We test the limits of the lightweight and versatile Suunto Spartan Trainer GPS sports watch.

Words and photos by Daniel Frawley

$399.99

Bicycle Network rating 75%

Function
28/40

Quality
32/40

Appearance
9/10

Price
6/10

The Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR Black (quite the mouthful) is marketed as a slim and lightweight GPS sports watch for versatile training and active lifestyle. While I nod at all these points in its snappy sales intro, one of these points is both its upside and downside – versatility.

I would say I live an active lifestyle – target audience tick. I ride a bike as often as I can – racing, training, commuting, mountain biking – I walk my dog every day and take the occasional jog (shuffle). All good opportunities to put this watch to the test. But – being Bicycle Network – the bike is where this watch got its biggest workout.

For many people if you don’t record your ride it just didn’t happen. So, I was keen to see if this watch could replace the need to pull my phone out of my pocket for my commute or ease the reliance on my cycling computer on my road bike. I used the watch every day for my commute and side-by-side with my cycling computer on longer training rides before the ultimate test of Peaks Challenge Cradle Mountain.

 

The design and styling of the watch to me was spot-on. Clean, minimal lines, all black with simple silver buttons. It has the look of a watch I’m happy to wear – not like a traditional, clunky sports watch. This meant I was happy to reach for my watch every morning and put it on – making it perfect to record my commute to and from work in Melbourne’s CBD. I walk out the door, grab my bike, 3 pushes of a button on the watch, a short wait for the satellites and HR to connect, and I’m away.

For these short rides the watch didn’t let me down. Press start, forget, arrive at destination and everything is recorded. When the watch is paired with your phone it quickly syncs before uploading to Moves Count, which is Suunto’s own tracking website and app. This can also be linked to Strava.

Bicycle Network reviews the Suunto Spartan Trainer Wrist HR

Leading into Peaks Challenge I hit the hills on my road bike to complete some long rides. On most occasions the watch did its job. But a ride out to the hills north east of Melbourne started off well until I stopped for a coffee halfway through and noticed the watch had only recorded 23km of the 60km I had ridden. I thought the watch would start recording again after the coffee stop – perhaps it had just hadn’t resumed after autopausing – but 5km down the road it was clear this wasn’t the case. I stopped the activity assuming the watch had lost satellite reception and started a new activity – and the watch had satellite reception straight away. Weird.

The position of the buttons on the right-hand-side of the watch kept getting pressed by my hand – bent wrists being the common position when gripping the bars of a mountain bike. I realized you have to be wary of accidently stopping or pausing the ride

A spectacular sunrise greeted us at the start of Peaks Challenge Cradle Mountain in Tasmania – and being the Lantern Rouge (the last rider who has to ride the event at 13 hour pace) I knew this would be a tough test for the watch. At 70km and 4.5 hours into the ride I noticed the watch had stopped recording. Damn. So, I started a new activity. This time the watch lasted until the battery died 5.5 hours and 120km later. I knew it was a big task for the watch to record 13 hours of activity.

A mountain bike ride in the You Yangs west of Melbourne brought something else to my attention. The position of the buttons on the right-hand-side of the watch kept getting pressed by my hand – bent wrists being the common position when gripping the bars of a mountain bike. I realized you have to be wary of accidently stopping or pausing the ride.

As part of the review I tackled a daunting (for a cyclist) 6km fun run and the preceding training shuffles. The watch performed admirably for this. Recording all my moves without any issues, the clear design of the watch face was easy to read as I was jogging along, and the light weight of the watch meant I hardly felt its presence.

The watch was a handy companion on 14km hike through the Freycinet National Park in Tasmania, it’s breadcrumb feature leading me back to the starting point. In comparison to my partners’ Garmin watch it recorded the distance much more accurately – her watch showing a 2km discrepancy. A short post-hike swim in the cold waters of a nearby beach also proved the watch’s waterproofing, again tracking my distance accurately.

The watch was simple to setup. The navigation of the menus quite intuitive. There was no manual that came with the watch but the Suunto YouTube channel has an extensive library of short videos. A neat feature of the watch is being able to change the watch face and colours.

Pairing with my phone was simple to do, but I did get frustrated when the Bluetooth connection dropped out between the two.  If the watch hasn’t synced with the phone after a week’s worth of activities it can take 15 minutes to upload everything.

Somehow I managed to put a decent scratch on the watch face – I’m suspicious of some clamps on my commuter bike – and scuff one of the edges. After noticing both marks I was dissapointed that the visual appeal of the watch had been tarnished. And the rubber watch band has a tendancy to pick up tiny bits of fluff but is otherwise comfortable.

So yes, the watch is versatile. If you’re looking for a device that will record your commute and runs without having to scramble for another device then this watch is great. But if you’re looking for a device specifically for use on the bike this watch has its limitations – great for short rides, but I would hesitate to take it for something longer.

For more see www.suunto.com

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