Cycling innovation has long been a paradox , where the basic machine still has 2 wheels , brakes , handlebars and a saddle but each year some new piece of kit comes along that takes the simple bicycle further into the 21st century . We now can have electronic fly by wire gears . Carbon fibre , titanium , Kevlar , all materials found on Formula 1 cars and Space shuttles are now commonplace on bicycles . Bike computers started out as very basic digital time , distance and speed measurement tools made by companies such as Cat Eye and Avocet but now can give readings such as Heart rate , Power wattage output and GPS positioning . The Avocet bike computer has been consigned to the history books but Cat Eye are still a big player in the low to mid range section of the market .
For a few years Polar became the number 1 bike measurement tool for speed , distance and heart rate , but more recently Garmin seem to have overtaken them with their devices which give all of the above plus a great range of GPS features .
Up to about 5 years ago Power measurement was the tool of professionals alone but in recent times SRM and Powertap devices have become almost common amongst amateur racers . Sram have the quarq chainset which works well with the Garmin devices and falls between the other 2 in price . Polar and Look have also just launched a pedal which will give power readings .
Now it seems to be the turn of the leisure or sportif cyclist to turn to power measurement and this is opening up another market completely . Whilst many leisure riders may be slightly older and have more disposable income they still want good value for money . The power measurement tool is interesting to them and many feel that it can make their training time more efficient , but they do not need the accuracy to test the difference between 2 different sets of wheels or 2 different aero helmets .
Recently I came across a company in Florida making a power meter which works off the principle that ‘Every action has an equal and opposite reaction'(Newtons Law) . Their product can measure power by taking all variables such as wind speed , elevation and gradient among many others to determine the power output of a cyclist . Because their product does not need a special chainset or rear wheel hub it may be a more affordable and convenient method of gauging power .The ibike really is a very interesting piece of kit .
The fact that they also have a product which combines an iphone and a bike computer with all measurements including power really caught my attention so I ordered one just before Christmas and here is how I got on .
The package arrived quickly from the States and was very easy to install . I just had to change the stem cap , enter a few calibration settings , all of which are explained on easy to follow youtube clips and do a short calibration ride. Total set up time was about 15 mins .
The size of the unit takes a bit of getting used to . I used to think that my Garmin 705 was big but this is a good bit bigger . Given that it is a hard shell waterproof case for the iphone but with room for a spare battery I guess it has to be this big .
First spin out and I found that I was constantly looking down at the screen . The amount of information available is HUGE .Whatever reading you want is there but some such as temperature I have found are not very accurate . Speed , heart rate , distance , cadence when it works are all spot on. Power seems to be much the same as the powertap guy beside me and GPS mapping works well too .
My first serious test of the ibike dash came between Christmas and New Year . Every morning the group were out in all weathers and I found that a device made in Florida has its limitations in Ireland .
On the really wet cold and windy spins the wind sensor seemed to decide to hibernate . Power began to read 0 to 45 or 55 and wind speed just matched current road speed . On foggy mornings the sensor also decided to retreat and gave unpredictable readings .
It must be said , however that speed , heart rate , distance all functioned perfectly at all times , and on only one occasion did the google maps download of the spin show that I arrived home ‘as the crow flies’ . Since then it has worked perfectly in windy wet conditions without cold , or on cold dry days too .
The cadence sensor worked perfectly for a while , which had me convinced that Garmin should get in touch with the guys in iBike as the Garmin speed / cadence sensors are constantly acting up , but then about 2 weeks ago it decided to stop working . The speed sensor still works perfectly , but the cadence part which it is attached to just decided to stop and no amount of magnet or sensor movement can entice it back to life .
One great thing about the iBike dash is the way it works on a turbo trainer . You just input your make and model of trainer and what resistance setting you are using and it gives you speed , distance and power readings , which dramatically improves the whole monotonous experience of using a home trainer .
I also purchased a pair of Sony bluetooth in ear headphones . This enables me to listen to music on the move and to make or receive calls whilst out on the bike . It also works with the voice activation so is almost the same set up as the car .
Just like almost every cyclist that I know , whenever I head out for a spin I always bring my mobile phone with me , so by integrating my phone and bike computer and ipod , I now have my all in one solution .
Having been spoilt by the garmin connect website and software I found the ibike download software a bit basic , with good information but dated looking . However I have found Golden Cheetah to be the answer and really like the way it imparts the huge amount of info available form the ibike dash .
So , overall do I love it or hate it ? I love it . It has its flaws but the overall package is fantastic .
For more details see www.ibikesports.com
here is a clip from yesterday showing the unit in use :