Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: Garmin 405

I got the Garmin 405 last year for Christmas and despite my initial skepticism am now a huge fan. I wear it along with the Garmin premium heart rate monitor (waterproof and more comfortable than the original version) on all my runs, treadmill workouts, bike rides, and bike trainer sessions. I have the Garmin Speed/Cadence sensor mounted on my bike as well. This equipment takes a lot of the guesswork out of training and I’m pretty sure it motivates me to work just a little bit harder since it tells all!

The watch provides up to three customized screens of data with up to three types of data per screen, but I usually just stick to one or two screens which is enough. A touch of the bezel flips between screens. There are many data options, but the basics work fine for me - pace (min/mile), average pace per lap, time, lap time, distance, lap distance, and cadence.

In early morning runs I turn the backlight on and I like to use the autolap feature so I get splits for every mile. With custom bike or run interval type workouts, I use the Garmin software on the computer to easily create a program with the parameters and upload it to the watch. I don’t have to remember the specified times or distances, the watch beeps to tell me when it’s time for the next interval, and it tracks splits appropriately. There are countless other features like the virtual partner, auto lapping based on position, etc but I’ve not used those.

When I ride on the bike trainer, I turn the GPS option off to save power, but use the watch to track heart rate and cadence over time. Training Peaks can use this data to calculate distance and power.

After a run, I review my history on the watch, then upload it to the computer. Garmin provides some rudimentary software for the computer as well as a web site to upload data to share, but by far the best interface is on the Training Peaks site. There you can see your route map with mileage markers and an accompanying graph showing elevation, speed, heart rate, and cadence. You can select portions of the run/ride to see statistics just for that. From there, the daily log reports the time spent in each of the HR zones. That helps to assess, for example, if you indeed kept it aerobic if it was intended to be an aerobic only run.

The equipment works seamlessly together. The watch, because of the large number of options does take some time to get used to so be patient, but it’s really quite well done with the touch bezel and just two buttons. On a few rainy days I have had trouble getting the watch to respond to the touch bezel. I found I could wear the watch under a raincoat and it did not impair its functionality at all and helped with the rain glitch. Even when the watch itself acts up, I have never lost data.

I highly recommend the Garmin 405. It provides important information that foster more effective training practices and it’s well designed and engineered. Garmin also offers the waterproof 310XT, but it does not collect HR data in the water.