Monday, May 19, 2014

Bia sport watch review

UPDATE 3/20/2015: It is with a heavy heart that I have to say that Bia is "ceasing its operations." As of April 3, we can no longer use the Bia as it exists now. If all you want is a GPS distance/time tracker, you're fine. But if you want mile splits, elevation, SOS and all of things we've come to love about Bia, you'll have to get a different watch. 

Watch, Go Stick, charger & cool packaging
I've been meaning to post a review of my Bia for a while but I thought it would be a good idea to wait until after Ragnar and see how it performed then. Before I get to the review, a little history:

I buy almost everything after reading tons of reviews and getting input and doing research. 80% of the internet research I do is product reviews. I bought my first sports watch, the Garmin Forerunner 305 based on reviews of friends. 

Over a year ago I heard about a kickstarter campaign for a new sports watch and I was intrigued. The watch would have a really cool piece that no others have had-- an SOS alert or "panic button." For a paranoid runner like me who often runs alone down country roads and thinks every white unmarked van is going to kidnap me, this panic button idea was awesome. I checked out the kickstarter and a bunch of other people must have thought it was awesome too because they were fully funded pretty quickly. I didn't add my 2 cents because I didn't really have it to add. 

A little while later I heard they were looking for product testers and in a rare move I actually applied. I didn't get picked, but I was given the opportunity to buy the watch at a cheaper price than what the retail price would be. I decided I believed in the watch so much and the company behind it, that I would go ahead and buy it without reviews, without the product even completed! It was a total leap of faith for me. It took a bit longer than we all thought to get the watch ready, but Bia was very honest and forthcoming and communicated everything to us early adopters. 

The watch is shipped in a cool cylinder with a little drawstring bag to keep it safe. There are two components-- the watch that you wear on your wrist and the Go Stick that you clip anywhere. It should be on the same side of your body as the watch so it can communicate better. The Go Stick is what communicates with the GPS and has a "cell phone" chip in it which enables it to: immediately upload your run as soon as you hit stop & send the SOS text message alert. I haven't had the Go Stick fall off me yet and it picks up the satellite about 3 days faster than my Garmin. The Go Stick is the only thing that needs to be charged. There's a USB cable included that you can hook up to your computer or a wall outlet or a portable charger in a van down by the river. Right now the battery last roughly 6 hours, but they are rolling out an update this week with a 17 hour battery life! I'm not sure how long the battery lasts on stand by. 

The watch fits nicely and is shaped so differently than any other watch I've worn. I've had no problems with the fit. Once I think some of the velcro strap attached itself to something I was wearing and the watch was yanked a bit, but once I realigned the velcro better it didn't happen again. 

There's one button and only one button on the watch. It's large and easy to press. You can choose between run, swim or bike. There are some options listed that aren't available yet. But because of the handy dandy cell phone chip, this watch updates itself! You don't have to go run out and buy a new one when they add a new feature. Already since I got it I have had it update to include mile splits. Unless they change a hardware feature, there shouldn't be a reason to need a new watch for a while. Which is AWESOME. The directions on the watch are pretty straightforward and easy to follow. When your run is done it also gives you a little compliment ("Badassery") or motivation ("Just one more?") or instructions ("Breathe," "Go Shower"). 

The one button is on the left.
I used my Bia during the Ragnar and had no problems. I brought a portable charger with me just in case and charged it but I don't think I really needed to. I was concerned about my night time run because there's no backlight on the watch, but if it's dark enough for me to need a backlight I probably have my headlamp on, which was the case at Ragnar and I had no problem seeing the watch with the headlamp. Once I got in the car and there was no light I couldn't see the screen but I didn't really need to. It was so convenient having my runs automatically uploaded when I was sitting in the van. I brought my Garmin as a backup but never used it.

I love the look of the watch, I love the feel, I love the SOS (it sends a text message to phone numbers you input. In a later update it will also notify emergency services. The text includes a map of your location!). I love the instant uploading. I use Running Ahead as my log so I still have to input it there, but I can download the raw data and upload it there if I don't want to do it manually. Right now it will automatically send info to its own Bia site, Strava, and Map My Run. I love so many things about this watch and I am so glad I took the risk and pre-ordered it.

There are some things I would improve (and some of these may be addressed in future updates):

1. It's impossible to see the lights on the Go Stick when you're in sunlight. I wasn't sure if it was awake the first time and had to go in the garage to check. Minor quibble.
2. The only way to know if it needs to be charged is to start a run. While you're running you can see a battery indicator, but I would like to be able to look at it (either the watch or the Go Stick) the night before and know whether or not I should plug it in.
3. There's no auto-pause (yet) so when I stop and pee I have to manually press the button. You then have the option to continue your run or stop it and save. But if you get distracted and don't save your run right away the only option is to continue. Hopefully auto-pause will fix that.
4. It would be nice to hear a louder beep at each mile. If there's any sound I haven't heard it yet.

It seems to be pretty accurate with the mileage and pace. I used it at the same time as my Garmin and the only difference was because of the auto-pause of the Garmin. It doesn't have as many bells and whistles as the Garmin does--right now it doesn't do intervals. But they are adding features as we speak. They are very responsive to feedback, whether it be through email, Facebook or twitter, and they take customer suggestions very seriously. The company was created by women and run by women and that's an added bonus. You get the sense that they really want to offer a great product and they are willing to take the time to make it right. The bottom line really seems to be customer satisfaction and not just money.

I'm holding on to my Garmin for now but my kids are using it more than me. But I don't see myself giving up the Bia any time in the foreseeable future.

**If you want to buy one, you can here:
edited to include link on 5/22

I bought the Bia with my own money (okay, birthday money) and was not compensated in any way for this review. This is my honest, unsolicited review.


Tina said...

Hi there! I am interested in hearing if you still like and use your Bia. I am a new runner and as a reward for sticking with it for the last 3 months, I want to buy myself a watch (and stop using my hubby's huge and ancient hand-me-down FR60). Any info you could share would be appreciated!

GoddessLibrarian said...

I do! I call it my Beloved Bia! I'm not using it that much because I am living in a frozen circle of hell, but any chance I get to run outside, I always have my Bia. They're constantly working on improvements to it. I still highly recommend it.

Congrats on sticking with it for 3 months! That's great!

Tina said...

You must be East coast. Man the winter this year is awful for that part of the country. I only complained a little when we got a few inches of snow today here in Montana because I know how much worse it could be!

That's awesome that you still love it! I have a foot pod and HR monitor so I am looking for something I can pair with them to be able to use them anywhere. Haven't read much about folks using it with either, but then again, there isn't a ton of info out there really for this watch. Thanks for the quick response!

GoddessLibrarian said...

You should be able to pair your HR. Is the foot pod for inside? I know that indoor tracking is on their list of improvements. They are very responsive on facebook/Twitter if you want to ask them about specific compatibility.

Tina said...

Thanks! Of to stalk them on FB.