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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Walter's GPS Tuesday

I'm loathe to submit 2 blog entries in one day so this will be a dual post on 2 almost unrelated topics. The first is my initial assessment of the Garmin Edge 205 GPS. The second is my Tuesday ride notes. First I will get into the GPS, since it's really Monday late afternoon on the train as I write this.

I bought a Garmin Edge 205, the one without the heart rate monitor and cadence sensor. I've done heart rate training in the past and I'm done with it. The cadence sensor would be nice to have but not for double the price. I can always buy one separately if I want.

To best illustrate what I think of the 205 I will describe my actual experiences. This post may be somewhat long so consider yourself forewarned.

The first time it failed me I don't have a solid explanation for why. I was trying to retrace the 50k race course and when I hit the "do course" button nothing happened. The course never showed up so Brett just led the way. Looking back I may have done something wrong so I the "GPS failure" might be user error. But I'm not sure either way.

The second time it bagged me I was trying to follow a course at Mahlon Dickerson and the reception got so bad that it could no longer tell me which trail I was supposed to take. The reception was down to something like 100 feet of accuracy which does you no good when you're trying to follow a precise trail. It worked perfectly for an hour and change and eventually it zeroed in on where I was so I was able to use it to get back to the car. Plus, I picked up some trails I knew by that time so it all worked out.

Third time I tried to upload a course only to find out when I got on the road it had failed. Apparently you can only hold so many courses and I was using too much memory. I had failed to note the upload didn't work.

I have not yet successfully followed a course in the woods. I have created road rides on and that has worked flawlessly. This goes with the territory of course since roads are rarely packed so close as trails are.

After some headache getting the Garmin Training Center and MotionBased Agent to work with the GPS on the PC, they have worked flawlessly as well. I needed to back out to the previous release of Training Center but I finally got it to work. I also love the ability to upload the course and view the details on I especially like the elevation profile.

The virtual partner is great if you want to race yourself, or someone else for that matter. Without question this is a good training aid if you use it properly. However if you race yourself every day you're going to blow up, plain and simple.

I haven't really explored too many of the other features like the lap stuff, marks, or waypoints. I'm sure there's more but I consider that offseason material you can use to explore and so on. When I'm out there now my intention is usually to haul ass so stopping to mark waypoints isn't exactly what I'm doing right now.

In terms of screen details I find it solid, not really lacking in anything. It doesn't tell me the temperature but I don't need a piece of electronics to tell me if it's hot or cold out. You probably also need to understand me as a consumer to better understand my point of view. I bought it as a specific tool and I'm using it for that purpose. Sure it might also make coffee but I could care less, I didn't buy it to make coffee. Sort of like my cell phone. I use it as a phone. It has games and Internet and shit but that's not why I got it. I needed to use it as an alarm one day so I explored my options and found it had an alarm. Same deal with the GPS. I haven't had need to use it for the bells and whistles so I'm not familiar with what they might be.

Speaking of alarms, it apparently has all sorts of alarms so you can have it beep at you every hour or 15 minutes which could be helpful in making sure you eat or drink enough on the long rides. It also has workouts which to me seems in the realm of tits on a bull.

To be fair I will address the bad experiences I've had so far. Case 1 could have been user error so I'll cede that's likely what happened. Case 2 is the nature of GPS. You really should only use it as a helpful tool and realize that it's not going to be dead on balls accurate all the time. Case 3 was my not knowing to look for an upload failure. I'm sure it was obvious but I just clicked it away.

At this point I'm comfortable with the limitations and quirks of the unit. If you ask me if I'm happy with the purchase the answer is a resounding yes. It adds yet another cool dimension to a sport I already enjoy. Do I need it? Well who needs anything these days? They have fucking sweaters for dogs and we're discussing the utility of a bike GPS?

Now to specifically address Walter's situation, since, like I said in a previous post I'm all about customer retention. The real question is nothing, 205, or 305. Now I think the nothing option speaks for itself. Any iota of rational thought will lead you to the conclusion that you do not need a GPS. But then I have 4 bikes and I think Walter has at least 3 so obviously rational thought is out the window. I am reasonably sure neither of us has a sweater for our bikes though so we're not too far gone.

The question then becomes 205 or 305. The difference is heart rate and cadence I think, and maybe some other bells and whistles I would never use anyway. If you see yourself ever actually "training" the 305 might be a good investment. I learned a lot about myself with the heart rate monitor and it was a good tool to have. Cadence is also a neat thing to have the ability to view.

On the other side of the coin, you can train effectively without heart rate and cadence but the details of that are another post entirely. Personally, I think even if you might want to get serious about training in the future the 205 is the better choice at its price point. You can always buy a heart rate monitor or cadence sensor separately at a later time (but not integrated with the Garmin unit).

Then it becomes a matter of nothing versus the 205. Without question some of the reason I like the 205 is because I train. But if you want to map out road rides to do, or use it to learn any number of mountain biking parks, it can be a real good investment. At the end of the day it's not terribly expensive, I think I paid 135 for it. If I use it 27 times it comes out to $5 per usage. Of course that's too much but as much as I ride (100+ times this year already) that cost per use drops really fast. And I do really like it so far, even with the 3 screw ups I've had with it.

By this point you're either dead asleep on the keyboard or you've made your decision already. I hope something I said in there triggered what the right answer is for you. If you have any questions, just shoot me a PM and I'll expand in a future post. If nothing else, buy me a beer for spending the last 40 minutes banging this out on the way home.

Well now, that really long post doesn't leave much room for how my ride went this morning. So I'll try to make it short and sweet. Shouldn't be too hard since my thumbs are bleeding from all the typing. I should also be able to tie in how I used the GPS on today's ride. Integration baby!

Tuesday is my L5 day which means short 3-8 minute intervals. Two weeks ago I did sprints and didn't much care for them. Last week I did 24 minutes of climbing in 12 hills and didn't much care for that either. Translation: I'm still looking for the best L5 workout.

Today I tried "The Hills: Home of the Pod People." It really is called The Hills. I don't know if they have a subtitle like that or not but if they don't, they should. I hit the ground (road) running (riding) early (at 5:06) and blazed (not literally) my way to the base of the first climb. It took 24 minutes to get there which I thought would press me for time, but in reality gave me exactly what I needed to warm up and cool down on the ends of the workout.

I did 5 repeats of varying length on both sides of the climb. I think it went something like 6, 9, 5, 5, and 5 minutes. The last 3 are my zeroing in on the perfect set, since you more or less want to have each climb the same length and rest time less than the climb time. I also like 5 minutes as an interval length for reasons beyond the scope of this already verbose entry.

An aside for those of you who might actually start doing intervals at some future point. Give yourself a full rest between sets to start. So 5 climb, 5 rest. Short rest periods is not a good introduction to this. Also be warned that people who add intervals to their training have a 50% dropout rate. Having said that they work like butter on a warm bagel. Interpret that as you will.

In all 30 minutes of climbing in 42 minutes is pretty aggressive. My rest periods were something like 4, 3, 3, and 3 minutes. Times are not precise because I just started the next climb at the bottom, so the rest interval was whatever it was, 2:30 or so for some of them. I'm in week 3 now if this 4 week build so I'm going to start really pounding on myself over the next 12 days to close out the 3rd and 4th build weeks.

In keeping with the spirit of the GPS theme I will show another way I use the unit on today's ride. Since my aim today is to climb and then get back to the house in time to get to work, I used the GPS as a clock and a timer. At the base of the hill I would hit start and at the top I would stop it. That gave me a running total of my climbing time as well as showing me what "real" time it was, both on the same screen. I knew I had to cut it off and start for home by 6:15 so having both of those fields on the same display right there is valuable. Apparently you can customize the display but whatever.

Today is about as perfect as it all gets in terms of both training and the usefulness of the GPS. I felt good on the bike with my legs responding well today. On the far side climb I hit 18.5 at one point which is decent for a flat road let alone an uphill. The GPS was extremely useful in keeping things well defined, a pretty key concept when you cut things as tight as I do to catch the 7:25 train to Hoboken.

Full stop. That's quite enough.

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  • At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You can also try plotting your routes on - Topo maps, auto routing (ie, follow roads), gps imports direct from device, as well as cue sheets!


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