Definitive Garmin 310XT Review for Running Duathlon and Triathlon

Garmin 310XT August 2012

Garmin Forerunner 310XT

£135 Feb 2014 – approaching retirement in 2015

Summary: This is a great watch for a serious triathlete. It will do most of the important things you will need for your triathlon racing and training. If you want all the possible bells and whistles you might consider the 910XT. However those bells and whistles come at an additional price. So for what the 310XT is trying to do, it is VERY good. I would say that the 310XT is the optimal choice for your money. If you are buying it for a Duathlon or for 5k running it’s all you need in any case and perfect for the job. For an extra £30-£40 above the price of a discontinued Forerunner 305 it is certainly worth it.

The ‘acid test’: Would I buy another if stolen? Answer: Yes, I would certainly get another Garmin. I might consider upgrading to the feature-packed, more expensive, Garmin 910XT instead.

This review will come from the angle of:

  • “Why is it good for triathlon/Duathlon?”; and
  • “What extra do I get from upgrading to this from the Forerunner 305 or what am I missing out by not getting a Forerunner 910XT?”

I talk through the experience of setting up and using this watch.

I do triathlon, Duathlon and 5k running to a good AG level and I’m a bit stats- and gadget-obsessed so hopefully I am able to give you a practical and objective insight into your potential next purchase.

1. Out of the box what do I get?

  • The GPS watch
  • A soft Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) strap + press on HRM unit
  • A clip on USB charger for the internal watch battery
  • An Ant+ USB stick for computer connectivity (like Bluetooth)
  • A series of bits for international mains-based charging
  • Lots of bits of paper that you may well never read.

2. What don’t you get?

  • A foot pod to measure footfall/running cadence or that can be used on an indoor trainer for pace. You can buy one, I did. (click here=> Garmin SDM4,  #010-10998-00 and #010-11092-00). Make sure you get the latest model to ensure full compatibility.
  • A bike cadence (pedalling/speed) sensor for on-road cadence, turbo trainer cadence and turbo trainer speed. You can buy one, I did. (Click here=> Garmin GSC 10)
  • Bike-mount kit. You can buy one. May not fit if you have aero bars. I use an old Polar Mount fastened on with ties and tape.
  • Quick release/fabric strap. You can buy one.
  • Ant+ compatible Bike power unit. You can buy one. Such as the awesome Garmin Vector pedals
  • A full manual – that’s online.

Note: Cheaper prices typically EXCLUDE the soft HR Strap. Your old hard strap that’s ANT+ compatible should work.

3. What’s different to other models?

The forerunner 305 and 910XT use a similar menu structure to the 310XT. The 310XT and 910XT are waterproof for swimming and have a better battery life than the 305. The 910XT has special pool swimming metrics whereas the 310XT can ‘just’ be used in water with GPS. The more expensive the Garmin multi-sport watch, the thinner it gets.

  • 910xt – thinner, good battery life, waterproof, swim metrics, open water
  • 310XT – thin, good battery life, a waterproofed 305, open water
  • FR 305 – a run+bike watch, not thin.

Here’s a comparison chart to other Forerunner models from bootstrike.com

4. Who will buy this?

I’m not privy to Garmin’s market segmentation strategies or customer profiles. However I would have thought that all the following types and more would be seriously interested:

  • Triathletes or multi-sport athletes of any level including novice. These watches are used by many AG triathletes and duathletes.
  • Anyone who is stats-obsessed. Garmin are good at stats! To be properly obsessed with the stats (like me) you have to have the mechanism to obtain all the various raw data components and the means to display them.
  • The upgrader. A current Forerunner 305 user. The usual accessories you already own will probably also work with the 310XT. Or perhaps you just want a change but something that you can use straight away without having to spend hours reading the manuals and learning a new interface.
  • A future-proofer in the sense that they want a device that is open to connectivity standards (Ant+) so as not to be tied to the accessory-production whims of one supplier.

5. I’ve just bought it what do I need to do?

Turn it on and get going!

OK you do have to answer a few very basic questions first but it takes only a minute.

6. First Impressions

Hard Strap Shown, Source: Google images

It’s a bit orange. I kinda like that.

  • Nice sized display
  • Looks big
  • Seems more compact than my 305.
  • Watch strap looks like it will fit into my old bike mount for my 305!
  • The buttons are great. I really like them a lot! Probably better than the 305 or 910XT. Good size, position and feel.
  • Sound is nice and clear. Easily heard on the wrist or on the bike. With a hidden/covered the speaker is unlikely to deteriorate due to water penetration.
  • Beeping and vibration is good.
  • On the back of the watch…no nasty holes for water to get into.
  • Discrete charging points on the rear.

7. Setting it up for me

Here’s what I wanted it to do as easily as possible. It may well be along the lines of what you would do with a new watch. I’m coming at this from the angle of already being a Garmin user who knows and uses his ‘zones’. If you are migrating across from Polar then there might be a bit more work for you to do.

7.1 Recognize My ANT+ Devices – HRM, foot pod, bike cadence/speed sensor.
7.2 Configure Training- & Race-Displays And Equipment
7.3 Set-up Multi-Sport
7.4 Correct User-Data Using Software – SportTracks or Garmin Training Centre (GTC)
7.5 Update Zones – speed, climb, cadence, etc from SportTracks/GTC
7.6 Firmware Update
7.7 Go For A Run – near Buildings And Trees With My 310XT As Well
7.8 Go For A Bike-Ride
7.9 Go For A Swim
7.10 Perform a Turbo/Trainer Session
7.11 Perform a Multi-Sport/Brick Session
7.12 Load Data And Correct Training Data Errors
So taking those in turn…

7.1 Recognise ANT+ devices.

This worked. It picked up my HR strap and footpod in no time. The footpod will need calibration if you are looking to use it for more than just the cadence.

Here’s how to turn the GSC10 (may require calibration) on manually:

Hold Mode> Bike 1> Settings> Bike Settings> Bike 1> Ant+ Spd/Cad> Yes and search.

Spin the bike wheel or crank to turn the sensor on.

When a device is found there is a beep and the watch vibrates. Sometimes handy, sometimes a little annoying. On balance HANDY.

7.2 Configure Training- & Race-Displays And Equipment

On the 310XT you set up your bikes/bike-setups to cope with different wheel/tyre sizes and accessories. You set up the displays for what you want to do within your training and/or racing. Then there are various sport specific settings like virtual partner, alerts and autolap which can apply to all bikes and all displays. Don’t confuse the 3 areas of altering the displays.

Display Metrics are very important for me, probably you too – at least if you are at all serious in your training. We all train differently and have different targets in our sessions. In order to perform training sessions properly you need a watch that shows how you are performing against your training metrics. And obviously to do that for YOU it has to be able to show the metrics YOU want. And that invariably means more than just HR or time. There are a multitude of different possible individual metrics that you can display…yours is sure to be there on the 310XT. Garmin, in general, are very good at the metrics.

The situation is a little more complicated on the bike where some people will genuinely use more than 4 metrics on display at any one time. The 910XT supports more than one screen of 4 metrics per screen. These screens can be shown/hidden and automatically/manually scrolled through. Some other watches do not support the display of 4 simultaneous metrics – for me that would be a reason to never consider buying such a watch. It must have 4 and it must be configurable! Many don’t.

Racing vs. Training. As you are a triathlete or a parkrunner then you ‘race’ to some degree. Be that for international glory or local 5k PB glory. You probably treat a race more seriously than a training session. And so you should. I would suggest that you configure a display just for racing and hide it when training. Don’t forget to test it eg does it work for the specific course/race if autolap is turned on? Does it work in multisport mode? Whatever way you want it, the 310XT will display it.

a. Run Settings

You need to specify display settings. Here’s where the run ones can be found:

Hold Mode> Run> Settings> Run Settings > Data Fields.

I chose 4 running metrics for training: Lap Pace + Pace + Heart Rate + Time
To be honest I use those for racing too but in reality I only look at ‘lap pace’ and ‘pace’ when racing as I only race on relatively flat courses. Maybe the occasional glance at HR after a few kms.

Oh and while I’m there I’ll also set the running to auto-lap every 1km

Hold Mode> Run> Settings> Run Settings > Autolap> By Distance at 1Km.

To be honest I’m either a bit lazy or time-poor. Unless I’m doing very short intervals (90 secs or 1 or 2 mins) I tend to do intervals in multiples of 1km so rather than setting up complex training interval sessions I often just often use the autolap and my memory.

If you buy a Footpod later then Hold Mode> Run> Settings> Run Settings > Footpod.

I would tend to analyze the footfall/cadence later rather than looking at it during training unless I am doing  a specific technique session. When I do use it during training I set up an additional screen that only shows cadence and then Fast/Automatic scroll between that screen and my normal screen. That all works fine although whenever I use more than one screen I always seem to look at the watch at the wrong time when the wrong screen is being displayed!

Perfect for running!

b. Bike Display Settings

The bike is different for me; I do target specific HR zones and specific HRs (+/- 2 beats) for extended periods in training. It’s much easier to look at a watch on your handlebars than on your wrist when running and so I suspect that many of us stare at our watches more when cycling than running. The turbo trainer is a much more controlled environment and so training can be focussed and the watch can be very useful. Perhaps we should train more looking forwards and not down…but we often don’t!

I also went and set up some of my bikes. I only have power on my turbo trainer and I only have cadence on my road bikes. The display settings I use are all the same:

Hold Mode> Settings> Bike Settings > Data Fields> Bike 1
I chose 4 metrics: Speed + HR + Cadence + Time

During a race I only look at HR and cadence. Maybe one day I will set up and use a screen just for those.

Perfect!

c. Pool Swim Settings

These are ‘other’ settings. You treat the ‘other’ sport as swimming.
You can use this in a pool. However the only data you will get would be from when you press the lap button eg for the end of a set. So you would get lap time.

I didn’t test this but I seem to remember that with SportTracks you would need to leave the GPS turned on for indoor swimming. I seem to remember that this needs to be done so that a GPS track (albeit blank) is created. If there is no GPS track then SportTracks will not pick up the laps. Again I seem to remember that this was OK with Garmin software and the GPS did not need to be turned on. You could try to get end of set HR figures from your strap by jumping out of the water but I have never had much joy with this.

PS: In an outdoor pool you can also try the special mode for open water swimming.
Mode > Settings> Other Settings> Swim> Enabled = Yes

But it won’t give you any meaningful data as the pool will probably be too short for the open water swimming algorithm to work.

d. Open Water Settings

These are ‘other’ settings. You treat the ‘other’ sport as swimming

Then you need to turn on the special mode for open water swimming.

Mode > Settings> Other Settings> Swim> Enabled = Yes

This gives you a fairly accurate distance measurement but an inaccurately detailed GPS map. To be honest I would never look at a watch in a swim race. In an open water training session I might (occasionally). But all I really want is for the watch to be a data logging device for distance, time, HR and strokes. The 310XT will only give a GPS track ie speed/distance. In theory it could periodically pick up a HR signal if the ANT+ signal could travel through water. Which it can’t.

You could have alerts set in open water but I can’t see any great usefulness of that for distance or speed to any significant extent.

e. Alerts

Set up your watch so it beeps/vibrates if your performance is not where it needs to be. This is very useful in either a race or training situation. If you are upgrading from a 305 then it’s a familiar format.

For example when using a turbo trainer I have a tendency to gaze down at my watch. This is bad! You need to train with the correct head position facing forwards for your aero helmet to work when you race. Having alerts setup means that your 310XT will tell you when you need to look at the watch to work out how to change your performance level.

On the downside alerts are a bit annoying when you’ve set up a session and mistakenly included them in a rest phase and the alert continually goes off telling you to speed up!

I also find alerts useful to go off if my HR or cadence gets too low. It’s as valid to have those alerts in racing as in training. You’d probably have your HR alerts to go off at a higher level though in racing.

Think about what you are trying to achieve. HR is a measure of effort just as power is. For cadence you might consider it more as a measure of efficiency.

For example: Training> Run Alerts> Cadence Alert (set min and/or max cadence)

f. Autolap

I use this feature a lot when running. It essentially enables a cumulative pace per current Km when you display Lap Pace, which is sometimes more useful than the instant pace at any given second.

Eg Settings> Run Settings> Autolap (set distance/time)

g. Virtual Racer

Here you will have saved a course and performance you previously completed. I don’t really use this but it will be useful, for example, to beat your last parkrun PB or maybe to pace yourself over known undulations in a course where Virtual Partner will not be so helpful.

So, as you are racing against your last performance, Virtual Racer will tell you exactly where you are compared to last time and you won’t have to worry about the accuracy of your progress according to the distance your watch says.

I do parkrun pacing sometimes and so will consider using this for that purpose, maybe also chasing one of my cycling TT PBs.

Eg Training> Courses (Choose previously saved course)

Make sure you have the Virtual Racer display turned on so that you can display it as you scroll through the data screens.

h. Virtual Partner

This is subtly different from Virtual Racer. Let’s say you want to run a 20 minute 5k.

Eg Settings> Run Settings> Virtual Partner> On

This now adds a new data screen. So press mode to go back to your main data display (not the menus). You use the arrows to scroll through the data fields and you will now find the Virtual Partner as a new field/screen.

Press and hold either of the arrows to change the pace. Change it to 04:00/km and let it time out. You’re done!

The good thing about this is that it shows you your cumulative pace for the entire race and so how much you have to speed up or slow down by. Good for training. But not necessarily good for racing or PBs as there will be inaccuracies introduced by the GPS and by you not running in a straight line. So YOUR 5km may well finish before the official distance does. Ie The Virtual Partner may be targeting you to finish earlier.

This is a good feature for training but I wouldn’t use it myself. Nice feature though.

i. Race Settings

You will probably want to have a different display for a race just showing you the key metrics without distracting you. You can set up and hide bike/run displays for your race stats. Remember to test how they all work together before a real race when you will probably go back into the watch settings and hide your training displays. Test out your display settings fully against other settings such as autolap, alerts and how it is all pulled together in multi-sport mode.

For 5k racing on the flat I would have pace, 1km cumulative pace/lap pace, heart rate, autolap=on for 1km.

For a cycling TT I would have cadence and HR (assuming a non-flat course). Power would be on if I had it.

7.3 Set-Up Multi Sport

Mode> Training> Auto Multisport

Your multi-sport session can be a training ‘brick’ or it can be a multi-sport race. It can include transitions, or not. It can include swimming, or not. It can include multiple runs or swims or bike rides – or any combination thereof. Neat.

This setup was straightforward but perhaps not elegant! It’s pretty much the same as on the 305 and 910XT.

Just like on the earlier Garmin multi-sport models. I set mine up for Run-Bike-Run-Bike-Run-B-R-B-R-B-R etc. The reason being that I will never look at a watch whilst racing the first leg of a triathlon, the 310XT will be waiting on my bike (or permanently on my inner wrist in a duathlon). The second reason is that this setup can handle the multiple brick (training) sessions that I do. And also when you miss-press the buttons it doesn’t matter as you can fast forward to the correct leg by pressing lap a couple of times. I have the transition turned on as well. So this one configuration sorts me out nicely.

Autosport is a great piece of simple functionality. As a multi-sport athlete this is what you do. What you want to avoid is fiddling with a watch or several watches during training. You want your watch to almost invisibly follow your progress across the various disciplines and give you the correct metrics. Well the Garmin 310XT does this very nicely. Almost too simply.

It takes your swim, Bike and run settings (eg alerts, autolaps, display metrics, etc) and chunks them together in the multi-sport-way you define. Nice!

As I say, the mechanics of setting up your multi-sport session is NOT elegant but it works. You first have to add a leg, which is always a RUN leg. You then change it to the sport you really want. You choose to have transitions after every leg or not at all. That’s it really. Then you use it and you press lap to move from one leg to the next…or from one leg to transition … or from transition to the next leg. Not rocket science to understand that.

7.4 Correct user-data using software

I have this tendency to break software when I go near it. So I approached this with extreme trepidation. More details will follow but basically it took a little while and all went very well. Surprisingly so for me!

I’m just talking here about changing your ‘user personal profile’ your ‘athlete profile’ or at least using the one you have already setup somewhere else months ago covering your height, weight and the like. BUT in order to do that you have to get all the bits of software working and talking to each other.

Here’s what I did.

  • There is no outdated setup CD. 10/10.
  • Plugged in the USB ANT+ stick in my Windows7 PC, some software drivers were automatically downloaded and installed with very minimal input required from me. 10/10!
  • Go to http://connect.garmin.com/ and log into (or create) your account. Usual stuff for creating an account. 10/10
  • Go to UPLOAD (top right hand corner) and follow the steps to download Garmin Communicator Plugin. Stuff happens and v4.0.1.0 was soon shown as being correctly installed for me. 10/10.
  • Register your device with Garmin by entering the serial number on the back of your watch. Part of this process will download the drivers to your PC for your watch. Takes a while 9/10. Also cunningly means that you can’t claim to have bought the watch later than you really did to extend the warranty!
  • At this point you will have all the new ‘stuff’ on your PC and also have an online account with Garmin. Part of this ‘stuff’ on your PC is the ANT+ Synchronisation. With your watch turned on, leave it somewhere in the vague vicinity of your PC. Everything is synchronised to the PC. REMEMBER this saves data from your watch to the PC and also then saves it again to the Garmin web site.
  • I hadn’t used Garmin Training Centre (GTC) for a while. It’s not the greatest piece of PC based software. I opened it nervously and did a software update just in case. Without that USB cable I just couldn’t see how it could work. And? Well it can’t work unless you go to User> Add Device>310XT (within GTC). I changed my profile (age/height etc) in GTC and exported it to the device with the GTC functionality. And all was good with the world 10/10.
  • SportTracks was also straightforward. The Garmin Fitness Plugin (not written by Garmin) uses the Garmin ANT+ agent to export your user settings to the watch. If you were using that before then it still works. If you are not already using it there is no need to.
  • Garmin Connect is automatically synchronised.

7.5 Update Zones

There are various zones such as HR, cadence and Pace zones. If you think you are a serious athlete you will certainly use these. These are all updated automatically if you have performed the previous section (Section 7.4) and if your zones were setup correctly in the originating software (GTC or SportTracks).

7.6 Firmware Update

Go to my.garmin.com to update firmware. You should do this as there will be significant improvements in the later firmware versions such as better GPS and bug fixes. The 310XT is now a very well established piece of kit so go for these updates despite what you read on various forums.

Warning: you may need to perform several firmware updates to get to the latest version. I found that I eventually got to the point where my.garmin wanted to repeatedly update the latest version. If that happens, check which version you have on your watch in Settings> About Forerunner, mine is v4.20 (GPS v2.1), the current one at the time of writing.

7.7 Go for a run

Finally we are there. Just press the start button…as you could have done pretty much straight from the box!

Tip: Before you get going make sure you have a fully acquired GPS signal which should take 10 seconds or so. The watch will vibrate then all is good. Once the GPS signal is properly acquired the 310XT rarely loses it. The 310XT gets a signal perhaps fractionally quicker than the 305 but is a bit slower than my 910XT. Still a few seconds is not normally a problem. It will take longer if you have more from where the watch was last turned off at.

Or of course rather than ‘just’ running, you can choose to follow: the pace set by a virtual training partner; your performance on a course you previously completed (virtual racer); or you can follow a complex pre-defined workout.

The watch felt good, an improvement on the much beloved Forerunner 305. I love all the 310XT’s buttons. Great size and feel.

I chose a run under trees and through narrow alleys past 3 storey buildings. I also ran on part of the Bushy Park parkrun course. I wore a 910XT at the same time. Both 910XT and 310XT are accurate but the 910XT is more accurate. The 310XT seemed at times to have a North-South inaccuracy of 0-5m, typically 1-2m. I found that surprising as my earlier 305 was usually slightly better. Having said that when the 310XT was out by 2m it was consistently out by 2m and so the track that was mapped out ran parallel to the track on Google Maps. With the 305 there would often be blips on a parallel course.

The running pace was spot on. And that is what I need. Or at least what I want!

But what is the big deal with ultra-accuracy? I run a lot, I’m half-decent. Even some of the 6 year old Polar footpod-only speeds were nearly accurate enough to support continuous improvement. The Garmin is, of course, more accurate but does it really make any difference? If I’m running at 3:45/km then if it shows as 3:43 or 3:47 does it really matter?

Well, no…and yes. For training it probably doesn’t matter that much as long as any error is consistent. I believe the 310XT to be consistent.

But for your race or a PB attempt then accuracy is important. However consider that if you are not track running then do you really run in a straight line? Many of the device errors reported by runners are in fact of their own making. Over a 5km parkrun most people will deviate by 20m….or more, by running slightly further than they should. I’ve measured Bushy Park parkrun at between 5003 and 5060m. Yet at the same time there are GPS errors where I have run through walls but is this all the fault of the watch?

Is it more accurate than your car’s GPS? Probably not. It’s probably the exact same technology. Remember also that the GPS we use every day is a deliberately less accurate version of a military system. Consequently how accurate is the GPS satellite-to-map mapping? All I’m trying to say is that there are a lot of factors conspiring to have made me run the that all-so-real wall and you can’t necessarily lay all the blame on Garmin. Why not on Google- or Bing-maps? Purists will rely on race 1km markers, but I’ve been in a 10km race where two race markers were 30m out.

What about the trees that many bemoan? I’m writing this in a rainy 2012 and there’s been a lot of tree growing going on. I’ve never really noticed my earlier Garmins being affected other than occasionally by tree cover. The same with the 310XT. Maybe I concentrate on running rather than staring at my watch or maybe I feel more confident that I am running at the right speed and, unlike others, don’t feel the need to regularly consult my watch or have it bouncing permnently in front of my eyes with a stationary arm? Even doing one minute intervals I would only look at my watch twice at most to check my speed – that’s what I did today and the pace appeared to me to be ‘correct’.

The first parkrun was at my local Bushy Park. I have done the first 1km of that many times and it is all under tree cover in the summer – admittedly it’s not a dense forest. On recent runs, the 310XT records the route and speed well under this tree cover.

What I did really like was the vibration alert at the end of my laps. Better than the audible-only alert that I was used to with the 305. In fact all the alerts are great at keeping you trying hard and on track!

What I didn’t like at first was the backlight. I was used to slightly pressing the power button to turn on the light. This still works but now a different display is temporarily shown that allows me to change the brightness AS WELL AS OBSCURING the screen. Not a game changer, but not great. However I soon realised that you can press briefly the Enter button and then only the backlight comes on. Sorted!

7.8 Go for a bike ride.

I have several GPS watches and now the 310XT is my favourite for the bike. It’s especially good on my really old MTB as both are orange! But in seriousness I tend to use it the most (now) for bike-only sessions as it fits into an old Polar bike mount I’ve got. My 910XT with a wider strap fits in much less readily.

So what can you draw from that? Well all the Forerunner series are pretty much the same when it comes to the bike. The vibration/sound is better with the 310XT and 910XT compared to the Forerunner 305. The functionality is pretty much the same, the accuracy is pretty much the same, they are slightly different colours and sizes.
So my choice basically boils down to the strap size! That’s not belittling the watches in any way, it’s saying that all are good but that you might end up preferring one for quite esoteric (silly) reasons!

My first real ride was a few speedy laps of Richmond Park, London. Would the Garmin give me the data I need?

The cadence sensor and heart rate strap were very quickly picked up. This is fundamental and great as I rely on these.

Over the undulating course speed is not so useful to monitor as it is not constant because of the gradients. However cadence should be within a zone (somewhere around 93-95 for me) and heart rate should be close to my Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (LTHR…actually it should be above the LTHR motivation permitting). So I’m aiming for >169bpm and c95 RPM and I will probably check these as much as I would my running metrics maybe slightly more often, say once or twice a minute. If I had a power meter I would use that.

The display does seem pretty similar to the 305. Not super modern but perfectly readable with nicely sized and clear digits.

All the sensors performed consistently as did the GPS. 100% for the data recording and display.

Nothing to report really.

7.9 Go for a swim

My first swim with the 310XT was at the local 36m outdoor pool. So I was a little confused on how to turn on the GPS for the pool.

Try: Mode > Settings> Other Settings> Swim> Enabled = Yes

I did 16 minutes and got this. I was going about 2:30 min/100m I would say, give or take a bit. As you can see the 310XT is not designed to show your speed/pace for pool-based GPS swimming.

The GPS track within the watch will be the actual points recognised. You will find that the route will be smoothed by algorithms within the GPS device and possibly also within the software you use to look at it. This will probably continue to be improved with future firmware updates.

7.10 Perform a turbo/trainer session

I spend most of my bike time on my turbo trainer. The trainer (not the bike) has a power meter. There is no power data to send to the watch and that I can record.
I use SportTracks primarily as my analysis platform. So when using SportTracks, the first thing to do is to turn off the GPS. SportTracks gets confused between the speed sensor’s version of speed and the going-nowhere-GPS’s version of speed taking the latter by default.

Mode> GPS> GPS Status? Enabled=Off

It’s a bit annoying that indoor use cannot be easily enabled by pressing and holding Mode as was the case with the 305. But I must get annoyed easily as this takes only a few seconds longer.

Remember that if you restart the watch it defaults to Enabled=On for the restart every time.

A quick spin of the pedal and the watch vibrates telling you you’ve picked up the sensor on the bike. I have to fiddle with the position of my sensor when I change wheels and so sometimes the cadence/speed is not properly picked up. But that is an issue of me tinkering with the sensor rather than anything else.

A turbo session has very similar data requirements to a road session. But it is a much more controlled environment and so typically the main difference will be the need for metrics that will be more closely monitored and adhered to by the athlete.

As I said earlier, I watch HR and cadence very closely. I take a power meter reading from the turbo trainer and match it with a speed on the watch that I stick to without changing resistance levels.  I won’t go into why in this review.

I find that the SPEED readings from the 310XT match the turbo trainer’s display and so ‘must’ be correct. The sensor speed is +0.2kmh faster than the trainer as I haven’t got around to calibrating exactly the sensor. That’s accurate enough for me. And the cadence is only ever 1rpm out at most. So “very good” I would say.

I sometimes take this setup for granted. But when I look back over the years to using the Polar S625x and S720i, I despair at the time I wasted trying to get all the sensors (including HR) working properly. Things have moved on…I’m sure Polar are better these days too.

Tinkering aside, my Garmin setup just works. And that’s good enough for me.
For more serious and/or richer athletes power will be very much more likely to be used. The session may or may not be outside and, as the athlete will get HOT, so we need to consider the potential effects of copious amounts of corrosive sweat as well as excessive temperatures.

Anyway here’s what you need to do to if you want to create a ‘new’ bike for a turbo trainer, say because you have a slightly bigger circumference tyre on the wheel you use on your trainer (I do):

Press and hold Mode> Choose Bike 2

Mode> Settings> Bike Settings> Bike 2> Ant+ Spd/Cad> Yes > More> Spd/Cad Sensor checked

The following only appears if you have a sensor

Mode> Settings> Bike Settings> Bike 2> Bike Details> Wheel Size> Set Correctly
Mode> Settings> Bike Settings> Bike 2> Bike Details> Enter> Change Name to Turbo

If you set the wheel size to auto then it seems to want to use 2100mm by default. This is wrong, probably. So you need to go out for a ride somewhere where there is a GPS signal and let the watch configure the wheel size for you. This configuration might take only a minute or so and I’m not sure if it is refined over time, probably not.

So let’s use it on the trainer. Well of course the display, alerts and controls are all there. The buttons are great as I’ve said already. As the unit is waterproof I would have assumed it to also be sweat proof which is a general issue on turbo trainers. Bits of my bike are already rusting away and the Turbo Trainer’s display definitely was not waterproof as some of the sweat has got inside the LCD screen.

There doesn’t seem to be much metal that can corrode on the 310XT and I’m confident it will handle a bit of wetness after visiting the pool. I will rinse it after each session if I remember, that can only prolong the life of the unit.

In use all the alerts, displays and controls are perfectly fine.

One issue I have is that I need a better way of attaching the watch between the aero bars (it won’t fit on the handle bars).

Just a note here for all you budget-constrained athletes (like me). You CAN get power without a power meter using the GSC 10. Yep, it’s true. Providing you do not change the resistance on the trainer all you have to do is get a speed-power profile for your trainer and use SportTracks’ TrainerPower Plugin. Great for turbo-training but it won’t work on the road and/or in a race.

7.11 Perform a multi-sport session

There’s a slight problem if you are used to pressing LAP a lot in your training. You might inadvertently advance to the next leg by accident. In a race that would NOT be good as you might suddenly find yourself on the bike with your running metrics displayed. I guess some really clever speed or sensor based functionality could be added to correct your human error but essentially it’s your fault! As discussed above, my work-around here is to create multiple bike run bike run bike run bike run legs. Then you can advance to the correct one if needs be. In training I’ve found that useful and I’ve not yet made the mistake in a race.

I remain to be convinced of the usefulness of Swim data when RACING. Would you really look at your watch? That’s one reason why you might want to buy the 310XT over the more expensive 910XT – the extra benefits offered by the 910XT might not be of any use to you. It might be useful to look at the swim stats afterwards but really all that wearing a watch is going to do is make it harder to get your wetsuit off and you will get your split time anyway. I wore a 310XT once with an open water swim and it was a bit of a pain to get the wetsuit off…I wouldn’t use a watch in a race on the swim leg, ever.

Off-road multi-sport specific issues? There’s trees, it’s waterproof. I can’t really see anything new to add to this. I do MTB duathlons and the 310XT would be great for those. I’d wear it on my wrist for any duathlon…maybe the GRIM duathlon later this year?

7.12 Load Data and Correct Data Errors

You finished your session, well done! Now you have to load data and correct any errors before analysing it.

Much of the detail behind Data Correction is beyond the scope of the review as it can become complex and involved. So I’m going to focus here on getting the data into your chosen analysis platform and then correcting any NEW types of ‘error’ introduced by the 310XT (hint! There aren’t any new kinds). Presumably you already know how to correct errors from the way you currently do things with your software (if indeed that is possible at all).

Everything should already be ready to accept your data because of the steps we’ve already gone through with the Garmin website (see earlier).

With the Ant+ agent what follows is simple. When you get home you stop the watch, press and hold “lap” to properly end the session and then leave the watch near the PC. Go and have a shower. You come back from the shower and the exercise data is synchronised to the PC and also from there into either Garmin Training Centre or Garmin Connect depending on what you have previously told it to do.

Next, SportTracks and Training Peaks require you to import from the file that has been synchronised to your PC which you can find here:

Windows XP:
C:\Documents and Settings\{USERNAME}\Application Data\GARMIN\Devices\{DEVICE-NUMBER}\Activities *.tcx and *.fit

Windows Vista/7:
C:\Users\{USERNAME}\AppData\Roaming\GARMIN\Devices\{DEVICE-NUMBER}\Activities *.tcx and *.fit

You can share and map these folders on a network if you need to access them from another PC to avoid having duplicate exercise files on multiple laptops/desktops. Just a thought, I do it. You can add folder shortcuts from one folder of one device to another to speed up navigating between watches, I do.

The data transfer IS slower than USB cable but EASIER than earlier USB solutions and much, much easier than Polar’s InfraRed and Audible/Sonic data transfer options from decades gone by (I still have nightmares about those).

So you’ve now loaded the data. There should be no new types of errors. So if you had heart rate spikes (due to static or straps that were not wet) you will still have them. If your GPS was not so accurate then the 310XT should offer an improvement, if your cadence stats are inaccurate then you need to do the same bit of re-calibrating or physically adjusting the position that you had never previously got around to!

OK there is swimming but in reality that is still going to be a GPS error that you won’t be able to correct in any case, other than getting the latest firmware for the watch.

But think pragmatically about any errors you previously had or still have. Is it really that important to change them? If it’s a race or a special PB type event then maybe you do need the right data for posterity’s sake. But not really with your training data. Maybe a “protocol test” in training is important or maybe your heart rate is out and you use TRIMP for long term planning of training load. All key changes you need/want to make like: manually entering a TRIMP figure in training load; or removing a warm up period; or adding a lap / transition point, will still be done (or not) in the same way that you always have.

8. Garmin 310XT: The downsides

  • I quite liked the old Forerunner cradle that acted as a charging device and data transfer device all-in-one. However the Ant+ stick and the USB charger are fine and BETTER on reflection.
  • The time taken to upload data is slower than with the USB cables of earlier models. However against that don’t forget you have to find your cable and plug it in which also takes time. With a change of your post-exercise routine you will find the ANT+ stick and auto-synchronisation approach to be better. My exercises are typically an hour long and the transfer typically seems to always take less than one minute.
  • I place a lot of emphasis on TRIMP which is accumulated and weighted heart rate data that is used as a means of monitoring and controlling training load. The digital ANT+ standard will not allow HR data to be received UNDERWATER by any GPS watch from any manufacturer. So I have to get out of the water with the 310XT at the end of a set to get a periodic HR reading or manually estimate TRIMP. That’s not good.
  • Once you have correctly picked up the GPS signal, the 310XT will pick up location well during open water swimming. It’s not perfect and I have worn a few other sports watches in my swim cap.
  • In general, a GPS position can be lost in: urban areas; under significant tree cover; underwater; inside houses and near very tall buildings. The 310XT is prone to these as would any GPS device. I never encountered these problems to any unusual degree. The signal acquisition and retention is better than the 305.

9. Garmin Customer Support

Customer support is excellent.

Garmin Forerunner 310XT

£135 Feb 2014

9. Suggestions

The following would be my only 2 suggestions. The 310XT is great at what it sets out to achieve.

  • Need to get HR swim data by hook or by crook – wrist based sensor that is somehow incorporated into the watch and therefore requires no ANT+ transmission?
  • A one-button option to quickly turn GPS on/off would be good for those turbo brick sessions where an outdoor run follows a cold winter’s bike session on the turbo trainer.

10. Bugs?

The only bug that I encountered was an annoying one. The unit did not always automatically have the correct time and date. When you download your exercise you find that it is not there. Well actually it is somewhere else…for me it was always a day way back in 2007.

How the bug manifested itself in SportTracks was the exercise files was created in the HISTORY and not ACTIVITIES folder. Once you know that it is easy to find and you change the date on import. The .FIT file should be at the top of the list if you sort the list by ‘date created’ as that will be the current date according to the PC not the date in 2007.

The 310XT automatically updates time and date when it acquires a good GPS signal. If it does not do this then the fix is to either get a new watch or to get a good GPS fix before you press start. You could set one of your data fields to display the time. When the time is right then the date is probably also right and you are good to go. I have the latest firmware and I have never had a fully depleted battery so they are not the causes.

Many other bugs reported on forums will be eliminated with the latest firmware.

Price Comparison

Watches Comparison July 7th 2015 Amazon UK Amazon2 USA
Adidas MiCoach Smart Run £209.99 Link $188.00 Link
BRYTON 60H / S430 £174.90 Link $199.00 Link
Epson SF-810 £201.08 Link $506.06 Link
Epson SF-710 £151.14 Link $297.91 Link
Epson SF-510 £140.63 Link $269.10 Link
Epson SF-310 £109.99 Link $208.11 Link
Fitbit Charge HR £105.00 Link $149.95 Link
Garmin Edge 1000 £390.84 Link $599.99 Link
Garmin Edge 520 TBC TBC
Garmin Edge 510 £249.36 Link $304.95 Link
Garmin Edge 810 £223.33 Link $394.95 Link
Garmin Edge 25 £139.99 Link $169.99 Link
Garmin Edge 20 £109.99 Link $129.99 Link
Garmin Epix £344.45 Link $549.99 Link
Garmin Fenix3 (Sapphire) £385.00 Link $589.95 Link
Garmin Forerunner 220 £158.09 Link $236.99 Link
Garmin Forerunner 620 £248.24 Link $388.28 Link
Garmin Forerunner 630 TBC
Garmin 910 XT £232.49 Link $318.11 Link
Garmin 920 XT £302.65 Link $483.00 Link
Garmin VivoActive £199.10 Link $244.95 Link
Mio Alpha 2 £117.71 Link $199.00 Link
Nike+ SportWatch £179.99 Link $149.89 Link
Polar M400 £119.95 Link $229.95 Link
Polar V800 £266.95 Link $308.49 Link
Suunto Ambit 3 PEAK £277.51 Link $381.10 Link
Suunto Ambit 3 Sport £194.95 Link $319.95 Link
Suunto Ambit 2R £151.64 Link $167.16 Link
TomTom MultiSport £148.58 Link $148.44 Link
TomTom MultiSport Cardio £179.99 Link $246.99 Link
TomTom Runner £89.99 Link $99.99 Link
TomTom Runner Cardio £161.99 Link $199.99 Link
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