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2010 Athlete Gadget Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time of year when people stampede into their local mall in search of the perfect gift.  But choosing gifts for an endurance athlete can be tough.  Endurance athletes are picky by nature – for example, you’d never dream of giving a bottle of Heed to an EFS lover – that’d be akin to offering filet mignon to a vegan.

So I offer you my top list of sport related gadgets and training gizmos for the endurance athlete, sorted by category and who they appeal to.  This is a bit different from my Sport GPS Recommendations guide, in that I’ve narrowed it down to exactly what you should pickup for your endorphin-crazed friend.  Think of it as a foolproof guide.  I can guarantee you that anything you buy from this list will make that person happy.  No crapware products listed here.

And, as always – by using any of the links below you help support the site (and future giveaways).  Thanks for reading, and your support!

All Round Endurance Sports & Triathlete: Forerunner 310XT

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Probably the worst kept secret is that my favorite all around training device at the moment is the Forerunner 310XT.  To date, it represents the most complete sport device from a training and racing standpoint.  Many devices can do training well – sport by sport – but only the 310XT can pull it all together on race day and offer a seamless story from swim to bike to run (err…maybe…painful walk).

Plus, the recent firmware update two weeks ago that add in new power meter smoothing modes means that you can truly use this as a single device – even for the most advanced cyclists amongst the triathlete crowd (or those cyclists that occasionally flirt with running).

And while there will always be a ‘new version’ to hedge bets against for the future, I don’t think you can go wrong with purchasing this unit now.  I expect to see Garmin continue to add features into the 310XT (such as support for their upcoming Vector pedal based power meter).  Plus, as proven by the FR305 – it’s still got a really long future on store shelves ahead of it.

You can pickup the FR310XT via REI or via Amazon for prices between $299 and $399 depending on tidal patterns and moon phases.

Watching Fitness: Withings WiFi Scale

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I’ve reviewed a few different scales over the past year, but my favorite continues to be the Withings WiFi Scale.  During my Symposium talk I noted to the group of sport device companies the many reasons I think this is one of the most well thought out sports-related devices out there.  Its effortless setup process, it works anywhere you’ve got WiFi, and has an impressive online site with with everything from iPhone to Android to iPad integration and apps.  All this make keeping track of your weight easy, and…perhaps a bit exciting (no…really…well, except after this past Turkey Day).

But even more important is that they’ve continued to innovate and expand with partners.  Just last week they announced the ‘Health Triade’ with both Digifit and Zeo.  Both companies sent me products to review, so you’ll see those in a bit.  But to me, more importantly this shows me they’re (Withings) still actively working to better the experience for consumers today.  A rare and refreshing trait in technology companies.

You can pickup the Withings Scale for about $159.

The Cyclist: Garmin Edge 500

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Cyclists are finicky folks (sorry, you/we just are).  First, they’ve got to color coordinate their jerseys to the frame, and then ensure the water bottle doesn’t clash with the handlebar tape.   Of course, that’s before we get to talking about component weight.  Don’t even try to engage that discussion, or even try inserting logic into it.  Logic never applies during that conversation.

But perhaps that’s the one reason that I recommend the Edge 500 to cyclists.  While I love the new Edge 800 as a great touring bike computer, it’s the Edge 500 that makes for the best ‘all around GPS bike device’.  It’s tiny, weighs less than an egg – yet includes all the major cycling features like speed, cadence, distance and ANT+ enabled power meter support.  And, when you’re done riding, you get a pretty map of where you went.  Except on a trainer, then it’s just a dot…since…well…you went nowhere.

Plus, for all you color-coordinating folks that can’t stand the thought of putting ‘little blue’ (as The Girl calls it) on your black and white bike…fear not.  You can pickup the Black and White version, or go where no clash has gone before with the Team Garmin Argyle Orange version.

The Edge 500 is available for between $199 and $249 on Amazon, again, depending on random factors within their control.

The Runner: Garmin Forerunner 210

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For the past month I’ve been wearing the new Forerunner 210 every day.  And thus far…I love it.  While my full review should be out sometime this week, there’s very few small things that I nitpick with on it.  As you may remember, the FR210 added both foot-pod support and instant pace support to it’s slightly older brother the FR110.

Unlike the bulkier orange FR310XT, the FR210 is basically the same size as any other standard wrist digital watch.  Except, it packs a 8-10 hour GPS activity life, and a 1-2 week standby life.  And, as I’ve found out recently – as you cross time zones it’ll automatically pickup the correct time – just like your cell phone does when you land at a new airport.

While the new FR410 with its newly engineered four-quadrant bezel may be a great fit for runners seeking more advanced capabilities on a slimmer watch (trial unit arrives tomorrow for me), I find that for 95% of my running workouts – the FR210 will work just perfectly.

You can pickup the FR210 for $299.

The Swimmer: FINIS SwimSense

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The swimmer category is a bit tough to fulfill.  See, I just don’t swim with much – and don’t really have any good toys for the pool…yet.  Well, besides my wetsuit and pull buoy.  Like any true triathlete, I love both of them!  Why let a bit of flotation get in the way of a good workout?

On the gadget side I’ve only tried one gadget to date – the Poolmate – which I was rather unimpressed with.

However, at some point this week the new FINIS SwimSense by SportSense will hopefully arrive at my hotel room – ready for me to take it for a spin.  While I haven’t played with the unit hands on yet, I have spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone with the SwimSense team over a multitude of calls spanning nearly 6 months during their development cycle, poking and prodding – and getting to play with the software side of things.  And I think they’re on the right track.

You can wait for my thoughts on the device probably next week sometime, or you can stick your name in the hopper now, via their website – for $199.

And as for music devices in the pool – I’ve never swam with one (would be fun to review though…), so I can’t offer any details there.

The iPhone Person: Wahoo Fitness iPhone Dongle

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As I predicted earlier this year, the iPhone continues to gain acceptance as a sport training device.  There have been both a surge in sport-related hardware options for the iPhone, but also iPhone apps.  While my iPhone Sport Apps post is still being hatched, I can offer my ‘you can’t go wrong’ recommendations on hardware in the meantime.

My primary recommendation would be the Wahoo Fitness ANT+ iPhone dongle.  This dongle allows you to connect to any ANT+ device, be it a power meter, heart rate strap, speed/cadence sensor, footpod, Tanita BC-1000 scale, or even the new Garmin Chirp (for you geocaching folks).  And While Wahoo Fitness itself only offers a relatively modest software app, it’s the larger ecosystem that’s at play here.  Wahoo has over 40 different vendors either building apps, or have already released apps.  Everyone from MapMyRun/Ride to Quarq has something in the hopper or already out there.  Many of them either free…or just a few bucks.

You can pickup the Wahoo Fitness iPhone dongle here for $79.

Now, if you prefer a ‘fully integrated’ solution, then I’m seeing good things with the updated Digifit solution.  I’ve been a bit hard on Digifit in the past due to their previously wonky pricing model.  But they’ve cleaned that up a bit – along with cleaning up their apps.  Their new partnership with both Withings (WiFi Scale) and the Zeo Sleep Machine also signals and interesting shift in the companies directions.  I’ll have a full Digifit review at some point in the semi-near future, but for now you can pickup their iPhone dongle for $10, and you buy different apps separately.

(Note, I would offer sport recommendations for both Android and Windows 7 phone users…but to speak simply: There’s just nothing out there yet for ya to buy).

The Rundown:

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The Triathlete

Garmin Forerunner 310XT

$299

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Watching Fitness

Withings WiFi Scale

$159

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The Cyclist

Garmin Edge 500

$249

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The Runner

Garmin Forerunner 210

$249

SwimSense-Hero-Scene

The Swimmer

FINIS SwimSense by SportSense

$199

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iPhone Sports Person

Wahoo Fitness iPhone Adapter

$79

Thanks for reading, and supporting the site!
-Ray

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19 Comments

  1. Hi,

    As for waterproof MP3 players, I can recommend the Speedo Aquabeat. Really simple to use next/prev, vol up/down, but no shuffle feature.

    link to amazon.com

    Thanks for a great blog!

    Dan (Denmark)

    Reply
  2. Rob

    Great gift ideas on there, cant wait for the 210 review, busting to buy one but was awaiting your expert opinion on it before buying

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    Hi Ray,

    You have me interested in Withings WiFi Body Scale, but I could not find anything on the actual accuracy of the scale. Traditionally, bodyfat scales have failed miserably in their accuracy of actual bodyfat.
    Do you have any info on where to find documented accuracy readings for this product ??

    Thanks, Terry (Chicago)

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Hi – You forgot the “Cheap Person” on your list. The Garmin 305 forerunner hit $99 at Walmart on the weekend. It does not have all the whistles and bells but at 1/3 the price of the 310XT and less than half the price of the 210 it is a great buy on a good product.
    Todd, Atlanta

    Reply
  5. Hey Ray,

    First, love your blog. Just came across it recently and have found it very helpful and informative.

    Hate to jump the gun, but I had a quick question on your FR210 experiences. I notice on the Garmin site that the 210 is missing the VP and Courses features, as well as the ability to program in advanced workouts. The VP and courses thing aren’t too important to me, but the advanced workouts are critical. Since the 210 is going for $299 right now, and the 310XT is on sale at the same price at REI (making this an apples to apples price comparison), would you still recommend the 210 for runners, or would you suggest going up to the 310XT, even if I might not use all the “tri” related functions.

    Thanks and keep it coming. Looking forward to your future reviews and posts.

    Stu

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    “You can pickup the FR310XT via REI until the end of Tuesday for $299 (sale)” – Looking today, the sale has ended. I think the sale ended Monday night.

    Thanks for the great site! Steve (Chicago)

    Reply
  7. Hi Rob/Stu-

    RE: FR210

    I’m loving the FR210 for what it is – a slim running watch. Yes, it doesn’t do courses, nor VP, nor advanced workouts. But I look back at how often I do those things, and it’s maybe 5% of my total running workouts per year (of course, everyone is different). For those, the 310XT is my go-to. If money was no object, then I’d go with the 310XT. But if fashion and money are considered, then the FR210 fits the bill 95% of the time for runners (triathletes are different of course).

    Hi Terry-

    RE: Withings Scale

    In my Withings review I did some testing against a few other models that claim BF%, and they seemed in line. One of those models had some tests done (Tanita) showing it generally inline with traditional testing. Putting together a post comparing some of these scales to various body fat testing methods is on my list…just need to be in the states more than a couple of days in a row. ;)

    Hi Todd/Anon-

    RE: Cheap person

    Absolutely! The FR305 continues to be the best bet for someone looking for a great deal. You just can’t beat $99 (or even $129), especially since it includes a HR strap. The only reason I didn’t include it was because I wanted to avoid increasing the number of variants. However, on my overall GPS recommendations post, I include it there. Here’s the link to that post:

    link to dcrainmaker.com

    Hi Steve-

    RE: REI Sale

    Ahh, good catch, I’ve updated that. Thanks!

    Reply
  8. RE: REI Sale – Not to get too off track here in Ray’s comments, but I was able to get in on the REI 310XT sale Monday night, but on backorder. That might be why the sale is no longer going on – they received too many backorders to fill them within a certain time frame.

    Folks should know that Road Runner Sports has had the 310XT on sale at $299 off and on over the past week or so. They change their sale each day, but you might want to keep an eye on their site to see if the device goes back on sale.

    Stu

    Reply
  9. Thanks for the input on the FR210 Ray. I’m looking forward to your review. Since I was able to get in on the REI sale on the 310XT, money technically was not an object (same price as 210), so I went with the 310XT. I actually currently use a Polar RS800CX and really like it, but I’m getting a little tired of calibrating the footpod all the time as my paces change from run to run, and the G3 GPS sensor that goes around the arm is a pain in the…. arm. So I’m primarily looking to get the 310XT as an easy GPS-on-the-wrist solution for when I’m less concerned about HR tracking and more concerned about accurate distance/pace data and seeing where I ran. However, seeing your post on using the Garmin transmitter with the Polar strap makes me at least intrigued enough to see if the 310XT can be my go-to device over the the RS800CX.

    Stu

    Reply
  10. Happyhapa

    I saw in your post you mentioned that you were unimpressed by your experiences with the Poolmate, yet searching your posts I don’t see any reviews of the unit.

    The reason I ask is I just ordered with Pro version which added the ability to dump to Sporttracks via .csv and wondered if the lack of download was the only negative you had experienced.

    Reply
  11. Great list, DC Rainmaker!

    One gadget I’ve got me for Christmas is the ZeoPersonalSleepCouch.

    Something for you too, i guess:

    link to myzeo.com

    Reply
  12. I’m anxious to see a review of the 410, especially since I bought a 405 two months ago! LOL!

    Reply
  13. I love your list, I just sent a link from your blog to santa. I want the 310XT most of all.

    For waterproof swimming devices – I like H2O audio – so far it has worked well for me except for at first had an issue with the “ear fitting” but I did a review on my blog and the CEO contacted me and sent me a fit kit (normally $20), which I thought was very cool. As far as sound, I am satisfied with it.

    Reply
  14. Not only do I no longer need National Geographic, I no longer need to make a Christmas list. I can just forward a link to this post. Thanks!

    Reply
  15. Diego

    Thanks for all the work you put into your reviews! I’m trying to find out if the Forerunner 410 is using the new SIRF IV chipset or if it still has the older SIRF III. Different sources have given different answers. Do you know? And do you have any thoughts on the accuracy between the two?

    Thanks again!

    Reply
  16. Hi Ray,

    just found out about the Suunto memory belt (link to suunto.com) that can record heart rate data on its own for later download (and supposedly is ANT+ compatible). Could this be the solution (along with one of the watches you mention in your post) for swimming performance tracking?. It would be interesting if you could review the memory belt.

    Reply
  17. Hi Jose-

    Interesting, first I’ve seen of it being available. The product is I believe is based on ANT+FS, which is semi-new technology that allows ‘store and forward’ ANT+ messages – it’s running a bit behind when it comes to availability in most products, but this is likely the future of swimming based HR straps.

    Reply
  18. Anonymous

    Hi Ray I’m Nick from Italy, must say I found great things here. I need to replace my old Polar and struggling between Garmin 210 and 410. Reason for this is only limited possibility on 210 while 410 seems to have basically same software of 310 and seems to be improved from 405.My problem is that I use to run alone and I want to improve my performances so I thought that 410 can give me additional things like VP etc. Having that said I can’t wait your review of 410 (as you will need a certain number of months or would not be so interesting and complete)Can you give me your impression on 410?
    Thanks for any help/point of view (and understanding as I’m a rookie)you can give me
    Nick

    Reply
  19. N2

    Hey Ray,
    Great blog! Thank you for all the valuable information!

    On the pool side, I have started to play with a Finis Metronome, which is very helpful regulating my stroke count as I can’t count beyond 2 once I am in the water…

    On the bike side, I’d love to see a comparative piece on aero helmets, equipment and usage…

    Reply

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