It has been 3 1/2 years since I did my first review of the Garmin Foretrex 401. At that time I had only had the unit for 30 days. Then 10 months later I gave a updated review. The Garmin posts receive the 5th and 6th most page views respectively on my blog. If you have not done so please read those post before start reading this one so you have an idea what I am talking about on this post.Searching on the internet you will not find a lot of in-depth reviews from users.
Since I could not find too many in-depth reviews I figured I would cowboy up and post a long term review. Now I want to put a disclaimer out here. I would not call myself a subject matter expert on the use of GPS. I have a lot of knowledge about a GPS and how it works and I have been known to have to use it on my job. I am also one that navigates with a paper map and will use the GPS with the map. So here we go!
One of my goals was to have one tool that I could move from bike to bike or carry on me. The 401 met that requirement. Moving the unit from bike to bike just takes seconds. It did require the purchase of a second bicycle mount kit which runs around $15. The unit comes with a hook & loop wrist strap and a hook & loop equipment strap. I only use the wrist strap and have never seen the need to use the other strap. I have never had the screws that hold the strap to the unit brake. This was an issue with the Garmin 201 that I had. The watch type pens broke all the time.
From my requirement list from the first review, requirement #3 (cadence) I have never used. I have never got around to purchasing the cadence sensor and I cannot provide feedback on that feature. I guess that reminds me I need to purchase a cadence sensor. Requirement #9, (download the data) on the back of the unit is a rubber cover that protects the USB port. The rubber cover did rip.
This has not been a show stopper. If you do use the unit around water or you have been outside in the rain on your adventure make sure at the end of the day to take the cover off and check for moister and dry it out if you need to. While we are on the back of the unit lets talk about batteries. The batteries are user replaceable AAA an you will need two of them. I use lithium batteries in the 401. Two reasons for this. I feel that I get the max amount of run time which is 15 hours and I have no issues with batteries freezing because lithium freeze at -32 F and alkaline batteries freeze at 32 F. I also use the same batteries in my headlamp for the same reason.
My page settings:
After powering the unit up the first screen that displays is a "If lost contact ## number". I have a map page which is a a map of my track log, the next page is a compass/final dist/bearing. The page I use the most is set-up just like a cycling computer, trip odom/heartrate/cadence/moving avg/total time/stop time and speed.
Here’s a pro tip for you. The altimeter of a GPS is set either by barometer or by satellite. I believe the 401 is set by altimeter. When I go on a ride I reset my ride data and calibrate the altimeter. I do this by setting the known altitude of my house.
Now I guess the biggest draw back to the unit that I have seen while cycling is that there is not a base map like other cycling GPS units. So If you have to cut your ride short you do not have a map to help you find a new route back. But again I use my GPS for More than one actitive.
Pro tip #2, clear track log and journey statistics out before starting your outings. I fine that if I do not do this before a trip It will make a track line back to my home of record. You do not want that to happen to you...
I hope you find this helpful. If you have a question post you question in the comments section below