Do you have the time?

In my latest product trial, I tested the Timex Ironman Global Trainer, a product designed for endurance sport training. I thought it would be a good tool for search and rescue, and I was right. In fact, it turned out to be an outstanding general law...

I created a custom screen on the watch and titled it “SAR”. One can choose the number of items displayed, and I designed this screen to display altitude and time of day. It is a clean looking display for search and rescue. Perhaps I can convince Timex to include the GPS location option on one of the custom screens in a firmware update. I really can’t complain because it is very simple to go from my custom screen to my current location, including dropping waypoints along the way.

The bike mount fits several different handlebar styles, including my steel cyclocross bike (YES!!). It also allowed clearance for cables and different mounting positions. The heart rate strap, which is available for separate purchase or supplied with the HRM version, is more comfortable and accurate than the one I use right now. The Timex Global Trainer will communicate with most ANT products, for those into fitness gadgets. 

I own several devices which measure my fitness progress. The Timex Global Trainer takes the least amount of time to connect with the heart rate strap and has a better refresh rate, which translates into better reports. Using a treadmill with this product confuses it, say if one is in a basement and cannot get a good satellite signal. My Timex Ironman Global Trainer kept asking periodically if it should ignore the satellite signal strength and continue the workout. I did, and it did. The result was an accurate record of the workout, complete with the usual charts. 

Even if there isn’t a satellite signal, the Timex Ironman Global Trainer continues to log data. Really, I panicked when the question popped up on the screen a couple of times during my treadmill run inside a steel building. It logs as long as the user pressed the Start/Split button.

Most of the people I know that belong to search and rescue teams, especially those who train for Wilderness Ops, look like they already know about fitness, especially the volunteers. This product is appropriate for them because it can be used for fitness measurement, goal setting, route recording and even telling time. It was reliable and rugged in the field, capable of extended operations. 

The Global Trainer was stable during shock and water ingress tests, and I also managed to dump my bike while it was mounted. It wasn’t designed for diving, but for those who wish to interrupt a perfectly good run and bike ride, it is triathlon friendly.


Customer service and upkeep

There are other bêtes noires in the wrist mounted computer business. I purchased a competitive wrist computer a couple of years ago. It worked fine and still does. However, when the wrist strap broke and I contacted the company they did not sell a replacement part. Their guidance was for me to send it back under warranty, along with an exorbitant amount of money, in order to replace a broken wrist strap. (The strap was unique and couldn’t be replaced with a universal product.) I later found that this was a common problem and a common response to the problem for this product. Timex products are known for platform stability, and I anticipate that replacement bands will always be in the inventory. 

The rule of search and rescue is to keep an “old-school” compass and rely on it, rather than use the GPS compass. This is, and always will be, good counsel because the GPS compass relies on motion, not orientation. That is, a GPS compass does not calculate cardinal direction, except by the direction of travel of the user. If the GPS compass is stationary for a while, the compass will not work.

There are other obvious factors, including the fact that the GPS compass relies on batteries and the power could be ostensibly be used for other essential functions.

I really can’t say that power was an issue with the The Timex Ironman Global Trainer. It boasts a 15-hour battery life. I confirmed that it would run for 15 hours on a charge, and subsequently never went beyond a few hours use. It was too easy to find a place to charge it. It charged on my laptop, while I was uploading my workouts and routes. It charged by plugging it into the wall, using the supplied adapter. I have a small solar USB charger that didn’t come with the Timex Global Trainer. It works there, too. Since every power supply imaginable is USB compatible these days, it was a simple thing to carry the USB sync cord. It didn’t use much power and didn’t take long to charge, a little over 2 hours. A SiRFstarIII chipset design goal was also low power consumption, and I believe the goal was met here.

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