My grandfather wore the same watch for most of his life. One he had purchased at a gas station for seven sweat-earned dollars from his job at the local lumber mill. That watch was made before planned-obsolescence replaced quality craft. Like some mountain bike frames, watches are an item that occasionally still bear the “made to last” label today. Though it may not outlast grandpa’s pit-stop watch, the iD.FREE multisport smart tracker from Sigma seems to fit under the durability label appropriately.
The iD.FREE wrist computer is designed to track activity during mountain bike rides, hikes, swimming, running, and indoor fitness workouts. We’ll focus on its pedaling features herein since that’s what we love most. It also tracks steps throughout the day so you know how many tacos you burned before cooking dinner.
Set up and programing
Dialing the iD.FREE to your specific uses and needs is a cinch. Simply pair it with the Sigma Link app on your phone, and go through the setup steps. You can determine heart rate and power zones for training, and connect it to a power meter and cadence sensor if you like. Of course, you can also connect the watch to your phone and receive notices when someone calls or texts, or turn the notifications off for “do not disturb” rides.
The watch has six different display pages that can be customized to show heart rate, cadence, power, day time, ride time, lap time, navigation directions, temperature, altitude, swimming strokes, and loads of other data.
If you’re not keen to stare at a screen, the iD.FREE has a brightly lit “smart light” that will glow different colors depending on what indications it’s programmed to convey. Riders can set the light to flash when they receive a message, drop into or out of a training zone, or need to make a turn soon.
Another key setup element is the iD.FREE crash alert. If the watch detects a fall it will allow 30 seconds for you tell it you’re okay before sending an SMS to any emergency contacts that you’ve entered. It will then display the health and medication information that you typed in upon setup, and your precise current GPS location.
Once the device is paired with your phone and set up properly you can strap it to your wrist or wrap it around your handlebar with the included mount.
We recently shared some news on new multi-day features from the German-based route planning company Komoot, and iD.FREE owners can pair their watch with the Komoot app to download any routes they create. With the ride file loaded, the watch will display turn by turn instructions out on the trail. It will also show the distance between intersections, and turns can be indicated by the smart light so you don’t have to try and read the screen while ambling down rough trails.
The watch accepts several different file types for mapping routes, and users can mark points of interest along the route to easily remember where to stop for lunch or where the waterfall they want to photograph is located.
Weighing in at a scant 42 grams, the iD.FREE is roughly the same size and shape of an Apple watch. This must be an industry goal weight, as the Garmin Forerunner 235 that I reviewed last year also weighs 42g. The soft band material feels comfortable against the skin, even when it’s strapped down tightly to keep from sliding with your sweat. There are no clunky knobs or buttons to dig into your skin, and it’s decidedly more comfortable than some heavier wrist computers.
The user interface is as simple and intuitive as any quality multi-sport computer, provided you have everything set up properly. The upper left button stops activity and rolls the watch backward through functions, while the top right starts them and advances functions while also marking laps. The bottom two buttons scroll through pages and options. That’s it. Not much to fuss with or mess up.
From weekday lunch spins to backcountry romps, I occasionally enjoy recording and analyzing my rides. The Sigma iD.FREE does a superb job of recording location, speed, and altitude, even when the GPS signal is low. Recording data is the unit’s chief function, and it performs exceptionally. All of that info can be analyzed and crunched in a number of ways on the Sigma cellphone app or via the downloadable Sigma Data Center on a full-size computer. If you already have data analysis and storage software that you would prefer to use you can download the files with the included USB charging clip.
I primarily use the iD.FREE heart rate monitor to track my BPM while slogging through intervals on the rollers or gasping up the hill near my house. After comparing it to other heart rate devices I have, it seems to stack up right alongside the best wrist-based options. While it is plenty accurate for my needs, folks who want laser precision from their monitor can pair it with a chest strap of their choosing.
In addition to route tracking and heart rate, the watch has a cool barometric pressure measuring device that allows it to calculate altitude and ambient temperature. While it’s not needle-point accurate, It can be helpful to have a good idea of how high up you are and how quickly temps are rising or falling. I find myself checking these figures more and more, particularly in the middle of ascents lasting longer than an hour.
The GPS system in the iD.FREE has worked very well, even in areas with a low signal, though it does take a while to find the signal at the beginning of a ride. If I tell it to start recording a ride when I leave my door it can take a few blocks, and sometimes as long a minute to locate the signal and begin recording. I didn’t find this a significant issue since I am not interested in 100% accurate ride records, but it is an area where the watch can be improved.
In addition to the features outlined above this watch offers geo-caching games, personal record notifications, sprint challenges, and recovery suggestions, along with several other cool uses.
Overall the iD.FREE is a sweet device for recording rides and training hard, and given its broad range of functions and tough build, it’s well worth the asking price. The iD.FREE multi-sport watch is available in four interchangeable band colors, retailing for around €130 depending where you purchase it.