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  1. #1
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    Garmin -- wouldn't it be nice...?

    In general I like my Garmin 500's basic capabilities, form factor, and battery life. But in this time of smart phones offering similar capabilities for free it seems that Garmin should think a little out of the box and offer more real-time data. Here goes:

    TSS -- TSS right now appears to require a power meter. Not sure why that needs to be the case. TSS should simply be calculated based on heart rate zones and time.

    Wattage -- Ok, the device can't estimate instantaneous wattage without a power meter. But average wattage over 10, 30, 60 seconds should be easy to calculate. It's a function of weight, grade, speed, and a fudge factor. True, the derived value may not be very accurate but it does provide a good estimate of effort. So maybe don't call it "watts" but "estimated power." Not being accurate is not a big deal as long as it is consistent.

    Gearing -- If the computer knows your bike's cassette size and ring sizes and you use a cadence/wheel speed sensor it should be able to accurately compute the gear in use. This may not be relevant while on the bike but would be nice to have in your log and allow for the calculation of some interesting statistics. I have these sensors mounted on my road bike but not my mountain bike. If I could have garmin calculate these values I'd add the sensor to my mountain bike.

    Alerts -- let me set up audio or visual alerts for a number of events such as speed, heart rate, time to drink etc. Use your imagination.

    Heart rate correction -- often in the beginning of a ride, before I have started sweating, I'll get bad HRM data. Heart rates of 250 for a couple of minutes etc. It would be nice to squash this problem at the source and always provide accurate measurements but if that's not easy then let the garmin be smarter and ignore outrageous data so that it does not skew the averages.

    Dynamic display switching -- I have configured different screens for different activities. Normal riding, climbing, descending. The device should be programmable to switch screens automatically. If my HR is upward of 145 then I am climbing and want to see that display. If my speed is in excess of 20 mph then I am descending and I want to see the appropriate display. If neither is the case I am cruising and want to see that display.

    I can think of several other features that one could add to the garmin firmware but won't bore you with them. I realize that most people won't care about most of these features but the point is some of us do. The implementation and testing cost of these features is trivial for garmin. Garmin probably wants to differentiate amongst their products and want customers to have an incentive to pay for the fancier computers. But I think if they don't start thinking a bit more creatively, smartphones and platforms such as strava will eat their lunch.

  2. #2
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    LOL...I love these kinds of discussions. Some of them I get.

    Alerts - I get this one. I use a Forerunner 310XT for fitness (running or biking) and most of the Forerunners offer alerts. Sometimes I actually use them. They're useful sometimes.

    HR issues - This one isn't Garmin's problem to fix in firmware. It's yours. Use a HRM conductor gel and get a better HRM strap.

    Some of them I don't.

    If you want metrics that require a power meter, then get a f'n power meter. "Estimates" (like Strava's wattage estimates) aren't worth anything if you are actually training. They're just entertainment. And if you want that entertainment, Strava "estimates" wattage, and Topofusion calculates Difficulty and Effort indices. I'm sure there are other options that provide you with those kinds of estimates you can use to attempt to compare rides. Why does Garmin need to let you do this while you're riding? So you can be distracted and run over pedestrians, or crash into a tree?

    Gearing - It's not that I don't understand why you would want it, but this is the first time I've ever heard of ANYONE wanting this feature, so why should Garmin develop this for you? It's an option for the Flite Deck system because high end road shifters don't have gear indicators. The vast majority of MTB shifters do (and if they don't, it's because the rider chose to remove them). Furthermore, comparing speed with cadence metrics gives a pretty good analog to that, so it's not important to know the gearing chosen at that time.

    Dynamic display switching - You had me on this one...until you said you want different screens depending on whether you're climbing, descending, or "normal riding". WTF? Data overload much? What on earth do you need to change on your display for each situation? This one would be a lot harder to implement than you think. It would have to be controlled by a series of if...then statements. Which sounds easy on the outset, but I guarantee that in practice, the screen is going to be doing a lot of switching around when you don't want it to switch. Furthermore, the Edge 510 is WAY more configurable than the 500 regarding display options. You can set "Race" or "Training" display settings. You can have it cycle through multiple screens if you want. An upgrade might give you enough improvement that you'd be happy.


    Finally - these threads always take the tone that Garmin reads these forums and that instead of being a "request" are more of a "demand" (as in, "Make this change, dammit"). I dunno, they might watch these forums. But they've never given any kind of indication that they do. If you have serious suggestions for Garmin about product improvements, the better avenue for them would be to use Garmin's own forums. They even have a section specifically for these kinds of things. I also suggest an improvement in tone. Rather than telling Garmin how easy it would be for them to do it (and honestly, how are you able to know this? if it's so easy, why don't you do it?), try telling them how awesome such a feature would be and how it would improve your riding/training/whatever.

  3. #3
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    Different strokes for different folks, Natehawk. Some people find the entire notion of using a bike computer distracting and unnecessary while others love to have all the information possible at their finger tips. While I am very, very far from being a pro athlete who can claim that he needs any of this stuff, I find data interesting and more importantly motivating.

    You are right, Strava's wattage numbers are not accurate. But they are consistent. This means that when I ascent a segment faster the number goes up. Or if I ascend a steeper segment at the same speed the number goes up, etc. I'd like to see that number on my display while I am pedaling. For road biking, wind and rider positioning are too much of a factor for the estimates to be meaningful. For mountain biking the strava numbers are generally ok. Call them pseudo-watts if you want but please quantify my effort.

    I use gel and experimented with different HRM units. Currently I use the cheaper garmin unit and find it to best. But even then sometimes I get false readings for the first 5 minutes or so. Filtering out-of-range readings seems a no-brainer to me. Incidentally, I have a friend who cannot get any HRM to work with or without gel, different positioning etc. It works for a short while and then he dies as far the HRM is concerned...

    Setting up complex behaviors on the little device would be complicated only because of the UI. But that's where the PC can come in. Implement a nice user friendly interface on the PC to program the device's behavior. It's not rocket science.

    I am trying to foster a discussion and not lecture Garmin. But I am pretty sure that smart phones will end up eating Garmin's lunch if they don't come up with more innovation. Just like there will be few stand-alone GPS units left on the market in a couple of years, I don't see much of a market for high-end bike computers if the manufacturers don't start being more creative.

    I can jot down the algorithms to implement any of these features on the back of an envelope while chewing gum -- pretty sure Garmin engineers aren't idiots and could do it too.

    While you (Natehawk) and I may not be on the same page about what we'd like to see in bike computers of the future, I do appreciate your insightful posts in this forum.

  4. #4
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    Have you tried DC Rainmaker's solution of using a Polar soft strap with Garmin's HR transmitter? Supposedly, that's worked best for him.

    Also, I read a recent report on his page about a wrist-top optical HR sensor that was better with initial pickup.

    Also, you might not like my last-ditch option, but it would probably preserve your averages better after the fact:

    Start your GPS/HRM while you're at the TH, a few minutes before you depart. Gives the GPS and HRM some time to "warm up" and settle down. Do your ride (the low HR initially once it settles should help average out the spike at the beginning). When you get home and load it onto the computer, manually edit it on the desktop before uploading it. Cut out the trailhead portion with the errant HR readings. Voila, final data analysis can be done without errant numbers.

    AFAIK, Strava's estimates aren't available instantaneously, either. They're calculated after the fact. The things you're asking Garmin to implement require more processing than the devices are built to handle. The new Monterra could probably crunch that stuff no problem, since it's robust enough to run Android. But it's not designed to be a fitness receiver. Therefore, it's big and has a lot of stuff a fitness receiver doesn't need. Having a handheld plot a route to an address can take awhile, preventing you from doing anything else with it while it calculates. I don't want my fitness receiver spending so much processing power estimating my power output plus following the complicated behaviors (regardless of how they get set up) that it also has a hard time picking up on my extra sensors, and calculating my location and a host of other metrics using nothing but a time transmission and the theory of relativity at 1 second intervals, and providing a series of programmed alerts.

    How much is that processing power going to cost on such a small device? And at what kind of expense in battery life? My argument is that it's not as simple as you make it out to be.

  5. #5
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    Battery life alone is a reason not to use a smartphone as a GPS for any length of time. That and size - I wouldn't want one on my handlebars. My 510 has spectacular battery life.

  6. #6
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    I have used a Polar strap with the detachable Garmin unit and that did not help at all. I am pretty sure the contacts of these units can be problematic. Then the unit died completely and I switched to the cheaper Garmin unit where the monitor is embedded in a plastic strip. Works much better but can give me high values before I am properly sweating. Five minutes of a HR of 250 doesn't skew the average too much but it can skew the TSS quite a bit. Especially on a recovery ride where I'd try to keep HR low overall. Just a nit.

    Calculated Watts is simply a product of climbing rate and total weight (for climbing) plus an exponential function of speed. The former is easy to get right and the latter is more difficult to get right. At high speeds the latter will be far off. But most of us (mountain bikers) don't crank power unless we are climbing. If you are climbing a 15% grade, I think the simple physics function for power multiplied by an experimentally derived fudge factor would very likely be fairly accurate and of course consistent over different grades and speed. Given that the unit already calculates a climbing rate estimating pseudo-Watts is unlikely to tax the processor. Another approach that would require virtually no CPU is to make the entire algorithm table lookup based. Use a 1000 entry or if you want better precision a 10000 entry table for speed and grade and multiply the table value by total weight to get pseudo-Watts. You can build the table by sending riders out with power meters. Even easier would be to harvest the already existing data that people have downloaded to various sites -- if you can get it.

    I know this kind of geeky discussion makes people's eyes roll back in the heads. But once these capabilities are packaged properly, named nicely etc. people use them and many will like them.

    Yup, right now smartphones make poor bike computers even though they log very well (not displaying info all the time). I'd expect that to change in the future. There will be different display technologies (color e-ink), better batteries, more efficient systems and of course auxiliary displays such as smart watches and gizmos like google glass. The most compelling reason not to use a smartphone will be the exposure of the expensive device on your bar.

    Garmin (or whoever) should consider coming out with an auxiliary sturdy dumb display that is mounted on your bar and works with an app on your phone via bluetooth. The problem is that such a device will likely not be a lot cheaper than a stand-alone computer. But a bike computer with internet access would enable other interesting capabilities.

  7. #7
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    Got money?

    Lots of things could be added to GPS units. But they would cost so much virtually nobody could afford them. If there is no profit there will be no product.

  8. #8
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    Last time I crashed with my Edge 510, I thought it would be interesting if Garmin implemented some kind of crash detector; Maybe some combination of an accelerometer and the speed from the GPS. If the crash data got uploaded to Garmin Connect, potentially dangerous areas could get highlighted and alerts could pop up on the GPS before you got to them.

  9. #9
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    I wish my 510 acted as an OBDII ECU and took readings from bike mounted sensors to let me know when suspension setups were less than optimal and when tire pressure was inadequate. TPMS sensors for bikes anyone?

  10. #10
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    I tried the Garmin strap with my GPSMAP 62s - it displays only the current heart rate - i thought i could monitor my heart rate on tough rides to avoid blow-outs - the idea didn't worked as well as i thought it would. Firstly it was quite distracting - off road has many obstacles and stuff that u need to keep an eye on.

    Secondly - an off road hill has 2 factors to it - steepness and the rough terrain - many times u need pure turbo power to overcome roots, rocks and ruts....so there's no pulling back into your endurance zone - do it and you'll falter. So next time i go off road i won't be using my heart rate monitor.

  11. #11
    psycho cyclo addict
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    I haven't been able to bring myself to invest in a Garmin. I carry a phone regardless (on the hook for extremely rare work emergencies and almost as rare kids comms). Another reason is difficulty deciding if the 510 or 810 would be a better choice. If I were more into stats, powermeter in the pedals/Vector (I assume coming to MTB at some point) would be something to keep on the radar screen.

    I use a CycleMeter on my stowed away iPhone and a Wahoo BT HRM for basic mapping/mileage that actually has decent start/top detection. I am intrigued by the Wahoo remote display/RFLKT but haven't gone there yet. I can get ~6 hour ride out of my iPhone before the battery dies which equates to something less than 5-10% of my rides. In those cases I import Garmin data from someone else.

  12. #12
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    Most GPS units already have WAY more features than I use or need.

    I can go along with longer battery life.

    Other than that I just want MUCH better satellite connection and track accuracy.
    None of my current units do very well on out and back routes.
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  13. #13
    @trailgrinder
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    I have a garmin 800 and have recently just been using my android phone and strava due to the instant upload and no need to bust out my computer. Plus I got a little sick of relying on the info on my bars so I keep it in the pack and ride by feel now not by what my computer says.

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