Gear Review: Garmin Forerunner 110 GPS

As a long time fan of the Garmin 405CX I reviewed here, I was fascinated to see that Garmin had launched an entry level GPS running watch in the Forerunner 110.

Coming in at around the £160 mark online, compared to £250 for the 405CX, it’s considerably more affordable than its big brother. But the question is, how many of the 405CX’s fantastic features have Garmin dispensed with in order to shave so much off the price?

And the answer, unsurprisingly, is most of them. But having lived with the 110 for a few weeks now, I’m beginning to think that that’s no bad thing. So rather than focusing on what’s been taken away, it’s probably more worthwhile discussing what the Forerunner 110 does well.

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity

Advanced runners who want to analyse every nuance of their performance might as well look away now, because this thing really isn’t for you. It’s clearly aimed at the new and only moderately serious runner, and does a very good job of providing just the information you need and nothing that you don’t.

Answering the setup questions took me all of two minutes, after which I put on the not especially comfortable chest strap that contains the heart rate monitor and waited a further minute or so for the GPS to establish my position.

Once that was done, it took just the push of a button to start everything off, and then a further push of the red page/menu button to flip between the three main screens , which are time and pace, heartbeat and actual time. Though in fairness, I don’t generally need to know the time of day when I’m running, so it’s a pity that this last screen isn’t disabled when you’re in running mode.

The most useful of the three screens (left)  displays distance, elapsed time and current pace from top to bottom, though it’s worth noting these facts from the user guide before you set out, as the red wording at the top and bottom of the bezel that tell you what the numbers indicate is totally unreadable.

The heart rate screen, however, uses all the available space to display your current heartrate, making it ideal for those of us who like to train in different zones from time to time.

Tracking your runs

Like every Garmin GPS, the Forerunner 110 uses a clever, clip-on charger which allows it to stay waterproof to IPX7 standards (shallow water for up to 30 minutes). In the case of the 110 also enables it to hook up to a Mac or PC with a USB slot, which then takes you to your own page on the Garmin website, where you can view a map and stats for your run, including heart rate, distance, average pace, pace per mile and elevation.

Crucially, this is all better laid out and more thought through than anything I’ve seen from Polar, RunKeeper, or many of the other proprietary GPS websites on the market.

The predictable summing up

Despite the fact that I love the ‘virtual partner’ feature of the Garmin 405CX, not to mention its incredibly cool ‘strokable bezel’ control, I totally get the point of the Forerunner 110.

It’s a no-frills way to track your pace, route and heartrate, and then analyse them on the Garmin site. The controls and set-up are idiot-proof and it even sets the time of day automatically using the satellite signal.

So if you’re just a casual runner, or simply don’t have £250 to blow on its big brother, the Forerunner 110 is a great training tool, and entirely worthy of its 5 Jelly Baby Rating.

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Shoe Review: Salomon Exit Aeros

Salomon Exit AerosWith Hellrunner looming over the horizon , my thoughts once again turned to footwear that could withstand the somewhat unique challenges of this rocky/muddy/steep/sandy/wet 11 mile course.

Last time out, I wore my best North Face Gore-Tex Hedgehogs, which, frankly was a mistake; as the last thing you want to wear when wading through a chest-high peat bog is Gore-Tex. I might as well have filled a couple of plastic bags with sludge, stepped in and gaffa-taped them around my ankles…

So imagine my delight when a pair of Salomon Exit Aero rocked up at Jelly Baby Towers this week, just in time for me to start my bad weather training sessions.

Billed by Salomon footwear as ‘multi-sport shoes’, I have to say that they look more like lightweight hikers than bona fide trail running shoes. Or to put it another way, they’re a little more Mars Bar than Aero. However, with so much mud and gravel on my mind, the least I could do was strap them on and take them out for a slow but sludgy 11 miles through the dunes and along the beach.

First Impressions on the Feet

Salomon Exit SoleThese are pretty sturdy shoes, without quite as much in the way of flexibility as I’d like. But on the upside, the ‘Contagrip’ soles are soft and massively grippy, and there’s a fair bit of cushioning all around the uppers and in the heel area too. Not to mention plenty of breathability.

They’re missing gaiters on the tongues, which I usually insist on for trail shoes, but in all fairness, with Hellrunner in mind, I’m looking for shoes that can let mud out more than keep it out. So that’s alright then.

While these things are also fairly wide, the laces allow for plenty of adjustment, meaning that I was pretty comfortable by the time I took a last bite of my Marathon (calling them Snickers is a modern fad I refuse to have any truck with) and set out for 11 miles of road, gravel, sand and sludge.

Hitting the road

While these things are pretty comfortable for walking in, they really don’t offer the kind of cushioning you need to run in them on Caramac, sorry, tarmac. So by the time I’d done a couple of miles of pavement  on the way to the dunes, my knees were really feeling it and my hamstrings were tightening up.

It was with some relief then that I finally hit the trail proper, which mixes soft sand with Crunchie gravel for the next 3 miles or so. And I have to say, these things make great trail shoes for this kind of mixed terrain, as they offer a good balance of grip, protection and underfoot support that was a real Bounty at this stage.

The sole pattern also delivered fabulous grip, which almost made up for the slight lack of flexibility and gave me quite a Boost.

Yet the Salomons also impressed when I got to the beach and the blessed relief of the turnaround. Running on sand, the lack of underfoot cushioning really didn’t matter and they were supremely comfortable over every surface, coping well with the serious sludge too.

The Self-important Summing Up Bit

I’m a big fan of Salomon trainers, with my only complaint being that they don’t always last as long as I’d like them to. However, the Exit Aeros boast a very sturdy construction that leads me to believe I’ll be wearing these things for some time.

What I won’t be doing is wearing them over a paved area again. Ever. As there really isn’t anything underfoot to absorb the pounding that you need when you’re built like a Double Decker.

Having said that, I’ve been looking for a shoe that will be able to live with the unique demands of the Hellrunner series, and I think that in the Salomon Exit Aeros, I may have found them. So despite the fact that my hamstrings are still complaining about the lack of underfoot cushioning, I have to say that these 4 jelly baby ratingare solid well-built shoes that make great hikers and decent heavy duty trail shoes for when you know there is only going to be gravel or soft stuff underfoot.

So while I don’t exactly love these things, they’re fit for purpose, so I’d have to be a real Flake not to give them a respectable Four Jelly Baby rating.