Free 2-Day Shipping on Orders Over $50* – Limited Time Only
Brandon Riza

Brandon Riza

Cali and anywhere else...

Brandon Riza's Passions

Biking
Climbing

Brandon Riza's Bio

www.brandonriza.com

Brandon Riza

Brandon Rizawrote a review of on February 14, 2016

311 has grassroots, yall...
4 5

311 has grass roots, cmon!
(Obscure jamz reference...)

I took the Spark Music Plus Cardio GPS out on a trail run through Marin Headlanads in the Bay Area today. I'm loving the simplicity of this thing. It's really a "fire-and-forget" type of device, and while I won't use it in the same way that I use my Suunto Ambit 3 Peak (loading in tracks I drew on GoogleEarth, following those tracks in the mountains, comparing lat/longs from topos, tracking my ascent rates, etc...) I WILL use it extensively for training loops around town . The speed with which it grabs satellites is impressive when those satellite's positions are updated with the phone app everytime you sync it. I love the fact that I can load in tunes, but I still haven't figured out a way to CONTROL the tunes once I'm in an activity profile. (I can't seem to change songs, repeat songs, etc...)
I know it's not too fair to compare battery times to the Suunto Ambit 3, which, as I've testified to in other reviews, is just downright incredible enough to actually be useful for 36 hour pushes in the mountains, but the battery in the Spark Music Plus Cardio GPS leaves a little to be desired. It's not as bad as what I've read online that some people are complaining about...I guess people just like to complain. In my experience, once I charge it, it'll track my daily activities for about a week if i'm not grabbing satellites. When I'm using it to run daily I need to recharge it every three days or so, but i'm using the MP3 player the whole time I'm running. I find the battery life to be totally acceptable for what this watch is doing.

More later as I keep using it.

(0)

 

0 Comments

0 Comments

0 Comments

0 Comments

Brandon Riza

Brandon Rizaposted an image about on February 10, 2016

Sea to summit!

I shot this photo of the Tom Tom Spark Music GPS watch about 18 hours before shooting the one I just posted in my review. Why 18 hours? I had to sleep. Don't judge.

(I love California.)

Had I been thinking a little harder, i would have taken 64 more steps. Then it would have been the number in feet that i've seen on all my other various gadgetry more times than i can remember while standing on top of my favorite local crag. Because...I like that kind of stuff.

But, I was busy not thinking a littler harder.

I WAS AT THE BEACH, MAN!

Oh and also this turned out to be a nude beach and there was a dude to my left gettin a little...less burdened by woven textiles. It's hard to keep undesirable subjects out of fisheye frames...

(0)

 

0 Comments

Brandon Riza

Brandon Rizawrote a review of on February 10, 2016

Simple Is Sometimes Advantageous...
4 5

First of all, I'd like to thank Backcountry and TomTom for allowing me to test around with the Spark Music GPS watch. I'll post a bunch of photos and hopefully some useful reviews and comments about it as I become more familiar with it.

First, a little perspective; I'm coming from a Suunto background, (Vector, T6c, T6d, CORE, Ambit3 Peak). I also have a Garmin Fenix 2. I'm a climber first and foremost. I love to run, but I run to train to climb, i don't run to train to run, with the occasional half-ultra while pacing my wife. All of the watches listed above have so many features that a common complaint I hear is that they are TOO complicated. I'm a total nerd, as will become evident pretty quickly if you scroll through my other reviews. The more buttons and charts and knobs and dials I can tweak and turn the happier I am. When I first tried out the TomTom Spark Music GPS I was little concerned with the lack of some features I was used to. A few of the initial questions I asked silently to myself (maybe I yelled them out loud...I was rocking out to the MP3s I'd previously loaded onto it...) were:

Where's my lat/long coords? Where's my track breadcrumb trail? I can't see my elevation? Where's my meters/sec ascent speed? Why can't I drop a WP here real fast to remind me later on GE that this was a great spot to shoot a 360x180 18EV HDRi equirectangular (uhhhmm...).
And some others.

After a few days out with the watch I started to realize that it's not meant to service all those needs. The beauty of this watch is that it's fast and easy to use. I throw it on, hit "Up" once and "Right" three times and just go. (Up once starts the MP3 player, Right one time chooses the "Run" profile, Right twice accepts the "Run" profile, Right a third time starts the activity tracking after it finds a GPS fix...)

There's no need to use an HR belt. The watch shoots a laser through your skin in the exact same way that a pulse oximeter measures both HR and haemoglobin oxygen saturation (getting back into nerd territory).
Trust me. It doesn't hurt.

Speaking of that, I plan on running the exact same route with both the TomTom and the Suunto Ambit3 Peak and comparing my HR values.

Anyway, it's very easy to use. It's controlled by a little 4-way rocker below the face (i think that's where the GPS receiver is housed as well.) Getting around the various feature screens is really simple and intuitive once you get used to the rocker.

Once of my favorite screens is the one that appears in the photo I'll add to this review. It's basically a percentage chart that tells you how long you've spent in each HR zone. This is crucial info, as any serious athlete will know. I design my training sessions around HR zones because it's physiological shorthand for a much more complicated underpinning of concepts. What the little chart in this photo is telling me is that i've had a horrible training session. (To be fair, I wasn't training, I was just hanging out in ze mountainz...it was a great way to spend super bowl sunday.) The goal is to get a large percentage value in your target zone for your day's training plan. Most of the time, that zone is either One or Three. Two is to be avoided at all cost, (usually...) Four and Five are reserved for specific sessions in which you are stressing your anaerobic metabolic systems. I was bouncing all over the place here. (Which is exactly why I run to train for climbing).

While not readily obvious in this screen, the zones are clearly labeled in the previous screen, and when you slide over to this one, it's not confusing at all.
I'd like to be able rename the zones, though.

To see all your workouts, you need an account on TomTom's MySports web page. There's also an app for your phone. I've used both and I really like them. Very clean UIs and very streamlined displays of data. More on that in a later review.

The character counter says i'm out of














Just kidding. But seriously it says 9 now...

(1)

 

0 Comments

0 Comments

0 Comments

0 Comments

Brandon Riza

Brandon Rizawrote a review of on September 12, 2015

Man, these these things are SWEET!
5 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

I've been using them for about a week now, thanks to Backcountry and Outdoor Tech, who teamed up and graciously allowed me to use a pair so I could review them for the Backcountry.com community of like-minded dirtbags. Much appreciated!

I most likely would not have purchased a set, because I thought I liked my Bose headphones (well...I DO like them...)
My initial impressions are as follows:
They sound great. Bassier than my Bose AE2's, less "tinny" and more "full", despite the fact that the Bose AE2's are "over-ear" headphones and these are "on-ear" headphones. The Bluetooth pairing is super simple and has audible cues to let you know it's ready to pair, and when it IS paired. They fold up and stow in a little case (I'll post some photos). I've found them to be very comfortable while wearing them for long periods of time, and speaking of that, they seem to go for around 15-20ish hours (i haven't timed it yet) per charge. It takes about 3 hours to charge them to full capacity when they deplete all the way, which I've done twice now. The controls on the right ear piece are a little hard to get used to, but it only took me about a day to intuitively find them while wearing them. I dig the simple, no BS formfactor and I think they look super rad, so that's always a good thing. I haven't had a chance to test all the phone/voice stuff, but I will. Oh and one more thing...the writing style on the packaging is pretty damn hilarious. Kudos, writers.

More later!

(2)

 

0 Comments

Brandon Riza

Brandon Rizaposted an image about on September 4, 2015

Smoked on the Summit of Lone Pine Peak.

Got there 6 pitches after the sun went down.
We shivered in our bivies until moving sounded better than freezing, then used the route following capability of the Ambit 3 Peak to follow tracks I'd created in Google Earth to descend the back of the route and get back to the trail. Awesome watch. It's becoming an extension of my body.

(4)

 

0 Comments

Brandon Riza

Brandon Rizaposted a video about on September 4, 2015

Had an unexpected bivy on the summit of Lone Pine Peak in the California Sierra Nevada. You know that sense of dread that overtakes you when you realize you're going to have to climb 6 trad pitches in the dark by headlamp on terrain you've never been on? You know how that sense of dread turns into pure stoke after the first two pitches? Weird. Why is that? Anyway, I was wearing my Suunto Ambit 3 Peak the entire time and it recorded this. Pretty cool!
I'm still loving this watch.
On the way down we had to descend a chute, but there are multiple chutes, only one of which does not terminate in cliffs. Prior to heading up the mountain, I created tracks in Google Earth and loaded them into the watch so that I could follow them in the UNLIKELY event that we got...benighted.
I activated the route and followed it exactly. And it of course led us straight to the proper chute. Once down the chute, I activated my "ChuteBase2Trail" route and followed that meandering track that I had meticulously created to gain the least amount of elevation to get back to the trail. We followed it exactly, and arrived at the trail. The motto of the trip became "Always trust Google Earth". The Suunto Ambit is a very efficient tool that allows me to utilize GE in the BC. I love it.

(3)

 

0 Comments

0 Comments

0 Comments

Brandon Riza

Brandon Rizawrote a review of on June 25, 2015

4 5

Familiarity: I've used it several times

Thanks to Backcountry.com and Grayl for letting me test this piece of gear out for the backcountry.com community!

I posted a video below sort of showing how this filter works.
It's a hybrid of your typical field/trail filtration device and a french press. This is a novel concept with some drawbacks.
First the novelty...
The thing is cool. It looks cool, it's fun to use, it's hip, now and happening. You simply scoop up some water into the cup, then press the filtration cylinder down like you would when you're making your snobby morning coffee. (At least that's what my Starbuck's-swilling work associates call my single-source, free-trade, non-GMO just-roasted-yesterday-and ground-three-seconds-ago coffee bean habit...) Then you pop the top and chug. At this point it functions sort of like the expensive Bodum double-walled, insulated travel cup you pour your snobby morning coffee into. (and when I say "you" i mean "i"). You can lock it off so it won't spill (as much).
All of this is very fun, and i could see myself using it in some select situations, such as, i don't know...maybe a trek from Lukla to EBC. If it wasn't so heavy...
That's the drawback.
For trekking, hiking, climbing, etc...it's just too heavy to find its way into my pack or packs.
I should preface that statement by also stating that in the 10 years I've been hiking and climbing throughout the Sierra Nevada, Cascades, Andes, Tetons, Wasatch, Alps and Alaska Range, I've filtered water few enough times to count them on one hand that has lost the majority of its appendages to frostbite. (Not my hand, of course...)
The vast majority of the time in the Sierra, which are my local stomping grounds, I simply don't filter. Alpine water at or above the treeline has proven to be free of pathogens. Using myself as a test subject, I've never once been sick and i've consumed many hundreds of liters of unfiltered Sierra alpine water. Lower down, (4k to 9k or so), I'll either boil or use iodine. But those times are rare. If was going to be out for extended periods of time under 10K feet in the Sierra, traveling through areas infested with tons of people (Yosemite) or cattle (lots of places lower down where there is actually grass to graze on) I'd consider carrying a proper filter, as iodine just starts to taste gnarly after a few days and boiling gets burdensome. But in that situation, I wouldn't take the Grayl filter, i'd probably use a much smaller and lighter tool for that job.

All in all, I like this filter, but it just doesn't fit in with my particular mode of operation.

Will I use it in the mountains?
No.
Will I use it while traveling to areas with suspect water where weight and space are not at the top of the list of concerns?
Maybe. Probably.

(2)

 

0 Comments

Brandon Riza

Brandon Rizaposted a video about on June 17, 2015

Gross...

Thanks to Grayl and Backcountry.com for letting me try this little contraption out! Hopefully a vid and a few photos will be beneficial to any of you out there curious about it.

Basically, it's a French Press, but instead of coffee, it brews up gunk-n-junk free water. Which is cool. It's very easy to use. If you can push down on stuff, you can use it! It's as simple as that. It's sort of a "one-hitter", in that it filters the water directly into a .6L cup, directly for drinking. At 480 grams, it's but heavy to carry way up into the mountains, but i don't filter water when I'm way up in the mountains, anyway. (Seriously, haven't done so in a decade...) I'd definitely consider taking this thing along as a travel item if I was headed to a suspect area, though. Overall, a pretty cool device.

(2)

 

0 Comments

0 Comments

Brandon Riza

Brandon Rizaposted an image about on May 11, 2015

Inches of mercury?! Where's my club?...

Here's a shot of the Ambit3 Peak displaying atmospheric pressure in inches of mercury at 10k feet. I just now realized that you can mix and match system units on this watch, which is awesome! We all know that the kilopascal is the proper SI unit of atmospheric pressure and that "inches of mercury" is a throw back from caveman times that for some reason the United States of America is still using. Because the Pascal scale is metric, you just move a decimal, and barometers use hectopascals. Average Sea Level Pressure is 101.325 kPa, which barometers display as 1013.25 hPa (kilopascals vs. hectopascals...)

So, what I'm getting at, obviously, is that I've now set my Ambit3 peak to display barometric pressure in the globally-recognized and mathematically sound SI unit system of kPa (well, hPa...) which means I can sleep at night, again. (in my bed, not in my cave...)

If you're wondering why I still have it set to "feet" instead of "meters"...
I KNOW!! Thanks! I'm still trying to switch over.
Somebody who's smarter than me should write a Suunto app for this watch that displays elevations, distances and speeds in both imperical and metric units...would be a great learning tool.
However, as I mentioned earlier, you can cross-pollinate unit systems on the watch, so i'm showing feet and MPH (Imperial units of elevation and speed, respectively) while at the same time showing hPa. (metric unit of pressure)

So...why do barometers use hectopascals instead of kilopascals, you ask? Good question, and that's where the total hack that is the "millibar" comes into the story. Millibars are simply ridiculous! Hectopascals are a capitulation to stubborn early 20th century British meteorologists who invented the millibar out of thin air (pardon the pun) to be exactly analogous to the Pascal.

For some reason... :|

1 bar is exactly the same as 100,000 pascals.
So 1 millibar is exactly the same as 1 hectopascal.
Or rather, 1 hectopascal is exactly the same as 1 millibar...

Everything you never wanted to know about atmospheric pressure measurement.

Don't even get me started on PSI.
C'mon...

(4)