Friday, May 7, 2010

I Love Gadgets

I love gadgets. I'm also pragmatic and I have to rationalize their purchase or I am left to just admire them from afar. Like the ipad, for example. A very cool machine, but I don't have enough of a reason to justify the expense...yet.

One gadget I picked up a couple of years ago, my Garmin Forerunner 201, is a very cool tool I use while riding. The Forerunner 201 is an outdated model now. If the folks over at Garmin would like me to review the newer models, and they have an old Forerunner 305 or 405 rattling around their junk drawer, I'd be happy to take it through a few shakedown rides. I really think Garmin has missed a whole market of equestrians who could really benefit from their products.

My "used" Foreruner 201

Even though my Forerunner 201 is old and is lower on the features meter than the 305 or 405, it is still an extremely useful tool. I turn it on right after I've tightened the cinch the second time and give it about a minute to locate the satellites before we start our ride. Then, one more cinch check and I strap the Garmin to my wrist. The velco strap is very comfortable even if I am riding a long time. I start the timer and we take off.

My Forerunner 201 keeps track of the "Time of Day" and "The Time of Ride". I use this feature to help log my hours in the AQHA Riding Program. It even stores them in a history file, just in case I don't remember to write my times down when I get back from a ride.

The big screen is easy-to-read

The big screen is easy-to-read without glasses. The Forerunner 201 also keeps track of "Maximum Speed" and "Average Speed". The "Max Speed" feature has helped a lot in our training. When I first purchased Jessie, her lope speed was 17-18 mph. Through our work, I'm now able to glance down and see the speed we are loping. Quite often it's 10-11 mph. (The 13.6 mph you see in the top picture is because I like to speed her up just before we stop).

I use the "Avg. Speed" feature to give me an idea of how hard we are working. Some rides, where we are walking or stopping a lot, may have average speeds of 2.2 - 2.4 mph. I consider anything over 3 mph on a two hour ride to be a "good" workout.

The other feature I use a lot is the "Distance" feature. This essentially tells us how far we've ridden. I can compare myself to some of those endurance riders. I don't know how they do 25 miles a day. We've ridden 20 miles a couple of times and that's a long time for this butt to be in the saddle.

There are several other customizable screens you can plug into the Forerunner 201. One feature I don't use much, but would come in handy if you ride in unfamiliar territory, is the Trackback feature. If you get lost or disoriented you can activate Trackback and it will give you step-by-step directions back to your starting location.

There are many more cool features buried deep in this device. Some are practical for equestrians, some aren't. Once the Garmnin people read this I'm sure they'll send me that latest 305 or 405 model I covet(hint-hint). I'd love write about all the additional features of those models. My old 201 has stood up to the rigors of riding in dusty environments very well. I charge it about every other ride or so.

They also have a serial port to connect to your computer if you want to log your rides on the computer. I did this for a while. You do get an interesting look at the topography of your riding area. Since most of my riding is done right here in town, I don't use this feature much anymore.

The 305 and 405 models have heart-rate monitors built which would come in handy during my aerobic workouts. I saw the 305 advertised, I think in Best Buy, for around a hundred and fifty bucks. If the Garmin folks don't come through, that's really not that hard to justify. Now, if I can only get this old 201 to break....
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