Gadget Guru: can fitness trackers really get you fit?

This time Gadget Guru answers the following key questions: Can fitness trackers get you fitter? How exactly do I become a MAMIL? Can I test my blood pressure with tech? Do stylish fitness trackers really exist? Know any good kit for the lazy cyclist?

Q: Be honest GaGu, can fitness trackers really get you fitter?

A: During his time in the SAS, GaGu was a paragon of fi tness. However, in recent years, a crippling addiction to Mars Ices has led to him losing a bit of defi nition and turning to fi tness trackers. In fact, he’s tried just about every one there is. So, do they work? OK, statistics seem to prove that fi tness-band users take more steps when they fi rst start using their tracker of choice, but beyond that things get a bit sketchy. That’s ‘cos all they really want to do is track steps, and that’s not the be all and end all of fi tness.

With brands like Withings and Fitbit, you can tie in their body-monitor scales so that you’re also tracking your weight through their respective apps. And with many trackers, you can also put in what you’re eating, so that you can count your calories as you go. Thing is, GaGu is aware that writing down the number of Mars Ices he was eating didn’t change his behaviour on its own. He had to fi ght cravings for chocolate-smothered, malty ice-cream dripping with caramel… Mmmmm

Fitness tracker + motivation = you’ll probably get fitter. Strapping on a fitness tracker alone? Not so much. So, which trackers would GaGu recommend? The Jawbone Up3 (£110/$144) is reliable, has a good app, and is so slim you can wear it and a watch on the same wrist. Fitbit’s Charge HR (from £69/$149) is eccentric and inaccurate in some ways, but smart and motivating.

And Withings’ Activité Pop (£120/$149) is nice-looking and has a step counter. However, the key way to make these work is to take on friends, sharing your fi tness exploits over social media. The problem with that is that, apart from the Nike+ FuelBand, none of these things has ever tried to enable you to compare all of your fi tness activities. So if you cycle or row or workout, although many of these bands will grudgingly note this activity, most of them will only let you compare the steps you took in between.

Q: I want to be a MAMIL. What expensive and mad-looking bike kit do you recommend?

A: Listen, Guru isn’t one for donning man-made fi bres and shoes that make you sound like a horse when not clipped into your bike. GaGu prefers to cycle as nature intended: in a pair of white shorts and a Frankie Says Relax T-shirt from 1983. While smoking a fag. However, he has respect for those who wish to all but meld with their £4,000 bike, while looking like an explosion in a paint factory. For these men, technical bragging rights are of the utmost importance. First off, GaGu heartily recommends the Endura FS260-Pro SL Bibshorts. Endura’s gear is all good, as it happens, but this sporty black and white unitard is quite spectacular… if you have the, ahem, balls to wear it. To acquire one, Guru had to go to a special shop (Cyclefi t in London) and have his arse measured by a special machine. Yes, that really happened.

The outfit is available in three different ‘butt-pad’ (not the correct terminology) widths, and the righteous arse-measuring is all done via Endura’s ‘gebioMized Pad Fit System’, which tailors awesome bum-paddage to your “physiology, riding style and saddle”. Oh, yeah: you have to take your saddle along to the shop, too. Guru nearly forgot that bit. For best results, shoes should be custom-fi tted and ideally from a brand like Bontrager or Fizik. Guru’s MAMIL friends insist that your shoes, and how they fi t both your foot and the pedal, are perhaps the most important part of a bike’s set-up, apart from maybe all the boring stuff like frame and gears and such. Insoles should be custommoulded either to fi t your foot or to correct any physical issues your plates may have. Then you’ll need a helmet, and Guru loves Casco’s Speed range of skid lids. Great at protecting your bonce, they’re also as streamlined as a very fast fi sh. But mainly, he loves how they look like something a fi ghter pilot would don.

Q: Is there a gadget that tests blood pressure

A: As someone who once tested a smart bloodpressure monitor at its launch party and was advised to seek medical help, Gadget Guru is reluctant to recommend these things, but there are fi ne offerings out there from Salter – the maestro of all things homely and essential but unglamorous (the MiBody at £60/$90) – as well as Withings, Qardio and iHealth (all around the ton). GaGu is assuming you’re talking about blood-pressure monitors that connect to an app on your phone or tablet? If you’re after something more olde worlde, there are umpteen options.

Q: Stylish fitness trackers: do they exist?

A: If you’re not into a ‘dayrelease chic’ look, try the Withings Activité range (from £120/$149). They’re slim, attractive watches with a dial that shows your progress towards 10,000 steps per day. Runtastic’s Moment (from ¤149/$179) is a butch, steel-‘n’-leather number that not only counts steps but can also show distance data from the excellent Runtastic app when in use. Mondaine’s Helvetica 1 Smart is a really great-looking, contemporary watch with a step-counting dial. Both the look and the price are chunky, though ($899/UK £TBC).

Q: Can you recommend some good kit for lazy cyclists?

A: This very month, GaGu tried the ultimate lazy-cyclist bike, so you’re in luck. The Gtech eBike comes from a fi rm generally known for its cordless hedge trimmers and vacuum cleaners – it was the obvious next step, really – and is very simple and smart. The genius here is that Gtech’s voltage-powered steed requires you to pedal, but then assists your legs via the unearthly power of purest leccy. It’s constantly pushing you, subtly, along, like a benevolent dad – ie not Guru’s dad, who pretended it was illegal to cycle downhill and not in the direction of oncoming traffic till GaGu was 12.

You get an extra boost when you fi rst set off, letting you burn up any Lycra-clad ponce – in fact, anything short of a Ferrari – at the lights. You get a further boost if you hit hills, and it also seems to speed you out of corners. So on the eBike, it looks like you’re riding a bike. In fact, to an extent you are riding a bike – you certainly get a bit of a workout, but without transforming into Captain Sweat-Whiff. But really, the rideis doing a lot of the hard work for you. The battery is good for about 30 miles and can be charged 1,000 times – enough to get you to at least Scotland, by GaGu’s calculations. Pricing is from £1,695/$2,500 with two frame choices. Accessories? You betcha. Make sure those behind you can see your hand signals with the Visijax Commuter Jacket (£100/$160). It lights up your arms when you signal left or right. While most cycle computers are for sweaty, panting, red-faced MAMILs who want to know their heart rate, power and cadence (whatever that is), the Mio Cyclo 200 is more of a sat nav for your bike, with reliable and clear routing for 150 quid ($230). Finally, a camera. GaGu favours Garmin Virbs – you can get one with a helmet mount for a similar price. Virbs aren’t as good as GoPros in terms of visuals, but you just don’t need all that much defi nition when you’re fi lming angry van men.

Q: Do you juice, Guru? I want to, but it looks a bit messy

A: Yes, Guru does juice. You see, juicing is rather like love-making: it must be done long and slow, with the fi nest ingredients in place, pumped straight into a shapely jug. Slow juicers that take a few minutes to masticate (oof!) fi rm young carrots (mmmf!) using a big, heavy screw (meep!) are better than juicers that use a devilish, spinning blade to annihilate fruit and vegetables. They retain more

You nutrients this way, supposedly, as the friction of traditional juicers incinerates the vitamins. They’re a doddle to clean, too, as fruit and veg residue isn’t reduced to dust. Yes, they’re more expensive but, as with love-making, you get what you pay for. Guru once put a beetroot into a more energetic juicer and, because he forgot to put the top on, it blasted said root upwards like some kind of purple fruit howitzer…

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