I have heard many people singing the praises of the Qstarz and RaceChrono timing system and I even got myself the set up to try, using an older QStarz model and a Nokia phone that recorded the lap information. This was a fine set up most of the time, but every so often the Bluetooth connection would be lost and lose data. Add to that the Nokia phone, a E65, had a smallish screen, a battery life that was considerably shorter than it should be and the charger pin that was just too easily broken (I broke 4 chargers in 2 years). So it was good but not ideal.
Then I found they did a version, the BT-Q1000eX, that not only had it’s own memory negating the need to have the mobile phone with it’s Bluetooth issues and the need to find space to put 2 boxes on the bike, but also came with it’s own software for analysing the data after it gathers it. I thought to myself this has got to be worth a look. The main problem seemed to be getting hold of one, there seemed to very few in the country.
The box of electric goodies itself is small and fits nicely to the side of the clocks of the CBR and even fits nicely under the lip of the plastic which conveniently helps to hold it in place, which is handy. It comes with a little, plastic wallet to fit the unit in to stop it getting wet that has a velcro pad on it’s back to stick to the self adhesive velcro pad, that also comes in the pack, and a key ring style loop. I use the velco to hold it in place and then cross wrap it with 2 long cable ties which run over the unit and through the key ring style loop of the wallet. There is a very short USB lead to link the unit to a laptop and charge it up. There is also a mini-cd with the software on it, a cable tie and the worlds thinnest instruction manual.
It’s a real is simplicity itself to use. Turn it on via a switch on the side all the way up to its 5Hz setting, watch the light say “I have found the GPS signals” and then go. That’s it. It helpfully has a automatic sleep mode if you don’t move the bike for 10 mins or so that will go into so as not to drain the battery, this also make a note that it’s a different session automatically. I have only used this at Pembrey at the test day and at Cadwell Park so far, so I may come back add to this later through the season. It has worked flawlessly so far.
The software is the area that is a bit of a let down. The QRacing software is fiddly compared to RaceChrono, I can still use RaceChrono and it even comes on the CD, but I have yet to get that to work. You have to create a track from a lap and have to drag a line from one path of a lap across to make a start/finish line, which is easy enough, but if you have 7 sessions and you move across over a few laps you seem to constantly have to remap the track, which is not a great. It would be better if you could just draw a great big line to cross over the track to get rid of the variations and not have to start on a line (especially if you are as inconsistent as I am). You are meant to go and map out the track twice before hand, by walking around the outside and then the inside, but it would be nice to be able to draw a line across from where ever to where ever. It easy enough to get the data into QRacing, a little annoying that it can’t post the data via BlueTooth and you have to link up via a USB lead, and the one supplied is rather short, not that I have a problem with that as I have about 20 other ones lying around. I am not sure how this would effect using RaceChrono with a phone, I presume you would have to move the position of the switch to the middle position and therefor only get a reading every 1 second rather than 5 times a second at the higher setting (I am unable to check this as I haven’t got the old phone any more). The big draw back I have yet found with the software is that I can’t compare different laps from different sessions ***EDITED Yes you can, ignore this bit I have found it now Wet-ware issue… the user needed correcting END OF EDIT**** . I am sure this is something that must be possible, but I haven’t really had a good look round. At the end of the day I can just export the data (all major formats are supported) and then pump the information into the myriad of other software I have cluttering my hard drive.
Since buying the box a new version of the software has come out, the new version 2 is a bit better than the one that comes in the box. It has a new feature that shows G-Force levels, link up to Google Earth and a few other bits that I haven’t had time to figure out yet. I haven’t even tried the video over laying feature (showing all the data TV style on of how fast, how much G etc) mainly due to the fact I don’t have a video camera :). The software is free to upgrade, and in fact since writing this a new version, and they are advertising a soon to be released update at the moment (April 2013).
All in all this is a nice and simple “does what it should” techno gadget that isn’t really needed, but it does help me to figure out if I am on line, getting better, what works and what doesn’t sort of thoughts, for example at Cadwell Park I tried doing something different at 2 parts of the lap from advice given by a rider. I found no overall time improvement across the whole lap, but a quick look at the lap chart showed an improvement in the first part, that was cancelled out by the next section. Next time out, boom, personal best, get in. For around £100 with software and everything (including a very plush box it comes in) you really can’t argue despite it’s little problems and most of those are on software side, which seems to be being upgraded at a rate of knots anyhow. The hardware is fairly rock solid and apart from the minor gripes about lead length and Bluetooth link up it really is up to the job. I look forward to there V3 of QRacing or the new version of RaceChrono as this will make a good value product great. (V3.2 is the current version now 🙂 don’t you hate it when you look back over pages on the internet, April 2013)
Away from the race track there is also QSports and QTravel software in the box. My Qstarz has already gone skiing (though not me unfortunately), and using the QSports software, which is designed for sports like skiing, running and mountain biking, I have had a virtual ski trip and was quiet interested as to speeds, heights and all the data that could be gleaned. This was also a bit fiddly but as I had sat around and played with it much it was still good still and it did run out of memory after the 3 days (with no laptop to down load to and on the 5 readings a second setting) as I hadn’t cleared it down. QTravel I haven’t look at yet so I can’t really comment on that.
Since writing this a new 10Hz version has replaced this. The only difference seems to be the frequency of getting your position (0.1 of a second compared to every 0.2). I have not had chance to compare these yet.