A Watch Shop has named its top 5 cycling watches for 2012 after extensive on the road testing during the Spring of 2012. But newer polar and garmin fenix not included.
“I’ve raced in international tours and multiple US National Championships with one podium during my career having ridden with riders like Greg Lemond and Louis Garneau, so for our company the evaluation of cycling watches is a very serious matter” says Rusty Squire, President of the Heart Rate Watch Company. He adds, “Many of these cycling watches rival the very best bike computers on the market.”
Here is the list of the top 5 cycling watches for 2012:
#1 Garmin Forerunner 910XT – This cycling watch does it all with the ability to receive ANT+ power, heart rate, speed, distance, pedal cadence, accurate altitude with a barometric altimeter and a large display screen. About 95% of all the bike computers on the market today can not match its prowess as a cycling device. It even provides highly detailed maps through Garmin Connect software that provide unmatched metric detail. This watch is completely waterproof.
#2 – Polar RCX5 G5 Tour de France – This watch is the official training computer for the 2012 Tour de France. It provides speed, distance, 5 heart rate zones and even features a dual frequency chest strap that can get heart rate while swimming. The new G5 GPS sensor is smaller than a cell phone battery and gets over 20 hours of GPS data plus the WIND speed sensor offers dead on speed and distance information.
#3 – Garmin Forerunner 610 – This little touch screen marvel gets every last piece of cycling data except for watts output but its compact size allows it to easily be used as an everyday watch. Use the optional cadence sensor to get cadence plus you’ll see speed, distance, elevations, heart rate and it even features a cumulative training load that looks at training history. It has running and cycling modes allowing for easy transitions between sports but it is only IPX7 water resistant, so don’t swim with it.
#4 – Forerunner 310XT – Even though it is nearly 3 years old it is hard to take the Garmin 310XT off this list because it set all the current standards for what a cycling watch should be. It gets watts data, speed, distance, cadence, elevations and more, although it lacks the swim features and barometric altimeter of the Forerunner 910XT. Still at about $150 less than the Garmin 910XT it is a great value in a cycling watch.
#5 – Polar RS800CX G5 – This is the same watch used by the brothers Frank and Andy Schleck that finished 2nd and 3rd in the 2011 Tour de France. The Polar RS800CX is hands down the most
sophisticated heart rate monitor on the market with recovery heart rate data and an enormous
ability to analyze heart rate. When you add the G5 to it it makes a pretty slick bike computer
plus it can connect to Polar cadence sensors as well.
Other honorable mentions to this list include the garmin Fenix (thats mine says richdirector)Suunto Ambit, Polar CS300, Timex Global Trainer and Suunto t6d cycling bundle. “These were all some very excellent watches for cycling
and it was hard to choose, but one thing is certain, the versatility of a cycling watch is that you can use it for other sports” states Squire.
A review by John Sharp who will hopefully one day be writing more on this blog …. a review of the Garmin 910XT which was up there along with the newish Garmin Fenix a a possible Polar RCX5 replacement….
I used to love her. I used to stare at her, mesmerised within her Cyclopic trance. I would gently caress her cool smooth features. She would respond, teasing me with secrets, revealing ever more with each tap and stroke. I knew how to push her buttons and she knew how to respond. And she could read me: tuned into my palpating heart as I grew increasingly hot with her encouragement. It wasn’t to last. Passion this intense rarely does. She couldn’t live up to my expectations nor I hers. Her faults, invisible at first, soon became obvious and impossible to ignore. She became quick to fatigue; from her I demanded stamina which was beyond her. She needed attention and new energy almost daily. She was temperamental in anything other than perfect conditions. Sometimes unpredictable and chaotic; often stubborn and seized. Soon the cracks in our relationship (most metaphorical, some actual real cracks) became insurmountable and the first GPS watch I ever loved, my Garmin Forerunner 405, and I were to go our separate ways.
The limitations of the FR405 are well known but I had been able to tolerate the terrible battery and infuriating bezel for a couple of years before a broken strap served as the catalyst for indulging in a new toy. I’ve been wearing Garmin’s Forerunner 910XT since March this year, have used it whilst competing in a spring marathon and throughout the build-up for an autumn marathon effort. This article is less a technical review of the device and more a discussion of how I have used the device over the last six months or so.
Whilst Garmin have released and specifically marketed other watches (e.g., Forerunner 610) for runners, a reluctance not to endure an anticipated fractious ‘touchscreen’ and a shorter battery life led me to consider the FR910XT. Technically, the 910XT is a triathlon watch. In fact, it’s essentially an upgrade to the clunky Garmin FR310XT. This means that not only can it track every single data point imaginable whilst running, but it can also do the same thing whilst biking and swimming. It’ll track and display pace, elevation, distance, calories, pedal cadence, swim stroke, laps and much, much more. Any information you might want to know, the 910XT is probably able to provide it.
It would be easy to get bogged down in the wealth of data on offer. What is vital is to establish which information is most pertinent to your needs. When I started running regularly three years ago I focussed almost exclusively on pace, running every outing at or above a predefined speed which I believed I should be capable of. Nowadays I don’t care so much about pace for the vast majority of my running. Rather, most days comprise ‘easy’ running during which I will not exceed 75% of my maximum heart rate. One of the advantages of the larger case required to house a bigger battery is the opportunity to incorporate a massive display. This is excellent for allowing the presentation of multiple data fields simultaneously and users are able to choose how many ‘pages’ of data they would like to scroll through, how many data fields they prefer in any one display ‘page’, and what specific data that should be. My own preference is to have one single screen on which I can see my effort (%age of maximum HR), my average pace, distance, and time elapsed. Users can choose from a huge selection of options (e.g., some might prefer current pace rather than average). When racing I adopt a radically different approach and rely on only one data field, the time. Selecting just one data field permits a much larger size of font. No distractions with other information; just the bottom line. And even then I typically only switch to this screen in the final minutes of the race to see how close I am to any targets I’m aiming for. For the rest of the race, the forerunner is resolutely set to the ‘Virtual Partner’.
The ‘Virtual Partner’ (VP) was undoubtedly my favourite feature of the FR405. The VP allows you to monitor your current pace against a set speed or predefined pace. I use, nay depend on, this feature for tempo workouts and races. I will plug in the pace I want to achieve with the hope this somehow also ‘programs’ my legs. This mode displays a (poorly) illustrated running character who is either ahead, level with, or behind the target pace. It offers a quick and ready means of establishing whether you are ‘on’ or ‘off’ target in either direction and gives you a swift kick up the backside (comedy extending boot not included). It also indicates just how far ahead or behind you might be by both distance and, more usefully, time. Whilst for workouts I often find myself trying to ‘keep up’ with the VP, in races, at least when starting with fresh, tapered legs, this feature allows you to temper your enthusiasm and regulate your pace appropriately.
The VP has been embellished on the 910XT. The ‘Virtual Racer’ (VR) feature allows the user to race against existing courses and workouts. In essence it provides a ‘shadow’ of you, or someone else who has previously completed the same route, and allows you to monitor your progress against yourself or them. Whilst the VP maintains a constant speed regardless of the terrain and gradient, the VR allows for more realistic comparison. For example, when faced with a substantial climb, the VR adjusts to a much slower speed for the hill. A nice interactive feature allows users to download workouts from the Garmin Connect site onto their device. This would allow individuals to ‘race’ against friends who completed the same event in previous years. For example, if I had a friend who completed the Virgin London Marathon this year who I was desperate to beat, I would definitely consider inputting their effort to ensure I stayed ahead of them. It is exactly reasons like this that I have no friends. This feature can also be used when cycling and I understand the Team Garmin-Cervelo files from the Tour de France are available for you to ‘compete’ with David Millar et al. albeit without the EPO, closed roads, and full complement of domestics.
Numerous other features and settings are available. I can only imagine there are some people whose training life has been revolutionised by the ‘Intervals’ feature which enables users to setup a simple interval workout which the watch will then guide them through, barking (or vibrating and beeping at least) orders on cue. Setting up intervals allows the sessions to be designed and tailored for the individuals needs and permits the user to specifying how long the warm-up is, the number and distance/time of work intervals, the rest interval, and then the cool down. I suspect this mode would be useful for complex sessions and negates the athlete to carry and refer to pieces of paper or recall which number of 20 repetitions they happen to be on at any given time. Amazingly, there is the capacity for sessions to become infinitely more complex and any idiosyncratic routine can become designed in the ‘Workout’ mode, a feature with an endless array of ‘if/then’ type scenarios. In truth, I’ve never gone near it.
Whilst most of the features seem well designed to meet the needs of a competitive athletes, even the lame modes aimed at the novice can be adapted with a little imagination. For example, the Run/Walk function (essentially just an alert to prompt users to start running after a short pre-planned spell of walking) can instead be used as a fillip to get endurance athletes (e.g., ultra-runners) to eat regularly. I would guess the prohibitive pricing of the 910XT would discourage any entry-point purchasing. However, the battery and features will definitely appeal to seasoned ultra runners. Garmin should change this feature to an ‘Eat-a-gel’ alert.
The ultra-running boom has led to new performance demands for GPS devices. Training on predominantly flat surfaces altitude is rarely especially relevant for road racing. It’s data I neither seek nor need. However, my eventual hope is to turn to the trail and with those the hills. For years cyclists have managed to get barometric altimeters within their handlebar mounted computers. Runners have had to tolerate GPS-based altimeters. The FR910XT introduces an integrated a barometric altimeter. An old friend, Nicol Boyd, is a recent convert to running and, churning out miles on the mountainous trails of Hong Kong, accumulates thousands of feet of elevation. In a sport where elevation covered is arguably more important than distance is this a useful new addition? Unfortunately, Nicol is not convinced, “The barometric altimeter is highly temperamental and always spikes 100-200m at the start of every run. Even well into the run, when things should have settled down, the altimeter readings are pretty erratic and very often out by a noticeable margin. This sucks if you are one of the many people who like to run up hills.” Whilst firmware updates might help resolve such issues, it seems improvements are required.
It is not only the unreliable altimeter which takes the shine off the 910XT. The heart rate monitor frequently struggles to record accurate data. Most commonly this occurs at the outset of a run and can take a mile or so of spiking before settling down to accurate levels. This appears to be a long-standing problem for Garmin. Their previous HR monitor was inadequate and it appears their attempts to improve this, introducing a new design of strap and monitor, have failed. Some Garmin advocate transferring the Garmin transmitter into a Polar Wearlink+ strap.
Quibbles aside, there is much to be admired in this Garmin unit. The battery life is exceptional. Whereas my FR405 would regularly ‘die’ on me during runs, the FR910XT’s battery has never yet been fully depleted. Garmin estimates a 20-hour battery life and this seems accurate. The general build seems good. Being a triathletes watch requires the case to be waterproof and robust. Whilst the watch is most definitely ugly, it is functional. Besides, I’ve never understood people who want to be able to wear their GPS watch “as a watch”. Like all Garmin Forerunners, the watch syncs wirelessly to and ANT+ USB from which the information is upload to the online Garmin Connect software. This is becoming an ever expanding and accessible interface and includes optional synchronisation with iPhone apps and social media integration with easy sharing of routes and workouts. The interface is relatively attractive and easy to negotiate and generally very reliable.
So, with the six month honeymoon period over, are my new love and I for keeps? Lets wait and see whether she guides me to a new marathon PB in four weeks time.
The RCX5 with GPS. The truth is I love Polar HRM and like their analysing software. The things I used to hate was their lack of ANT+ and the fact that using a MAC used to be a no go.
They have changed slowly and although the RCX5 is not as good as the RS800 – it has a look I prefer. I was umping and aching over the new Garmin 910xt and the 610 but I find them ugly (although this is a completely subjective fashionista statement)… I guess I am a square (fan).
Garmin has launched a new model in its sport GPS range, the Garmin Forerunner 910XT. It promises to be the ideal solution for those that want a multisport watch even though it’s intended purchaser is the tri-athlete.
Major plus points for me
Better Training Effect courtesy of Training Peaks.
Building on the success of Garmin‘s previous multisport GPS units, the Forerunner 910XT adds swim features including swim distance, stroke count, swim efficiency and pace.
The Garmin Forerunner 910XT can track a whole Ironman race
It also calculates a SWOLF score – the sum of the time taken to swim one length plus the number of strokes for that length (the lower the score, the better your swimming). Like the Forerunner 310XT, it also measures distance in open water using its GPS tracking feature. The shape of the unit has been designed to be sleeker and smaller, so it will fit under a wetsuit more easily and won’t hamper your progress going into T1.
It’s designed to be used across all three triathlon disciplines and can be moved from wrist to handlebar using a quick-release feature and bike mount. Transitions can be logged and the battery life is a promised 20 hours, so even an Ironman can be recorded from start to finish.
You’ll also get all the training functions that Garmin’s previous Forerunner units performed so well, such as heart-rate tracking, training effect, and the Virtual Racer feature. Forerunner 910XT will be available mid November 2011 with a suggested retail price of £359 without heart-rate monitor and £389 with heart-rate monitor. Look out for a review on triradar.com next month.
if you’re thinking about starting to use a GPS to track your runs you’ve probably heard about Garmin’s wrist-watch type GPS units like my 405, Suunto’s T6C and some of the new iPhone applications. Both options are great, but there are some things you should consider before you spend your money.
Ease of use: while running
looking at your wrist is a lot easier than using your iphone esp if you are mainly checking pace and heart rate. iPhone applications need to conserve battery life and also need to make sure that being in a pocket doesn’t cause accidental keystroke input – a sweaty leg works like a finger as well. So most apps dim the display and lock the input. A Garmin GPS won’t dim the display or lock the input. The wristwatch format is much better for use while running.
Using the GPS feature and display on an iPhone uses the battery very quickly. Most of the iPhone GPS applications claim to get 3-4 hours of battery life (see comment below – states up to 7 for some) but this entails switching off 3gs and wifi. By the time you get home the battery is nearly dead. My Garmin ForeRunner 405 records data for more than 4 hours on an mtb ultra-marathon. If you “go long” you’ll want battery life that goes as long as you do. Garmin wins again. *since this I have an Edge 305HRM dedicated for bike use*
Garmin fitness GPS devices can be used with accessories including a heart rate monitor, a bicycle cadence monitor, and a footpod for indoor use. I haven’t seen any fitness accessories for the iPhone yet. The HR ones always seem to be using the mic on the iPhone so no ease of us there. The new one I previewed earlier HERE might be great (when it comes out)
The iPhone applications are getting more sophisticated, and are not far behind Garmin (except for HR). I set up the display screens on my Garmin 405 like this:
Main 1: Time (running)
Screen 3: Time again
Last lap pace
I haven’t seen any iPhone apps that allow you to create pre-defined workouts to guide your runs. I generally don’t use mine on the 405 but you can ….
Training log Software
The iPhone apps work with web-based training log applications. Map my Run has some nice features and their iPhone application works very well. Garmin GPS devices come with Garmin Training Center and also work with motionbased, garmin connect, and many of the web-based applications.
If you already own an iPhone 3G/3Gs you’re in luck. MapMyRun.com and their iMapMyRun iPhone app are both free (for the basic service). You can get started using a GPS to track your runs by downloading the iPhone app and signing up for the service. Trails / walkjogrun / MotionX are all good – I’ll go through them all another time. Motion X, Runkeeper and Runmonster are the best app I have used on the iPhone
If you don’t own an iPhone 3G/3Gs and are serious about logging your training (runs) get a Garmin. (or Suunto / Polar)
The bottom line
I’m a big fan of the iPhone and am in most cases a strong proponent of web-based software. I’m also serious about my training and want to take advantage of of the full capabilities of the GPS technology. For me, there’s no question, Garmin is much better than the iPhone for GPS Running. The iPhone advantage in price (if you already own one) is an important consideration. If it was only HR training/cycling without the need to export tracks then I would get a Polar HRM but that’s a whole new post …….. (not anymore)
NEW * A review of some other running apps for the iPhone
NOTE – I have since got into more robust HRM analysis and sold the 405 to a pal and bought a Suunto T6C …. the best of both worlds. Compatible with mac, good HRM software like Polar and a gps like the Garmin ….
Been using the 405 for a while now combination of running and MTB’ing and here are some thoughts.
If you are used to Garmin wrist GPS then this is an easy transition. I had the foretrex 201 (broke kitesurfing) and then a forerunner 205. I also used to use my Polar HRM then it seemed silly that I didn’t have one that did it all.
For kitesurfing and for strange woods the map function (breadcrumb type trails of the 201 and 205 were great) They let me find a 10m gap in a reef to avoid losing fins, let me take a shortcut to get back onto main track when I shagged my wheel and let me find my car once in a weird spooky wood where my internal compass went haywire.
Other than that this is better. Using it only as a HRM it doesn’t quite match something like the Polar where measurement is much more accurate and it measures virtual VO2 MAX thresholds and the like. Going to the gym and then trying to see data afterwards is nigh on impossible in the trailrunner software I am using as you cant import it without gps data.
(the trick around this is to start gps – do a quick 2sec record outside gym – press pause then go in and exercise – you can manually change distances later but it gives you decent HRM recording on screen)
Out on the trail running or biking you can set up different screens to show data you want – you can set 405 to autoscroll through the data if you want or lock it on one screen. The autostop feature I don’t use as I use autolap (every 1km) and when I stop I stop …… the first time I pressed stop and then after stretching I walked back few hundred metres to warm down and HRM started recording again …. threw my min/km pace reading way out.
Afterwards you can review data through History on watch or after download on program this is cool although calories burnt is a bit of an ignore feature as based on distance completely ignoring HRM data and personal stats (unlike Polar which is more accurate based on exertion)
quite comfortable – I found the 201 and 205 a wee bit more comfortable but after 500m I forgot it was on my wrist.
The Strap is good – as unnoticeable as the Polar strap. (EDITED 5/8/9 No where near as comfortable – I have to use sweatbands know to cushion the hard plastic as very sweaty in hot climes)
Lock the bezel if going in the shower as the light (which comes on when you press two fingers on the bezel) goes mad in the shower switching on and off ……. unless you want a disco in which case keep it unlocked.