Although I have a Garmin Fenix I use for running and kitesurfing, i also have a suunto core which I love. but the first edition Core has had it’s issues the latest being battery problems so I have sent it back to Suunto.
(within six months it had munched its first battery, three months later it had got through two others so I pretty much forgot about it. Last month I sent it back to Finland under warranty, and two weeks later I got a refurb back (was made a month earlier than the one I sent in.)
This one lasted a week before exhibiting the same problems as my original one (blank display, no life) so it’s currently back in Finland again.
I’ve heard good things about the late 9xxx serials, and the 0x serials, so check before you buy – if it’s a 7xxx or 8xxx serial number, even an early 9xxx (try to buy later than 930x) then walk away.
Serials are Year, Week, 5 digit serial – a eg 949xxxxx is week 49, 2009.)
In the meantime i have a Suunto Core Black Alu to enjoy. Get yours here – if you buy one I get a whopping few pence as a thank you
Same Spec but nicer build
Suunto Core Alu watch, which comes in a variety of finishes, is a soup to nuts watch, though keep in mind it lacks GPS. That short coming aside, it can measure the air’s temperature and tell if you’re heading in the correct direction thanks to the digital compass, which mind you automatically calibrates itself according to your surroundings. In addition to that, there is an automatic altimeter/barometer switch, storm alarm with a weather trend indicator, altitude logger with altitude difference measurement, multiple date/watch/alarm functions, sunrise/sunset times for 400 locations, multiple language support, a user replaceable battery and a few different straps to choose from.
A Watch Shop has named its top 5 cycling watches for 2012 after extensive on the road testing during the Spring of 2012. But newer polar and garmin fenix not included.
“I’ve raced in international tours and multiple US National Championships with one podium during my career having ridden with riders like Greg Lemond and Louis Garneau, so for our company the evaluation of cycling watches is a very serious matter” says Rusty Squire, President of the Heart Rate Watch Company. He adds, “Many of these cycling watches rival the very best bike computers on the market.”
Here is the list of the top 5 cycling watches for 2012:
#1 Garmin Forerunner 910XT – This cycling watch does it all with the ability to receive ANT+ power, heart rate, speed, distance, pedal cadence, accurate altitude with a barometric altimeter and a large display screen. About 95% of all the bike computers on the market today can not match its prowess as a cycling device. It even provides highly detailed maps through Garmin Connect software that provide unmatched metric detail. This watch is completely waterproof.
#2 – Polar RCX5 G5 Tour de France – This watch is the official training computer for the 2012 Tour de France. It provides speed, distance, 5 heart rate zones and even features a dual frequency chest strap that can get heart rate while swimming. The new G5 GPS sensor is smaller than a cell phone battery and gets over 20 hours of GPS data plus the WIND speed sensor offers dead on speed and distance information.
#3 – Garmin Forerunner 610 – This little touch screen marvel gets every last piece of cycling data except for watts output but its compact size allows it to easily be used as an everyday watch. Use the optional cadence sensor to get cadence plus you’ll see speed, distance, elevations, heart rate and it even features a cumulative training load that looks at training history. It has running and cycling modes allowing for easy transitions between sports but it is only IPX7 water resistant, so don’t swim with it.
#4 – Forerunner 310XT – Even though it is nearly 3 years old it is hard to take the Garmin 310XT off this list because it set all the current standards for what a cycling watch should be. It gets watts data, speed, distance, cadence, elevations and more, although it lacks the swim features and barometric altimeter of the Forerunner 910XT. Still at about $150 less than the Garmin 910XT it is a great value in a cycling watch.
#5 – Polar RS800CX G5 – This is the same watch used by the brothers Frank and Andy Schleck that finished 2nd and 3rd in the 2011 Tour de France. The Polar RS800CX is hands down the most
sophisticated heart rate monitor on the market with recovery heart rate data and an enormous
ability to analyze heart rate. When you add the G5 to it it makes a pretty slick bike computer
plus it can connect to Polar cadence sensors as well.
Other honorable mentions to this list include the garmin Fenix (thats mine says richdirector)Suunto Ambit, Polar CS300, Timex Global Trainer and Suunto t6d cycling bundle. “These were all some very excellent watches for cycling
and it was hard to choose, but one thing is certain, the versatility of a cycling watch is that you can use it for other sports” states Squire.
ANT+ is the standard wireless transmission protocol for fitness equipment these days, for collection and transfer of sensor data, be that from a heart rate monitor, PowerTap or cadence sensor.
If you’re planning a set-up for your bike that’ll give you all the info you need for the perfect training session, or perhaps you’re hoping for a box with a nice shiny Garmin in your stocking this year, there’s now a site with a full directory of ANT+ compatible devices.
The directory is perfectly easy to use: just enter the first piece of equipment you’re planning to use, and read a short description of it. From there you can see all the compatible products, and cross check to make sure other monitoring equipment will be suitable too.
To some of us geeky MAMILS (middle aged men in Lycra), one of the biggest pleasures, next to the ride or run itself, is quantifying the vast amount of data available to us about our performance. The prevalence of GPS based and downloadable cycling computers, combined with various websites and programs have made it possible to catalog, view and analyze mountains of data; metrics from average pace to peak wattage vs. peak heart rate are now at your fingertips. Here’s a quick overview of a couple of the more common sites and programs out there.
my new favourite after a while playing with Endo … (see next)
Strava.com is the relative new kid on the block in terms of ride analysis. Offering both free and frankly too expensive subscription services ($6 per month or $59 per year) will allow riders to directly upload rides from their GPS devices and track their performance. Displaying a GPS track of the route you rode, along with an elevation profile and metrics such as distance, elevation gain, moving time, speed (max and average), average speed, average cadence and average power, you get a mass of information to sift through and analyse.
The coolest thing about Strava and it is something that Endomondo also does is social connection …. You can link Strava to your Facebook page and twitter account and you can even challenge friends (or strangers for that matter) to competitions. Strava has a unique feature that allows you to designate segments of your ride and run (climbs, TTs, crazy descents) that you can measure against every other person on Strava that has covered that route (or just a section) before and uploaded their ride. It’s an excellent idea that promotes competition and growth amongst different riders all riding in the same area.
Here is a section of the Arran ride that someone has made into sections … woo hoo I did well without even knowing it.
For example, imagine your club has a friendly “climbing competition” up a particularly long, steep, or otherwise nasty climb. Anyone who is a member of Strava who uploads a ride containing that climb will be ranked based upon speed, power, time and VAM (Vertical Ascent Meters) along with everyone else who has ridden that climb. The best part of the whole thing is that once the climb is designated on Strava, the site software automatically finds that segment of your ride and analyzes it, compares it to everyone else, and posts it in ranking of fastest to slowest. It’s an excellent tool to use to compare both your form compared to others around you, and to chart your own progress by comparing to your previous attempts.
PROS: Great community based concepts. ”Segments” option for competing with your friends. Excellent data presentation and layout. Standalone free iPhone app if you don’t have a dedicated gps hrm
CONS: Pay site is yet another expense (free site only 5 rides/month allowance)
My old favourite social exercise site – allowed you to see your friends workouts and comment on them. Again it allows analysis of the ride or run and also keep a note of your PB’s.
The social interaction may be slightly better on Endo although I prefer the slightly better analysis on Strava …. Again there is a dedicated app for iPhone so you can use that on commutes when your gps or hem is at home. Both these sites are better with Garmin products and that is more to do with the disinterest on the part of Polar and suunto more than the development of either of these two platforms. At the moment I import the gpx track from file although this loses the hrm info from the exercise. At the moment you can import the average and max readings into the endo workout but it is not a true graph.
Alternatives for Me
Movescount for Suunto users
Good analysis but lacking social connections as there is no app and your friends can’t compare to you.
For those who train with heart rate monitors, you have probably encountered a session where your HR graph just doesn’t make sense. With my garmin it used to start fine then my HR would skyrocket up to the 180’s 190’s and I would be dead if I was there 200’s. With my Suunto – sometimes I would get no reading before it kicked into life …
After you finish your activity and get back to your computer, you’ll probably see something like this – a major HR spike a dropout or even a level no read situation, followed by more normal HR activity: Below is my reading from the Alloa Half Marathon on the weekend with flouro yellow highlights of bits that don’t make sense ….
Frustrated, you wonder if the battery needs changing but then the next time it is fine so you forget about it …but here is a reason why this might be happening.
I presume everyone can put their strap on correctly – that is the right way up and against the skin just under the ribcage …
So assuming that you’ve got it fitted right then let’s look at what typically causes the spike or dropout in HR
1)Are you wet yet?
During the winter months and in the case of Alloa on Sunday the air is often fairly cold, and fairly dry. This means that you’re less likely to have moist perspiration on your skin (from heat) and even less likely to be generating any sweat right from the start of the workout. This in turns lowers your belt’s conductivity ability to read your heart rate beats ….. Simply introducing any moisture at all will usually remedy the situation – at least until you begin sweating enough to let sweat do its job.
2) Synthetic quick dry shirts:
At Alloa I was wearing a synthetic shirt as opposed to my ‘normal’ nicer smelling Merino. An unfortunate side effect of synthetics is that they can dry out the body and the skin’s sweat making the belt so dry that it can’t ‘read’ the skin. Another issue is that synthetic material can build up static which can cause electrical interference with the HR belt.
3) Your mum is a gorilla:
I have heard some people of the hirsute variety have more errors ….. you need to be very hairy for this to affect the HR belt but if you are this way inclined … a) shave or groom b) stay swinging in the trees instead of running c) if female remain indoors and plait that hairy back …..
How to lick the problem:
It is pretty easy to fix
1) Sweat it: This first one is a bit obvious – but will explain why the problem often goes away after just a few minutes of activity. Once you start sweating it improves conductivity. This in turn makes the HR strap work …. but you still have the earlier misread ….
2) Lick it: This is the simplest option and what I do all the time. I just give the sensors a good gobbing – but hold onto your bogeys for the run.
3) Heart Rate Gel: If you suck at licking, then you can instead use electrode gel to improve conductivity. This is what’s typically used in medical environs for scans and using TENS machines …. it just ensures a good contact moisture seal between belt and skin. They are cheap as chips – about £5 for a big tube that will last years … If it is a dry very cold day and I remember then I use gel on the belt before heading out.
4) Shift the strap:
If you spot a dodgy reading then adjust the strap – a quick shift up and down normally gets the belt to rub against some sweat and the belt normal corrects pretty quickly. Some people shift the strap so it is half on back and front or even all on the back … i have not tried but it seems to work as an option.
5) Replace the batteries:
Finally, it could be as simple as old depleted batteries – most belts use CR2032 batteries so i always make sure I have a handful around ….
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.
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.
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.
Suunto, the brand leader in functional outdoor instruments, announces the launch of the AMBIT*, the first true GPS watch for Explorers.
The Suunto AMBIT is what every backcountry skier, hiker, trail runner and mountain climber has been eagerly waiting for — a watch that combines a GPS navigation system, altimeter, 3D compass with advanced heart rate monitoring into a robust instrument for mountain and everyday use.
is an awesome product that should be on the wrist of anyone who heads into the outdoors,” comments Greg Hill, the recordbreaking extreme ski mountaineer, who in 2010, ascended two million vertical feet. “The AMBIT is a potentially life-saving survival tool thanks to its full GPS capability and altimeter. It’s also invaluable for anyone who, like me, wants to record their tracks and log their vertical ascents and descents. And it looks great too.”
Specific Outdoor Functionality With AMBIT’s full-featured GPS the user can choose waypoints to navigate with and see their location in multiple coordinate systems. The AMBIT boasts a host of other features including temperature, track logging, unique 3D Compass and barometric sensor. All these keep you informed of your location, altitude and weather conditions on your adventures.
Advanced Training Functionality The AMBIT also offers functions for the serious mountain athlete. The patent pending accelometer fused GPS gives highly responsive speed and pace with Suunto FusedSpeedTM. Heart rate monitoring with Peak Training Effect will keep you within your optimimum training zone and Recovery Time will tell you when you’re fully recovered for your next adventure. And after a hard session in the hills, the GPS will guide you home where you can upload your data for analysis on Movescount.com.
Mountain and Everyday Exploration The AMBIT is housed in a robust BuiltToLast casing and has an enhanced battery lifetime of up to 50hrs in GPS mode. True to Suunto’s heritage in dive instruments, it is water resistant to 100m. Upgrades are available through Movescount.com.
Comments Jonathan Wyatt, six-time world mountain running champion:
”As a trail runner and mountain athlete, what I need in a watch is a heart rate monitor, speed & distance, and altimeter. The AMBIT has all these features in one unit which is really exciting. One of the main problems for endurance athletes is battery life of conventional GPS sports watches so the promise of 50hrs is a big step forward.”
“Fused speed technology also gives a more accurate pace which is vital for anyone serious about their running. Being able to pair it and use it with all the existing PODs and comfort belts is another big plus point for me. This means one watch can be used for all my activities like mountain biking, road cycling, trail and mountain running, cross country skiing and ski mountaineering.”
“Knowing that the AMBIT is built for the mountains and will survive whatever I or the elements throw at it also sets it apart. Being able to personalise the displays of the watch, download updates and analyse the data on Movescount.com all help to make the AMBIT an awesome product for mountain athletes.”
”The AMBIT is everything the outdoor athlete could want in a watch,” comments Jari Ikäheimonen, brand manager at Suunto. ”It’s a unit you can trust. With its GPS and superior functions, the Ambit takes outdoor instruments to a new level. It’s a serious watch packed within a sleek but robust casing. It is the GPS for Explorers.”