Monday, June 27, 2011

GPS Software Review







Anyone who has read my previous posts on 'training' will probably know that I've been a big fan of SportTracks software. However, recent events, such as my ownership of an iBone (Dog and...), a period of the Garmin not recording any rides due to it being full, and some friends recommending I try Strava and Endomondo means that for the past few months I've been on a bit of mix and match training software review. Here are my findings: 

SportTracks 

Advantages: 
- It's free and Open Source. This means geeks develop plug ins, such as the power without power plug in and the TRIMP system- the two most valuable parts of the software that basically try to do the same job as Training Peaks. 
- The maps are good, you can edit and manually enter workouts and the software is reliable. 

Disadvantages 
- No iBone app means that if you want to run without the garmin you would have to record in another software then enter manually. I found this just wasn't happening as I am too lazy / busy to do this and running with just your iBone, rather than separate iPod & GPS does make sense. 
- No 'social networking' or motivational bumpf to tell you about pb's or how much faster / slower you are than your buddies. 
- PC based software (no good for macs). 

Strava 

 Advantages 
- iBone app means you don't have to take the garmin on your run / ride and it will automatically upload your workout to the website after. Considering mid week I don't usually have time between finishing my ride / run before work and having to leave the flat this is a big bonus and means I've become much better once more at keeping track of my fitness by using Strava. 
- The 'social networking' aspect is actually really good. Once uploaded the software automatically detects any climbs and puts your time up the hill against your own PB, as well as within a leaderboard so you can see how much slower / faster you are than other riders. I'm proud to say that I now top one KOM leaderboard in Hong Kong! This can also be used for TT race not races for a little club rivalry... And, handily, you can set up Strava 'clubs', such as http://app.strava.com/clubs/colossi-cc 

 Disadvantages 
- Whilst the usual charts and graphs are there, I don't think Strava is on a par with TrainingPeaks / Golden Cheetah or even SportTracks for detailed analysis. It's better than Garmin Connect, but for true power junkies you might need more software. 
- There is a subscription fee, though there have been plenty of tester deals going around.

Endomondo 

Advantages 
- Another free iBone app, Endomondo is easy to use, keeps a record of you run / rides, and if you buy their heart rate kit it's a cheap effective way of using your iBone instead of buying / using a Garmin. 
- The best bit about Endomondo is the voice over in your ear telling you how fast / slow you just ran the last km. As well as being motivational, this is a great way of pacing yourself if you were to run a 10km / marathon. 

Disadvantages 
- Social networking is limited to just posting to Facebook you just cycled 25km in 1hr blah blah. No one cares and that and it is boring. 
- Detailed analysis not so great. 
- Whilst uploading from a garmin is possible I didn't find the interface as intuitive as Strava or SportTracks. 

Garmin Connect 

Advantages
- The best bit about Garmin Connect is the wealth of other people's data on there. If you are looking for rides in far away places chances are a search will yield something. 
- It's easy to post a link for sharing rides with others and yes, you can bore your Facebook friends also. 
- It's free. 

Disadvantages 
- The interface is unreliable, unintuitive and you cannot edit the data or input manually. 
- There's no iBone app as this is, unsurprisingly, Garmin only. 

Others 

Other options i haven't tried, but have researched a little include the golden standard of power based analysis Training Peaks and it's newer cousin Golden Cheetah. Both of these are quite expensive I think but may be worth it if you're really serious / you like to spend as much time analysing as riding. Mac users may also want to try Ascent. Mapmyride used to be a good way of sharing rides before they went all flash based and reduced the functionality. Bikeroutetoaster is probably the easiest way to map rides also, though no good for analysis.



Conclusion


I'm sold on Strava as my new main way of recording my rides & my feeble attempts to run. I will continue to use SportTracks for detailed workout analysis of some rides and Garmin Connect / bikeroutetoaster for lifting other peoples / doing my own mapping. It's a fast moving world out there but here's hoping that one sticks until the next round of technology renders all this useless.