In-Depth Look at Pioneer Crank-Based Power Measurement Cycling Computer

Electronics giant Pioneer has unveiled their Cyclocomputer, a crank-based power meter and transmitter with a well featured computer.

The key selling point for the system is that it offers true left-and-right individual measurements, which are displayed with a very cool double circle graphic on the computer’s screen. Making sure it’s useful beyond power, it integrates GPS, altitude and a bevy of other features that are all but required these days.

The SGY-PM900 Pedaling Motion Sensor uses independent strain gauge sensors on both crank arms with an ANT+ transmitter placed between the chainrings. It’s able to detect not just force, but the direction of the force and pedaling efficiency, all of which is displayed in real time on the screen. As a training aid, we haven’t seen much else like this.

So what makes it special? Force Vectors…

Pioneer Cyclocomputer power meter crankset system

Dave Bales, Pioneer’s Marketing & Product Planning Manager, says the product came about as a last minute decision to include it in a focus group. Originally, we were planning on presenting only computers in the $500 to $800 range, something along the lines of Garmin’s units. On a whim, they decided to show a dual sensor power system and people got so excited about it, they just had to pursue it.

“We have many cycling enthusiasts at the company and have been looking for a way in. This provides us a window of opportunity, and we could use our electronics experience to do something special.”

The devices measure “force vectors” that are shown as a 360º representation of your pedal stroke, showing where you’re adding or losing power. And, it’s measuring each leg independently in more ways than one.

Lines show the direction of force applied to the pedals, with red indicating force that’s helpful and blue, well, not so much (could be the weight of your leg, etc.)

The unseen part of the system is the bottom bracket. They’ve partnered with Sugino to build BB’s in BB30, PFBB30, BB86 and HollowTech standards. They’ll offer standard and ceramic bearing options. The key to this part is the magnet ring on both sides that captures crank rotation and flex in a radial nature. This lets them measure horizontal flex from left to right, showing pedaling technique -whether you’re kicking in or out- as well as cadence.

While it’s shown in the videos with zip ties, they’re not required for the strain gauges, which are bonded onto the arms like those from Stages Cycling. They will still be used to hold the transmitter to the spider. The difference is that Pioneer will certify retailers to install the system rather than require your crankset to be sent in. The trick to the accuracy is, obviously, that the gauges be placed in exactly the right spot. Dealers will have molds that hold the arms and place the gauge in the correct spot. Because of this, they’ll be launching with support for Shimano’s 6-, 7- and 9- thousand series cranks, with more likely to follow. The left side strain gauge sends its signal to the right side, which is connected to the transmitter with a small wire. That piece sends the combined data to the Cyclocomputer.

Claimed weight is just 70g and it has a +/-2% accuracy. It has a claimed 200 hour runtime, but, yes, you’ll need to put CR2032 batteries in both sides at the crank. The computer, which runs on Android, has an internal USB-rechargeable Li-Ion battery that’s good for about 12 hours. Another nice bit is that if one piece goes bad, you’re not replacing the each strain gauge and transmitter, only the part that’s bad.

All data can be uploaded to their own online service for analysis, and they’re well aware that most riders will want to upload their data elsewhere, and they’ll have plugins to send ride data to Strava and Training Peaks as well as export info to standard fit files. Bales says the basic info will be able to be sent to pretty much any website. However, they’re capturing almost 200 metrics in the equipment, and the only way to really dive into that is through their portal.

The flip side is their equipment can send data to any ANT+ computer, but you’ll only be able to see the information that computer is capable of displaying.

The products have been tested under upstart Blanco pro cycling team (formed from the ashes of Rabobank), who’ve made a little video about it:

Both price and availability are still TBD, but it’ll likely be between $2,000 and $2,500 at retail for the system. Bales says they’re still in testing and development, and the Blanco team is a big part of that. That’s why they sent their own people in to install it on the team bikes, and they’re monitoring it closely.

“We’re very excited about this,” said Bales. “But I can’t say we’re in any hurry. We want to do it right.”

And with that, Bales hinted there’s plenty more that they’re not ready to reveal yet.

Comments

futurefunk - 03/21/13 - 12:31pm

I’ll never buy one (cost and no reason to as a recreational cyclist) but the being able to measure your left and right pedal stroke separately is a pretty cool idea.

Sevo - 03/21/13 - 12:35pm

FutureFunk-Actually I’d argue that the market has had recreational cyclists looking at what’s important (carbon frames and high end parts) mis directed based off $$$ those said industries push/have at stake.

Start with any power meter (SRM is still the best/most durable, but others will do the trick) then buy a cheap no name aluminum frame or steel. Then go 105. Build out with no name parts otherwise. But if you have cash to spare buy a really nice set of wheels. In the end….for the money…. a powermeter and nice wheels will have far more benefit to you than fancy frames or components. You’ll become a damn fast rider too.

Champs - 03/21/13 - 12:50pm

Most—perhaps all—new power meters seem to fail in one critical category: shipping a product. I’m not holding my breath.

Rob - 03/21/13 - 1:00pm

My money’s still on Brim Brothers and their Zone. That said I appreciate what pioneer have done, their system looks well integrated. An improvement over what Sage has been doing with system.

fred zeppelin - 03/21/13 - 1:34pm

Shark fin!

Fredrick - 03/21/13 - 1:45pm

this looks sick.
unlike SRM and Quarq and other powermeters that use the spider to measure at this system it looks like you can change chainring sizes, such as from road to cyclo cross rings, and still use that same dura ace 9000 crank.

This is a big step in the right direction for people to train with power on more than one bike with the same powermeter.

The display also looks much more user friendly than a garmin too!

spiper - 03/21/13 - 3:11pm

All I care about is the quadraphonic sound quality that I’ve come to expect from their long lineage of cycling gear.

Chris - 03/21/13 - 3:22pm

@Fredrick, actually the new 9000 DA SRM model will be the same BCD for all applications (110bcd) which is the same as the new DA 9000 crankset. You can run a 53/39 or 50/34, or when they are available, the 46/36 options for CX all on the same crank system. The SRM will function the same – and as I have seen from my experience using a number of different brands, you get what you pay for – and SRM’s always work no matter the weather conditions or temperatures. I swap mine from road bike to TT bike quite regularly! I’ve been rocking my 7900 model SRM since 2010 and still on the same battery after over 16,500 miles! I went from Cat 4 to Cat 2 in my first season training with power – amazing product!

Seems like all the new players in the power market promise tons of new features, but never get them to be dependable, or even to the point where you can buy one! I guess there is a reason certain companies have their reputations!

Nick - 03/21/13 - 6:51pm

I’d buy one to use with a Garmin.

Poser Patrol - 03/21/13 - 7:34pm

Damn straight fred zeppelin! Have not seen a shark fin in decades!–and on a road bike?!

spokejunky - 03/21/13 - 7:40pm

It’ll be interesting to see the v2 of this product. It seems like they are dogfooding it right now with the engineers onsite and only configuring it for Shimano.

FM - 03/21/13 - 9:32pm

Can someone explain to me why knowing L/R power matters? I know I favor the left leg with 55% of overall power when in Z2 but it switches to favoring the right when at FTP. Does this matter? I don’t think so but maybe someone knows better than me.

The power around the pedal stroke is kind of cool. Would be nice to know what happens when raising saddle/pointing toes vs. lowering saddle/dropping heels or climbing standing or sitting. Also, if making your pedal stroke smoother actually makes you faster or will your small muscle groups just wear out quicker.

spokejunky - 03/22/13 - 10:01am

@FM Primarily an accuracy question. If you have strain gauges/accelerometers on one crank and create an algorithm to estimate left side numbers, then is a single side estimate more accurate than having hard numbers on both the left and right side? Other things can be drawn as well, such as do you have asymmetric leg lengths; do you have pronation on one side; etc.

jeff - 03/22/13 - 6:35pm

Looks innovative. Hope I can get one for my racing tandem since there is a lack of power measuring devices for it.

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