Opinion – Units

Nightmare. NIGHTMARE.

Computers, in case you hadn’t noticed, are capable of a great many things. They automate so that we don’t need to do things ourselves. Like little servants, they are supposed to do what we need them to, in the way we would like them to.

Watches are little computers…

So, why am I upset this time? I know, it happens a lot on this blog. I’m a natural moaner. Well, it’s simple really, a while ago I moved to Garmin devices because I like cycling and they have good bike computers. I changed my watch too because I like consistency (OCD says the doc…). I have been loudly and publicly complaining and bashing Garmin for years over units.

Here in Europe we use metric. Over in the US you use imperial, or something close to it. Here in Britain…well let’s just say we’re special. We like miles and metres, stones and kilos. But we’re not talking about borders here, or laws, or anything of the sort. We’re talking sports. Runners like to run a 5k or a 10k but they also LOVE to run a marathon of 26 miles(ish). Cyclists like to do a 100 miler but when the tour is on we love to watch Cavendish at 78kph in a sprint to the Champs Elysee.

All I want, dear reader, is to run in KM and cycle in Miles. I want elevation in metres and temperature in degrees Celsius. Sometimes, I want to run in Miles though. It’s a computer. It literally works this stuff out on the fly.

So, the state of the nation after buying some new toys with my hard earned cash? After berating Garmin?

Suunto – one setting for imperial or metric centrally
Polar – one setting for imperial or metric centrally
Garmin – various settings for imperial and metric of various types for different uses, set centrally


None of them allow sport specific units. HOW HARD CAN IT BE?!


  1. Have you tried the opposite units data fields from Connect IQ? There’s ones for most types of metrics.


    • Thanks, although given how easy this should be this shouldn’t be necessary! We could just have a setting per activity type for units, how hard is that?

  2. I suspect the software/firmware aspect is trivial, the product documentation slightly more cumbersome, and the support line burden the actual deciding factor.

    The amount of time spent working through negative feedback from customers that didn’t understand their own unit selection across activities may be worse than the pleas from advanced users that are comfortable with complexity.

    That being said, I would not only use both a “speed” and a “pace” field side by side, but also a “miles” and “kilometers” field for distance side by side as well. I only rarely pretend to enjoy running but know enough runners that speaking their language is useful.

  3. I’m almost a metric convert.

    but i agree it would be nice to specificy EXACLTY what to use across sports and differnt types of training/racing. not sure i’d pay for the privilege tho.

    • It shouldn’t be a case of paying for the privelege though. The devices all convert the units on the fly anyway regardless of your choice, so there is literally no reason this can’t be done and done very easily.

  4. Another silly pet peeve I recently rediscovered was adding shoes to track mileage(kilometrage) in Garmin Connect as well as Strava.
    Why did nobody invent a VERY SIMPLE field where you can input how many miles/km you’ve already done on those shoes?

    Now, when I switch platforms, I have to buy new shoes.

    • I thought Strava allowed that in the past but you’re right it’s not there. Now I feel peeved too!

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