Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Testing - Polar RS800 CX Bike

I have been using Polar products for probably about 6 years now. I think I would feel lost without a heart rate monitor. Most of all I have come to love and rely on the Pro Trainer software.

The year was 2008, bikes were 23% flexier and 12.6% heavier on average. It was the year my S720i finally bit the dust after its many many rides and hard use (4 or 5 years). I was now in the market for something new and exciting. Enter the RS800 CX Bike.
Now the RS800 comes in a few different models depending on what you will be using it for. There is the running model, which comes with their s3 stride sensor. The multi-sports unit containing their G3 GPS sensor. And finally the bike model which comes with the CS speed, and now cadence sensors. All accessories feature Polar’s W.I.N.D. wireless technology which uses 2.4 GHz transmission frequencies to cut down on interference from other sources such as power lines.

Out of the box
Well let’s see. Out of the box Polar sent me the wrong unit. I was shipped the running one instead of the bike model so it had the s3 pedometer. I thought oh well I will check out the watch before I return it for the proper model. Well watch wouldn't turn on either. You think they would make sure the battery isn't dead before they shipped out a $500 watch but I guess I am just picky. 3 weeks later I got the real deal, the RS800CX Bike. Came with a bike sensor, bike mount, CD, USB infra-red stick, wheel magnet, warranty card.
It is a very attractive unit. Much more sleek and quite a bit smaller than my previous S720i.

On the trail
This unit is awesome. It seamlessly collects and organises all of your data. The bike sensor is very accurate with speed and distance provided you calibrate it properly. The screen is easy to read and it is also easy to pan through the different displays while you are on the go. The strap is the most comfortable yet and doesn't slide around even on my pigeon chested little torso. Doesn't suffer as much from interference as previous models. Hydro wires will still give you funky readings when you are in close proximity but not as much as older models.
My RS800 CX Bike didn't come with a cadence sensor. I believe all new models do. It’s not something I would mount on my mountain bike anyway.

Specs and features
All of the wireless accessories are coded and need to be calibrated to the watch. It only takes a couple seconds and ensures that your watch won’t read the 100 other heart rates that are close by in the start pen of a race.
There are about 5 different screens you can navigate through while you are in a workout. Each screen displays 3 lines of data. You can choose from a list of about 20 different options of what you want each line to display and every screen is customisable. What this means is that you are no longer stuck with what Polar programs from the factory. You have complete display freedom!
It is much easier to customise your displays and settings while your watch is synchronised with the computer. This is very easy to do via the tiny infra red “IrDA” adapter that plugs into the USB port on your computer. This is finally included with all RS800 models.
I looooooove the Pro Trainer software! It really helps to keep me organised when and if I decide to do a little training. This feature is where Polar really shines. You can click on each day and get into as much detail as you want. It puts all of your information from the ride that day into graph form and plots all of the data against itself for easy comparisons. Pan your watch over any time in the workout and get a little bubble of info about exactly what was going on at that point in time (speed, altitiude, temperature, ect). There are about a million features in Pro Trainer and the watch. Read more on the Polar website or ask a specific question so I don't have to write the great Canadian novel.

Back to the watch. The red “start workout” button is hyper sensitive and really easy to push. The downside of this is that if you want to wear the watch as a watch for normal daily activity you will bump the red button about 1452 times per day resulting in extremely annoying beeping noises.
The battery in the main watch only lasts about a year but now uses a much easier to find 2032 battery. However the last time I had to change it all of my settings were wiped out on the watch and for some reason my computer did not update the watch when I sync’d it shortly after. Instead it seems the watch tried to “update” the computer and wiped out all the settings on the computer as well. This angered me as I had to spend the next hour re-calibrating all of my wheels, heart rate zones, menu’s ect, ect……
The rest of the batteries used in the watch and sensors are easy to find and easy to change. You no longer have to wait 2 months and pay $40 to have Polar do it for you.

Polar definitely have some quality control issues so it is not uncommon to have to send it back to their ridiculously slow service department. As mentioned I opted for the standard wheel magnet and wireless sensor RS800 instead of the one that relies on the GPS receiver to gather its speed, altitude, distance, ect data. Two reasons I stayed away from the GPS. First is reliability, I’m sure it would turn into one big headache. Second is accuracy. It is not uncommon for a GPS based cyclometer to be inaccurate %15+ in heavily wooded and twisty singletrack.
I knew the bike sensor was tried and true and is 99.9% accurate as long as you calibrate it properly. I am still happy with my decision to not get the GPS and also like that I don’t have to carry a bulky receiver with me on my rides.
On the other hand the GPS model would be great for skiers, runners, hikers, pretty much lets you use your Polar for any sport though keep in mind GPS accuracy problems would still persist. After 2 years my watch no longer keeps accurate time. It is about 1 minute fast per week so it has to be reset every month or so. I will let you know if it gets worse.

-Pro Trainer software is awesome
-Works very well when it works
-Heart rate is reliable
-Tons of features and menus while riding

-Poor reliability
-Red button too easy to push
-Short battery life

Value – 9000 calories out of a 10579 calorie epic ride
Performance – 18 hours out of a 24 hour mountain bike race

Mounted on the bars of the X-Ben
W.I.N.D. Speed sensor
IrDA infra red Syncing up the watch

The whole system works very well together

My hardest ride to date. Ignore the distance, it got screwed up when I took my spare bike for a lap.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the info. Just bought a RS800CX bike last week and think I will like it. Trent