Tech that changed my sporty life in 2019 – well, at least a bit

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Suunto 7My regular reader knows that this site tends to be forward-looking as well as rooted in the present. I tend not to do retrospective things and dwell on the past too much.

However, looking back on 2019 I saw some good products. Naturally, I never used some once the review was published and, in other cases, I just kept using what I had for years because of inertia or unwillingness to go down yet another learning curve.

Well, here are the products that really have changed my sporty, techy life to some degree in 2019. You can take them all as recommendations and I tend to avoid using that word.

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Bike Computer

The mount-thingy broke on my Wahoo ELEMENT so I had to switch to the ELEMNT BOLT on my road bike 😉 That only counts as a big change because my eyesight is starting to get a bit flaky and the BOLT is smaller.

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Form Goggles

More seriously, I never thought I would like and continue to use any kind of HUD and that would apply to both Varia Vision and Raptor.

However, I was very impressed with the FORM GOGGLES and then super-impressed when the clip-on Polar OH1+ was added to their offering soon afterwards. Whilst I don’t wear these in group lessons I really do err towards wearing them for my long swim at the weekend. It’s really quite neat to have live (ish) pace and HR beamed into my eyes. I don’t use the data afterwards though, only DURING the sets.

 

FORM Swim Goggles Review 🏊 The Best In Goggle Tech ?

Running/Tri Watches

I have to say I’m a bit hacked off here as well as a bit delighted. My perennial bugbear is a lack of my main device’s ability to mount as a drive letter to my PC. I traded in the 935 for the 945 and forgot that all Garmin’s music watches fail to support that precise feature. There is a solution but I don’t like it. Had Polar or Garmin properly integrated DROPBOX or DRIVE support into CONNECT/FLOW then I could have lived with that as a workaround but they haven’t (I appreciate there are apps and sites that, sort of, do this).

On the positive side, the 945 has brought back the joys of Spotify-music to hours of treadmill running and has also been very handy buying-cake-device with its NFC payments. I tend to have the Garmin as my main record-all device for ‘my personal stats’, so it’s often there on my wrist for group bike rides and hence the cake.

Polar Vantage has also been on my wrist a lot. I know a few of you don’t like it…but I do. It would be my main sports watch if Polar did the dropbox thing plus I did use it for key races in 2019. It didn’t make me faster but I managed a few, sneaky ETU/ITU qualifications.

Polar Vantage Review 🥇 The Polar Vantage Bible M V | In Detail

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Swim Watches

I have lambasted and derided wrist-based oHR for so long that I was thoroughly unimpressed when Garmin finally got around to enabling oHR for swimming. I scoffed as I tested it and found it was not as accurate as a chest strap…no surprise there. I then promptly went on to use it pretty much all the time to record my swim oHR (it calculates HR-Load for me) and sometimes I look at it at breaks between lengths. #Sigh

Despite wanting accurate data I have lowered my standards for the sake of convenience and not wearing a stupid-looking chest strap whilst swimming. By the end of the year I’ll probably be using an Apple Watch for my sports (HIM…nah).

Garmin 945 Review ▷ Forerunner’s Triathlon Bible

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Smart 24×7 Tech

I don’t really like wearing watches outside of sport but this blog forces me to. Consequently, I don’t really want a smartwatch. However, I have included this section because my partner LOVES Polar products and was very impressed with both the Polar Ignite as well as the OTHER Ring.

 

Polar Ignite Review | In-Depth Polar’s Latest FITNESS Watch

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Bike Tech

Once Black Friday dropped the price of the Garmin Varia Radar lights to a sensibel level, a lot of you bought one. I already had mine and it’s now my go-to light and early-warning system. It’s a great product even if it can sometimes beep too much and require charging more than it should. If I was richer and more generous, I would have bought all my cycling friends one for Christmas as I’d rather they didn’t die and kept cycling with me. Instead I’m probably going to be giving a few of them some old power meters in a few months time.

Garmin Varia RTL510 Review (RTL500, UT800)

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My 2019 Cervelo (S3) was also my first introduction to regular Di2 usage and I have to confess to really loving it. So much so it’s now on my 2020 Cervelo R5. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I bought the bike (R5) just to put Di2 on it. Naturally, Di2 is just pure vanity, laziness and fitting in with my cycling mates. But hey…I love it, leave me alone 😉

2020 Speculation | Shimano Dura-Ace R9200p | Wireless Di2

Shimano Di2 – the dark side of the metrics

My 2020 Bike – a Cervelo R5 review of sorts

HR Tech

I love my HR tech. And that is probably what got me started writing about running sports tech in the first place. The new mioPOd has almost got me to use that in preference to the Polar OH1 but I just can’t get the cached data out of their app easily enough so I’m sticking with the Polar OH1+ (again dropbox, Ms Polar)

mioPOD Review mio POD Heart Rate Monitor | App Review

I tried to switch to the Polar H10 as it enabled dual-BLE and ANT+ support. Then I gave one of mine away to a friend and lost my other two #Sigh. So I’m still using my mouldy Garmin HRM-TRI, which is still going strong despite the mould, smell and occasionally high readings at the start of some workouts.

▷ Polar H10 Review (2019 update) & Comparisons, Polar’s Greatest HRM

▷ Garmin HRM-TRI Review – Triathlon’s Greatest Heart Rate Monitor

Power Meters & Turbo Trainers

I don’t need anything too fancy here, just stuff that works. So Assioma and Kickr 2017 are great for me. The only things that would get me to change here in 2020 are 1) Shimano cleat compatibility for the Assioma and 2) Some sort of rocking device for the Kickr for pedalling out of the seat (I saw DCR had one)

I’m currently looking at other PMs from Shimano and Stages and they are cool but there’s little point in me changing.

I suppose I should add that Favero’s new IAV firmware (more accurate power readings) is something new that I use many times a week. However, I’ve not especially noticed any difference and I’ll just take their word that it’s more accurate than it already was (it certainly seems accurate in 3-way tests I’m doing ATM)

Tyres

I changed my go-to tyres from Conti GP4000 to Conti GP5000. Big shakeup there!! Buy some.

Continental GP5000 Review – You Definitely NEED These – Conti Grand Prix Tire – Tyre

STRYD

Any post like this is never complete without me mentioning Stryd. Sorry 😉

Their new 2019 pod finally accounted for wind. I have to confess to not really looking into the details of my daily wind power readings (no…there is no pun coming on that one). However, the main difference is that wind power usually makes your power output higher and so my stats have been improving, even if I haven’t.

I use the new STRYD all the time. It’s pretty much there now as a ‘perfect’ product (albeit with unverified industry-standard accuracy). All it needs to do for me now would be to be automatically handle treadmill incline variations (but I’m not overly bothered about that).

 

STRYD Review 2020 🥇 STRYD Bible | Running Power Meter Footpod, Detailed

Order Directly From STRYD – Also Fulfilled in the UK/EU Avoiding Import Duties – Any Current Discounts Automatically Added on STRYD.com

Swimwear

I love the new and improved ROKA SIM shorts and I REALLY love my new Zone3 Vanquish wetsuit. Both feel awesome and make me feel faster even though I’m probably going the same speed. Money well spent for me.

ROKA SIM PRO II Review – 4 years later

 

Zone3 Vanquish Review | Huub Archimedes comparison

Cycling Shoes

I use a few pairs of shoes but my default preference is the Shimano RP 901 and I am currently wearing the branded ‘toe-thingies’ over the front to keep my toes warm.

Shimano RP901 Review : Shimano RP9 vs. Fizik R5B

 

I think that’s all. Actually it was an expensive year when I add the price up of some of that lot.

What Might Change me in 2020?

I could perhaps see me using the Stages Dash, it’s pretty good and hasn’t got Garmin written on it…I like to be a bit different. But it does have some drawbacks, so you’ll have to wait for the review.

I’m definitely going to buy a new chest strap..probably the Garmin HRM-PRO that I keep talking about.

I think Polar will excite my wrist more than Garmin this year.

I perhaps could go for Shimano 12-speed (see earlier link) if that happens in the next few months yet, in reality, I don’t think I would make that jump as I’m still getting rid of my older non-11-speed bikes. Then again, I will probably get a newish TT bike so maybe 12-speed could work on that?

My beloved SportTracks 3.1 is coming to end of life. So I will be forced to change, kicking and screaming, to something else. Maybe Stages/Today’s Plan or maybe FinalSurge – not Training Peaks, just out of principle (I do use it a bit already, sometimes)

I’m probably going to invest in some top-end tri shoes and, maybe, Mr Nike might get even richer as I need some running tech that can give me a few minutes in my HIMs.

I might get some 80mm (front) aero wheels too. I saw some Hunt ones announced today that looked cool.

So, I can’t see that many changes ahead that will change my persistent sports tech. Then again…

the future is notoriously hard to predict. But I try

 

September 2020: Sports Watch Update: All new & current Bike/Run/Tri/Fitness Models with GPS. Rumors + replacement dates for Garmin, Apple, Polar, Suunto, Wahoo, Samsung, Fitbit

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28 thoughts on “Tech that changed my sporty life in 2019 – well, at least a bit

  1. I’m sure you know it already but just in case. MTPdrive allows you to mount mtp garmin (music enabled) as a drive letter. I think they should have a beta to try mtpdrive.com

  2. If Polar can do what the higher-end Garmin watches do now and just get basic things under the hood right (Hi Polar, you don’t have a power off button and why are all settings app side only AND also don’t work). AND gets that 24/7 cal measurements and steps under control; then you have my business.

    The whole Polar ecosystem needs a fresh coat of paint too. The Polar app looks like something Netscape designed–in 1997.

    I could write a whole piece myself about the woeful state of Polar’s lack of features that are keeping many of us making the plunge, and maybe I will, but I’ll leave my comments at that.

    1. Well, it’s your personal opinion. I’ve been happy with my Vantage V and i don’t need all those gimmicks that Garmin offer. Polar really provides everything an athlete needs. If you’re a gadget geek, you might want to go for Garmin.

      1. Right, you don’t. There are plenty of us that do an are stuck with Garmin (if anything) because of it.

        For example, Garmin tracks long term RHR in its ecosystem. I have years upon years of that info at my fingertips. I can see fluctuations in times of the year as I swap out one routine for another. I can see trends in my health, what worked, what didn’t, odd quirks (example: two years ago I hurt my ankle something fierce at the end of August, which put all training on the shelf for about two months. I saw clearly an uptick in my RHR there)

        A lot of people tend to disregard the “24/7 tracking” these watches do as so nonsense metric. Garmin I argue conditioned most to think this (in actually Polar is horrendous at this, where Garmin is surprisingly good at it; just not currently with the 945). For me, that is the literal backbone of these watches.

        I don’t even want a watch that only tracks workouts! Why bother, when I could get a chest strap, pair it to my phone, pick a training app, and do that; for a lot cheaper!

        I would love to see Polar tackle everything. Take all the “gimmicks” and make them both functional and informative. I would love to see them market some watch faces, have widgets that do different things. I would love for them to put setting watch side because last I owned a Polar watch (Vantage V titan last year) and did a run, I forgot to turn on a setting I needed. I tried doing it in the app, didn’t change the function on the watch, and ended up doing a run with gimped metrics because of it (I think I had the GPS setting off).

        I envy the sleep metrics on Polar. I think there smart coaching is on the right track but needs expansion. I would like things like stair climbing (and actually work), I would love them to allow users to set custom stride lengths for steps, Or to set our BMR (or guess it more accurately), or explain calorie expenditure better than Garmins “Active” and “Resting” setup.

        I want Polar to do Garmin, better than Garmin does Garmin. Garmin is sloppy with their products and it’s getting worse every year. Take one good look at the FR945 forums and you’ll see every other post is about the horrid battery life of the watch (and it’s merited). We’re here still because Garmin gives access to a lot of things we need/want that others don’t.

        Should Polar take a moment to see just how desperate the user base is for an alternative, they could take over a major section of the market. I mean I have even started hoping for COROS to expand outward in terms of both features and connectivity!

        This was my Ted Talk, thank you for listening.

        1. I always wonder why amateurs tend to try to be more professional than actual professionals, in this case elite athletes. It’s a phenomenon that not only percolates sports but so many activities with a layman/amateur and professional side to them, like say photography. Who needs all that stuff you mentioned, and what for? Surely, it’s not for training because most of it is completely unbacked by exercise physiology or has been debunked (like HRV to correlate significantly with training load) by studies.

          You said that “(it) put all training on the shelf for about two months. I saw clearly an uptick in my RHR there”. So? That’s not actionable data, but engages you in futile post hoc theorizing. It’s like saying my RHR always goes up before I get sick. It’s merely an observation, but won’t enable me to prevent my getting sick, thus it’s useless data for training.
          If you read renowned coaches (Daniels, Coe, Pfitzinger, Palladino et cet) the thing that stands out most is their clear stand on descriptive, and prescriptive data for training. All those gimmicks out there are merely descriptive, with most of the features in return literally telling the users what they told it, see Polar’s Recovery Pro.

          Thanks for listening.

      2. I’m pretty happy with my Vantage V Titan and use it with a Polar HR10 chest strap and Stryd Wind.

        I do wish, though, that in a training target one could use power as intensity and not just pulse or speed.

        1. yes that’s a very good point.
          we’ve raised it here before and i think i even raised it with polar some time ago,
          i *ASSUMED* that would happen but now, maybe not. 🙁

          having said that, as you know, the power zone lock is a good way to achieve a similar thing

          1. Indeed, I use the power zone lock when not using a training target, but when I tried that in a phase with intensity “Free” that did not work. I’ll try that again to see if it was just me failing to make that work….

          2. The moment you use a phased workout, zone lock is disabled. It’s like with Garmin’s stepped workouts and alerts who are mutually exclusive.

          3. I asked Polar support if they’re going to implement it, and the answer was that they received requests for this feature so it’s not impossible that it will be implemented.

            It is a bit weird that power as intensity is not implemented considering that power measurement was/is marketed as an important and new functionality of Titan V.

          4. @the5krunner: Did you get any response from the Vantage product manager to your question about support for power as intensity in a training target?

    2. The server-side dependency and lack of PC connectivity are risks for the customers. If the servers are shut down (e.g., the company goes bankrupt in a few years), not only the watch cannot be configured, but the training data cannot be saved. The lack of repairability and the missing ability to switch the device off is a sign of the built-in obsolescence.

      1. @Oskars: When it comes to hardware, yes, a Polar does everything you need (i.e. record training), and so does a Timex. Software-wise, i.e. training analysis, there is a lot of room for improvement. But that’s true for any company that produces sports devices, Their platforms are usually horrendous (I mean look at Garmin Connect, a 101 of how not to present data). That’s why there are third-party services like WKO, TrainingPeaks, FirstBeat, and the like which focus on the analysis side of things.

        @Chris: Agreed, should Polar go out of business (the thought of which isn’t even a stretch!), and/or shut down Flow, you’re left with dead devices. The migration from personaltrainer to Flow that’s been going on since Dec 31st now(!!!) shows that they are severely understaffed when it comes to technical maintenance, and support. Yet their marketing division spits out one promotional campaign after the other to drive sales of unfinished/unpolished devices abusing their sponsored athletes by putting words in their mouths rehashing old assets (see Tim Don). Again, however, that’s sadly true for any company this day and age. Sales first, then they might think about support.

        My first Polar was an Accurex Plus (back then a tier above the Vantage NV!) that I used for 10 years! I simply changed its battery like very other year, and wear it sometimes to this day, because it’s a simple, good-looking watch. But those were Polar’s gory days, at least when it comes to Europe, where everyone into sports wore Polar.

        1. I don’t understand how can you even consider Polar going out of business?
          Sure, the don’t sell nearly as much as Garmin but they’re still doing incredibly good for the amount of resources they have, and despite everything, the Vantage sells have been doing very well.

          1. Apple, Samsung, and emerging Chinese brands are evolving rapidly. The sports watch market is in dramatic decline. It’s only a matter of time before Suunto goes bankrupt, then Polar and finally Garmin.

          2. yep, even Garmin will disappear one day. Few companies persist for decades.

            I suspect that rather than fizzling out, companies in this space will make two or three costly strategic blunders and that will be it. Sure Garmin has a massive war chest of cash but their blunders could be more spectacularly costly than those made by the likes of Polar. eg what if someone hacked into Garmin Connect and locked it down for a few weeks demanding bitcoin in return, what if the hackers then leaked personal and medical customer info in the UK/EU…big ransom, big fines and it could happen tomorrow.

            the smartwatch market is still forecast to grow, tho i note you comment specifically about ‘sports’ watches.

  3. I’m wondering what happened to the HRM-PRO. There were so many leaks, photos, etc and nothing happened… My HRM-RUN is dying and I’d love to buy a new strap. Bummer.

  4. Jabra Elite 75 active announced for march 2020 at 200 euro, it’s time for a new review! It’s possible that Jabra sends you a prototype to test?

    1. i hadn’t seen that, thank you
      no i had probs getting the non-active version as it was. tho i have had quite a few exchanges with them nevertheless
      but i think that’s because they were lining me up for the active version which i assumed was going to happen. now i know it is.

      it’s the same product as the 65…but smaller. so what did you want to know? even the driver is the same size so quality will be the same.

      1. I would be interested in three questions:
        1- how the elite 75 behave in a real run, are the elite75 stable in the ear or they risk to fall when you sweat. I remember you told that you were a little worried, because maybe with little dimension they could fall more easy than the 65.
        2- a youtube reviewer, MikeWat, says that the Elite 75 (similar to the Elite 65 and other earbuds, for example the Samsung Galaxy Bud) have a similar problem that affects also the Aftershock: when you run or walk you can hear the sound of your steps. Is it true?
        3- Now I have the Jbird Vista and I think that they are good workout earbuds, when I run I hardly notice that they are in my ear. But in the office and when I’m walking around I find them a bit uncomfortable , I feel them big in my ears. You told that with the elite65 you never wear them more than 2 hours, because then you feel discomfort. Maybe the new smaller dimension of the Elite75 improves the confort and maybe it’s easier to listen to the earbuds for longer periods of time?

        1. ok i’m getting the elite75 ACTIVE version which is out soon.

          1.i sweat the current ones don’t come out. I use them regularly eg today in the gym on the treadmill. issue is when you are towelling yourself down and running you can knock one out and there’s no cable
          2. this doesn’t happen to me or i never notice it. this probably happens if you get a perfect seal, so dependent on foam tip size and fit
          3. maybe. will report.

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