An ideal fitness device for kayak racing

I recently remarked to @GarminFitness that I wish they’d stop shrinking the displays of their Forerunners with each generation. Kayak racers are different from their main target audiences of runners, bikers and swimmers in that we don’t put the device on our wrists, we mount it on the boat. And therefore, smallness is a negative rather than a positive, especially for surf-skiers who usually stick it on our footstrap. A tiny display over a meter away from your face is really hard to read, especially for us older racers.

Garmin invited me to use their feedback form to suggest improvements. But before I do that, I want to figure out exactly what I want. And basically, it comes down to something the size of my old Forerunner 301, but with most of the guts of my Forerunner 310XT/910XT, and maybe some features borrowed from the 920XT.

In no particular order:

  • As big a display as feasible. When you configure the 310XT to display 3 data fields, the top one is just about the size I’d like everything to be. Ideally I’d like to have 4 data fields that size on the screen at a time. Some of the Edge GPSes are that size, but they appear to be only for cycling and I don’t know if they’re waterproof to IPX7 standards.
  • Make sure it’s compatible with polarized sunglasses! My iPhone is not. Neither are half the displays in my car. Is there something about making color displays that requires them to have a polarizing sheet? If so, I don’t want color!
  • When it flips between displays, don’t scroll the fields that aren’t changing. I currently have my 910XT set to have two 3-field displays, and my heart rate is the big top one in both. It would be nice if it stayed on the screen while the other two fields are flipping to the next.
  • Add support for multiple profiles that are tied to the activity list on Garmin Connect. I use the “Other” profile on my 910XT, but when I upload to Garmin Connect I need to change that to “Paddling”. Why can’t I make a “Paddling” profile on my Forerunner that will be “Paddling” when it uploads to Garmin Connect? Even better, allow a “Paddling Training” and “Paddling Racing” profile so I can get rid of the screens I don’t need during a race (like lap times and previous lap average speed).
  • The best feature of the 310XT/910XT over the 301 is that it charges and uploads without making a hole in the case. My second 301 succumbed to salt water when the USB port oxidized like crazy. So we definitely don’t want holes in the case.
  • Continue to support industry standard ANT+ heart rate monitors, even 3rd party ones. Perhaps add Bluetooth Low Energy support as well – my current heart rate monitor is a Wahoo TIKR, which does both.
  • And if you’re going to add Bluetooth Low Energy, tie it to my phone so it can upload live tracking the way the 920XT does. And then we don’t need that little dongle thingy tying up a USB port on our computers.
  • Keep the great battery life. I’ve tried using my iPhone instead of the Forerunner for workout tracking, and it sucks the battery down to nothing in a few hours. The Forerunner is still reporting 80% charged after that same amount of time. Because my Forerunner is mounted rather than on my wrist, I don’t care if you have to make it fat to give it better battery life.
  • If I load a course up, I’d like to have the course map added to the automatic cycling between screens. As a paddler, I can’t use my hands to do that the way a runner or cyclist can.
  • If I load a course up, I’d like to do a virtual “race” against the previous best time I’ve done that course. I suspect that’s there, but I’ve never figured out how to make it happen.
  • Can the current one be set up to start the timer as soon as you move without also making it stop timing if I stop for any reason? I don’t want to be pressing the start button when I should be paddling for all my worth, but there are legitimate reasons to stop moving in a paddling race that still count towards your time, like transitioning to portages or turning around a buoy. I’ve only found a feature to stop the timer whenever you stop, and that’s not what I want. If that’s not a feature yet, I’d like it.
  • Make the countdown beeps louder! I can barely hear the 5 second count downs at the end of a interval when doing a workout. That might be due to the foam block I mount it on, but it would be nice if it were louder.

One Reply to “An ideal fitness device for kayak racing”

  1. If you’re going to mount it on the boat, then it sounds like you might be better with a Garmin Edge (their bike computers) with different software and better waterproofing. Bikes get drenched in rain, but it’s unusual for them to be submerged in salt water.

    They’re designed to be mounted and not carried, and designed to be readable while flying down a hill at 40 MPH, so they range from quite a bit bigger (Edge 500) to nearly iPhone-sized (Edge 1000).

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