A few weeks ago I purchased a Garmin Forerunner 210. They have been out for well over a year already, so it’s not exactly cutting edge technology. I wanted something easy and light, and this fit the bill. I’ve tried numerous devices in the past including a Garmin Geko 205, an eTrex Vista HCx, a GlobalSat logger, and other older units. I still use the eTrex occasionally for its comprehensive data collection, options, map coordination, and super-long battery life with field-replaceable AA batteries for extended trips. However, I wanted a small and light device that I could take out on shorter runs and bike rides.
The Forerunner 210 is perfect for short trips of less than 8 hours. It’s small and light, very similar to a standard digital wristwatch. It’s comfortable and stylish enough to wear as an everyday watch. It is VERY easy to use.
The Forerunner has a power button (hold the light button) but I seldom switch it off. To record a run, strap it on and push the Menu button to switch to the stopwatch view. At this point it searches for satellites, so this works best if done outside. For me it usually has a fix within 30 seconds, but the initial out-of-the-box fix could take a minute or longer. When it has a fix, zeros will show up, then push the Start/Stop button to start. Push Stop again to stop the time.
Garmin made this device super easy to use; it only has four buttons similar to a digital stopwatch. More menus are available by holding down the Menu button but the average user will never need to go there. I didn’t even find out about the advanced menu until after several rides with the watch.
As mentioned above, battery life in tracking mode is 8-9 hours, but 40-60 hours in non-GPS mode. The watch automatically switches into eco (non-GPS) mode when the stopwatch is not running (not tracking). This way you won’t waste battery life on GPS tracking when you don’t need it. I like this feature as I don’t have to tell the watch what to do; it just works. The battery is not user-servicable, and charges with a USB cable/wall adapter. If I’m doing longer overnight backpacking trips, for example, I would take the eTrex with extra batteries if I wanted to record the whole trip.
Downloading data is easy with the included USB cable. I use Garmin’s free Connect website that uploads and stores GPS tracks. This way I don’t have to use other software and store tracks on my computer. However, the track files are simple .fit files that are compatible with most gps software. Garmin offers a free downloadable program that provides more comprehensive features than its online Connect interface. Connect is more than enough for me, and I like how simple it is. Plug in the Forerunner, log in to Connect, and click Upload, and it does the rest. You can name the tracks and specify activity-type, etc if desired. It shows up nicely overlaid onto a Bing map with neat graphs for speed, elevation, and distance.
Above is a screenshot of a mountain bike ride last week behind my house. Again, it’s so simple there’s really no way to not have this device work.
There are several display options in the advanced menu, but you won’t need to go there. The default display shows distance traveled on the top line, elapsed time in the middle, and speed (default is pace) on the bottom. This is changeable to average speed in mph or pace if desired. Laps are set by pushing the lap button on the watch or by specifying distance or time in advanced settings. This is also changeable in Connect afterwards, so no worries if you don’t get those laps correct initially. In the screenshot above, it was using the default lap distance of 1 mile. The lines are jittery because I was riding with a friend and we did a lot of stops. I did some backtracking and had a flat tire along the way….Forerunner recorded it all. Painless and refreshingly simple.