One month with the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR

Last month, I was sent the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR to test and wear at the London Triathlon. So far, I have written about my initial thoughts and also how I used it during the triathlon, but still had a few things I wanted to try out on the device such as pool swimming and the heart rate functionality. I’ve now had to return the watch, but in my time with it have managed to clock up an impressive 27+ hours of training across 31 moves including two races, and covered 491km (plus a few more untracked activities). That’s quite a lot!

Pool Swimming

The first time I jumped in the pool with the watch on I realised just how much of a game-changer it could be to my swimming training. Once you start the activity the watch handles everything else, including detecting when you turn around at the end of the lane. It will also recognise when you stop for a break in your swimming (eg. in the pauses between doing a 3x200m set) and will automatically start a new section. The display then shows you the distance covered during that section, as well as the overall distance covered. It means that you don’t have to think about counting your laps anymore, and can instead just focus on swimming at the effort your training plan calls for.

I did find that this tracking wasn’t always 100% accurate, although I could have just been incorrectly counting! It certainly worked better when I was swimming at speed, and seemed to be more inaccurate during slow recovery sessions. Once when I was doing 100m of kicking, it didn’t recognise that I had swum any laps at all, which just goes to show how pathetically slow I am when I’m not using my arms! (Damn legs, I thought you were strong from running?).

Training by Heart Rate

After a chat with some friends recently, I decided to try pacing a run by heart rate rather than min-per-kilometre. This also gave me the opportunity to test out the heart-rate tracking functionality which the Suunto Spartan Sport gives you. With it’s wrist-based tracker, you don’t need to wear a bulky chest strap and worry about syncing, because everything is built into the watch itself. I have found that it takes longer for the watch to detect your heart-rate than it does to connect to GPS, but you can also just start running and the data will appear within a minute.

When you’re tracking a run, you are shown your heart rate in beats-per-minute (BPM) in the top corner of the screen. However, if you’d like more information you can also click over to the dedicated heart-rate screen. Here you are shown a nice graph of your heart-rate changes over the course of the run. I think this is a nice piece of functionality, especially if you are someone who doesn’t constantly check their wrist for data (aka, not me), as it can show where you are working harder (up hills) vs maintaining a similar heart-rate. I have yet to figure out what causes those dips though!

At Ride London

I wore the Suunto Spartan Sport at the 100mile Ride London to ensure that the event would be immortalised on Strava (my phone dies too quickly to be trusted with tracking 8+ hours of cycling!), as well as to test out the battery-life of the watch. The information provided by Suunto states that the battery should last for ~8hours when the GPS is in ‘Best’ mode, ~12hours in ‘Good’ and ~30hours in ‘Okay’, and I wanted to see how accurate these numbers were.

Knowing it was going to be a long day, I switched the cycling tracking to ‘Good’ GPS functionality as soon as I started riding to the event that morning. You can change this setting from the loading screen (prior to starting tracking), but also during the activity itself. This proved to be very useful as when I reached the top of Box Hill at 66mi I noticed that the watch battery was at 33% (accessed by tapping on the screen). At the rate the battery was draining (approx 1% per mile), it wasn’t going to last for the rest of the ride, so I changed to ‘Okay’ GPS. By my calculations, the battery would not have lasted for much more than 8hours on ‘Good’, below the estimates given in the specifications.

The remainder of the ride using ‘Okay’ mode only used 6% of battery, but the quality of tracking decreased dramatically. As you can see on the graph, the elevation becomes much more spiky due to my position being registered less frequently. The watch was in-sync with distance markers for the first two-thirds of the race as well, so I believe changing the GPS mode is to blame for the final cycle tracking as 158km instead of 161.1km. That being said, given how much less battery was used, I think you could use this watch on ‘Okay’ setting for ultra-distance events. You may be better off choosing a specifically designed long-distance watch like the Suunto Spartan Ultra if this is something you do regularly though.

Should you get one?

If you are a multisport athlete, you should add the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR to your list of watches to consider. It has some very nice features which I’ve covered here and in the first review post, such as the touch screen vs button functionality, and all the graphs for heart-rate and elevation it produces. It has very good support for such a wide variety of sports that you can track just about any activity imaginable, which is great if you have the mindset of ‘if it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen’! I also liked how it syncs up with your phone via Bluetooth, and will even display your phone notifications to your wrist. Great for keeping on top of your Instagram activity!

The watch isn’t perfect, but there are few pieces of technology which are. I had some trouble with GPS tracking, particularly during the London Triathlon, and found that often the final distance shown on the watch didn’t match with what was then synced to Strava. I would also love the ability to create your own screens on the watch as opposed to being limited to the preset modes. In particular, I would love a clock screen for during the activity so that I can avoid obsessing over pace all the time.

So there you have it, the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR. Let me know if you get one and how you find it performs. I promise that’s it with the graphs for a while too, and we can go back to pictures of running and my face again. Yay!

Happy Friday 😊🎉

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