Running on plenty with GPS monitoring

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 November, 2004, 12:00am

Product: Timex Bodylink System
Price: About $3,400
Pros: Robust; adds fascination to monotonous sports
Cons: Without a line of sight, the signal can frop; despite GPS, no navigation

No longer is the sport of running just a case of 'go for it, and get the agony over with'. Participants can try to raise their game by buying energy drinks stuffed with electrolytes, sneakers offering 360-degree dynamic ventilation, and a slew of hi-tech ironman watches.

The last are often just glorified heart-rate monitors. But Timex's latest addition to the breed, the Bodylink System, stands out.

Besides the watch and heart-rate sensor, the system features a GPS receiver that looks like a mouse and straps to your arm. GPS may normally be used as a navigational tool but, since the satellites are equipped with atomic clocks, it can deliver highly accurate speed and distance data.

As a result, you can track how far and how fast you are running - or for that matter biking, rowing or skiing. You can also truly keep on your toes by keeping an eye on your top speed.

Bodylink ensures that the rather linear process of running does not have to be boring.

For instance, you can try to break a personal best and then download the stats to your PC via the USB cable supplied.

Better yet, Bodylink is physically tough enough to be dropped without undue worry.

In addition, the latest version's receiver is half the size of its predecessor's. So the overall look is quite discreet.

However, whether the product lives up to the manufacturer's boast that you can exploit its technology 'any time, anywhere on earth' is debatable. Many runners report that the signal fades when banks of clouds or clumps of trees enter the frame.

Another gripe is that the system cannot show you a map of how to get home, should you get lost in an urban maze. Given that GPS is almost a byword for navigation, this deficiency is bound to baffle and irk some consumers.

Combined, the two drawbacks weigh rather heavily against this nifty invention.