Intro

So I received this product after a wee chat with a very nice bloke called John at one of the Gadget shows and we agreed that a review and a donated product would be a good exchange, the donated product would be given to either be used in a competition or as I have since decided, a charity fund raising raffle.

The product arrived a few weeks later and I immediately set to using it. Unfortunately it arrived the day after a track day so I was going to have to wait a few weeks to really put the product to test but that didn't stop me using on a everyday trip running some errands.

John had very kindly pointed me in the direction of a Beta release of some specific track focused software, Gtrek Track, that they are currently developing and I got to using that.

First opinions

Considering I'm a geek and a gadget lover I must admit I was a little bemused by the lack of instructions and the 3 changing and blinking status lights on the unit. At first its hard to be sure it recording the data but after reading the instructions from the CD-ROM supplied I had it sussed. I would have recommended that there was a wee flash card with the unit in the box to help quick start users like myself.







Confusingly there is a button on the front, a RTFM idiot like myself will automatically presume that the button is needed to be pressed to make the unit work but in fact all you do is move the slider from "OFF", passed the "NAV" setting (used as a bluetooth GPS received for PDAs and laptops) and onto the "LOG" setting. This will set the unit to record at the data rate specified by your PC.

The button is only their for you to mark special points on the journey, places you took photos for example which will allow for later geo-tagging.





Using the GTrek

Charging

The unit has a hight capacity battery which is very light so keep the whole unit pocket sized and wont pull down your baggy jeans. It charges up off USB and can give around 22 hours of data recording time (contradictory information on the box states up to 34 hours).

This battery time is exceeded by the memory storage which ranges dramatically from around

33% full after 3 rounds at the track

Approx. 12 minutes to download the whole memory onto your PC although this is unlikely to happen as in normal use the memory is unlikely to become full so quickly.
Following the download of Data it takes an additional 30 seconds or so to clear the memory so the unit is fresh for your next trip.

Using the Data

With any collection of data, reporting, photos, video etc its important to know the reason for recording the information and what its final use will be. Without this information you not going to actually use what you have collected and makes the whole process pointless.

For me this is where the GTrek II starts to reward you, once you have loaded the data onto your PC you can start playing.

First things first it adds all the data into 1 file and your task is then to split away the rubbish data from the good. For example, I'm not interested in the geo data from when I'm sat in the pit, or when I'm in the Que. to get on the track.

The Gtrek II allows you to view the data in Google maps but your first look at the map is a messy one, the data is show for every lap since you activated the device.



You can see from the picture there is a line headed left. I think this is due to me turning on the unit at home, then turning off the unit and then turning back on at the track. Its used basic calculations to join the dots.

Task no 1.... remove the rubbish.

While scanning through the time bar you can see lots of speed data there is also a large amount of time recorded with little or no data, presumably when I having a break, drink or a trip to the loo. So to filter out that data would give me pure performance data.



Above you can see a delay in the data collection starting due to me turning on the device at home 2 hours earlier, then a block of data with a slower maximum speed which was the slighting laps, then 2 blocks of me racing followed by a 4th block of a friends data.

When the data is filtered you should only see each block at a time.



There are 2 tools to use to help you trim the data. The first allows you to specify the range you want to keep, and the second allows you to specify the range you want to remove. Simple eh? Before working on the files I would recommend you backup the data to another location as there didn't seem to be a undo feature. So long as you don't hit the "Save" button or close the app and press yes to the Save then it wouldn't matter but the unit offers you to delete the data from the GTrek II when you have downloaded so its likely the data file your working on is the only copy you have. Another technical issue with this is if you want to split the file, there is a feature called split but this is designed to split days which could be very useful when touring although not much use when on the track. I couldn't see a feature to detect significant changes in data and slip or even for me to specify a marker so to get round this I copied the full file 4 times, and each time trimmed away the segments I wanted to delete and saved before moving onto the next file.





It all was easier that I imagined, once you have done it once you will do it again with ease.

The data I had collected with the device would have been more useable if I had access to the button on the device whilst racing. It would have allowed me to mark the beginning point or at least a common point on the track to more easily divide the file for individual lap analysis rather than session analysis.

One feature that I really liked was the animation tool. With you can play the data as if in real time and you can mark in POI (points of interest) such as start lines, and beginnings of each lap. This is useful when looking back at the speed, altitude or G force data.



I realised the more and more I played with the data that what was important was not analysing my laps for each pass of the start line but to look at my best performance and compare with my memories of the day to decide what was real performance and what was me getting stuck behind some novice.

I took the cleansed data from each session and imported them back into the program, this allowed me to see "Traces" which was pure racing data and allowed me to remove the first and last sessions which were warm up and a friends Dad's session so didn't apply. I can now see 2 pure sessions of racing fun and decided to focus onto my performance of my ultimate lap from the day. This would serve a brilliant comparison for another day at the track which is in a week or so.



So here is the 2 key laps for my run:



And IMO.... the best lap of all.





In Conclusion:

Officially, I love this product. For the few weeks I have had it I've given it a literally good thrashing round the track, pootered around with it for work and generally joined the new world which is location based services.

What struck me as well the more I used the product and chatted to other folk about it was that its actually ridiculously simple to use, as I earlier commented I think a review of the quick start guide would enhance the package greatly, and in fact for the none tech savvy this is a good purchase. The software is easy to use whilst still jamming in all the complicated features should you request them.

There is no doubt that as time goes on location based services will revolutionise the way we see the internet, mobile phones, cameras and with extra tech like this we can bring our hobbies into this world too and maybe even make a hobby or 2 out of it as well.

Tagging photos, tracking touring, monitoring performance of racing on foot, push bike and motorbike is just the start.

The quality of this item cannot be measured by its weight and feel but more by its reliability over time and in very unwelcoming environment such as hot and humid leathers jammed against the tank at a vibrating 120 Mph +. Needless to say it feels like a quality piece of kit, not something that is going to fall out of a christmas cracker, and I cant say that it skipped a beat which is great. The nature of such a product like this is that you want to be able to turn it on and forget about it until such a time that you want to stop recording your location, any product like this that required continuos maintenance whilst in use would have failed in its reason for existence so I'm pleased to say they hit the nail on the head with this product.

I have already flashed the product around a few folk and particularly at track days and was met on occasion with sheer amazement. One guy had spend some of his hard earned on a bike lap timer which requires additional hardware to be mounted on the track and seems to only provide lap timings, his response was simple after hearing my explanation of the product.... "right, thats going on my christmas list".

Should you buy one? if you ride a bike for any other reason that the boring commute to work each day then yes, if you run, walk, jog, cycle, fly, sail, paddle they yes, and if you like you technology or media then yes. This is the perfect companion for any budding photographer or videographer. On a more sinister level their is no reason this device could not be used for anonymous tracking, hidden in a bag or vehicle to track a untrustworthy spouse, worker or children and ill leave you to mull over the moral implications of that. Let that be a warning to you Emma.

In the time of writing this review and reviewing the product GTrek has brought out a few updates and I'm always pleased to see a company that doesn't just sit down and wait for the money to arrive, they are enhancing the software continually and I can see this is more like a product for life that will grow some what over time. That said I have noted some minor improvements I would have liked to have seen.

Firstly the "Route Summary" which is a text screen could do with being copyable into the clipboard and this would allow for quick bragging rights without having to screen dump. Secondly I would have liked to have been able to drag timeline (speed or altitude) with my mouse to mark a point and view in all screens or comparison, its some times hard to see a peak in one chart and compare in another without placing a POI mark and thirdly and last of all as I have already mentioned, a better quick start sheet.

At no point have I covered the additional feature that is bluetooth GPS receiver and should I have had time and equipment this I'm sure that this unit would have been raised even further in my estimations.

I would like to thank John for the opportunity to review this product, not only has it been a pleasure but he allowed to the product to be kept (unlike most PR review products) so that we could raffle it off for charity. Please visit http://www.sheffieldbikers.co.uk/viewtopic.php?t=20529&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0 for more details on the charity event and raffle tickets that are for sale.

Kindly John from GTrek has also given us some pricing on the GTrek which allows slightly lower than average delivered costing so if you interested in one just pop down to the R6ers eStore which can be found at www.R6ers.co.uk/eStore