Garmin Forerunner 101 Black Handheld GPS Receiver Reviews
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Garmin Forerunner 101 Black Handheld GPS Receiver

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The right GPS tool for sports

Oct 8, 2004 (Updated Dec 8, 2004)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Lots of measurements, compact, easy to use, functional, and fairly economic.

Cons:calories consumption for skaters not correct, need a clear view of sky for navigation

The Bottom Line: Pretty amazing little tool that serves well runners/joggers, inline skaters, climbers/hikers and available for a reasonable price.


Forerunner 101 by Garmin is a fairly sophisticated tool as long as sports are involved, at least. It is light: (55 gr or 0.6 ounces, without batteries), works with 2 1.5 volt AAA batteries (14-15 hours, typical use), and has a reasonably sized display. It is water proof (although it is by no means meant for swimming or scubadiving), and can operate between -20C to 70C (-4F to 140F). Its accuracy according to company specifications has been tested at 15mt (49 feet) and 1 sec.

I purchased this device mainly for inline skating but, after using it for about 2 months, I can definitely say that it is suitable for several other outdoor activities such as running/jogging, walking, biking, hiking, etc...

The only use it is weak at has to be that of being used as
a tracking device inside a car. This does not depend on any intrinsic problem with the device, let me be clear about it, simply the receiver is too weak to receive the satellite signals while under the roof of the car where it works but has a tendency to lose the signal very easily. In any case, that's not its raison d'etre from the very beginning.

It will take approximately 1 hour to familiarize (or familiarise, as many English speaking persons would write) oneself with the menus and all the possibilities offered by the Forerunner 101, but it is mostly an issue of quantity rather than of technicalities.

The manual that come with the device is fairly clear and exhaustive. It introduces the user to the very basics of GPS technology and then quickly moves on to explain all the capabilities built in the Forerunner 101.

It would be useless to summarize the manual and perhaps it is more instructive to review the capabilities of the device.

The default mode is the Timer Mode and this also the mode that one will use most of the times.

The Timer Mode consists of 3 screens.

- 1st screen: Time, Speed, Distance
- 2nd screen: Lap Pace, Lap Time, Lap Distance
- 3rd screen: Custom

So, for example, in my case I use the 3rd screen to record
the following informations: Best Speed, Average Lap Time , and Lap Time . Switching among the screens is fairly easy even while skating, bycicling or even more so while running/jogging.

The selection of options is, however, pretty impressive. Before I list all of the functions, let me say, that
you can choose among statute units (ft, mi, mph) or metric units (cm, km, kmh) and also between PACE (RUNNING) or
SPEED (BIKING), so it is possible to record either Speed,
or Pace, Best Speed or Best Pace and so on. Of course, runners/joggers will be more interested in using pace while cyclists/inline skaters would prefer to use speed. That being said, the different options
for the custom screen are many and here is the complete list:
AVERAGE SPEED/PACE
AVERAGE LAP TIME
BEST PACE
CALORIES
DISTANCE
ELEVATION (current altitude)
GRADE (% slope of terrain)
LAP DISTANCE
LAP PACE/SPEED
LAP TIME
LAPS
PACE
REST DISTANCE
REST TIME
SPEED
TIME
TIME OF DAY
TOTAL DISTANCE
TOTAL TIME

I believe that these will satisfy many an athlete. However, while the options end here, this is not the end of the story, since Forerunner 101 can be used as a Training
Assistant. All it takes is to press the Mode key and then select the TRAINING ASSISTANT menu. Then one has the following options:

AUTO PAUSE/LAP
VIRTUAL PARTNER
INTERVAL TRAINING
SPEED ALERT
TIME DISTANCE/ALERT

In AUTO PAUSE/LAP you can select from two options:
AUTO PAUSE, i.e. you can pause the Timer after you complete a certain distance, say 5km, 3 miles, or whatever you were to decide.
In AUTO LAP you can increase the lap counter by one every time you complete a certain distance. When this modality is on, the FORERUNNER will beep and for about 5 seconds will show you the time in that lap.

I use this option a lot since I skate marathons and when I train I like to know my time every km or mile. So I set AUTO LAP TRIGGER as ON and LAP DISTANCE as 1 km and there I go. When this option is on, the second screen in the Timer Mode will contain LAP SPEED, LAP TIME, LAP DIST for each lap which, in my case, is every 1km and allow me to check my pace towards the goal I set for myself.

VIRTUAL PARTNER allows the user to set:

- distance & time
- time & speed
- distance & speed

So, for example, you can set distance as Marathon, Time as 1h 30 minutes (on skates of course and not on foot!!), then the system will compute the average speed you need to keep (about 28 km/h) and, after you start the timer, will inform you if you are ahead or behind that target and by how many meters/miles

It would probably not be all that useful to go on and on and on explaining every single detail available. But, I should at least mention that once you are done and you reset the timer, your last run, your last day of runs, your last week and so on are kept in a memory and you can access them over a certain period of time up to the totals.

The NAVIGATION menu provides additional options for traveling with your FORERUNNER 101:

- ADD/REMOVE MAP MODE
- MARK LOCATION
- FIND LOCATION
- BACK TO START

The Map Mode shows where you are (using an animated figure)
if ADD MAP MODE is activated. As you travel, the animated figure walks and leaves a trail (track points). To make sure you can see the entire trail, it is possible to change the map scale (minimun 20 feet, max 120 miles).

The Mark Location option remembers a location to which one may want to return later and up to 100 locations can be stored in the FORERUNNER's memory. They are usually numbered as 001, 002, .. , 100. Each location is characterized by 3 numbers: elevation, latitude, longitude. Name, symbols, elevation, etc. can all be edited and changed.

Find Location organizes all the locations in alphabetical order for easy selection. Once you find your location in the alphabetical list you can view it on the map or perform a GOTO which leads you from your current position to the saved location. Of course, FORERUNNER creates a straight line and does not know where obstacles are in order for the user to arrive at the desired location.

FORERUNNER 101 can also estimate the calories you burn while exercising. For that you need to enter your weight and specify if you are biking or running/jogging. This is the only situation where the option does not work for inline skaters. Unfortunately, calories consumptions between skating and bicycling are somewhat different and skating burns more calories at the same speed.


The price for FORERUNNER 101 is about $150 for the model with 2 1.5 volt AAA batteries, a little higher for the model that comes with a rechargeable battery. However, I believe you can buy for a little less by shopping around.

An handlebar mount that fits the FORERUNNER 101 is available for bicycling at a cost of approximately $15-20.

An extension strap is included with the FORERUNNER 101. This makes it possible to wear the device over skating gloves if one so desired. For speedskaters who skate with arms behind the back, I suggest that when you put your GPS system on, you make sure the upper face faces the sky while you skate in that position. I experienced the warning "weak signal" several times otherwise.


Recommend this product? Yes


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