Even though 2016 has been a slow year for cycling (see my previous write up, Getting Back to Business in a Slow Year), I did do some upgrades to the bike earlier this year. I was in the market for a new power meter and I decided to go with the PowerTap C1. Besides the new power meter, I’ve been checking out the Wahoo Elemnt and waiting for it to become available for sale. The specs look great and looked to be just what I needed (or wanted). Finally it became available on-line, so I dropped some plastic on it and had it delivered.
I may have talked about this power meter before but I’ll go over it again anyways (see Things to Come). After my last Conquer the Coast ride, my previous power meter failed on me on the harsh chip seal roads of the Corpus Christi area. It only came to life over the smooth sections of the route, but that vast majority it didn’t work because of the mount I was using and the excessive vibrations. What’s the big deal you ask? Well, if you do all of your training by power you become dependant on it on the long rides to pace myself. The last thing I want to do is to blow out your legs early in the ride. You gotta make your legs last till you make it back to the finish line.
What I should have done is establish the intensity zones with heart rate as a backup system and ride using the heart rate as a guide. Either way, I made it back but I was struggling. I had to force myself to slow down and conserve my energy but in the meantime I wanted to stay ahead of certain cyclists. It’s that competitive spirit that we all have. I knew then that a new power meter was in order.
Knowing that I wanted a new power meter gave me an incentive to research the options and price points. To help narrow the list I excluded any of the built-in pedal types. They are both expensive and require me changing my shoes to the kind I don’t like. I love my mountain bike shoes and the ability to walk normally off the bike.
Then there are the power meter like the Stages, PowerBeat and 4iii. While they are at a good price point they measure the output of a single leg. This might be a personal preference, but to me I’d rather stick with the whole power measurements and not worry about left only or left/right combo. Seems like more problems to deal with.
Looking at DC Rainmaker’s list, I narrowed my list to the PowerTap system. I just had to decide the Hub or the Chainring (C1). I figured the Hub version would take longer to install and/or cause problems since the wheel would have to rebuilt. With that in mind I ordered the C1 unit and had my local bike shop (Bicycle World RGV) install it for me.
With over a thousand miles on the C1 I can say that I made a good decision. At the 1087 mile mark the unit started to get erratic with my bike computer. The output would all of a sudden drop out and after a few minutes it would then reappear. As the days went along the problem got worse until I couldn’t pair up the C1 with my bike computer. The only thing I could do was to change the battery with a new one and see what happens. Ten minutes later and it paired up again. Two days later it dropped out. Bummer 🙁
An email to tech support got a new C1 mailed to me. All I had to do was to replace it and send the old one back with the enclosed shipping label. When it arrived, my bike shop had it installed in less than thirty minutes! I now have over 200 miles on the new system and it’s working perfectly.
Some observations on the C1 unit. The power meter is set it and forget it. You only need to calibrate once and that’s it. There are no settings, switches or buttons to mess with. Changing the battery is easy but you have to be careful putting the cover back on. Being sloppy when installing the battery cover can lead pinching the gasket or worse cutting it in half. I got it right once, but messed it up when I replaced the battery a third time to troubleshoot the problem I had and ended up tearing it. To me, placing the gasket as part of the cover would have been a better method. Perhaps that was tried out first and it didn’t work out. In any case, changing the battery is not something one does often.
I still think I made a good decision on the PowerTap C1 power meter.
My other major change is the switch from my Magellan Cyclo 505c to the Wahoo Fitness Elemnt bike computer. The Magellan unit is a great bike computer that I really like but the new Elemnt is way better. The software development cycle alone shows that Wahoo is serious in squashing bugs and adding enhancements. With the Magellan we had to live with bugs for at least six months before a new update is finally released. Not so with Wahoo, they are on monthly schedule for updates! Gone are the months of waiting for an update that hopefully fixes an issue.
Besides the timely updates, the Elemnt is so easy to configure the pages with the data you want to see. Forget about using the bike computer and clicking through menu after menu, what a headache! Now, you use an application on your phone to go to the page, see the current list of sensor outputs and rearrange, add/subtract as you see fit. It automatically updates the Elemnt on the spot, even if you are in the middle of a ride. Why other manufacturers haven’t thought of that is beyond me.
The Element supports ANT+ and BLE protocols and you can mix and match as needed. If your device supports both, pair it up with ANT+ first. It just works better that way. So far I got my PowerTap C1 (ANT+), Wahoo Tickr (BLE), Shimano Di2 (ANT+) and the basic speed/Cadence combo (ANT+) all hooked up and working fine.
That wasn’t the case last month when the Elemnt began dropping sensor readings in the middle of the ride. My power readings would just blank out for a few seconds then it would reconnect and start working again. Same thing for all the other sensors. This was also the same period that my power meter failed so that added to the confusion. Normally, a bug like this you would have to wait for months before the manufacture came out with an update but as I said before, Wahoo is on a monthly update cycle so I didn’t have to wait long for a fix to be issued. There were a lot of moaning and groaning on the forums about this but that was put to rest with the latest update.
People are used to waiting for six months to a year for a patch to be released, so I think their first instinct is to moan and groan because they are expecting a dead product for many months to come. I think they forget about the fast turnaround on patches and have forgotten how to be patient. Then again, some people will not be happy unless the president of the company personally calls them up on the phone to discuss the issues. Oh well, can’t please everyone.
I’m happy with the Elemnt. It has tons of features such as, easy to use, easy to configure (using your phone), easy to read the display during mid-day, water resistant, good battery life (could be better though), pair it up with iPhone (Android coming soon) to display text messages and phone calls and regular monthly software updates. After a ride you can use your phone to upload the workout to your favorite site or have it use the built-in wi-fi connection. It even reminds you to charge the battery if the battery drops below a certain charge. The bike computer has so many features that it’s hard to list them out, so I encourage you to go check out the Wahoo Elemnt for full details.
One thing I want to point out, you only pair the Elemnt up to your phone when making changes to the display, performing a live feed (follow me on the map while I ride) or uploading a ride to Strava or some other site. These are the only tether to the phone, otherwise, it can run wild on its own.
So there you have it. Only two major biking equipment changes for this year. I must be slowing down or something. A new power meter and a new bike computer are the changes worth chatting about so far. Who knows what the future holds for me, but for now, I’m happy with what I got.
Drop me a line if you have questions about either item.