Cycling with the Suunto 9

For many multisport enthusiasts, a smartwatch is an essential item in their collection of gear, crucial for tracking their performance over different activities. Just like any other goal-oriented individual in the sporting world or otherwise, an athlete is only as good as their last record or personal best. And being able to track how well your training is progressing is key to improving, in the constant quest to continue pushing your bodily limits.

Enter the Suunto 9, the smartwatch of choice for many triathletes, many of whom have switched over from rival brands that will not be mentioned here. You may recall that in our last review, we put together a special Cycling Plus Malaysia team to test the watches at the recent KL Duathlon 2018. The team was made up of triathletes including those who have traditionally used Suunto watches, and who were left frustrated by the latest model, which is infinitely better than their existing devices. The upgrade to the company’s latest offering was definitely not something they could resist. But what if you’re a single sport kind of person? What if you’re someone who won’t spend all day doing a swim, bike, run event?

To get the perspective of those who are pure cyclists at heart with no interest in anything else, we knew Suunto needed to run a slightly different test with the completely pedal powered. To do this, we contacted the Ampang Cycling Team to arrange for them to run a similar test. For those unfamiliar with the outfit, the ACT is a group of cyclists that came about out of the need to create a safe environment for rides in their homeground of Ampang. Only six of their riders are cyclists at the elite level, while the remaining 36 are normal social riders.

But make no mistake, this team is still very much performance oriented on even their fun social rides, and “santai” doesn’t appear to be a speed they adhere to much.

They’ve got at least 5 main sponsors (the ones we can count anyway), and are regularly seen on the podium for the major local events on the cycling calendar.

They’re obviously very well known in the local cyclist community, with their striking black and white kits. In short, they were the perfect team to test the Suunto 9 watches, from a cyclist’s perspective.

For the handover and initial test, we met up with the team at their favourite cycling haunt, none other than Hulu Langat.

It was a weekend after all, and most riders will head there for the long winding roads and irresistible climbs.

For the day, the ACT opted to do a quick run up to the top of Genting Peras, zipping up to the peak before whizzing down the winding road for breakfast. After the initial tests and some snapshots of the group, we sent the riders home with the watches to do a more comprehensive test on their longer rides.

After a few weeks, the results came in. First and foremost was from ACT founder, Desmond Foong. “It can’t compare to cycling computers, but it’s more than sufficient to record the rides I’ve done,” he says. Desmond goes on to admit that he can see why the watch is a favourite with multi sports enthusiasts like the triathletes of the Ironman crowd. However, it was quite obvious that even without other sports in the fray, the Suunto 9 complemented cycling perfectly.

At the top of the list of what the ACT riders liked about the watches, was the superior battery power, the main standout feature cited by anyone and everyone that uses it. “The battery life is just amazing,” enthuses Jerry Low. “I can record a few rides and keep using it for more than a week before I need to do the next charge.”

That’s a pretty tall claim, considering how long the ACT’s rides can stretch. Case in point would be the Broga Loop gran fondo, which the ACT did for fun, to take visiting cyclists out for the weekend

This sentiment was echoed by Hui Shia, who used another brand as basis for comparison. “I don’t need to charge it as frequent as another sports watch that I used previously,” she says, adding that the Suunto 9 is not too utilitarian, and doesn’t look like a pure fitness gadget. “It also looks good, even if you’re wearing it when you’re not doing sports.”

Seow Jong meanwhile gave the thumbs up to the watch’s functionality. “The interface is easy to use, just choose the sports you are doing and go!”

But perhaps the most important feature of the watch is one factor that highly strung athletes often tend to overlook - tracking their rest. “Surprisingly this watch can monitor your sleep,” explains Yim Wai Soon. “It tells you how good the quality of your sleep is. I would definitely recommend this watch to all sportsmen, because recovery is the key to performing better.”

With all that’s said and done, it’s quite clear that while the Suunto 9 is a favourite for triathletes and multi-sports enthusiasts, it’s also great for those who only participate in one activity only - in this case cycling. After all, those who live an active lifestyle in general are more than likely to pick up another sport along the line.

And for these people who live for the constant endorphin or adrenaline rush, the Suunto 9 is the perfect training partner.