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) Picking a swim-friendly heart rate monitor
2) Wahoo Sports iPhone ANT+ Adapter Update
3) Timex Global Trainer and Multisport Mode Recording
4) Which Power Meter Head Unit for Power Tap?

1) Picking a swim-friendly heart rate monitor:
From Tyler-

“I read your article on the GPS Global Trainer watch today and first off, THANK YOU for the in depth information you offered up.  I am primarily a swimmer and have been looking at this watch as a training companion.  With that said, I was bummed to learn about it's inability to both get GPS underwater (not a real shocker there) and sync with the heart monitor.  I called Timex about the latter and they said that as long as I stand up at the end of each set, it will reacquire lock and start feeding data to the watch again.  What I couldn't get a straight answer on however was how long it takes for that to happen. In your use of the watch, have you noticed it to be laggy at all when you stand up out of the water?”

With respect to the Timex Global Trainer, it takes about 3-7 seconds for it to pickup the HR once out of the water (or within about an inch while underwater).  And it will only pickup data from that point forward (meaning, it won’t have any data from while you were swimming).  There's some new straps coming out (ANT+ FS) that will be able to store and forward data later to the device.  These straps are lagging a bit behind in when they were supposed to be available to the public.  But keep in mind that even once available, the various ANT+ head units (such as Garmin’s and the Global Trainer) would have need firmware updates to support the store and forward functionality.
If you're looking for a watch that records HR in the water - then your best bet is honestly any of the Polar's.  The Polar watches with any of the T31 coded straps will record and transmit through water without issue.  Unfortunately, the transmitters in the strap’s aren't compatible with the Garmin’s ANT+ system (or vice versa).

2) Wahoo Sports iPhone ANT+ Update?:
From Chrono-D-

“I recently purchased the Wahoo Fisica adapter after reading your review of it. I was wondering if you're going to have an update for it some time, and maybe a quick review of some of the apps available. Also, a roundup of the various workout tracking software would be super awesome, especially with a features chart.”

Hello!  Yup, that is indeed on the radar.  There are about 30 companies/developers working on apps for the Wahoo iPhone ANT+ adapter right now, and I’m waiting for a handful more to publish apps to be able to put something comprehensive together (perhaps a Top 10 type of post).  Currently, there are three ANT+ compatible ones that I’m aware of that have sent me details of their apps:

1) Wahoo Fitness’s own application

2) iMobile Intervals

3) EZ-Run

In addition, MapMyRide shows support for it in their latest builds, but hasn’t actually fully enabled it (it was partially enabled a few builds back).

Wahoo’s own app will record from any ANT+ sensor (bike or run related) and generate an XML compliant file.  In addition, it’ll upload straight to Training Peaks or MapMyRide.com – and it does all this for free.  It’s pretty sweet, though I believe it’s still getting the final Apple app store approval – so look for that shortly.

iMobile Intervals is designed with intervals in mind and is highly customized to both sync music and file recording to how you might actually run/ride intervals outdoors.  It has all of the recording/upload options that you’d find in the other apps as well.

Finally, there’s EZ-Run.  Like the others it records ANT+ data streams – at the moment focused on running, but other ‘EZ’ versions are coming very shortly.  It’ll record from both GPS, as well as ANT+.  So it’s fully treadmill or outdoor friendly.  At the end, you can upload your data to FaceBook, Training Peaks, or just save the data file.

So…there’s the quick three for now – but trust me, there’s tons more coming as I tend to get e-mails from developers every few days letting me know they have a new app in the works.  One other one I haven’t tried out yet for example is Jog Log – which also now supports the Wahoo ANT+ adapter. Look for a more in depth post probably in early October.

Oh – and if you’re looking for Android options, then read this post.

3) Timex Global Trainer and Multisport Mode Recording:
From Peter-

“I wanted to thank you for a great job you did on sharing your review of the watch, I must say that  I have learned a lot.  I did a  race yesterday and I notice that the multisport function was not showing the distance and time for each segment (swimming, biking, running) but it only showed the total time/distance of the race, this was little confusing especially during the running since I could not remember the total distance of the entire race.  I was hoping for your expertise to resolve this issue.”

There's a setting under the multisport section that allows you to choose whether watch either splices the activities into separate sports, or records it as one single event. You can see the setting below, which is titled “Download Multisport Workouts As”, which you can set it via the device agent, or via the menu system on the watch itself.

And, as a bonus - you can actually choose to do both: Download as single workouts and download as one massive workout.  Personally, I prefer to download it as separate workouts, since it makes it easier to analyze later.  But that’s just my preference.

4) Which power meter head unit for PowerTap?
From Peter-

“I am considering purchasing a Power Tap, and until I read your blog, was going to simply go with the standard yellow head set that you can buy from Power Tap. Is that the best way to go, or would you go with the Garmin?”

Hi Peter, it sorta depends on what you’re looking to get out of it.  The Garmin’s (along with the Edge 500/705/800.  Features like 30-second display smoothing and ability to configure zero averaging are only in the edge series.

The Saris option aside from the little yellow computer (LYC) would be the Joule.  While the Joule has a ton of a great real time metrics for riding/pacing by power, I find that unless you’re deep into training with power (such as following prescriptive guidance in Dr. Coggan’s/Hunter Allen’s book ‘Training and Racing with a Power Meter’), the information the Joule displays in relation to power may be beyond what most people will use.  And it has the disadvantage of not having GPS built in – which some folks really like.

The ‘best bang for your buck’ option in my opinion is the Garmin Edge 500 (detailed review here).  At between $200 and $250 depending on the day’s sales, it offers the bulk of the power meter features you’ll need, along with the flexibility found in GPS-based athletic devices. 


Recent Mailbags:

Weekly Mailbag – August 29th, 2010
- Multiple Users and Garmin Fitness Watches
- Rolling/Folding Wetsuits
- Which websites to find races
- Forerunner 310XT Mount Options

Weekly Mailbag – August 21st, 2010
- Choosing iPhone or Garmin as running buddy?
- Why no Polar Product Reviews?
- Want Android support for ANT+?  Read on…
- Random note of the week: Looking for web designer

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.]