Saturday, January 10, 2009
Too Much Information Smackdown
This year's present from the Solstice Bear was a Garmin eTrex Vista GPS unit. It will take me months to master all its features, but today I took it for a basic tracking test run on my club ride. I had my VDO cyclometer, as well, so I could to a side-by-side comparison. Well, not exactly side-by-side--the VDO was mounted in its usual place on the handlebar and the GPS was in my front bag. But I digress.
For a basic cyclometer, the VDO provides a wealth of information. Too much information, some of my friends would say, given my post-acquisition habit of calling out the grade of whatever monster hill we were climbing. Did we REALLY need to know that Cole School Rd is 18%? (That's a rhetorical question--of COURSE we needed to know that. How else could we later brag about conquering it?). But because its data output is based on things like how well I measured my wheel size and how accurately I calculated my starting altitude, I was never quite positive that it was giving me the right information. Plus, it was no use to me if I got lost and needed a map. Enter the Garmin.
I purposely did not get a bicycle-specific Garmin. One, they are very expensive. Two, they have really poor battery life. Three, they are no good on a snowshoeing expedition (ditto there for the VDO). Several of my friends use the eTrex Vista and on their recommendation, that's what I went for. It was far less expensive and has a far longer battery life. Plus, I can plug in a topo card and hit the trail(s).
So how do the two compare? Well, as far the basic stats go, there was not much of a difference.
Max Speed 34
Average Speed 13.7
Elevation Gain 3841' (measured by barometric pressure)
Max Elevation 1215'
Max Speed 34.1
Average Speed 13.6
Elevation Gain 3952' (measured by satellite)
Max Elevation 1173'
The VDO was able to tell me the temperature (31 degrees when I left home at 7:30 AM, 36 degrees when I returned home at 3:00 PM), which the Garmin could not. Unlike the Garmin, however, the VDO could not direct me to the nearest restaurant, bowling alley or geocache.
More importantly, the VDO could not let me come home and do this