iBike Newton Revisited

iBike Newton

iBike Newton Power Meter

It has been several months since I started using the Newton from Velocomp and it has become an essential tool for me. I thought it’s time to revisit my decision to buy the Newton.

First of all, I just love the unit! I ride everywhere with it even on social rides. It does almost everything that I would want on a bike computer; easy to ready screen, power, temperature, wind speed, hill grade, heart-rate, speed and cadence. The only thing it does not do is GPS, Bluetooth or WiFi. You cannot directly export your ride to your favorite sites such as Strava or Traning Peaks since there is no GPS data in it.

There is a work around for the no GPS data. The Issac software, that you use for the Newton, can output the data-file into a format that Training Peaks can read.

For Strava or any other site there is a firmware upgrade that you can purchase that will enable the power output to be paired up with any ANT+ compatible reader. In my case, I have it paired up to my iPhone and the Strava App (works with Cyclemeter and Wahoo Fitness too). You will need to get the ANT+ dongle from Wahoo to make this happen. I already had it, so it wasn’t a problem for me. I use my iPhone to record the ride (and post it after the ride) and the Newton to visually see what is going on. If I don’t care about uploading the ride, then I skip the iPhone pairing and just ride.

I’ve been exploring some bike forums and I often run across a thread talking about power meters and what to use. I’ve noticed that if any one mentions the iBike Newton as a possible unit to purchase, others dismiss it as a “pretend” power meter or that it’s “cheap” or “guesses the power”. These people have no clue as to what they are talking about or really do not understand the physics behind the technology. Occasionally, a more knowledgeable user would chime in and set them straight.

Accuracy

What the Newton does is measures the opposing forces you encounter while cycling. This includes head/tail wind, speed, slope (going uphill, flat or downhill), drag coefficient and computes the power you are exerting. The unit comes with its own advanced and sensitive accelerometers, temperature and wind sensors. Combine that with the speed and cadence sensors, your height, weight, bike info and other factors, it has everything it needs to run through the algorithms and come up with an accurate power reading, 16 times per second! There is no “guessing” as one forum member put it.  With any power meter, including DFPM there is a certain amount of sampling and calculations that has to be performed to come up with a power number. There is no way around computations. But don’t worry, that’s what computers are for!

When properly calibrated, the Newton accuracy is rated be +- 2%. That is on par with other power meters. Anyone interested in the Newton really should check out their website at iBikeSports. They have a bike ride with a side-by-side comparison of the Newton and a DFPM. It’s hard to tell the difference between the two! They also have a great support forum where you can research questions concerning the Newton and any of their products. It is there where you will find valuable information on just how good the product is. Sure you will find problems too, but any product will have problems.

Third party reviews are important to look for, so here is one that I found from Cycling Power Labs. It’s a great article on the Newton and how the technology works. Give it a read. Bicycle.net also has a review of the Newton as well as performing head-to-head comparisons of a Newton and a DFPM on the same bike and same ride showing that there was virtually no difference between them.

Something else that I ran across, ZUUUM Club Cycling also uses the Newton in their training program. You can buy a Newton from them or rent one! I never ran across someone renting bike equipment before, but there is always the first time. They are not the only ones using the Newton as their power meter, Velocoaching is doing the same. Acceptance is growing and the “Nay Sayers” are falling to the wayside.

Calibration

One of the complaints about the Newton was that calibration was a tedious process. I have to admit that it was. It wasn’t too bad, but still a little time-consuming. Well, all that has changed. With the miracle of firmware updates, calibration is a simple five-minute ride out, turn around and ride back. How simple is that! Just start the calibration process, ride out (there is a 5-minute count down timer built-in) and at the five-minute mark turn around and ride the same route back. The trip odometer counts up the miles on the first half, then counts backwards to zero on the trip back. That’s it. A quick confirmation indicates that the process is done. You can ride at your own pace and you can even stop if you have too (stop signs, stop signals, etc.). Couldn’t be simpler than that.

Once calibration is done, you will not have to do another one until something has changed on the bike. For example, if you change out tires to that of a different characteristic then you should recalibrate. If you lost a significant amount of weight (hopefully you’re not gaining weight) do a recalibration. If you have the Newton mounted on the handlebar, then every time you change the position of the handlebar then do a recalibration (usually not a big deal).

In my case, I switched the handlebars on my bike and went through all the tweaking one does with a new handlebar. Once I was satisfied with the position of the bar, I then calibrated my Newton on a five-minute ride.

One other thing is that the calibration is preset for a person of a certain height and weight. You would want to tune it some more with the Issac software and enter your weight, height, type of bike, tires and position on the bike. Once done, just push it to the Newton.

Profiles

One of the great features of the Newton is the ability to setup profiles for either different bikes or different bike configurations. Just do a calibration for each profile and now if you switch bikes or change the training tires to racing, switch the profile and your ready to go. I do that when I ride my Sirrus and switch to the Roubaix.

Issac

The Newton is not an iPhone or has a nice pretty graphical touch screen like many smart phones. Nor does it have WiFi or a cellular connection to post your ride on-line. That’s where Issac comes into play. Issac is the software that runs on a Windows or Mac PC that connects and downloads your ride files. It is from Issac that you can analyze your ride, take notes and post on-line. It supports Strava and Training Peaks as well a generating various datafiles to upload to your favorite site (providing that you have GPS data).

It is from Issac that you can check for firmware updates for your Newton and push it out to the device. You can also use Issac to purchase firmware upgrades such as the GT Upgrade, Powerstroke or the Newton Tracker. Check their website for a complete list of upgrades that are available.

There is a whole slew of functions that can be done with the Issac software that I haven’t begun to master. There are several videos at the iBikeSport website, give them a view for more details.

Intervals

One of the basic things that I’ve learned to enjoy doing are intervals. I started doing them when I was using the iBike Powerhouse system. Switching to the Newton built-in intervals has been a different experience for me. On the Powerhouse system, the interval segments were shorter in length which means it felt faster paced, but on the Newton, the intervals are longer. Now, I stay at a segment for about ten minutes before I switch. That’s fine, I’ll have to adjust to the difference. It’s probably good for me too.

If the built-in intervals are not to your liking, you can create your own with the Issac software and push it to the Newton. The only draw back is that you can have only one custom interval. Kinda of a bummer because I would like to have a whole set to choose from on the device with out having to connect to the PC and download it.

Final Thoughts

As part of the evolution that cyclists go though, cycling with power is a big step for many. The Newton power meter helps bring the cyclist up to the next level of cycling with out breaking the bank. It comes with the Newton, mounting bracket, ANT+ speed and cadence sensors and the Quick Start instructions. after installing everything you can get it calibrated in five minutes and you can start your new experience in training with power. Weather you are cycling for weight-loss, fitness, club rider or higher, expect a learning curve in training with power. To some, the curve is simple and intuitive while others may find it difficult to understand and may need additional help.

I used to love using my iPhone as my bike computer. Didn’t matter which app I was using it was fun to do and the ability to post your ride file afterwards was a big plus for me. The down side is that during mid-day rides the screen would get washed out from the sun. As a result I couldn’t read anything and was riding blind. With the Newton, the screen is easy to read in any kind of weather and its water proof too! The down side is that there is no back lite, so at night I can’t read the screen. I’ll figure out something with LED’s to take care of that problem. Other than that, it has been a reliable unit for me with excellent battery life (I charge it once per week via USB).

It does store all your rides that you have done with it and you will need to dump the rides via the Issac software. If you don’t, the memory will fill up and stop recording.

One final thought, calories burned on the ride. Without a way to measure the power you are working at, there is really no accurate way to figure out the calories burned. Devices and Apps vary widely in there estimates and are useless. Sometimes I hear one of my friends chime-in that they burned 1600 calories on that 20-mile ride. They are all happy about that and plug that value into MyFitnessPal and think they got all of these extra calories to consume. I check my Newton to see what it says and I keep quiet. I don’t want to rain on their parade.

Other than what I have mentioned, I would definitely recommend this to any of my friends. I would recommend it as long as they are willing to put in the time to learn to cycle with a power meter. If they are not willing to do that, then I would recommend an App on the iPhone (if they have one) or a good bike computer. They need more time in the oven cooking.

Drop me a comment if you are interested in the Newton system and I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

It All Ties Together

Nothing all that new to report, but here are a few tidbits.

My new bike (Robaix) is doing fine. I already did several 30 and 40+ mile rides over the past few weekends and report no problems. I feel that I can go further and I know I will. The new Salsa skewers that I bought came in and they look nice on the bike. I hated the originals.

With Conquer the Coast coming up this month I feel that I’m ready to do the 65-mile tour. My first in many, many moons.

With these longer rides comes along with more calories spent. In my last 44-mile ride, the iBike Newton reported 1063 calories expended. The Newton being power based, the burned calories are very accurate.

With the more calories burnt, means greater weight loss (providing I don’t down half a pizza when I get home). Combine that with a protein drink for lunch every other day and you got some weight loss going on! 🙂

The lighter I am, the easier it will be for me to do the 65-mile ride at the Conquer the Coast event in Corpus Christi, Texas.

As I said, it all ties in.