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Old 04-06-04, 11:19 PM   #1
mshadow
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PC Coach - Has anyone used?

Has anyone used the PC Coach program by Biometrics? It is a computer based training program developed by Edmund Burke and interfaces with the Polar 720 HR monitors....

http://www.pccoach.com/products/software/plan_cycl.htm

I am just getting back into cycling after a 10 yr hiatus and was looking for some training programs other than just go ride a certain distance, etc. but I am not sure that I want to take the plunge yet into a coach.....

Thoughts and opinons?

Mike
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Old 04-07-04, 04:04 PM   #2
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I have the cycling specific version of PC Coach, but was not very impressed.

As a "coach" it's OK, but mostly common sense (start out slow, increase mileage, add some intervals). I think you can glean most of the same thing from training books (e.g., Carmichael's, Friel's, etc.). If you need a very structured training plan to motivate you, it might be OK.

As a "training diary" it lacks a lot. For instance, it is not at all easy to tell how many miles you've ridden each week or month. It does not track distance/time by bike (i.e., if you use more than one bike, all of your training gets lumped together). It also does not track bicycle maintenance.

As software, PC Coach suffers from a very clunky, hard-to-use interface. Worse, your ride data is locked into their propietary data format - there is no option to export your data out of the program (to Excel, for instance). And, it is pretty pricey (around $70, I think).

After searching for some time for a decent training log/diary, I decided to create my own. Called "CycliStats", I think it's pretty good (it is not, however, a "coach"). You can try it for free for 45 days, by downloading it from my web site : http://www.CycliStats.com.

Last edited by SSP; 04-07-04 at 04:10 PM.
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Old 04-27-04, 11:53 AM   #3
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I am just starting to use PC Coach Elite. I opted not to spend the extra money on the "coach." It may have saved me some time though. I'm new to cycling and am training for MN Red Ribbon Ride. There's already training tips, schedules, and rides posted on that site that I decided to use them instead of PC Coach's "coach" software. My guess was that it was going to tell me to start slow, increase x% a week, and taper off near the end.

SSP is right about a couple of things. The data is locked in their proprietary format and the interface is clunky.

Their definition of a "report" is usually a graph. Sometimes I'd like to see data in a report and so I could numerically see a percentage increase or decrease instead of graphically.

A few things off the top of my head.

1. If you purchase using the download, you do not get an executable file!! You get an executable key and must install the software from their website. I find this bad practice. What if my hard drive crashes. I don't have the executable unless I pay them an extra $15 for a CD. It costs them nothing to let me download the file. Maybe it's their poor way of preventing piracy. It's aggrevating.

2. You cannot view how many miles are scheduled or remaining in a self-created plan. (I don't know if it's possible if you buy their Cycling Plan. I'd send them an e-mail and ask.) I'd like to know this information to determine how far along in training I am. For instance, if I create a plan that says I must ride 1000 training miles, I'd like to know if I've ridden 250, 500, 999, or 1200. I haven't found a way to show this yet.

3. The "Planner" only shows intensity zones (intensity based an your heart rate -- you configure this). It does not show how many miles a planned ride is. Even on the Overview of a completed ride you cannot see how many miles a ride was. You have to either open that specific workout or run a report (i.e., graph).

4. You cannot uninstall the program. There isn't a shortcut installed with the software that allows you to uninstall it. Additionally, you cannot uninstall it from Add/Remove Programs. If you try it relaunches the Installer, but you can't install the software because the executable is on their website and not on your computer.

5. Their online help is OK. Much better than the online help in PC Coach Lite -- thankfully.

6. There are no tooltips. Tooltips would be especially helpful for the cryptic buttons or the buttons that have a different (and standard) meaning in virtually every other Windows program I have ever used. Tooltips are sorely needed.

7. Regarding the intensity zones again. Yes, you set them, but when you run a report, you are only shown colors. You do not have any numbers associated with the different colors. Not even a legend. Again, a usuability issue.

8. Creating your own plan is difficult. They even acknowledge this fact in their online help, which makes me think it is their way of trying to get extra revenue.

9. If you import data from one machine to another (e.g., home/work), when importing it creates a duplicate(!) of the workout instead of realizing that the workout has already been defined! Use the Remote Coaching feature judiciously!!

10. You can create custom workouts, but you have to use their Workout Editor, which if you are not technically-inclined will probably be too hard to use. And if you are new to the program, you will likely struggle with it, too. I work with high-tech software all day and had used the PC Coach Lite for two months so I was able to figure it out, but even that took me some doing. Finally, the Workout Editor has some usability issues (cannot delete a row, hard to find existing workouts to modify, not clear if you can insert a row inbetween others, and more). The upside: the online help in this area is fairly decent.

11. As mentioned by SSP, you cannot export data.

12. There are other usability concerns that I won't mention here, but I provide this as a line because there are enough of them to warrant knowing that although this is version 4.0, the interface is something I would expect from a 2.0.

As I said I've only begun to use PC Coach Elite (after two months of using PC Coach Lite). I'll post my reactions after using it awhile longer.
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Old 05-13-04, 03:05 PM   #4
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All right, I've kicked the tires a bit more on PC Coach. I spent nearly 24 hours trying to create my own "workout plan." I tried following the documentation, but the documentation was outdated as it was written for an older version of the software and hasn't been updated to reflect the new layout. That was a significant time suck. Trying to find things that had been moved AND renamed!

But, I did get it to work. I do have a plan. I am using it. Was it worth my 24 hours of fumbling around the user interface worth it? Probably not. I should have spent the $30 for the cycling plan and called it a day. Lesson learned. I wish that there was a partially functional version of the plans, so you could see what you're getting. If I had had that opportunity, I might have plopped down the cash -- and mshadow probably wouldn't have posted the question.

So, if you are interested in PC Coach, it's OK, but not great. I don't know what else is out there (beyond CycliStats), so I can't say if anything else is better and will import data automatically from my Polar S510 HRM. And that's really a key feature for me! I want to be able to download the data from my HRM into the software. (I don't know if the API or protocol for SonicLink or IR is available from Polar or not.)

I found a bug in 4.0.5 and reported it and it was fixed in 4.0.6, which was released yesterday.

I've noticed a couple other anomolies with my data, specifically relating to speed. I had a max speed of 238499.81 mph on my last ride and an average of 56024.96. I guess I chose the wrong career! I have also noticed that my trip mileage doesn't match up with my lap & interval mileage (trip mileage is less than lap/interval). I'm waiting for responses from Biometrics. I don't know if these issues are PC Coach-related, Polar HRM-related, or user-related.

That's all. I hope this information helps you make a decision. And these comments only apply to PC Coach Light 3.5 (free with Polar S510 HRM), PC Coach Elite 4.0.5/6. If you're considering a different version, all bets are off -- it just may be better.
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Old 05-18-04, 02:24 PM   #5
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For those wondering about customer support... While Biometrics worked with me to fix one problem, they're not very responsive. Four business days ago I sent Biometrics an e-mail message with two questions. I have since followed up with additional information to them. I have not yet received a reply to any of my e-mail messages--not even a "yep, we're looking into it" type of message. This is not spectacular (or even mediocre) customer service.
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Old 05-21-04, 10:52 AM   #6
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I have had no problem with PC Coach. I don't think there is any computer plan out there that is going to replace a one on one coach. But than comes the price of hiring a coach and finding the right one.
I have gone to the Training bible.com to try there system out and thats works find also.

If your going to do touring rides there are lots of excellent riders out there that can help you.
If your going to really get into it, a coach is the way to go until you know your body and it's strong points and weakness's
Happy Cycling !
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Old 07-27-05, 04:19 AM   #7
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I'm looking also for a "cycling coach" but has anyone tried the ? Polar Cycling Coach
Can I compare this with the pc coach?

Regards,
Marcel
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