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Timex Ironman Bodylink T59555 plus Data Recorder

Timex Bodylink T59555

I had gained some weight during Christmas season, and I decided to get rid of it and to become "fit". So I purchased cross-country skies and started to train in the Alps. After a while I intensified my training, and I wondered whether my (self educated) training was actually healthy. Who knows? Also I wanted to have more accurate timings and so I started to look for a pulse watch. I came across the Timex Bodylink System and ordered it from a mail order store for 279 Euros (about 360 USD at that time).

The main reason to go for the Timex was the GPS unit, which allows you to not only keep track of the time and heart rate, but also of the distance and speed of your workout. This makes it very useful for any outdoor activity, be it cycling, jogging, rollerblading, hiking or skiing. And with the tiny little "data recorder" you can even transmit the full wealth of your workout data to your computer. Timex delivers a software (the "Timex Trainer") that keeps track of all your workouts. Needless to say, that the watch is stylish and has all necessary time-keeping features you would expect from such a product.

But is it any good? Does the product fulfil what the brochure promises?

Well, it does - almost. In the day-to-day use of the Bodylink system I discovered a few issues your typical salesman might not be aware of... ;-)

  1. GPS unit in urban environments
    When I start from my home in Munich, the GPS unit takes very long to find the GPS signal. The surrounding houses might be the reason for this. We do not have skyscrapers here, but apparently five-story buildings are enough to confuse the GPS unit. And, I have to mention this as well, car navigation systems often have the same problem. Anyway, once the signal has been detected, it is rock stable and works like a charm. Please note that in 'clear' areas, i.e. with a lot of blue sky over you, the unit will find the signal within a minute or so.

  2. GPS unit power consumption
    The GPS unit runs off a single 1.5 V battery which needs to be replaced after about 10 to 12 hours of use. I think that this is quite often. I have not tried using rechargable batteries as these have just 1.2 V, but if I train even harder, I will definitely try that.

  3. GPS unit does not provide height information
    Yes, the units keeps track of the distance of your workout, but it does not record the height difference that you achieved. This is especially annoying when you are hiking or cross-country-skiing in alpine areas. I would absolutely love to see my achievements in that dimension as well.

  4. GPS unit sends just the distance
    Apparently the GPS unit does send only the speed and absolute distance to the watch. It does NOT send any Lat/Long position. Probably Timex wanted to put the processing logic into the GPS unit rather than into the watch, but this decision has consequences: (a) you can not record and display a map of the route you have taken. Now, this would be a cool feature, right? (b) You can not easily re-calculate the distance on your PC which might be quite handy, especially if you want to 'trim' the warmup phase and the cooldown phase (see next point).

    German screenshot of the 'Timex Trainer' software

  5. Timex Trainer Software - Data can not be trimmed
    The software that comes with the pack is just okay-ish. Yes, it keeps track of your detailed workout sessions which can be accessed through a small calendar. It also displays cumulated values (e.g. hours of Jogging this week) upon request, but I still can not get rid of the feeling that this software is not perfect. What I am missing, for example, is an easy way to 'trim' my recorded data, especially before and after the full workout. This can not be done in the software.

  6. Timex Trainer Software - You can't zoom into the data/graph
    This screenshot (of the latest German software) shows a 20 km cross country skiing session (4 x 5 km). Blue is the speed, red is the pulse. You can easily see where it goes downhill (realllly fast!). But you can not 'zoom' into the curve of your workout and have a closer look at critical or interesting moments during your workout. This is another major flaw, especially when an A4 printout of the same chart gives you a very precise view. So the data is there, and the software is just unable to display it in a good way. By the way, the 'software' is in reality just a polished frontend for an Access database, so you can export the data and look at it more closely using Access or Excel. But this is tiring. I would expect the software to be a bit more sophisticated.

  7. Timex Trainer Software - No energy calculation
    I guess many people miss this piece of information - the energy that has been burnt during a workout session. It would encourage me even more to workout harder, if I knew how many cookies I may eat for this. :-)

  8. Recording Concept
    Finally, this one is not really a flaw, more a general observation. Both the pulse meter as well as the GPS unit are simply sending the data to the watch, which acts as a display unit. The watch never communicates back to the GPS unit or to the pulse meter. This means, that a data packet that is lost (for whatever reason) is lost indeed. There is no way for the watch to request the same packet again from either device. And the data recorder is just listening to the two remote devices (GPS unit, pulse meter) and records what they are sending. It does also not 'talk' to the watch. Which is a pity, because it would be quite useful to transmit your accurate lap data (stored in the watch) to the PC as well.

Conclusion

Despite the flaws mentioned above, I still recommend this tremendous system to you. The best thing for me is that it has a good fun factor and encourages me to workout harder. It provides me with workout data that shows my achievements. This is something to be proud of (hopefully). It helps me also to balance my energy and heart rate better throughout my workout, instead of starting at a high speed and then getting very, very tired towards the end.

All-in-all, this is a good product well worth the money.


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