SUUNTO 9 BARO, the long-distance sports watch
Published on 25/10/2018 00:00
We’re not going to discover anything new. The long-distance boom is a reality. Trials which once seemed reserved for a few brave souls now fill up registrations in minutes. Mountain races have to limit their contestant places, triathlons now set up staggered starts to avoid a build-up of participants, and there are few sportsmen and women that don’t have to wait years to get a number for a specific cycle tour or marathon. It’s a fact. The “long” is fashionable.
All this brings about new demands from athletes, as these distances require very specific training and although each sportsperson has their own different “gadgets”, there is one that is common among practically all of them: the GPS watch.
There isn’t a runner, triathlete or cyclist that doesn’t need exact and precise information about their training. The brands know this and competition to provide the best performance to the client has become a fundamental race between them. In the podium for this race, we find an undoubted leader in outdoor sports with over 80 years of experience in the sector: Suunto.
The Finnish brand is attempting to create a bombshell within the world of GPS watches, and presents its newest jewel, the long-distance watch: Suunto 9 Baro.
When you open the Suunto Baro 9 box you find a “simple” package consisting of: watch, charger and instruction booklet. If you also want the Suunto HR strap, you can get this by purchasing the complete pack: Suunto 9 HR (it is worth remembering that the Suunto 9 already includes an optical heart rate sensor on your wrist). The charger is the same model as we find on the Spartan Ultra range, connected by a USB port at one end and a magnet at the other, which is where the watch is connected.
Configuration of the Suunto 9 Baro watch is very easy. Once it has been charged, switch it on by holding the top right hand button on the watch. Once on, it will ask you for the sportsperson’s details (gender, age, weight…) in order to create your profile.
Once the profile has been created, connect the watch to the PC to check if there are any updates available and, if so, to update these. After this has been done, register and create a profile on the Suunto Movescount App (www.movescount.com). All activities you do will be automatically registered onto “movescount”. Proceed in the same way with the new “Suunto App” on your mobile, as all your activities will also be downloaded on that app. You can also synchronise with other apps linked to GPS training, such as Strava, Training Peaks or Sports Tracker.
Once your Suunto 9 Baro is configured and synchronised, it’s time to go out and test your new jewel. In my case, the sport I practice is the triathlon, so I have analysed how the watch works on three sports: Swimming, cycling and running races.
In a pool:
Before starting your training in a pool, configure its length. By pressing the “options” button on the “Start” screen, you can select the pool length. During training, you can view the rhythm of each 100m swum and the activity time on the screen. You can separate your training into sections by pressing the “lap” button (bottom right).
As you are not in an open space when in the pool, the distance covered is not read by satellite, but by a sensor that calculates the distance based on strokes and changes in direction, therefore it is possible that if you are doing technical exercises without arm movements, the distance will not be calculated correctly.
In open waters:
The Suunto 9 Baro is simply a perfect watch for open waters. For a data obsessive like myself, it was a great annoyance not to be able to find out how many metres I had done after a swim in the sea because my GPS had failed. After 5 training sessions in the sea, I can confirm that performance has been 10/10, as it has always “nailed” the metres covered, and without any unusual data on the routes.
I have been able to use my Suunto 9 Baro both on my road bike and on my triathlon bike. From “adjustments” in the “connectivity” section you can connect your watch to a power sensor. In my case, I have it synchronised to a “Stages” potentiometer, and synchronisation has been achieved without any problem at all.
The sports watch has various options to choose from for viewing the power data, and the most recommended are “power 3s and power 10s”, depending on the sportsperson’s preference. For training using the potentiometer, you need to access the training option “cycling power”, if you don’t want to use this sensor, you can access it through “Basic cycling”.
Although a GPS cycle computer is always more comfortable for training on road bikes, it is also clear that the Suunto 9 would be a really good option for anyone who only wants to have GPS for various sports, as with the Suunto Bike Adaptor the watch can be mounted quickly and easily onto the handlebars and allow you to easily view your data at any time.
In the case of a triathlon, when you can’t change the watch from your wrist to the adaptor, a little trick is to turn your watch over onto the inside of your wrist, as when on a triathlon bike you can always see it without the need to constantly turn your hand over to see the data.
With the barometric altimeter you can find out exactly what altitude you are in at any time, as well as the altitude you have cycled and the exact altimetry up to the point that you want to reach.
When training in Andorra, one watch reading indicated an altitude of 2408 metres when we were taking our photo at the mountain pass sign, which also indicated... 2408 metres! Simply perfect.
Once the training is over, you can download your activity to the Suunto Movescount and analyse your data on heart rate, power, the training sections, etc. In this way, it is quite a complete application, although for my taste, it lacks the ability to divide power intervals and to create charts with these. Suunto have told us that the new App will improve this section.
Suunto 9 Baro’s strong point is the “Fusetrack” mode which you can use for your long-distance resistance training. The “Fusetrack” system has been designed to achieve the maximum possible battery autonomy by conditioning the GPS precision as little as possible. The main inconvenience of the battery saving setting in GPS watches is that, in order to do this, it slows down GPS connection time (more time between connections which often meant little precision during the activity). Through the combination of a movement sensor and the accelerometer on the actual watch, “Fusetrack” achieves great precision without compromising the battery. In summary, with this system, Suunto 9 Baro means that saving the battery and precision are not incompatible.
Furthermore, as has already happened within the Spartan family, with Suunto 9 Baro, you can programme your race running training on the watch according to the intervals that you want to make. Mark the time that you want to reach at each training interval and the watch will notify you at the end of an interval and the beginning of the next.
Other aspects to highlight:
Heart rate: With an optical sensor consisting of 4 sensors, it is the most precise wrist sensor on the market. Always keeping in mind that a wrist heart rate sensor continues to be quite imprecise when compared to a band, Suunto 9 Baro will provide extremely correct data. Some inaccuracies will appear, normally produced by perspiration or by not having the watch fully secured, but on average, it does not tend to fail.
Battery: With up to 50 hours in “performance” mode and 100 in “saving” mode, you won’t need to worry about forgetting the charger for your watch any more. This is, without a doubt, the strong point of the Suunto 9 Baro and what makes it the definitive long-distance watch.
Return mode: As already found in the “Spartan” family, with the Suunto 9 you can view the route you have taken through the “breadcrumbs” function. Furthermore, as with all GPS watches by Suunto, right from the “Ambit 3” family, you can also view the option to return along the quickest route as well as find out the estimated time of arrival (ETA).
Weather warnings: The barometric altimeter on the Suunto 9 Baro warns you when it detects an important change in atmospheric pressure. In this way you can avoid a good drenching, which is more great news for adventurers.
The Suunto 9 Baro is definitely the long-distance sporting watch. For its battery life, its “Fusetrack”, its return mode, etc. But it is also much more than this. It is a watch that allows you to always train at the level of precision you choose, ideal for data freaks (like myself).
In summary, this is an instrument that helps to improve training for sportspeople and, as a consequence, it is an instrument that helps to improve performance. As such, I would recommend the Suunto 9 Baro to any demanding athlete who wants to improve their sporting performance.
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Técnico de producto en Runnerinn. Apasionado del deporte. Triatleta del ViWo Sports Team. Graduado en CAFE y entrenador de triatlón. Actualmente enfocado a media y larga distancia, aunque acabo haciendo siempre un poco de todo.