Gear Corner: Garmin Forerunner 910XT Review: Bike, Run, and Quick Release Attachment

This is the long awaited follow up to my review of the Swim portions of the Garmin 910XT.  One caveat: I had paired it with the heart rate monitor belt from previous Garmins; at first I thought the battery needed replacing, but even after that, it seemed to only pick up half my heartbeats (making me think I might be some kind of zombie) until failing to be detected altogether.  I ended up springing for the Premium Heart Rate Monitor (Soft Strap).  The (improved) results reflect that accessory, as opposed to the typical default model.

Navigating the interfaces on all Garmin Forerunners I’ve had has always been a learning curve, but I think it was shorter on this model, and the fact that I seem to remember how to do the things I want with it between uses speaks to the fact that it may be more intuitive than before.

Selecting the sport you are doing falls under ‘Training’, and once selected, the display a goes to appropriate data fields which can be customized.  I like that each sport has 4 different dedicated screens you can scroll through.  If you want to look at different kinds of data, you’re not forced to overcrowd a single screen, or dedicate space to data that isn’t useful to that particular sport (for example, you may want your bike cadence, but that won’t show up when you’re running).

My main screens for biking/running have time, distance and speed/pace (respectively).  I keep heart-rate, cadence on secondary screens which also (by default) have things like elevation, previous lap times, and average speed/pace.

I was able to use the Multisport functionality successfully at Muskoka 5150; the first time I’ve gotten that to work on any previous product.  I had Swim, Bike then Run set up prior to the event, I hit Start at the swim start, and lap at the entry and exit of every transition.  The only disagreement with official race times comes from me not knowing exactly where the chip sensors are on the race site.

As for Garmin Accessories, the 910XT seems to be working well with the cadence sensor, but not the speed sensor.  As long as I’m outdoors, that’s OK, but when I’ve got the bike back on the trainer for the off-season, I’m disappointed that I might have to re-purchase a speed sensor for reasons unknown to me.

I invested in the Quick Release Kit; looking at my wrist while cycling was always a little bit dangerously distracting, and it’s even worse if you want to push buttons to see different data fields.  The quick release kit replaces the original wrist strap – an adapter backing is mounted on the actual electronic hardware (the watch part) that lets you move it from your wrist (a new strap with the other half of the adapter clip) and your bike mount (with a similar adapter clip).  It works great and I was able to check my stats during the ride by simply glancing down, and it moves off and on the wrist in a second.  The only problem, is the installation itself.  The kit comes with everything you need, including tiny watch screwdrivers needed to remove and re-attach the wrist strap, but the parts are so small (and black) that I would recommend the following procedure for installation.

  1. Spend a year studying with a Zen monk
  2. Build a completely white room.  White walls, white floor, bright halogen lights, no holes, vents or air currents. 
  3. Barricade yourself in the room with your Garmin, the kit, and your bike.  Cut off all contact from family, friends and pets.  DO NOT ALLOW THEM TO INTERRUPT YOUR INSTALLATION
  4. Read the instructions enough times that you can repeat them from memory and translate them into any other languages you know.
  5. You are ready to begin.
All kidding aside, I was able to install it successfully, but I do think the stress of it cost me months off my lifespan.
In summary, the 910XT isn’t perfect, but it’s a great improvement over predecessors that weren’t too bad in the first place.  I think it’s the best option for Tri-geeks who love everything recorded and quantified.

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