Polar Hill Splitter – The Good, The Bad and, well, you know the other one
Return: Polar Grit X Review
The Polar Grit X is an outdoors version of the Polar Vantage series and one of its distinguishing features is the newly introduced HILL SPLITTER. Hill Splitter considers both your live and recorded workout and, you guessed it, splits out hills.
I like the idea, I Iove the innovation and I mostly like the implementation of it. In my opinion, it’s good for the first release of a new feature and will be useful for some athletes but not especially for me. Let’s look at what it does and then I’ll go through what’s wrong with it and what can be improved.
Polar Grit X – Hill Splitter
Other than enabling the Hill Splitter screen in either your running or cycling profile, there’s nothing else you need to do. It just works when it needs to. You should have it enabled by default when you open the box but, if not, here’s where you enable or disable it in FLOW on the web and it’s similarly enabled on the FLOW app.
Once the Hill Splitter sense an incline of about 3% the Hill Splitter Screen pops up whilst you are running/cycling. The screens are subtly different for uphill/downhill/flat and you cannot personalise what you see, indeed they look like this.
Perhaps the only non-obvious thing to point out is that the uphills/downhills are numbered as you run, for example, the image above shows the 3rd Uphill.
Then when you have finished you get a view of your Hill Splitting exploits in the workout summary. It’s worth pointing out that with LAPS (auto and manual), Polar DO give you much more detail on the watch after the workout.
PS Yes Whoop should is able to send HR to the Grit X and, no, I didn’t use it for that purpose today.
I’ll come on to my opinion on all of this in a minute, for now, we just need to know that each of the hills is recorded as laps into your workout file which you can then see on Polar Flow.
Hill Splitter – Polar Flow App
There is LESS Hill functionality on the app compared to the web platform. The following two images pretty much sum up all you get on the app. ie the hills are numbered on the map, kinda shown on an elevation profile, and then summary performances are shown for each lap as well as a summary for the total uphill/downhills on your route – which won’t be the same as total ascent/descent if you think about it.
Hill Splitter – Polar Flow Web
On the web version of FLOW there are more interesting analysis capabilities.
This one hill is probably worth a look at in some detail, apologies for the rather large image but you probably need to look at all of it.
First up the hill is recorded from point (1) to (2) on the map. That’s probably wrong as I would say there is a flat bit where I waited for some time where it says “Kingston Gate Gardens” I wasn’t really thinking about too much when I ran up this hill other than to avoid some brambles and nettles however you can see that my pace drops as the hill steepens, yet my running power from STRYD remains constant(ish) as does my cadence. After a minute, or so, my heart rate catches up to my effort level and starts to plateau. That’s a reasonably good example of how a hill should be tackled and it’s great that Polar gives us the ability to see that.
In fact, what I was doing was testing out STRAVA Live Segments. My particular segment started out near the GATE and kept going for a few hundred metres after the summit as there was a flat bit before a second, true summit further on.
Next, it’s worth noting that you can choose to display only the uphills, which I would imagine is what most people will want from this type of analysis especially if you are doing reps of the same hill. Then there are VERY many more metrics that can be displayed compared to what is available on the app.
Hill Splitter vs Hills on STRAVA Live Segments
I’m digressing a little here. Yet some of you, like me, might use STRAVA Live Segments to monitor hill reps or performances on your favourite local climbs. I do that when cycling but rarely when running. Whilst looking at Hill Splitter, I was doubling up and running some segments at the same time, like this.
You can see that a STRAVA Segment is a ‘known’ beast so the Grit X can alert you to one’s impending arrival and also give your progress as you tackle the hill segment and you get an instant summary after you finish the segment as well as, obviously, being able to analyse it in STRAVA afterwards.
Before I come back with some critiques, I wanted to throw this image into the mix. You’ll see why soon enough. It’s a part of Golden Cheetah analysis software and it’s just one small part of a screen from a bike workout with a wahoo Bolt also using Strava Live Segments. You can see here that Golden Cheetah (well, Wahoo) stores the Strava segment as a lap and so Golden Cheetah can break out the specific segment-performance. But also my matches/sustained power efforts are also identified by Golden Cheetah and broken out as “laps”.
Polar Hill Splitter – Improvements to make it awesome
Polar has a vastly under-rated performance feature called Zone-Lock, which lets you lock or unlock zones of any kind (HR, power, pace) at any time. I suspect that Polar has patented it as no-one has copied it AFAIK. If you couple Zone Lock with some of the suggestions I’m about to make then we just might have some potentially-awesome functionalities soon for performance athletes.
- The hill splitter screen needs to be configurable (or alternate ones offered). As a minimum, it’s pretty obvious that it needs to display power for cyclists and I’d like it for running.
- Being able to use the hill-splitter metrics as data fields might be nice but probably isn’t worth the effort for Polar to do it.
- The on-watch Hill Splitter summary could be improved and expanded and treated like manual laps and autolaps. Personally I wouldn’t look at that but some people do.
- Flow on the app is limited and could be extended yet, I reckon, it already gives a smartphone user enough information. I would say that the right decision has been made to keep the more detailed analyses to the web version of Flow.
- Creating “match efforts” and “STRAVA segments” both as kinds of laps in Polar FLOW will give very powerful and useful analysis possibilities to complement Hill Splitter. This probably won’t be too hard to implement.
Polar Hill Splitter – Opinion
The current extent of Polar Hill Splitter in the Grit X could be a done deal and Polar may have no more plans to develop it, I don’t know. Nevertheless, even as it stands now, it is a useful feature and one which identifies hills reasonably well and which works well. POWER needs to be added both for cyclists and for runners who use Polar’s own running power calculations, let alone for people like me who use STRYD.
There is scope for Polar to extend and improve Hill Splitter if they want to.
Return: Polar Grit X Review