Friday Tidbits: First Garmin FR910XT Swim Workout, Timex Run Trainer & TACX Trainer arrival

Just a few interesting tidbits that haven’t grown up yet to get their own posts yet, but since I get tons of questions on them – I figured I’d share some of my Thursday arrivals and tests.

First up is my first swim workout with the Garmin FR910XT.  Previously the unit wasn’t quite ready for its time in the pool, but everything’s been worked out and I’m able to go full steam ahead with swimming.  So this evening I took it to the rec center and strapped it on my left wrist.  On my right wrist I put on my trusty FINIS Swimsense swimming watch.

And then I swam an easy swim workout.  Just a touch over 2,000 yards.  Broken down into a few chunks, but no drill work – so it’s simple for both units to track without issue.

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When all was said and done both units were exactly the same on distance. Exactly.

I found that the FR910XT’s display is incredibly easy to see underwater, especially with the backlight on at either half or full strength.  Like a beacon of brightness.

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Also of interest is just how darn customizable the FR910XT’s display fields are in the pool.  So many options, made it really easy to arrange a few pages showing previous set as well as current set and then totals.

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(OK, these shots aren’t of my normal underwater photographic prowess level.  I had lent out my 10-22m lens to a friend, which I normally use for underwater photos – not thinking that I’d be taking photos tonight using the DLSR underwater.  Instead I was stuck with the 17-40m lens…which quite frankly I’m beginning hate…it’s slow and doesn’t do well in low light.  But I figured you’d cut me some slack in exchange for seeing some pics.)

It’s still too early to draw any appreciable comparisons to the Swimsense watch – primarily because at this stage the web portion that I upload the FR910XT swim workouts to isn’t ready yet.  So I can’t actually see the results afterwards (aside from the history pages on the watch).  Completely reasonable though being the watch won’t be available for another month.  Though, the history pages are pretty good.  I can see by total swim workout, intervals (basically sets), and even by lengths within an interval. Impressive.

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The key areas of difference I’m seeing already is that the FR910XT doesn’t do paused time – or understand the concept of it.  Meaning, time that you’re spending at the wall shouldn’t be part of lapped time, but it shouldn’t be excluded altogether either as if you had stopped the watch.   The Swimsense watch understands the difference between active swimming and paused time and categorizes appropriately.  On the flip side, the display is definitely easier to read on the FR910XT with the backlight.  Again, as I’ve mentioned previously once I get both side by side from a data perspective you can expect a full shootout.  It’s gonna be a close race!

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(Note, in case your wondering why one says 2050 and the other 2075…it was a casualty of taking photos.  Because the paused screen on the Swimsense is darker by design, it wasn’t showing up in photos well – so I un-paused it.  After a bunch of moving my arms about taking various photos it ended up triggering a length.  Perfectly logical, just wanted to explain why.  I do have some less good shots with both the same time and distance, but they look like bad Paris Hilton cell phone pics.)

Onto other things!

Also arriving Thursday was the Timex Run Trainer.  You may remember back in August when I highlighted this new watch and how it shakes out compares to the FR210.  I had an opportunity back at the ANT+ Symposium a few weeks back to sit down with the Timex guys and get an exhaustive run-through of every single page.  And by exhaustive, I mean exactly the kinda thing that I love!  Every setting, every page, every option.  Everything.

So I was no stranger when it arrived today:

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I’ll be doing my first run Friday in Chicago with it (I’m headed out to the Men’s Health Urbanathlon, remember?).  Thus far though, I’m blown away by how fast it picks up satellite. 

8 seconds.

Yes, 8 seconds for GPS reception to be complete, this after turning it on for the first time hundreds of miles away from where it was shipped from.  Amazing.  We talked a lot about satellite reception during our chat, and this was one area they were really proud about in terms of where they’ve been able to go with the Run Trainer – especially compared to some of the issues they saw in the past.  They really wanted me to throw down the gauntlet when it comes to accuracy tests, because they feel they can absolutely stand up here and be different.

I’m also really liking the fact that the charging clip is incredibly secure.  I commented on Facebook that I’m reasonably certain I could actually tie the charging clip to a ceiling fan, clip it onto the watch – and then turn on the fan – and it’d stay put.  If I find a ceiling fan…you might just see a video out of it.

It’s got these two little hard plastic prongs in addition to the four metal charging clips.  The two prongs bite into the watch. Combine that with the spring of a mouse trap – and you’ve got the makings of…well…a watch trap.

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Here’s a handful of roller comparison shots.  From left to right: Garmin FR210, Garmin FR610, Timex Run Trainer, Garmin FR910XT, Timex Global Trainer.

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And yup, it’s aquatic too.  Waterproofed to 50m.  Though of course as a running watch, it doesn’t know what to do once it’s in the pool aside from keep track of time and splits/intervals.

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Since this is a Friday post, and it’s already far longer than it should be – I’m going to simply say that at this point for sub-$200 including a heart rate strap, it’s probably the best deal in GPS running watches out there.  Availability should be here in roughly a few weeks.  And look for my review likely October 24-25th timeframe.  Sound good?  Good.

Last but not least, on the list of things arriving – I’ve finally (almost) got the TACX trainer (it’s just like a CompuTrainer…but with fancier software and full ANT+ compatibility).  According to the UPS tracking numbers/site it’s actually just down the street already at the UPS facility and should be delivered tomorrow morning.  In the meantime, I’ve got the software all loaded up and I’m ready to rumble!

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So hang tight, it’s about to get busy in DCRainmaker review land over the next month.  Plus, I’ve got even more stuff coming on the trainer front (LeMond Trainer and a CycleOps Powerbeam Pro) – as well as all the swimming MP3 players.  And other unannounced stuff. Just in time for the winter training season!

Thanks for reading!  And if you’re out this Saturday at the Chicago Urbanathlon and see me – say hi!

22 Comments

  1. Aaron

    Next time your swimming with this can you see if just touching the wall is enough to trigger the lap instead of a flip turn. Thanks

    Reply
  2. More good stuff here as usual. The information about the lack of pause seems to be a fairly obvious "miss" by Garmin, but one they should be able to fix with a firmware update. I hope they will take that feedback and make the correction. One observation I have with the Swimovate is that it doesn't handle counting laps well when you are changing speed within the interval. For example, Swim 100 as 50 Fast/50 Easy. For some reason this confuses the Swimovate and you end up with some odd yardage (like 75 or 125). I'm just wondering if you've experienced this with the Swimsense or if you've tested it out on the FR910XT.

    Reply
  3. really starting to like this watch, if only it would measure heart rate under water it would be near perfection.

    Reply
  4. I got out of the habit of stopping my Garmins while pausing simply because Garmin Connect does that calculation for you if you leave it running; it will be interesting to see if that's the same when you can upload your swims.

    As far as the Timex goes, I'd love to see a mild focus on real-world usability; in my experience things like the menus the fact that they won't just do what you ask of them puts them far behind the Garmin series, but I'd love to know if they've managed to fix some of that.

    And for the good deal side of things - have you had a chance to play with a Soleus $99 GPS yet? I'd be interested to see if they're good enough to make a decent gift for a new runner, and I actually trust your reviews :)

    Reply
  5. Jean

    Hi- My last ride was last Sunday in my first sprint triathlon. I love reading all your reviews and I just bought a waterproof mp3 player so I hope your future reviews tell me I've chosen the right one. Thanks for the contest- I hope I win :) Thanks also for so much great knowlege in one place- very helpful! jeandonis@hotmail.com

    Reply
  6. Hi - I love your reviews and website. My last ride was the Augusta Half Ironman a few weeks ago. 56 miles in 3:30 and no squirrels were injured. I want to get a waterproof mp3 player soon so I'm looking forward to your upcoming reviews. gajkelley@gmail.com

    Reply
  7. My last ride was a quick Monday night ride. It is getting dark down here in New Orleans around 6:30 so as school principal, it can be tough for me to get a ride in during the week. BUt i came home and got out on the levee for about an hour. Really refreshing breeze, beautiful scenery on the Mississippi, and the first time using my speed cadence sensor I got through your amazon links.

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    Glad QBP came through on the Tacx trainer! It's been a nice long wait for that Tacx trainer, eh? Looking forward to the LeMond and cycleops trainer as well. I have the Bushido coming tomorrow, but I think I am going to wait on loading the software on my PC until I get the "Ray Manual". Cheers to Friday!
    --Casey

    Reply
  9. Happy Friday to everyone! My last ride...well, it has been 6 weeks since my last ride. This particulary excellent Labor Day weekend, I led about six fellow riders on what we call "Sunday Dirt Services". For those who dont attend other churches, they can worship at church of dirt!

    It was an awesome ride, hills, twotrack, singletrack, road, rollercoaster, and of course, adventure. Well, in the middle of the ride we were taking on the return rollercoaster on the back of a very familiar technical trail...it's just awesome! On the way down one of the gravity drops, a stick had fallen the night before...at an angle...and as you may have figured out by now, I hit that baby at a pretty decent tilt.

    WHAM! The handlebars get forced sideways into my left hand and ~crunch~!!! I thought it was just the sound of the handlebars torquing! I got up, shook myself off, and finished the ride, another 10-12 miles. At this point, my hand only felt as if it was strained, so when I got back I figured I'd have it checked.

    Sure enough, two spiral fractures on #4 and #5 metacarpal. Ugh. There went my season. As I type this I've been out of my cast for almost two weeks...the weather has been absolutely fantastic, but Dr. says I can't ride...quite yet!

    So, it's been six weeks since my last ride.... It's given me much time to peruse your blog. Keep up the great work!!!

    Action Chuck

    Reply
  10. Looking forward to trainers reviews! thanks!
    happy Friday
    Tomek

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    2nd Aarons comment - I just don't do flip turns and so far, not having that skill has not held me back in any of the triathlons I've done. So interested in knowing whether the watch will still do laps.

    Also 2nd Tomek's comment. Getting cold and dark, so need to know DCR's opinion on trainers.

    Final comment -- Garmin is taking preorders. Do you have a link so some of the coin falls your way?

    Reply
  12. Curious if you're going to like the Tacx trainer. Here in the Netherlands they are huge and the verb "Tacxen" is widely used...

    Reply
  13. Can you elaborate on the 910xt swim pause? Also does the watch allow you to set up swim workouts, ie. 200yrd - 20sec rest - 300yrd - 20sec rest .... If it does have this feature are you saying during the rest period it is counting that as swim time? And my last ride was in June, 62.5 mile charity ride in Buffalo, NY.

    Reply
  14. Cant wait for your tacx review. I have a bushido running on version 2 software. Quite a mission to get set up and running (like many users find) so a little nervous about upgrading to version 3.

    That said once set up it is an awesome piece of kit - especially when you save the data down to golden cheetah.

    Reply
  15. Hi Anon/Aaron-

    RE: Yes, no problems with open turns instead of flip.

    RE: Pre-order love, at the moment no coinage goes my way for the Garmin.com orders, and while I check daily - nobody has it on Amazon quite yet. :( No worries, I fully understand you want it by Christmas. Thanks for the support though!

    Hi Bugsy-

    On the pause feature, it doesn't have a way to differentiate between paused time and active swimming time. For example, on the Swimsense, while swimming it knows I'm swimming and counts it towards lap totals, swim total time and total distance. But once I hit to switch into the paused mode on swimsense, it doesn't count that toward total time (thus not skewing total paces). The FR910XT simply sees it as a new swimming lap, as opposed to something to ignore (unless you press stop, which doesn't capture rest then).

    And at the moment I don't see a way to create workouts, but that may just be a software update that hasn't made it to my device.

    Thanks all!

    Reply
  16. Cool post Ray. Very much looking forward to your review of the Lemond trainer as well as the Tacx. Don't wait too long! Xmas is coming up.

    Reply
  17. Its a nice article and kept nice views by reading our views i inspire my self to swim and note the time and heartbeat

    Reply
  18. Hurry up with the Tacx Trainer, I am excited about hearing your comparison to the Computrainer.

    Reply
  19. What TACX trainer are you going to review? I'm really interested in your result. Getting ready to buy a Computrainer or a TACX.

    Reply
  20. Tacx Bushido.

    Reply
  21. Anonymous

    Ray, how is your TACX Trainer review going? looking forward to see your point of view. I would be interested to see who accurate the power is, and if you had a chance to test TTS V4 and with the new bushido firmware (coupling with an power meter).
    Cheers Kai

    Reply
  22. URGuilty

    Ditto on the Bushido! wondering if it should be on the christmas list. are we gonna have to wait til after the holidays?

    Reply

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