s no biggie. They even include instructions:

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Do note though that if you’re installing an XDR cassette, you’ll need the XDR hub/adapter from JetBlack. So just mentally allocate time to get that from them. Those folks aside, the only other thing you need to do is simply plug it in.

The Basics:

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With your trainer ‘built’, you’re ready to throw it on a trainer mat, or in this case, their rocker plate. I was testing multiple things, so the plate is atop the trainer mat, but obviously, you don’t need a rocker plate. Also, like Wahoo KICKR CORE, there’s no handle on this unit, making it slightly awkward to lug around. I’ve never really understood why cheaper trainers do have handles, then the $800-$1,000 trainers don’t, and then you get it back again at higher price points.

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In any event, if you haven’t yet, plug it in. The trainer has a quick-release power cord ‘tail’ off the bottom, so if you trip on it, then it won’t (ideally) rip the power cord in half, or damage your trainer. Again, another thing that *EVERY* trainer should have these days, especially anything over $500. Lookin’ at you Tacx and Elite.

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Also, more handily if you’re a trainer collector like me, it’s got the brand of the trainer written on the back of the power block. Wahoo started doing this a couple of years ago, and it’s super handy if you move or such, and power cords get all mixed up – to know this one is the trainer one. Glad to see JetBlack is doing the same (otherwise, most companies simply source generic power adapters that are random no-name Asian companies written on them).

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Once you do so, it’ll illuminate status lights on the upper edge of the trainer, near the flywheel – which can be used to troubleshoot connectivity:

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Now, if you haven’t done so already, go ahead and toss your bike on the trainer. Since this is a direct drive trainer, you’ll remove the rear wheel, and mount the bike directly on the cassette of the VOLT. The trainer doesn’t come with a front wheel block. Some people (myself), still prefer them, even if you don’t need it, as I like when the front wheel is either static, or recenters with a steering block (as shown here). Otherwise I find the front wheel gets all loosey-goosey. But again, you can buy such front wheel blocks for $5 (a generic example linked at end of post).

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With all that said, let’s start riding. Given the JetBlack VOLT is a smart trainer, it’ll change resistance automatically in a few different ways, primarily driven by different applications/methods.  But most of this all boils down to two core methods:

ERG Mode: Setting a specific power level – i.e., 215w.  In this mode, no matter what gearing you use, the trainer will simply stay at 215w (or whatever you set it to).
Simulation (SIM) Mode: Simulating a specific outdoor grade – i.e., 9% incline. In this mode, it’s just like outdoors in that you can change your gearing to make it easier or harder. Wattage is not hard-set, only incline levels.

In the case of simulation (aka slope) mode, the JetBlack VOLT can simulate from 0% to 16% incline – the same as the KICKR CORE, though slightly less than the Elite Direto XR (which is slightly more expensive but also includes a cassette like the VOLT). While other trainers can simulate above 20% these days, I continue to question how many people actually want to ride such a gradient. Seriously, if you actually have ridden a 17% grade outside, it’s tremendously difficult. There was an arms race a few years ago for indoor trainer gradients, and then they realized nobody cared, because nobody really wanted to ride a 24% grade.

And atop that, there’s little reason most of this matters if you use the defaults in Zwift, because it automatically halves the values anyway. A 12% grade feels like a 6% grade. You need to change the ‘Trainer Difficulty’ level to 100% in order to feel it (and most people don’t bother to). Where it can matter though is at low-speed high wattage climbs up those 12% or beyond ascents, but that’s not really an issue with this trainer (it’s typically more an issue with wheel-on trainers, and older trainers).

2020-07-24 16.25.21

The second mode the trainer has is ERG mode.  In that case, the company claims 1,300w of resistance at 40KPH, and up to 1,800 at a speed that’ll likely be impossible for you to hit. Although again, realistically, you don’t care about that. I can only barely (maybe) break 1,000w for a second or two, and even most front of the non-pro pack cyclists aren’t going to top 1,800w.  The pros would only be just a bit beyond that.  Said differently: Peak numbers in this competition don’t matter.  Instead, what actually matters is a harder metric to make clear on paper – which is the ability to simulate high grades and lower speeds (especially if you’re a heavier cyclist). I cover that in my accuracy section.

One core test I do with all trainers though is responsiveness: How quickly does it respond to ERG mode changes? I test this in a variety of ways, usually with some variant of 30×30 type intervals, where the intensity quickly shifts substantially, and I’m looking to see how responsive it is/was. For this go-around, I used a workout that had a slate of 30-second intervals spread across other larger intervals. But I’ll cover exact responsiveness down below in the accuracy section.

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So what about road feel and noise?

Like I always say – for me personally, it’s hard to separate the fact that I’m riding indoors from outdoors. It’s still a trainer, and I’m still looking at a wall in front of me.  My brain can only turn off so much of that.  Still, much of the road-like feel is driven by the flywheel, and be it physical or virtual, flywheel sizes tend to be measured in weight.  This impacts inertia and how it feels – primarily when you accelerate or otherwise change acceleration (such as briefly coasting).

All that prefacing done, the JetBlack VOLT is quite good. The road feel to me is about the same as the KICKR CORE (which is the same as slightly older KICKR’s, and frankly, not that much different than newer KICKR’s). I prefer road feel here a bit more than the Direto XR, it just seems more realistic/responsive (slightly). Also notably, if in Zwift (or any other app), the response-time on incline changes was very good, arguably one of the better ones I’ve tested. It was something I noticed last night in the Titans Grove course with endless up and down rollers only lasting a couple of seconds each, how near perfectly in-sync the incline value on the screen was (e.g. 8%) to what the trainer was doing. On some trainers the response time is so slow you’re going up when it’s going down. Not the case here, it nailed it.

IMG_6456

As for the noise level, the only thing you’re going to hear is the sound of your drivetrain interacting with the cassette (which is the same on any bike/trainer). There’s virtually no other noises that the trainer itself makes. So in other words, the level of noise from the trainer is entirely dependent on how clean your bike drivetrain is. I should have recorded some video/audio snippets a few weeks ago when my bike drivetrain was nice and clean, cause now it’s an abominable crap-show after a few rough weather rides. And I can’t be letting the internet hear that.

App Compatibility:

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The VOLT uses smart trainer app compatibility standards you’d need and expect by following the industry norms.  As you probably know, apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, The Sufferfest, RGT, Rouvy, Kinomap, Xert, and many more all support most of these industry standards, making it easy to use whatever app you’d like.  If trainers or apps don’t support these standards, then it makes it far more difficult for you as the end user.

Thankfully, that’s not the case here. The VOLT transmits data on both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, as well as allowing interactive resistance control across both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart. By applying resistance control, apps can simulate climbs as well as set specific wattage targets.

The unit supports the following protocols and transmission standards:

ANT+ FE-C (Trainer Control): This is for controlling the trainer via ANT+ from apps and head units (with cadence/power data). Read tons about it here.
ANT+ Power Meter Profile: This broadcasts as a standard ANT+ power meter, with cadence and speed data
ANT+ Speed/Cadence Profile: This broadcasts your speed and cadence as a standard ANT+ Speed/Cadence combo sensor
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter Profile: This broadcasts as a standard BLE power meter, with cadence and speed data
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence Profile: This broadcasts your speed and cadence as a standard BLE combo Speed/Cadence sensor
Bluetooth Smart FTMS (Trainer Control): This allows apps to control the VOLT over Bluetooth Smart (with cadence/power data)

Between all these standards you can basically connect to anything and everything you’d ever want to. Be it a bike computer or watch, or an app – it’ll be supported. The cadence data is baked into the various data streams. That’s handy if you’re connecting to Zwift on an Apple TV, due to Apple TV’s two concurrent Bluetooth Smart sensor limitation (plus the Apple TV remote). This means you can pair the trainer and get power/cadence/control, while also pairing up a heart rate strap.

However, the VOLT actually goes slightly further than the rest, and has one more protocol party trick up its sleeve: Embedding your heart rate sensor data into its trainer data stream. This nifty trick means that you initially use the JetBlack app to pair up your heart rate sensor to the trainer, and then it broadcasts it within its existing trainer data stream to apps. The reason you care about that is some platforms (namely Apple TV) can only support two concurrent Bluetooth Smart sensors. So if you had your trainer/cadence/power as one, and then a heart rate strap as another – you couldn’t also pair a steering device, or some other sensor. But with the VOLT, you can! That’s because it sends it down the same sensor package as the rest of your data, thus only taking up one channel.

To get started with that, you’ll crack open the JetBlack app and connect to your trainer. Then tap next. Do NOT try and pair your HR sensor on this first page (shown below). Doing so will basically make the other pages not work correctly. It’s sorta a user interface garbage can fire (not a full on dumpster fire, more just like a small bathroom garbage can fire). The good news is JetBlack agrees, and coming in August or September is an entirely refreshed smartphone companion app that won’t suck.

clip_image001

In any event, fires aside, on the next page you’ll see your heart rate sensor option to ‘Add Sensor’, from there you can tap to save nearby sensors, so that it’s automatically connected to by the trainer. In theory this allows connecting to both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart heart rate sensors, but in practice the user interface didn’t seem to show both for me (just showed me the Bluetooth Smart ones). And frankly, once I managed to get it working, I was reluctant to dork with it again.

IMG_6427 IMG_6426

Once cookin’ though, jump over to Zwift and go through the sensor pairing menu. You’ll pair up your trainer like normal, but then when you get to the heart rate sensor screen, you’ll see the JetBlack VOLT as a pairing option. That’s the re-broadcasted data from your HR sensor.

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And again, why that matters is that while on Apple TV (which is what these screenshots are from), I can then pair up a steering device. Right now, that’s the Elite Sterzo Smart. But soon JetBlack’s own steering device will be available/certified by Zwift, and you’ll be able to use that too. But for the moment, you can see I have the Sterzo Smart paired up, and then went on to use it the entire ride. So as you can see below, all four main sensors are coming from the JetBlack VOLT, while the Sterzo is connected (all natively on Apple TV).

IMG_6438

Now, it should be noted that while the heart rate pass-through worked just fine on Zwift on Apple TV, it doesn’t seem to show up at all on TrainerRoad (on an iPad). I don’t know why, but, the HR sensor simply didn’t show up at all there – but hey, the trainer itself did:

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And on TrainerRoad I was able to calibrate it too, using the calibrate button:

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In this case that means you simply pedal to 24MPH, and then stop pedaling. Ensure you warm-up the trainer first – ideally 10-15 mins. In my testing, I saw no need to re-calibrate often. I did it once a month ago, and it stayed spot-on, even despite the ever-warming of the DCR Cave into summer (ain’t got no air conditioning!).

In general though, you should calibrate every once in a while (perhaps every few weeks), or anytime you’ve moved the trainer some distance (like to a new home/etc…). Additionally, you should calibrate if you’ve had a major temperature swing (such as if it lives in your garage and now the sweat puddle on the floor is frozen). In my case, I last calibrated it over a month ago, and it’s been spot-on since.

In terms of general usage in apps, the VOLT worked perfectly fine. I primarily used Zwift at the DCR Cave the last month with the VOLT. But I did validate with others on the VOLT, and all seemed well.

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Now as I mentioned earlier, JetBlack does have their own app that has sensor pairing it in, calibration, and even the ability to do structured workouts in it. However as noted earlier, while the app has lots of good foundational tech, the actual user interface is cumbersome. Given that it’s being revamped next month, I’m not going to focus on it much here, other than to note it exists, does some neat stuff, but let’s just wait till the next version is out.

IMG_6411 IMG_6401 IMG_6399

Plus, the overwhelming majority of people never use the trainer company’s apps for anything other than firmware updates anyways (and, in this case, pairing up your heart rate sensor).

With all those things covered, let’s dive into the accuracy data for the VOLT.

Power Accuracy Analysis:

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As usual, I put the trainer up against a number of power meters to see how well it handled everything from resistance control accuracy, to speed of change, to any other weird quirks along the way.

In my case I used one primary bike set up in the following configuration :

Canyon Bike Setup #1: Favero Assioma dual-sided pedals, Quarq DZero crankset
Canyon Bike Setup #2: Garmin Rally dual-sided pedals, Quarq DZero crankset

This is all in addition to the trainer itself.  Note that, because you remove the rear wheel, I can’t use something like a PowerTap hub to compare as well (which I would use in power meter testing normally).

In any case, I was looking to see how it reacted in two core scenarios: ERG mode & SIM mode. Or translated more simply: Structured workout support (ERG mode), and replication of gradients on a course (SIM mode, for simulation mode)

The actual apps don’t typically much matter, but rather the use cases are different.  In normal Zwift riding you get variability by having the road incline change and by being able to instantly sprint (SIM mode).  This reaction time and accuracy are both tested here.  Whereas in structured workout (ERG) mode (be it Zwift, TrainerRoad, etc…) I’m looking at its ability to hold a specific wattage very precisely, and to then change wattages instantly in a repeatable way.

There’s two ways to look at this.  First is how quickly it responds to the commands of the application. In other words, when an app tells the trainer to go from 150w to 325w, how long does that take? For this I had an ERG workout with these large jumps in it. You can see it took exactly two seconds to get there. It got to 300w in 1 second, but didn’t stabilize till the 2-second marker.  However, we do see that it isn’t till the 3-4 second marker the other power meters stabilize as well (which, is normal). Also note that with three power sensors recording concurrently, the maximum recording rate is every second, so you’re going to see minor 1-second differences here.

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Anyway, point being is that responsiveness is solid here, and where I like to see it in the 2-3 second timeframe. Good!

The next bit is stability. In other words, do you see any oscillation at higher (or lower) wattages. In this case, again, it’s really stable. Even more notable is that I actually accidentally did this workout in the big ring (front). Typically you want to do ERG workouts in the smallest front ring, which gives trainers less speed and makes the stability better. Almost every app and trainer company recommend this. But sometimes I forget. So the fact that it was this stable despite being in a harder combination is impressive.

Now, let’s talk about the actual power accuracy of this set. In other words, did the trainer’s reported power values match that of the other trusted power meters I had on my bike? To make this a bit easier to see, I’ve added a 5-second smoothing to the graph (here’s the data set):

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As you can pretty easily see, that looks super crispy good. The data sets are very closely aligned, one might even argue slightly too closely aligned (given my drivetrain cleanliness state), but it’d be hard to know which exact power meter to blame for being a couple of watts too lower or too high.

It’s interesting to look closely at some of the intervals, and you can see when I was paying attention, versus when I wasn’t at the start of an interval. The bigger the ‘jump’ the more likely I wasn’t paying attention and was caught off-guard. Also, it’s notable to see that sometimes the trainer reports a value that doesn’t quite seem right.

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For example, check out the 3rd interval above. Notice how the other two power values go a bit higher, while the VOLT stays low and stable? That indicates that it’s not quite reporting the actual power value, but is instead reporting a variant of the target value. We see that on the Wahoo KICKR if you leave on the ‘ERG Mode Smoothing’ checkbox. Given I’ve got two power meters above that reported a spike, they don’t lie together.

Said differently, if one person farts in a room, and two others smell it – the first person denying it doesn’t make the fart go away. It still happened, and it still stinks.

Still, in ERG mode these differences are relatively minor when they do occur, as you can see again later in other sets:

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In terms of cadence on this one, things look spot-on across the board, using the VOLT’s estimated cadence. I see a single one-second cadence dropout (which was actually just a connectivity drop-out) early on, but otherwise it’s solid. You’ll see that slight drop after the sprint towards the end, which is very normal for smart trainers just after you start pulling back from a sprint, as the ‘bottom drops out’ on your power. Practically speaking you’ll never notice this unless you’ve got a boatload of power meters concurrently recording:

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Next, we’ll dive over into simulation mode for a ride on Zwift. In this case, I’m starting off the first 30-35 minutes in a large group at a relatively consistent wattage, but with any sort of group ride, you get constant micro-fluctuations in wattage, which are harder than you might think for trainers to handle properly (without see-sawing). Here’s that data set:

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As you can see, it’s incredibly similar. Let’s zoom in though on a few random chunks. The first thing I’ll note is that we generally see ‘proper’ ordering, with the VOLT as the lowest power source (since drivetrain losses occur the further away from the foot we get). So that’s good. I do occasionally see a tiny bit of undershooting on some surges, but not all. I’m not entirely sure of a pattern there, but it’s fairly rare. Yet, that’s also something that’s common across a high number of trainers, so it’s not exclusive to the JetBlack VOLT. It often involves gear shifting at the same time as a surge (you can see it below where the dots are on the lines).

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And you can see it on some of these more moderate surges as well. Whereas the slower surges don’t exhibit this. Again, while less than ideal, it’s not uncommon for many trainers to see this – and most would consider this nitpicking.

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If we look at this 800w sprint (keeping in mind this multi-second average graph is smoothed, so the actual value is higher), you can see it’s actually rather close to the Quarq. Whereas the Favero overshoots a bit higher. In any sort of sprint effort, it’s often rather difficult to know exactly which one is actually correct.

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Meanwhile, cadence is virtually identical across the board, save the handful of times coming down from a sprint/surge where you see the divergence for a second or so.

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Finally, we’ve got the heart rate accuracy chart. Heart rate accuracy you say? Yup, I wanted to validate that the values passed on from the VOLT (originating from the Wahoo TICKR) were precisely the same as the actual data from the TICKR. Here you can see both Garmin Edge units recording the Wahoo TICKR, while the Zwift side recorded it via the VOLT. All three are perfectly identical, with zero delay at all. Nifty!

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Overall, I’m pretty darn happy with accuracy here. While there were some early firmware reports of very small amounts of drift, I don’t see that at all on current firmware, or during any of my testing. Accuracy appears to easily be greater than the claimed +/- 2.5% figure that the company has for their tech specs, and seems to be closer to the +/- 1% variants we see on many higher-end trainers.

As with any trainer, there are some minor quibbles that I discussed above. But I can find those same quirks on a Tacx NEO 2T or a Wahoo KICKR 2020, and don’t even get me started on the $2,500-$3,200+ smart bikes that have worse accuracy quirks. So for $850USD all-in, accuracy is really strong here.

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

Trainer Comparison Charts:

I’ve added the JetBlack VOLT into the product comparison database.  This allows you to compare it against other trainers I’ve reviewed. For the purposes of this particular table, I’ve compared it against the Tacx Flux 2, Wahoo KICKR CORE, Elite Direto XR. One could have also added the Saris H3 in there, which technically retails for $999, but is semi-often on sale for $800-$850USD. Thus one should at least check the price before making a purchase decision. You can also mix and match and create your own trainer comparison charts with just about any trainer on the market in the aforementioned/linked product database.

Function/FeatureJetBlack VOLTElite Direto XRTacx Flux 2Wahoo Fitness KICKR CORE
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated July 19th, 2021 @ 7:37 am New Window Expand table for more results
Price for trainer$849$949$899USD/€799$899
Trainer TypeDirect Drive (No Wheel)Direct Drive (No Wheel)Direct Drive (no wheel)Direct Drive (No Wheel)
Available today (for sale)YesYesYEsYes
Power cord requiredYes (no control w/o)Yes (no control w/o)YesYes
Flywheel weight4.7KG/10.3LBS5.1KG/11.2LBS7.6kg (simulated 32.1kg)12.0lbs/5.44kgs
Includes cassetteYes (11 Speed SRAM/Shimano)Yes (11 Speed SRAM/Shimano)NoNo
Maximum wattage capability1,300w @ 40KPH2,300w @ 40KPH2,000w @ 40KPH1800w
Maximum simulated hill incline16%24%16%16%
Measures/Estimates Left/Right PowerNo9EUR one-time feeNoNo
Can rise/lower bike or portion thereofNoNoNoWith KICKR CLIMB accessory

And again, as always don’t forget you can mix and match your own trainer product comparison tables using the database here.

Summary:

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Overall, I’m pretty darn impressed with the JetBlack VOLT. They really nailed the hardware, and the accuracy this time around. From ride feel to power accuracy, it easily competes with other trainers of its category, but also the higher end ones too. And that’s before we talk about the nifty heart rate rebroadcasting trick, which is clutch for Apple TV users. I’d be more than happy to use this trainer as a daily driver.

In terms of minor quibbles, almost all of them reside with the companion app – the one getting a complete revamp next month. And honestly, even if it weren’t getting a revamp, it’s not something I’d use more than once every few months anyways. So it wouldn’t heavily enter into the equation, in the same way that neither the Elite or Tacx basic firmware apps are all special. In fact, technically, both those apps have less end user features than this, albeit are prettier and easier to use. And as shown in accuracy, it’s basically on-par with the higher-end trainers in this category.

As I said before, I like what I’m seeing from JetBlack in this round of products. Not just the trainer itself, but also some of the other products I haven’t yet posted about, primarily their accessories. It’s always good to see more competition, and if they can increase US distribution, that’ll help consumers as well. Currently they’re more widely available in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand – but they’ve just started getting units into the US pipeline, so hopefully that’ll sort itself out by fall.

With that – thanks for reading!

Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!

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

If you're shopping for the JetBlack VOLT or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you use Backcountry.com or Competitive Cyclist with coupon code DCRAINMAKER, first time users save 15% on applicable products!

And finally, here’s a handy list of trainer accessories that most folks getting a smart trainer for the first time might not have already:

There's no better bang for your buck in getting Zwift (or FulGaz/etc) on your big screen TV than Apple TV - it's the primary way I Zwift. Even if you don't have a 4K TV, the 4K version has more powerful graphics than the base, worth the extra $30.

Basic Trainer Mat

This is a super basic trainer mat, which is exactly what you'll see me use. All it does is stop sweat for getting places it shouldn't (it also helps with vibrations too).

I use Apple TV for Zwift the vast majority of the time, but also just for watching YouTube/Netflix/etc on the trainer. The Apple TV remote sucks though. This $8 case fixes that, it's a silicone strap that makes it easy to grab, but also has a strap to easily place on the edge of your handlebars. Boom! Note: Not compatible with 2021 Apple TV Edition.

Front Wheel Riser Block

Here's the thing, some people like front wheel blocks, some don't. I'm one of the ones that do. I like my front wheel to stay put and not aimlessly wiggle around. For $8, this solves that problem. Note some trainers do come with them. Also note, I use a riser block with *every* trainer.

Honeywell HT-900 Fan

I've got three of these $12 fans floating around the DCR Cave, and I frequently use them on rides. They work just fine. Sure, they're not as powerful as a Wahoo Headwind, but I could literally buy 20 of them for the same price.

This desk is both a knock-off of the original KICKR Desk, but yet also better than it. First, it's got wheel locks (so the darn thing stays put), and second, it has two water bottle holders (also useful for putting other things like remotes). I've been using it as my main trainer desk for a long time now and love it. Cheaper is better apparently. Note: Branding varies by country, exact same desk.

This is by far the best value in trainer desks, at only $59, but with most of the features of the higher end features. It's got multi-tier tablet slots, water bottle holders, non-stick surface, adjustable height and more. I'm loving it!

Lasko High Velocity Pro-Performance Fan (U15617)

One of the most popular trainer fans out there, rivaling the Wahoo Headwind fan in strength but at a fraction of the price. It doesn't have smartphone/ANT+/Bluetooth integration, but it does have secondary outlets. I've been using it, and a similiar European version lately with great success (exact EU variant I use is automatically linked at left).

I've had this for years, and use it in places where I don't have a big screen or desk, but just an iPad or tablet on my road bike bars.

And of course – you can always sign-up to be a DCR Supporter! That gets you an ad-free DCR, access to the DCR Quarantine Corner video series packed with behind the scenes tidbits...and it also makes you awesome. And being awesome is what it’s all about!

Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!

Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!

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

If you're shopping for the JetBlack VOLT or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you use Backcountry.com or Competitive Cyclist with coupon code DCRAINMAKER, first time users save 15% on applicable products!

And finally, here’s a handy list of trainer accessories that most folks getting a smart trainer for the first time might not have already:

There's no better bang for your buck in getting Zwift (or FulGaz/etc) on your big screen TV than Apple TV - it's the primary way I Zwift. Even if you don't have a 4K TV, the 4K version has more powerful graphics than the base, worth the extra $30.

Basic Trainer Mat

This is a super basic trainer mat, which is exactly what you'll see me use. All it does is stop sweat for getting places it shouldn't (it also helps with vibrations too).

I use Apple TV for Zwift the vast majority of the time, but also just for watching YouTube/Netflix/etc on the trainer. The Apple TV remote sucks though. This $8 case fixes that, it's a silicone strap that makes it easy to grab, but also has a strap to easily place on the edge of your handlebars. Boom! Note: Not compatible with 2021 Apple TV Edition.

Front Wheel Riser Block

Here's the thing, some people like front wheel blocks, some don't. I'm one of the ones that do. I like my front wheel to stay put and not aimlessly wiggle around. For $8, this solves that problem. Note some trainers do come with them. Also note, I use a riser block with *every* trainer.

Honeywell HT-900 Fan

I've got three of these $12 fans floating around the DCR Cave, and I frequently use them on rides. They work just fine. Sure, they're not as powerful as a Wahoo Headwind, but I could literally buy 20 of them for the same price.

This desk is both a knock-off of the original KICKR Desk, but yet also better than it. First, it's got wheel locks (so the darn thing stays put), and second, it has two water bottle holders (also useful for putting other things like remotes). I've been using it as my main trainer desk for a long time now and love it. Cheaper is better apparently. Note: Branding varies by country, exact same desk.

This is by far the best value in trainer desks, at only $59, but with most of the features of the higher end features. It's got multi-tier tablet slots, water bottle holders, non-stick surface, adjustable height and more. I'm loving it!

Lasko High Velocity Pro-Performance Fan (U15617)

One of the most popular trainer fans out there, rivaling the Wahoo Headwind fan in strength but at a fraction of the price. It doesn't have smartphone/ANT+/Bluetooth integration, but it does have secondary outlets. I've been using it, and a similiar European version lately with great success (exact EU variant I use is automatically linked at left).

I've had this for years, and use it in places where I don't have a big screen or desk, but just an iPad or tablet on my road bike bars.

And of course – you can always sign-up to be a DCR Supporter! That gets you an ad-free DCR, access to the DCR Quarantine Corner video series packed with behind the scenes tidbits...and it also makes you awesome. And being awesome is what it’s all about!

Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!

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53
A Few Random Things I Did This Weekend https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2021/07/a-few-random-things-i-did-this-weekend-2.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2021/07/a-few-random-things-i-did-this-weekend-2.html#comments Mon, 12 Jul 2021 08:32:09 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=127135 Read More Here ]]> We’re almost back at full ‘5 Random Things’ capacity here, though, this time topping out at 4 Random Things instead. Here’s the gadget and non-gadget filled goodness from the last few days.

1) Openwater Swim Testing

Friday afternoon I headed out for a plod around the lake. I’d been meaning to get another Suunto 9 Peak openwater swim in, before hitting publish on my in-depth review. My previous swim back in early June didn’t go over terribly well, but it was also on beta firmware. And while I have boatloads of runs and rides GPS data, I wanted at least one production-firmware swim in there. Thus, out I went:

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I did my usual loop, which depending on how I slice the far corner ends up being about 1,600-1,800m. It was a nice enough day, and the lake was pretty quiet too.

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In general that’s been the case much of the last 1.5 years, as the party boat traffic tends to be a bit more subdued (even on weekends). As a side note, I continue to be impressed by how many people at the lake here use swim buoys for visibility (and/or, for storing their phones/bike keys/etc…). I’d say about 50-75% of openwater swimmers (defined as people with goggles or cap) here will have one. Whereas folks just going for a quick 5-10 minute dip don’t tend to have them.

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On my left wrist I had the Garmin FR945 LTE, and the right wrist had the Suunto 9 Peak (both in openwater swim mode). Atop the swim buoy I had another watch in regular run mode, to act as my reference track. Here’s that result:

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Interestingly, in one of the extreme rare cases of the reference track being a touch bit off, you can see as I rounded one of the channel marker towers, the GPS on the reference track cut the corner incorrectly. It’s plausible the watch flipped over on the strap, and got into the water (thus minimizing signal), or who knows what. Usually I have it pretty tight on there.

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The FR945 LTE though on my wrist nailed this perfectly, including that tiny bit of drift you see, as I took some photos. In general though, the Suunto 9 Peak wasn’t as accurate across the board, with the GPS track being a bit drunker than I prefer, as you see it often on either side of the reference track. Certainly not horrible by any means, but definitely not as accurate as the FR945 LTE was here.

2) A Very Wet Ride

Saturday brought a birthday party across town for one of the girls. On the pickup portion, the middle Peanut came along for the ride. While she did manage to score some birthday cake as the party wrapped up, I’m not sure she was thrilled about the ‘cost’ of that cake: A strong rainstorm. Just as we were about to get going, it quickly escalated from nothing to minor sprinkles to angry Florida rain. I knew it was going to rain, but not for another hour or so. Apparently it came early – and I hadn’t put the rain cover on.

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While it was a warm rain, middle Peanut (P2) was very much not happy about this development. But, I found myself a cardboard dumpster with some boxes piled up, which seemed new and clean enough. The perfect umbrellas!

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I gave the bigger box to P2, and she hunkered down in that box like a turtle shell, the entire way home. Whereas the older P1 only had a tray box of sorts, but made the most of it:

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You can watch the full sequence on my ‘Cargo Bike Wows’ Instagram story archive here, if you want. By the time we got home, every layer of clothing of mine was completely soaked. The Peanuts didn’t fair all that much better, but at least the angry rain wasn’t hitting their faces at 25KPH anymore.

3) Late Night Zwifting

Sunday night after the kiddos went to bed I zipped back to the DCR Cave to get in one final ride on the JetBlack VOLT. I’ve been testing it for a bit over a month now, and wanted one more data point on things. Which, I suppose is somewhat the theme of the weekend. Thinking about it, it’s often the theme of things when I’ve got some travel ahead. I try and cram a bunch of final data collection before heading out of town, and then sort out the final analysis out on the road.

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In this case, after a rather prolonged setup/prep period, I got to cooking. The JetBlack VOLT was atop the JetBlack rocker plate. Though, this rocker plate is sold under many different brands, from KOM Cycling to ones by Wiggle as the Lifeline Rocker Plate, and others too. Same-same, just different paint-schemes (and interestingly, different instructions- the JetBlack instructions are the clearest set yet).

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For the ride, I started off with about 30-35 minutes of jumping on the Coco Cadence Pace Partner around some light rollers in Watopia. Then I ditched them to spend another 10-15 minutes doing some surges up the hills of Titans Grove. As always, it’s one of the best places to test trainers in all of trainer-land. The combination of constant up and downs really challenge reaction time of smart trainers, and then the flats on the loop are great for high flywheel speed testing.

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I’ll detail all that tomorrow in my full in-depth review though. Then it was time for a slate of photos before zipping back home.

4) Off to the train

Very early this morning, though, still well past sunrise (which starts in the 4AM hour here), The Girl and I quietly escaped out of the house. My parents arrived earlier in the week, the first time they’ve seen all the kids in over a year and a half. And with that, they kindly offered for us to escape for a few days away from the crazy house that is three kids 5 and under. So two small suitcases loaded into the bike, along with The Girl and we pedaled our way across a silent city.

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As always, finding a spot can be tricky:

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Central Station was also relatively quiet too, and we boarded the first train of the morning southbound for a few days of quiet and eating.

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Now zipping along at just shy of 300KPH:

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With that – thanks for reading!

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How to Screen Record On the Wahoo BOLT V2 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2021/07/screen-record-wahoo.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2021/07/screen-record-wahoo.html#comments Wed, 07 Jul 2021 16:48:23 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=127092 Read More Here ]]>

Here’s a quick (and totally awesome) tip for Wahoo BOLT V2 users. You can now screen record what your Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V2 is doing, which is useful for approximately two of us: Me and GPLAMA. Actually, three if we include DesFit. Four to five if we include Matt LeGrand and Tariq, and oh heck – any other YouTuber. Even TrainerRoad, and their race analysis video series.

But in reality, this can also be super useful for product support too. If someone is having a really weird bug that’s hard to repro, or even just doing something themselves that’s weird and need to explain it to Wahoo support, there’s often no better way than a video recording. It’s just that this simply takes the complexity of pointing a phone at it.

In fact, it’s entirely plausible this may have also been hurried along after all the issues I had on my BOLT V2 at launch, allowing them to see what I’m seeing. And, since you’re probably curious there, things are definitely better in the last week or so. Today’s ride was the first flawless ride, with no sensor dropouts. So, we’re getting there. More later.

Oh, and it may come to other Wahoo ELEMNT series units, but the BOLT V2 has some additional API’s, so they’re seeing if they can pull it off on other units too. How would it be to also see it on the Wahoo ELEMNT RIVAL watch?

Setting it up:

Getting it configured is silly easy. Though, it takes a computer. Essentially we’re just creating a folder on the BOLT2, and then it knows to start capturing files. Maybe down the road there will be a secret menu option or something, but for now this is perfect (and somewhat reminiscent of the nifty Varia radar trick allowing you to change the car icons to chickens or whatever).

In any case, here’s the steps:

1) Plug your Wahoo BOLT V2 into a computer

2) Navigate to it on your computer, here’s what it looks like on Windows:

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On a Mac, you’ll need to first grab the Android File Transfer app, as like many devices these days, that’s required for your Mac to see it.

3) Create a folder called capture on the BOLT:

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4) Now unplug your BOLT and power it off, then turn it back on.

5) Go into the BOLT menu, and scroll to the very bottom, and you’ll see ‘Debug Menu’ to open (or, if not in a beta group, it sounds like it’ll simply show as an option at the bottom, without opening a Debug menu), then you’ll see Adv User: Screen Record, with a toggle for OFF or ON (default is OFF). Simply switch it to ON, by choosing the start option:

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6) At this point, it’s now recording. It’s as simple as that. The recording rate is about 75MB/hour, so pretty small. My BOLT V2 with full EU/US/Australian maps has 865MB of space remaining, so that’d be 13 hours of recording, or even more if I vote Australia off the island, since it appears I won’t be able to travel there till 2028 or something. Or any other country I don’t plan to travel to.

You can validate that it’s recording (or stopping it) by going back to that menu option, and you’ll see the current recording time, along with the ability to stop it:

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7) Finally, to grab the file (after stopping it), you’ll plug it back in your computer and in the capture folder you’ll see the MP4 video file:

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The file renders at 230w by 320h, at a whopping 1.95fps. Obviously, that sounds low by 4K/60FPS standards, but realistically it doesn’t matter. You’re not blowing that up to full screen size (or, I’d assume you aren’t anyway).

In my case, for my videos, I’ll record footage on a GoPro or such, and then overlay them together:

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Some very quick pro tips on doing that, that apply to both Wahoo & Hammerhead, from someone who has had to piece these videos together:

1) Don’t shoot a lot of clips. You’re FAR better off shooting really long clips than 12 little one-minute ones. The reason? You have to merge them together, and since the bike computer ones don’t include audio to sync on, you’ll need to do that manually.

2) To make your life easier there, once your GoPro is recording (and the BOLT recording), audibly count what’s on the screen. So, either on your ride timer (how long you’ve ridden), or on the screen recording timer (in the settings menu), count out 3-5 seconds worth. The reason? You can use that to match up the timers.

3) Next, to get super precise on matching the screen recording with the video, hold up the BOLT in front of the GoPro for a moment, and press some buttons, so that you can get the exact frames matched. This is harder to do when the BOLT is far away from the GoPro, so put it about a book-length away.

4) That’s all the tips I have.

Wrap-Up:

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Finally, fun, the background on this is that both GPLAMA and myself were talking to one of Wahoo’s original engineers, Murray, back a month or so ago. You may remember him from the Tour Down Under Bikes & Beer panel we did, where he dropped all sorts of neat behind-the-scenes tidbits. In any event, I was pointing out that one of my favorite features of the Hammerhead Karoo series is the ability to screen-capture/record (due to it just being an Android device). That allows me to make far better videos, and even photos for the review, since I’m not dealing with the glare of camera equipment. And more notably, in the last 2 years here in the Netherlands, it’s illegal to hand-hold a camera/phone while cycling. So I’ve had to create all sorts of creative rigs to overcome that, none of which yield great video results.

For Murray, the same restriction actually recently came into effect in his area too in Australia, thus, adding more reason to build it in. He put it in some test builds first, and now it’s in the production builds as an Easter-egg of sorts. Perhaps it’ll grow up to get its own menu option someday.

Speaking of perhaps; perhaps we’ll see other companies add this in too. I casually noticed that in a YouTuber’s sponsored video (by Garmin) the other day, they had created real watch renders of what she had workout-wise on her watch. I don’t know if that was done automatically, or if she gave them a list of workouts after the fact, and they just whipped them up and sent them back. But there’s no way I know of to do that today on any Garmin devices.

Thus as reviews and content continues to slowly shift towards YouTube (for better or worse), being able to get/show exactly what’s on the screen, especially small screens while working out, is more and more important. And equally, it’s just as useful for support/helpdesk/engineering folks to troubleshoot quirky problems.

With that – thanks for reading!

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At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase. These posts generally take a lot of time to put together, so if you're shopping for the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V2/2021 or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you use Backcountry.com or Competitive Cyclist with coupon code DCRAINMAKER, first time users save 15% on applicable products!

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A Few Random Things I Did This Weekend https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2021/07/a-few-random-things-i-did-this-weekend.html https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2021/07/a-few-random-things-i-did-this-weekend.html#comments Tue, 06 Jul 2021 11:37:55 +0000 https://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=127073 Read More Here ]]> Things are heating up! No, not the weather, but finally a bit more normalcy around these parts. And if you know anything about me and July, it tends to be one of the busiest months of the year, though usually not for products (and especially not this year, since Eurobike isn’t in July – but August instead). The first part of this month will instead be mostly ‘leftover’ products, things sitting on the backburner a while. Then we’ll transition to newer products later in the month.

In any event, it was a great weekend. We kicked it off with our 10-year wedding anniversary, followed by our close friends arriving from Paris (the first time we’ve seen them in nearly a year, due to travel restrictions). Their kids are all within a couple weeks of our kids, so it’s a small pack of children running around speaking a unique blend of English, French, and Dutch. It works, and they get along great – keeping themselves busy.

1)  10-Year Wedding Anniversary

Friday was our 10-year wedding anniversary. Long-time readers might even remember that way back when. In fact, for our wedding I converted a $100 Target bike into a wedding bike of sorts. Basically, it was an excuse to buy another bike. Shh… that story, along with some wedding photos are found here in this older post (as well as links to The Girl’s blog way back when too!).

In any event, fast forward 10 years later and we find ourselves living two countries removed from where we started (first moving to France, and now to the Netherlands), and with three little Peanuts running around (and one dog). It’s been an awesome ride, and we continue to have new adventures all the time.

Now, according to various interweb articles, for your 10th anniversary you’re supposed to give your spouse something made of tin or aluminum. While I contemplated buying The Girl a pack of Heineken, I didn’t think that’d go over well. Inversely, she apparently figured the same. So she surprised me with a custom artwork of all of us:

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It was done by a friend of hers in Newfoundland, and has tons of little nuanced details – some things readers here might pick up on. And then plenty others only ourselves or the kids might notice. Apparently me wearing watches was vetoed.

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Meanwhile, as a surprise for her, I put together a book of photos, with each page being a single month from the last 10 years. Thus, that entire page is only photos from that month (e.g. July 2014). Though, since the maximum amount of pages for the book was 110, I had to combine a few ‘boring’ months in some years to make it work (which, tended to be in the March-April timeframe).

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The book is a beast! But, it’s pretty cool (if I think so myself).

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In any event, later that evening with some close friends, we celebrated – including (cheap) Prosecco pong. Because Champagne pong is far too expensive to play.

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The next morning was slow moving.

2) Can-America Day

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Next, Saturday we had Can-America day. That’s our annual (except last year, and a more subdued version this year) party celebrating the blend of Canada Day & Independence Day, blended with a side-dish of our wedding anniversary and one of The Peanut’s birthdays tossed in. Canada Day is July 1st, and the (US) Independence Day is July 4th. So we split the difference.

Though, I don’t have many pictures of that, I was too busy eating The Girl’s buffalo chicken dip. So, here’s one picture of me and P2:

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Hopefully next year things will be back to normal!

3) A Very Brief Run

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I had planned to run considerably longer, also, with a trainer ride or so tossed in too. But, those plans mostly went out the window following late-night liquid consumption two days prior, which may or may not have spilled into Can-America Day. Point being, chasing around nearly half a dozen small children was exercise enough, something no long-run could possibly compete with*.

(*Obviously.)

Still, my friend and I made a go for it on Saturday afternoon before the England game, for a quick down and back to the windmill, a simple 5K. As noted, given everything, it was a notable little notch in the weekend. Regular workouts would resume Monday-ish morning.

With that – thanks for reading! Happy Canada Day to Canadians, Happy 4th of July to Americans, and happy anything else to anyone else left that had something happy to be happy about. 🙂

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