April 10, 2014 at 7:30
Posted by Rachael Woolston
Multi-sport activities are fast raising in popularity, bringing with them the launch of training watches which you can use across multi-sport events. Here, we review the TomTom for those who love to swim, bike and run…
I’m a diehard fan of the Garmin Forerunner 405, which I reviewed some years ago on Sportsister and have used ever since. But having run four marathons in 2013, I decided to switch to cross training events to give my body a rest in 2014 and was keen to try out the TomTom multi-sport to track my workouts and progress.
First observations? The TomTom Multi-Sport, is slimmer than many training watches, including my Garmin. Thumbs up. But, how does it perform and, is it simple to use?
Set up and use
Forget trying to glean information from the brief instruction manual. Instead, you need to plug the watch into your computer and download TomTom MySports (more on this later) where you will find easy to follow, short videos explaining the why’s and hows of using this watch.
Top marks. That said, I only noticed these videos some weeks in and so I ended up learning a lot through trial and error the brilliant DC Rainmaker.
So, what of the errrors? The first run I tested the TomTom at was at a Brooks media event, which included a 2.5miles mini adventure race. Except, at the end the watch had recorded 5miles.
I only found out the reason for the discrepancy when sitting next to the senior writer from Runner’s World at lunch. The TomTom Multisport has a demo mode, during which it does not record distance correctly and it needs to be switched off first in settings. He had made the same mistake.
The manufacturers have now made the watch buzz to alert you when it is in this mode, but why not just remove it?
Other than this, accessing areas of training and inputing information is simple. Touch right, left, up and down on a control pad below the watch face and you access different modes, types of training, time, alarms and stopwatch.
Choose between goals (broken into distance, time, or calories) intervals (handy as a virtual pace partner), laps, zones (setting a pace or heart rate zone, although this only works if you have a compatible heart rate monitor), race or none of the above.
Once you’ve decided, wait for the watch to find the GPS signal and when it says Go, click right on the control pad to start.
But how quick is the watch to find the GPS signal? The TomTom Multi-Sport is meant to be plugged into your computer to recharge and download training data. At the same time, it uploads the latest satellite locations so it is quicker to find GPS when you train.
It is called Quick GPS, an unfortunate term as it raises expectations that the watch will find a signal as soon as you switch to training mode. It doesn’t BUT it is faster than my Garmin Forerunner by a few seconds. If you are racing though, have the Go screen ready to go before you stand on that start line.
As for the display, you can choose what you wish to see on the watch face at the top right and left corners of the display. On the bottom part, you can switch between displays by clicking up and down on the control pad for a clear, very easy to read display.
Things I didn’t like? There is no autopause so if you are out training with a group, you have to manually press and hold the control to pause training. Which makes it very easy to forget to turn it back on again as I did a number of times.
What I did like was the pace zone, which you can set within a plus and minus of a certain number of seconds. Great for me as I’m recovering from injury and atttempting to keep under 7.45min miles but I don’t want to run with it beeping at me if I go over.
That said, the goal zones shows a percentage chart. I definitely don’t need to know that I’ve only run 2% of a marathon when I start off. DC Rainmaker makes a great point; why not make this specific to a year’s goal, such as running so many miles over a certain period of time?
Exactly the same set up as the running mode, although with different options in training; clock, duration, distance, pace, average pace, speed, average speed, cadence (which only works with a compatible cadence sensor), calories and heart rate.
It also comes with a bike mount which is simple to attach to your bike handlebar. It worked brilliantly for most of the riding I did except for one ride where it recorded that I had cycled 10miles when the distance was just 4.87miles.
This was confusing and the only explanation I can come up with, is that I was riding underneath a cliff which may have affected the GPS. It remains an area of doubt which I will be testing further.
Having decided to do some more triathlons this year, having a watch that you can wear in the pool is brilliant. You first have to choose the pool size as it relies on an accleratometer, (an inbuilt motion sensor) to judge distance and pace as the GPS won’t work indoors.
Frustratingly, it has a yards or metres option but finding out how to swtich between the two is frustrating. I finally had to resort to emailing the PR. The solution? Switch between miles/pounds and km/kg in the set up options. Perhaps I’m missing something obvious, but that does not make sense to me.
In the rest of the training options, choose between clock, duration, distance, length, SWOLF, strokes and calories.
It makes training in the pool more focused because you can set yourself targets, and it keeps track of lengths.
It was accurate but the experience was marred by the fact that the watch strap kept coming loose. It meant that it dragged in the water and I had to stop twice on one training session to adjust.
This is possibly just an issue with this strap and as it is possible to purchase different straps and colours (the watch face pops out of the strap), I’ll be interested to see if the problem persists.
I never run on treadmills or inside, so I have not tested this aspect of the watch. But if the accuracy of the other modes is anything to go by, this should presumably function well.
The Tech bit
See the results of your hard work when you plug the watch into your PC or Mac, where it will upload to the TomTom MySports Connector, powered by MapMyFitness. It’s neat as it shows you the route you’ve run or cycled, distance, calories burned, pace and heart rate if you wear one. Best of all, you can export the files and upload to platforms including RunKeeper, TrainingPeaks.com, Strava, Garmin, Connect and others.
They have also recently introduced mobile apps so the watch can automatically upload your workouts via Bluetooth smart technology.
Infact, every time you plug your watch into the computer to charge, bugs are fixed and TomTom may update functions, such as adding a stopwatch from when I first received the watch.
As for battery time, the TomTom MultiSport is meant to work for 10hours after a one hour charge. I need to test this further as there were a few times on adventure races where it ran out of power beforehand.
There are some hiccups, such as the watch strap issue, lack of autopause when running or cycling and my slight concern over one of my rides being recorded incorrectly. But this is a great watch for multi-sport enthusiasts, without being too overly techie and at a good entry level price.
My Garmin Forerunner still wins the battle when it comes to purely running but the more I use this, the more it grows on me. And it is invaluable for cycle and swim training.
Marks: Almost 4*
The TomTom Multi-sport costs £179.99 www.tomtom.comTweet