Well, congratulations! You have a Garmin 910xt Forerunner, an incredibly powerful device with a tremendous number of functions, options, and features, all controlled – somehow – through seven buttons. I’ll assume that you are able to read a manual and follow directions, but in this article we’ll talk about some things that surprised or perplexed me in using the device, and maybe some of these may help you as well.
- This thing doesn’t have much in the way of a user’s manual.
Go see the review by DCRainmaker.com. More than a review, he tells you everything you need to know about this device. It is the missing manual.
- But if I want to find the original user manual online, where is it?
- I think my Garmin is completely broken.
Usually, this is where you would see a link to some web site where geeks have pulled the thing apart, because the manufacturer’s support is less than what one may desire. For this device, that is not the case: if you can’t find the answer at MyGarmin Support, call Garmin support at 800-800-1020. In my experience, and the experience of everyone I have talked to, Garmin support is what user support should be. Their devices may not be perfect, but they have worked to resolve every issue and problem I have had, with friendly and helpful first line support and technicians,
- None of my buttons are responding.
This is most likely because you accidentally enabled the Button Lock feature by simultaneously pressing the “Mode” and “Scroll Up” buttons (which are located diagonally from each other). To unlock it, do the same button holding. Some people use this feature during the swim to keep from the buttons from accidentally getting hit when you are jostling during the swim. (Some others put the watch in their swim cap). If you lock the buttons, then obviously at the end of the swim you will need to unlock the buttons before you can press “Lap” to go on to the next leg.
- This thing seems to be completely locked up.
This happens to me sometimes when transferring data. To turn your watch off when in this state (so it will restart correctly when you turn it back on), press and hold the power button for 20 seconds. Look at a clock when you do this, as 20 seconds is longer than you think. Somewhere during that time it should shut itself off and then you can turn it back on again.
- Why do I always seem to have to hit the “Enter” button twice before it does anything?
Your button is working fine (so stop mashing it!) The first time you press the Enter button, it turns the backlight on in the display so you can read it if it’s dark out, and then the second press will do the “enter” function. If the light is already on (such as, if you have the display permanently lit or you just recently did something to make the display light up), the Enter button will do its thing immediately.
This, of course, means that to read your watch in the dark, all you need to do is press “Enter” to turn on the backlight. If you want your light to be on permanently (which obviously drains the battery quicker), such as a night 5k or in a darkened spin class, go to “Settings” -> “System” -> “Display” -> “Backlight Timing” -> “Stays On”.
- What time is it?
You don’t need to waste a display window on time of day, in particular if all you want to know is what time it is before your race starts. If you press MODE until you get to the “main display” (the one that has “History”, “Training”, “GPS”, “Settings”), the local time is at the lower right hand corner (it’s really tiny).
- And how powerful is that “Mode” button, anyway?
This is one of those “you’ll know what I’m talking about when it happens to you” things. I don’t think Garmin named this button very well. To me it sounds like it is the “All Powerful Master Override”. It should be more accurately be called “Display Mode”. It changes what type of pages are being displayed, specifically between the “managing the watch” pages and the “what am I doing right now” pages. The confusion comes about because if you are in the middle of an activity, you can still go back and forth to the “managing the watch” pages without stopping the activity.
The other function of “Mode” is that it is the opposite of “Enter”: “Enter” steps into a function, “Mode” steps back out. So hitting “Mode” multiple times will get you back “home” when you’re lost.
- I can’t find the settings for swim (or bike or run).
The 910xt obviously has a lot of functions and features, and sometimes finding the settings for all of them can be a challenge. Garmin puts them in two places, and sometimes you have to look in both. And they depend on what sport you currently have selected (i.e., you cannot set swim-specific settings if the current sport is running. That makes sense). Let’s say the current sport is “Run”. If you use MODE to go to the “main display” (the one that has “History”, “Training”, “GPS”, “Settings”), and select “Training’, you will see your selections for “Run Alerts”, “Workouts”, Courses”, “Virtual Racer”, etc. BUT there is another page of run-specific settings in another place: go back to that main page, this time select “Settings”, and you’ll see that there is a “Run Settings” display. Under there you will find “Data Fields”, “Autolap”, etc.
- After you finish.
Don’t forget to press and hold “Lap” for three seconds after your finish! This “closes” the activity so if you accidentally hit “Start”, it won’t resume the activity you just completed. Garmin refers to this function as “Reset” (it says so right next to the “Lap” button), which always scares me because it sounds like you are “throwing away what you just did”. But that’s not what it does, think of it as “save off the data of what I did and then reset everything to be ready for my next activity”. Or something like that.
- “Change Sport” shortcuts, and making manual MultiSport activities
There are two different ways you can switch between sports relatively quickly. First of all, if you do the “Change Sport” from the “Training” page, you may notice that the “Change Sport” entry is at the bottom of the list, independent of what else is on the list (the list is different for swim/bike/run/other). When you call up the “Training” page, the top entry is highlighted. Because the list “rolls over” (it doesn’t stop at the top or bottom but rather keeps going), if you scroll UP by one position, you will be at the bottom of the menu, which is “Change Sport”. So you can get to “Change Sport” quickly by: “Training” (Enter) -> (Scroll up one) -> “Change Sport” (Enter).
Secondly, there is a lesser known but even quicker way to get change sports. If you hold the “Mode” button for about 3 seconds, it goes straight to the “Change Sport” page.
Either way you get there, what “Change Sport” does depends on whether or not you have an activity currently under way. If you have an activity still underway (which means you didn’t press “Lap” for three seconds to complete, or close, the activity), changing sports will manually create a multisport activity. So, for example, if you were doing a bike/run brick workout, you would press the “Start” button to pause the timer at the end of the bike leg, then when you are ready to start running, “Change Sport” to “Run”, and then push the “Start” to start the timer for running. In the history, the activity will show up as a “Multisport activity”, designated by a triangle icon instead of a swim, bike, or run icon. And then when complete, close the activity by pressing and holding “Lap” for three seconds.
- Where is that “Back to Start” function?
This is particularly handy on out and back routes (the watch doesn’t have a built in map and router, so if you are riding/running a loop that you are 3/4 of the way through, it will take you back through that 3/4 of the loop to the start). I always find it hard to find the thing. It is NOT under “Training”. It is under “GPS”.
- Practice with Auto Multisport. Then, practice with Auto Multisport.
This may be one of the features that attracted you to the 910xt: it will allow you to pre-program the segments of a multi sport race (triathlon, duathlon, biathlon, whatever) and when you press “Lap” between segments, it changes the displays and features appropriate to that leg, optionally including transitions (an dI have no idea why you wouldn’t want to record those, but whatever. Just check the “Include Transitions: box).
But Auto Multisport can be tricky and takes some practice. It is something you should work on as part of your transition practices, and indoor triathlons also are an ideal time to try this out. Here are some things to keep in mind:
– First after you set up the Multisport legs, “Start Auto Multisport” does not literally start the timer. It just means that the next time you hit the “Start” button, you will be entering the preprogrammed sequence. So feel free to set it up before your race and then do whatever you want, and just hit “Start” when you start. Practice.
– Remember, you go from leg to leg by hitting the “Lap” button. So, a triathlon would be: “Start” when you start swimming, “Lap” when you get out of the water, “Lap” when you are at the mount dismount line and getting onto your bike, “lap” when you get off the bike, “Lap” when you leave out of T2, and “Lap” when you finish (it stops the timer because “Lap” completes the sequence). Practice.
– AutoMultisport gives you an extra screen with useful information like total elapsed time, and a cute graphic telling you what you’re supposed to be doing right now (such as an arrow pointing at a little running figure, “go run now!”). So this will be an extra page to scroll through. One note about the total elapsed time – for a race over one hour, it’s not going to give you seconds. So if you are trying to carefully handcraft an IronMan 70.3 personal record after six and a half hours, you will have resolution only down to the nearest minute. Don’t laugh. I have done this. Oh, yeah, practice.
– Unfortunately, if you press “Lap” too early, you can’t go back. The best thing to do then is to just do “Lap-Lap-Lap…”, and then manually change sports as described above. Not perfect, and you’ll probably have to use start/stop to pause for transitions, but you’ll have your displays (except for the extra “MultiSport” screen) and nearly all of your data. You will probably mess this up at least once during your transition practices, so you will have an opportunity to try this out beforehand. Practice.
- Remember to change your swim distance alert when you are go between an english unit vs metric pool.
If you live in St. Louis, I can tell you exactly when you will come across this: you have been swimming in a 25 yard pool and have set your Swim Alert for 100 yards to help you keep track of your laps. Now you are at the St Peters Recplex Spring or Fall Triathlon and are getting ready to swim in the 50 meter pool. So, you dutifully set the pool length to 50 meters and figure the alert will now occur every 100 meters instead of 100 yards. Wrong! The watch assumes you still want to know every 100 yards, and the Swim Alert (which you didn’t look at) now says “91 meters”, and you are going to be getting alerts at what seem like odd times. So, you will probabaly want to go to Swim Alerts and change that to “100 meters”.
- You get to have different display options for pool and open water swims.
You probably want different displays for your pool swimming (like time, rate per 100 yards, distance in yards) than for open water (I just have time, and distance in miles). And, in fact, the defaults are different. The Garmin 910xt is smart enough to treat the display settings for open water vs pool swimming differently, so you can set up different displays for the two and it will keep it straight. You don’t really have to do anything, it is just a nice feature.
- Just say no to the Quick Release option.
The Garmin Quick Release kit allows you to move the watch from your wrist to a mount on the bike and then back to your wrist. A friend of mine lost his watch during his first Ironman, possibly from his wrist hitting a neoprene clad fellow racer he was in close quarters with (I should point out that Garmin replaced the watch). I saw mine on the bottom of a pool when my arm hit a lane divider. My opinion is that it doesn’t seem worth the risk. There are some workarounds (such as, use the quick release but put the watch itself in your swim cap), but I have never tried these. I have gone back to using the regular wrist band and put a bike computer on my bike. Now I get cadence, speed and distance on my bike computer, and heart rate and bike time on my wrist (I don’t own a power meter).
- ANT+ in Spin bikes.
ANT+ is the method by which the Garmin 910xt communicates with peripherals and other devices: your heart rate monitor, foot pod, power meter, speed and cadence sensor, your computer, etc. It also can connect to properly equipped sports equipment such as stationary bicycles and treadmills. In order to make this work, you need to find a device with the logo shown here. On the Watch, you need to go tp “Settings” -> “System” -> “Fitness Equipment” and enable fitness equipment; you will see a little icon in the upper right. Then you hold the watch in the vicinity of the logo on the fitness equipment. Seems straightforward so why do I have this here? Well, for me, the syncing works sporadically. Sometimes I need to disable/enable the function, and sometimes power the watch off and on. Eventually it will work. Just give yourself plenty of time before that Spin class! Also, you can’t “pre sync” for an indoor triathlon, because when you leave with your watch togo swim, it loses sync with the device because, well, you’re gone and it needs to be available for someone else.
- You don’t need to know this but it is so geeky cool.
I learned this when I was troubleshooting on the phone with a Garmin support tech. You can get to the Garmin 910xt diagnostic screens in the following way: (1) Turn off your watch. (2) Press and hold the “Enter” button. (3) While holding the “Enter” button, press and hold the “Power” button. The watch will now show the first diagnostic screen. Release the buttons. Now, go to the eighth diagnostic screen by pressing “Mode” 7 times. At the bottom you will see “Accel X”, “Accel Y”, and “Accel Z”. These are the outputs of the three accelerometers that are used in swimming to detect your pool edge turns, your strokes, and identifying the type of stroke. When you are holding the watch, it is telling you which direction it is sensing gravity (purists, just go with me here). The unit’s are “g’s”, where one g is the force of gravity (purists, really stop it now) at the Earth’s surface. So you can rotate your watch, and when you get one of the numbers to be about “1” and the other two to be about “0”, then one of the accelerometers is pointing straight down. How cool is that?
- The best words ever: “Auto Multisport Complete”!