Glen of Rait Hill Run: a tradition I love

2010 was the last Glen of Rait games (here is a blog of that day) … they intersperse a beer festival every other year just to get the ying / yang balance going. One year traditional summer festivities like an egg and spoon as well as a 3 legged race for the kids and a 5km hill run for the adults and silly buggers.

Last time I did it in 2010 I was running fit although i was not ‘hill running fit’ and i came in 3rd and vowed that next time i would train for the event. Well 2012 dawned and my training once again for a hill run was non existent and my running had lessened as well as i have started to ride more ….

The race starts in the village goes straight up a hill to a farm (at up to 22% gradient) then across a boggy field and then down the road to the village again.

course here

the course and profile

That hill up is hard with no warm up the HR shoots up and stays at max HRave 167 max 179 (92% 99% of max HR)

The start of 31 runners saw a few eagers shooting off the front … I was 5th or 6th most of the way but went past someone whose breathing was pretty ropey. I just tried to stay steady and the right side of vomit ….. By the top I was 3rd with 4th and 5th right behind me.

After all the rain this year the top field was said to be ‘treacherous’ but it was just a bit muddy and cow riddled. I put some distance on the 2 boys behind and set my eyes on no 2 as the defending champ was already 200m ahead …

HR – up with the hill but no coming down

i chased no 2 who later identified himself as Paul from hungary down the hill and was making slight gains halving the distance to 30m when he heard the slap of my trainers on the wet road and proceeded to speed up to a pace I couldn’t keep up. i think a 3m38/km (about 5m25/ml) pace might be the quickest i have run.

finished 3rd again …. next time I will train as Thomas wont run with his son (and wont be doing a 80km ride just before the run) and he is aiming for gold …..

interval running – training for the hill race and the half marathon


Interval running – you have got to love it. Strangely I sometimes prefer doing this on a treadmill so the intervals are exactly the same speed. 1 min intervals at above 16km/h or (3m40/km pace) and then 90 sec in between at a leisurely 11.5km/h or a 5m27? ish pace.


Today was windy – we will fly a kite …

Today was forecast to be a bit like this …

although it wasn’t quite – went out on my 7m kite and had a blast but wore my Polar RCX5 and the gps to track my effort and distance – always curious to keep tabs on the health benefits whilst being dragged back and forth.

Kept tabs on the first session which was 20km of kiting …

and Heart rate was quite sedentary as the wind wasn’t nuclear enough for good jumbos so spent more time playing in the waves ….

But discovered the 7m kite has a slight leak in the bladder which needs fixing and when i went out on the 9m the safety blew off leaving me with the 1/3rd mile self rescue and swim back to shore – about 4 years since i last self rescued … good to know I still  know how.

Then home just in time for the TdF finish and Cav’s 4th stage win in Paris …. nice

riding in the wet

According to the keepers of the cog ….

Rule #5// Harden The Fuck Up

Rule #9 // If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.
Fair-weather riding is a luxury reserved for Sunday afternoons and wide boulevards. Those who ride in foul weather – be it cold, wet, or inordinately hot – are members of a special club of riders who, on the morning of a big ride, pull back the curtain to check the weather and, upon seeing rain falling from the skies, allow a wry smile to spread across their face. This is a rider who loves the work.


Today applied – it has been housing down and it was a bit like this picture … in fact just checked stats and 9.8mm of rain fell today ….

rain spray – still cycling

but without the friends the sun and the visibility …

think I was under that red dot

So set off for the campsies and had the fortune of turning right as a monsoonic (I lay claim to this adjective) thunderstorm opened up. Wind was up in these heavier than normal showers so a bit of a balance sometimes staying upright … hit the crow road and had intended to do the crow road and tai-ma-doon of the other day but judging by the water in the river I knew the fjord at Tak would be thigh deep and my bike didn’t need a wash that bad.

route click on this for link to ride on STRAVA

Wasn’t pushing very hard – up the crow was studying the other side of the road for my descent – don’t want to twat myself so close to the austrian holiday …

Heart Rate was steady and never really went very high even on the ascent when i could have pushed a bit harder. Barely glanced at the Polar as I could hardly see my hand on the bar by the time I got to the hill.

Descent was a spray fest so kept it smooth and easy although I think I must have hit the 65kmh max at some smooth point on that descent.

Still a great day out though – came back to the house and stripped at the back door as I was dripping everywhere – I think my rain cape had kept me dry for all of the first 7minutes of the ride …. but what it did do was keep me from getting too cold in the wind so was glad I had it on.

Only crap part of the ride was the arseholes in cars that went past inches away – I had purposely kept my rear light on blink to give a bit of warning but the drivers in Scotland were obviously mourning the lack of summer and were intent on a bit of murder …. as i say arseholes …

Did you HTFU (see rule 5) at any point this week?

Selkirk MTB marathon review and thoughts

Went down on the Saturday afternoon and saw a lot of cars with road bikes heading in the opposite direction after the sportive. Event camping was  in Selkirk. After weeks of rain the weather forecast was true and good and after a cold clear night where the temp in the car got down to 1 degree C – the blue skies and May sun woke the riders up and set the tone of the rest of the day.

After the ride got off at ten o’clock with the Championship riders leading the field out it only took a little more than three and a quarter hours till the leading championship riders came back into the event village.

Go rohloff Go

Highlights of the race were the scenery in general and the sections of trail centre singletrack at Innerleithen, part of the renowned 7Stanes network. This part of the Scottish Borders is stunning, with rolling hills as far as the eye can see, gorse in full golden flower, and a superbly remote feeling. I do however have a gripe – being mid field some of the technical single track sections were really bogged down up to 20cm of mud and quite unrideable. Hate to think what the riders 300places back would have thought.

Feel that they could have had multi sections were another option was opened after the first 250 riders passed through … a minor gripe and just that i would have loved to ride it all instead of having to walk 3 sections.

always suspect something when a camera and puddle are this close together …
there was also a section where the 70km (actually 60km if I had another moan) came back to join the 45km lot and there was a hill that i didn’t see anyone ride – up to 22% according to the Garmin … again think the organisers should have picked a gentler route this late in the ride as it is the people on the 45km course that they really should encourage to come back and a 600m walk will not help them do that … Then a lovely descent – most people like me just riding down the side of the heather … a few of the full course 85km guys came flying past as well … then the water pic above – need to buy the Hires version for vanity reasons ….
Lastly the finish and another t-shirt which i said No to. The race must appeal to people that care about the environment and then they give out cheap horrible t-shirts that no-one with any fashion sense would wear out … they should copy the marathon and run events and give out small medals instead …
finished but hot
Must say that the greatest post finish bit was the routine …
3. Get a physio
4. Eat … and Eat again. 4300calories leaves a dent.
ride profile

Hill Running repeats but now a slightly sore calf

That was a bit horrible

Went to Alexander park to do some hill repeats tonight

amble to the park then started the repeats – 1st one was to scout the hill – then realised best option was the less steep longer ascent with a short drop down and then repeat repeat. The HR belt can’t have been sweaty enough as it showed a 109%HR effort …. but rest were fine showing me hit 92%of my MaxHR. It hurt a lot which I guess it is supposed to do ….

the hill repeated and my speed
polar HR (strange spike on 2nd hill)

then i started to feel my calf pulling so to prevent muscle damage i stopped and didn’t finish my 10 repeats ….. still a bit tender but should be fine.

Turbo Interval on the bike

yesterday was supposed to be a run day in light of the upcoming duathlon but I couldn’t face it (as opposed to today when I am forced to face the sleet and cold later)

So the plan was this:

10min warm up then

4 MIN at +85% MHR

4 MIN recovery at 65% MHR

Repeat 4 times

Then cool down for 10 min

But was watching the iPad – a doccie about the Yom Kippur war with John Snow daddy and son and kind of lost track of timings ….

Here is the Garmin read out showing speed

speed on the trainer

The intervals are not so easy to see on this graph – esp the 2nd interval where I went for nearly 7.5 minutes ….

Here is the polar Heart rate Graph from Polar Personal Trainer which shows the intervals clearer. Normally I program the RCX5 so that it beeps to remind me and beeps when HR is too high (rare) or too low ….. Think I should stick to that is it is less forgetful than me doing it manually.

Polar RCX5 HR graph clearly showing intervals

not working today so off to the cinema at lunchtime – how decadent ….

Alloa Half Marathon – race report

Woke up at 7am and looked out the window to the most glorious weather … Bright sunshine and hardly any wind. Temp slightly fresh at 4 degrees but bound to warm up.
Had my staple breakfast of raw porridge and banana and picked up Findlay at 8am for the drive to Alloa. We arrived early and had too much time on our hands for parking, registration and in findlays case, plenty of time to regret the curry he had the night before.
Temp was still hovering around 5 degrees but I learnt my lesson running the Jedburgh half marathon when my legs were sweating for most of the run, so shorts were donned but realised I only had a vest which might be a bit chilly. Borrowed findlays spare t shirt. Which was two sizes too big but had my vest on top to keep it snug.

Course map – showing long straight where the wind was in our face.

This time I remembered to take plasters to tape over my nipples – one of the problems of being born with nipples which seem to come out under the side of my chest … Maybe I was born to breast feed small animals anchored under my armpit hair.
I have only done one run, 7 miles in the sweaty heat of Baghdad where the seam of the vest chafed away at me and I finished that run in agony. LESSON LEARNED.

Back to the run. Organisation at this event was flawless. Good start zone, electronic chips for the shoes, plenty of changing facilities and loos both on the leisure centre and portaloos near the start.

Start was massive – so many people that it took me about a minute to cross the start line. The first 2 km were spent weaving through slower traffic and over eager athletes that had pushed to front of start line. From 3km there was plenty of space to pass for those overtaking and for those being overtaken. The police did a great job of marshalling and the cars were either kept back or their speed was curtailed by the often passing police motor cycle.

My legs post injury are still not up to speed so I kept my pace quite regular around the 4:30/km. I knew I wasn’t going to get my 1h31 PB in this this race but by the end was very chuffed to get a 1h36m as I was only hoping for sub 1h45

Alloa is a great race and I think I will do it again next year.


Only one slight problem with the race was my polar HR belt had a slight wobble. I don’t use gel on the belt but think that maybe the wicking nature of the shirt meant I dried up on my chest. Suddenly my HR said it was 97 – if only – I only noticed this after 3 km of bad reading – I was only glancing down at monitor every time the watch auto lapped the km to make sure I was doing alright and not flagging too quickly. I can only think the belt was dry as soon as I shifted it it read accurately again.
Still love the RCX5 though …..

Duathlon Training

Last night I was supposed to do an hour on the bike at a very low rate ….. but I felt so lethargic and pissed off (for no reason) that I abandoned it after only 20 odd minutes. This morning I am not too annoyed I think training schedules are sometimes treated like they are gospel … but I guess I am agnostic in this regard or humanist in that i listened to my body which was saying ‘NO’

In light of the Ayr Duathlon I entered (15th April chaps if anyone want to enter) I decided to try a practice run and cycle and also see how the Polar RCX5 handles the transition between sports. Its a bit messed as I did my bike ride at home on the trainer.

run route

The Ayr Duathlon is actually a 5km run – 28km cycle – 5 km run …. but I just wanted to try a 2 sport hit so went down to Glasgow Green and ran along the river until I hit one of my markers then ran back. It is slightly longer than the 2 runs put together at 10.33km (although i am sure MAP myRun and google say it is 10.7km

Into the house – rain coat off and shoes changed then hopped on the bike. Wasn’t going for the full 28km just wanted to get a feel. 16km was enough I think. My wife and daughter came back in ‘my god you stink’ as they saw me red-faced and sweating all over the kitchen. (NOTE to self – I will stay cooler in the wind outside and not stink the house out)

I like the way the RCX5 lets you transition between sport …. there is an option to allow you to change between sports by raising the wrist unit close to the HRM belt (which you can change to show or do loads in the setup) … at the moment I have the bike one set up to show me Time of Day when I raise the wrist unit close to the belt and the Run one to switch on the backlight ……

After 16km i had enough … legs now are still sore a bit … was amazed how long it took me to feel up to speed on the bike. The muscle memory after the run was quite weird – not sure how it would feel to start the run again … hopefully do a trial race before the event (which will be my first)

Heart Rate Graph - no distance info on bike side as indoors on trainer.

Polar RCX5 review

The Polar HRM arrived nearly a month ago now and I have had a good chance to use it in various sports.

Firstly unboxing showed a nice little box and neat packaging. When you first switch on RCX it asks you to input basic things like sex, age, height, weight as well as the amount you exercise per week. I fall into a higher (amateur) category of roughly 5-7 hrs / week.

The RCX typically comes in 3 configurations … a gps setup which includes the excellent G5 gps. This is a very nice waterproof unit which holds charge for 20 hrs which is far from what i have had the pleasure of exceeding. The unit comes with an armband although I must confess that one month later i have yet to use it. The unit is very wee and fits into the small key pocket at the front of my running shorts as well as the back pocket of my running tights. I even used it the other day on a ride and had it jammed into a small front pocket of my jacket pocket. Being hunched over I expected the reception and subsequent track to be slightly skittish but coming back i compared the track to the one recorded by my Garmin Edge 305 which is on my stem with an uninterupted view of the sky. The comparison revealed that the Garmin recorded the ride as 51.42km and the edge at 51.62km … that is a 200m discrepancy over a huge distance. thinks it something like 0.4% (better get my calculator out) I am sure a shoulder mount or bar mount would make it perfect (that is me judging the Edge to be perfect …)

Other configurations are the Run pack which comes with the S3+ stride sensor. I have not used this but have seen side by side comparisons to the Garmin unit and from what I gather they are pretty compareable. The Polar unti is much bigger and does everything the Garmin does … the only feature useful to me would be the stride count … but then i am a slight Chi runner and my footfall stride is roughly 83-85/min.

The other configuration i have seen is the bike pack which has a cadence and Speed Censor … the cadence sensor would be the most useful to me … if you have the GPS sensor then i think you dont need the speed sensor.
One point I would say is that it is a shame that it is not the one unit like many of the competitors now do. Times and Garmin do their combined ones. I still use my Garmin unit along with the edge indoors when on the turbo trainer and having this placed on the back wheel makes it very practical.

I think that all the above configurations come with a heart rate belt although it is also possible to buy the RCX5 unit as a standalone piece which is probably only something that athletes that already own a polar belt (although not all older belts can be seen by the RCX5) On the heart Belt itself – amazingly comfortable and using Garmin and Suunto for the past few years I must confess that Polar know what they are doing when they make the belts … so comfy and you never get a strange spike or weird reading that you sometimes get with the Garmin HR belts.
Polar also do sports bras for women which have the HR receiver built into them which should make them more comfy than a standard setup for some.

what works with what POLAR

Back to the RCX unit. There are two colours to choose from a black and a red … I chose red because everyone knows that red is faster.

The square design has been criticised by some but I think it is great … it is slightly larger than a normal watch but once exercising the display is clear and very easy to use.
You can customise the display to show what you want to see .. I have gone into this before HERE

Using the Unit
Strapping the RCX on I immediately noticed how comfortable the watch was – in fact the whole construction oozes class not something i have noticed in the build of any previous Polar, Garmin or Suunto with the possible exception of my Suunto Core

Going outside for a run you can leave the gps on a wall whilst you pre-stretch – and then it latches onto the signal very quickly – the chipset inside the unit is a SIRF6 which allows for quicker lock on. the given wisdom is that cold fixing (in an area you have not been in before) will take around a minute, and hot fixes (starting in an area where you finished your last run / ride) will take 10-20 sec. From experience this seem to hold true. Of course this is a gps so switching it on when inside your house will not be good … but a sky above you should be good enough for the fix.
A tip I learnt for cold or rainy weather is to switch on the gps and leave it in your window whilst you put shoes on and it is generally ready to go when you are.

The unit when setting it up can be set to auto-lap – this is something I use when running having the watch perform every 1km … i find this more useful as a pace guide and a very good nudge to the brain when i need to speed up.
the watch can be set to either follow a programme (which can be configured on polar personal trainer and downloaded) say if you were doing intervals with a 5min warm up, 10 min tempo and 3 fartleks then arm down. The watch also has a great audible warning which can be set to pace or HR. This can either be set to Loud, quieter or off. I find this more useful when doing a fat-burn ride or run when my natural instinct is to speed up and defeat the very purpose of the training.

Post exercise the RCX5 stores your last exercise in the data section fro you to review. By itself the RCX5 gives a good breakdown and review of data. You can look at individual training sessions or see a summary of the week which is useful if you need a motivator to get out the door for a run or cycle. One of the good features is that there is a very good heart rate zone breakdown as well as a neat thing were you can see what percentage of calories was in fat burn.

HR zone breakdown

Speaking of features there is something missing and that is a proper barometric altimeter. Most of the course I do aren’t that hilly and I put bike tracks into bikewithgps or other tracking websites which recomputes gps info and produces a ride profile. For those running in hilly location this lack of altimeter might be a problem but for me it is not a deal breaker.

I think the beauty of the Polar RCX5 is in the heart rate monitoring … a lot of people like myself would look at the lack of ANT+ support and the very annoying lack of integration with other platforms like map my run, bikely,endomondo and others and decide not to go with polar BUT (and it’s a big butt) polar does and has always done great heart rate monitors. The analysis that you can do post exercise is way better than polar and a bit better than the hrm software that my old suunto t6 used with movescount.

Once you have done the exercise you can upload the data using polar weblink which is a free download from their site. One word of advice make sure you click the RCX5 for PPT option as I inadvertently clicked the other option when downloading the update then tore my hair out trying to figure out what i had done)
With the Polar Personal Trainer software you can create programs as well as seeing very easily how your training load is…. This prevents you overtraining (however rare this is in my case)

Finally I would say that polar, although not integrating as well as Garmin does with ANT+, weblink does allow you to access the RCX5 and download the .hrm files and .gpx files (gps track) – it’s a shame it doesn’t use the .tcx format but i think that is a garmin proprietary format.

I may have highlighted some weaknesses in this review but I am happy with the unit and wouldn’t change it.

First outdoor ride on the Lynskey

The plan was hatched – a relatively early departure from the house then an hour cycling somewhere then an hour back. I ended up heading west through the less pretty parts of Dumbarton until I was under the Erskine bridge. Decided to ride over it as I had seen a cycle path over the bridge before and then attempted to fin my way back to glasgow on the south side of the river.

I had one or two extra meanders but came back through Govan. Here is ride

The view from the bridge is quite spectacular

sad to see that where I stopped to take this pic there were flowers in the railings where some sad soul decided to end it all in the past.

titanium on steel

I was using my Polar RCX5 with gps (and the gps was buried in my front pocket of my jacket meaning it’s view of the sky must have been greatly obscured by my body …. ) I also had my Edge mounted on the stem and the similarity between the data was amazing – I was expecting the Polar to be way out …. but after the ride it said 51.49km compared to Garmins 51.69km …. quite amazing. Would have been perfect if I had used the shoulder strap I think.

Uploaded both .gpx tracks into Sportypal to compare and here is the result.

as near as damn it

Choosing display on your HRM

I have been asked before what views I select on my HRM to help me with training. Well it depends on the sport …..
The polar RCX5 actually displays 4 lines of data and very customisable …..

So without further adieu

Bike Display
Display 1 ( for turbo trainer)

Display 2 (my HR display)
HR pointer
HR in zone
HR ave

Display 3
HR breakdown (one view – shows time spent in each zone)

Display 4
Speed Average
Speed max

Display 5
Time of day

Display 6 not used

Display 1 (general overview)

Display 2
HR pointer
HR in zone
HR ave

Display 3
HR zone breakdown (one view)

Display 4
Pace (not that accurate with gps but still a guide)
Pace Average (more useful)
Previous lap (m:ss/km)

Display 5
Time of Day

Display 6 not used

Loving the Polar Training Program and the Turbo

Todays Interval was made harder by the run I did earlier. It was my first run post injury and i was slow and I suffered. Heart Rate was way high and pace was way down …. leg however felt alright but distance was short only 5km.

run with even 4:50 splits apart from traffic at end


Then tonight was Polar Training Interval Program on turbo / bike.

1H10m duration

Build up zone 3 / 3 min zone 4 / 22min zone 3 / 3min zone 4 / then zone 1 and finish

Legs feel a wee bit tired now.


Saturday night and time to ride

Tired now – lets see how I feel in 1H50….


Nice ride although got off the trainer at 11pm which was quite late for dinner ….

49.04km later - long tempo ride for fat burn is dusted

New HRM and new training schedule … but still the old legs

Still recovering slightly from the injury but I have started spinning again.

New routine is this.

bike in situ on the tacq trainer

1. Assembled the turbo trainer in the house ….

kitchen unit with iPad and movies on the unit ….

jugs of water close to hand

wooden floors so easier to clean up the sweat.


2. New HRM has arrived – a Polar RCX5 with gps

On polarpersonaltrainer website you can start following a program so I started an endurance ride one with sportives in the summer on my planned to do list ….

So here is a glimpse of it all – tomorrow night after a long day’s filming I come home and then start a 2 hr low HR ride … will let you know how this progresses in a few weeks …

my training plan (bike)

One thing I like about the site is that once your sessions are uploaded it works out a training load to avoid you overtraining. It is similar to Suunto’s Movescount Training Effect (I wrote a post about that here when i was using the T6 HRM). I started a training ride last night that said i had to do 30 minutes in Zone 2 HR which for me is only 127bpm max …. the summary is interesting showing the percentage of fat burn in the calorie expenditure … Basically long and slow burns fat …. will have to monitor this as would be great to drop 3-5kg for summer.

HR graph - not allowed any greens tonight mumma



Took the Plunge and went for a new Polar HRM

The RCX5 with GPS. The truth is I love Polar HRM and like their analysing software. The things I used to hate was their lack of ANT+ and the fact that using a MAC used to be a no go.

They have changed slowly and although the RCX5 is not as good as the RS800 – it has a look I prefer. I was umping and aching over the new Garmin 910xt and the 610 but I find them ugly (although this is a completely subjective fashionista statement)… I guess I am a square (fan).

Anyway review to come I am sure.

Polar RCX5 review (from Pez cycling news)

Polar was the pioneer in portable heart rate monitors for athletes, and continues to set the benchmark for heart rate devices. Their latest launch is the top-shelf RCX5, featuring just about every possible training feature in a sleek unit that is perfectly designed for cyclists on and off the bike

Having been in cycling since the mid-1980s and being a scientific geek for at least as long if not longer, I have personally owned or professionally used nearly every generation of Polar watches. Like collecting hockey cards or comic books, I wish I had kept all of them so that I can set up a museum display in my lab! While old tech has an aura of its own, I’m always happy whenever a new toy lands on my desk. With that in mind, I spent a month putting the new Polar RCX5 through its paces.

The RCX5 comes with everything you need to turn your bike, body, and laptop into a cycling cyborg. The RCX5 package is customizable, and accessories include a handlebar mount, speed and cadence sensors, the s3 Stride sensor, the G5 GPS transmitter, the new Hybrid HR transmitter that can give good signals while swimming, and the data stick for downloading to 

Loaded with Features
When it comes to heart rate monitors, I’m of the sentiment that there are only two types of market out there. On the one hand, there’s the large majority who simply want to see their heart rate while exercising. These folks likely have no desire to record their heart rate, download their exercise file, or really do any secondary analysis. For this market, a dead simple heart rate monitor that simply tells heart rate is ideal and all that is necessary.

At the other extreme are folks like you reading this review! My theory with this demographic is that, if you’re going to have any kind of bells and whistles beyond the basic reading of heart rate, you might as well go all out and have as much functionality and interactivity as possible. The RCX5 certainly fulfills this goal by having a full slate of heart rate and cycle computer features, with additional expansion capabilities through compatibility with a wide array of optional accessories. You can choose to purchase the RCX5 in Multi, Run, or Bike configurations depending on what accessories you desire.

All the usual cycle computer features, such as speed, distance, trip, and cadence are available. Ditto for recording features such as lap times and time spent in 5 heart rate zones that you can customize. A variety of interval workouts of different work and rest durations can also be set up on the watch as audio and visual reminders and timers. Finally, Polar has integrated a vast array of tests for everything from estimated fitness through to recovery. The possibilities are too extensive to list and review in detail. However, some highlights in terms of functions:

• The famous big red button is now a much more subdued small blue rectangle, It is angled at about 45 degree angle from the main face of the watch, and remains easy to push while riding with fingerless gloves. In my experience, this is the first Polar watch where I haven’t accidentally pressed the red button in everyday use, which can get incredibly aggravating when you find yourself with hours of “ghost” data.

• For recording laps, a great new feature is the Heart Touch, where you can mark a new lap simply by holding the watch next to the transmitter. This is great for training in the winter with gloves or any time you do not want to be fiddling with buttons. You can also customize this Heart Touch to show the time, activate the backlight, change training view, or show training limits.

• The Zone Optimizer feature can take some of the guesswork out of training. Rather than static heart rate zones that do not change day to day regardless of your fitness or fatigue, The Zone Optimizer tracks your heart rate and heart rate variability in the first 5 minutes of your workout, prompting you to ride for 2 min each in your Zones 1 and 2, followed by 1 min in Zone 3. From this, an algorithm adjusts your 5 heart training zones for that workout.

• The RCX5 can display 4 lines of data at a time. Pretty much any data you can think of can be displayed, from the usual speed and distance, lap and total times, through to different heart rate metrics (max, average, current) and energy burned (kcalories). Each of the lines of data have a similar size though, so none necessarily pop out at you. However, the large watch face makes the screen quite easy to view and the display is very readable.

• You can switch easily between up to 6 Training Views, each with 4 lines of customizable data. Furthermore, there are additional settings for 2 bikes, running, swimming, and other sports. The unique aspect of the RCX5 is that, even in the middle of a workout, you can switch between bikes or the multisport settings, permitting you to log a dual workout within the same file.

• The soft fabric Wearlink HR strap from Polar is simply the most comfortable strap I have used. It conforms well to the body, and can therefore be snugged up really tight so there’s no risk of slipping, but yet not restrict breathing or feel uncomfortable at the same time. The RCX5’s new “Hybrid” transmitter is the first from Polar that is designed to provide clean signals while swimming.

Ease of Use
Loads of features are pointless if the unit itself is difficult to navigate or to set. The Polar system shines in this respect, thanks to easy two-way communication with the on-line training log software. You can adjust pretty much everything directly using the watch by itself, but it can be annoying pushing all those watch buttons on a continual basis. I personally found the buttons so well placed on the RCX5 that the watch simple to configure on its own.
We will have a more in-depth review of Polar’s online training tracking software,, in another article, because it has been extensively updated and improved. The main thing to note, as it relates to the RCX5, is that data transfer using the data stick is simple to use and foolproof.

Briefly, can provide nearly every type of heart-rate based training analysis that you can desire. has added GPS viewing to its features, so each downloaded file includes an integrated view of the ride on Google Maps set to the terrain map view. Start, finish, and each lap are clearly marked, and the entire map can be zoomed in and out. This is a huge improvement over downloading it and then opening it up separately on Google Earth. For someone who’s travelling as much as I will be this coming year, GPS is a perfect way for keeping a scrapbook of great rides in different parts of the world.

Another nice feature of is the algorithm calculating Training Load. This gives each workout a numerical value based on effort and duration, so that you can track your long-term training stress and give some insight into your state of fitness or fatigue.

The optional S3 Stride+ sensor provides information on stride length and cadence, and has also undergone a slimming diet and a more secure attachment design compared to the previous Polar footpod sensors. 

G5 GPS = Goodness
For me, though, the real star of the show is Polar’s new G5 GPS sensor, which is compatible with both the RCX5 and RS800CX watches. I really loved using the previous G3 model, preferring it to the traditional speed sensor. That’s because I can use it with any bike at my disposal, rather than having to buy a separate speed sensor for each bike. 

The G5 marks a major improvement over the G3 in my opinion, due to its ridiculously small and light (46 g including the rechargeable battery, whereas the G3 was ~50 g without the single AA battery) design. It’s about the size of a large USB memory drive and approximately half to a third of the overall size of the G3, being all but unnoticeable when tossed into a jersey pocket or hydration pack. For multisport athletes, the included armband holds the G5 securely. The G5 has a claimed battery life of 20 hours, and I’ve used it for at least 15 h between charges without coming close to running it down.

The G5 GPS sensor take up pretty much no space and doesn’t flop around in your pocket while standing on the bike. I found it insanely reliable, and quickly ditched the actual bike speed sensor in favour of just using the G5 all the time regardless of bike or sport. 

Another improvement with the G5 GPS is that the noticeable time lag I experienced with the G3 seems to have disappeared. With the G3, I found a slight time lag of about 5 s with speed changes before the GPS speed catches up. So you can be at the bottom of a steep roller before the speed reading goes up, and vice versa in that there’s a few seconds lag after you start climbing before the speed drops. I’ve been riding for the past weeks with the G5 GPS right next to my regular PowerTap SL+ hub-based sensor and Joule 2.0 computer, and the speed responds as fast with the G5 as the SL+ hub. Of note of course is that the G5 and RCX5 works as a GPS recorder only, and that it doesn’t provide navigational abilities.

This is usually the point in the review where we’d show a pic of the whole bike computer setup. But since you can just wear the watch on your wrist and stuff the G5 in a pocket, there’s nothing to actually see and you can end up with full functionality with the cleanest look around!

GPS Practical Advantages
In addition to the functionality of GPS itself, the G5 has a whole host of practical advantages:

• For the multisport crowd, the GPS provides a seamless equipment transition between running and biking.

• The GPS also permits a full range of speed and distance tracking for cross-training, from hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, through to kayaking (it’s water-resistant, but keep it in a waterproof pouch regardless!). 

• Having as many bikes as I do, it’s a ridiculous expense to equip each of them with a speed sensor. Having the GPS also gives me extra geek points for tracking speed and distance data for the times when I’m running with the cross bike or portaging the mountain bike, along with my commuting and casual errand biking too.

• The speed sensors have non-replaceable batteries, so they’re dead and done once the batteries wear out and you need to buy a complete new sensor. Therefore, combined with the multiple bikes issue, the higher initial cost of the GPS unit will pay for itself.

• Hands up who actually goes to the full effort of measuring the circumference of each bike’s main wheels, let alone different wheelsets with different tires? I thought so, since I’m a science data geek and I still generally just set all of my bike computers to a default 2096 mm circumference for road tires. With the GPS, there’s no need for calibration between bikes and wheelsets or tires.

Godzilla versus King Kong: RCX5 versus RS800CX
Polar positions the RS800CX as the top model in its line, and the RCX5 slots just below it. Realistically, both are top-flight monitors that are useful for either cyclists or multisport athletes, although the RCX5 seems marketed a bit more for multisport. Brass tacks time though: which are the real deciding points when choosing between these two models?

• First off, if you already own a RS800CX, a RCX5 is largely redundant.

• Both are compatible with the same accessories (G5 GPS, speed and cadence sensors, S3 stride sensor for running), so a wash there. Both can record data at multiple frequencies, from 1 s to 60 s intervals.

• If style above all is your deciding factor and this is going to be your main watch on and off the bike, I think the RS800CX looks a lot better off the bike. The RCX5 looks a bit too much like Polar’s old Accurex model in its utilitarian design. On the plus side, the RCX5’s “big red button” is the first Polar model I’ve ever used where I don’t get accidental pressing of the button in everyday use.

• The RS800CX features altimeter data that is not available on the RCX5.

• Both watches are highly customizable, in terms of what data you want displayed. The larger face of the RCX5 permits 4 lines of data as opposed to the 3 on the RS800CX. 

• The RS800CX can be downloaded to, Polar’s Pro Trainer 5 software, or exported and then opened up in third party software like TrainingPeaks and WKO+. RCX5 can be downloaded to, or then exported to a file on your computer and then opened up in TrainingPeaks and WKO+. Thus, both are equally accessible across multiple software platforms.

• The RCX5 has new features that are major ergonomic improvements. The memory capacity is higher (I logged 20h worth of HR and GPS data with recording set at 2 s intervals), and features like the Zone Optimizer, Race Pace and the Heart Touch can help with your training, pacing, and also makes the watch itself much easier to use.

• The RS800CX has an OwnOptimizer test feature that analyzes your training status in the morning by examining your heart rate variability at rest. The RCX5 does not have this feature, but similar information can be gained using the Zone Optimizer feature during training, or by analyzing the Training Load information on

• The RCX5 can switch sports/bikes in the middle of a workout or race, which makes it ideally suited to multisport athletes. In contrast, this would require stopping a file, starting another one, and ultimately many more button pushes with the RS800CX.

So at the end of the day, I found the two watches pretty similar in terms of being fully loaded and excellent watches. Your choice between them really comes down to personal preference.

Is the Polar RCX5 the ultimate training watch? There are other systems out there with close to the same general features for less cost. However, I think it’s fair to say that Polar remains firmly at the head of the pack, thanks to its comprehensive array of features, its compatibility with accessories (GPS, speed, cadence, stride sensor), and the easy two-way interface with the software. If you’re committed to heart-rate based training, the combination of the watch and software gives you everything you need to analyze your training and performance. Put everything together and there really isn’t anything that you would be lacking in terms of cycling computer or heart rate function.