Triathlon Review: Garmin Fenix2

Garmin Fenix2 Review
Source: Garmin [My Fenix2 Review]
I’ve had my lovely Garmin Fenix2 triathlon watch for a few weeks now and I’ve used it quite a bit. It’s nice; there’s some reservations I have, as I come from quite a few years of using ‘square’ Garmin watches like the 910XT rather than ‘round’ ones like this.

Edit: Sept 16: New variation “Special Edition” released by Garmin.

Edit: Things have moved on with the Garmin Forerunner 945 Review

There are lots of reviews out there already. If you want to go through the menu functions one-by-one then look here at the Garmin Fenix2 Owner’s Manual or look at dcrainmaker’s site for an even more detailed description and insight.

My reviews tend to be a bit chatty often just focusing on what I find useful in the product for triathlon with some nuggets of triathlon-useful information or other resources thrown in for good measure. This review is one of those kind!!

The problem you might find with the Fenix2 is that is not a pure triathlon watch. Well, it **IS** a triathlon watch but/and LOTS of other things too. I’m going to come at this from the point of view of someone doing a triathlon.

So, first off, I want to change the look and feel to one that suits ME for triathlon and THEN use it. So my review will comprise my general thoughts plus ‘how to’ set up the Fenix2 as a triathlon watch.

But first, my summary:

It’s a very well made watch. It looks really sturdy and heavy (it’s not heavy, it just looks heavy). It has the new Running Dynamics, like the Forerunner 620; it has recovery info and the bike and swim metrics that you need. If you have not yet got a triathlon watch and you want a high specification model then get this one. If you have a Garmin 910XT and you want an upgrade then wait for the next incarnation of the 910XT (The new Garmin 920XT maybe – Xmas 2014?). If your 910XT breaks then you would want to consider the Fenix2. It’s a great duathlon watch and a great running watch and great, too, for fell running and other ‘adventure’ stuff. If you like a square ‘form’ then do not buy it; it obviously won’t be for you!! You can use it as an everyday watch. Remember that you need to work out what you NEED and WANT in a watch – we are all different in our ‘needs’; then read the reviews once you know what you want!

What I don’t like: white writing on black; round shape; different button and menu layout to what I am used to (910XT). Of course you may well like all of those and, let’s face it, you’d get used to them soon enough.

Who might buy this?

  • The ruggedness of the watch and related ‘outdoor’ features make it probably useful for fell walking/running/snowboarding and lots of other bizarre (?, ‘adventure’) things that I don’t do (anymore).
  • If you’re a runner who might do duathlon or triathlon then this is a good choice.
  • If you want a duathlon watch this is a very good choice. Probably the best choice there is.
  • If you want a running watch then this is a good choice but cheaper options exist.
  • If you’ve lost your 910XT then this is a good choice, especially if you want new running functionality.
  • If you want a triathlon watch then this is a good choice. You might be put off by its size and you might still instead consider the 910XT.
  • Here is the manual: Garmin Fenix2 Owner’s Manual

Let’s unbox and have a look with Neemor!

Using It

It takes a while to get used to it for 910XT-philes like myself. But I do see the logic of how the menus and buttons work. Going from a 910XT the lap button was on the top and to the left whereas now it is to the side and bottom-right. The 910XT had the start button on the top, to the bottom-right whereas with the Fenix2 it is on the right side to the top. And so it goes on with the differences of the positioning of buttons.

There are also some detailed differences with how standard function like ‘ending a session’ might go. So, for example, at the end of a session the Fenix2 allows you to discard your session (easier than the 910XT). I wouldn’t worry about any of these.

One of my biggest bug bears was having a triathlon watch that presents me with lots of other stuff like heli-skiing options…to be fair you can customise the menus to get rid of that or just ignore it. It just took a while to figure out how to do it and then to actually do it.

Here are some of the menus I got rid of:

menu button>settings>system>menu>settings

Gets you to where you can customise the menus. I got rid of the VIRB remote control and VO2 max. I haven’t got a VIRB camera and my V02 max ain’t gonna change too much anytime soon.

Then I hid the XC Ski, the skiboard the mountaineer, the hike, the trail run.

menu buton>settings>activity>xcski>inmenu/hide

menu buton>settings>activity>skiboard/hide

menu buton>settings>activity>mountaineer/hide

menu buton>settings>activity>hike>hide

menu buton>settings>activity>navigate/hide

menu buton>settings>activity>trail run/hide

I then decided I wanted 4 metrics per screen One review I read said it could only do 3. It can’t, it can do 4:

run/data pages/ change to 4/

It has two central metrics with one above and one below. Different to the 910XT which has one metric for each corner of the square face. The numbers seem a bit smaller and harder to read on the Fenix2 and I don’t like the white numbers on a black background. But you’ll probably get used to it soon enough. In some light conditions the display is not so easy to read.

On the positive side you can add lots more screens than the 910XT and scroll through them to your heart’s content (not that I would ever do that, I’m very boring that way – just 4 or 5 metrics for me). Generally it is a much more user-configurable watch than the 910XT.

I don’t have Garmin Vector ‘Power-Meter’ pedals any more but there are metrics there for pedal smoothness so I can only assume the Fenix2 works with the Garmin Vector pedals…it’s almost certain! (Apparently this was added in recent firmware so you may read older reviews or comments when that firmware was not available).

I then went in and had a fiddle with autolap (=1km for running and I turn it off for cycling although of course with the Fenix2 I could usefully turn it ON for JUST the indoor cycling but I couldn’t be bothered as it turned out 🙁 ). Useful tho.

I don’t really use alerts any more (eg your cadence is too high your HR is too low) but if you want to, then that facility is there.

You can set up SMART recording to reduce the amount of data recorded. It’s probably worthwhile doing that, although I don’t. For longer sessions/races you will probably need to.

Ultratrac gps mode – I guess that is the thing which helps it lock onto a satellite real quick. The first few times I used this it didn’t seem any faster than my 910XT but over time I would say I have noticed that sometimes it is quite a bit quicker. So that’s good.

Race Predictor, Recovery Advisor, VO2Max Estimates, and Training Effect:

Recovery Advisor: There is a recovery mode. Initially I thought this was rather clever. After you finish and save your session to the watch it tells you how long you need to wait to recover from what you’ve just done. Sometimes this is over 24 hours. I’m not quite sure how to interpret that. Does that really mean until another session or until another session of the same time eg the number of hours from a run session to a run session. Or does it mean the amount of time to wait before doing another hard session? If it means wait until another VO2 session then I would say it is wrong, I would be nervous about doing VO2 sessions day-in day-out. Even despite that confusion I soon discovered that it did not take into account swimming at all.

Anyway it gives you a guide based on your effort and time in various zones. So it’s a good duathlon or running or biking feature. (dcrainmaker’s review says it only works for run mode, I don’t think that is right).

A cleverer implementation would have provided an early morning test for HRV using R-R HR beats. This would have then been able to work on the ‘last time you took a RR reading for a few minutes’ eg in the morning along with your resting HR – eg BioForceHRV. Anyway, let’s not go there most of you probably don’t know what I’m talking about already (not sure I do really!!). Having said that , I have found it useful to modify the next day’s training based on that eg by delaying a morning session until the afternoon.

Apparently the HRM4 strap and watch support R-R intervals but they are not put into the .FIT file that is exported from the device (Source: SportTracks developer and one of my files!).

Race Predictor: Estimates the potential of your next race. Gimmick IMHO.

Recovery Check: 5 minutes into your workout it usually tells you that your recovery is GOOD. Not quite sure about the usefulness of that. Maybe it tells me tht I schedule my workouts correctly?! 🙂

VO2max Estimation: Cool! You can compare your estimated VO2max with the differently calculated estimates of all your friends. Otherwise I can’t see the point. (Actually that’s a little unfair, if you’ve been doing triathlon for a year or not so much then this is a great way to track your improvement until you plateau)

Training Effect: Scores the workout. I can’t see how this works without HR Zones. You can get similar info from TP or ST afterwards. This statistic is more of one for analysis, not just a thing you glance at after a session. Can’t hurt though, if correct.

Vertical Oscillation, Ground Contact Time, Pedal Smoothness, Torque

All available as metrics on the watch. (For the running ones you need the special HRM-RUN/HRM4 HR Monitor and for the cycling ones you need the Garmin Vector pedals). Note the HRM4 also does CADENCE (ie you would not need a footpod for cadence)

the5krunner - ground contact time and vertical oscillation
the5krunner – ground contact time and vertical oscillation

 Multisport Mode

You’re buying it as a triathlon training and racing watch so this mode is pretty useful. In fact probably near-essential.

You can configure a session to be: open water swim + bike + run; or run+bike+run. I guess you’d expect that! Of course you can add transitions too.

You can also have a run+bike+run+bike+run session as a brick session also covering the mistakes you make when pressing a button thinking you are pressing ‘lap’ when the watch the decides it wants to take you into transition. Press it again a few more times to correct your mistake. When set up as RBR only then it can really mess up your training stats. So ALWAYS set up your race or training multisport sessions to end in BRBR, just in case of errors or the need for multiple leg bricks.

In multisport mode there doesn’t seem to be an option to add a leg for a pool swim or indoor cycle (turbo) or indoor run (treadmill). That is a shame and a missed trick that I presume wouldn’t have been too hard to add. Next firmware release? It would be fantastic, for example, as then you would be able to automatically turn the GPS on and off by specifying the type of (indoor/outdoor) training you are doing. That was/is always a pain with the 910XT. But you can add in a XC Ski leg for your multi-sport session, each to their own! Having said all this, you can add a ‘custom’ sport leg, so i guess you could skip past the satellite fix when prompted – probably hit and miss and i didn’t want to try it as it would have involved setting up new screens for the ‘custom’ sport. And, anyway, if you want a custom indoor run and a custom indoor cycle each ‘custom’ would be treated the same in the multisport.

There doesn’t seem to be an option to allow MULTIPLE/EXTENDED bricks eg RBRBRBRBRBRBRB. Yes people do that sometimes. There seems to be a limit of 5 legs – fne for racing but sometimes NOT fine in training. The 910XT has more legs than this.

So multisport mode is a bit more varied but probably not quite as useful as the 910XT.

Customisable HR Zones – this seems to be a glaring omission. A triathlon watch needs HR zones by sport. Simple. I’m not sure if it takes them from Garmin Connect or bases it on Age and the ‘Lifetime Athlete?’ setting.

Workouts: You can do workouts eg 3x 1mile with 3 minutes recovery intervals in between. I presume this is compatible with all workouts created for previous watches.

Courses: I couldn’t see a courses feature. I know many people like this.

Virtual Racer – Nope. I know many people like this.

Firmware Updates: I used the Fenix2 to start using the Garmin Express uploading software. I had to say I liked it a lot, especially the prompts for when new firmware is available. A much neater product than the previous incarnation (ANT Agent). Garmin Express creates a local directory before uploading.

Other Software: Training Peaks and SportTracks can access exercise files DIRECTLY from the watch via USB or can be pointed to the local directory created by Garmin Express. The latter is the best option IMHO. There’s probably also a Bluetooth variation on this but I’ve always found you can’t beat a physical cable for reliability and speed. Actually I think you can upload via Bluetooth to your phone and thence up to Garmin Connect on your phone (and on the net for the world to see if you are away from home). Personally I’d never use that but others will, I’m sure. Bluetooth doesn’t appear to be a LIVE TRACKING feature either (this is currently a Bluetooth limitation, not Garmin).

Other: Only supports one bike configuration. Running footpod appears more accurate for instant pace than GPS when outdoors.

Accuracy: I found OWS GPS accuracy to be poor (compared to 910XT). I found run/bike GPS accuracy to be good and perfectly usable although not as good as mp 910XT. My test for this is crossing a nearby foot-bridge. Any watch that has me going on the bridge rather than in the water (on the satellite track afterwards) is accurate enough for me. The Fenix2 had me in the water.

Price Comparison

Watches Comparison July 7th 2015AmazonUKAmazon2USA
Adidas MiCoach Smart Run£209.99Link$188.00Link
BRYTON 60H / S430£174.90Link$199.00Link
Epson SF-810£201.08Link$506.06Link
Epson SF-710£151.14Link$297.91Link
Epson SF-510£140.63Link$269.10Link
Epson SF-310£109.99Link$208.11Link
Fitbit Charge HR£105.00Link$149.95Link
Garmin Edge 1000£390.84Link$599.99Link
Garmin Edge 520TBCTBC
Garmin Edge 510£249.36Link$304.95Link
Garmin Edge 810£223.33Link$394.95Link
Garmin Edge 25£139.99Link$169.99Link
Garmin Edge 20£109.99Link$129.99Link
Garmin Epix£344.45Link$549.99Link
Garmin Fenix3 (Sapphire)£385.00Link$589.95Link
Garmin Forerunner 220£158.09Link$236.99Link
Garmin Forerunner 620£248.24Link$388.28Link
Garmin Forerunner 630TBC
Garmin 910 XT£232.49Link$318.11Link
Garmin 920 XT£302.65Link$483.00Link
Garmin VivoActive£199.10Link$244.95Link
Mio Alpha 2£117.71Link$199.00Link
Nike+ SportWatch£179.99Link$149.89Link
Polar M400£119.95Link$229.95Link
Polar V800£266.95Link$308.49Link
Suunto Ambit 3 PEAK£277.51Link$381.10Link
Suunto Ambit 3 Sport£194.95Link$319.95Link
Suunto Ambit 2R£151.64Link$167.16Link
TomTom MultiSport£148.58Link$148.44Link
TomTom MultiSport Cardio£179.99Link$246.99Link
TomTom Runner£89.99Link$99.99Link
TomTom Runner Cardio£161.99Link$199.99Link



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6 thoughts on “Triathlon Review: Garmin Fenix2

  1. Thank you for posting your review but I found it conflicting with another review I found on the web at Several complaints about the watch you made were that there was no openwater swim vs. pool swimming differentiation and that there was no virtual partner/racer. In his review he specifically shows screenshots of these features and reviews them in depth. I was just confused and wanted some clarification before I make a purchase.

    1. just to clarify you said there was no indoor pool or indoor running (treadmill) options and the other review dived into those in depth and complemented the watch on these features

      1. You read that bit underneath the MULTISPORT MODE section I believe. So to be clear the options you want DO exist BUT if you were to do a multisport event such as PoolSwim+Turbo Train Bike+ Treadmill-Run then you would not be able to use those individual sport modes in multisport mode. Clear as mud ?!

    2. Thank you for asking this. There is a virtual PARTNER feature but NOT a virtual RACER feature.

  2. I have a Fenix. I did read that the GPS underperforms but I was thinking a watch this new surely it cannot be a big problem. Well, was I wrong or wrong…
    GPS is really poor. Not accurate and lost satellite reception a few times in forest. Never ever happened before with any other watch

    1. comes down to the SiRF chipset I believe. This is shared with several other similar watches….. It’s better if you get a good fix before starting I find. found it slightly better than my 910 as well.

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