910XT Triathlon Review | Garmin Duathlon, Triathlon and Running Watch HRM

Garmin 910XT

Mar 2015: It’s now GBP205 and falling. Image shows summer 2012. Click to go straight to latest lowest price.

Garmin 910XT July 2012

Summary: This is a proper piece of kit that looks and feels the part. It has *ALL* the major capabilities that a triathlon GPS watch needs.

The ‘acid test’: Would I buy another if stolen? Answer:  Yes.

If it was stolen I would not be able to do my training and racing without it for more than a couple of days. I can and have recommended it to friends.

Is it perfect? There are few things in this world that are perfect and I guess that is why we have reviews like this. I will point out some of the issues I have and some suggestions for improvement.

This review will come from the angle of:

“Why is it good for triathlon?”; and

“What extra do I get from upgrading to this from the Forerunner 305 or the Forerunner 310XT?”

I’ve deliberately tried to avoid rehashing the stuff you can find in the online manual. That would be a ‘features’ review that you can get elsewhere from various tables of data comparing models. I’ve tried instead to focus on the benefits to you and also on the experience I had setting it up and using it. I also witter on a bit, which may make the review more readable and more personable…or not.

1. Out of the box what do I get?

  • The GPS watch  + strap extender
  • 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 footpod to measure footfall/running cadence or that can be used on an indoor trainer for pace. You can buy one, I did. (Garmin 010-10998-00 and 010-11092-00)
  • 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.
  • Quick release/fabric strap. You can buy one.
  • Ant+ compatible Bike power unit. You buy one. Such as the awesome Garmin Vector pedals due 2013/2014
  • A full manual – you only get a quick start guide. The manual is online <here>.
  • Note that some of the cheaper prices you will see on the net EXCLUDE the HR Strap.

3.       What’s different to earlier models?

The forerunner 305 or 310XT owner will feel at home when handling the 910XT. The 910XT looks similar (better) and the menus are similar (more comprehensive). I would very simplistically and perhaps unfairly call the 310XT a waterproof 305 that can count swim laps for longer. Conceptually the 910XT comes from the same stable but with much more on offer. But what’s different for the triathlete is the waterproofing and all the clever little internal bits that make possible a wide range of swim metrics for either open-water or pool based activities. It’s got a very similarly sized screen but built on a smaller ‘wrist-print’ (i.e. it’s smaller and lighter than the earlier models). It has a longer battery life than them too. All good.

  • 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.
  • Just buying it for swimming? Remember that the competing Swimsense doesn’t do GPS.
  • Just buying it for cycling? Remember the 910XT’s got a good altimeter.

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, AG and Pro.
  • Anyone who is stat-obsessed. 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.
  • People that can afford it. At >£240 it’s not cheap.
  • The upgrader. A current Forerunner user. The usual accessories you already own will probably also work with the 910XT. Or perhaps you’ve owned an earlier model (305, 310XT) for several years and 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.
  • The future-proofer. Someone who thinks they might get more serious at one or several sports but needs to just buy ‘any-old’ training watch now.
  • Or 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.
  • The cheapskate – the boyfriend who buys it for his wife/girlfriend hoping that they won’t use it and then get to use it themselves. 
  • The feature-phile – There are also some minor features (as far as I’m concerned) that are of little interest to me BUT they may well be game-changers for other people. Eg Barometric Altimeter.

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

  • Turn it on
  • Answer a few basic questions eg time zone,  units (imperial/statute/metric) and accessories
  • Get going!

Here’s some screen shots of what to expect.

      

6. First Impressions

  • Nice sized display
  • Looks big (because of the display)
  • But wow. So light, quite thin.
  • Watch strap looks a bit chunky and wide.
  • But the watch strap feels comfortable and secure. Probably ‘well ventilated’ and has a great locking mechanism. I suspect that the design change corrects the splitting strap issues of some previous models. This strap seems to have a thin edge to it of what appears to be a harder material.
  • The watch strap also fits small wrists – even my 3 year old’s! And with the extender it will go over chunky clothing.
  • The buttons are very positive to press. They are placed and sized subtly differently to other models. The buttons are generally a bit smaller than on other devices. But all well within the bounds of acceptability. Certainly an improvement on the Forerunner 305 but I still slightly prefer the feel and size of the 310XT’s buttons.
  • Sound is nice and clear. With a hidden/covered the speaker is unlikely to deteriorate due to water penetration. Easily heard on the wrist or on the bike.
  • Seems to beep often. Vibration alert is just right, useful, if you were expecting it.
  • On the back of the watch…no nasty holes for water to get into.
  • Unusual charging points on the rear – or are they cleverly and innovatively designed?

 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.


7.1 Recognize My ANT+ Devices – HRM, footpod, 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> Settings> Bike Settings> select your bike> Ant+ Spd/Cad> Yes and search. Spin the bike wheel or crank to turn the sensor on. Job done.

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

Listen up! On the 910XT you set up various bikes or bike-setups to correspond with different wheel/tyre sizes and accessories. You set up the displays for what you want to do within your training/racing. Then there are various sport related settings like virtual partner, alerts and autolap which can apply to all bikes and all displays. Don’t confuse them.

Display Metrics are very important for me, probably you too – 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 910XT.

The situation gets a little more complicated on the bike where some people will genuinely want more than 4 metrics on display at any one time. The 910XT supports more than one screen of 4 metrics per sport and these can be shown/hidden and automatically/manually scrolled through. Other watches do not support the display of 4 simultaneous metrics…this for me would be a reason to never consider buying such a watch. It must have 4..or more! Many don’t. 

Racing vs. Training. As you are a triathlete or a parkrunner then you ‘race’. Be that for international glory or local 5k PB glory. I would suggest that you configure a display just for racing and hide it if you want. Don’t forget to test it eg does it work if autolap is turned on? does it work in multisport mode? Either way the 910XT will do that. Only last week I was going for a 60 minute bike PB and after 1km the autolap duly beeped…how annoying I had forgotten to change off my training setup and an hour later I was 5 seconds off a PB. Had I had my proper metrics on display I would have made those 5 seconds up somehow.

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.

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 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. 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.

b. Bike Display Settings

The bike is different; I do target specific HR zones and specific HRs 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 very focussed and the watch can be very useful.

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> Bike> Settings> Bike Settings > Data Fields> Bike 1

I chose 4 metrics: Speed + HR + Cadence + Time

Then again for a race I really only look at HR and cadence. Maybe one day I will set up and use a screen jut ft for those.

c. Pool Swim Settings

Here I got a little bit confused. One of my local pools is 36m and it is an outdoor ‘Lido’. So there should be a GPS signal. I also want to try to see if the Garmin or some other Ant+ strap will give me HR. Whilst the 36m pool length is stored I would have expected that to become the first menu choice for pool length on subsequent visits.

Anyway, once you have specified your pool length you are ready to go.

As far as the Swim display goes I just want a laps/length counter, average strokes per length and average time per length. Remember that you won’t look at your watch during the length so your metrics will be only meaningful looking back at the end of your set of multiple lengths. However what might be useful DURING your length is a vibration alert if your stroke count falls above/below a certain threshold. Unfortunately that is not available but time/distance alerts are available.

NOTE: For any swim in ANY pool (outside or inside) the GPS should be turned off automatically. Do not set ‘open water’ mode for a swim in an outdoor pool. It won’t work. Don’t waste your time!! Just believe me.

d.  Open Water Settings

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 910XT can only do distance/time. Alerts can be configured for time and distance but there would only be limited use of those for me … if I were alerted to the fact that my workout had finished and I was in the middle of a lake I still have to get back!

e.  Alerts

Set up your watch so it beeps if your performance is not where it needs to be. This is very useful in either a race or training situation. 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. Having alerts setup means that your 910XT will tell you when you need to look at the watch and change your performance level. I also find alerts useful to go off if my HR or cadence gets too low.

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 which is more useful to me 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. As you are racing against your last performance, it 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 you 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> Virtual Racer (Choose previously saved course)

Make sure you have the display turned on.

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 field. So press mode to go back to your main 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.  

I can see the use for this in 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.

Leading us nicely on to…

7.3 Set-Up Multi Sport

Mode> Training> Auto Multisport

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

This setup was straightforward. Just like on the earlier 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 910XT will be waiting on my bike. 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 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 910XT does this.

It takes your swim, Bike and run settings (eg alerts, autolaps, display metrics, etc) and chunks them together in a way you define. Quite simple really.

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.

Do it once, sorted forever.

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 profile’ or at least using the one you have already setup somewhere else months ago.

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 was 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 then 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 the ANT+ stick and drivers for your watch. Takes a while 9/10.
  • 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 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>910Xt (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.
  • Garmin Connect is automatically synchronised.

7.5 Update Zones

There are various zones such as HR and Pace zones. If you think you are a serious athlete you will 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 that software.

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. The 910XT is now sufficiently established to 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 one. 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 v2.50, 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 straight from the box!

Tip: Before you get going make sure you have a properly acquired GPS signal which should take 10 seconds or so. The watch will vibrate to tel you all is good. Once the GPS signal is properly acquired the 910XT rarely loses it. It even retains the signal inside my house…earlier models do not do this.

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; or you can follow a complex pre-defined workout.

The watch felt good. I’ve got fairly small hands and the ‘arrow’ buttons are a bit of a fiddle. However because the buttons are responsive with audible feedback you do not make mistakes. Anyway that’s rather trivial as once you get going really all you are going to do is: look at the watch; press the lap button; or possibly scroll through the displays. All fine. If I’m being overly critical I would say perhaps a slightly larger lap button for bigger hands OR for cold fumbling winter fingers (I have those cold winter fingers but fortunately for me I’m writing this in summer…unfortunate for the review sorry!).

The 310XT is less accurate

The 310XT is less accurate look at the right hand track

The 910XT is very accurate - to within 2m

The 910XT is very accurate to within 2m, again look at the track to the right

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 and have attached two images below. One from each watch that I wore simultaneously. Both 910XT and 310XT are clearly both accurate but the 910XT is VERY accurate. 

BUT look guys 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. This Garmin is more accurate than earlier ones 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.

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. Yet at the same time there are GPS errors where I have run through walls but is this the watch? Is it more accurate than your car’s GPS? Probably not. 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 make your run data recording not quite as accurate as you would like 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.

But what about the trees? I’m writing this after a particularly wet British early summer. 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. However with the 910XT there WAS some marked difference in the pace shown when under trees. Of the magnitude of me running at 4:00/km and the 910XT showing 4:15/km. HOWEVER once out of the trees the pace was quickly corrected and perhaps more importantly the cumulative lap distance/pace somehow was corrected and back home in the software it was correct. And also the GPS track when mapped onto Google did show more than 1km of running under trees, again at Bushy Park, to be ‘correct’ (See part fo this 1km to the left). So if you are running in a forest it may be a problem but for the odd bit of tree cover I wouldn’t worry about it.

More importantly perhaps, I suspect that the same tree-induced pace errors exist with all GPS watches to some degree and I probably had them before. Just that ‘before’ I’ve never spent an entire training session staring at a GPS watch so that I can write about it later! This means that I’ve never really TRIED to notice tree-induced errors because it’s never previously been an apparent problem for me.

What I did really like was the vibration alert at the end of my laps. Probably better than the audible alert that I am used to…although with the 910XT you get both (configurable). 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 new 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.

My first real ride was a 2x PB attempt around 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.

I could have used a course setting and the virtual partner to race against myself from my last PB however that PB was the first 2 laps of a 3-lap ‘race’. The 2nd lap was a bit slow so I hoped to nail the record by going close to my limits. Anyway I’m did not want to risk how the course setting would work on a multi-lap course not having previosuly tested out how that works. So I didn’t risk it – nor should any of us risk using untested settings for the first time on ‘race’ day.

Which brings us back to HR, (power)and cadence. Over an undulating course speed is not so useful on the road as it is not constant because of the gradients. However cadence should be within a zone 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 running metrics. If I had a power meter I would use that as well (primarily).

Post Script: PB yeah!

The display does seem a bit sharper than on other models I’ve used but I’m probably imagining it. I compared it to a 310XT and was surprised that in fact the digits are a tad smaller on the 910XT due to a different ‘font’. I’d not really noticed that on the run, yet as I say it seems more readable.

I did this ride approaching dusk when the park was empty of cars. Even with the low light conditions the display was clear.

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

7.9 Go for a swim

My first swim with the 910XT was at the local 36m outdoor pool. So I was a little confused on how to turn on the GPS for the pool. (You shouldn’t, don’t). So when in a pool always take it as being indoors.

I was doing sets of 200m, almost exclusively front crawl but with some backstroke thrown in for the purposes of testing and no particular target recovery period in between. Nothing earth shattering in all of that. Being Manual-averse I took this as being a free session with no exercise plan on the watch. I figured that pressing ‘lap’ at the end of each set would suffice as the 910XT would recognise the change of direction of each length during the set. I was right.

When reviewing the data later I discovered that the 910XT recognised my stroke correctly for the first 7 sets but made 3 mistakes in identifying swimming style on the last 2 sets. On my last set I was a bit tired and rested a few seconds at the end of some of the lengths. I would say that the number of strokes per length was right or about right and on the occasions when it was out it was probably due to the way I paused when finishing the length – perhaps incorrectly adding an extra stroke or two.

The 910XT is a complex motion and direction sensor. Remember that the 910XT does not give you metrics during a length it corrects the data at the end of each length.

Hopefully your pool is longer than 20m/22yard otherwise you will have a problem. However for the rest of us who can maintain form the 910XT works generally fine considering the tricky job it is performing. My take on the glitches is that my form changed and the watch got confused. The confusion could possibly also have been worsened by a poor push-off. I’m certainly not the greatest swimmer.

Indeed I forced a good friend to use the watch for a session. He is a very good swimmer. On 60 freestyle lengths (no tumble turns) of a 36m pool only 3 lengths were allocated the wrong stroke. I suppose you could call that a 5% error. 8 of the lengths probably had an incorrect number of strokes.

On some drills I use paddles. I use my teeth to press the lap button. Again a bigger lap button would help slightly with that.

7.10 Perform a turbo/trainer session

Like me, many triathletes and some professional triathletes spend more hours on the turbo than on the road.

A turbo session has very similar 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 are more closely monitored and adhered to by the athlete.

But also consider that the same or different bike may be used on the turbo as on the road or maybe it is just the rear wheel/tyre that you will change. Clearly also GPS will not be used and speed will come from either the Cadence/Speed sensor or from the turbo unit itself.

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.

So firstly we have to turn the GPS off. You can do this in several places. When turning the unit on it seeks a signal and displays a small bar graph. At this point press <Enter> on the 910XT and you have the option to say you are indoors and turn the GPS off. You can do the same thing at any point BUT only when the 910XT is trying again to find a signal ie usually when you are indoors.

The other way is a bit longwinded Mode> GPS> GPS Status> Enabled NO

It is not possible to turn off GPS by pressing and holding the Mode button as with the 305.

Anyway you need to turn the GPS off if you use SportTracks. The 910XT ALWAYS records a GSC10 speed track if it exists. It always records a GPS speed track when the sensor is on. SportTracks takes speed as being GPS Speed but if no GPS Speed exists then it looks for GSC10 Speed. The Garmin software correctly distinguishes between the two speed tracks.

I use the Garmin GSC10 sensor. So as I’ve already gone for a road ride we know it works. Or do we? I have an unusual setup where my turbo trainer also has a power/speed/cadence display that I use as well as a 910XT. It is good enough that I trust the cadence and wheel speed information it displays. With my old forerunner, the forerunner-speed and the turbo-speed were near enough the same. With the 910XT there was a 1km/h difference and that is too much. Why? A: Incorrect calibration. The default wheel size circumference is 2100mm and for my tyres it should be 2097mm. So I changed it yet still the difference, why? Well my tyres were significantly under-inflated at 80PSI, normally I would have them up to 110PSI.

Here as well I encountered my first problem and had to defer to the online manual. I mostly use my race bike even for training. But I use different wheels and differently sized tyres. How should I best handle this? The solution I arrived at was to create two bikes (the 910XT can handle 5 bike setups) essentially one with the trainer wheel and one with the aero/disc wheel. I needn’t necessarily have done the latter as the GSC 10’s magnet that fits to the spokes does not fit on my deep section wheel or disc wheel in any case (and so would not generate wheel based speed data for the disc). So I think creating a new bike is a simple and clear solution.

Anyway here’s what you need to do to if you want to create a ‘new’ bike for a turbo trainer:

Mode> Settings> Bike Settings> Bikes > Choose an unchecked bike eg Bike 2 > Done

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

Mode> Settings> Bike Settings> Bike 2> Bike Details> More> Set Wheel Size Correctly

Mode> Settings> Bike Settings> Bike 2> Bike Details> Change Name to Turbo or Spinner

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. However auto config did not work for me (on an earlier forerunner it did work fine) and I had to set the circumference 30mm less than what it should have been. That then does not cause any problems but it seems bug-like and strange to have to make such a large adjustment. Anyway once the change was made all was fine.

So let’s use it on the trainer. Well of course the display, alerts and controls are all there. The Lap button could be bigger 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.

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 to the aero bars. I can’t blame Garmin for this one! As I need a special attachment that will hold both my TacX display and the Garmin…I’m sure no-one makes those! I plan to craft one out of elastic bands and thick cardboard tubes which will be fine until I’m doing a session on the decking and it rains!

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? It might be useful to look at the 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 lent the 910XT to a friend who was doing an open water session leading up to a race, he commented that the 910XT seemed much more robust when wrestling with his wetsuit than the 310XT. He also said that the extra thinness over the 310XT made the 910XT easier to get the wetsuit off.

For me, in a recent race there was a non-compete zone (for road safety reasons). On the 910XT you could just have this as part of your T2 or add another sport. I did the former and encountered a problem. In transition the watch assumes you are in Run mode. Which is fine. However it also applies the same autolap settings as are found for your runs. So in the case of my non-compete zone this lasted more than 1km (on a bike) and so a lap happened. This wasn’t a problem with being advanced onto the next activity but rather once the lap happened I didn’t know how long I had been in the non-compete zone-cum-T2…and there was a 7 minute time limit before the clock started again! If you were to add a non-compete zone as another leg in order to solve this problem then you would also have to remember there would be an additional ‘transition’ ie simply to press the lap button twice!

The only annoying thing I found was that my ‘normal’ run and bike screens were not shown first of all. I had to arrow through the various screens to get to them. This became quite annoying on a multiple run-bike-run-bike session where I had to do it each time. You can live with that in training of course but you don’t want that in a race.

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 will use the 910XT.

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 910XT. Presumably you already know how to correct errors from the way you currently do things with your software (if indeed it is possible for you).

Everything should already be ready to accept your data. 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 and 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. 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.)

The data transfer IS slower 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. The only new types of errors you will find that were not there before will be swimming ones.

These will be errors like where the wrong stroke has been identified and the wrong lap length has been made. Maybe you pressed lap or stop at the wrong time.

In Garmin Connect you cannot edit swim data. Neither can you do that in Garmin Training Centre nor Training Peaks nor the freebie SportTracks. BUT for Eu10 within SporTracks you can buy the Pool Swimming Plugin. Edit until your heart’s content…

http://www.zonefivesoftware.com/sporttracks/plugins/?p=pool-swimming

I admit it’s a bit annoying dealing with these errors. But on reflection this is because they are NEW errors that you have not had to deal with before. With running you know that running under trees can sometimes cause problems and with cycling you know that the sensor position is critical for correct cadence data. If 400m of your run is wrong or if 2 lengths of your pool session are wrong is it really that big a deal in the overall scheme of things? And just to re-iterate if you press lap at the end of your swim set that will correct a lot of ‘anomalies’…but then you  would do the same thing if you finished your running interval early as well. So a lot this is all about learning to get used to a great new piece of kit.

Garmin 910XT

Garmin 910XT July 2012

8. Garmin 910XT: The downsides

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 910XT at the end of a set to get a periodic HR reading or manually estimate TRIMP.
  4. Once you have correctly picked up the GPS signal, the 910XT 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. The 910XT is by far the best one for open water swim location…providing you get a full signal before jumping in
  5. In general, a GPS position can be lost in: urban areas; under significant tree cover; underwater; inside houses and near very tall buildings. The 910XT will be prone to these as would any GPS device. I never encountered these problems to any real degree indeed i would have to say that once a signal was obtained the 910XT kept its GPS-fix inside my home which no other GPS watch has ever done for any period of time. The signal acquisition and retention is better than earlier models. A footpod or bike speed sensor might be a good investment for you if you are likely to regularly use the 910XT in these more extreme and unusual conditions.
  6. Sometimes picks up wrong swim stroke. Less than one lap in 20. Probably tiredness and my poor form at time. If you are a competent swimmer you may not experience this.
  7. Sometimes doesn’t record lengths. Less than one lap in 20. Can be edited in SportTracks. Resolved with a stronger push off in any case.

You may find negative views expressed on forums. Much of it is pre-2012 and pre firmware v2.50. Bear in mind that you only see people who have problems not those the many that don’t. Some of the issues raised are by people who don’t know how to use the device properly perhaps comparing ‘apples’ with ‘pears’ for example comparing one device that has ‘SMART’ recording and another that has ‘PER SECOND’ data recording – these will show different speed/pace data.

9. Suggestions
The following would be my 3 suggestions that might benefit many people.
  1. 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?
  2. Ability to specify a fixed swim style in advance of a session for less consistent swimmers.
  3. Ability to set vibration alerts for swimming other than speed/distance eg a vibration alert for ‘last length stroke count was too high’ or ‘length recognised as completed’
The following are suggestions that might help a minority of 910XT owners.
  1. Advanced numeric data display: when in use only show the metrics BUT slightly larger and omit the units of measure and/or omit names fields e.g. I don’t need to know that 165 is ‘Heart Rate’ and that it is in bpm. I know that already.
  2. A metronomic vibration or sound to help running and swimming cadence.
  3. As the 910XT can do swim strokes I don’t see why, technically, it can’t count armswings and use that as a proxy for running cadence.
  4. Bigger lap button for cold days, big fingers and working by mouth!
  5. Ability to specify a swim session with different styles per set and/or per length (this is on the Garmin Swim and maybe incorporated into the 910XT)
  6. Consider outdoor lane swimming and if GPS can help that.
  7. Have 3 swim options: ‘lap’, ‘open-water’ and ‘XXX-length’. Once a non-standard pool length has been chosen then have that as the first option presented when next choosing to swim. In my case “36m length” would show.
  8. 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.
  9. How about swim power from paddles and flippers! Although probably impossible with ANT+.
  10. Enable support for sub 20m pools.

10 Longer Term Issues

After time more issues may come to light. Here are some more experiences and comments:

  1. v2.50 of the firmware introduces, apparently, MANY new power related metrics for your cycling
  2. Slight East-to-West error in GPS positioning
  3. Current Pace is affected when simultaneously using footpod for cadence (with GPS being speed source)
  4. Inconsistent altitude readings.
  5. Heart rate spikes – not cured by wetting strap. Probably not static related.
  6. Once appeared to have condensation under the glass cover on a hot swim day…never re-occurred.
  7. Awesome service – Garmin replaced the watch that exhibited some of the above issues.

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

 

0 thoughts on “910XT Triathlon Review | Garmin Duathlon, Triathlon and Running Watch HRM

  1. Great review. My main complaint with my 910xt is something you touched on at the end – condensation. It seems to happen for me on runs in very bright sunlight. Strange, and a little worrying. OK just googled it and seems its a common issue. Not sure if I should take it back, it seems to go away after a while…
    .

    • I think it is double glazed. It is condensation in the gap. It is caused by differences in the temperature of the watch and the outside air. Kind of like double glazing at home. Admittedly double glazing at home shouldn’t have any water inside it. If it’s any consolation mine does the same in winter.

  2. Great review, just bought one love it. I can’t figure out how to convert my pace in the run mode from km/hr to mins/km. if you can tell me it would be appreciated.

    • sy for the very late reply. I guess by now you have figured out that you change the settings to use metric. Run the start up wizard as from memory that takes you through it

  3. Great review.
    My only complaint with the 910XT is altitude inaccuracy. I use the watch when mountain running and it often registers 20m or more higher than it should.
    The 305 is more accurate and doesn’t need recalibration.

  4. Had the watch a while now so able to give some more thoughts. I really like it apart from a couple of glitches: I’m using v3.0
    My main annoyance is that you can’t recalibrate the altitude during a run. For example you get to a summit with a known height of 600m and the watch says 590m. You can save the location with the correct altitude but unless you stop your present workout and save it then start again it won’t change the altitude reading on the watch.

    Secondly, after working well for months the watch now doesn’t pick up my heartrate accurately until maybe 5 minutes into a workout. Changing the battery in the chest strap and no amount of licking / wetting the strap has seemed to fix this.

    Current Pace reading seems to fluctuate wildly on the watch (although looks ok when downloaded)

    So in general happy with the added features over the old 305, although the features I need most were more reliable on the old “wrist-brick”!

  5. my altimeter has just gone totally so count yourself lucky! Having said that I should get a replacement out of it 🙂

    it is probably the STRAP that has gone for you (not the clip on unit). borrow someone else’s and try. i’m about to test some wahoo stuff you could also look at a wrist based mio.

    yes I think there is some truth in the reliability of the 305 statement you make. I had 3 though and one was rubbish, other two were great as was my 310. amazing the different experiences of different people with the same watch. I have this lingering feeling that there are physical hardware differences in there as well as firmware updates

    • Thanks for offering your thoughts.
      I hadn’t considered that the strap sensor might be at fault. It’s a really weird fault as at first it looks like it’s working e.g. showing 40% max as soon as I put it on whilst I’m getting ready to run. Then 3 or 4 minutes of easy running = 40% max. Stop, lick, fiddle etc = 40% max. Sprint up hill for 30 seconds = 40% max! Think forget it I’ll just run by feel and 5 mins later it starts to creep up until there it is 76%! After that it seems pretty accurate, responding to changes in effort and maxing at 100% at the end of long hill repeats.

      I’ve seen the Mio, I think it’s the way to go – doing away with a chest strap if the wrist sensor proves accurate. However in winter I wear my watch over a long sleeved top and sometimes over a jacket too so not sure if the Mio would still pick up heart rate if not next to the skin.

      Also having a Polar 610 (which was fine except that when I got a new computer the old Infra Red device wasn’t supported) a Forerunner 305 and now a top of the range Garmin I’m loathe to part with cash for another watch.

  6. For the non compete zone had you considered using the other sport mode and setting up with just to show split time. As you come into the end of the bike you just have to tap Lap twice and if you have transitions included.

Leave a Reply