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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Garmin Vivosmart in for Review

Garmin announced their newest activity tracker earlier this year dubbed the Vivosmart, the reasoning makes sense as I'll explain, but now I have gotten one in to test for a review. The Vivosmart builds upon Garmin's first activity tracker the Vivofit. I assume the names come from their functions with the original Vivofit being one of the first activity trackers to support heart rate monitors where as the new Vivosmart's big feature addition is smart notifications. So to me the names make some sense.

Back to the actual device the Garmin Vivosmart is obviously an activity tracker so it does all of the usual by tracking steps, distance, calories burned, etc. The Vivosmart also tracks sleep and can track activities such as running or cycling. Activity tracking is taken a step further with built in support for ANT+ heart rate monitors and bike speed sensors. So while you are running or cycling the Vivosmart can read, display, and record your heart rate and speed on the bike. It also measures distance while running using the internal accelerometer. So the Vivosmart is definitely a step, or 2, ahead of much of the market segment when it comes to fitness targeted activity trackers.

The big new feature for the Vivosmart as I mentioned earlier is the inclusion of smart notifications from a paired smartphone on the Vivosmart. So this means whenever you get a text message or someone like your most recent Instagram post the Vivosmart will let you know with an onscreen alert. The Vivosmart also has a vibrate motor so the device will vibrate as well which can be toggled on or off directly on the Vivosmart. The smart notifications are all run through the notifications center on your smartphone. So on my iPhone whatever alerts show up in my notification center show up on the Vivosmart. This is both good and bad although I would argue way more good. On the good side you can completely customize what notifications you receive and the iPhone supports a metric crap ton of different notifications. Literally almost every app supports notifications versus a closed Garmin system that would have no where near the breadth of support for different types of notifications. The bad part to me is that although I do receive the notification on my iPhone that doesn't necessarily make it pressing enough to push to my wrist. Yeah it is nice to know who has liked my most recent post but not important enough to push it aggressively to my wrist; it can wait until I have time to check my phone. At the end of the day there is always the option to reconfigure what notifications I receive period but it would be cool to be able to create a two-tier system although it is kind of nitpicky.

Size wise the Vivosmart is tiny! Similar in form to the polar loop but much smaller in every way. The screen is touch compatible and awakens with a double tap. From there it is sliding, taping, and holding to navigate the screens. It has already become second nature in less than a full day of usage! Sleep and activity tracking have to be manually activated in the settings menu of the Vivosmart. Continuing with the LCD screen the brightness is adjustable on the device but also supports auto-adjust depending on the brightness of the surrounds. The screen has a bit of a fuzzy look which reminds me a lot of the Withings Pulse although the Vivosmart does retain serious waterproofing as it is good down to 50 meters. So I think you are okay to swim with it. The battery is rechargeable via the included proprietary USB cable with the Vivosmart getting roughly seven days per charge.

One feature I do like of the Vivosmart is the variable step goal. Rather than having a static 10,000 step goal every day the Vivosmart and the companion Garmin Connect app/site increase/decrease the goal from day to day depending on the previous day. So if you do a 10k one day the subsequent day your step goal will be higher although it only changes marginally so one day won't kill you the next. I find the concept pretty interesting and possibly more motivational than crushing the same goal over and over again. Also there is a "you're being lazy meter" or a lack of movement bar that basically runs a clock on how long you haven't moved. Once it fills up the Vivosmart goes off and tells you to move some to reset the bar. I am all for additional features that make activity trackers more motivational rather than just glorified pedometers!

I will be testing the Vivosmart here for a little while before publishing my detailed review. So in the meantime if you have any burning questions about the device feel free to comment or visit Garmin's Vivosmart site.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide: Non-Technology

Much like my Holiday Gift Guide for technology items earlier this month these are my holiday gift recommendations for that triathlete, cyclist, or runner in your life. Now these recommendations are for non-technology items so the structure is just a little bit different than my technology items list.  Because there is a lot more room for personal taste with these items I am including them as a broad category along with my specific choice. So for example, aero helmet is the category of which I personally want/use the Giro Air Attack. That doesn't mean the Air Attack is the perfect choice for your loved one just an idea in the broader category of aero helmets. Hence why I haven't included prices this time.

Aero Helmet - Giro Air Attack

Aero helmets are all the rage these days with numerous companies now bringing them on to the market. The Giro Air Attack was the original aero helmet and although many don't care for the skateboard like look but it has never bothered me. I personally like the concept of aero helmets because although they are not as efficient as a true aerodynamic tail helmet, they are more aero in more different positions.


Clip on Aerobars - Redshift Switch System 

I have recently been testing these aerobars and I am a HUGE fan of the ability to take them on and off in literally 10 seconds. Even better when they go back on it will always be in the exact same position due to the brackets staying on the bike when the aerobars are removed. Perfect if that endurance athlete likes to both road race bikes and compete in triathlons.


Bike Shorts - Castelli Bib Shorts

Simply put no cyclist can ever have too many pairs of good bib shorts! And shorts by Castelli are usually my favorite although I have several different brands. Obviously they have a huge range of shorts so I have picked a middle of the road pair for the link below.


Triathlon Suite - Orca Core Race Suit

This is definitely a piece of triathlon wear that can make a big difference in your next race. Transition time is free time so why waste time changing clothes? I have personally used separate triathlon tops & bottoms in the past but I am making the change to a one piece suite for next year.


Wetsuit - Orca S5 Wetsuit

Lots of triathletes are big on wetuits but I have honestly never used one before. I have heard they make swimming so much easier but honestly in Arkansas only a couple of races a year are wetsuit legal due to water temperatures. So I have just never considered it worthwhile to purchase one given that. I know for longer events they become a necessity. Oh and if you are curious why I have selected Orca pieces for both the triathlon suit and wetuit it is because Little Rock, AR (where I live) is home to the North American headquarters of Orbea bicycles which owns the Orca triathlon line as well. So just a little hometown love.


Running Socks - Feetures!

Feetures! Elite are by far my favorite running socks! They aren't cheap, at over $10 per pair, but they are soooo comfortable; no rub, no nothing. I have never gotten a blister running with Feetures Elite socks even for half marathon training. Plus these things last for ever which helps compensate for the high price tag. My favorite pair is going on almost 18 months now.


Running Belt - SPIbelt

I am not a huge fan of carrying my phone or anything else with me running for that matter. But whenever I do have to take something along I prefer the minimalist approach of the SPIbelt. I like that the pocket is stretchy so that it conforms to the shape & size of the object in it which cuts down bouncing significantly. I just personally can't stand having my phone bounce around on by back while I'm trying to run intervals.



Body Glide

This is one of those items that is universally useful for ALL endurance athletes and I guarantee the one your shopping for already has some. But you can never have too much Body Glide so it is a perfect stocking stuffer!



Bluetooth Headphones - Jabra Sport+ Wireless

I usually don't run with headphones but that is mostly just because none of them will actually stay in my ears. But if your favorite runner is a headphone wearer than they would probably be interested in the of going wireless with new Bluetooth 4.0 headphones from companies like Jabra or Jaybird. Yes headphones are technically technology but not really the kind of item I review.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers

So for my Stocking Stuff Holiday Gift Guide the focus is on items less than $30. This is all about those small things that are really appreciated by endurance athletes but they might overlook purchasing them for themselves. Like all of my previous Holiday Gift Guides this is meant for endurance athletes specifically triathletes, runners, and cyclists. Now these are not necessarily items that only a die hard athlete will use but honestly will be appreciated by someone who is only dabbling in endurance sports at this point. Also, these are meant to be fun and on the cheaper side given that my other gift guides have some rather pricey items on them!

Feetures! Elite Running Socks $15

Feetures! Elite are by far my favorite running socks! They aren't cheap, at over $10 per pair, but they are soooo comfortable; no rub, no nothing. I have never gotten a blister running with Feetures Elite socks even for half marathon training. Plus these things last for ever which helps compensate for the high price tag. My favorite pair is going on almost 18 months now.


Barfly Garmin Mount $20

Out front mounts have long been the preferred location for a Garmin bike computer but sadly Garmin still just doesn't include the mounts with the computer. So that means you have to buy an awesome mount like the Barfly 2.0! So if you have a cyclist on your list who still uses the Garmin supplied mount seriously consider a Barfly.



Skratch Labs $20

Um I love Skratch Labs exercise hydration mix, enough said! Seriously the Lemons & Limes (yup it is supposed to be plural for some reason) is my favorite sports drink by far. It might not have the strongest taste but it actually tastes decent when it has warmed up which inevitably happens on all bike rides.



Body Glide $15

This is one of those items that is universally useful for ALL endurance athletes and I guarantee the one your shopping for already has some. But you can never have too much Body Glide so it is a perfect stocking stuffer!


INRNG Cycling Cap $12

A. every cyclist loves cycling caps (or at least should) B. I like reading the INRING.com a blog about all things professional cycling. So kind of seems like a win-win to me. I can recommend a cool little stocking stuffer and I can encourage people to support a cycling blog I like pus you are a complete Fred if you have the Bike Snob NYC jersey.

INRING www.inring.com

SPIbelt $20

I am not a huge fan of carrying my or anything else with me running for that matter. But whenever I do have to take something along I prefer the minimalist approach of the SPIbelt. I like that the pocket is stretchy so that it conforms to the shape & size of the object in it which cuts down bouncing significantly. I just personally can't stand having my phone bounce around on by back while I'm trying to run intervals.


T-Shirts from Velocity Sportswear

I personally found out about these shirts just the other day and I found them hilarious! I mean just look at that design what triathlete would not find that funny? My other favorite was the 13.1 shirt with "I'm only half crazy on it." Definitely suggest taking a look at their options.


Stretching the Budget: Misfit Flash $49

I know I said a $30 budget but I did want to include one activity tracker given that the Flash does come pretty close to being a stocking stuffer at $49. So just in case you feel inclined to go big with the stocking stuffer I included it. The Shine includes activity and sleep tracking as well as special activity tracking that covers cycling,, swimming, basketball and soccer. Misfit Flash in for Review


Headband

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sigma Rox 10.0 GPS Review

I have been testing the Sigma Rox 10.0 for almost 3 full months now and I have to say I really like it. At first there were a few small user interface issues that I just found different more than problematic but a little playing around with the unit and it has become second nature. But back to the basics the Sigma Rox 10.0 is the first bike computer from German company Sigma to include GPS. Sigma have manufactured magnet style bike computers for quit a while but the Rox 10.0 brings GPS to their lineup. Obviously it does all of the stuff we have come to expect from a GPS unit but it does have some nice additional features and a pretty wallet friendly price tag.

Like usual my Sigma Rox 10.0 unit was provided to me by the manufacturer, Sigma, so that I could test it out for this review. Now that you all are reading this my unit goes back to Sigma. I do this so that you, the readers, can trust my reviews knowing they are unbiased and I am uncompensated for writing them. In my bike accepting a nice GPS bike computer for free sounds like pretty good compensation although my landlord might disagree on that topic. But enough and on to the review!

In the Box

So my review unit is the Sigma Rox 10.0 GPS "White Set". The Rox comes in two colors (black or white) mine obviously being of the white variety. Also, the unit is available by itself or as part of a set; again mine being the set. So what does the set include? Well obviously the Rox 10.0 unit but also your traditional ANT+ accessories that you would see in a unit bundle including a heart rate monitor, cadence sensor, and speed sensor. The GPS unit only version retails for $199 and the whole set for $299 which makes it pretty darn price competitive with the primary competition unit the Garmin 510 unit at $329 and the 510 bundle at $399.

When you open the box front and center is the Rox 10.0 unit. Underneath it are all of the bundle items which again are of the ANT+ variety. Again underneath the bundle items is the twist style mount for the Rox 10.0. It is similar to a Garmin quarter turn mount but larger and more of a 1/8th or 1/16th turn than a quarter turn. It makes it a little harder to get the unit started in the mount given the smaller tabs but it does make it easier to get the unit on especially in tight spaces like aero bars. The mount comes with the industrial standard rubber bands in several sizes for mounting the more modern way and with zip ties if you prefer the more old school method of mounting. There are also some zip ties and rubber bands for speed and cadence sensors as well.

Then of course you have the accordion style installation manual, I guess old habits die hard. As well as download information for the Sigma Data Center which is the companion software for the Sigma Rox 10.0. I will cover it in more detail later but basically it is how you upload rides and all of that good stuff. Normally it costs money to purchase but with the Rox 10.0 unit is included a complimentary download code making it free and everyone loves free!

Installation

Given that installation and set up of a GPS unit is pretty easy I decided to make this a sub section rather than a section all to itself. Now the accordion style installation guide I mentioned before comes into play here and it is VERY thorough! It covers exactly how and where to mount the GPS mount (either handlebars or stem) and your choices for rubber band or zip ties. One thing that I would like to see changed is the double sided tape on the bottom of the mount. It makes for a fantastic, rock solid mount but it also means it is near on impossible to move the mount without destroying the tape. Which then makes subsequent mounting less rock solid. I would rather the bottom just have some non-slip grip dots or something that would be moveable from one spot to another.

The guide goes on to cover mounting of the speed and cadence sensors if you purchased the bundle. I have the bundle but didn't install the included sensors because I already had a combo speed/cadence sensor on my bike. Being an ANT+ sensor it works perfectly with the Sigma Rox 10.0 so I felt no need to change the sensor out. One nice touch is that with the cadence sensor there are actually two different crank magnet that can be used. Either the standard zip tied one to the crank arm or a super skinny magnetic one that attaches to the inside of the pedal spindle. The super skinny one is there in case the clearance between your chainstay and crank are too narrow for the larger, traditional magnet set up. Good attention to detail to include multiple options for all bike set ups.

The installation guide even shows you how to use the heart rate monitor which again I haven't used given that I've had Wahoo TICKR units in to review that dual broadcast ANT+ and Bluetooth 4.0. Lastly, the guide shows you how to install the Rox unit, charge it via the included USB and wall power block, and set your wheel size for the sensors. Anyone who has previously used a magnet speed sensor will be familiar with the process. Basically it is telling the Rox unit how far your wheel will travel for each rotation. You could measure it but included is a handy chart telling you what to enter for different wheel sizes.

Oh I should put out the entire instruction manual is included in the box but is instead available online at www.sigma-qr.com/rox10. Now if you happen to be of the more tech savvy members of my readership and I would hope so given the topics I write about there is a QR code on the front of the installation manual that will take you right to the full instruction manual online.

Set Up

Now that you have let your Rox unit charge, let's be honest here NO ONE lets their device fully charge before turning it on. I am like a kid in a candy store when new devices come in so manufacturers should be thrilled I even read the instructions first much less charged the darn thing before playing with it. But assuming it has enough battery to play with and mine did, You can power it on and do the basic set up things like set your language and such. Now if you have the bundle before riding you will need to pair your ANT+ sensors to the device, although they should just factory pair them as some other companies do.

But either way it is an easy process. Navigate your way to settings then bike profiles. Select the profile you want to use (ie. 1, 2, or 3) then go to ANT Pairing. You will get a choice of different sensor options that can be paired including heart rate, speed, cadence, speed/cadence, and power. Select the right sensor type and hit the Enter button for the Rox 10.0 to start searching. Once it has paired with the sensor than the sensor ID will now show up on screen. Then just do the same thing for any other sensors that you are using. with pairing done you are ready to go for a first ride!

The Sigma Rox 10.0 Unit

The Rox unit isn't too big at around 3 inches long by 2ish wide. The screen is 1.7" where as a Garmin Edge 510 is 2.2" for comparisons sack. Obviously the screen is not a touchscreen but does have a backlight. Yeah the screen is hardly going to get you excited with the mono color but it actually works really well and is easy to read in just about any circumstance even direct sunlight. The Rox has 6 buttons. Starting with the top right and moving clockwise there is the power button, mode, plus, minus, Start/lap, and back/stop. On the backside of the device is the Sigma Rox mount attachment which is a big circle with 4 tabs, much like a Garmin quarter turn mount. At the bottom of the back under a little rubber gasket is a micro-USB port for charging the Rox and uploading ride data/tracks.

Pushing and holding the power button turns on the unit to a noise reminiscent of an old school Gameboy which is pure awesomeness! Then you are on to the home navigation screen which has the basic options: Training, Load Track, Memory, Status, Extras, & Settings. You can navigate to the left using the Minus button or the right using the Plus button. Also the Mode button cycles through them with Enter going into an area and back moving, I guess um, backwards right?

The Sigma Rox 10.0 has a built in altimeter for more accurate elevation recording while riding. Sadly this isn't the most user friendly calibration methods for the Rox. Basically you have to have a known elevation from which the Rox will then track elevation from. There isn't an automatic calibration based on GPS settings/known barometric conditions. Instead you can save up to three altitude levels which makes it easy if you usually start all of your rides from the location as I do. A quick internet search will get you your current elevation. You can also manually calibrate the Rox again if you have a known elevation. I think a lot of people will find this feature a little cumbersome and although it is cool to have they won't use it the way it is meant to be used because of the cumbersome nature.

Training Mode

Training is where you will track a standard ride. The default screen has 4 metrics in the third of the screen: heart rate, elevation, cadence, and current grade. These areas are not customizable but pushing the enter button will zoom in on one metric and remove the rest from the screen. Continuing to push Enter cycles through all four metrics and back to showing all four. In the middle third is your speed. Also, in this area are some status symbols like the speed arrow that shows you if your current speed is above, at, or below the average for the ride. Also there is a number icon which shows which bike profile is currently selected and a GPS icon that is only visible when speed is being pulled from GPS rather than a speed sensor. The bottom third of the screen shows 1 of any 10 customizable data fields that you can pan through using the Plus & Minus buttons. This is where data fields like power, average, heart rate, distance, ride time, and so on will be. Like I said this area is 100% customizable with you having the ability to create 2 complete lists that you can toggle back and forth from which I will mention in a second.

Pushing the mode button inside the training area will pan between the major screens the first being the one I just described. The other two is the track screen and the last being the elevation profile. On both of those screens two metrics are available at the top with two more sets that can be panned through by using the enter screen. These are all cutomizable. The track screen shows a bread crumb style (but with a line) track of your route riding. To be clear this is NOT Google Maps and there are NOT real world maps on the Sigma Rox 10.0. So I wouldn't try to have it route you to the nearest Starbucks. The elevation profile is pretty self explanatory and show the elevation profile of your ride so far. On both screens the Plus & Minus buttons pan the screen view further in or out along the track.

To start an activity when in training mode a push of the start button is required. If you take off riding and don't push start the device doesn't start recording automatically but will beep and display a warning to push start to start device recording. Pushing stop will obviously top the recording track but in reality it is more of a pause as the track is still resumeable by simpliy pushing start again. Now the the Rox does have an auto-pause feature that can be toggled On/Off in setting which will automatically pause the recording if you come to a complete stop. With GPS it can take just a second to trigger a pause and then restart but it isn't too bad. To completely end recording of a GPS track at the end of a ride push the stop button to stop recording and then push & hold the stop button to save the track and reset the device for your next ride.

Short Menu

One really useful feature for the training mode on the Sigma Rox 10.0 is the short menu. If you push both of the top buttons on the right & left sides at the same time it will pull up the short menu. Which basically is a way to alter a handful of setting on the Rox 10.0 that might vary from one ride to another. You can select between your two sets of favorite metrics, change bike profiles, load tracks, and turn on target zone alarms. Along with a few other items the short menu allows you to easily make ride to ride adjustments within the Training mode of the Rox without having to go into the settings. Also these setting are alterable mid ride without interfering with GPS recording.

Memory, Status Info, & Extras

The memory tab of the Sigma Rox is where you can check out your stats from current/past rides or as the Rox call them "tours". Inside there are options for current tour which is an uncompleted ride, stored tours, and total values. For current and stored tours you can see a BUNCH of stats! Basically if the Rox 10.0 is recording it you can see it here. You can even graph out a bunch of metrics one the device which is pretty cool. The only real downside is that I, and I think most others do as well, wipe the computer after I have uploaded the ride to m computer. There just isn't a lot of reason to have them on the Rox 10.0 taking up memory. Granted I can look back through them for the stats or route past rides as a GPS track but in real life I just don't. Of more interest to me is the the total values tab where you can see the total mileage for each bike profile, calories burned and elevation gain/loss for each profile.

The status section is short and sweet just providing some basic info about the Sigma Rox 10.0. That would be battery percentage, GPS signal, and device memory available. Useful things to see quickly but I am not sure they really merit their own tab and could instead be housed underneath settings to clean up the menus a little bit.

Extras kind of goes the same way as the status section with a couple of extra features dumped there. They are actually semi-useful to some people although I have not used any of them even once. But the "extras" are a stopwatch, countdown (aka the reverse of a stopwatch), and a compass. I can definitely see the point of these features and I will say when you need them you probably want to get to them quickly so nice of Sigma to throw them in there.

Settings

Obviously this is where you control all of the settings for the Sigma Rox 10.0 and although I'm not going to go into detail on each one (it would take awhile) I do want to cover a few specifically. One thing I do really like with the Rox 10.0 is the ability to customize a lot. You can't really control the look of items per say but the user definitely has a lot of control over what is shown. The scale for all units on the Sigma Rox 10.0 are customizable independently from each other. I can't say enough times I don't get why some units require users to use all metric or imperial. Maybe some people want distance in miles but elevation gain in meters? It isn't a big feature that makes people made but just a nice touch so I like that Sigma took the effort to make all units independent of each other.

Under the device setting you can control everything from language to auto-pause, record rate, and button tones. Really it is all pretty much user configurable! Bike profile and altitude setting are also present after Device settings. There is a big 3 section category dedicated to zone training which allows you to configure your intensity zones and then set target zones either via heart rate or power. Basically you just get a reminder if you stray above or below the target zone for that activity.

One big section is the Favorites tab which allows you to set up 2 sets of 10 metrics that are visible on the bottom third of the training screen. Both sets can be set up completely independently of each other and quick toggled from one to the other using the quick menu feature in training mode. I do find it a little odd that bike profiles themselves don't have dedicated metrics but instead all 3 bike profiles use the same two sets of favorite metrics. Really not an issue and it actually increases flexibility from bike profile to profile to configure your metrics more for the type of workout rather than type of bike. For example I have one set of metrics I use for interval/lap workouts and a different set I use for more relaxed riding or route navigating.

Route Navigation

This is a feature that I think many people are going to be interested in because there are not a whole lot of great routing options intended for the bike. There is the Garmin Edge Touring with car like turn by turn directions but it lacks any support for power meters and other features many users will look for. The routing on the Sigma Rox 10.0 is not turn by turn quality but instead more of a bread crumb trail style, comparable to a Garmin 510. What that means is that the Sigma Rox basically creates a whole bunch of GPS waypoints and then follows from one to the next. Now to the user it won't appear like it is a bread crumb trail because you have a solid line. Because of this there are no turn by turn directions so when you come to a 4 way stop you have to look at the screen of the Rox 10.0 and figure out which one is right. This also means there are no street names nor any geographical features like other roads, rivers, etc.

Now I'm not trying to say that the routing feature is bad, actually I like it quit a bit, but to make it clear what exactly it can and cannot do. You can create a route that will show up on the Sigma Rox 10.0 as a trail and you will receive notifications if you stray from that route, can customize how far off of track you need to be to get off track alerts. Also, there are a couple of features that help make the maps more usable without turn by turn directions. First up the maps rotate along with the GPS compass in the device so your map will automatically be orientated in your direction of travel. So this makes it relatively easy to figure out which direction you need to go if you come to a 4 way stop or a roundabout. As you can see from the two pictures the map rotated as I rotated the device. Then the Sigma Rox 10.0 allows for the user to manually control the amount of zoom in the route tracking view. So that way you can zoom way out to see the whole route or zoom way in to see those little details.

Now obviously the easiest way to follow a track is in the route view but what I think is one of the coolest features around map routing is the ability to include routing on the training home screen in the bottom 1/3rd customizable area. So that way you can still have 5 ride metrics on screen (not customizable) and then routing down at the bottom. The only disadvantage of this set up is that you can't control the zoom level in that view but it is set at 500 meters which works pretty perfectly and is the default zoom setting in the map view.

So yes the Sigma Rox 10.0's routing doesn't come close to the Garmin Edge Touring but if you are normally a racer who wants the full features of a GPS cycling computer and only needs routing every now and then. The Sigma Rox 10.0 will perfectly then to make sure you make it where you want to go. At the end of the day of the day if you can't quit tell which street to go down you can always just choose one ride a 100ft and have the Rox tell you if you strayed off track or are good to go. Which is much better than going miles before you realize you have gone the wrong direction!

Power Calculations

User settings that are used for power cal
One feature I wanted to specifically call out was the Rox 10.0's power calculation system for non-power meter users. Basically it worked somewhat similarly to a Velocomp Newton in that the Rox measures your speed, cadence, and current grade then uses a pre-set average resistance to come up with your current power. The big issue being that without taking wind resistance (the largest force acting upon a cyclist) into account I wasn't expecting a whole lot here. Stunner I was not surprised to find the power calculations completely useless. Like it doesn't even work a little! Luckily I don't seriously think a single person would buy the Sigma Rox 10.0 specifically for that feature but it would have been really cool if it had worked!

I was expecting the unit to under report power with a headwind and then over report with a tailwind. But in reality it just under reports the hell out of your power. In comparisons to both the Velocomp Newton and a Stages power meter it was just not even close. And worst of all it wasn't predictably off so that you could mentally adjust for the numbers but was completely and total randomly wrong. I didn't have much in the way of expectations for this feature and I wasn't impressed but it is cool to see that Sigma is at least experimenting with the idea.

Sigma Data Center

This is where you can do all of your post ride analysis or more importantly to me upload my ride to Strava! Not to jump the gun too badly but I love that the Sigma Data Center has a direct upload to Strava feature which allows me to push one button and have my ride magically show up in Strava. Which is kind of necessary because although the Sigma Data Center is thorough, super thorough, it isn't quit as user friendly.

The dashboard view is the home page which when your device is connected will display any rides stored on the device as well as the amount of memory space remaining. One really nice touch is that it will also show you the amount of recording time available at all of the various recording rates. I am never ever going to use anything other than 1 second recording but some trekking riders might and it's always cool to know that I could record for the next week straight at 5 sec recording! Also on the dashboard is stats for your last so many rides as a part of a graph and a week over week graph that can be changed between several different metrics for both. Lastly, at the bottom you have your personal bests for items such as longest ride by time/by distance, most calories burned, steepest grade, and a few others.

Along the side of the Data Center you have tabs to access the other areas. The next most used area for me is the calendar view which shows all of your rides on top of a calendar. Double clicking on a particular ride will pull up the specific file for that ride where you can geek out on data to your hearts delight! At the center will be your standard graph of your ride data which is completely customizable as to what data is shown via a toggle menu on the right. Below that will be all of the data with tabs to switch to different views such as totals, averages, lap, and so on. Interestingly enough by default there is no map view but you can switch out either the graph section or the data section for either a GPS map or a heart rate zone intensity section. Basically you can choose whichever two you would like but you are limited to two. In the top right corner are a handful of buttons including my favorite upload to Strava button. You can also export your ride data via Sigma Log Format (which I have absolutely no clue what that file format would be!). You can also save a particular ride as a track to be navigated later or compare one ride to another. So some really cool and very in depth features/stats available for each ride file.

Continuing along the left side of the Data Center you have Statistics which allows you to create graphs of your different total values. I don't particularly care to overly visualize my ride data so we'll continue on to the Tracks page. Here is where you can create tracks via the Sigma Data Center or more realistically import them and upload them to the Sigma Rox 10.0. On the map that displays in the Tracks page allows you to create a track but I have found it to be really lacking compared to Map My Rides or even Strava's mapping tool. There are a lot of bike trails around here and the Sigma Data Center doesn't seem to recognize any of them. Luckily you can import a GPX file as a track so you can just create your route using Strava's mapping tool and upload it to your Sigma Rox 10.0.

So although I think the Sigma Data Center is exceptionally thorough but I can't really complain with direct upload to Strava and the ability to import tracks. It would be really nice to have Bluetooth or WiFi upload but something has to give to keep the price tag low. I think the Data Center application is a good example of a company not having to make the program perfect because they allow you options with your data. You can both take data out of the Data Center and bring it in. Issues with the interface just don't seem to bother me as much when I can just upload my ride data straight to Strava and analyze it there.

Bugs

I don't really consider the power calculation to be a bug because it really just doesn't work period. Using the Sigma Data Center's direct Strava upload I did notice that my computer would always freeze up (just the Data Center window) but then it would unfreeze and instantly complete the upload. I really don't know whether to consider it a full on bug because at the end of the day it still works. So really not a big deal.

I did see a minor bug with routing whenever the route took you out and back the same section. Basically during that section the Sigma Rox 10.0 would believe you were riding the wrong direction. It would figure out after a second that you were going out but then it would show another wrong direction notification after a couple of seconds. Probably when you crossed the next GPS waypoint for the bread crumb. It isn't a big issue as the map will still be there on the device's screen but the incessant notifications can be a tad irritating!

Pros:

  • Nice price tag
  • Mount works in tight places
  • Screen is easy to read but
  • Basic map routing
  • Lots of data viewable on the device
  • Direct upload to Strava

Cons:

  • Can't customize top 4 metrics on screen
  • There isn't a 2nd data screen to pan to
  • Internal power calculations are way off
  • No structured interval feature
  • Clunky route creation tool

Summary

At the end of the day the Sigma Rox 10.0 is competing directly against the Garmin Edge 510. Now I wouldn't argue the Rox is better than the Edge but when you figure in price it starts to become an interesting equation as the Rox is $130 cheaper. That is not insignificant by any argument and the Sigma Rox 10.0 has most (not all) of the features of the Garmin. The big lacking items on the Rox are Live Tracking and Bluetooth Upload. I personally could care less about live tracking but Bluetooth upload is pretty convenient compared to the plug into the computer method.

Outside of features your other big differences are look/feel and polish. The Edge 510 has a larger nicer screen in a smaller package. That screen can show up to 10 metrics on one page with 5 pages versus the Sigma Rox 10.0's one page with 6 metrics although you can pan through 10 metrics at the bottom. The Edge's screen is also a touch screen although I think a lot of cyclists will actually see some appeal in the physical buttons of the Rox 10.0 which work fine for me. I think it really comes down to personal needs and price versus the Garmin Edge 510. That makes it a personal decision!

But the Sigma Rox 10.0 delivers all of the features that users are looking for in a GPS unit. Obviously there is accurate speed and distance via GPS with GPS Tracking. You have the ability to pair all of the traditional ANT+ sensors including power units. The Rox 10.0 supports 3 bike profiles with 2 sets of configurable metrics with 6 available on screen at one time. It has an altimeter (although set up is a bit tough) and can follow set routes bread crumb style. There are some "add on" features that aren't here like Live Tracking but at the end of the day every core feature that a cyclist is going to look for is in the Sigma Rox 10.0 and I think it is a great bike computer that will work well especially at only $200 for the unit!

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Cycling's Hour Record

Photo from: www.uci.com
If there is one thing every cycling fan should agree on it is that the new world hour record format was a change for the better. There are a lot of controversial changes coming for the world of professional cycling from changing the race calendar, shortening the grand tours, to changing how teams make the World Tour. Many traditionalists might bemoan the watering down of the record by allowing modern equipment to be an advantage but clearly there was an issue when no cyclist seriously attempted the hour record in years. Since the changes we have already seen two new attempts with a flurry to most likely come early next year.

Bradley Wiggins has already said he is interested in attempting the record next year and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cancellara and Taylor Phinney go after it as well; maybe more will too. But back to the point why this is all good is that a generation of young cyclists, including myself, had no real concept of the hour record. I knew vaguely what it was but the record was set before I was born and no one had attempted to break it since I started seriously following cycling. That was a HUGE issue when something as cool as the hour record exists.

Favre, "Suck it Peyton I will just the UCI to reset the record
to my old mark for no apparent reason!"
It would be the same as if no NFL quarterback had gone after the single season passing TD record in 30 years. And that is before you explain well it was broken several times after that but then we invalidated all of those and set it back to that 1970’s record. And on top of that now you have to attempt the record wearing the same equipment used back in the 70’s. But what hasn’t new better equipment been developed? Well yes but you can’t use that. Any fan new to the sport would look at you dumbfounded and say ummmm WHY? And the answer given was not very good!

On an aside I see striking similarities between Favre and Armstrong. I mean aren't dick pics the NFL's version of EPO? Plus some people love him for no apparent reason while the rest hate him for very justifiable reasons. And although neither has been involved with their respective sport for some period of time they always seem to come up thanks to color commentary announcers.

At the end of the day for a sport to continue to exist much less thrive it needs to continue to attract new, loyal fans. This is a concept that flew right over the head of UCI leadership for near on 2 decades now. Without even addressing the coming changes that will pale in controversy to the changes to the hour record fans need to see the positives that have come out of the new hour record format. Two new records have already been set which were live cast by the UCI on YouTube. So who even knows how many people who have never seen cycling before saw those attempts. Let’s be honest US television distribution of cycling leaves a wee little to be desired.


The new hour record is interesting and more importantly people will attempt it. So a whole new generation of cycling fans will be able to see attempts at the record. It is just one more way to attract and engage with fans and another small step towards making cycling more marketable to a new generation of potential fans.
 
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