Sunday, November 17, 2013

Garmin 510 Cycling Computer Review

We have a bit of equipment envy going on in our house. Paige and I recently had new TT (triathlon) bikes built up. Her's a Quintana Roo Seduza and mine a Quintana Roo CD.01

I spec'd mine out first. I'm pretty picky even down to the brand, model and color of the bar tape (black - because that is the only acceptable color for bar tape - Rule #8 ref: www.velominati.com/the-rules/
Paige followed suite almost to the letter. I guess she figures, "why spend time evaluating something else when I have a husband that obsesses and equationizes (it's a word because I think it should be) every last detail to a point of being a bit of a nut ball... but a nut ball that I respect and love.." - ok, I probably editorialized that last bit somewhat.

She of course also acquired a G3 PowerTap non-ceramic hub (a perfect analytic choice btw) and needed a head unit that would do the data encapsulated by the little ANT+ waves emanating from said hub justice. I immediately specified that the proper choice was a Garmin 510 Edge. She complied (due to aforementioned rationale). I immediately became jealous.

My current solution was to strap my Garmin 310XT running watch to my handlebar, cushioned by an appropriate length of pipe insulation from Home Depot. If you are thinking about buying the plastic $20 mount that does the same, please call me and I'll explain why you are wrong.

However - my choice was based on the fact that I already *had* a 310XT. And one important parameter of every equation I work out is that I can be cheap (reference - cut off piece of pipe insulation from Home Depot).

But once Paige got her new 510, and I started reading the manual on it - I instantly became jealous. It's one thing to know a gadget is out there - it's an entirely different matter when your wife is riding around with said gadget on her bike and you have to see it every day as she rolls happily out the driveway. "What do we covet Agent Starling? We begin by coveting what we see every day. "

Damn...

I'll skip ahead now to why the 510 Edge is an awesome choice for any cyclist (including now.... me):

Mounts Easily:
Let's start with the mounting bracket. Ok, this is the way mounting brackets should work. The mounting disk secures via special rubber bands to the stem or the handle bar. No more buying special mounts depending on the orientation. No more worrying about cutting the mount and then trying to transfer it to you other bike that (because of a slightly larger stem diameter) requires 3mm more of the strap you lopped off already - now requiring you to buy a new mount - per those bastards from.... sorry, where was I? Oh yeah.... Garmin also gives you two of these mounts in the standard package. They obviously have read Rule # 12 - "The Correct Number of Bikes to Own is N+1". Finally there is an alternative 'Out in Front' mount, that positions the unit further forward of the stem. 

Getting the unit on and off the bike is also as easy as a simple quarter twist. This keeps the unit secure, but also makes it easy to remove with another quarter twist. Compare this method with the one many competing bike computers that require you to.. "Push down and hold while you press backwards, but firmly down on the unit and using a counter-clockwise twist (clockwise if you are south of the equator) gently press the unit toward the front of the bike and watch it launch off the handlebar and skip across the garage floor." Ok, maybe I'm paraphrasing their manual - or mis-translating the Japanese version. But you get the idea.

Reason #2 - The 510 Edge is Ludicrously Configurable:
I will say that I did my first ride without initially configuring the unit to my anal retentive standards. This was a mistake. Mostly because it's not a good idea to try doing this while riding for obvious reasons. Like you may drift to the curb and launch yourself off the front of the bike. Did I mention the unit mounts and retains brilliantly? Test completed.

When I got home, I instantly went to work. I pulled up the Garmin manual online. There are 85 different pieces of data this puppy can present you with. Each of those can be configured to one of 5 different display pages (6 if you count the Workout page). Each page can contain from 1-8 data fields. While riding you can scroll through these data pages - meaning that you can technically view up to 48 different data fields while riding. That's just silly.... or *is* it? Consider the approach where you create a 'theme' for each page. For example, my themes (pages) are as follows:
  • Just Riding Along Page (default)
  • Lap (power / distance / time based) Training Page
  • Skills / Drills Page (cadence, power balance, etc..)
  • Environment Page (current temp, time of day, elevation, etc..)
  • Summary Page
I'm sure I'll tweak these over time, but you get the idea.

Now - in addition to this, you can also configure these pages differently across up to 5 activities (Race, Train, Commute, Practice Sagan Style Wheelies, etc...)

You can also have multiple bike profiles (ANT+ sensors, weight, wheel size, odometers and crank length) for up to 10 bikes.... that barely does it for me - but I'll let it go.

Finally - all of this of course uploads to Garmin Connect (free) or your favorite tracking software. I've played around with various options out there, but found Garmin Connect to handle most of my needs (with Golden Cheetah in my back-pocket when I want to get ultra geeky.... which is far too often). I've also found that the integration for Garmin devices works most seamlessly to Garmin Connect - go figure. Good segue to the next topic.

SmartPhone Integration
Do people say 'smart phone' anymore? It's kind of dorky. It's really just your phone. Not even your 'mobile' phone - since who has land lines these days? Certainly not anyone that is going to buy a geeked out cycling computer. So we'll just say 'phone'.

The Garmin 510 Edge pairs via Bluetooth (via the downloadable Garmin Connect app) to your phone that you can toss in your jersey pocket. Now - for those of us that refuse to sag out, this presents a bit of a problem as we now have to start actually carrying our phones. Luckily, I have personally found other uses for my phone than calling my wife to tell her that I'm not man enough to carry on. For example; I take pictures on my ride and also use it when I need to re-route because I've encountered one of the road construction black holes that seem to pop up here and there around the Denver metro area.

Of course, integrating with your phone creates all sorts of cool possibilities, such as (in ascending degrees of whiz-bang coolness):

1. When you stop your ride, you hit save on your 510 screen. The device uploads your ride through the phone to Garmin Connect. No connecting it to a computer, no ANT+ stick (which classifies in my book as a 'dumb as a bag of hammers' invention). Instead, the 510 just  uploads all the data right through your phone. And it's fast. My 2 hour test ride was uploaded before I got back into the house and opened my post ride beer. Just keep the unit turned on until it's done.

2. You can get on-line weather alerts to your head unit. Now, granted, the 'High Wind Advisory" warning that popped up on my 510 screen wasn't all that useful because when I received it, I was rolling along pulling 240 watts on a downhill section at 15 mph - "Oh, thanks.... I hadn't noticed there was a lot of wind" - but I can see where it's useful for things like lightening, approaching tornadoes, or an impending 40 degree temperature drop. Now if it can also tell me when the Bronco's game is about to get out and clog up the Platte bike path, or when there's an impending Phish concert that will toss a few thousands ganja-heads onto the roads of Red Rocks - that might come in handy. Mostly I just though it was cool.

3. Live Tracker. Ok - this one has to be by far, the coolest feature. Both from a tech-geek perspective as well as required technology for any proper social media narcissist. Here's how it works. Before you start a ride, you engage 'Live Track' on your phone. When you start your ride on the 510, Live Track will send out eMails to your pre-specified list of people who you think might give a crap with a link that let's the follow your ride in real time. This has a number of possible uses. The most useful (and non-narcissistic) was offered to me by my team-mate Tony, who said that it let his wife know where he on his ride, his current progress and when he'd be home. See, It's a safety feature. For example, when your wife sees that you've been stopped at a particular location for the last hour, then you might be down and hurt in a ditch and require immediate assistance. 

Alternatively, if you're stopped for several hours, you might just be a at a strip club and desire no assistance what so ever from your significant other. Of course if you're into that sort of thing, then I'd suggest not getting into the habit of using this feature. And you might want to think about bringing a change of clothes. I haven't been into a 'gentlemen's club' in probably 30 years - but if I recall, spandex bike shorts are probably not acceptable attire.. unless you're planning on mounting the pole.

And I've never been to a 'ladies(???)' club - so I wouldn't even know where to start with an appropriate joke.


Anyway, I should add that my own initial though when reading about Live Tracker was that I could use it to taunt my buddies that didn't show up for the ride. Although I haven't quite figured out a way to create an eMail template for Live Tracker that says something like; 

"Hey lard-butt - I'm out riding. Come catch me. Or next time experience my awesomeness that I'll gain from this training ride" 

Your buddy after realizing
you're pulling 300W up Lookout
....or something like that. Maybe peppered with more demeaning profane references to female body parts - you women just don't understand. This is how us guys speak to each other. It's actually our way of expressing affection.

Live Tracker could also be used to allow your friends and family to track your epically awesome, 10 hour IronMan bike segment from the comfort of the RV with a side of blender margarita's - instead of staring into the distance, waiting to see your kit. Hmmm... I'm pretty sure I can figure out how to stream it on my AppleTV. All jokes aside (I'm hoping you got the '10 hour Ironman bike segment' bit) - Live Tracker could really be useful to friends and family tracking athletes on long course events.

Down sides:
1. It's an expensive toy. Do you need it? No. But most triathletes might ask, "How do I buy 2 of these?" - the answer? Be married to another triathlete.

2. It's not disposable (see down side #1). Meaning - if you want to put this on your mountain bike, you gotta be thinking about what happens to it when you toss out the front door. For me, I'll stick to my less expensive CatEye Strada (or nothing) on my mountain bike rides. And if you're riding with a PowerTap on the mountain bike - they you are far geekier than me my friend.


3. The screen is a bit hard to read for us old guys. Contrast is hard to see in bright daylight with sunglasses on. The back light can be configured to stay on longer and you can turn it on just by touching the screen (and then again to lose the pop-up menu - you'll see). But this is minor and honestly, it's my fault for configuring 7 fields on each of my pages. I guess you could always use your iPad as a bike computer.




4. It could be intimidating to a lower tech person. If you're this person - just get your more tech -savvy significant other or friend to configure it for you and give you some lessons. Or, pick it up from your LBS (Local Bike Shop) such as Kompetitive Edge. The folks there would be more than happy to set you up and show you how to configure and use it. 


Once you get it strapped to your handlebar - you'll be glad you did.



2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where's Mo Kenyan? Haven't seen a post hit my inbox in a few months.

Kevin said...

Hah - yeah, been thinking about that at least once every couple days for the last several weeks!

Holidays, work, travel, training - the usual suspects. I've got a few ideas, but just need to put pen to paper. Will post soon!