Gear Review: Garmin Forerunner 405CX – (Part One)

forerunner 405 CXHaving recently rubbished the abilities of the iPhone 3G as a GPS-enabled training tool, I was delighted when the brand new Garmin Forerunner 405CX finally showed up here at Jelly Baby Towers; the first one that was dispatched to me having, somewhat ironically, become lost in the post…

Nevertheless, having taken the frankly gorgeous unit out of the box and attached the rather nifty ‘clip on’ charger, I set about to read the manual, and quickly realised that attempting to review this thing in one go was slightly pointless; as not only do I want to see if it really is the state of the art as a GPS unit, I’m also keen to see if it’s any use in making my training any more effective.

So this is just Part 1 of the review, where I’ll probably make fun of it’s gadget value a fair bit. But I’ll also be posting Part 2 in a couple of weeks, discussing the heartrate-based calorie counter, followed by Part 3 detailing all of its technical wonderfulness a couple of weeks after that.

Setting up the Garmin 405CX

Well, OK, so after reading the manual, it all sounded pretty straightforward. You control the 405CX’s functions by tapping the relevant words on the bezel, and scroll through the function menus by ‘stroking’ the written part of the bezel in the direction you wish to scroll. The ‘Start/Stop’ button acts as an ‘Enter’ key, and the ‘Lap/Reset’ button acts as a ‘Go Back’ key. So far, so straightforward? Well, yes and no. Even after following the setup ‘wizard’ that makes you try each technique in turn,  I really struggled with this system for about 45 minutes, as it was entirely new to me. But having now lived with the unit for 24 hours, and run with it earlier today, I’m already completely comfortable with it. In fact, it’s very, very clever once you get the hang of it; a bit like the scroll wheel on an iPod, but without the moving parts.

Going for a quick run with the Garmin.

garmin virtual partner modeThe 405CX is just about as high-tech as things get. Not only will it wirelessly sync with your PC or Mac using a USB dongle called an ANT stick, it also comes complete with a wireless heartrate monitor. However, I didn’t bother with the HRM today, as, still struggling with injury, I was only planning on a slow 5.5 miles, at around 8 minute mile pace. So I entered the ‘Training’ mode, noted that the unit acquired satellite reception in 5 seconds flat, selected ‘Virtual Partner’, scrolled the target pace to be 8.0 minute miles, pushed the ‘Start’ button and set off.

I found the display to be easily readable, and it was also easy to tap the bezel and switch to other views including a standard stopwatch. But apart from the GPS measurement function, which is great for analysing your run afterwards, I think that Virtual Partner is the really crucial tool, especially for unsociable weirdos like my good self. The little chap at the top is your partner, the little chap at the bottom is you, and the large display shows exactly how much you are ahead or behind your intended pace. Simples! And an absolute boon to those of us who don’t like running with a real training partner…or, who simply have no friends who run…or simply, have no friends…

The only small flaw came when I got back home and pressed the ‘Lap/Reset’ key button instead of the ‘Start/Stop’ button, which meant that another minute and ten seconds had been added to my time before I realised my mistake and pushed the’Start/Stop’ key.

garmin run pageOnce indoors, the Garmin uploaded the data to my Mac without even being asked, and I was then taken to the Garmin Connect website, where I could view not just a map of my run, but splits for every mile, average pace, quickest pace, and a whole raft of other data. It was quick, seamless and well laid out.

My only quibble is that I couldn’t edit out the 1:10 added to my run by my own clumsy stupidity. However, another quick read of the manual allowed me to alter the Garmin’s settings to ‘Auto Pause’ the timer whenever I stop running in future, so this can’t happen again. And, if I’m honest, this was my fault rather than the unit’s.

So is the Forerunner 405CX any good?

Well, let’s see. It looks great, and is far less bulky than any other GPS unit I’ve ever tried. It acquired a satellite signal in about 5 seconds flat, using something called, if I’m not mistaken ‘HotFix.’ Once I’d gotten over my initial ham-fistedness, the controls turned out to be spectacularly clever and easy to use. It even set the clock to the right time of day, all by itself, using satellites.

Best of all, the ‘Virtual Partner’ function meant that I was able to set a sensible goal for my run, and meet it exactly, which would suggest that this thing really will help me to increase my currently appalling level of race fitness,  by helping me to meet further, slightly more ambitious goals in the not too distant future.

Naturally, it remains to be seen if that will happen. And goodness knows what I’m going to make of the heart rate monitor and calorie counter function when I have a go of that over the weekend.

5 jelly baby ratingFrankly, with an RRP of £329.99, or an price of £281.77, this thing really has to be very good indeed. But in the interests of honesty, my first impression of the Forerunner 405CX is that here, finally, is a GPS unit that gives runners everything they need, including simplicity of use.

So if you have that sort of dosh lying around, this could be exactly what you’re looking for. And so, having failed to find anything wrong with the 405CX that isn’t actually my own silly fault, and which Garmin have a fix for anyway, I’m afraid that I’m going to have to give the Garmin Forerunner 405CX a resounding 5 Jelly Baby Rating. Though in fairness, it probably deserves the whole bag…

Product Specification

• Advanced heart rate-based calorie computation

• Fits most wrists with either the original strap or the included fabric wrist straps

• High-sensitivity GPS receiver with HotFix™

• Touch bezel interface

• Training and motivational features: Virtual Partner®, courses, workouts, goal

• Battery life: up to eight hours (training) or two weeks (power save mode)

• Water resistant to IPX7 (1 meter of water for 30 minutes)

• Weight: 2.11 oz (60 g)

• Display: round four-level gray FSTN, 124 x 95 pixels

• Size (mm): 45.75mm x 70.5mm x 16.4mm

• Distance accuracy: 99% with clear view of sky

• Temp range: -4oF to 140oF (-20oC to 60oC)


Shoe Review: Saucony Grid Jazz X TR Trail Running Shoe

sauconyjazzsideNever having set foot in a Saucony shoe before, I was pretty curious to see what the strangely named Saucony Jazz X TR was all about. Can there really be any reason to call a running shoe the ‘Jazz?’ Particularly when you consider that most of the Saucony range consists of shoes with far more conventional names, such as the splendidly over-confident ProGrid Triumph.

Saucony also break with tradition a little by making this simply an off-road version of their popular cushioned road shoe of the same name; seemingly in much the same way as car makers now create a 4×4 version of a road car by simply jacking the suspension up a few inches and bolting a fat spare wheel to the hatchback.

So are these things proper off-roaders or girly soft-roaders? Well, while the Jazz looks a bit like the latter, appearances can be deceptive, or to quote Dizzy Gillespie for a moment, ‘it ain’t necessarily so.’ For starters, there is far less underfoot cushioning than the side profile suggests, and while there is a bit of cushioning for your achilles tendon area, there is less padding at the rear of the very stiff heel section than I’ve ever seen in any other running shoe.

Nonetheless, it was time to see what they could do out on a 10 mile road/trail/dune/beach/mud course. And so, as the rain continued to pelt down outside, meticulous professional that I am, I loaded up my iPod with Jazz standards, donned my gaudiest running gear and, muttering “take me to the bridge, daddy-o”, headed out to face the elements.

How do they feel on your feet?

sauconyjazzheelWell, despite the lack of inner heel padding, these felt very comfortable  from the off, and despite being a wider fitting than I’d like, as I’d been told to expect from Saucony trainers by those charming people at Fitness Footwear, I was able to get a good fit for my skinny feet with just a few minor tweaks to the laces. I was also pleased to note the gaitered tongue and the serious protection offered by the heel guard and toe box, which seem sturdy enough to protect your feet from stray rocks and other obstacles, without adding weight to what is a very light trail shoe.

Once I hit the road, they were still comfortable, but these aren’t as massively cushioned as the road version of the Jazz, so I was glad after a mile or so to be able to hit the beach, where all of a sudden, the Grid Jazz X TRs started to make a whole heap of sense.

And as the dulcet tones of ‘Hello Central, get me Doctor Jazz’ burst into my earphones, a ray of sunlight appeared through the clouds and the slight lack of road cushioning suddenly ceased to matter, as the stable, sure-footed, neutral ride began to take my feet and ankles to their happy place.

So, are these off-roaders or soft-roaders?

Well, yes. Both. My test trail yesterday included just 2 miles of pavement, on which the Jazz X TRs performed creditably for trail shoes. But then I got to the serious stuff, and while Fats Waller dolefully opined that ‘Your feet’s too big’, the Jazz X TR’s were proving pretty nimble over the short rock and gravel stretch of my run, and also offering up a full measure of protection.

sauconyjazzsoleOnce I reached the steepest of the dune sections (accompanied by ‘It must be jelly, cause jam don’t shake like that’ if you’re interested) the thick Jazz soles offered all the flex I needed.

While on the endless quagmire that is the ‘Velvet Trail’ after a few days of rain, the slightly wimpy looking soles proved to have grip to spare, yet avoided getting ‘suctioned’ onto the mud, unlike several trail shoes I’ve tried which had much more aggressive looking grip patterns.

And once I reached the blessed relief of the turnaround point, putting the wind at my back and miles of flat sand before me, I was able to enjoy the real benefit of the Jazz X TRs: which is the kind of supportive comfort you get from a good road shoe, but in an off-road setting.

muddyjazzFrankly, my trail test circuit offers up a mixture of surfaces that can put a lot of strain on your feet and ankles when you’re wearing the wrong trail shoes. These plainly aren’t fell running shoes, but what quickly became apparent, and stayed apparent, is that the Jazz X TRs are a very happy, comfortable place for your feet to be on anything but the most gruelling trail, offering up structured support and protection rather than simple cushioning.

So while they may look like tricked-out road shoes, these are actually very competent and above all, very comfortable trail shoes, and pretty good value if you’re spending around the £60 mark.

5 jelly baby ratingAnd that’s why, much as I was tempted to deduct half a mark for the silly name, the Saucony Grid Jazz X TR trail shoes get a well-deserved 5 Jelly Baby Rating. Or as Herbie Hancock put it to me yesterday: ‘This I dig of you.’

Product Specification

– Weight: 350g

– Last: Modified Contour with EAS for biomechanical correction

– Airmesh upper for lightweight breathability

– EVA Midsole for responsive cushioning
– Rearfoot grid for Stable Cushioning
– Rearfoot HRC for responsive impact absorbtion
– Forefoot HRC for dynamic toe-off
– HRC Strobel Board for foot-in comfort
– Midfoot bridge for support

– XT600 rubber compound heelstrike
– XT600 rubber compound rearfoot
– b/c R rubber compound forefoot