Continuing our 12 days of Crossmas today with an updated review from Issue 29, we offer up our review of the Suunto Ambit3 Sport watch as a great gift for the number-crunching cyclist in your life (this review was originally written for a potential user, not gift giver).
(Need something fast? A digital subscription to Cyclocross Magazine or a subscription combined with our latest issue are two quick, easy options to get something in the lucky recipient’s hands. As always, we’re never paid to feature such items, and so you can trust someone on the CXM Pit Crew likes these products.)
While many of us have smartphones with GPS and Bluetooth connectivity that are sufficient for recording rides and power data, doing so drains the battery and increases the risk that when we’ll need the phone, it’ll be dead.
Suunton Ambit3: Data and Movies
The Suunto Ambit3 Sport GPS watch offers precise ride tracking, heart-rate monitoring and an ability to connect to Bluetooth devices, including power meters like the Stages Cycling crankarm. That makes it competitive with GPS cyclocomputer head units. What makes the watch unique is its ability to work with the Suunto mobile app and all the features it offers.
The app provides essential post-activity data including speed, pace, climbing and a map of your ride. It also allows uploading to the Suunto community and other connected sites like Strava. Set it up once, and you never have to configure it again.
Our favorite feature of the app is its ability to stitch together your phone’s photos taken during a ride with a Google Earth fly-by movie of your route—which you can share or review yourself.
Here’s one sample video of a simple trail ride without photos:
And another of a group ride with a few snapshots integrated:
If you’re thinking of it as a gift, the Ambit3 will be the gift that gives back, in that you’ll at least be able to vicariously enjoy the athlete’s future adventures through the short, one-minute videos.
Suunto Ambit3 Sport: Always Connected, If You Desire
The Ambit3 will also push call and message notifications to your watch, if you so choose, letting you know who is calling, that you have a new email or what song is playing on apps like Pandora. Sadly, there’s no ability to filter the alerts. So if you have multiple apps running or a stream of incoming messages, your phone will be constantly interrupting your ability to tell time or see ride data, via its brief text updates, or interrupting the peace and quiet of your ride via alert sounds (which can be silenced). Still, it’s useful to know if work, your significant other or daycare is calling, or if you can ignore that call and continue your lunchtime ride.
Hate connecting a device to your computer just to upload to apps like Strava? When you finish your ride, you can open the company’s iOS or Android app, sync with your Ambit3, and automatically upload to the Suunto Movescount community as well as your favorite site to verify that you still don’t own that KOM.
Charging your watch every three or four days may take some getting used to, especially for folks who never take off their watch, yet we’ve continued to use the Ambit3 despite this inconvenience. We wish the battery lasted longer, and the Android experience, at least for early app versions, didn’t quite equal the iPhone experience, But the regular software updates keep getting better. If you don’t wear the watch regularly, it enters a sleep mode and the battery lasts quite a bit longer.
The suggested recovery times after you complete a ride seem to be a work in progress. Any multi-hour effort would report a whopping 120 hour recovery time, but in various iterations of the app, recovery time has disappeared and come back with lower numbers.
$400 suggested retail is a lot for a watch (although typically found for quite a bit less), but the movie mode actually makes training more fun and is a cool way to share your workouts with riding buddies and loved ones—or to live vicarious through your loved one’s adventure (thus making it an ideal gift). Strava addicts or workaholics will love the connectivity and optional alerts.
Notes: There is a Sport model, Peak model and Run model, and if you are a Strava user for long rides and runs, you’ll probably want the Sport or Peak so that you can select the type of activity before recording, and then it will upload under the correct activity automatically. The Peak adds altitude, great for climbers, hikers and skiers.
There’s also a higher-end Sapphire model that features a stainless steel bezel and Sapphire glass lens and looks more at home if you have to dress up for work.
If you all you do is ride, you could probably get by with the Run model, as a mile is a mile, but your calories burned calculation may be off and you’ll probably have to manually change the run to a ride on various online communities.
More info: suunto.com
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