On the up – new Suunto Ambit 3 Vertical

Technology moves faster than Kilian on Kilimanjaro. So it’s no surprise then that the New Year brings with it a new Suunto Ambit – this time the “3 Vertical”, with a heads up that in 2016 its all about how high you can get, how fast. Our resident trail tech geek and Associate Editor, Tegyn Angel, received a special preview unit before launch to put the unit through its paces. He also gives a final tip to the word that will soon be on every trail running geek’s lips: STRYD. 

medium_SS022226000 VERTICAL Lime Perspective View_Route altitude profile metric NEGATIVE_pngUnboxing the Suunto Ambit 3 Vertical, the first thing I completely failed to notice was the absence of a chunky tumour-like antenna poking out along the band. It’s been such a stalwart feature of previous Ambit watches that it took me nearly two weeks to realise why the watch felt – and looked – so much more refined. Because it’s visually so much simpler, it almost makes it look like a cheaper, lower-end model, though that is hardly the case.

Suunto have developed a completely bezel design that incorporates the antenna, meaning no more bulge and a much more streamlined unit. While aesthetically much nicer, this should also mean a better fit on smaller wrists (i.e. the female half of our population!)

For all intents and purposes, the Vertical looks like a slightly stripped down version of the brand’s flagship, the Ambit 3 Peak. And that’s exactly where it’s positioned: between the Ambit 3 Peak and the Sport. In essence, the Vertical is an updated Peak with half the battery life that presents a handful of new metrics targeted specifically at people who care about their elevation profile. By basing the elevation measurement on barometric pressure the Vertical is able to achieve a far greater degree of accuracy than is possible with the GPS-only Sport and Run models.

Screenshot 2016-01-07 17.35.34Okay, so it measures elevation more accurately. Is that it? Big deal, go and tell all your Strava buddies. Hold up! Not so fast! Flicking through the watch mode screens (i.e. outside of an activity) you start to get a taste of how the new technical capabilities have been utilised to prevent genuinely relevant information. Screen two presents your 7 day, 30 day and 12 month ascent totals along with your total time climbing.

However, once you get into an activity mode you start to realise that elevation gain/loss is no longer a trivialised measure of total meters gained or lost per workout. For every activity that records GPS/Altitude data, the watch displays a real-time elevation profile allowing the wearer to better visualise the route so far. While existing Ambit3 models allowed you to pre-program routes online or via the Movescount App and to track your horizontal position visually, the Vertical takes things into the 3rd dimension. The Vertical actually displays an elevation profile of the entire pre-programmed route and tracks your progress on the same with a progressive slider. Very cool!Mt Buller

By themselves, the antenna redesign and vertical functionality are pretty good additions and deliver an update almost as significant as the upgrade from Ambit2 to Ambit3. But Suunto haven’t stopped there. One of the most requested features has finally been included: Vibration! Vibration! Vibration! As seen on the recently released Traverse, button presses now feature haptic feedback and alarms (both time and user-determined alarms like pace, heart rate and so forth) now vibrate. It’s about time! (sorry…). Suunto have also added Recovery and Sleep tests though we’ve yet to test the efficacy of these.

medium_SS021844000 VERTICAL Black Perspective View_Recovery time POSITIVE_pngSo should you buy one? As always it depends. If you own an Ambit3 Peak, probably not. I say probably because in the Vertical, Suunto has released a watch that’s positioned below the Peak yet it sports features that the Peak does not. However, if you: own anything else; care about Vert; don’t need a read out of barometric pressure and; don’t plan on running an event that lasts longer than about 10hrs – it’s well worth considering.

The Vertical is a very solid entry into a crowded market and a definite sign of things to come for Suunto.

Epilogue: What the bloody hell is a Power Meter? Well, apparently they’re the go-to training tool in cycling. According to Wikipedia (yep, that’s how little I knew about them), they “provide an objective measurement of real output that allows training progress to be tracked very simply—something that is more difficult when using, for example, a heart rate monitor alone.” So what? Well, when running at a given pace on a flat, consistent surface (i.e. a road) with no relevant environmental factors (i.e. headwind, snow), heart rate combined is a pretty consistent measure of effort. Fortunately, we’re not road runners (never mind cyclists) and so these factors DO affect any measure of effort.

[You didn’t enter a valid video URL. Please try again.]Until now Power Meters were only readily available for cyclists. Until NOW! Enter stage left, STRYD. The first power meter for runners. While not a Suunto product, Suunto is working very closely with STRYD to ensure that all of their watches are compatible with power meters in all relevant sport modes and that includes running. We haven’t had our test unit long enough to give a thorough review but possibilities are massive.

Let’s look at a quick example: You’re running a trail ultra, lets say the Ultra Trail Australia, and want to pace yourself consistently. Half the course is very hilly, while the other half is pretty fast (according to Sir Kilian). So how do you pace consistently? If you’ve ever looked at your heart rate next to a measure like pace you’ll notice a significant lag between output and BPM. As STRYD put it, “power gives an instant picture of the work input, heart rate shoes how your body reacted to that workload.” By using power as your pacing measure you would be able to pre-establish and monitor a consistent level of output.

It’s an exciting concept! Watch this space.

The Suunto Ambit3 Vertical has a RRP of $629 AUD ($679 AUD with the Suunto Smart Sensor) and is available from the end of January.

For more information, visit www.suunto.com/ambit3vertical.

www.suunto.com         www.movescount.com                    



Larapinta strip 

Gear review: Soleus Dash

Trail run coach Caine Warburton clocks on for a review of the Soleus Dash running watch. No it doesn’t have GPS – it’s new school old school like that…

76006513_main_eSoleus is not a brand you may have heard much about (only launching in 2008), but it is by no means a newcomer to the business of running watches. Soleus’ ‘Think Tank’ designers and engineers who once worked for Nike timing and currently work on Columbia and Converse watches. This ‘Think Tank’ of experience has been toiling away to produce some of the more recent additions to the Soleus line-up, including the Dash

The Design:

The Dash comes in a number of colour options in both male and female models. It has a PU strap which is well ventilated, light and comfortable. It has a durable plastic face and is 50m water resistant. The numbers on the Dash are oversized, a real plus for reading on the run and a back light function plus specific “Light” button on the bottom of the face. One unique thing I really like about the Dash is the backing plate and its motivational inscription “If you can read this, you’re not running”, for me it’s these little additions that prove the brand is made by runners for runners!

The Features:

The Dash is a non-GPS watch offering a number of timing features including Chronograph, Data recall, Timer, Alarm, Time and Night mode.

Chronograph (Chrono): With a 30 hr Chrono timer the dash is capable of some serious workouts. It has two display areas one larger than the other and you can switch either lap or overall time into the larger display depending on your workout. The Chrono also has a 30 lap/split memory storage per workout which is more than I needed for my usual runs.

Data: The Dash will store up to 10 separate workouts (from the Crono) with all lap splits included. The data function allows you to easily analyse your run back at home and see your individual splits. I found this most useful for track sessions, hill reps and trail efforts as it allowed me to compare my effort against previous attempts.

Timer: With 6 separate programmable and looped countdown timers the Dash has you covered all the way up to 9hrs and 59min of countdown glory! I used these specifically for hydration reminders on long runs or as workout functions reminding me when to put an effort on or take a recovery during tempo or hill efforts.

2157072-1-MULTIVIEWAlarm: not just one…THREE. That’s enough to get even the sleepiest trailite up on a cold winter morning.

Time: Soleus has managed to add functionality to the simple time display. On the dash you have a choice of two time zones which you can switch between easily. The time display  incorporates the date and a battery life display. The Soleus is not rechargeable and expected battery life is 3-4 years but it’s nice to know when the time is getting close for a new battery, no surprises = no excuses.

Night Mode: The Dash has a dedicated light button on the face of the watch but it also has a night mode function. When activated this function causes the light to turn on when any button is pressed.

The Use:

Over the past 3 weeks I have found that I get the most use out of my Dash during my track sessions (yes even trailites need some speed). The ability to log all my laps then review at the end via the data function has been a real help. I also found the Dash to be a great companion for my tempo trail runs as I could easily set parameters for my trail run workouts (such as 3min Hard 1min Easy) via the timer function and not have to worry about constantly looking at the watch…a movement we all know can end in disaster when running fast on the trail!.

Without a GPS function I tended to shy away from the Dash when exploring new trails or doing goal long runs as being a data freak I always like to know how far/high the new trails or goals where. However for courses that I knew or doing timed efforts on the trail I found I preferred to leave the bulky GPS at home and head out instead with the Dash for a less encumbered run.

The End Verdict

Overall I was impressed with the Dash, in the realms of non GPS watches it goes head to head with Ironman Timex and holds it’s own. It is stacked with functionality but retains the simplicity needed for effective use and acceptable style of an everyday watch. I see this watch as a good choice for runners doing any type of speed work, tempo runs, hill reps or efforts on the trail as well as those runners who prefer a less encumbered run without the constant buzz and beep of most major GPS’s.
Happy running

Caine Warburton

Trail runner/Coach

RRP: $75