Saturday, February 17, 2007

My Latest Cycling Accessory

Monitoring your ride with a cyclocomputer is motivational and fun. When I recently purchased my new Cannondale road bike, I decided I wanted to accessorize it with the Garmin Edge 305 with Heart Rate and Cadence.

There is a wide range of cyclocomputers on the market, so it can be hard to decide what to buy. I don't consider myself a very 'techie' girl, but I'll admit that I am a little obsessive about keeping track of my ride stats. Although I don't have a great track record with being able to program so much as a digital sport watch, I very much wanted a cyclocomputer that went beyond tracking time, mileage and average speed. I particularly wanted one with a built in heart rate monitor and cadence meter. I also hoped to be able to upload my data to my home computer to be able to store my rides and compare them over time.

The Garmin version is relatively affordable, had caught my eye in adverts last summer and had me completely hooked when I saw one in person that a friend had. It appears that everyone who buys one of these becomes a bit fanatical about it! In addition to the basic features, it uses GPS to map your route and provides elevation data.

In the box, you get the main unit, heart rate band, sensor to mount on your chain stay, and magnets for the crank and a spoke.

I'm happy to say that the manual is very well written and there was also a page with 'quick start' instructions for those of us who are a little impatient and want to get right to the fun part before wading through the details.

There was a CD with the Training Center software, a USB cable for uploading the data to the PC, and the 'wall wart' for charging the battery in the main unit.

When you get the Garmin, the unit will need three hours on the charger before you can turn it on. So plug it in first, and use that time to install the sensor and magnets on your bike! My first task was to remove the labradors from the vicinity as they tend to gobble up anything that drops to the floor without thinking. Then I could get started.

I set about loosely placing the sensor and magnets, so I could triple check their placement before tightening the wire ties. I placed the speed/cadence sensor on the chain stay (side away from the chain). I screwed the spoke magnet - where else - to a spoke, and made sure it was in line with the sensor on the chain stay. Then I glued and wire tied the pedal magnet to the crank. When you are through placing these items, and before you fully tighten the wire ties, you can test your setup by pressing the test button on the sensor and looking for the indicator light. A red light illuminates when it detects the pedal magnet and a green light is visible when it detects the spoke magnet. If you see the lights, tighten the wire ties and trim the ends. That's it for the sensor installation!

Next you must decide where to place the computer mount. You have a choice of the stem or your handlebars, but it is recommended that you use the stem for more security. So, it's a simple matter of placing the mount and again tightening the wire ties. I was done with these tasks long before the Garmin was through charging.

Once my Garmin was charged, I turned it on and got started with setting it up. The instructions are very clear for this, so I won't reiterate them here. I found it quite intuitive and was navigating through the screens right away. Basically, you first customize the settings to yourself by entering your age, gender, weight, etc. Then you might like to customize the main screen to show the data you are most interested in.

The weather was too cold for me to run outside with it to locate the satellites, but it found some anyway and I walked up and down the stairs to watch the elevation change, see the % of slope of our stairway and see my heart rate go up as I moved around.

Interestingly, the main unit detected my heart rate strap and 'paired' with it, so it will only communicate with that one in future, unless I reset it. Likewise it detected the cadence sensor and paired. That way, when riding with other folks who have their own sensors, my Garmin will not pay attention to those.

The Garmin comes with the Training Center software program. After a quick install and plugging in the USB cable, the software detects the unit and automatically performs the upload of your workout. The software shows the data in both table and graph form. You can change the axis labels on the graph and color and style of the lines to customize the graph. Not only can you upload data from completed workouts from the unit, but you can create workout plans which you download to the unit, so it can guide your workout, by telling you when to change your cadence, etc. You can create multiple workouts and even organize them on a calendar.

After you've familiarized yourself with the Training Center, you will want to open a free account at MotionBased. This enables you to see your ride map overlaid on a google map as well as many more graphs like the elevation profile of your ride.

These are the basics for operating the Garmin and I hope I've been able to help you choose a cyclocomputer for your bike. If you'd like to read more about the Garmin, visit Suitcase of Courage. Or, if you feel you don't need the GPS features at this time, visit She Cycles by the Seashore to read about the CatEye cyclocomputer.

While the Garmin covers all the basics that you would want in a bike computer, the extra info you get from having a GPS based device really gives you that 'big picture' view of your workout. It's one thing to know your average speed. It's quite another to be able to play back your ride and see where the fast and slow parts were. Personally, when I'm climbing a tough hill, I love knowing its slope while cranking up it, and seeing the elevation when I get to the top. The added dimension of getting the heart rate data lets you get total control over your workout. Finally, having the unit take you through your workout plan makes it a morale boosting training partner.

Happy Cycling!

1 comment:

suitcaseofcourage said...

VERY helpful intro post and overview! I referenced your post in my Garmin review which got mentioned at The Endless Cycle blog! So hopefully some folks will be coming your way soon!