Suunto T6C Triathlon Pack Review
Don’t be fooled by the words triathlon pack, this watch is for runners, cyclists and anyone that wants to track their training. The Suunto T6C can measure your distance, time, heart rate, elevation and many other metrics for running and cycling. It also downloads to your P.C. so you can track your workouts and hit your peak at the right time.
To track distance and pace, Suunto utilizes pods rather than G.P.S. The foot pod is super light and attaches to your shoelaces. It is easily moved from different pairs of shoes. The road bike pod is slick and efficient. Using technology from wheel builder Mavic, Suunto integrates the pod into the lever of the front wheel skewer. Simply attach the skewer like any other and then screw the provided spoke magnet onto a spoke. Not only does this give it a clean look, it also means that you can use it on road or triathlon bikes. For use on a mountain bike, Suunto offers a bike pod that uses the traditional fork mount. A cadence senor is also provided.
A great feature of all pods is that you do not need to turn them on or off. Simply put the watch into training mode and start running or riding. The watch automatically picks up the pod in use and off you go. The foot pod does need to be calibrated from time to time since it does not rely on G.P.S. to gauge distance. This process can be a bit of a pain since you need a track or set distance to make it accurate. All pods use standard battery sizes and are easily replaced.
During training there is little that this watch doesn’t track. In addition to the basics of speed and distance, it can track elevation gain, rate of elevation gain, calories, average heart rate, average pace and some of Suunto’s own metrics. Suunto uses their own algorithm to come up with a T.E. or training effect. This is a single number between 1 and 5 that tells you how hard your workout was. They also have E.P.O.C. or Excess Post Oxygen Consumption. E.P.O.C. is a measurement of the amount of oxygen needed to recover from your effort. It also clearly tells you whether you are recovering, slightly improving your aerobic capacity, improving your aerobic capacity or highly improving your aerobic capacity. A feature that I really liked was the ability to have the watch automatically stop and start when you do. When the pods stop moving, the watch stops. When they get going again the watch automatically starts up. No more pushing buttons at stop lights or having data recorded while you stopped for more water.
With all this information being tracked, the Suunto has two screens that are customizable to view what you want to see. In each screen three metrics are displayed vertically. The top line shows a single metric in a smaller size that is chosen by the user. The middle metric is the largest number displayed and shows your heart rate on both screens. Along the bottom one metric also in a smaller size, but with the push of a button you can scroll through four other metrics of your choosing. Basically on one screen you can view 7 different items.
Despite all it’s capabilities, the Suunto remains small in size. At no bigger than your average active watch this is an amazing accomplishment. It uses five buttons to navigate through the fields and after some use it becomes easy to navigate.
The Suunto training software is the best proprietary software I’ve used. The watch downloads the information into the software via a simple U.S.B. cable. Each workout shows up and can be placed in separate folders. This comes in handy when you want to find a specific workout. The software also allows you to track your training in the past weeks and months so you can find trends and make sure your training is making you faster. I really liked the T.E. and E.P.O.C. scores since they are a single unit that gave me an indication of how hard I worked. For those that don’t want to download the information or use the training software you can save each workout and manually view it in the watch’s memory screen.
In my use I found the watch simple to use and easy to read, the two most important things in any watch. While the T6C does a lot of complicated tracking, it doesn’t require the user to do anything other than put it on and go. The pods worked seamlessly and the only maintenance required was the occasional changing of the batteries.
I did have some complaints however. First would be the heart rate belt itself. The belt is designed to be waterproof so triathletes can use it during the swim. Believe me, this is a big benefit for triathletes. However, the Memory Belt stores all of the information and starts recording once put on. What this means is that despite not pushing the start button, when you download the information you will have information on there that is not part of the training. This is easily solved by purchasing the Comfort Belt, which is also ANT+ compatible, a huge plus. Second, I sometimes got some strange heart rate readings. This is not uncommon and is something I’ve encountered with every heart rate monitor I’ve used. Still, it’s annoying to look down and see that my watch thinks I’m either dead or my heart is about to burst. Another minor complaint I have is that the training software is not Mac compatible. This may or may not be a problem for some.
With an M.S.R.P. of $700, this is not a cheap investment, but looking online I was able to find it for as little as $480. When you consider that this is a single piece that works for running and cycling, and it works very well, the price becomes more understandable. Add in the top notch training software and you quickly see the value.