• Garmin Forerunner 735XT Triathlon Watch Review

    Garmin Forerunner 735XT Triathlon Watch Review

    The Garmin Forerunner 735XT delivers everything you could want from a triathlon watch and more. It is designed for elite athletes and people who are serious about their training progress, but it is suitable for the more casual exerciser too. It provides wrist-based heart rate monitoring, all-day activity tracking, and will take you from one sport to another with just the touch of a button.

    Advanced Features

    The 735XT is more than just a running watch. It records your stride length, time balance, and more while running (although many of the running metrics features are only available when the watch is paired with a chest-based heart rate monitor), and will calculate your VO2 Max and predict race times based on your training history. It also offers lactate threshold estimates but, again, you will need an additional chest-based heart rate monitor for this which is not included in your £399 purchase of the watch.

    Technology

    The Forerunner 735XT is smart and will connect to your phone seamlessly through Bluetooth to provide notifications from your phone, automatic uploads to Garmin’s online community, and live tracking of your training. Syncing the watch with your phone is very easy and has worked every time without any issues for me. The GPS signal is very strong and the watch links up very quickly so that you can get on with your sport without having to wait around for your watch to be ready. 

    Garmin Forerunner 735XT Triathlon Watch Product Review Activity Tracker

    As a multisport watch, the 735XT is not as advanced as some of its siblings like the 935, but it still provides excellent support. It has a triathlon function so that you can time your transitions and switch between sports with just one press of a button. This feature also translates to duathlons and brick workouts for your training. If you only run, then this watch is perhaps too unnecessarily advanced for you, and you'd be better suited to a Forerunner 235.

    Practicality

    The all-day activity tracking is a fantastic bonus feature on this advanced watch. The wrist-based heart rate monitor works all day while you’re wearing it and will provide you with a resting heart rate, recovery heart rate, and a graph of activity over the last 4 hours. This is really useful for heart-rate zone training, especially as the stats provided after your workout will tell you how long you were in each heart rate zone while you were active. The watch also provides you with an estimated VO2 max which is great for serious athletes. Part of the all-day activity tracking also includes step count which can be a great incentive to move more, especially on rest days. The watch also syncs with apps like MyFitnessPal so that your daily calorie burn is automatically taken into account when you track your food for the day.

    Garmin Forerunner 735XT Triathlon Watch Product Review

    A Closer Look

    The watch itself is light at 41g and the watch face is not as big as some of the other Garmin watches like the 235 or 935, so it is better suited for all-day wear. It has a rubberised strap for comfort, although once you're super sweaty after a tough workout, you don’t really want to keep it on as it gets a bit uncomfortable. The various displays are user-friendly and although the watch has a lot of features, they’re easy to find so you don’t feel like you're missing out on useful training information.

    The battery life of this watch could be better, especially as it’s designed to be used for triathlons; I wonder whether it could last a full-length Ironman event.

    Verdict

    On the whole, I am so impressed by this watch. Garmin has found the perfect balance between the casual running watch and the advanced athlete's companion. It gives more than its cheaper counterpart the 235 and is more user-friendly than the more advanced 935. It is perfect for serious triathletes but can also comfortably be used by people who may just be getting into the sport or who just like to swim, bike, and run. It has the option of more advanced training stats if you really want to go into them while keeping the useful everyday information at the ready. 

    Comfort: 9

    Durability: 10

    Battery Life: 6

    Technical Information: 9

    Value for money: 10

    Overall Score: 44/50

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Garmin Vector 2 Power Meter Review

    Garmin Vector 2 Bike Pedals Review Sundried

    The Garmin Vector bike pedals give you a power rating for your ride which you can use to partner with Strava and obtain very detailed data about your cycling and training.

    When I purchased the Garmin Vector 1 I was under the impression that a future software update would allow you to monitor your full pedal stroke. This update never came, until I heard of the Vector 2. The Vector 1 shows plenty of data and like most data files out there it really has no point unless you use that data. I find myself focusing on average three second power while riding. Live power is too up-and-down, for example if you're pulling out from the lights, overtaking another cyclist, or if you stop. But having a constant three second average on show gives you enough time to flatten out your efforts.

    When you cycle the same routes and the same hills you can really get to know what your max effort is and how much more you have in the tank. Of course, your body will really tell you if you have anything left to put down, but sometimes it is nice to know for real; “you can do this”.

    For the first year of riding with the Vector 1, I didn't even bother with heart rate data, but I was introduced to Strava fitness and freshness that relies on power and also heart rate data to show you how strong you really are. I'm not sure how accurate or reliable the data from Strava but it uses your power to produce fitness and freshness. According to my personal graphs, my fitness is much better in the summer which does marry up with my bike riding and training.

    Strava Fitness and Freshness

    Strava Fitness and Freshness. You will require a premium account, power meters, and heart rate data to access this.

    Best Efforts Power Curve Strava

    Best Efforts Power Curve

    Watts per kilo Strava

    Watts per kilo

    Another great thing that you can get from is Strava with your power data is your FTP and also your power to weight calculations. In theory, you don't need Strava for this data but Strava pulls all the data out for you in a nice graph that you can really visualise and start to understand.

    So the consideration to buy a power meter is certainly a big purchase and there are now more options on the market than ever before. Coming in at £999.99 and costing more than the price of an average road bike, it was something I had to weigh up between either getting a new set of wheels, or an awesome power meter. My reading, research, and tips and tricks from friends told me to get a power meter. It will make you a stronger rider whereas carbon wheels will just allow you small benefits but not actually improve your ‘engine’. 

    Verdict

     

    Riding for several years with a power meter on its own won't make you faster, but it will build your power if you use the data to start to push yourself harder and harder. Can I justify a spend of £1000 plus to get what I currently know? Is that extra bit of data from Garmin worth over £1000? If you use the data properly, then this piece of kit can really improve your performance, and if you are a seasoned athlete or cyclist, then this can be invaluable. 

    Posted by Daniel Puddick
  • Oakley Jawbreaker Sunglasses Review

    Oakley Jawbreaker Sunglasses Review Sundried

    Some sunglasses are meant for one purpose, and one purpose only (obviously protecting your eyes from the sun). But the Oakley Jawbreaker really are just for cycling. These are far from multi-purpose sunglasses like the Oakley Half Jacket, Flak Jacket or Radar. 

    The Oakley Jawbreaker sunglasses are designed with function in mind and definitely not street style. But that does mean for cycling they really are the ultimate sunglasses. The peripheral vision on these is amazing; without moving your head you can look forward, down, to the side and you are looking through the lenses. Full range of vision is protected from the sun. Your blind spot is slightly obscured by the full rims, something you will not get from a rimless pair of sunglasses, but the frame at the side is thin enough to not be too intrusive.

    Testing The Jawbreaker

    I have been riding in the Oakley Jawbreaker for a while so to test them properly I switched to some Oakley Fast Jacket sunglasses. These sunglasses are very popular with triathletes because they work just great for running. And for riding they are pretty decent. The first thing to note was the fit around the helmet. Have you ever noticed your helmet and stems of the sunglasses having their own little battle? If not, pay attention and see just how well they work. A POC helmet and Fast Jacket do not sit well together for example. But the Radarlock have shorter stems that are actually adjustable. This was the real highlight how comfortable the Jawbreaker work with most helmets, and comfort is important!

    The field of view on the Jawbreaker is impressive. It is really hard to demonstrate but the only place you can see the frame is so slight. Very minimal light gets in. The following pics are our own simulation of how much of the field of view the lens covers. You can of course (if you try) see part of the frame, but the blind spot is not really blocked by the frame like the older Oakley Jawbone.

    Oakley Jawbreaker Glare Reduction

    Example of the direct light from the sun + the glare being removed with their Prizm lens. Not polarised, but glare blocking designed for the road

    Oakley Jawbreaker example of glare blocking

    Morning glare reduction example from the Oakley Jawbreaker

    Oakley Jawbreaker Field of View simulation

    Field of view simulation for the Oakley Jawbreaker. The only natural light is in the corner of the frames, but you need to look upwards to see this. 

    Oakley Jawbreaker Field of View

    When looking down they will provide full protection still from any debris that may be heading your way. 

    Oakley Jawbreker Field of View

    Field of view example and glare reduction from low winter sunshine. 

    Pros

    These are designed for cycling and really do the job well.

    Cons

    Style. If you walk about in these off the bike you look like a ‘wally’ to put it nicely.

    They get very mucky around the lens and are hard to clean. This is because of their excellent fit but means if you are pushing it hard and sweat is running down your face, it will leave you nice smears over your lenses.

    Posted by Daniel Puddick
  • l'Étape du Tour Review

    Tour Du France l'Etape Du Tour Cycling Race Athletes

    l'Étape du Tour is an opportunity for amateur cyclists to ride the same route segments as the pros on the Tour De France and is a fantastic event.

    My ride profile looked like this for the entire event:

    Distance

    4,401.0 km

    Time

    162h 46m

    Elev Gain

    38,572 m

    Rides

    153

     

    Like most people in the UK, I find the hardest thing to train for are long, sustained climbs as they just do not exist in the south of England. Cycling up and down your local hills is great, but they are not as long and you miss out on that constant pressure of a long uphill climb. If you have not cycled up a mountain before, then imagine alternate one-legged squats for an hour. That is very close to how it feels!

    l'Étape du Tour Elevation

    If nothing else, completing this year’s Étape has given me a new level of respect for the pros out there. Not only are they racing the stages and powering up the climbs, they do it for over 3 weeks in a row.

    Cycling The Étape

    Like the previous year, when I set off I rode fast and hard, but this year this stage was straight into a mountain and so I managed to put down my biggest ever sustained Watts for 20 minutes. So it that the best strategy? Ride the hardest you ever have straight out the gate? Probably not, but it felt great overtaking so many riders, especially as I was in the second pen that set-off that day. Riders are put in groups of about 1000 and typically the lower number pens are for riders who have previously proved themselves. So there I am thinking, "well this is great. Look how fast I am.” 

    At the top of that first mountain, there were people there clapping and cheering in true French style. Then it was time for a descent. When it comes to descending you can certainly say I’m an amateur. I did see a few accidents on the way downhill, but it’s mostly people being careless, and I made sure to be courteous and careful while cycling down the mountain. The downhill was manageable and mostly very fun and leads right into the flat section of the course.

    Tour De France L'Étape Du Tour Review Cycling

    Col de Glandon was an epic mountain by all proportions. It went on, and on, and on. No thought about racing up this, and every few minutes I was checking to see if there were any more cogs left that I could drop down to. Unfortunately, no more easy gears are left. I found myself running low on water and because of that I took the opportunity to stop 5 or 10km from the peak for a quick water refill. The food and drink stations are fine; not too overcrowded, the drinking water was not too hot, and there was plenty of food to go round. Some of the riders who started near the back said that there were so many people queuing it took quite a while to get drinks; I guess that is the benefit starting nearer the front. For my quick drink refill I didn’t even get off the bike; there is plenty of staff to help give you water and various other energy-based gels and drinks.

    At the top of the mountain there were so many people clapping and cheering, but I really did feel that if the race had ended at this point I would have been very happy for it to end there.

    The ride went on, the temperature picked up, and it got hotter and hotter. But this is where a Sportif in the United Kingdom and one in France differ. The spectators are amazing, and you will find people getting bottles of river water to throw over your back, non-official drink stations with lines of people hanging out ice cold water, and kids singing and dancing with big clapping hands. 

    The last 10 km of this ride was the toughest riding I have ever done. The temperature, the tired legs, and the pure amount of altitude covered. But it levels off for the last few kilometres and it was great to have a sprint finish. Through the finish line there are people there to hand out medals, give you your finish T-shirt, and then it’s time for the pasta party.  

    I’m sure many times during that day I was telling myself never again; it really is a tough challenge. But once you get back to the UK and everyone is exchanging their war stories you find yourself keeping an eye on the official website for next year's tour. I would definitely recommend signing up for this event, but if you do, train hard!

    This is a very well-run event with plenty of marshals, plenty of support, more food and drink stations than you’ll need and everyone will end up with their own story to tell.

    Top Tips To Survive l'Étape du Tour

    • Do not underestimate this event. If you are a weekend warrior and haven’t been training in the week it is going to be tough.
    • Psychologically carrying any extra weight will play mind games with you, but don’t enter your water bottle out too early
    • Try to get accommodation close to the start but even better near the finish.
    • Pay attention to the weather, prepare yourself with appropriate apparel, but also be prepared for it to be the exact opposite to what you expect.

    Visit the official l'Étape Du Tour website to sign up for next year:

     http://www.letapedutour.com/ET1/us/homepage.html

    Posted by Daniel Puddick