Gear Review: Stryd run power meter

Stryd is “the world’s first power meter for running”. But what the hell does that mean and why do we care? REVIEW: Tegyn Angel, Co-editor.  

Power Meters have been at the top of every cyclist’s wish list for years; a perfect albeit tool to measure output in training and racing in a way that is independent of variables like fatigue, weather or inclination.  Whereas a typical bio-feedback tool like a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) measures your body’s response to training, a Power Meter measures the actual output of your effort Watts.  On a bike it’s easy to calibrate your meter using known gear ratios and the like, but until Stryd no one had come up with a way to measure running Power outside of the lab.Screenshot 2016-05-05 21.46.48

The Stryd unit itself is like a slightly larger version of a HRM pod and is slightly smaller than a match box.  This clips on to a strap that incorporates Heart Rate sensors and is worn around the chest like a traditional HRM.  The placement is a little frustrating (especially given pre-release models clipped onto your shorts like a pedometer) but is presumably it’s to ensure that the measurement is made at the centre of body mass and isn’t influenced by the excessive movement of your arms, legs or hips. Paired to your watch (in our case a Suunto Ambit3 Vertical) or phone, Stryd replaces your standard HRM and now provides a realtime feed of Heart Rate AND Power data.

BRILLIANT! Now what…? Well, we’re still trying to work that out.  We have a metric, a unit of measurement, but people are still trying to establish exactly HOW to use the information.  This is cutting edge, early adopter stuff, so let’s start with what the marketing boffins at Stryd have to say about it, then we’ll give you our thoughts.Mt Buller

If you head over to stryd.com the first thing you’ll see is a pretty video (with some lovely Suunto cameo) which suggests that, paired with the phone App, Stryd can actively coach you toward a more efficient running technique.  How? Think of it as a process of eliminating variables.  Let’s say I’m running at 5:00 minutes per kilometre on a flat track.  On my first lap I’m generating 300w and on the second this pushes out to 330w.  What’s changed? My pace is the same and no other environmental variables are influencing things, so therefore it comes down to a matter of efficiency.  The coach in my ear (via earphones from my phone) tells me to relax and focus on increasing my cadence.  Very cool!  12309763_494114670772590_4755187599445766202_o

In another example I’m aiming to keep a consistent effort through my run or race but I hit a steep hill and am reduced to a fast hike.  My pace plummets and I push harder to try and bring it back up.  My breathing quickens and I start to feel my pulse thumping in my forehead.  A quick glance at my watch and I see that, while I’d been keeping a consistent 270w along the undulating low lands, my effort has now jumped to 340w and I’m approaching redline.  I know intuitively, and now have an objective way of confirming, that I need to back off or I’ll bonk.

This all sounds great, but also a little gimmicky for the Average Joe.  Unless you’re looking for those One Percenters, this onslaught of additional metrics might seem a little overwhelming.  Surely I can work these things out on my own and just “run to feel”? Isn’t this just a glorified pedometer for the data obsessed Triathlete? I’m a Trail Runner, I don’t need it!  Time will tell if that’s the case, but hold up a minute, let’s have a look at how we Mud Junkies might get some benefit from it.

Scenario 1: I have a tendency to over train, particularly when I introduce speed work.  I feel good for a week or two and start to feel my body adapting, then I get the Man Flu.  Theoretically, Stryd provides a tool to help identify Overtraining Syndrome before it gets too bad.  Heart Rate has traditionally been used in this capacity, a technique that was popularised by Endurance Guru Dr Phil Maffetone.  His advice was to keep a log of your training and match your pace to your average HR.  Let’s say on the first week of February you ran your favourite 5km loop in 25 minutes (5:00min/km) and maintained a Heart Rate of 150bpm.  In the third week of February you head out again and this time the same loop, at an average HR of 150bpm, takes you 27:30 (5:30min/km).  One explanation for the decrease in pace, in spite of a stable pace and theoretically two weeks of improved fitness, is that your body is overstressed in one way or another.  This is an awesome tool, but while HR is largely subjective, Power is Objective.  I’ll admit I’m a little unsure of this given that training is about  stimulating Subjective Adaptation, but it certainly sounds good on paper.12363232_496484017202322_4608237416806898762_o

Scenario 2: I love running downhill and so does my girlfriend.  However, whereas I can drop her like it’s hot once the angle gets life threatening, she leaves me in the dust when the hill is “runnable”.  I feel clunky and slow, inefficient and genuinely amateur compared to the way she glides down the hill.  Using Stryd I can play around with different technique adjustments until I reach a point where the Watts displayed on watch are as low as possible. Shorten my stride, increase the height of my heel kick, swing my arms differently, tense my hammies, keep my knees bent, point my toes, adjust my breathing.  Because Stryd displays power in real time, without HR lag, I can now be my own technique coach and learn what makes my running more efficient.

Is Stryd the next big thing in Running?  Probably not, but then decent GPS watches have only been around for about 10 years and Suunto didn’t release the Ambit 1 until early 2012 and yet now you’ll hardly find a trail runner without one. There’s no question that Stryd is revolutionary.  However, all revolutions create an environment of confusion and uncertainty.  Just as it takes time for people to learn what to do with their new found freedom and responsibility, it will take time for coaches and amateurs alike to learn the best way to train with Stryd. 

Fortunately the folks behind Stryd have embraced this fact and their forum has become a thriving community of interested people actively contributing to the development and application of the device.  More to the point, they seem to be listening to what people have to say!

www.stryd.com

www.facebook.com/teamstryd/


 

Screenshot 2016-04-11 21.50.21

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                    

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Gear: Suunto Ambit2 R Review

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone 

Ain’t that just the case? One week I’m happily logging Kms, blissfully unaware of the glorious Ambit2 (A2) strapped to my wrist and then Suunto Australia send an Ambit2 R our way and all of a sudden I’m asking myself whether my next few runs are likely to need more than 8hrs of battery life. If not, ye’ olde’ wrist anchor is getting left at home! Land-locked, confined to port.

I’ll be perfectly honest: I’m biased; I’m a Suunto fanboy. I had a T6C, I wore my pre-ordered Ambit1 into the grave and the Ambit2 is my daily companion. I love how robust they are, their long, Scandinavian back-story and the fact that most of their premium watches and wristtops are still made in Finland. So why I am leaving it at home? Sure, it’s smaller than some watches out there and it’s definitely prettier than the Garmin Fenix or 910, but it’s still a heavy piece of work. All that extra battery life and altimeter are excessive for a lot of my general training and competition.

Reviews focusing on new variations of an existing product have always frustrated me. All I want to know is how it’s different to the existing products and why I should (or shouldn’t) buy it. I’ll do my best to avoid the trap of rambling on for the sake of it when all you’ll probably read is the conclusion anyway. For those who want more of the gory details, check out the incredibly detailed, Picassoan-prolific DC Rainmaker for more depth than Challenger Deep on just about every sports watch ever conceived.

Suunto Ambit 2R

Suunto Ambit2 R – the GPS for Runners

The Ambit2 R is a GPS watch designed for runners (see our first look post here), and sports a feature set built to please. It weighs in at 70g (vs. 72g for the Ambit 2S and 89g for the Ambit 2) and offers a battery life range of 8-25 hours depending on the user-selected accuracy (vs. 16-50hrs for the Ambit2). Altitude measurements are taken from the GPS which, although less accurate than a combined GPS-Barometric Altimeter system, is certainly accurate enough for most runners; even trailites. For all intents and purposes, the rest of the running-relevant feature set is the same. Navigation, Physical Specs, Speed and Distance recording, Heart Rate monitoring and Training Analysis are all exactly the same as the other models in the range.

The similarities extend to the “FusedSpeed” technology (which has now been rolled out in updates on the other models), which treats the watch like a Wristtop pedometer to calculate distance and speed in the absence of GPS signal (think treadmill cringe). In normal conditions speed and distance would be a synthesis of both GPS and Accelerometer, the former constantly improving the accuracy of the latter. However, when the signal drops, the bounce of your stride still provides surprisingly reliable data and the real kicker: Cadence!

So how does it differ from the other Ambits? Well aside from the halved battery life, the lack of a Barometer / Pressure-based Altimeter means it lacks weather monitoring and the FusedSpeed technology which combines GPS and pressure data to improve the accuracy of elevation recording. While it also lacks a lot of the multisport functionality (think Cycling and Swimming specific features) that the Ambit 2 and 2S offer, as a runner I couldn’t tell you what half of them did anyway.

Let’s look at some criteria. If you want a super solid GPS watch that can be worn just as easily on the daily commute as it can on the trails, keep reading. If elevation interests you, but submitting survey data to the Cartographic Society doesn’t, keep reading. If you occasionally get in the water or buckle-up the helmet and get out on the lazy machine, but these sports are mere breaks between running, keep reading. If you rarely, if ever, plan to run beyond 50k and have access to charging facilities after every few training sessions, keep reading. If you’d rather strap 70g to your wrist than 89g and spend $350/399 AUD (RRP with/without HRM) over $599/$649 AUD (RRP with/without HRM), then put the Ambit2 R on your shopping list.

Making Moves on Strava

Suunto today announced that it is joining forces with Strava, the online network connecting the global community of athletes.

From today, Suunto’s Ambit watches can be used with Strava’s service, which lets members share and compare their GPS-tracked activities with friends. In addition, sports enthusiasts will also now be able to buy select Suunto products through the Strava shop.

To celebrate the partnership, Suunto and Strava have launched the Suunto Sisu Challenge. Inspired by the Finnish word for bravery and determination, the challenge is an invitation for Strava members to push their limits and run 65 km (40 miles) between May 17th and June 1st, 2014.

Members who complete the challenge within the 16 day period will have the opportunity to buy an Ambit2 R, Suunto’s GPS watch for runners, and receive a free Suunto heart rate belt and a three-month Strava Premium membership. Premium membership provides in-depth analytics including heart rate analysis and other tools to help athletes stay motivated, train effectively, and have fun.

“This partnership between Suunto and Strava has been requested by Suunto fans and we are delighted to be able to offer this to running and cycling enthusiasts,” said  Janne Kallio, head of digital marketing at Suunto. “It provides a great new added value for all Suunto owners and gives Strava members a new range of product options. I can’t wait to start racing with my Suunto Ambit2 in local Strava segments.”

“We are excited to partner with Suunto and welcome their community of athletes to Strava with the Suunto Sisu Challenge,” said David Lorsch, vice president of strategy and business development at Strava. “Suunto’s watches give runners and cyclists everything they need to take full advantage of the motivational tools offered exclusively through Strava Premium membership.”

Suunto’s compatibility is based on automatic data transfer between Movescount.com, Suunto’s online sports community, and Strava. Any running or cycling data tracked with a Suunto GPS watch, is automatically transferred to Strava from Movescount.com.

To find out how to get started with Strava, go to Movescount.com/connect/strava. In just a few steps you can ensure all your Moves are automatically synced to both Movescount and Strava.

PAST SUUNTO GEAR NEWS:

Gear: new Suunto Ambit2 R

Suunto launches new Ambit2/S GPS watches

 

 

Gear: new Suunto Ambit2 R

ambit+2013+-+front+view+-+ambit+2r+white+-+chrono+1+positive(1)It wasn’t that long ago that Suunto launched its new range of Ambits. Okay, so it was April 2013, which in technology time is a few light years back. And while our running has probably not advanced that much since then (speaking for myself at least), gadgetry waits for no man nor his faltering training plan.

This latest release, the Ambit2 R, is  particularly pertinent to the running fraternity with features honed for our breed. Personally, I take note of the ‘don’t get lost feature’ (they call it Track Back), having a propensity to follow a trail just to see where it goes and sometimes taking the exploration that one turn too many for my memory. And of course the Apps just keep rolling out…the Ghost Runner perfect for all you A-Types.

And here, alas having not got one on our own wrists as yet, we turn over to the bods from Suunto and their press release. We hope to have a review shortly. In the meantime, here’s the shopping list:

“[The Ambit2 R] provides responsive and reliable speed and distance readings thanks to FusedSpeedTM, a unique combination of GPS and accelerometer data from your wrist. Suunto Ambit2 R also measures running cadence from your wrist.

Suunto Ambit2 R can also help you reach your performance goals. You can plan your own moves, or download complete training programs from Movescount.com. The watch reminds you of daily targets, tracks target completion, and provides speed and intensity guidance while you run.

ambit+2013+-+front+view+-+ambit+2r+black+-+running+metric+negativeAdditionally, Track-back and full navigation offer the freedom to explore new trails without getting lost. Download routes from Movescount.com or simply select Track-back at any point during a run. Suunto Ambit2 R will show you the way.

Suunto Ambit2 R is available in black or white, with the white sporting a soft silicone strap for an improved fit for women. Both can be purchased with or without a Suunto heart rate belt.

With Suunto Apps, even more running features become available. Personalize your Suunto Ambit2 R with running Apps of your own, or choose from the thousands of free Apps in the App Zone on Movescount.com. They include:

· Virtual coach: Let the coach determine when you should run easy and hard! This App is for endurance intervals. Select your pace level and the coach will give you target paces to run.

· Ghost runner: Challenge yourself against a competitor. A positive distance means that you’re ahead while a negative one means you need to pick up the pace.

· Running efficiency: This App helps you improve your running efficiency by recording the number of heart beats over a kilometer / mile.

· High intensity intervals: This App gives a short but sharp interval work out. Start with a warm up, run 15 x 200m with 30sec recovery and end with a cool down.

· Marathon time: It uses your current speed to give an estimate of your finish time during a marathon, so you can see if you’re on track for that target time.

Movescount.com, the online sports diary from Suunto, makes it easy to analyze every aspect of your training and share your experiences with others.

The Suunto Ambit2 R will become available in March.

All new features will also be made available to Ambit2 and Ambit2 S users via a software upgrade later in spring.”

www.movescount.com 

Suunto launches new Ambit2/S GPS watches

The launch of the original Suunto Ambit took the GPS watch market to a new level and a bunch of adventure athletes including trail runners to a new realm of capturing their adventure and trail run data.

Ambit2_S_Perspective_View_Lime - RUNNING Negative MetricNow, Suunto has unveiled an all new pair of GPS watches that, along with an opening up of their Apps Collection to outside developers and updates to Movescount.com, is set to become a game changer for any athlete in the adventure sphere, including of course trail runners (who took to the Ambit with a fair amount of gusto when it launched originally, shifting the focus off market leader Garmin).        

And so without further ado (and without test units in hand yet – so limited information til we do…): Suunto’s second generation of Ambit outdoor GPS watches introduces the new Ambit2 S and the Ambit2.From what we can gather, the main upshift is a move to allow user programming, centered around the apps zone and personalisation capabilities of the watches. The units have had a makeover, too, with the bulky faces put on a diet to slim down some and a little shnazzle [2] added to the styling. Yeh, ‘shnazzle’ – watch out for it in an upcoming release of the Oxford ED. 

We’ll get more information as it comes to hand but for now, here’s the blurb from Suunto’s release notes:

Comments President of Suunto, Mikko Moilanen: “The Ambit got a tremendously positive response from consumers last year. To meet the needs of performance sports oriented users even better we felt that a lighter, slimmer GPS with sports-specific features but less focus on outdoor functionality was needed to complement the Ambit family. In addition, the rapidly advancing technology made it meaningful to update the Ambit family with new members already now.”

App Zone and Movescount.com upgraded

In a move that redefines sport watches in the same way Apple did to the Smartphone, Suunto is also upgrading the Suunto App Zone – the community forum where users can find and create free Apps for the Ambit GPS watches. The upgrade now gives Ambit owners the chance to create and share more advanced Apps, putting the power of personalisation in their hands. Since it launched in November 2012, the App Zone has proved popular with users, who have created over 5,000 Apps so far. Suunto’s online sports community Movescount.com which hosts the App Zone, will also be updated to provide new tools for in-depth analysis, enhanced navigation and improved opportunities for sharing.

image002Ambit2 S – The GPS watch for Athletes
The new Ambit2 S is a light and sleek GPS watch for multisport athletes that packs all the features needed for cycling, running, swimming and multisport training. The GPS provides accurate pace, route navigation and tracking, while the heart rate monitor lets you train within your ideal zone.

o Running: Runners benefit from highly accurate pace and distance thanks to FusedSpeed™, the Ambit’s accelerometer integrated GPS, as well as interval timer and autolaps for training.

o Cycling: The new Suunto Ambit2 S will support power meters (ANT+) and offers various power measurement values and numerous options for in-depth analysis.

o Swimming: The Ambit2 S also offers comprehensive swimming functionality, including pace and distance, automatic intervals, stroke rate and swimming time related to different pool lengths. The Ambit2 S will also learn to recognise your swimming style, which makes performance analysis easier.

o Multisport Training: Users can switch between sports, making the Suunto Ambit2 S ideal for recording your multisport training or race.

image003Ambit2 – The GPS for Explorers and Athletes

Suunto also launches the Ambit2, which builds on the success of the award-winning Suunto Ambit. It includes Suunto’s hallmark outdoor functions such as route navigation, barometric information, altimeter with FusedAltiTM, 3D compass and other outdoor specific features. In addition the Ambit2 has all the training features of the Ambit2 S.

Packed in a glass fiber reinforced casing with a battery life of up to 50 hours in GPS mode, the Ambit2 is the ultimate watch for serious adventurers, explorers and multisport athletes. The Sapphire edition of the Ambit2, features a brushed steel bezel and sapphire crystal glass, adding some serious style to the Ambit2’s extreme functionality.

Comments Suunto ambassador and climber Ueli Steck: “In the mountains you need a watch you can rely on. I’ve been using Suunto products for many years and the Ambit2 is the ideal product out there for anyone serious about their mountain sports.”

Both Ambit2 S and Ambit2 will be globally available from May 2013.

For more product details and full specs, visit www.suunto.com

www.facebook.com/SuuntoAustraliaNZ