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!

1) Understanding Elapsed Time and Time in sport files
2) Deciding between an iPhone in ANT+ case, and the Edge 800
3) Garmin Futures: Vector Pedals and new version of the FR310XT

Question #1: Understanding the difference between elapsed time and time
From: CyclingDoc

"When I download data from my Garmin 500 to TrainingPeaks.com the data is not the same.

Primarily occurs with time. Also notice with ascent. This same problem occurs with my wife's Garmin 500 too. It seems to always come up as less time than actually ridden. I notice it most if I stop to meet up with a friend. I stop the timer and then restart when we start to ride. If 5 minutes elapsed during the break the total ride time will be 5 minutes short and the power data will be missing from that 5 minute break. Almost like the timer never stopped but it did. Total time on Garmin will say 3 hours but the download will be 2:55."

When you're talking 'time' on Garmin and like devices, there are actually a number of different ways you can display it. It sounds like you're looking at a few different things (some of which you've noticed):

1) Garmin (and most others) have the concept of 'elapsed time', and 'time'. Typically elapsed time is simply like a race clock, if it starts at 9AM and goes until 12PM - your time is three hours. Whereas 'time' is actual work time when you've started the timer, so if you took 5 minutes to go to the bathroom and paused, then it would show 2:55 - just like you're seeing.

2) On the Edge series of devices it records your files into one of two formats - either Garmin .FIT and .TCX files. Both of these files record data using UTC timestamps - so that stoppage time is still recorded/noted in the file since it's using world clock time as opposed to just a simple stop-watch style time.
It's just that while in stopped time no data is attached to it (meaning, it's not recording your HR while in the bathroom...though that would be interesting).

3) Training Peaks displays both times, depending on where you look. The main calendar displays work time (i.e 2:55 in your case), but in the detail area, you'll see both displayed. On the charts, you'll see elapsed time, but if you look at the chart carefully for the period of time in the bathroom you'll note that depending on the data type you'll either see a straight gap (elevation, pace), or a straight line connecting two dots (BPM, RPM).

4) When looking at the Training Peaks terminology and trying to match it to the Garmin terminology: Actual Duration/Duration = Work Time = Time (2:55), Moving Duration = Elapsed Time (3hr)

The key thing to remember is that if you're doing workouts you typically want to work off of 'time' versus elapsed time, since elapsed time will capture non-work time that may not be reflective of the overall amount of time you need to be working to achieve your specific workout goals. By the same token, in a race situation - ensure that you're not using work time if you happen to stop for some reason…as the race clock definitely doesn't stop as well!

#2) Looking at the Wahoo Fitness Bike Case
From John-

"I am excited to see the iPhone platforms coming into play and am particularly impressed with the Wahoo Fitness Cycling Bundle and the potential to add power in the near future.

Alternatively, I am looking at the Garmin Edge 800. It obviously can do the trick but the price difference is significant. My real issue is that I am struggling to find an in depth review of the Wahoo product other than your early reviews. Can you share whether or not you feel like the Wahoo line is well made and/or well supported?"

I think the Wahoo bike case is a very valid alternative for those that have an iPhone already and want the mapping experience without plunking down $400+ for an Edge 705 or Edge 800. The case is pretty well built, and based on the feedback I've heard from others as well it's held up fairly well. One of the things I like about the Wahoo guys is that from a support standpoint they rock…and they aren't afraid to 'make it right'. For example, the original cadence sensors they sent out had a weaker spoke magnet than they were expecting. So they went ahead and voluntarily shipped out new magnets to everyone - even if they weren't having any issues.

When you look at the Wahoo case, the case is a bit bulky - but that also comes with the territory when using an iPhone instead of the smaller Edge 705/800. The Edge series devices are thicker than the iPhone, but length and width is smaller - about 3/4ths the size of the raw iPhone and about 2/3rds the size of the Wahoo Case. On the flip side, the iPhone with the 50+ apps that support the ANT+ pieces of the sensor offer far and away significantly more than the Edge series units can do from a mapping and navigation standpoint. So it's really a matter of balancing functionality versus form.

#3) Garmin Futures: Vector Pedals and new version of FR310XT
From Tom-

"I am awaiting to purchase the new version of the FR310XT and understand from your site, we may see it in April of this year. I am most interested in getting my hands on the new Garmin Vector pedals and training with power and assume they will work with the new FR310XT? Any idea when we may see the pedals? I will hate to put aside my FR305; great piece of technology and the price now is hard to beat."

[Update 4/13/2011: Instead of releasing a Garmin FR310XT successor, Garmin has released a new running watch - the FR610. This touch screen watch is best viewed as a successor to the FR405/FR410 and isn't targeted at the multisport audience like the FR310XT is. If you're holding off on a purchase of the FR310XT for this season in hopes of an updated Garmin unit, I would hold no longer.]

Yes, I expect to see a revamped version of the FR310XT with a touch screen announced in the next 7-10 days. Likely next week - but no later than the following week. I talked about this a bit back in February during a post on what to expect with new devices this season. I asked the Garmin Vector team back at Interbike whether or not they planned to support Vector on the current generation devices (i.e. FR310XT, Edge 500/705/800) and they confirmed that they "absolutely would". Thus, I'd be pretty astounded if they supported the FR310XT, but didn't support the newer generation successor to the FR310XT. So you'll be good either way.

As for the Pedals themselves, Garmin has been remarkably consistent with their messaging around availability since the Metrigear acquisition. Back in the November during their Q3 earnings call they announced availability in the second half of 2011 (read my analysis here). Then again just a few weeks ago during their Q4/FY2010 earnings call they re-iterated that guidance of second half of calendar year 2011 for Vector availability.

Given that guidance, I still expect to see some form of official announcement (pricing/exact availability) in the Interbike 2011 timeframe (September), with retail availability in the late fall timeframe. Unlike other Garmin products which remain 'secretive' until announcement, I think we'll see a bit more publicity over the summer months leading into it (i.e. posts/updates from Garmin on Vector). Essentially increasing interest in the product and keeping folks from buying competing products - standard stuff you'd expect from any company that wants you to buy their announced but not yet available product.

Recent Mailbags:

Weekly Mailbag - March 19th, 2011
- Average Pace vs Lap Pace vs Instant Pace
- Attaching Timex Global Trainer to Triathlon Bikes
- Heart Rate Strap Batteries

Weekly Mailbag - March 9th, 2011
- How Auto Pause Works
- ANT+ Enabled Phones
- How the Tunebug Bluetooth Helmet Music System works

Weekly Mailbag- February 26th, 2011
- How to get really pretty power graphs on trainers
- Which GPS unit for skiing?
- Comparing the Timex Global Trainer or Garmin 310XT for power meters

You can find all past Slowtwitch Mailbags here, and all prior ones 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.]