Can a smartwatch improve your cycling? These wrist mounted health and fitness busybodies can log all your daily activities, while also alerting you to incoming messages. They’ll record how much you walk, sleep, eat and exercise, but will the Fitbit Ionic make me faster?
I’m old enough that the Fitbit Ionic is a little bit of techno wizardry that means I’m now living in an episode of Star Trek! A combination of mobile-phone, heart rate monitor, GPS tracker and coach; what can’t it do? Well before I can push its limits, I’ll have to see what it claims to be able to do. First stop will be the Fitbit website, followed by a trip to the Lee Valley Velopark.
Why the Velopark? Fitbit have arranged for a training session with double Olympic silver medallist Becky James. Becky is a Fitbit ambassador, which means she has to put up with me attempting to impress her and British Cycling. I imagine a pro contract is only days away…
I’m used to wrist based heart-rate monitors, I use them for my infrequent runs. Yes, I admit it I do occasionally run, only during the ‘cross season though, so it’s ok! While trundling over the Downs I’ll take a smartwatch to log my efforts. I want to see my pace and time and afterwards I’ll upload the run to Strava. That’s about it, after that it just resorts to being a watch.
So what does the Fitbit Ionic have to offer? The 6000 series aluminium body encloses eight separate sensors; an altimeter, 3-axis accelerometers, digital compass, GPS antenna, optical heart rate monitor, ambient light sensor and a vibration motor. That’s a lot of tech packed into a small space.
The Ionic is water-resistant to 50 metres with a high-res touchscreen – 1000 nits apparently! – protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The wristbands are easily swappable and come in three styles; sport, leather and classic. Each style comes in various colours, so you can mix and match to your wardrobe.
The Ionic measures your heart rate using Photoplethysmography… So what’s that then? Basically green light is shone onto your skin, blood absorbs green light, the higher your blood volume, the more green light is absorbed. Photodiodes on the back of the watch measure these changes and convert them into data the watch can use. A little googling shows that the Ionic has an extra sensor compared to other smartwatches. This will allow it to measure the amount of oxygen in your blood, which opens new fields for app developers.
Fitbit’s Ionic, like most smartwatches offers a whole different experience from your old HRM watch. A smartwatch is able to do so much more than just record the sweaty part of your day. With 2.5G of storage and Bluetooth connectivity, you can also listen wirelessly to your tunes.
That same Bluetooth connection allows you to see notifications from your phone without having to get your phone out of your pocket. Great for ignoring those PPI cold callers! The Ionic will also allow you to pay for your mid-ride coffee using NFC technology. Other apps let you check the weather or peruse your Strava records. More apps will be coming online soon.
So after a morning on the track being shown how the Ionic works, I’ll see if it can help me get any faster. Keep an eye out for my review