MIO Alpha 2 Review – Optical Heart Rate Monitor with Watch Display


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IMG_3791MIO first came to more widespread prominence with their MIO Link optical wrist band. The Link is a great product for what it is intended; some people, however, also ‘needed’ a watch-like display and increased functionality. So the RECENT incarnation of the MIO Alpha, the MIO Alpha 2, came into being.

Why am I reviewing an early 2015 watch in the middle of 2015? Well, partly I’ve been busy and I hadn’t got hold of one until recently, but also the market has moved on and the initial reviews that lurk out there have been outpaced by developments as MIO partner with Garmin and as optical HR take-up is kicking off with much more to come in the near future from other vendors.

What is it in a nutshell?

MIO Alpha 2 Review

MIO Alpha 2 Review

It’s an optical Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) for the wrist. It will also broadcast heart rate data as a Bluetooth SMART (Bluetooth Low Energy BLE or BTLE) signal to an iOS- or Android-based app. It has a rudimentary, ‘retro’ display where you can see heart rate, duration and other such data as well as performing laps. Distance data comes from an accelerometer NOT GPS. Configuration is accomplished though the smartphone app MIO GO and that APP can also sync stored exercise data from the watch.

App v2.4.1 was used with firmware v1.01.

For a function-by-function view look at the manual: Mio_ALPHA_User_Guide


IMG_3793Optical HRMs vary in their accuracy. In my opinion MIO/Phillips has one of the best implementations of that technology and, indeed, they now partner with Garmin to provide that technology to the world’s largest sport watch manufacturer (Garmin). The claims of EKG level accuracy are here (https://www.mioglobal.com/docs/sfsu_mio_ohr_accuracy_study.pdf and see also http://www.mioglobal.com/docs/mio_optical_heart_rate_study.pdf) however I was somewhat sceptical of the breadth, depth and quality of that first study.

But then in my even less scientific study with the MIO Link I found a pretty good level of accuracy. Certainly a level of accuracy that I would be generally happy with.

I also thought I’d go for a bike ride with one and this is what came back to the app.

MIO GO Cycling With GPS

MIO GO Cycling With GPS

You can see towards the end there was a dropout and I did spot this whilst I was cycling relatively quickly. the rest of the ups and down in Zone 2 and Zone 3 are there or thereabouts right. Here is what Mr Garmin had to say on the matter and don’t worry about the zones being different that’s just because they are not set the same by me on the MIO ALPHA 2:

1k intervals 03-07-2015, Heart rate

Aesthetics and Form

Aesthetics are a personal thing. I’m probably ambivalent about the Alpha 2. I’d wear it. If you like it, buy one and ignore my aesthetic whims!

However what I would say; it is VERY comfortable.

The buttons are a little hard to press sometimes and don’t give as much feedback as would like. Certainly not a show stopper and certainly better than some others. The screen is easy to read, understand and navigate through its functions.

The App, Setting Up and Configuring

I found setting up the Alpha 2 more difficult than it needs to be and more difficult than with the MIO Link. For example pairing was difficult with a MIO Fuse already paired and two other Bluetooth applications open in the background (STRAVA and BIOFORCEHRV). Pairing to the MIO APP just didn’t work – once I restarted the smartphone it was fine.

For any Bluetooth SMART heart rate monitor you need to ensure that it will work with your desired app and your desired smartphone/device. For example I tend to use an old Samsung S3/iPAD 3 and the WAHOO FITNESS App – which I have to say requires a somewhat tortuous process in order to get pairing fully working (for any HRM by any manufacturer). It USUALLY does work by hook or by crook and so if I can get this to work then it bodes well for the likely more modern combinations you will be using. Several apps I would class as ‘not robust’ or require premium versions to enable all half-decent functionality. (A ‘usually works’ alternative to the excellent WAHOO app is POLAR BEAT).

A further problem with the app was that I could not get any data out of it (export). Normally I would have liked to have compared more directly the two heart rate tracks (above). That was not possible or at least not obvious to me how to do it.

Using It

Again here is the manual, I try to avoid glorifying them by reproducing the same content in different words: Mio_ALPHA_User_Guide.

I will dwell on the unusually good points and ‘other’ points:

Unusually Good

  • Optical HR on the wrist. Saves wearing a chest strap.
  • Very accurate HR for this kind of device. FWIW: near enough best-in-class.
  • Flashing light changes colour based on your HR zone
  • Water resistant. You can use it for swimming. Apparently you can’t  press buttons underwater.Exercise data is cached and syncing seems to work fairly well back to iOS and Android.

Consider this too

  • This is a Bluetooth-SMART-only device NOT ANT+.
  • Can take over 10 seconds to pick up your HR
  • NO GPS; distance NOT PACE comes from an accelerometer. (Pace/Speed MUST come from your phone’s GPS into the app you use)
  • Distances are lower than those obtained from GPS, this may also lower the calories-used calculation.
  • Buttons are fiddly to press – but impossible to press by accident.
  • Supports caching for syncing later but this sometimes did work with the MIO GO app. It only works with the MIO GO app.
  • Pairing is a little confusing – you must pair with the APP not the phone. It will not pair with the phone’s Bluetooth section (Android).
  • Pairing is not great if other (MIO) paired devices are present, it will sometimes not pair.
  • Battery life whilst exercising is stated as 8-10 hours; over 20 hours with HR monitoring on, longer as just a watch.
  • HR will record up to 220 bpm but I experienced discrepancies above approx. 166bpm with my MIO Link tests. With the Alpha in this review, the accuracy was good compared to the Garmin at mid- to low-HR levels (<165bpm for me)
  • The MIO GO app will not transfer your sessions to an internet service. It doesn’t have one. You’ll need to use a different app for that functionality.
  • Didn’t pick up GPS speed for me on an Android device whilst cycling. GPS was definitely turned on (despite what the image above shows).


This is a comfy, nice-enough looking sports watch. If you’re going to be using it for walking or jogging then you’ll be fine in terms of accuracy, you’ll be fine too using it in most gym classes.

If you look at other reviews, people either love it or quite dislike it.

More serious runners may experience inaccuracies the higher the HRs get. But for your long runs, you’ll be fine. The on-device metrics are very limited and if you are a serious runner they are inadequate.

The MIO GO app is perfectly fine as a configuration utility. However as a sports app it lacks oomph – for example lacking an online interface to transfer sports history between devices within the MIO environment. For me the app lacked decent speed data. Of course there are many alternatives you can use this product with. The point is you WILL most likely HAVE to use those other products/APPS. But having said that, I think that was MIO’s intention all along – they aim to make good hardware and then you use someone else’s flavour of the month APP. You and I might not like that but it IS a sensible strategy for a smaller company and has served them well so far.

In the end it’s a screen-glorified optical HRM for the wrist. But that’s OK. Good, in fact if that is what you want.

Would I recommend it? Probably not. But if you see all the features you want then go for it. It is good for what it is.

July 2015: It’s priced at GBP109. This is tempting but I still think overpriced. For a similar price you can get a vastly superior Polar M400 (review here) with the vastly superior Polar application and internet ‘ecosystem’ – albeit the Polar M400 has a chest strap. So the clincher is the optical HR and the aesthetics/wearability which many will like. And for a smart band/activity tracker the Microsoft BAND is superb but a little more expensive at present (July 2015)

New Garmin Announcements for July 2015 – cause for concern?

TimelineGarmin[1]It’s getting slightly ridiculous (in a nice way). Garmin seem to be announcing new products and/or new developments every month. July is no exception.

Last month we had the baby Edges now we have a proper link up with Strava, SMART bike lighting and a super new Edge 520.

This must be exciting times for Garmin employees, shareholders and other stakeholders.

The competition must be somewhat worried.

Here are some thoughts on alternatives to Garmin products. Sometimes it was hard to make a suggestion!

Generally this must be good for the market because, in terms of innovation, Garmin are certainly NOT resting on their laurels.

In terms of competition then what is going to happen? If you buy a cycling computer would you seriously consider a non-Garmin alternative? Running watches, smart watches/bands then, yes, there is competition there – I wonder how many of them will still be there in 5 years time?

Clearly the competition need to up their game. Whilst most do not have the financial muscle that Garmin has they can focus on serving their niches/segments well. They need to innovate (easier said than done) and they need to do something different with their marketing. Same-old, same-old is patently NOT working.

Come on Mr Polar, Mr Suunto, Mr tomTom, Mr Epson and Mr adidas – sort it out!

Mssrs Apple, Fitbit and Microsoft could do better too. MORE products please.

Because Garmin watches in general are so feature-rich most of their owners forgive the bugginess. Garmin STILL get away with that despite at least one competitor (in my opinion) targeting Garmin forums with spoof product bug/faults/complaints. Perhaps focussing on the positives of product development and marketing would be a dollar better spent? Just a thought.

Garmin Edge 520 Announced – Best So Far?


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The Garmin Edge 520 has been announced today and will ship in the coming months. I wanted to be cynical about the new Edge for some reason. Perhaps it’s the British sense of wanting an underdog to win.

However the product looks so good it would be childish to put down what is clearly the best Edge yet – any bugs that arise, aside ;-) Perhaps some of the functionality is a foretaste of what may come with the Forerunner 625/630 or the Forerunner 925XT/930XT running and triathlon watches in a couple on months time?

There are a few salient points about new stuff immediately below followed by my comments and then quite a bit more info at the end of the post with images and youtube vids from the formal Press Release.

  • Compatible with Varia™ bike radar and lights – a new super safety car alert/light system that Garmin bought recentlyish.
  • Edge® remote compatibility
  • LiveTrack – like other Garmin devices
  • Advanced performance and power analysis (not sure what this is over an above already announced Cycling Analytics features), including new Time in Zone, FTP tracking (interesting), cycling-specific VO2 and recovery and cycling dynamics (as with triathlon watches)
  • Bike trainer profile for compatible Turbo trainer data display and control (this relates to a special ANT+ method of linking to special new turbo trainers)
  • On-device segment compatibility for dynamic and engaging in-ride competition (something like real-time segments AND presumably meshing with the STRAVA segment support recently announced)
  • Connected features via a smartphone (as with triathlon watches)
  • Compatible with Garmin Connect™ and Garmin Connect™ Mobile (hmm)
  • Compatible with VIRB® action cameras (hmmm)
  • Integration with Shimano Di2 electronic shifting (limited relevance to most people)
  • Weather alerts (nice)
  • Glonass (yee-ha, actually what was wrong with the 510, that was pretty accurate for me)
  • Preloaded Garmin cycling map: no
  • Wi-Fi® compatible: no
  • Round-trip routing: no
  • Route planner: no

This is a worthy continuation of the Edge Series.

Sure some of the included ‘new’ features are new to the Edge series but are already included in other Garmin watches (eg recovery advisor). But super-new features like proper Strava integration (at an additional annual Strava Premium subscription cost) will be welcomed by a LOT of cyclists. The integration with all the various other bits of Garmin kit don’t excite me per se but to those of you that have that kit AND want integration – you are happy. Garmin are clearly doing their job.

Note well: Strava is a great app. But one of its key USPs is segments and all the stuff around that. Have they made a bit of a blunder opening key functionality up to Garmin? Have they paved their way for a corporate takeover (Garmin can afford them)? Have they opened a nice revenue stream from other manufacturers who want to do the same thing (not sure many could afford it)? Might it mark the demise of Garmin Connect? Might it mark a resurgence of Garmin Connect and demise of Strava? Might it ‘not really make much difference in the grand scheme of things’?

I’m not sure what new bits are in cycling dynamics yet (if any) but that and VO2 and FTP stuff are generally welcomed. I’m still waiting to see a bit more intelligence in these devices with better automatic heart rate/cadence/power zones based on threshold performances and/or analytics for optimal cadences (for example). No doubt that sort of thing will come soon enough.

The device looks very nice from the official Garmin images below (probably photoshopped, as normal). And the screen resolution does look very nice.

———————— Press Release Follows —————— Garmin International Inc., a unit of Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ: GRMN), today announced the Edge 520, the first GPS bike computer with Strava live segment challenges. The Edge 520 boasts a myriad of advanced analysis features including time in zone, functional threshold power, cycling-specific VO2 max and recovery time1, indoor trainer2 support, cycling dynamics3 and in-ride challenges through Strava and Garmin Connect™ segments. Additional connected features4 and a high-resolution, color (sic)display offer cyclists a complete package of cutting-edge features in a compact, lightweight device. Garmin-edge-520-gps-bike-computer “We’re excited to announce the Edge 520 and our strategic relationship with Strava – providing cyclists with the first GPS bike computer to have Strava live segments,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin vice president of worldwide sales. “The Edge 520 taps into cyclists competitive edge and offers them the latest in innovative training tools.”  

Segment Challenges and Advanced Metrics

Garmin Edge products are the only GPS bike computers to feature Strava live segments. As the first GPS bike computer with Strava live segment challenges, users can send segments directly from Strava to their Edge 520 to receive instantaneous data, compete for King of the Mountain or Queen of the Mountain titles, and more.

Additionally, the Edge 1000, Edge 810 and Edge 510 will add support for Strava live segments via a software update in Q3. Users can also tap into their competitive edge with in-ride challenges through Garmin Connect segments. The Edge 520 provides new advanced performance and power analysis to maximize training efforts. Advanced metrics include time in zone, functional threshold power and watts/kg tracking, cycling-specific VO2 max estimate, a recovery advisor and cycling dynamics – revolutionary metrics that provide feedback to cyclists on their position and pedal form.

Exceptional Display and Connected Features

The Edge 520’s aerodynamic design features a high-resolution, 2.3” color display, providing ideal visibility. With up to 15 hours of battery life and compatibility with GPS and GLONASS satellites, it is built to handle endurance rides. The Edge 520 integrates with compatible Shimano Di2 electronic shifting systems5 and standard ANT+® sensors including power meters, heart rate monitors, speed and cadence sensors, the newly announced Varia™ line of smart cycling devices, remotes and VIRB. Additionally it pairs with compatible ANT+ indoor trainers for data display and control. When paired with a compatible Bluetooth® device the Edge 520 can instantly upload activities to Garmin Connect for post-ride analysis, instant sharing on social media, and with the Live Tracking feature users can allow family and friends to follow their rides in real time. Users can also stay connected with family and friends during a ride with the Edge 520’s smart notifications that display incoming texts, calls and more. In Garmin Connect users can download courses and follow them on the device, receiving turn indications throughout a ride, and compete against other cyclists on previously ridden courses. Edge 520 users can upload to Garmin Connect and download courses and segments via a PC or Mac®.

The Edge 520 is expected to begin shipping in Q3 and has a suggested retail price of £239.99 and £299.99 bundled with a heart rate monitor, cadence sensor and speed sensor. It will be the on-bike device used by Team Cannondale-Garmin during races beginning in July.

Key dates for your triathlon training for the AJ Bell London Triathlon


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AJ_bell_London_triathlonOK so hopefully you know that the race day is on the weekend of the 8/9 August.

Well then, these two dates are important for your training: 29th July and 10th July.

Here’s why.

Peak Effectivenes Day

10th of July is the peak ‘effectiveness day’. Simply put, training you do on or around this day has the most residual benefit left on race day. Of course that doesn’t mean you only train around then but remember TO “train a bit more around then”. It’s the peak of your peak period.

Taper Day

29th of July is a more nuanced day, it’s ‘taper day’. It’s probably more important, in a way, if you don’t yet understand what tapering is. After this day then your efforts run the significant risk of making you SLOWER on race day. After this day the FATIGUE from exercise may well remain on race day. That fatigue COULD outweigh the benefits of the training you do. It’s complicated. Google it; or click (here) to get an indication.

After 29th July you should stop doing weights (you’ve been doing them at least once a week right :-)? ), you should add at least one extra rest day each week and you should, probably, reduce both the intensity and duration of your training by a good 20% or so. If you’re following a plan that should be built in already.

Today is also probably a day to think about too. From ‘around about now’ until your taper day then, if you already class yourself as ‘quite fit’, you should probably only have a couple or three days of longer efforts at most and instead ramp up the shorter intensities of your training efforts – 20 minute, 5 minute and one minute efforts.

If you’re new to triathlon then don’t forget to do ‘BRICK’ training at least once every other week..

Segments on the Garmin 920XT & 910XT – surely not?


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You Judge

You Judge

Segments on the 920XT and 910XT?

It seems that segment start and end alerts are indeed on the Garmin 920XT – at least when they are part of a course. Nice one Tim

and also the 910XT – thank you Mil (below see comments).


Being a bit of a Strava addict, have been curious to know if the 920 could support segments in any way. So I tried today…

You may well have found that you can’t send a segment on its own to the 920 like you can with the higher end Edge devices. However I have heard that if you create a course that includes some segments that the segments do show up.

Indeed this is true!

I setup some segments on the route of a bike ride I was about to do and then created a course that effectively connected them up. Did this all in GC.

I then did “Do Course” and set off. As I soon as I joined the course, the map page showed the distance to the first segment. When I got to the segment start an “alert” page came saying was on it and the distance to go changed to that of the end of the segment. At the end of the segment another alert page came up saying that had finished it and then the distance on the map page changed to the distance to the start of the next segment. And so on…

So effectively the start and end of the segments are added as course points – like you can add manually say with Garmin Training Center (although curiously not in GC AFAIK).

Unfortunately you don’t get any performance data (unlike on Edge devices) but as a prompt say to start/end an effort on a segment interval session seemed like it would work well.

Downside of course is the amount of effort required to first create segments (often as replicas of Strava ones) and then a course to join them up.

Source: https://forums.garmin.com/showthread.php?299147-Segments-on-the-920&p=669521#post669521

Suunto Ambit3 Software Update 2.0



IMG_3426This is a good move forwards for Suunto. Now we are talking.

Recovery status – great.

Quick recovery test – why not?

Sleep recovery test – Brilliant. This now leads over Garmin and Polar

Recovery time – super useful if correct

Running Performance Index – Up there with Polar and ahead of Garmin

Voice guidance – OK we’ll skip by that one :-) But many will find it super useful.

This all begs the question: “What next in the Ambit4??” (other than optical HR). Where can the differentiator be? The above improvements are mostly catch-ups

Press release from Suunto follows verbatim


Offered by the SW update 2.0, sleep recovery and quick recovery tests with new running performance functionality and new languages bring Ambit3 Peak, Ambit3 Sport and Ambit3 Run to a new level.

Software updates enhance the functionality of the Ambit3 GPS watches through new features and improvements. If updates are available, you are notified through Moveslink on your computer. We encourage you to install updates as soon as they are available.

Recovery status
Recovery status indicates the amount of stress on your autonomic nervous system. The less stress you have, the more recovered you are. Knowing your state of recovery helps you optimize your training and avoid overtraining or injury. You can check your recovery status with the quick recovery or sleep recovery tests that are based on heart rate variability, powered by Firstbeat.

Quick recovery test
The quick recovery test, powered by Firstbeat, measures your recovery status in a few minutes. As a result you get your current recovery status given as a percentage.

The quick recovery test should be performed in the morning after waking up still lying down. The test requires you to wear a Bluetooth Smart compatible heart rate sensor that measures heart rate variability, such as Suunto Smart Sensor. Recovery status can also be measured using the sleep recovery test.

Sleep recovery test
The sleep recovery test, powered by Firstbeat, provides a reliable indicator of your recovery status after a night’s sleep. The test requires you to wear a Bluetooth Smart compatible heart rate sensor that measures heart rate variability, such as Suunto Smart Sensor. As a result you get your current recovery status given as a percentage. Recovery status can also be measured using the quick recovery test.

Recovery time
Recovery time is an estimate in hours of how long your body needs to recuperate after training. The time is based on the duration and intensity of the training session, as well as your overall fatigue.

Recovery time accumulates from any exercise where heart rate is recorded. It also accumulates from running, swimming and cycling exercises without measuring heart rate. The time is cumulative across training sessions.

Running performance level
Running performance level is a combined measurement of your physical fitness and your running efficiency, powered by Firstbeat. It uses an estimation of your VO2max, a global standard for aerobic fitness and endurance performance, and takes into account running efficiency, a measurement of your running technique.

More languages
Ambit3 watches and the Suunto Movescount App support the same languages as Movescount. The full language set includes: EN, CS, DA, DE, ES, FI, FR, IT, JA, KO, NL, NO, PL, PT, RU, SV, and ZH.

Voice guidance during workout*
With the Suunto Movescount App running and Bluetooth activated, you can get a range of voice guidance (at first in English only). The guidance includes notifications when you exceed segment limits, reminders of segment targets, segment summaries, and more.

*coming later this year

New Garmin Cycling Devices – Garmin Edge 20 and 25


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Interesting little things from Garmin with these 2 new announcements. They are small fairly basic cycling computers and at first glance seem a tad over priced.

I was thinking recently that a little thing like this might be handy during races, keeping my run watch on my wrist. Except neither of them can display power.

I’ll have to have a think about these. Not sure.

Edit: I’ve thought a bit and it looks a bit like the Magellan Switch up but a tad cheaper BUT without the power support that the Magellan has http://www.magellangps.com/Store/Switch-Series/SwitchUp-GPS-Watch. I must have missed something.

Garmin Press Release follows verbatim:


Introducing the Edge® 20 and Edge® 25 from Garmin® – the world’s smallest GPS cycling computers

24th June, 2015 – UK – Garmin International Inc., a unit of Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ: GRMN), today announced the Edge 20 and Edge 25, compact, easy-to-use bike computers with connected features available in the Edge 25. As the world’s smallest GPS cycling computers, the Edge 20 and Edge 25 allow cyclists to go the extra mile, capturing essential data including time, distance, speed, total ascent and location.Garmin-Edge-20-25

Connected features available on the Edge 25 also allow users to instantly share details of their rides with friends, family and on social media, and connect with a heart rate monitor, speed sensor1 and cadence sensor2 to get the most out of a ride. Featuring a simple interface and clear display, the Edge 20 and Edge 25 are easy to use and read on a ride.

“Real estate on your bike is limited – the Edge 20 and Edge 25 are the quintessential bike computers for cyclists wanting to save space without losing valuable features,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin vice president of worldwide sales. “The Edge 20 and Edge 25 allow cyclists to track essential stats like time, distance, speed, ascent and location in a small but powerful device.”

Water-resistant3 and weighing only 25g, the Edge 20 and Edge 25’s extremely durable and small design is ideal for travel, training and everyday riding. Their interfaces make it easy to start, save and share activities and both are GPS and GLONASS-enabled, acquiring satellites quickly to track how far, fast and where a user is riding. Both devices feature up to eight hours of battery life. Additionally, the Edge 25 is ANT+ compatible and can be paired with a heart rate monitor, cadence sensor and speed sensor for additional data.

When paired with a compatible Bluetooth® device4 the Edge 25 can instantly upload activities to Garmin Connect™ for post-ride analysis, instant sharing on social media, and with the Live Tracking feature users can allow family and friends to follow their rides in real time. In Garmin Connect users can also download courses and follow them on the device, receiving turn indications throughout a ride, and compete against other cyclists on previously ridden courses. Edge 20 users can upload to Garmin Connect and download courses and segments via a PC or Mac®.

The Edge 20 and Edge 25 are available for a suggested retail price of £109.99 and £139.99 respectively.

The Edge 25 is also available in a HRM bundle for £169.99.

For more than 25 years, Garmin has pioneered new GPS navigation and wireless devices and applications that are designed for people who live an active lifestyle. Garmin serves five primary business units, including automotive, aviation, fitness, marine, and outdoor recreation. For more information, visit Garmin’s virtual pressroom at garmin.com/newsroom or follow us at facebook.com/garmin.uk, twitter.com/garminuk, or youtube.com/garminuk.

1 Heart rate monitor (HRM) included in some versions and speed sensor sold separately.

2 Cadence sensor sold separately

3 For more information, see Garmin.com/waterrating.

4 See Garmin.com/BLE for a list of compatible phones.

Review: Zone3 Bouyancy Shorts : ROKA Sim Pro : Bluesevently Core Short go Head-to-head


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IMG_3756What are buoyancy/core shorts?

Essentially they are a cut-down wetsuit to ‘shorts/jammers’ size.

Why core shorts?

They replace the pull buoy – swim training without the drag, inconvenience and kick restriction of the pull buoy.


Improved body position and all that comes with that.


They are effective at what they do but that effectiveness encourages over-use and over-reliance; leading ultimately to poor kick.

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Test Methdology

My unscientific methodology was to use the Zone3 for an extended, pre-spring, training period in the pool. Then switch to two other competitor products to feel the differences (if any).

The test is a little unfair on the Zone3 as I used their shorts to the point where the structure of the shorts started to degrade. On the other hand, the advantage of this is that it highlights areas to watch out for in the competitor products but there simply is not the extended period of MANY months to get 3 or more pairs of these shorts to the point of breaking. So the others may or may not last as long as the Zone3.

The main advantage is that an extended period of use leads to detailed familiarisation and any variations supplied by the others are more readily noted.

So please bear this in mind as you read on.


The Zone3 is the ‘shorter’ of the shorts (jammers). In theory there is less material and hence less buoyancy. The Blueseventy has a larger piece of thinner side material. All three effectively use the same neoprene.

However, there is no material difference in their buoyancy.


The Zone3’s design has been around for a few years. I’m not sure about the other two. The other two both look more modern and win on the aesthetics. Personally I prefer the ROKA. You may prefer the looks of either of the other two.



The fit IS different on each model.

Here are the sizing charts to start off:

Source: Blueseventy

Source: ROKA

Source: ROKA

Source: Zone3

Source: Zone3

My suggestion would be to get the smallest that seems to fit from the sizing chart. So if you are a 32 I would go for the SMALL in Zone3, if you are a 31 I would go for the small in the Blueseventy and for the ROKA they are less ambiguous in the sizing chart.

They need to be tight – you won’t get much more than speedos on underneath them. But also over time the draw strings come harder to tighten the material. You are then left with a flap at the rear acting as a mini parachute to slow you down.

This parachute effect is particularly bad with the Zone3. I don’t think the same will happen with the other two as the ‘cut’ is NOTICEABLY lower to the rear. The material is not there for the parachute to exist to the same degree.


Pretty Similar Materials

I have relatively chunky ‘bike thighs’ but that was fine.

The differently constructed side panels of the Blueseventy and of the ROKA meant that the could be put on much more easily and fitted more comfortably, in my opinion.

The Fit of the ROKA was the best for me but of course you are a different size to me.

Motion/Movement Restriction

I don’t think the design of the panels and the different thicknesses made any difference to the physical act of swimming between the three shorts. They all performed identically in that respect.

Racing & Usage

And this is how fast you might go. I just liked the image. Other than the presence of neoprene, a person and water it’s not really relevant.

You can use them wherever you want. In pool-based races they are illegal. I would imagine that in ‘WETSUIT MANDATORY’ races you would be unable to use them but you would be able to use them in WETSUIT OPTIONAL RACES.

You might want to try cycling and running in them…I wouldn’t. Even for an aquathlon; I wouldn’t fancy running 5k in a pair.

Pool training usage is recommended in lieu of a pull buoy. Many people use them 100% of the time. I have heard from others that this then weakens their kick effectiveness noticeably. It could be argued that you don’t kick much in triathlon but I am not sure I buy into that argument. Still; it’s worth bearing in mind.

Who uses them

There’s normally a couple of people (male triathletes) wearing these when I go training. Most people leave them on for the full session. For people doing 400m in 6 minutes or 400m in 9 minutes – there seems to be no particular pattern to those who wear them in the ‘normal’ ability range. I’ve never seen beginners use them and I’ve never seen the really good national AG level (champions) swimmers use them. Maybe they do…I don’t swim in that lane :-)


As I alluded to earlier this is a little unfair on the Zone3 that I wore MUCH more. Each of the shorts should easily last a year of 2-3x a week usage as part of a main session. IE I am assuming that you do not use them exclusively for pool swimming like many people do. In which case they may JUST about last a year but probably not.

Here is a close-up of the Zone3 (below). As the waist gets looser over time you have to tighten the cord more. As you tighten it more then material starts to more quickly deteriorate. Ideally they should have an elasticated waist. This will most likely happen equally to all brands.

I once tried a plastic draw-string device but that was unable to hold the cord tight enough for me to then tie a knot/bow over it. However I have heard of others who have had success with that approach.


You can also just see at the top of the photo that the Zone3 seams are starting to separate. This is happening to other seams as well. Black Witch paste will fix that, as it would a wetsuit, but I would rather buy a new pair myself. Some of the aspects of the Blueseventy and ROKA construction (eg thicker bonding to the sides) suggest that this would not happen quite so easily to them – especially to the ROKA.

So again ROKA would just edge it here over the Blueseventy and Zone3.


Ahem. It’s easier to ‘wee’ with the ROKA and Blueseventy. Say no more; it’s still quite possible with the Zone3.

Women: I imagine there is no reason why women could not wear them and get the same benefits. Sizing may be different.


At upwards of £45 these are not cheap. I could only find the ROKA on Wiggle and I don’t get a penny if you buy them there. You support this site by buying the other two from the other links through Amazon.

June 2015 Amazon Price
Zone3 Bouyancy Shorts £48.00 Link
ROKA Sim Pro £99.00 Link
Blueseventy Core Short £65.00 Link


For personal fit, aesthetics and supposed longevity of design, the ROKA SIM PRO easily wins for me. A bit tight; but they will ‘give’ over time. A bit low at the front; but I’ll be careful ALL the time :-)

My worry about the Zone3 and Blueseventy is the lack of a low cut to the rear and the deterioration of the seams. is also an issue for the Zone3.

Google X Research Division Announces Health Tracking Band

Source: Google

Source: Google

Google today announce a Health Tracking Band. As much as I love Google, the one released image seems to lack the immediacy of an imminent launch. Don’t get me wrong it looks fairly nice.

Made all the more unfortunate with Samsung’s SIMBAND announcement today of the successor to the maligned Samsung Gear Fit (which I sort of liked in its place – as a gift for someone else’s beautiful life-less-sporty).

The Samsung SIMBAND announcement look like a proper product, taking the market onto a higher place … yes even compared to the Apple Watch.

The Google product will apparently be targeting the medical devices market. Some of the claims about what it can do again strongly suggest that there are new technologies that are going to be imminently available to sporty folks.

One day our doctors will prescribe one to all of us. Maybe.


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