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Gear Review: Timex Global Trainer with GPS (Part 3)

Posted Jan 12 2013 8:53am

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Its been awhile since we looked at the Timex Global Trainer. PART 1   looked at getting it out of the box and getting up and running.   PART 2  ooked at setup anf taking the TGT into the pool for a few laps. 

This part 3 will look at the rubber meeting the road, literally.

Bike tracking and metrics measuring is a newer venture for Timex. Combining it with swimming and running into one watch is a bold new front for Timex as well.

Lets jump on the saddle and go over what the TGT can do for you on the bike.

As mentioned before, make sure you have updated the watch firmware or some features may not work properly. Nothing can be more frustrating than trying to troubleshoot issues for two hours only to realize the latest update fixed your problem. This can be said for most any tech workout widget on the market.

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What's convenient about the Timex Global Trainer is the compatibility with ANT devices by other manufacturers. Timex has developed their own sensor modules, but if you happen to already have a polar heart rate strap and Garmin speed and cadence sensor, you're not forced to go replace your gear with Timex tech. That's always a nice option since those items aren't exactly cheap. That's also become the accepted standard in the fitness watch game, but some companies still prefer to go down the proprietary hardware and software route.
The TGT throws a plethora of metrics at you. Power, speed, cadence, heart rate, distance, time are all there. You may not get the right and left power differential from your Quarq power crank, but few multisport GPS watches will measure that. Rest assured that 95% of what you want to track and see real time will be there.

It doesn't matter if you're trucking along outside on your rural bike route or riding your trainer watching reruns of Real World waiting for the snow to melt. The TGT will have you covered if you aren't utilizing GPS. As mentioned before,  just pair it with your ANT compatible speed and cadence sensor and go. It has worked great with the garmin speed and cadence sensor, timex or garmin heart rate sensor, and CycleOps PowerCal heart rate and power meter strap. One word of advice is to utilize gel or good old fashioned spit for the heart rate contacts to the skin to avoid drops in data recording. The TGT seems to be especially sensitive to that.

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Riders might have an issue trying to use the speed and cadence measuring while outdoors connected to GPS. On occasion the unit will override the GPS and rely solely on the sensors. This can be frustrating if the workout is in a time crunch situation and needs to happen asap. Triathletes can be an impatient bunch and spending 20 minutes to troubleshoot can be devastating to the mental makeup. Word of advice, make sure the unit is powered off before the ride. When getting setup, turn the unit on AFTER heart rate strap and bike sensors have been "turned on".

That means that the strap is on and the speed and cadence sensor light is blinking after a few wheel rotations. The TGT will always search for GPS on power-up, even if turned off on previous uses. Make sure that the sensors are on and they might need to be set to "scan" to re-find the sensors, especially if significant time has passed since last bike ride. Unfortunately the best solution found so far is trying to restart the unit and searching for sensors. The last resort is to start riding and sometimes the change in coordinates will "wake" the unit up to get sensor data and GPS at the same time.

Have you ever started your workout and looked down for your workout data only to find out that your GPS watch mysteriously didn't start recording data? That's hard to swallow, especially if you're 15 or 20 minutes into it. That can be a problem with the TGT, but it's a known fact. The problem comes up if you have exceeded the 20 workout limit on the memory. It's simple to fix. Just download your workouts and delete them off the watch. If you are not diligent about getting your workouts off your watch, then you have a choice to make. Delete old data or don't record your workout. Both options suck, so stay current with downloading. You will get a warning message about the full memory, but unlike many eager triathletes jumping into their workout, people miss the message and start getting after it.

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Mounting the Timex Global Trainer to your bike handlebars might be easier said than done. The particular device for this review also came with an adaptor mount that uses a friction clamp design to connect to your handlebars. The TGT is then placed on the mount as if it was going on a wrist. All of this goes to one glaring deficiency of the Global Trainer, no quick release system. Users will have to unstrap the TGT and then re-strap it to the bike mount. For the triathlete looking to shave time off in transition, this won't help. If an athlete prefers to wear their GPS watch the entire time, then no problem.

The other issue that arises with the TGT bike mount is position.  The mount only goes one way and you cannot rotate it depending on the direction of the handlebars.  For instance, on a regular road bike, the mount fits perfect on the crossbar next to the stem connection.  Slap on the TGT and go.  It gets a little hairy with tri bikes. The crossbar real estate is taken up with the aero bars mounted to the bar.  The only option is to play it on the aero bars, thus the unit faces the wrong direction for someone to be able to safely read it while biking, or the unit can go on the side bars of the aero handlebar setup.  The TGT will need to be placed as close to the elbow rests as possible to allow proper positioning of the face to read the metrics while biking.  It’s not optimal, but it can be managed.

As mentioned before with the TGT, hitting the wrong button can easily stop data recording or add splits in where you didn’t want them.  Unfortunately having sensitive buttons on the side of the unit make it susceptible to accidental pauses in data recording.  The way the unit needs to be placed on the handlebars puts in the line of fire for hands to rest against the side of the unit, tripping the pause, stop or lap buttons.  This can be mitigated by locking the buttons, but racers will need to remember to unlock the unit when coming into transition or stopping a workout.  It’s a bit cumbersome, and even if worn on the wrist, the angles at which the hands sit on the handlebars could cause pressure on the buttons, stopping data recording.

Luckily the displays can be changed for each discipline.  While you might be interested in many metrics, if you train by 1 or 2, you can change your TGT screen to display 1 to 4 different data displays.  If you choose 1 or 2, then the screen is nice and big to read on the fly.  Nothing’s more harrowing than flying around at 30 mph trying to squint to see how your power output is doing and avoiding rear ending fellow competitors.  You have options for the display and can add as much or little as you want. 

There are also 4 screens to manipulate, so if you use screens for swim, bike and run, you have one left over to add more metrics to cycle through.  Data at your fingertips.  Word of caution, when cycling screens, only use the up button.  The down button also doubles as the stop button and while in chrono mode recording, hitting the down arrow button will result in a stoppage of data recording.  Rest assured that not realizing this and missing half of a two hour ride is not fun.

What’s also nice is the auto pause feature.  The TGT allows users to set a speed at which the unit will pause data recording if bike speed falls below.  Riders can set it to 0 mph or something slightly higher to allow for the “balance on your bike while slowly creeping forward trying not to hit a car waiting for the light to turn green” crowd.  That’s handy to have so if the buttons are locked, the unit can still cut out portions of the ride that don’t count towards the workout.

If you’re wondering about what the data looks like when you download it for review, be prepared if you are not experienced with Training Peaks.  They are the partner training software company and if you are used to a Garmin Connect or another form of tracking software, you might need some time to really understand what you are looking at.  All of the data is there, but the presentation and exploration of the output can be a vastly different experience.  For the most part, there is negligible difference in results.  See the pictures from Training Peaks and Garmin Connect from a ride in August.

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Also notice that Garmin Connect will also show laps, but the 310XT was set up for laps at every 5 miles.  The TGT was set up for laps every 1 mile, which can be adjusted, but will be the same for each discipline.  It was set up for 1 mile for running, but in order to see the auto lap at 5 miles for a bike ride, it would need to be adjusted before the ride.  The Garmin products allow for adjustments the go with each discipline instead of covering them all, if that makes sense.

Keep in mind that this is the first entrant into the multisport watch word for Timex.  There will be some hiccups along the way, and when applying the TGT to the world of biking, a lot of shortcomings become apparent.  That’s not to say that Timex is not looking to ways to improve the watch, but users will need to be aware that they will need to handle the TGT in such a way to allow for proper data recording and the use of the watch needs to be a safe manner to not allow distractions while riding.  Lord knows cyclists have enough issues with cars and pedestrians.  The TGT does provide an excellent trainer ride experience for those looking for a one-stop shop for GPS watches to be used for indoor workouts as well.  Keep that in mind.

Check back to see the TGT shine in on the street, track and treadmills as we take it for a run, job and some sprints.

* Writer’s note: Timex supplied a new TGT unit for this review and in no way influenced the review.

2012 KC Marathon Ryan Falkenrath is a married father of two young kids, owner of two dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport.  He writes the blog f alkeetriathlon.blogspot.com , Endurance Sports Examiner   and runs the Man Vs Triathlon project while participating in multisport events since 2001 from 5k's to Half Ironmans (soon to be Ironman distance in 2013).  Contact Ryan at: info@man-versus-triathlon.com or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan .

Follow on twitter @ everymantri  or view latest videos on YouTube .

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