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.

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) Effect of discontinuation on Garmin models
2) Edge 800 availability
3) Which workout logging software to use

Question #1: Effect of discontinuation on Garmin models
From Annette-

"My question is regarding the Garmin FR305 vs the FR310xt. If I go with the FR305 (I have the Edge 705) with the FR305 being discontinued shortly, will that effect customer service if there is a problem? Or at this point would it be in my best interest to go with the FR310XT. My main focus is cycling with a little bit of running for diversity, with a 2 or 3 tri's per season consisting of the sprint or Olympic distances. I would appreciate your opinion on this. "

As far as the FR305 lifecycle goes - you're still good there from a support standpoint as it’s still considered a support product and subject to their normal support timelines.

This actually came up during the Interbike Power Meter Seminar Garmin section, with respect to the Edge 705 due to the replacement Edge 800 being introduced. They wanted to reassure everyone that support warranties still follow the same path regardless of new products being introduced.

Looking at model history, I’d expect that a new variant of the FR310XT will likely arrive next spring. Thus hedging and going with the FR305 as an interim option may be one solution. Even as a long term option - it works great. I don't know if they plan to address the glass issue on the next version of the FR310XT, but I'd be very surprised if they didn't given it’s really be the only significant complaint about the FR310XT as a product.

Question #2: Edge 800 availability?
From Jilani-

Any idea when the Edge 800 goes on sale? Amazon shows 1-3 months, but I can’t find a release date anywhere. Any thoughts?

You’re in luck! Garmin just announced on Monday (Nov 1st) that their flagship store in Chicago is now carrying them in stock. Of course, given you’re in Seattle and not in Chicago - that doesn’t help you much.

However, Garmin Website orders also noted to me in an e-mail that the Edge 800 should be shipping out within a week of November 12th (their wording, not mine). And, on the Amazon side of things - some sub-vendors are now down to 6-10 days for availability. In other words, relatively soon!

On a related note - I’ve had the Edge 800 for over two months now and continue to be impressed with its stability and functionality. I’ve been using it on every single ride and haven’t had a lost workout yet (longtime Garmin Edge users will know this is a big milestone). The Garmin team has been continually updating the firmware during the final beta phases up until the final release firmware. There have been quite a few little bits of polish added to it over this time, giving a much smoother interface in a number of areas.

Question #3: Which workout logging software?
From Matt-

I read about your enthusiasm for Sport Tracks. Is that the workout logging software that you use personally and would recommend? How does it compare to Training Peaks? Are you aware of any software that allows you to extract your data into a txt or excel file (i.e. so you have a "copy" that is not in a format proprietary to some software company)?

Hi Matt! Indeed, I really love many of the features that Sport Tracks offers, as well as the customizability of it - primarily through plug-ins. This is something that isn’t offered on many of the websites out there provided by the device vendors (such as Garmin Connect). However, as you noted, I also use Training Peaks quite a bit as well.

From a day to day standpoint I actually use Training Peaks more than Sport Tracks. The reason for that is that while I love all of the advanced functionality that Sport Tracks brings, it doesn’t have a good method for me to communicate workouts to my coach, and have those workouts be easily analyzed and commented on by him. Whereas Training Peaks offers a much more integrated training suite for both coaches and athletes.

Finally, Training Peaks does offer the advantage of being accessible from anywhere with a web browser - which is just about everywhere. It also has the benefit of offering the latest device compatibility pretty quickly after the devices come out - an area that Sport Tracks often lags in (or depends on plug-ins to support).

So as you see - there is no right answer per se. It’s about what you’re looking for. On one hand Sport Tracks offers tons of flexibility with an endless catalog of plug-ins, whereas Training Peaks offers a great way to communicate workouts between a Coach and Athlete.

As far as exporting to Excel and/or CSV files - most suites out there offer this functionality, but I’d caution it’s not quite as useful as it used to be. In the GPS age, having a list of coordinates doesn’t (which is how the data is stored), doesn’t tend to be as useful as the the old-school heart rate files which contained a second-by-second value of the heart rate. Further, most modern devices now store data points associated with exact timestamps, and not just as a sequential list of speeds/cadences/etc. So, while most programs do this type of functionality, just keep in mind that it often tends to ‘simplify’ some of the data being presented.

Recent Mailbags:

Weekly Mailbag - October 23rd, 2010
- CompuTrainer and Tires
- ANT+ Gym Equipment
- 'Main 1 & 2' Data Pages on Garmin units

Weekly Mailbag - October 14th, 2010
- FR60 multisport mode
- Non-rubber band mount option for Edge 500
- Android ANT+ support

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. ]