First Impressions - Fitbit Surge

I received the Fitbit Surge on my Birthday and have been using for 1 week now, so wanted to share my first impressions.  I feel I am a Fitbit "expert user" as I owned the original Fitbit (still in my drawer) from December 2009 and have owned and used every version since except for the Zip and the New Fitbit Charge & ChargeHR.  My favorites have been the Fitbit One and the Fitbit Force (my most recent version prior to the Surge).  So basically 5 full years of wearing a Fitbit nonstop.

Past blog posts:

 

Form and Style - The Surge is basically a double wide Force or Charge without the band clasp issue.  It is a watch band type clasp which has been needed for a while.  Unfortunately the new Charge  still has the clasp mechinism that does not hold, but the ChargeHR 'does' due to the heart rate monitor.  For that reason alone (the watch style clasp) you will want the ChargeHR over the Charge.  Trust me. 

 

The band on the Surge may not be replaceable and is of a material that does not feel it will last long.  There are two screws at each end at the base, but I do not know if it allows a change.  The Surge fits at an angle on your wrist for easy viewing and is comfortable enough to wear all the time, even to bed.  The Surge instructions did recommend moving to the other wrist at night when you sleep as well as keeping it loose in normal wearing, but tightening when excercising for better heart rate readings.  It has 3 buttons, one on the left which is the main "return" button and two on the left for navigation and selecting inputs based upon the screen.

 

And true to form with Fitbit, another new proprietory charge cable.  Ugg.

The Surge does show the time and date all of the time and you can turn on/off/auto the backlighting.  But using this as a watch does not seem to work as every time I look at it to see what time, I see the number of floors I have walked instead.  It will also get notifications from your phone so you know when you get a phone call or text message.  However, the amount of data it shows regarding text messages is minimal.  The buzz on the Surge just sends me to my phone.

As with my Fitbit Force, I can browse quickly through steps, miles, cals, floors, with the additional heart bpm.  Other new additions are specific activities: Run, Exercise, Alarms, and Settings.

  • Within Run, it has Free Run (GPS,Heartrate), Treadmill run (Heartrate), and Lap Run (GPS,Heartrate)
  • Within Exercise, it has Hike (GPS,Heartrate), Weights (Heartrate), Workout (Heartrate), Elliptical (Heartrate), Spinning (Heartrate), and Yoga (Heartrate)
  • Within Alarms, you can view all of your alarms you have set and turn them off and on.
  • Within Settings, you can turn notifications off and on, Set backlight options (on/off/auto), shutdown your fitbit, view regulatory info, view version, and set heartrate options (on/off/auto)

Where is Treadmill?  Maybe use Elliptical instead.  Where is cycling with GPS & Heartrate? I guess you can use Run or Hike and change to Cycling on the Website?  Well, maybe, maybe not as the Edit function for a recorded activity on the website is very limited.


Last thoughts.  If indeed the Charge and ChargeHR are just updated Force, I would probably go with the ChargeHR over the Surge.  The GPS does not seem reliable or that useful(heck, I have a phone with GPS, a Garmin with GPS also, do I need another?) and the "watch" capabilities suck.  I would just rather wear a watch for the time and a Fitbit for the tracking.  Plus, you save a lot of money.

Update 12/16/2014 - Still does not work as a watch. Hardly ever see the time when I look.  Just steps or stairs.  Also stopped syncing via App on Mac or iOS today.  Put in an issue with Fitbit.  Will not use Bluetooth to connect to iPhone for music either.  Thinking Bluetooth may have died...

Update 12/27/2014 - Still having syncing issues.  Can not get it to sync via Mac.  Dongle installed and working but does not see the Surge.  Have tried on multiple dongles and have tried to reset as a new Fitbit.  Still can't see.  Issue with iOS on my iPhone 6 Plus continues as well.  Have to reboot phone to get it to recognize the Surge.  Had none of these problems with Force.  Very unsatisfied.  Fitbit support is next to useless this time.  They have always been very attentive in the past.  This is really making me want an Apple Watch.  Goodbye to Fitbit forever?

2014 - My Year for AquaBike

As much as I like running, an Achilles injury 3 years ago ended that dream.  I have rested, strengthened, rehabbed and the best I can do is run about 1/2 mile at a time without pain.  That is not going to help me much.  So I walk mostly on my 4.5 mile route with about 1.25 of it running.

I have added swimming once a week (2500 meters) for the past 1.5 years, and have been riding my bike.  I recently finally made the change to a real road bike vs. my hybrid.  So it seems that an Aquabike would scratch my competition itch.

aquabike.png

Since both swimming and biking are low impact sports, my knees should also not give me issues.  This is a good sport for those of us that have impact related injuries and are getting older. 

To give me time to prepare, looking at the local Aquabike races coming up I have found that the Baldwin Park Tri is the closest and looks to be about my speed.  It is a .75 km (750 meters) swim and 12 mile bike.

Since my swims are usually in a pool, it is hard to come up with a goal in open lake swim.  If in a pool, I would be looking at 8-10 mins. So maybe add 5 mins for lake = 15 mins max?  For the bike I am hoping to break 40 mins.  With the transitions I should realistically hope to break 1 hour total?  I hope?

Let 2014 begin!

Specialized Roubaix vs. Roubaix

Unfortunately, I am a victim of the SRAM recall.  Since my bike (2014 Specialized Roubaix SL4 Sport SRAM Disc) is only about 6-7 weeks old, this news hit me hard.  I was planning on riding a lot over the Christmas - New Years holidays, and was told to  "STOP RIDING" immediately.  I contacted the store in which I purchased the bike asking for any alternatives available to keep me riding.  Luckily I purchased at a very good store, as they gave me an option to have a loaner until such a time as I can ride my bike again.  Thus they provided a brand new 2014 Specialized Roubaix SL4 Expert for my use.

Roubaix SL4 Sport SRAM Disc

Roubaix SL4 Sport SRAM Disc

So the positive from the recall is my ability to review 2 new 2014 Roubaix bikes and compare the SRAM vs. Shimano world.

Visually, the frames of the bikes look identical.  Both are SL4 FACT Carbon, but the Expert is 10r Carbon vs the Sport SRAM is 8r Carbon.  The difference means the Expert is slightly lighter and stiffer.  I could not tell the difference in reality.  The major difference is the SRAM components vs. Shimano.  Depending upon your own biases, this may or may not make a difference. The Shimano Ultegra is 11 speed vs. 10 speed SRAM, and the Ultegra components are a higher priced and premium components. The SRAM does provide hydraulic brakes for a reasonable cost (but also a recall).

Roubaix SL4 Expert

Roubaix SL4 Expert

Their are quite a few minor differences, many of which are the Expert has size-specific parts (i.e. lower headtube) where the Sport SRAM are standard size regardless of the bike size.  The handebars, wheels (due to SRAM Hydraulics), tires are also different.  

The last and significant difference is the seat post, as the Expert comes with the S-Works CG-R FACT Carbon w/Zertz.  This was the one component that the bike shop said that "once I ride with the seat post, I will want to spend the $200 to upgrade my carbon post on the Sport SRAM". Great, it is a sales opportunity for the shop as well.

For a spec list with differences, see the spreadsheet I created at http://sdrv.ms/1ij53Gy

So now on to my experience.  I dropped off my Sport SRAM at the shop so they could prepare the Expert for my use.  When I picked up the Expert it was prepared with all of my additions (Garmin, cages, bag, pedals, etc...) including my aftermarket stem and larger saddle.  With the saddle, they also used the seat post from my Sport SRAM.  Therefore I did not get the S-Works CG-R FACT Carbon w/Zertz in my test AND I will not have to spend $200 to get one on my bike!

S-Works CG_R FACT Carbon w/Zertz

S-Works CG_R FACT Carbon w/Zertz

I can't really say after a number of rides on the Expert that I can say there really is a big difference.  The ride felt comparatively smooth and fast on both.  It certainly does not feel like the difference I felt when I moved from Aluminum to Carbon as a frame.  I really felt no difference of ride.  I "heard" a difference since the Shimano has the ratcheting sound while coasting and prefer my silent SRAM.  Some people do like the ticking sound - it is an alarm to tell you to start pedaling!

Where I did have a big difference was in the shifting methods between the SRAM and Shimano.  SRAM uses the single/double shift method on the shifter (single for shift up and double for shifting down)  and the Shimano uses the brake itself for shifting down and the shifter for shifting up.  It did take a little to get use to it.  I found I shifted more accurately with the Shimano method since both up and down are single shifts, so I did not overshift shifting down as I did with the SRAM method.

There was also a difference in braking as the SRAM hydraulic disc felt stronger and quicker than the Shimano rim based brakes. The only negative i have to disc brakes is that it is easier to remove and install the front wheel on a rim based system than the disc system.  This only would affect those that remove the front wheel often for the auto bike carrier as I do.  Disc are also heavier then rim based, but this is not important to me.

So, do I like one more than the other?  Not really.  Both felt about the same.  Maybe if I got to sit upon the Expert's seat post I would feel differently.  But the $900 price of the Expert over the Sport SRAM is a bit steep and to me and not worth the money.  I am sure those that are Shimano centric, or like the size specific changes, or look for every ounce less, will think it well worth it.  I am just not one of those people.  If money is no object, you can get the best of both worlds with the Expert Ultegra D12 Disc at $6800 or go ALL OUT with the S-Works Roubaix SL4 Red DIsc for $8500.  Too bad I did not get one of those as a loaner.

That said, the SRAM recall does damper any enthusiasm I have for the Sport SRAM Disc.  For "bang for the buck" it is hard to beat if it did not have the recall.  I prefer a bike with disc brakes, and hydraulics are one of the reasons I selected the Sport SRAM.  Soon I should have my bike back with mechanical disc brakes to hold me over until SRAM provides the new hydrolic ones.  So I still do want my Sport SRAM Disc back and to give the Expert back to bike shop.

Fitbit Flex - Almost Ready for Primetime

I have been a Fitbit user since December 2009.  I owned the original Fitbit, then the Fitbit Ultra, then Fitbit One, and now the Fitbit Flex.

 

Now that I have been using the Flex for about a month, I thought it would be a good time for a full review. 

I have loved them all and Fitbit has continually upgraded and bettered the product with each release.  My hope is the Flex is no exception.  It is finally the "wear and forget" Fitbit.  No longer do I forget to put it on, lose it in the yard, run it through the washing machine, etc….  You put it on your wrist and you are done.  Wear it while working out, sleeping, showering, ….always.

But with this advance, there are a few concessions.  Starting and stopping the sleeping mode is frustrating.  Not counting stairs (and Fitbit not giving you a way to add manually) is disappointing especially since the last Fitbit (One) did this so well.  The lack of status detail other than lighted dots on the  Fitbit itself is quite an adjustment down from the One.

Finally is the frustrating quirks similar to those I had with the original Fitbit.  For example, waking up in the morning and trying to stop the sleeping mode only to have the Flex not reacting to anything you do.  Having to plug it into a computer to  get it to light up and be useful again, and loosing all of the sleep data from that night. Makes me want to return to the Fitbit One.  But I am trying to hold out and continue with the Flex.

I get the feeling that the Flex is a start over, and not a continuance of the previous models.  Thus it has the version 1 issues.  Buyer beware regarding the Flex.  Let me introduce you to the Fitbit One.

Garmin Swim

I recently started back to swimming (it has only been about 25 yrs) and I originally used my Garmin 910XT   for my weekly swim, but the result was not satisfactory.  See Blog post here
 

I recently purchased the Garmin Swim and wanted to provide the intial results of using it for the first time this morning.  Overall, I was satisfied with the Swim.  It is much smaller than my 910XT and you hardly notice you are wearing while swimming.  I was suprised by it's accuracy during my swim.  It only provided a mistake on my last 50 yrd backstroke "float" as 100 yrs.  It was correct at the turn as I looked, so it thought the last 25 yrds was 75 yrds.  So out of a 2500 yrd swim, it reported 2550 yrds and the only mistake happened at the very last lap. You can see my results here.
 

Starting and Stopping the watch during my 100 yrd and 50 yrd sprints was a bit cumbersome.  I thought I paused after one of the 100's, but did not catch it until it was time to start for the next.  The pausing and starting probably adds about 5 seconds per due to starting the watch before and pausing the watch after you touch the wall.  I would like it to recognize when you start and stop via an accellerometer.  But of course if you stop during a swim to adjust your googles, it would think you are stopping one swim and then starting another.  So I am unsure of the best way for this to work.
When I uploaded the data via Garmin Connect, it did provide the wrong day and time (August 28 vs. Sept 4). Not sure why this happened but I have seen others state the same.   I manually changed it after. 
Also I could not get the data to upload to other sites that connect to my Garmin (RunKeeper and Daily Mile)  even though both sites accept swim data. RunKeeper would only pull my Garmin 910XT data and Daily Mile allowed me to select the Garmin Swim, but stated that there was no new data.
So overall it has some minor issues that hopefully will be worked out.  I will post if the date and time issue continues after my next swim here.

 

My Weight Loss Experience

Wow, it has been a long time since I wrote a blog post.  Such is life in the world of Twitter, Foursquare, etc…

I have many weight and diet stories I could share, but will focus on the last 13-14 months since in that time I have lost 30 lbs, gained 20 lbs, and as of last week, lost 11.5 lbs.
This journey started at the end of December 2009 when I finally received my fitbit.  I was weighing in around 245, the largest I have ever been and was going to get serious about loosing weight.  So started immediately on my diet by doing what I know best: Eat better and less, exercise more.  I will call this the “starve and sweat” diet.   I tracked everything I ate and every bit of exercise using the fitbit website/application

fitbit

Over the next 4-5 months, I limited myself to under 1500 calories while burning over 3000 calories.  My exercise routine went from just weights 3-4 mornings a week, to adding about 15 miles of running and 10 miles of biking a week.  During this time I lost 30 lbs. and maintained that weight loss by running and biking more until mid September 2010.  That was when I injured my Achilles tendon and running/biking became impossible.
After a couple of weeks, the Achilles was not getting any better so I finally went to the doctor and said I must get back to running ASAP.  I started rehab near the end of October

 

Another day, another week, same old therapy.  on Twitpic

and by the beginning of December was back to running - except 20 lbs heavier than I was in September.  So back to the “starve and sweat” diet.  and through the beginning of February 2011 I have lost 11 of the 20 lbs.  Then I came across and read the book by Gary Taubes “Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It” (was an Audible.com pick on the podcast Windows Weekly).  To summarize, he suggests that getting fat has nothing to do with calories in/calories out, but what you eat.  Today’s obesity epidemic is due to the large quantities of easily digestible and cheap carbohydrates.  He uses the science of fat cells as the basis that our fat, just like our height, is determined by genes and hormones.  For the fat cell this is insulin.  Calories, Fat and other supposed causes of excess fat have no interaction with our fat, but insulin production and sugars have direct impact.  Thus refined and easily digestible carbohydrates that turn to sugar causes triglycerides in our fat cells to get to large so that they just store fat.  Mr. Taubes shows how science proves this and that you can eat all you like and still get lean as long as you are not eating these carbohydrates.  This has been known for over 100 years scientifically but in the 1960’s obesity turned to a physiological issue that we are just lazy and eat to much.  There is so much good stuff in this book that will make you think, agree, question, etc… that I could spend 100 blog posts explaining.  My success at recent weight loss according to this book is due to my “starve” part of my diet since I am limiting these bad carbs/sugar.  Of course, no one believes me when I explain this, so I will let you read the book yourself, but will provide my experience of trying this change in food consumption on me.

So what am I doing?  Well I have changed from a calorie limited intake to a carbohydrate & sugar limited intake.  Less concerned with calorie intake or the amount of food.  Will continue the “sweat” portion of my diet. 

Before starting the carb and sugar free diet, I was averaging 1.4 lbs loss per week.

Week 1 results: Removed any potatoes, pasta, rice, high-carb cereals, and most “sugars”. Maintained lower calorie intake.  Lost 4 lbs. (wow!)

Week 2 results: Changed to eating a lot of Chicken, beef, eggs, cheese, salads & nuts.  Increased total overall calorie intake, so no more “starve” in diet. Lost 3/4 of a lb..

I will update here as I go.  Preliminary thoughts are to combine my “starve & sweat” with “no carbs/sugar & sweat” to loose the weight fast, then switch to “no carbs/sugar & sweat” to maintain.  But before doing that, I will see if I can loose the weight with the “no carbs/sugar & sweat” with the higher calorie intake.

For the “sweat” part, you can follow my progress at either fitbit.com for steps and calories burned; at dailymile.com for my running.