Someone’s listening!

Interbike is always interesting with all the forward-thinking cycling minds converging in the Nevada desert.  Such a bikefest, yet I’ve never been there….hmmmm….

Anyway – my ear is always to the ground listening for the latest and greatest from the cycling industry.  I must admit that power meters are an area where I’m most interested.  The physiological side of cycling (and maximizing it) is king in my book, and for cycling, there is no better tool than a power meter to guide one’s training and performance analysis.

The flip side of power meters is complexity.  Generally speaking, they are a pain the ass for mountain bikers.  We are faced with the dilemna of “which bike” to set up with power, the MTB or road bike?  I have 8 bikes  now, not just two – some 26″ mtbs, a 29er mtb, and a couple of road bikes.  Some of the mtbs are disc brake only in the rear, meaning the PT is a no go – and I’ve already got 3 of them.  Then add the hassle of keeping the wiring harnesses working on the bikes that will accept the PT and it gets even worse…Getting the picture?   PITA.

Enter MicroSport Technologies.  They’ve come up with a perfect solution to my nightmare – they’ve been listening!  For a number of years I’ve periodically tossed out the notion that it would be great if some enterprising inventor would develop a power meter based on either force actuated pedals or shoe insoles.  Now I have no clue if MicroSport actually heard my ramblings, but hey, they’ve gone and done the latter, the magic slippers of power meters. 

It’s a very simple system:  force measuring insoles; a 2.4 GHz wireless transmitter that clips to the shoe; bike computer.  I’d assume there is also a speed sensor in there somewhere, but it doesn’t appear to be listed.  The product literature does say that it is compatible with 2.4 GHz ANT compatible hardware/sensors – the Polar comes to mind there, but cross-manufacturer compatibility? 

They did a bit of homework to figure out the forces a rider puts on the pedals in 3 different modes – seated, low cadence seated, and standing.  Below is a graphic representation of how the results of one of these cases might appear.  The dotted line represents the crank, the straight line at the end is the pedal orientation, and the arrow shows the direction the force is applied while the length indicates the relative magnitued.  

This is key to the design since the normal force at the pedal is required to calculate power.  Supposedly the algorithm can detect when the rider is in any of the 3 positions and uses that specific known relationship.

The end result?  They claim +\- 5% accuracy, and +\- 2% repeatability.  It’s completely electronic – no hubs or bbs to wear out, no equipment changes, and works in any condition (completely wireless).

Cost?  Well…pre-order now and it’s $500.  I have…and no, I have zero affiliation with these folks.  But this is the coolest thing to come out of interbike in a long time.  It’s not a novel *idea*, but to implement and market it – I am so impressed, and pretty excited too.  It would mean the end of TSS estimation and will probably be the lightest PM on the market to boot.

On the flip side, the wattage listers poo poo’d it pretty hard, mostly because when sprinting you do lift up on the pedals, and this upward force can’t be measured by this system.  If you want hard numbers for sprint workouts, thats a good reason to go with the other PMs…but for me?  I only sprint out of the saddle when chased by dogs.

They are not yet ready to ship the units, but when they do, I’ll give it a thorough testing, comparing with the power tap ala Robert Chungs Rosetta Stone files and post findings here.  Until then I’ll just keep swapping out my wheels ;)