Wahoo RFLKT+ Bike Computer System Follow-up

I’ve been using and testing the Wahoo RFLKT+ Bike computer system since mid January of 2014 and I’ve posted several reviews of various software configurations. Some I liked and others I found lacking. The consistent factor in all of this is that the system is very finicky. It would work perfectly for a week then the following week it’s nothing but problems. Screen locking up, losing ANT+ sensor data, blank screens or failure to turn on are some of the problems I’ve encountered. For this reason I have to give the system a thumbs down.

I really hate giving the RFLKT+ system my thumbs down rating but I have no choice. Wahoo makes great products, I love my Kickr indoor trainer, the ANT+ dongle and the Bluetooth heart-rate strap. The RFLKT+ has so much potential if they can only iron out the bugs and do a better job of testing the software and firmware. It’s a lot to juggle, you got the firmware of the unit, the software (Fitness app), API for third-party applications and the iOS itself that all has to work together seamlessly.

What did it for me was going from one version of the Fitness app to another that fixed some bugs and improved the interface, but new bugs have cropped up that makes it unreliable. This is what makes it frustrating. The system has to be rock solid and work like an appliance. Cyclist don’t want to be rebooting, restarting, re-pairing sensors, removing the battery, to get it to work!

As of this posting I have the RFLKT+ with firmware 1.2.1 and using the Wahoo Fitness app v4.0.1. Results will vary depending what you have.

PROS

It’s not all bad. Like I said before, I really like the potential the RFLKT+ can provide. Less drain on phone battery, small in size, long-lasting battery, back-light, ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible, price and best of all customizable screens (with appropriate software).

Wahoo’s technical support is nice once you find the link to create a ticket. They are responsive, but there is only so much they can do if it is a bug in firmware or the app. I’ve used the ticket system several times to report bugs and hope they get resolved SOON.

CONS

The real deal breaker for me is that the system is unstable and unreliable at. When I say system, I’m talking about the whole package of hardware and software. They all have to be working in unison in order to get reliable and stable usage. It’s a real bummer to be out cycling and suddenly it stops recording. It’s bad enough when you are cycling by yourself, but when I’m in a group forget it, I just gotta turn off the unit and keep on going. Perhaps in a few months maturity will resolve those issues.

For now it’s a regrettable thumbs down and I’ll shelve it for a while and try it again down the road. The system needs more time in the oven cooking. If you do have one working as it should be then great! Enjoy it but maybe consider disabling any auto update so that you can preserve your setup. In the meantime hang on to your funds and wait.

Drop me a note on your experience with the RFLKT+, I would love to hear from you.

LiveCycling iPhone App review

For all the month of March I have been using an iPhone App called LiveCycling (formally known as REK) by a company called Soneru Inc. This App is a bike computer for your iPhone (any version) that uses ANT+ technology to connect to your bike sensors including heart rate chest straps from Garmin and power meters. It does all the basic functions of a typical bike computer such as speed, cadence, distance and time. In addition, it supports Heart Rate straps, GPS mapping, auto pause and social media support. About the only thing it does not support is a power meter, but since I do not use one I doesn’t affect me.

This is the main screen of the App that is fixed. You cannot change the order of the display nor can you choose what to display. The data are displayed with nice big numbers that is easily read. The Speed and Cadence sections has these little graphics on them that really doesn’t convey anything meaning full that I’m aware of. I think they are just eye candy and wished that space was better utilized. The Heart Rate does have a 5 point Rating of Perceived Exertion scale (RPE) that is based on your maximum heart rate and your resting heart rate. The maximum heart rate can be calculated by subtracting your age from 220. It is a good close approximation that works well. So, at a glance you can get an idea as to how much you are exerting and at the end of the ride you can also get an idea as to how hard you worked during the ride.

Using the App

To start your ride just press the Record button at the bottom tool bar and a little red light will appear to indicate that it is recording. A nice feature is the auto pause when you come to a stop and when you start pedaling it will also auto resume recording. Of course you can manually do that as well, but many times you forget to restart it until you are a half mile down the road. The Record button also doubles as the ride time and distance indicator. This is a sore spot for me as the information is small. In my opinion the real estate used by the fancy graphics could have been used to present this data in a more readable format.

If you notice, the Main Screen is actually page two of four pages. Sliding to page one brings up the live GPS map of where you are at. Your position is locked in the center of the screen you don’t have to fumble with adjusting the screen to keep you in it. This is really a nice feature for when you are venturing into new neighborhoods and want to make sure you don’t hit a dead-end. I’ve used this feature many times and is a real-time saver. If you would like to unlock the centering of you ride, there is an unlock button at the top (padlock) that allows this. The map also has the usual zoom in/out and the route you have taken is marked in red.

The other two pages I don’t use very often as I don’t find them useful while riding. Page three is a split of page two (Main Screen) and page four. Basically, it shows the current data along with a small history graph next to it. So, that makes page four a running graph of the speed, cadence and heart rate. You can flip between any of the four screens as often as you like while riding. Just remember to keep an eye on the road and not the iPhone as it is easy to get caught up in the gadget and not concentrate on riding.

To end the ride press the Record button again (even in Pause mode) and it will ask if you want to stop recording. After agreeing to stop you then enter the name of the route or ride. The name shows up in the ride history section of the application. If you made a mistake in the spelling, you can rename it in the ride history screen.

Configuring App

To configure the App you go to the Settings button at the lower right and that brings you to the Configuration page. It is here that you can enter all the information about you, the bike and your application preferences.

Some of the things you can enter about you are your weight in kilograms, so you will need to figure out your weight in kg as there is no option for pounds (lbs). I don’t know why that is not available as there is a metric or pounds option for everything else. Seems like an over site to me.

Other options to enter are your max and min heart rate, Metric System on/off, Auto Pause on/off, GPS Log on/off, and your social reporting options. For the Social settins you can have it automatically email a TCX file to anyone you want to, such as you coach, automatically after you finish the ride. Twitter, Facebook and dailymile are also supported. I tried the Facebook option and I was not impressed. All it posts is a link to their website! Very disappointed in that. It doesn’t even give you a map of the route you took. Argh!

Aside for the bad Facebook posting that it does, it’s true beauty is the emailing of the TCX file. The TCX file contains all the data points for the entire ride and is useful with some on-line websites that use the file to map out the ride and display all the essentials of the ride. In particular, I use it to upload to Garmin Connect and from there I post results to Facebook.

The Twitter feed works quite well and posts all the basic essentials about the ride. I have no complaints about that function.

Setting up the bike information is just as easy to perform. Double tap the bike picture and you have the configuration for the bike and the ANT+ sensors that you nay have. In here, you can select the tire size of your bike from an impressive list of different rim sizes. If, for some reason, you cannot find it, you can manually enter it in millimeters. No choice in the matter millimeters is the only option. Aside from the tire size and any ANT+ sensors there is the option for the Odometer settings. Very nice option as you can carry forward any odometer reads from any previous bike computer.

As for the record keeping, the App does a great job at it. The History window has all the information on the current and past rides. It keeps a running total of the miles ridden and the number of events. With that, you get the average speed, cadence, heart rate and the total time on the saddle. You can then drill down to an individual ride and look at the data, graphs and map for it. Very nice indeed. I really can’t complain, it does an excellent job at it. I can do much of my analysis right here on my iPhone without having to go to an on-line site.

A Few Glitches

I’ve encountered only a few glitches. The App goes into Pause mode when I get a call on the phone, even if I don’t answer the call. It seems like the notifications trigger this. So, what I do now is turn off Notifications so I don’t get disturbed and eliminates the problem.

The other problem is support. The website is in a Chinese dialect so I can’t read anything. It does some English dispersed among the site but that is not very useful. As a result, I can post any comments or suggestions. I am effectively cut off from the company.

To wrap things up, this App rocks! It’s easy to use, doesn’t have any problems recognizing the ANT+ sensors, easy to read screen, accurate data, reporting tools and  exporting data are just some of the great features. It just works! That is extremely important because another App has a few more features, but it has a lot of issues in the quality control department. LiveCycling is a solid product and at $12.99, it’s worth every penny. If you are looking for an App, for your iPhone, to record your bike rides, this the one for you. I highly recommend this App to anyone without any reservations.

The version reviewed here is LiveCycling 1.12 by Soneru Inc.

Update

05/22/2011

I was out doing a long ride and I was experimenting with saving battery life by turning off the screen (clicking the power button once) and while it did save considerably on battery life, an unexpected result occurred. The next time I swiped the phone to turn on the screen, I noticed that it was in auto pause mode and a second later it was back to recording. I took a look at the avg mph and it showed 26 mph! Wow, this could not be right as the max showed only 14 mph. I believe it is because of the distance difference and the difference in time from when I turned off the screen to the time I woke it up. Apparently, turning off the screen places the Application in a semi sleep mode. In that state, the ANT+ sensors are not recording but the GPS is.

Is this a bug in the App? I do not know, but another App experienced the same thing. Maybe the use of the Proximity sensor to dim the screen will help.