If you're a cyclist, the natural inclination for tracking performance would be to turn toward a cyclocomputer, those nifty devices that strap on your handlebars and give you information about your speed, distance, cadence, max/average speeds, etc.
However, I wanted to take a different look at this, and explore the suitability of what's basically a runner's watch, the Timex Ironman Run Trainer with GPS and Heart Rate Monitor, for use in cycling applications.
Timex does make a cyclocomputer, of course, the Cycle Trainer 2.0, but there are some features in the Run Trainer watch that can have specific benefits to cyclists that the Cycle Trainer simply doesn't have. And we'll explore those differences in the next few paragraphs.
Features and Specifications
The Timex Run Trainer watch has a number of features:
- GPS function measures pace, speed, distance in real time
- Large, easy-to-read screen shows three or four customizable lines of data
- Settings easily customizable from your computer
- Interval timers, alerts and 15 workout memory
- Comes with Timex Flex-Tech Digital 2.4 Heart Rate Sensor
- Workouts downloadable to website for saving and detailed analysis
- 50 M water resistant
- 8-hour battery life in full GPS mode
- Case size: 49 mm wide x 18 mm thick / 1.93 inches x 0.71 inches
- Display: 29 mm wide x 26 high / 1.14 inches x 1.02 inches
- Weight: 65.7g / 2.3oz
Features in Runners Watch for Cyclists
So my experiment to look at a runner's watch from a cyclist's point of view proved fruitful. It turns out there are a number of features in this Run Trainer watch that bicyclists can use that the Cycle Trainer 2.0 lacks, particularly for general fitness/training activities.
Run Trainer Watch is Wrist Mounted which makes it easy to move around between bikes. Sure the Cycle Trainer 2.0 comes with two mounting brackets so that you can switch between a couple bikes but many cyclists, myself included, have more bikes than that which they use regularly. Having one watch mounted on one wrist means I'm ready to go when it's time to ride and not trying to swap it between bikes when it's 5:30 a.m. and I need to be out the door to meet my group of road rider buddies.
Interval/Timer Function Offers More Training Options - one of the things I've been focused on lately is Interval Training, where you methodically increase and expand your exertion rate by following periods of intense activity with active recovery. This watch allows you to customize and program these intervals so that not only do you get a workout specifically targeted for you, but with a watch that's providing you direction on your workout right there on your wrist and with audible beeps telling when to increase or decrease activity.
Programmable Zones to Monitor HR, Pace, etc.: Other useful training tool for many athletes are programmable training zones that create threshholds for themselves - minimum/maximum speeds, heart rates, etc., all performance indicators that they may not want to exceed for fall below. For instance, for effective training purposes (and not to blow up too early) a cyclist may want to set a heart rate target that will warn them when their pulse either falls below 130 (not working hard enough) or creeps up above 150 (working too hard). Related article: More information about heart rate zones and max heart rate
Can be used for multi-event training rather than just cycling only. One of the advantages of this watch over the purely bike-focused Cycle Trainer 2.0 is its use in different events. Known as "bricks" in triathlon talk, you can use this in combination events where you go straight from biking to a run, etc. It's not as sophisticated as the triathlon features on the Timex Global Trainer watch that has true multi-sport tracking, since this will blend your performance results together, but when you use the "lap" function you'll have at least real time monitoring through your splits of time/pace/speed in each and saved for you as well in review after your workout..
Disadvantages to the Run Trainer Watch
In our test of the Run Trainer watch, we observed the following drawbacks, some of which are specific to this watch and some common to consumer GPS products generally. With the GPS, we noted that it was slow to start, meaning there is no "instant on" since it takes a minute or so to pick up satellite signals and synchronize with them to determine location. I found myself setting the watch out and turning on GPS a few minutes before my run as I finished putting on my shoes, etc., so that it would be ready when I was ready to go. Also, the GPS is affected by tree cover, hilly terrain, other overhead obstructions, etc., so this may not be ideal for mountain biking if you're in particularly thick woods or in deep draws where connects with the satellites may be sketchy. It's important to note that this will be the case with any GPS however
Also, the watch has "only" an eight-hour battery life in full GPS mode. Ordinarily that's going to be no problem for a runner, but a cyclist doing a full century ride can easily be on the bike eight hours or more, including stops.
Note too, just as a general fact that I learned the hard way - if the battery runs out completely you will lose not only the current workout but all saved workouts on the watch, in addition to having to reset the time and user specific data like date of birth, weight, gender, etc., used to calculate calories burned and appropriate heart rate zones.
Another observation. Setting the zones for interval training, heart rate, etc., with associated alarms if you fall above or below the desired target is easy from the computer. However, it is difficult to adjust when you're out on the bike or running, other than just turning off those specific alerts completely. As an example, I set a target of an eight-minute mile the other morning, which was too ambitious for me. After enduring several minutes of incessant beeping, telling me I was going too slow, I had to turn off the alert as I wasn't able easily to move it to a more reasonable target of nine minutes/mile while out on the run itself.
Summary - a Nifty Tool - Runner's Watch for Cyclists
And, be aware that you will benefit from applying a few minutes of attention and devotion to the product manual to understand and maximize features. Timex also makes a number of good instructional videos that go with their products to help you understand and get the most out of the device.