First Impressions: iBike Newton

iBike Newton

iBike Newton Power Meter

I am a big fan of Velocomp’s line of power meters designed around the iPhone. I’ve used the iDash + Power for over a year now and really like cycling with it, but it does have a few issues. Mainly, it’s hard to read the iPhone when the sun at mid-day. The screen just gets washed out completely. Recently, I’ve been thinking of upgrading to the iBike Newton. A stand-alone version of the power meter, no iPhone required. After ordering on Amazon and paying the $3.95 express delivery, I now have it on my bike and have already made several rides with it. This is my first impressions of the Newton power meter from Velocomp.

I am assuming you know what a power meter is and how it can help your cycling and fitness level, so I’ll skip that part of the discussion. Here is a link to an article on power meters. Take a look there to brush up on things.

The unit that I purchased is white, but also comes in black. Along with the power meter, it also comes with the speed and cadence ANT+ sensors, handlebar mount, USB cable, Isaac software (you have to download it to your PC or Mac) and a quick guide. The full manual for the both the Newton and Isaac software is available from the Help section of the Isaac software. The sensors that come with the Newton are already paired with the unit. All you have to do is install it and start riding. Since I have the iDash+Power unit, I already have the sensors and mount. So I skipped that part and mounted and paired up my existing hardware. The Newton is compatible with any ANT+ Speed/Cadence and heart-rate sensors.

Calibration

The first thing you need to do is do a calibration ride. According to the manual, all you have to do is start riding and when the unit tells you to, you turn around and ride back to the starting point. Basically an out and back ride. Turns out that my out ride is 1 mile. You can ride out further if you are not able to turn around when it tells you. You are also allowed to stop if you need to (stop signs, red lights, etc.). When you return to the starting point you are done! You can now proceed to ride. There is no wind and tilt calibration to do prior to the calibration ride.

Sounds like an easy pain-free to calibrate the unit, the thing is you need to have version 4 or higher of the firmware for the unit. Mine came shipped with version 3.x. I didn’t notice that until I started my cal ride and right off the bat it was wanting to do a Tilt Calibration. Back into the office to hook it up to the Isaac software and download the latest firmware. Once done, I went back outside and started the calibration ride. Perfect! Just like the manual says.

Isaac and Features

Earlier I mentioned the Isaac software, what is it? The Isaac software is the tool you use to analyze your rides, perform firmware updates, fine tune your profile on the Newton, upload an Interval workout and share your rides. The software was developed on a cross-platform system that enables it to work on both Windows and Mac with the same look and feel to it. It is a free download from Velocomp’s website and you will also need to download and install the USB drivers. It does have a vintage Windows 98 look and feel but other than that, it works well.

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iDash on left, Newton on right

The Newton itself is self enclosed, water tight, lite weight unit. It is smaller than the iDash unit and probably about the same size of a Garmin unit. There is a five button interface, up/down, left/right with a center button. Each of the cardinal buttons are clearly labeled with the center used as an enter or on/off button. There is no Start/Stop ride button. You just wake it up and start riding. It will auto pause if you stop and auto start when you get going again. When you are done riding plug the unit into the USB cable and use Isaac to download the ride for analysis. You have a four-hour window to start riding again and add to the trip. After four hours the trip is reset to zero. You can also reset it manually if you like.

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Size difference between the iDash and Newton

So far using the Newton has been very satisfying, I now have a quiet unit, can easily read the display during mid-day and have excellent battery life. Being able to read the unit during the sunniest times of the day is a big plus for me. With my iphone unit, the screen would wash out and would unreadable. Not much I could do about it other than to keep on riding.

Here is a top-of-my-head list of features for the Newton:

  • Long battery life
  • Small in size
  • Easy to calibrate
  • Large easy to read display
  • Accurate power readings
  • Interval training
  • Firmware upgradeable for additional features
    • Powerstroke
    • Indoor trainer
    • Pairing Newton to other devices
  • Profiles for different bikes
  • Fitness testing
  • Measures
    • Time
    • Distance
    • Speed
    • Cadence
    • Power
    • Windspeed
    • Altitude
    • Temperature

For a complete list and further details, check out Velocomp’s page on the Newton.

The Downside

There are some aspects of the Newton that I would label it as a downer. First, it’s not a GPS unit. You ride file has no GPS data, so out right off the bat you can’t export your ride to Strava, dailymile or any of your favorite training sites. With Isaac, you can post to Facebook a summary of your ride in various formats or email the ride to a coach if you have one. I understand that Training Peaks can accept the file in csv format, in which the Isaac software can export to.

There is work a round for the lack of GPS data and that’s where Isaac comes into play. You will need a second device such as iPhone with Cyclemeter (or another cycling app) to capture the GPS data. Once captured, use Isaac to merge the data file from Newton and iPhone app into a new file that has both power and GPS data. With that file, you can then export to your favorite site for all to see.

The other option is to buy the GT firmware update that allows the Newton to send the power readings live via ANT+ protocols. What does this mean? It allows devices such as a Garmin or any iPhone app (along with the ANT+ dongle) that supports power, to pair up with the Newton and get the power readings from it. It would be from that device that you would share the ride to your favorite site and not from Isaac. I’ve done this with the Strava app and it worked fine.

Another disadvantage is that there is no back light. If you train or ride at night then you will be hard pressed to read the screen. I got a few ideas to work around this, but haven’t tried anything yet.

One last thought, there is no Bluetooth connections. Many cycling sensor gear now support Bluetooth 4.0 such as heart rate monitors, speed and cadence sensors and other power meters. Although not necessary to support Bluetooth, it does proved more options to the cyclist and their current gear.

These disadvantages could very well be future enhancements. I have and others have mentioned it in their support forums.

Overall, I really like the Newton. It’s easy to calibrate, it’s accurate, easy to use, water proof, easy to read screen in sunny conditions, ability to run interval training, its long battery life and great technical support all make a compelling reason to purchase one. You can use it either outdoors or with an indoor trainer (with a firmware upgrade) making it a flexible unit. The Isaac software does a great job in helping you analyze your ride and post results with friends or a coach. The lack of a back-light, no GPS and no Bluetooth are what’s missing. No back-light is really my biggest gripe about it. Judge for yourself if you can do without those features or not.

If you have the Newton or thinking of getting it let me know. Drop me a comment and share your experience with it or questions you may have about the unit.

Update: 09/18/2013

I posted another look at the Newton which can be found here. Give it a look. I think the two combined gives a better picture of the great little power meter, the iBike Newton.

iBike Dash + Power on order

Not long ago I blogged on the new iBike Powerhouse unit and while the new product is great, I decided I needed the next model up, the iBike Dash + Power. The Powerhouse is geared to those that want to train with power readings, but do not want to go into all the jargon associated with it. They want a simple system that creates training plans, exercise with it and put it up when done. To me, I needed the info that the Dash unit provides plus the ability to export the ride data to my favorite site.

As a result, I canceled my order for the Powerhouse unit and placed an order for the iBike Dash unit instead. The unit was on back order and was told that it would be early March before the new models came in. I set my mind to hunker down and wait. Well, I just received an e-mail from Velocomp that the new units had arrived and they sent out mine. Sweet! Hopefully, it will arrive by Friday so I’ll have something to do for the weekend besides the Jalapeno 100 ride.

Anyone with this system? Can you give me some in-site as to what to expect?

iBike Powerhouse: iPhone Cycling Gadget Heaven

While doing my daily surfing on the web, I came across some news out of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. What was the news, you may ask? iBike Powerhouse from Velocomp. To me it is an iPhone cycling gadget heaven. Using your iPhone / iPod along with their software and hardware, it turns your iPhone to a powerful bike computer including power meter. Along with that you get a new case and mounting system that’s waterproof plus the ability to include an extra battery for longer ride times. All this for the price of $269.

Hard to believe that you can get a power meter system for $269 with no other hardware to install on your crank or hub. Usually some sort of power tap will cost over $1000. Well above of what the average or club cyclist can afford. After checking out their comparisons of several different power taps and their system, it seems to be very accurate. There is also a calibration step you have to do before each ride, but that’s acceptable to me. Take a look at iBike Sports FAQ section for details of the comparison and accuracy of their power meter.

For those that want to read the press release, you can find it at the PR Newswire. Drop by the PR as a lot of information is provided there.

Having not touched nor seen it with my own eyes, I can tell this is something I will definitely get as soon as it comes out. Here are some of the features that it has:

  • Supports ANT+ Bike and Heart rate sensors
  • Waterproof case
    • Case holds extra battery (sold separately)
    • Case houses ANT+ antennae
    • Case houses Power sensors
  • Software fitness plan(s) designed by cycling coach Hunter Allen (see press release for more information)
  • Software for the PC and MAC to analyze your ride and export data

What I really like about the system is the software. It takes a baseline of your current condition and creates a plan for you to follow, depending on your goals. As you progress through the plan, the software adjusts the plan depending on your progress.  It is an interval based training system where all the calculations as to how long, number of intervals and the intensity is worked out for you. All you have to do is stay with in the displayed zone. What you basically have is a coach that goes along with you on your rides. Sweet! Here is a good video of it at the 2012 CES. I can’t wait to go out cycling and have a structured plan to help me achieve my goal of dropping weight and not ride haphazardly with no plan other than ride more miles. Granted this may not be for everyone, but it fits my goals nicely. I can buy the different training plan(s) for $9.99 each as needed.

As far as to when it comes out, I found no mention of it at the iBike Sports website, but I did read an article stating early Spring 2012. Hmm, well I wished it was sooner, but I will have to be patient and wait. I can safely say that this is my iPhone cycling gadget heaven that I am looking forward to getting.

Let me know what you think. Are there other fans of this yet to be released product?

Photos Courtesy of iBike Sports.

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