The Garmin GTU 10 GPS-enabled tracking device is without doubt a niche product. Unlike more full-featured GPS computers that provide the user with a wealth of ride information, the GTU 10 records much of that same information – but then transmits it to someone else. Most riders admittedly won't find much everyday use in this at all but for a few, it's not only a surprisingly handy widget but also one that's also impressively polished and refined.
The GTU 10 links to orbiting satellites to establish its position just like Garmin's more full-featured Edge computers but the key difference is in how that information is displayed – with the GTU 10, there's no display whatsoever aside from the single multi-color status LED. In this situation, the GPS information is being collected for the express purpose of transmitting the wearer's position elsewhere.
So what's the point?
If you can get around the GTU 10's US$199.99 asking price, having that sort of information available to others actually proved handy in a variety of scenarios. Support crews for endurance or multi-lap events can know exactly when their rider is approaching an aid station or key checkpoint, significant others can monitor one's progress on solo jaunts or epic rides (without the need for that rider to manually check in periodically), and friends and family coming to an event to spectate will know exactly where they need to be without having to frantically chase you around.
There are equipment uses for the GTU 10, too. Teams can hardwire the device into trailers to keep closer tabs on bikes and gear, you can include the GTU 10 into bike boxes for real-time tracking when shipping them to far-off destinations (more on this in a bit), and mechanics can tuck them into prized toolboxes when checking them in at airport counters.
If you want to get a little fancier, Garmin's software also allows GTU 10 users to establish 'geofences' along with email or text message alerts when the unit has gone into or out of one.
Save for some of those theft-related uses, we used the GTU 10 in most of the applications listed with good success overall and while the GTU 10's functionality is simple, at least it works as advertised. As with Garmin's other GPS devices, the GTU 10 quickly locks in a position and between the browser-based desktop application and the impressively handy mobile app, it's very simple to pull up the unit's current location as well as up to seven days of position history depending on the level of service you're chosen. Battery life is very good, too, with our test unit coming very close to the claimed 20-hour run time at the fastest refresh rate (maximum claimed run time is four weeks).
Currently, though, there are still a few caveats to the GTU 10's tracking ability. For one, it requires a service plan starting at US$49.95 per year (the first year is included), plus another US$4.95 for the (admittedly useful) deluxe features. And at least for now, you can forget about trying to download the embedded information into your Garmin Connect or Strava accounts.
It also requires reasonable line of sight to acquire a signal so performance definitely took a nosedive when we concealed the unit in more robust containers like hard-sided bicycle cases. As it transmits its position via mobile phone towers, it's also of limited use in truly remote locations or in mountainous areas with spotty reception but we did find the GTU 10 to readily pick up where it left off once it was in a region with better signal strength. The reliance on mobile phone networks means specific units for US, Canadian, and European markets, too.
According to Garmin PR man Justin McCarthy, much of that is set to improve by early November when a software update will allow the GTU 10 to establish its position by mobile tower triangulation – meaning better position tracking for packages and other concealed mounting locations. Updates to the deluxe tracking plan will also include a new "follow me invitation" function that will be useful to competitors looking to broadcast their performances at targeted events to friends, family, and fans.
Will hordes of riders be chomping at the bit to get their hands on a Garmin GTU 10? Hardly. But if you (or your team) have cash to spare and find one of the aforementioned situations applicable to you, it's a neat little device for sure.
This article originally appeared on BikeRadar