I’m DC RAINMAKER…
I swim, bike and run. Then, I come here and write about my adventures. It’s as simple as that. Most of the time. If you’re new around these parts, here’s the long version of my story.
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Think my written reviews are deep? You should check out my videos. I take things to a whole new level of interactive depth!
Smart Trainers Buyers Guide: Looking at a smart trainer this winter? I cover all the units to buy (and avoid) for the 2020-2021 indoor training season. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Get all your awesome DC Rainmaker gear here!
I have built an extensive list of my most frequently asked questions. Below are the most popular.
- Why haven’t you yet released a review for XYZ product you mentioned months ago?
- Will you test our product before release?
- Are you willing to review or test beta products?
- Which trainer should I buy?
- Which GPS watch should I buy?
- I’m headed to Paris – what do you recommend for training or sightseeing?
- I’m headed to Washington DC – what do you recommend for training?
- I’m from out of the country and will be visiting the US, what’s the best triathlon shop in city XYZ?
- What kind of camera do you use?
5 Easy Steps To The Site
Here’s my most recent gadget recommendations guide and trainers here – covering almost every category of sports gadgets out there. Looking for the equipment I use day to day? I also just put together my complete ‘Gear I Use’ equipment list, from swim to bike to run and everything in between (plus a few extra things). And to compliment that, here’s The Girl’s (my wife’s) list. Enjoy, and thanks for stopping by!
The most common question I receive outside of the “what’s the best GPS watch for me” variant, are photography-esq based. So in efforts to combat the amount of emails I need to sort through on a daily basis, I’ve complied this “My Photography Gear” post for your curious minds! It’s a nice break from the day to day sports-tech talk, and I hope you get something out of it!
Many readers stumble into my website in search of information on the latest and greatest sports tech products. But at the end of the day, you might just be wondering “What does Ray use when not testing new products?”. So here is the most up to date list of products I like and fit the bill for me and my training needs best! DC Rainmaker 2019 swim, bike, run, and general gear list. But wait, are you a female and feel like these things might not apply to you? If that’s the case (but certainly not saying my choices aren’t good for women), and you just want to see a different gear junkies “picks”, check out The Girl’s 2018 Gear Guide too.
Search results for: 'watch'
Over the past few years The Girl has put up with all manner of sports gadgets floating through the house. Some of them, she pays attention to. Others, not so much. Those that she pays attention to usually get ‘alternative … Read More Here
Mio was on-hand at CES showing off both their recently announced devices from this past fall (Mio Fuse and Mio Velo), as well as demoing their just announced device: The Mio Alpha2. The Mio Alpha2 builds upon the features found … Read More Here
What’s that you say? You want more high end watches? Ok, deal. Next up we’ve got the Suunto Ambit2 – it’ll go ahead and track your flailing efforts across all three triathlon sports while also providing navigational support in the … Read More Here
Rewind the clocks to 10:30PM Friday night, which is the time at which I finally managed to secure the not-yet-available Suunto Ambit box from DHL. Due to a strange series of errors, DHL had decided not to deliver the unit … Read More Here
Ever since I reviewed the FINIS Swimsense and the Swimovate Pool-Mate Pro a few months ago, there’s been significant interest in understanding how the two devices compare. The two watches aim to solidify themselves in the still young market of … Read More Here
Back in early spring Garmin released their Fenix2 multisport watch. This was a well-received move in the sports watch marketplace, bringing enhanced navigation, Running Dynamics, and Bluetooth upload capability into the mix. Oh, and with the Summer Solstice sneaking up … Read More Here
Earlier this week while in Las Vegas for CES I had the chance to meet up with the founder of Bia, the only womens focused GPS watch on the market. Cheryl Kellond and I met me at the UNLV track … Read More Here
For those of you waiting for the perfect giveaway deal, this may very well be it. The Suunto Ambit 3 Peak has something for everyone; well actually this one only has everything for just the one person whose entry is drawn … Read More Here
Sometimes you just need a friend when you’re going out and swimming, cycling and running 140.6 miles. No, not scuba fins like Finman. But something more technologically advanced, like, the FR910XT. This multisport watch will track your swims, bikes, and … Read More Here
It’s hands-on time with the Pebble and RunKeeper – but does it live up to expectations? Read More Here
Yes, that’s a glass of chocolate milk. When I went sifting through my library of product photos for the single shot to use for the Timex Run Trainer 2.0 giveaway, I stumbled upon the above photo. It was in a … Read More Here
It is closing on nearly two years since Garmin initially announced the first generation Fenix in June 2012. Since then the watch has transformed from what was originally seen as a hiking focused unit, to more of an ultra-runner’s unit, to finally settling in on a full-fledged multisport watch as seen now in the recently announced Fenix2.
I’ve spent the last six or so weeks with the unit, putting it through daily activities across a wide variety of sports. Last week, the Fenix2 started hitting retail outlets as the firmware moved into the production state. In the past week alone however, even further unannounced additional features have been added. Nonetheless, it’s time for my full in-depth review.
To be clear, Garmin sent me over a Fenix2 to start testing with until retail availability. Like always, I’ll be shipping that back to them in Olathe, KS, in the next few days and going out and getting my own via regular retail channels. That’s just the way I roll.
Lastly, at the end of the day keep in mind I’m just like any other regular athlete out there. I write these reviews because I’m inherently a curious person with a technology background, and thus I try and be as complete as I can. But, if I’ve missed something or if you spot something that doesn’t quite jive – just let me know and I’ll be happy to get it all sorted out. Also, because the technology world constantly changes, I try and go back and update these reviews as new features and functionality are added – or if bugs are fixed. So – with that intro, let’s get into things
The Fenix2 comes boxed in two variations: One with just the watch, and one with a heart rate strap. Specifically, the HRM-RUN. I’ll dive more into the HRM-RUN later on, but it’s an important distinction compared to previous ANT+ enabled straps, as far as enabling advanced functionality on the Fenix2.
Inside the box splits into three pieces, two of which contain the goods. The third just sits there and looks pretty.
If you dump out the contents of those two boxes to the left, you’ll see the below. Note that the non-bundle version does not contain the heart rate strap (the two left pieces).
I’ll go ahead and walk through each of the components in the box.
First up, the power adapters. Note that some readers have asked what the difference is between the US and European editions are. It’s simple: It’s just the power adapter for the USB power block. That’s it. You can still use your Fenix2 with any USB port in the world, and you can still use the power adapter with a 99 cent adapter in any outlet in the world. So don’t fret too much there.
Next we’ve got the HRM-RUN heart rate strap. This ANT+ capable strap transmits your heart rate strap to the Fenix2 (as well as any ANT+ device in range that’s been paired with it). In that way, the HRM-RUN is just like any other ANT+ strap. However, it also has a secondary private channel that carries with it additional information only accessible to Garmin devices, that constitute the Running Dynamics pieces. So while you can use the Fenix2 with any ANT+ strap, you won’t get some of the Running Dynamics pieces without it. Also, it’s $40 cheaper to buy the bundle than the two separately (usually, it’s a wash price-wise).
Next, Garmin decided to toss in a fabric strap. This can be used with the screws and pieces seen below to replace the plastic strap. This is useful because it goes quite a bit larger, enabling you to place it over ski coats and the like.
You’ll use these two little incredibly sharp screwdrivers to remove the pins. It’s a two hand job. Ok, I guess that came out wrong.
Finally, we get to the watch itself. If you’re a past Fenix/Tactix user, you’ll notice a few changes up front. First, the buttons have been changed around. This (in my opinion) makes the flow much cleaner, and much easier to navigate. It also mirrors the Garmin Forerunner line. Second, you’ll notice the display is ‘inverted’, which means its white text on black background. This is non-changeable.
On the back, you’ll find the charging pins. The unit connects to a USB charger I’ll show you in a second. The reason the Fenix2 (and most other well waterproofed watches) use contacts like these to charge versus using a standard micro-USB or mini-USB port is for waterproofing purposes.
Here’s the USB charging cable. The cable can be used both to charge the unit, as well as to transfer workouts/tracks/routes/waypoints/maps/etc… Garmin provides apps for PC and Mac, but the device enumerates as a standard USB mass storage device, so that functionality will work fine on other operating systems like Linux.
The clip snaps onto the back, thus it would be able to pass the ‘ceiling fan’ test, which tests whether or not the charging clip is strongly enough attached to the Fenix2 to tie one end to a ceiling fan and turn it on. Aside from being fun, the more practical implication of this is that you can charge it on the go, without worrying about a finicky connection.
With everything unboxed, let’s see how it stacks up against other units.
Size & Weight Comparisons:
As always, I’ve combined all the competitive units in the running and triathlon segment together for you to get a feel for how they compare size-wise. Roughly speaking, the bigger ones are on the left side – and those are the ones we’re mostly comparing between.
Below, from left to right: Adidas Smart Run GPS, Suunto Ambit 2, Polar V800, Garmin Fenix2, Suunto Ambit 2R.
Next, I’ve flipped it over so you can see the depth of the units themselves.
If you look at the Fenix1 and Fenix2, you’ll see they are virtually identical. After all, they are basically twins, just not identical twins. On the visible side, the button layout changed. On the internal guts side, the unit received a slight change in the accelerometer to enable the swimming tracking scenarios, that wouldn’t have been fully possible with the same level of accuracy with the accelerometer that’s contained in the Fenix1/Tactix units.
And remember, these watches are part of a longer line of siblings that share nearly identical physical hardware, but change in software – from the Quatix for marine use, to the D2 for pilots.
For those that haven’t followed along on the Fenix journey, the Fenix1 actually has received substantial updates over the last 4-5 months. In fact, outside of multisport mode, power meter support (cycling), and swimming support – the Fenix1 gains almost all the features of the Fenix2. Even things like mobile phone uploads and satellite pre-caching. These features were introduced in beta recently, and will ultimately be brought to full production status on those units as well. However, neither the Fenix1 nor the Tactix will get the Fenix2-only features like swimming, multisport or power meter support. Expect to see Garmin cease manufacturing of those units by summer.
One minor little tidbit that I thought was interesting – the Fenix2 strap is slightly longer than the Fenix1 strap:
Next, while you’ll see the watch on my wrist throughout the review, I did briefly want to include what it looks like on a smaller female wrist – in this case, my wife. She’s tiny, and her wrist size is 14cm (or 5.5 inches).
She found it heavy for her, but I pretty much said the same thing when I wore it initially. She hasn’t spent any time running with it though, nor getting used to it.
Finally, when it comes to weights, here’s a lineup of the devices you’re most likely to compare:
The key difference in weight between the Fenix1 and Fenix2 really comes from the change to the back plate on the unit.
And for fun, here’s two more units you’re likely to compare:
As you can see, weight-wise they’re all basically in the same camp. Note that for the FR910XT, I had the quick-release kit on there, which likely adds a tiny bit of weight.
With comparisons done, let’s head onto actually using the product.
It’s been two months since the Apple Watch Series 5 came out, and the watch has been on my right wrist every one of those days. Swim, bike, run…and plenty more. You may remember my initial thoughts on it back … Read More Here
Woot! For a brief moment on Saturday, it was both sorta sunny, and sorta warm. Which, by my definition means it’s spring. This weekend was crazy busy, but also a nice segue into a semi-normalized triathlon-focused training schedule for me. … Read More Here
Today Garmin introduced a full color mapping GPS wrist watch that doubles as a multisport watch – making for the first time they’ve merged the multisport world with their historically separate handheld mapping units. This new unit – the Garmin … Read More Here
Here’s everything you could ever want to know about the Forerunner 245/245 Music, from loading Spotify, to Running Dynamics, to GPS accuracy and plenty more. Read More Here
Overview: Late last week Withings announced their latest device – the Withings Activité, which combined an activity tracker into a more normal looking high-end designer watch. This would in effect be pulling in much of their existing Withings Pulse activity … Read More Here
Update – March 2016! I’ve published my full Fitbit Blaze In-Depth Review here! Swing on over for all the details after extensive use! Today at CES Fitbit announced their latest wearable, the Fitbit Blaze. This new unit is effectively a … Read More Here
It’s been nearly three months since Suunto announced the Ambit3, though considerably less time since the unit started making its way into the wild with final hardware and firmware. Since well before either of those dates I’ve been testing the … Read More Here
It’s been nearly five months since Polar first announced the Vantage series watches, including the Vantage M and Vantage V. You probably saw my Vantage V review a couple months back. Since then I’ve transitioned to using the less expensive … Read More Here