Test Route For GPS Devices + Methodology

gps-test-route-1a-17km

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This is the course that I intend to use as a standard course for GPS tests. I will put the full FIT/TCX/HRM files online for those who wish to do any further analysis and/or to verify/dispute results. I am happy to change any of my inferences if you correctly interpret the files differently. There is subjectivity,¬† I am human with limited time resources and have been known to make the occasional mistake (2011? ūüôā ).

  • Estimated GPS Difficulty: The harder side of average. Let’s say 60% difficult and AT LEAST representative of 80% of the¬†usage of 80% of runners.
  • Length: Approx 17km
  • Elevation/Ascent: Flat, just above sea-level
  • Types: Suburban-cum-rural. River bank. Parkland. Trail. Paved. Variable tree cover. Some large buildings. Tunnels long/short. Straights. Sharp turns. No power lines.
  • Pre-test: Devices will be synchronised online for technical reasons. The devices will then have a full 15 minutes to acquire the signal when turned on as a dummy run. This may allow the load of additional positional information –¬† which should NOT be required by the device. However this should give a level playing field. The supposedly best mode available on the watch will be used eg GPS+GLONASS.
  • Public FIT/TCX File Folder: with spreadsheet analysis/results.

Points of difficulty

These will be assessed and marked out of 4; 4 being best, 1 being normal-worst,¬†‘0’ being REALLY appalling. Being within +/-5m of the actual route is WILL BE A 3 OR 4.

  1. 0.60km – test starts. Occasionally a device might accidentally not have properly fixed its GPS, despite the previous 15 minute dummy run. It has 0.6km to do so.
  2. MED: 1.30km – double back/U turn and sharp left turn.
  3. MED: 2.25km – High side walls and tree cover. ‘Good effort to follow the road’ is expected
  4. HARD: 2.39km to 3.98km – Fairly dense total overhead cover from high, deciduous¬†trees on a gently curving path. ‘Hard to get a good track’ is expected.
  5. MED: 4.36km to 4.53km – ‘Circle’ under trees finishing after going under a small road bridge
  6. HARD: 4.68km to 4.86km – Sharp U turn followed by going under same small road bridge
  7. EASY: 5.66km to 6.05km – Very easy, straight and very open. Perfect track expected.
  8. EASY: 6.54km to 7.14km РFootpath lined with medium trees but open to the sky, good track expected
  9. HARD: 7.22km to 7.39km –¬†extremely difficult 2m wide track with very high wall. ‘Cut Throat Alley’
  10. EASY: 7.43km to 8.99km – ‘Typical usage’, fairly open, some trees, some curves. Should be easy.
  11. EASY: 8.99km to 10.96km – Typical rural usage, fairly open, more trees than previous section. Should be easy
  12. MED: 10.96 to 11.76km – Typical tricky urban tree cover. Fairly dense deciduous tree cover at the start and high building at the end.
  13. HARD: 11.76 to 12.01km – High, one-sided building preceding impossible 100m tunnel. The test is how quickly the GPS location is corrected after the tunnel.
  14. EASY: 12.22km to 16.00km – Typical suburban usage – fairly straight road, limited tree cover. Some close building, not too high, and some buildings a front-garden’s length away. A couple of 90 degree turns. Should be easy

Omissions

  • I don’t particularly want to run through lots of wooded, hilly areas and don’t have that accessible in any case.
  • Lots of frequent 90 degree turns could happen on your routes. I have included a few.
  • A limited amount of buildings taller than houses have been included. Clearly this is a suburban-cum-rural run rather than urban. I might add in a central London route at some point if I get the time.
  • I don’t think there are any overhead power lines
  • Repeatability – I will repeat the test for some devices where their score on the tests seems notably lower than my general experience. But I just simply have nowhere near enough time to test for repeatability with 10s of devices, 10s of time.¬†TO DO THE TEST PROPERLY ONLY ONE DEVICE CAN BE WORN ON THE OUTER LEFT WRIST.

Notes: Some of the route is¬†on unlit, muddy tracks. At night a hand-held torch will be used (might affect swing of the right hand).¬†A repeatable, planned pace is 5:00/km give or take 15 seconds/km. Sometimes results may double up as a oHR test of a Z1-Z3 endurance run. Watches that seem to require a particular wrist position will be positioned favourably eg AMBIT3, TomTom Runner/Spark. Optical HR watches will be positioned favourably on the outside of the wrist for HR tests. Other watches, in a less favourable position, may even be worn on the underarm to avoid buttons banging onto an adjacent watch – I’ll try to re-run the test for those watches. There is little traffic that would cause any deviation from the route and hence total distance should be very similar from test to test. Accepted total distance will be estimated by an average of non-outlier results over time.¬†Results between tests will be compared¬† however this can introduce factors affecting the performance of GPS signal eg sunspots or weather or leaf cover on one particular test.

I have occasionally used parts of this course for previous, shorter tests. Every single device has had some problem or other so far on the shorter tests. Yes even the AMBIT3 and V800. Anecdotally TomTom’s Runner 3/Spark 3 is the best performing going into the proper tests…NOT my favourite watch but I’ll say it how I find it and give you the raw data to draw your own conclusions.

This course can be CAREFULLY used for a hybrid/MTB bikes for testing bike GPS units

It’s not scientific. I haven’t got the time to perform any statistical analysis. I can’t compare to a Garmin Connect-produced GPX track as it will not draw the proper route online, I tried, I appreciate there are other tools, I only have so much time.

This is actually a mostly beautiful route to run if you live in the area or visit the area, especially if you like river views and the odd historic building. The route starts and finishes at St. Mary’s university which is very well-respected for its sports-related studies & research – and their running club. If you’ve run in the famous ‘Cabbage Patch 10 miler’ or the beautiful Richmond Marathon then this route follows quite a bit of the Cabbage Patch¬†course, deviating to add points of difficulty. It also uses a part of the Kingston parkrun 5k course. If you are coming to the UK from overseas then Hampton Court Palace (King Henry VIII), Ham House, Eel Pie Island (Rolling Stones), Twickenham Rugby Stadium England Rugby), The Stoop (Harlequins), Petersham Nurseries/Meadow, Rowing Clubs, the first ever canoe and hockey clubs – Royal Canoe club & Teddington Hockey, Ham Polo Club, Ham Lands/Common, Teddington Lock, Open Water Swimming at Thames Young Mariners (RG Active), paddle boat trips, Weirs, Marble Hill House¬†and¬†Richmond Park ¬†for Sunday morning cycling with the lycra masses (London Duathlon – world’s largest)¬†are all VERY close to this route. There are only a handful of legally ‘protected views’ in the UK and the Richmond Hill¬†end of this route is on one of them. The uber-run-famous running mecca of BUSHY PARK is very close to the shopping centre at Kingston (where England’s early kings were crowned) and the Old Deer Park¬†& Richmond Park parkruns are close to Richmond. There are now parkrun tourists who stay at the Travelodge in Teddington¬†¬†or the UK’s best B&B at Middle Cottage by the weir – ¬†this course would be ideal for your Sunday morning long run after your Saturday parkrun in Bushy Park.

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