Garmin Forerunner FR60 – The Review

I can get over the treadmill boredom frontier by sticking a gruesome thriller on the iPod but the absence of a reliable data capture device (or sports watch) could call the end to a beautiful gym relationship membership.

I’ve worked my way through a number of fancy running watches over the years but my latest, the Forerunner 405 (reviewed May 2008) was just not designed to be a gym bunny buddy. Fortunately the Garmin Forerunner FR60 was released earlier in the year and appeared to be just what I required.

In summary, it’s a footpod/HR monitor which is ANT enabled meaning you can wirelessly upload data and connect to other ANT enabled equipment such as gym machines and the fancy new BC1000 Tanita weighing scales.
Unlike most of the others in the forerunner series, this watch does not have GPS, it is waterproof though.

I’ve had a few footpod watches before, including the Nike+, Polar 725 and Polar RS200SD and I’ve been impressed with all of them. In most cases they have proved to be accurate out of the box without the need for calibration and are ready for action from the moment you put the watch into training mode so there is no need to hang around stretching out your hamstrings while you wait for a the GPS unit to lock onto a satellite signal.

The footpod speed and distance monitors also have a huge advantage over GPS when it comes to monitoring pace. Pace readings on GPS units have a tendency to fluctuate all over the place while the footpod units prove to be more stable and therefore more reliable in any given instance.

What the footpods lack when compared to their bigger GPS brothers, is the ability to create lovely map trails of where you’ve been. GPS makes you feel like an adventurer, an explorer of uncharted tracks, but let’s face it, GPS isn’t for everyone.

If you run the same few routes over and over again the joy of the GPS map soon begins to wane and if like me, you spend a good proportion of your time on the treadmill, the GPS output would result in a terribly unsatisfying mess centred above your gym coordinates.

Garmin Forerunner FR60 in Action – Screenshots

Here’s a few shots of the Garmin FR60 as I move through the history screens for one workout. The final image shows the virtual partner screen which is one of the view options while training.

Garmin Forerunner FR60

Garmin FR60 Compared to Nike+ and Polar


The Nike+ wrist unit offers an accurate footpod with a minimal design. It’s ideal for social networking as it makes it so easy to upload stats via twitter, facebook and assorted other widgets. It’s the cheapest option as well but I can’t help finding it a bit disappointing, I just can’t stand the cartoon style display of the stats.


I really loved the RS200SD, the display was brilliant and the history data lent itself perfectly for being transferred to a training log. It has now been superseded by the Polar RS300X and I was momentarily tempted by it until I started pricing up the extras. The really annoying feature of Polar is that they require you to buy all the necessary attachments separately. The ridiculous “flowlink” is required for uploading data to the web but costs £49.99 whereas Garmin include their usb ANT connectivity stick in the box along with the watch.


Garmin has the edge over the competition, everything is supplied in the box and the connection is relatively straightforward.
Having uploaded the data it is easy to import the data files into sporttracks or other training logs.

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Chuckles Like Muttley

Stratford 220 Sprint Triathlon
400 metre Swim – 23 kilometre Cycle – 5 kilometre run

Did I give the impression I was apprehensive about this tri-affa-lon thingy?

‘Twas a piece of cake and an absolute buzz to boot! My legs are killing me but I have had such a great day and I didn’t have to strip off in public once! I’ve been beaming all day.

I really didn’t think I was going to make it. My mum was suggesting I ought to throw a sickie and I was seriously tempted! Then I hired a Streetcar which hadn’t been filled with petrol and found myself coasting down the M40 in dire need of a petrol station – the car literally conked out as I pulled up at the pump. I had a bit of moral support though as Shakti decided to come along with me and that really does make all the difference, along with all the positive messages sent my way via the blogosphere – thanks so much folks!

In the end I arrived safely in Stratford but I was still near shaking with fear as I allowed someone to scrawl some number on assorted parts of my body. I think this number will have to become part of my life now, it is practically tattooed into my flesh! Still, I’m prepared to live with it, I felt such a pro walking out of that hall with my arm suitably tagged.

I didn’t actually get round to drawing up a transition list but I did stay awake til 3.30am “visualising” and the result of this was pure exhaustion when my alarm went off at 5.30 but a hassle free transition – you takes your choices.

I snook off to the start of the swim in my tracky bottoms and t-shirt and it was here that life started getting a bit more comfortable for me. Everyone in the 59 min estimate zone was terrified. There were even tales of people vomiting. Nothing like a bit of terror to make people chatty and nothing like other peoples fear and paralysis to make me feel cool, calm and collected!


The swim went like a dream, never mind 59 mins – when I popped out of the other end my declared time was 7 mins and something. Woohoo! Great start and now on to the bit I was looking forward to.

It was raining, but as an all weather commuter I think this acts in my favour. I’m also a seriously competitive biker! I had a blast but in the end I had a bit of a too and fro with a woman who finally got the better of me. You can’t draft in triathlon so you either have to overtake or drop right back, a shame as I think we were well matched for a bit of mutual support. I finished in just under 50 mins, I think. The approximate times are due to my complete incompetence with todays gadget of choice, the polar RS800SD. I’m hoping that the 220 guys are going to release official times soon so that I can actually see how I did against the pack.


The run was slow and seriously slippy but at least it was flat and so didn’t cause my knee any bother. I found it difficult to get in my stride, my hamstrings were really tense after the bike slog. I’m used to running after riding but maybe the intensity and distance made all the difference, it all felt quite peculiar. There was a great atmosphere on the run, the double loop meant you passed the same people at least twice and there was plenty of positive banter flowing. The marshalls were great too.

My time for the run was around 35 mins so now I just need to find out the overall time to get an idea of how efficient the transitions were.

I finished before the worst of the weather hit but those starting after me had a terrible time of it. Rodeogirl set sail through an absolute torrent that didn’t let up til it was all over. Didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirit though and it made those hot showers at the end so much more delightful.

Just need to book myself into the next one now!

BPTT Update for 14th April

BPTT Polar HR 140407

Another successful run today and a whole new pb! I don’t know where they are all coming from but it certainly helps when I’ve got someone to chase or even better when I have someone hot on my heels – I run and squeal like a girl when I get chased.

I was battling it out with one of those pesky run/walkers. I think it was her first time at the Bushy Park Time Trial so she was foxed by the deceptive finish straight. She overtook me at the bend going at a fair old pelt but I nodded sagely to myself – not a chance she’d be able to complete without another walking episode. Sure enough, the finishing km took the better of her and she slowed right up, I sauntered past her and with about 500 m to go I felt I could start my final sprint.

BPTT 140407

If you check out the heart rate curve above you can see the point at which my pace and heart rate soared in the middle of the final lap. You can also see that I maintained it only for about 150 m before realising that even as a seasoned BPTT’er I also had been foiled by the dreaded k. My pace dropped right back down to my usual shuffle and the pesky run/walker grabbed her chance. She passed me easily but seemed to have lost some of her earlier sprint prowess, my killer instinct snapped and I delved deep for a previously unknown speed and took her on the line.

Now for my time, the watch records an amazing time of 34:04 for the 5km route which matches the time called out by the timer on the finish line BUT the darn official time is recorded as 34:21. It’s still a pb but just not quite as good a pb. It looks like the positions were muddled a bit at the back as my time was swiped by the person two positions ahead. Never mind, it just means I should have room for another pb soon.

**UPDATE** the great guys at BPTT have just contacted to let me know of the position error so my official time is being bumped back up to 34:04 Yay!!!

Kieran has posted his heart rate plot for todays BPTT, also recorded on the RS800SD, he’s taken the time to explain all the features displayed on the polar protrainer chart. It’s interesting to see how my back of the pack performance compares to his 20 min performance. One thing we have in common is a max HR which far exceeds our age predicted max and which also exceed that recorded in maximal testing environments – just shows how gruelling this event can be! As expected Kieran runs with a cadence slightly faster than mine and a stride length at least 50% greater than mine. Mmmmm….. now what is one supposed to do with all this amazing info?

Straight after the run I met up with Jason for another blast around Richmond Park on the mountain bikes. I’m sitting at home now absolutely shot to bits. Jae is considerably faster than me at the best of times but he was out on his swanky new bike with waver thin tyres (waver thin by mtb standards) and it nearly killed me trying to keep up with him. It was fun skidding around the dust and trying to avoid trees that kept jumping out in front of me.

There are some pretty monstrous hills in RP and I kind of expect to be overtaken by runners as I bob up them in my granny gear but today there was some superman trail runner on the track and he actually overtook me on the up hills and down hills! He was flippin amazing in a totally irritating fashion.

Here’s a snap of Jae and myself in the park, if you look carefully you can probably see superman passing us again on his second lap. Jae & Me

BPTT Update for 7th April

Don’t know what happened this morning but I slept through the alarm and only made it to Bushy Park by the skin of my teeth. Actually I do know what happened – I was playing around with new gadget, putting myself through my paces by trying out one of the fitness tests. I love these polar fitness tests, you just lay down under the duvet and relax and then it spits out the result at the end – no huffing and puffing and definately no sweating. It’s clearly a pile of pants though as my result came out as “elite”, perhaps because I am an expert relaxer and just fell swiftly to sleep.

Gorgeous spring day today, but not quite as warm as it looked, I went out in shorts and t-shirt and was shivering by the time I got into Richmond Park, perfect attire for the run though.

I had a little bother with the polar gadget at the start of the run. I pressed start and heard about a thousand little beeps all around me but some yards in I noticed that mine must have been the only watch that hadn’t been triggered. I don’t think I have had a successful race with this watch so far, I either mess up with the start or the stop.

I was paced throughout my run by a youngster (Isabella) on her first time out. She was really super speedy but I think she took pity on me and kept me company til the end, or almost as she had a terrific sprint finish. I on the other hand, had nothing left in my legs as I’d been struggling to keep up with her and chat.

My watch recorded a good time but then they have a tendency to do that when you start them half way round the course but the official results have just come in and I managed another PB! Yay! Thanks Bella, hope you’re available for pacing again soon.

So the new 5km time is 34:30 – and we stopped to tie up a shoelace. Now I’m bragging.

Guilt Tripping

I’m feeling pretty guilty and a bit slovenly.

I skipped BPTT today so that I could wait for the postman to bring me my new toy. When it arrived I took it back to bed with me so I could check out its functions, but I didn’t mean for anyone to feel rejected! I hinted at my new love affair in the gadgets page, but I thought we’d all be able to get along fine and just co-habit. You can’t always have your cake and eat it though – someone always gets hurt.


I planned on pitting the two against each other on my familiar 3.5km river track, a sort of duel for my affections. The Polar took pride of place on my left wrist and the Garmin was shifted across to my right but it wasn’t to be. The Garmin just sort of sputtered and powered down. I tried the cardiac restart but no use, it opened its eyes once or twice but gave up when it saw the Polar was still around. I tried reinstalling the latest bio-rhthym software version 2.6 but it was too late. The Forerunner 305 appears to have just given up on me.

So it was just me, the Polar RS800SD and the river. First impressions were not good. The speed and distance readings were half what I knew they jolly well ought to be. I looked to see if I had some irritating credit card man dragging by my ankle but there was no such excuse for going so slow. Decided I would have to calibrate the speed sensor but when I got home and investigated it seems the previous owner had already done it and set the calibration to 0.5. Why would you do that, what sort of crazy running style would require you to make such a drastic step. I wonder if anyone has ever tried one of these watches on their dog, perhaps having extra feet would make the difference.

Can’t wow you with any amazing stats yet because running at 4km/h is just not very amazing and also because I need the optional IR port to connect to my pc. I thought I’d be able to use the sonic link function with my microphone but apparently this model doesn’t use it.

I haven’t given up on the Garmin of course, the support centre have already got back to me about the automatic powering down of the unit and are suggesting that I will need to return it to base. Sounds like a fault with the internal battery. Either that or a broken heart.

Running Efficiency

I was reading the other night that the most efficient running style is associated with exactly 180 strides per minute. Apparently, almost all athletes run at this cadence regardless of distance and therefore speed. The faster runners just take longer strides.

Anyway, I thought I better check it out. So on this mornings run I discovered I take 158 strides per minute. So it looks like I’m not an athlete. Darn am I surprised.

So now what to do about it? It is suggested that most runners would benefit by taking slightly shorter steps and increasing cadence but if I take shorter steps I’ll be running backwards. Also, efficiency is not all its cracked up to be. Efficient runners use less calories, which is pants! Inefficiency rules – as do cream cakes.

**UPDATE 14/01/07**

Thought I ought to provide a link to a more informed opinion on running cadence. The endurance coach
records cadence as the number of times 1 foot hits the ground in a minute ie. half the figure I quoted above, and on his site he details a few training exercises to help increase your cadence. Must admit that non of them involve listening to music with the target bpm.

**SECOND UPDATE 12/02/07**

I have a new gadget in my sights (Polar RS800SD – but more of this later) and it has yet again triggered an interest in the running cadence issue. It’s obviously my cycling roots that encourage this obsessive trait with cadence. The RS800SD monitors and displays both stride length and cadence so that you can schedule training sessions to focus solely on this issue. As they say at polar, there are two ways to run faster: moving your legs at a higher cadence or taking longer steps.

Here is a link to the polar article on cadence and running efficiency, where they make a few suggestions for increasing pace:

“A good way of improving stride length is to undertake specific strength work, like running hills, running in soft sand, or running up steps. A six-week training period including strength work should result in noticeable improvements in stride length, and if combined with some faster leg speed work (such as short strides at best 5km pace), noticeable improvements should be seen in overall speed, as well.”

So it looks like I need to ramp up the treadmill as well introducing fartlek.

Garmin Forerunner 305 Review

My last speed and distance watch, the Polar RS200SD was beginning to get a bit tatty, so I took the opportunity to try out the latest thing in sports watches – the Garmin Forerunner 305.

The forerunner is a massive wrist computer, no chance of wearing it as a day long watch, which is just as well, given that the battery only lasts 10 hrs. It comes in to its own when you’ve finished the run and want to analyse the data on the computer.

The software bundled with the watch is the garmin training centre. It is pretty disappointing actually, and I only use it for programming complex training programs – intervals etc to be uploaded to the wrist unit and for setting courses. Fortunately there are plenty of other available programs to exploit the GPS, heart rate and general work out data. In my mind, the best of these is called SportTracks, it is free and absolutely brilliant. If it weren’t for this program, I wouldn’t enjoy the forerunner even half as much.

This is one of the screen shots, showing the main work out screen. All the numbers are perfectly readable except for the heart rate read out – can you see it in the top right hand corner? I think that is ridiculous! Although there are a number of different views to scroll through, none of them include an enlarged heart rate viewer.

In general I think the Polar RS200SD is a better running watch, at least when you are on the trail. You can switch views easily by bringing the wrist unit close to the chest strap, so no risk of pressing the wrong button. The read out is clear. The pace information seems more reliable – no spurious results, and I can see my heart rate.

Having said that, the polar watch only holds summary data, if you want to know what your heart rate was at any specific point, you will need a watch like the forerunner.

One of the other benefits of the Garmin Forerunner 305 is that it has a useful virtual training partner.

Here is one of the possible training partner views. You can either race against your previous best time on saved course or you can set a distance and target time for it to act as a pace setter. I really like this function – I beat my Chiswick Bridge / Barnes Bridge route by 2 mins this morning.

The GPS seems to work quite well, sometimes I can pick up reception from inside my flat but at other times I have to hang around a bit in the park before I set off. I can’t confirm that it holds on to the satellites during my run yet but certainly the route info seems accurate when uploaded into my mapping program.

Thanks to JS for pointing out the fact that I haven’t RTFM well enuff!

In your review, you’ve done the same mistake as me (the ridiculously small right upper corner heart display)
Page 43 of the user’s manual:
You can change nearly all the data fields, it’s a breeze and much more readable!
select Settings > General > data fields; very easy!

Well he is exactly right, you can alter the fields. I’ve now got my heart rate bold as brass and I’ve added average pace as I think that might be more useful particularly when running under cover.

Bargain Alert!

The Garmin Forerunner 305 has recently been reduced and currently retails at amazon for less than £140: Garmin Forerunner 305 with Heart Rate Monitor

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The Airnimal Has Landed

Well it arrived, a beautiful yellow dream machine. It came flat packed but I managed to keep singing throughout my frustrating attempts to put it together. Really it shouldn’t have been that hard, I’m just rather unfamiliar with all the road bike components – never heard of a Ring-go star.


View image

Anyway, I better stop calling her it and introduce you, she’s called Peryl and she has taken to living in my bath. Either I’m going to get pretty smelly or we’ll have to get over our inhibitions quickly and start showering together.

I took her out for a ride today and I’m pleased to say we got on well. Its going to be a bit of an adjustment for me, moving from my hybrid cannondale designed with comfort and more comfort in mind. The new Airnimal Chameleon Ultegra Ultra is very much more hardcore. Light, fast, sexy, although that is not how I feel after sitting on the saddle for an hour.

I really need to up the ante on the diet front again. I am not designed for sitting on a knife edge and the new bent forward, aerodynamic seating position brings my knees perilously close to my tits (which are certainly not my most aerodynamic feature).

The wheel size turns out to be fine, much better than the Brompton style wheel. It handles like a big bike and isn’t too jittery on the steering. Not quite sure about powering myself out of the saddle yet but I think my fears are because the bike is so light (and I’m not) rather than because of her diminutive size.

Not sure how the speed compares yet, it feels fast, my throat was burning in under a mile so I must have been going for it. I will try and rig up the polar S725 tonight and then I can tell for sure.

Possible Solution to Speed and Cadence Issues

I still have the ongoing problem with the intermittent response from both the speed and the cadence sensor. As my new bike is turning up next week I need to get it sorted out as a matter of urgency.
I don’t want anything to get in the way of some serious training so I have done a bit of research and it looks like this might be a useful tip.

To increase the transmission range on the S510/S520/S710/S710i/S720 s-series speed/cadence sensors only:
– Remove sensor from the bike.
– Undo 2 small screws holding the two halves of the sensor together with a small philips screwdriver.
– Carefully remove one section of the housing (end with cable ties).
– Carefully slide the exposed printed circuit board a little way out.
– Remove the jumper plug from the inner most pin and insert it over the two pins closest to the edge of the circuit board. This will give the maximum range. Shorting out the inner two pins with the jumper plug gives the medium range.
– Re-assemble carefully in the reverse order.
– Becareful not to over-tighten the two screws which can either distort or crack the case leaving the unit not water resistant.
– Further information can be found on Page G82 of the S510 user’s manual or Page G90 of the S710i/S720i user’s manual.

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