Ray's Weekly Sports Electronics Mailbag

Hello, welcome to the Weekly Mailbag. I’m Ray, from DCRainmaker.com. If you’ve ever searched for reviews on sports technology – you’ve probably come across my site. I write about my triathlon/running training in general, along with sports technology and whatever else seems interesting to me. I started the Weekly Mailbag series earlier this spring as an opportunity to share some of the answers of the many e-mailed questions I get each week.

The mailbag has moved though – from my little place on the web, over here to Slowtwitch. So if you enjoy what you find here, then feel free to click the links to find even more in depth information on each topic. And if you have any questions, you can always e-mail me directly. Thanks for reading!

This week’s mailbag covers the following topics:
1) FR60 multisport mode
2) Non-rubber band mount option for Edge 500
3) Android ANT+ support


Question #1: FR60 multisport mode?
From Kelly-

"I am blind, and I use Garmin devices (mostly the Edge 500) to track training because they are one of the few companies I've found to be accessible (even though Garmin tech support was unaware of their accessibility when I talked to them) when it comes to downloading training information to view on my computer. When using the FR60 in a triathlon, if I use both the Garmin speed/cadence sensor and the foot pod, will the watch automatically switch between the two in transition...My intention would be to manually trip the lap counter through transition. I don't want to have to change menu options on the watch, without being able to see the menus, to switch between disciplines of the race."

Unfortunately, the Garmin FR60 doesn't include a multisport mode, which is the feature term you're looking for. Without multisport mode, you'd have to manually switch from running mode to cycling mode in order for it to trigger the change and pickup the speed/cadence sensor after the running foot pod sensor (next segment). Each of those mode-changes would ideally involve resetting the timer. Lap button alone will only trigger a new lap. On the bright side, memorizing the steps will only take a second, and it's the same each and every time - so that might help. Though I'd agree it's a bit tough to just 'hope' it all works out in the end.

The only current generation watches that have multi-sport mode are the Forerunner 310XT and Forerunner 305. Both of these also have tones that let you know you've successfully transitioned to the next sport.

Question #2: Non-rubber bike mount
From Christian-

"In your Garmin Edge 500 gallery I found one photo that shows a special mount that does not seem to be included in the normal Edge 500 package. Here's the link to the photo (shown right) that shows the particular mount. This one uses cable straps which will hold the Edge more firmly on the bike's handlebar, I think. I'd prefer cable strap mounting instead of the rubber band stuff. Could you please tell me where to get this mount?"

No problem. That mount is actually the Garmin Forerunner 310XT quick release mount kit. It's usually about $12-15US for the whole kit which includes extra pieces required to replace the 310XT orange band. However, the only portion of it you’d use in this case would be the small zip-tied mount.

That said, I wouldn't worry about the newer rubber band mount system. It simply works awesome. While I was hesitant at first, after nearly a year of pounding I’m a convert that it performs flawlessly. Further, it’s so much easier than the zip-ties. Also – because the cost is so cheap ($9 for a box of two and a million rubber bands), it’s easy to add them to your full bike collection.

Last but not least, all of the Garmin bike computers are standardizing on that mount system, which is pretty sweet. The new Edge 800 uses it, as well as the Edge 500 and the 310XT is compatible as well.

Question #3: Android ANT+ Support
From Nick-

"I am Android user and see all of the wonderful ANT+ products available for the iPhone. Do you know of any companies that have products currently available or in development for use on android phones? One of your posts asked for responses to show interest. I am interested! I use the HTC EVO on the Sprint Network."

Indeed – that post really helped to spur quite a bit of discussion both publically, as well as within ANT+ device vendor circles.

There’s quite a bit of movement on the Android side and ANT+ at the moment, in fact, on a number of different fronts. There are four phones that will be released ‘shortly’ that will include ANT+ support running on Android. I previewed one of these back a few weeks ago. Though that one isn’t quite out yet.

When I spent time at the ANT+ Symposium a few weeks ago the message was loud and clear from the chipset manufacturers to the handset manufacturers in attendance that folks in the sports community want native ANT+ support in the phones.

Part of the challenge at the moment is getting full ANT+ API support so developers can take advantage of that once the chipsets are actually in the phone. The guys from Wahoo Fitness are actually working with the ANT+ team to get some product and development options available (both separate initiatives).

The second part of the challenge is that the phones that in theory have the chips today don’t have them enabled for normal users. Adding to the complications is that some of the phones that were supposed to have been ‘off the shelf with firmware mods’ for the Tour de France tracker application may have had different physical chipsets than actual off the shelf units.

In my estimation, I think we’ll realistically see Android phones with ANT+ support built in just after the new year, with dongles of sorts (like the iPhone dongles) following shortly thereafter. Of course, some applications are positioned to have ANT+ support shortly after the chips show up enabled in phones – like MyTracks – whereas others will take a bit of time to catch-up.


Recent Mailbags:

Weekly Mailbag – October 4th, 2010
- Garmin Fitness Product Development Cycles
- Mac Cycling Focused Applications
- Timex Global Trainer and HR while in the water

Weekly Mailbag – September 28th, 2010
- Garmin Forerunner 305 and Walk/Run Tracking
- MetriGear Vector – wait or buy?
- Using Computerized Trainers over the Internet

You can find all past mailbags here.

[Editor's note: our capable editor-at-large for electronics Ray Maker is the publisher of the online sports tech blog DC Rainmaker, one of the top-ranked sites by Google for extremely in-depth reviews of advanced GPS and Heart Rate Monitors for triathlon, cycling, and running.]