After the 70 degree Saturday we had in January, winter has finally settled in. We got 2" of snow on Valentine's Day which then froze SOLID. I'm still sore from all the chipping I had to do.
For the cyclist, winter means more than dealing with snow and cold - it's Training Time. In my previous two posts - here and here - I discussed some training books and journals that I've used and liked. But these tools are effective only to the extent that you can actually measure what you're doing.
While a heart rate monitor is a must have (and for a great intro discussion on HRMs, click here) and perfectly adequate for indoor training, the Garmin Edge 305 has enough bells & whistles to keep your interest level high either indoors or out.
If you're new to the Garmin, click here for a nice intro and setup information. If you want to know more about how to use the Garmin and how it can help your training, read on!
We've come a long way from the little "cyclocomputers" that mounted on the front hub and used a pin on the spoke that would hit a sprocket with each wheel revolution, advancing the odometer just a little each time. Did you have one of those? I couldn't even find a photo of one. With today's cyclocomputers, we can get not only total & trip distance, but speed (incl. max & avg), and time (inc. elapsed time). The more advanced models include a heart rate and cadence monitors. The Garmin includes (almost) all of these features PLUS elevation, gradient, and more.
The screen is TOTALLY customizeable with up to 8 fields of data. If you click on the pic, you can see my screen more clearly. I have HR, Speed, Distance, Cadence, Avg. Speed, Elapsed Time, Gradient, and Time of Day. You have up to 33 different fields to choose from.
Strangely enough, the Garmin does not include an overall odometer.
Other Reasons to buy
Automatic Mapping via GPS
This is the main thing that sets the Garmin apart from other products. The built-in GPS will plot you on a map, giving you a record of your ride - complete with elevation profile! Before this, I had been coloring in photocopies of roadmaps to document where I'd ridden.
Heart Rate Monitor & Cadence Sensor
I got the HRM and cadence sensors so I could eliminate another handlebar gadget, and cadence is key for some training videos.
The rear wheel sensor allows the unit to be used in a stationary trainer - great for collecting data during winter/indoor training. Since it's wireless, the install is much cleaner too (no wires to have to route).
I just recently starting using this feature. With it you can program a workout on the computer (using the Training Center software that's included) and load it into the Garmin so it will prompt you when to do certain parts of the workout - great for the trainer but especially good on the road (when it's harder to refer to a workout manual LOL!)
With the extra mount that's included, I can use the Garmin all by itself, without any sensors, on my mountain bike. It then gets all the data by comparing position points with the satellite. So you can use it on as many bikes as you want to get extra mounts for (or just put it in your pocket!).
Ok, after hearing of all the wonderful things this gadget can do, you KNEW there had to be a catch. Well there is, but IMO it doesn't outweigh the benefits.
The catch? The Blank Screen of Death!!
I remember reading somewhere (maybe in the firmware upgrade release notes?) that this problem can come up when you unplug the Garmin from the computer while the Training Center software's map is showing. So I don't do that anymore and I haven't had any problems since.
If you're using the Garmin indoors (i.e. on a trainer or rollers - unless of course you're REALLY good at riding around the coffee table), be sure to turn OFF the satellite and ESPECIALLY turn OFF the "auto start/stop." If you don't you will be endlessly annoyed by the Garmin starting and stopping despite you pedaling along steadily. You will not get accurate data. You will think your batteries are going dead and make a special trip to the store to buy new ones. You will re-adjust the sensor and both magnets and you will STILL not know what the (*&^ is going on.
Ask me how I know.
To get the most out of the Garmin, you should at least sign up for a free account at MotionBased.com. You will first need to download/install the MotionBased Agent, then, using the Agent, you'll be able to upload data from your Garmin to the MotionBased (MB) site. MB does everything the Training Center software does, but does it better and prettier - and with more data (including prevailing weather conditions!). The MAIN visual difference is that the MB maps are tied to Google Maps so they're VERY detailed. The Training Center maps are hardly maps at all - they just show major roads (not the kind of roads we usually want to ride on.)
To see what I'm talking about, click a few of the ride links I've put at the right side of the page.
If you use only the free version of MB, you will be able to directly access only the last 10 rides you uploaded. MB saves ALL of your rides, but the older ones are grayed out (waiting for you for when you upgrade to the paid subscription service). Also, the paid service allows saved reports and other features, but I haven't upgraded so I'm not really sure what all the benefits are. The free version is adequate for my purposes.
Finally, if you want a computer-based training journal that will interface with the Garmin, SportTracks may be what you're looking for. It was highly recommended to me by the moderator of the FredCast forum. I just downloaded this (free!) software and like it so far. It looks like it does everything MotionBased does, except it resides on your computer (as opposed to being all online). I'll have to do a more complete review in a future post since I just started using it. If you're familiar with it, let me know!
Other Hardware Needed
Ok, this is definitely in the optional category - but as I mentioned before, the Garmin inexplicably has NO overall odometer function. Before I got the Garmin, I had a basic CatEye cyclocomputer. And I still use it since it has an odometer. This way I know how many miles my bike has been, the intervals between servicing, etc.
Of course, you could also just get one of those, er, "analog" jobs from the 80's like I had. Then you could be high-tech and retro at the same time (and annoy your competitors with the incessant "CLICK CLICK CLICK" of the pin hitting the sprocket!).