Gear Review: Wahoo Fitness Blue SC

IMG_1092Happy 2014 to you all!  It’s been some time since I’ve written – and the truth of the matter is that I’ve been busy with work AND I’ve been a bit lazy about going on my bike.  Cold weather made me wimp out on most rides outside – and – sheer laziness kept me off the bike inside.

I was also having problems with the CatEye Cycling Computer I use for my bike when it’s in its trainer.  It was no longer recording distance and other date – so, maybe, I can blame my laziness on the fact that I wasn’t able to measure any good data.  And – with nothing to tell me how far or hard I rode – I had nothing to look forward to (OH – and the internal battery of my Garmin external computer also seems to be failing with no real easy way to replace it).

So, with some of my Christmas money, I decided to treat myself to a new cycling computer.  I thought I’d look for something I could use inside or out.  After reading about the Wahoo Blue SC, I decided it just might be a good fit.

Since I always keep my iPhone on me, I really didn’t need a separate computer display – and the Blue SC says it works with one’s iPhone.  Now, I typically keep my iPhone in my jersey pocket (on my back) – so I wouldn’t be able to see it easily (which is sort-of key to the whole cycling computer thing).  As a result, I also sprung for the Quadlock bike mount (which will be the subject of its own review in the future).  The two items (Blue SC and Quadlock) ran me a little over $100 on Amazon.

I was so excited to hear that my package arrived (thanks Amazon for doing the push feature on the phone to tell me the package was delivered)!  As I arrived home – with that “new gear adrenaline” flowing – I figured I’d better set it up!

The Unboxing

I was very tempted to do one of those nerdy “unboxing” videos that the cellphone reviewers often do (ok – so I’m a nerd because I actually watch those videos when looking at new gadgets), but I thought a written review was probably just as good.  Besides, it’s hard to film with one hand and open with the other.

The package was compact and tidy – with no real wasted packaging.  All I needed to do was to slide it open to reveal the Blue SC.  My son would be happy to know that I was sure I heard the Zelda Open-the-Treasure song as I slid it open.  Beaming, I pulled out the sensor and the bag of accessory items/zip-ties/etc.

The Installation

I reached for the instructions.  Out of the two pieces of paper that were in the box, neither had instructions.  Instead, they directed me to the online instruction page – which is ok, but seemed to me to be a bit silly.  I mean – if you’re going to include papers in the box anyway – you might as well put the simple instructions on them.

That being said, the instructions were pretty simple.  So, in the long run, the referral to the website wasn’t a huge deal.  Glad I had an iPad with me – since my computer was on a different floor from my bike.  I had actually printed out the instructions – but – there’s a video that shows the installation on that page.

The female on the video shows how easy it is to install the sensor on your bike.  I think that she may have pre-stretched the magnet for the pedal arm, because she simply pushed the magnet on with ease.  I struggled a good bit and even used my pedal wrench to help slide it over the end.  Of course, I sit at a desk for the day and have no upper body/arm strength – so it might just be that I’m a wimp….

Other than that, a few simple pulls of the zip tie and pairing the sensor’s Bluetooth to my phone, and I was done.  It was a bit confusing to tell which “groove” to use to line up the magnet on both the pedal and the spoke – but, with a little searching, I was able to determine the correct groove on both the main part of the unit and the swingarm.  I downloaded the Wahoo Fitness app and paired it to my phone in seconds.

One thing that threw me a bit for a loop is that the blue light on the sensor came on right away as I pushed the pedals around to test connection.  Then, the blue light went out.  I fretted that I was not getting any connection (since that’s the problem I was having with my CatEye).  As it turns out, I think the blue light only blinked until connection was established with the phone.  Then, the light didn’t necessarily blink.

The First Ride

I jumped on the bike and decided to give the sensor a try.  Again, using the Wahoo Fitness App, I started to pedal away.  The App itself is pretty simple and an easy-to-read bike computer screen pops up.

Immediately, the computer/iPhone picked up the speed – and it seemed pretty accurate to my usual speed on my 1UpUSA Trainer for the Spinervals Virtual Ride 1.0 DVD I popped in (if you must know, it’s between 17-19 mph).  So far, so good!

Then, I looked at the cadence meter.  It jumped back and forth between 90 rpm to 14 rpm.  It continued to do this – and I have to say I was terribly annoyed.   I was certain I followed the instructions.  I’m not the smoothest cadence rider (those 1-leg cadence drills from Coach Troy tells me that) – but – there was no way my cadence varied that much so consistently!

I got off the bike a few times and continued to fiddle with the sensor.  Truth be told, I didn’t loosen the swingarm to make any adjustments (you know us men – we hate to be told how to do something).  I was certain everything was close enough.  After trying a few times, I finally broke down and adjusted the swingarm (well – actually adjusted the main sensor by loosening the swingarm to adjust both).

That did the trick!  It turns out the warning in the video about making sure the magnet is close enough to the sensor was correct!  Funny how that goes, huh?  The rest of the hour-long ride showed a consistent cadence (well, consistent for me…).

The Wahoo Fitness App

The Wahoo Fitness App itself isn’t a bad app at all!  It allows you to add your music playlist – though I don’t think I can use my Bluetooth headset at the same time as the Bluetooth sensor is working.  I only listen to music when I’m on the trainer inside – to videos that have either no music or that terrible canned music (unlike the fantastic music that is on most Sufferfest videos!).  I don’t really want to wear headphones with a cord – so I guess I’ll try listening to music through the speaker while watching.  If anyone knows if it’s possible to listen to Bluetooth while using the sensor, let me know!

The app has 3 main screens:

  1. The cycling computer screen showing Cadence, Heart Rate, Speed, Workout time and distance
  2. The “Tunes” page with on-screen controls
  3. Lap information

By playing around with the app after the ride, you can add other screens in (like GPS map, etc.).   That’s a pretty neat feature!

One of the other accessories you can get through Wahoo Fitness is their heart monitor.  I didn’t buy one, so the upper right screen of the display shows no information for heart monitoring (tempting me to buy one so all data can be provided).

I’m not data-hungry enough to watch heart monitoring (though I probably should in my about-the-same-age-+/- than Jens Voigt condition), so I’d like to be able to change that screen to eliminate that section.  Instead, I’d like it to show average speed (or other information of my choosing).  So far, I haven’t found a way to do that.  But I’ll keep fiddling around with it.

The app worked like a charm, though.  It keeps track of total miles ridden, etc.  It also gives you several types of workouts to track – including “Indoor Bike” – so there are several options that suit about every situation.  Easy to use and easy to read!

Now, MapMyRide has been – and will continue to be – my “Go To” app for tracking my cycling when I’m on the road.  I just like that app – probably because I’m used to it.  MapMyRide does fall short, though, in NOT offering an “Indoor Bike” feature like Wahoo Fitness.  It’s strange, because MapMyRide has a setting for “Treadmill.”

Speaking of MapMyRide, one of the features of the Blue SC is the ability to connect to one’s favorite apps.  So, I tried to pair the sensor with MapMyRide.  I’m not sure if I did it right (since I didn’t use MapMyRide with the lack of “Indoor Bike/Trainer” selection).

I definitely paired MapMyRide with something – but – it didn’t say “Blue SC” like it did in the Wahoo app.  Instead, it said it paired with some device with a very long number.  A few revolutions of the pedals, and it seemed to be picking up speed and cadence – so, again, I think I paired correctly.

At one point, I got an error message.   The error said something about pairing a second device.  So, I’m still not sure.  Perhaps I need to un-pair the sensor with the Wahoo app before trying to pair with MapMyRide.  When it’s warm enough for me to brave the outside again with my road bike, I’ll know for sure.

Final Determination

I can say that I’m very happy with my initial ride and use of the Blue SC sensor!  The Wahoo Fitness app is a very capable and useful app on my iPhone 6.  The readout was easy to see/read – but I’d still like to put some of my own customization to the screen (e.g. adding the average speed).

The installation was easy, too – once I took my male ego out of the equation!

Pairing with other apps (MapMyRide) is still a little unclear, but that’ll take care of itself with more use.

Even though Wahoo Fitness does offer a bike mount kit for one’s phone, I still opted to go with the Quadlock system.  Watch for a review of that in the future.

Ride on!

 

 

 

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