Cycling Issue
By Jeremy Berger
on 6.19.13

The sky opened up just as I approached the 2nd Avenue bike lane, so I clicked out of my Speedplays and tap danced under some scaffolding. I was riding the Orbea Ordu home from GP HQ to test it for a few weeks; I wore bike shorts, a running jersey, offensively reflective sunglasses, even by my standards, and the new Suunto Ambit2 S ($400+). A neatly-dressed 30-something woman on a hybrid rolled her bike next to mine and looked me over, from head to Di2-wired aero bars to very large digital timepiece.

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You know that feeling? When you step into a crowded hotel elevator and press the PH button, giving a slow nod to less fortunate passengers. When the food comes and your ribeye is served with a Viking sword on carrara marble, while Dave’s risotto comes in a cereal bowl. When your husky is the cutest pup on the block. Again, when somebody at the table asks, “How’s your steak?” These are proud, boastful moments — not our finest, but fun nevertheless.

This was no such moment. She looked confused, unimpressed. If only I had a puppy or a steak. Because let’s face it: you get no love from the masses for having a watch that looks like the porthole on a luxury yacht, so there had better be another reason for wearing it. There Ambit2 S has three reasons, actually: swim, bike, run. This GPS watch from Finland-based Suunto is designed specifically for the multisport athlete, capable of capturing (or linking up to the appropriate external sensors, e.g., foot pods and power meters, to capture) all of the important data in each of the triathlete’s disciplines. All of this data can then be uploaded to an account on Suunto’s movescount.com, where you can analyze it, track progress over time and see how you stack up to other users.

The most important thing to know about the Suunto is that it’s a vastly user- and activity-friendly watch. The simple push (and hold) of a button switches between data displays while training and between sports during brick workouts. The “triathlon” mode that lets you move easily between sports makes workout data appear as one contiguous event — that is, after all, what being a triathlete is all about.

The watch lets you move easily between sports, making data appear as one contiguous event — that’s what being a triathlete is about, after all.

The watch has a host of other thoughtful features. AutoPause, which can automatically pause workouts when you stop, is useful for us stop-and-go city runners, or for when you’re in hurl control mode because the intern suggested eating triple-burgers for lunch earlier that day. Open water and lap swimming functionalities (new to the 2 S) track distance and route (open water), laps (in the pool), pace (both) and can even ID your stroke. Compass and navigation tools allow you to set and follow routes with the help of directional guides. Finally, Movescount makes a huge cache of apps available to add all kinds of functionality to your watch — everything from calculating how many theoretical Kit Kat bars you’ve burned during the workout to planning an interval training session.

My most common interaction with the Ambit2 S was to pick it up when my alarm went off, see that it was 5:45am, and then go back to sleep, missing my swim practice. When I did manage to get up, it proved a useful companion, which is saying a lot for a guy who would emphatically rather be out training than looking at data. And who knows: maybe next time I duck out of the rain I’ll bump into a biker babe with her own futuristic shades and a too-large watch — and we’ll have moment. Until then, there’s always steak.

METHODOLOGY This watch was tested during (semi)regular workouts in the pool, on the bike and running outdoors. During this test we did not pair it with a bike power meter or swim in open water.
limits-promo-logoThis review is part of a new original GP series, LIMITS, dedicated to exploring the physical and mental borderlands of human capability. And beyond.