Just kidding, that’s lawyer bait. The title I was gonna go with is “Reflecting on 2018” but sometimes you have to draw attention to things. All now resolved and hopefully Peloton have worked out how the Internet works, and for that matter how language works. By the way, I’m trademarking the words “Infringing” and “infringed” so if anyone has an issue with my headline, please don’t use these words in relation to any legal activity or I’ll send the boys around…
The blog has been a bit quiet since my holiday earlier in the month. That’s partly because I’ve been tired, partly working hard, and partly reflecting on the site overall.
A lot of the content here comes accross as negative. I’m ok with that, but I wasn’t sure why I’m the only one saying this stuff quite as loudly and plainly as I do. Reviewers always appear to have that “perfect unit” that does no wrong and “just works”. I don’t think that’s true any more than you do. Are they paid to write nice things? Not directly, although some reviewers income is directly related to having good relationships. In the main though I think honest reviewers are being honest and plain. There are those magazine style ones who are creating obvious click-bait, but I’ve long since stopped looking at those.
The reality is that I’d never really considered what a review actually was. My assumption, I guess, was that a review was there to tell me how the device works. Now I’ve thought about it that’s not really the case. Reviews tell you what a device does, and how it goes about that. These are distinctly different things. A good reviewer will spend a serious amount of time getting things to work. Rather than say it doesn’t work, they contact the support line or whatever contact they may have. Possibly get their unit swapped out or a new firmware created which sorts out a bug. I have neither the time nor the patience for that, and all my toys are bought with my money at full retail prices. If I spend £500 on a new watch and it shits the bed and deletes my activity you can bet I’ll be upset about that.
So my site, it seems, concentrates on telling you what it’s like to own and use these things (and the rumour bit, obvs). I have to tell you, most of these devices are a disapointment to own. People assume that Garmin charge more for thier devices because they have more features. Not true. I believe that if Garmin today had the stability issues they did when Fenix 2 was new they’d have a hard time selling them. They don’t though, they have stability for the most part. Maybe not the best accuracy but at least I never want to throw my Fenix at a wall. Well, not often anyway. Disapointment when things go wrong is proportional to the retail price of the unit. When my Vantage V deleted a run halfway through and made me stand in the cold to get things working again, that was a great example of a very negative experience of a new device.
So why the ramblings? I bought a new turbo trainer this month. Twice. The first was a Wahoo Kickr Core. I’d read the reviews many times and decided I didn’t need the extra features for a huge extra outlay. How wrong I was. Instead I should have checked the user community on Facebook before buying. That paints a much more true story of the unit. Silence is golden, and silence is what I’d been promised by every single reviewer. I’m not kidding, they literally use the word silent. The Wahoo unit is not silent unless you’re on a stone/concrete floor and are using a trainer mat. On a wooden floor it sounds like a broken jet engine. Even on a stone floor it’s obvious that it vibrates like crazy at any kind of speed. QA is not high on the list at Wahoo. They are famed for great support and swapping out units quickly. This is down to practice! The flywheel has a wobble which causes vibration which causes noise. In a £300 trainer that would be fine but on a £700 premium product I expect a CNC machined perfect round flywheel which has been tested by robots.
What was the accuracy like you ask? Funny you should ask. I have a trainer bike and a nice bike as I’m sure many do. The trainer bike being an old road bike that I loved a bit too much to sell but not enough not to replace. So I rode on the Wahoo a few times and was struggling to maintain wattage. It was a nightmare and I assumed it was because I had a cold or I’d overdone the run up to Christmas. Eventually I popped my good bike on with the Vector 3 pedals. The Wahoo reads around 30 watts low all the time. It varies though, so I wouldn’t trust it as far as I could throw it and that’s not very far. I swapped the good bike onto my old Tacx Vortex Smart. The crappy 4 year old Tacx agreed 100% with the Vector within 2 Watts consistently. Amazing. I went back to the very helpful shop I bought it from. A bike shop with a real espresso machine and some staff who love to ride. They unboxed a second Kickr Core for me (Wahoo had offered the swap swap dance already but I hate dealing with couriers…). New unit had a much worse wobble even on their concrete floor. At this point I got a refund.
I say got a refund, but in reality I handed the lovely shop another £500 to upgrade to the Tacx Neo 2. I should have read between the lines from the reviewers. GPLama and Von choose the Neo as their device and so does DCRainmaker. In fact, everyone with a choice seems to select that unit and it’s probably not just for real feel cobbles. I looked at the Tacx Neo group on Facebook and there was a very different story. These people were happy and discussing the fun they were having with their toys. And you know what? I’m now happy too.
As part of this rambling month I’ve revisited a few reviews and watched some Youtubes. It’s funny what you may miss the first time around. Although not overtly negative some reviews do say “this device is pointless” as an aside to the main “it’s really well made” message. My favourite of these was the Garmin RD Pod review on Youtube where the device gets top marks (small, neat, well implemented in software) but doesn’t give the same numbers as the HRM Run and doesn’t offer any training insight. Also loving how blunt GPLama is on his channel, especially when lawyers are being morons.
So I’ll probably continue telling you when my devices disapoint me. I’ll continue not reviewing things too, and I’ll try my best to kep the rumours coming. CES is just over a week away and this year should have a few good toys for us including that watch from Garmin, hopefully the Rival from Wahoo, and probably nothing new from Polar. Suunto will probably launch a nearly identical but not quite identical 9 but with fewer features and a longer name. As is their wont.
Have a great new year everyone and I hope Santa brought everything you wanted.