The Mbody smart shorts on show at the Wearable Technology Show at Kensington Olympia, London over the past couple of days could give an indication of a future direction for sports clothing.
The Mshorts – which aren’t cycling specific – feature built-in sensors that sit on your hamstring and quadricep muscles to monitor your activity, along with what’s called an MCell control centre to analyse what you are doing. You can view the analysis either in real time or after your training session.
Okay, so let’s start at the beginning... The technology of the Mbody system from Finish company Myontec is based on the measurement of electrical activity in the muscles, called electromyography (EMG). The sensors in the shorts (which are washable, thankfully) measure the electrical activity and pass it on to the MCell control centre.
The MCell is a small device that attaches to the MShorts to gather and processes the muscle data. It has an internal memory and can transfer the data via Bluetooth so you can view it in realtime on the Mbody Live app (for Android only). The MCell is compatible with Suunto’s Movescount online resource too, where you can log your activity. The MCell runs on a battery that you recharge via a USB power cable.
All good so far?
So what information does the Mbody system give you? First, it provides you your left/right balance: the percentage of work being done by each leg.
Second, it gives you your muscle load. Myontec say that this will help you optimise your power and technique in cycling, making sure you don’t stress your muscles excessively, for example.
Third, the Mbody system will give you a quadriceps/hamstrings ratio – the percentage of work being done by each.
It is also able to give you your distance and speed thanks to GPS.
Myontec say that they are continuing to develop other features to provide information on efficiency, cadence, and so on.
How is all this information going to benefit you?
“MBody provides detailed information on muscle performance in real time and in any training environment,” says Myontec. “Knowing your muscles redirects training towards achieving personal bests.”
Knowledge is power, essentially. More specifically, they say that knowing exactly what your muscles are doing will allow you to optimise your technique and performance, control your exercise and training intensity, detect problems and prevent injuries.
Although the Mbody system isn’t cycling specific, it isn’t hard to imagine that it could be developed in that direction. With additional sensors it could measure how successfully your glutes are working during cycling, for example, and the proposed cadence function could be a useful tool for many users.
Right now, it’s an expensive system with the whole kit and caboodle priced at €890 (about £743), but that’s generally the way with new technology. Prices for similar equipment will almost certainly fall over the coming months and years.
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a youthful 45-year-old Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.