GPS bike computers are quickly becoming a standard mountain bike accessory. In the last 3-4 years the technology has improved by leaps and bounds. Today there are a few companies that are making GPS enabled bike-centric devices, but far and away – for now – Garmin is leading that charge.
The Edge and Forerunner line of products are the very best the market has to offer when it comes to multi-function GPS units. They are the only devices (that I know of) that offer a heart rate monitor, speed and cadences monitors, and a full functioning mapping GPS (Edge series) all in one device.
Right now the Edge 705 is Garmin’s top of the line cycling computer. It has effectivley combined the Edge 305 and the Vista HCx into one compact, functional and really awesome gadget. But that is a post for another day.
People may wonder what good GPS capabilities are when it comes to training. Even if you may not head out into the back country to explore unknown trails, or care much about routing new trails before a ride, or downloading .gpx data into your computer after one, you can still benefit from using a GPS in your training program.
Below are some suggestions on how to better utilize your Garmin device to enhance your riding and training.
1) Download and use Garmin Training Center. While not the most comprehensive training software on the market, it is the one that speaks most fluently with Garmin devices. The best feature in GTC is the ability to design a workout, and then upload it to the GPS device. This can be any type of workout, from a very basic recovery ride, to a complex series of intervals. Once programmed and uploaded, the device will guide you through the training session using audible and visual alerts based on time, speed, cadence, and heart rate.
2) Register at MotionBased.com. MB is a GPS file sharing network and journal. You can upload your ride data to the online database and then view it in Google Earth or on Google Maps. You also have the ability to view altitude, distance, total time, moving time, pace, speed and weather data and much more. Once an activity is uploaded to MB you can export it as a blog friendly widget which you can post simply by copying and pasting a generated code. In addition to the above you can browse and download thousands of .gpx files from other MB users. You can even compare your own data to others, a fun and effective way to see just exactly how you won, or lost, that 50 miler or 24 hour race.
3)Create Courses. Garmin devices have the ability to read ‘courses’. A course is a pre-determined route or track that you have uploaded to the device. A course is a fantastic way to race against a personal best, or against an established record on a known route. Planning on TTing Clarks? Plan a course and the GPS will pace you through the race, giving you real time status as to how far behind, or ahead, you are of your target pace.
4) Analyze your Data. You can learn a lot about your strengths and weaknesses on a bike by looking at what kind of terrain you are best at riding. Using GTC or MB, or other available software programs you can see how fast you were moving on any given point of your ride. Are you really losing time on the downhill? Or is it on the flats that you are slacking? By studying the data gathered with your GPS you can pinpoint areas to work on, and also know when to push to your natural strengths.
5)Use Maps. I love maps. And having just about every local trail archived as a GPS file means that I can get all kinds of data for just about any ride I want to do. But it also means I can take a look at the area around me, search for new trails, and plan future rides in a mapping software, based on the GPS trak that I have downloaded or created. This kind of information has proved invaluable, especially when covering that terrain in the fastest possible time is the primary goal. But being able to look back and simply see where you went and how fast you did it has also been very beneficial.
If you are like me, then after you start using a GPS in your everyday riding and training, you will not ever be able to go back to not having the data it gathers. One of my favorite things to do is take a look at old rides, to see how fast I rode, or how hard I pushed, or where exactly I was going on that particular day. As you gather data, and start to establish a variety of trail files and ride information a picture of your overall fitness, as well as detailed insights into when and why you were fit (or not) will start to emerge. Being able to view your rides on both 3D and 2D maps is informative, but also just a lot of fun. Using a GPS in my training has helped me to become extremely familiar with the local trails. Which means that I know when I am faster or slower than normal on any given trail. And having those trails all archived has also been a big asset when it comes to designing future monster rides.
So when that old bike computer starts to fritz out and you begin shopping for upgrades, consider making the leap to a GPS ready device. Your training will improve, and you you will have more fun along the way!
Garmin Training Center, 2008 Wasatch Classic ride track.
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