Electronics giant Pioneer is getting into the cycling market with the introduction of the Cyclocomputer power meter and Pedalling Monitor Sensor, which are being raced by the Blanco professional squad this season. It’s a crank-based system that uses two strain gauge sensors for separate left and right leg power measuring.
The use of power meters has become integral to professional racing cyclists over the past few years with most relying on systems like SRM’s PowerMeter during their training. The professionals often drive product acceptance among the masses, and training by power is now slowly become more affordable for amateur cyclists. There’s still a limited choice: SRM is the main pro racers' choice but it’s very expensive. The Saris PowerTap is more affordable but limits wheel choice, and the new generation of pedal-based power meters are yet to reach maturity - indeed, we’re still waiting for Garmin’s Vector to be released.
Pioneer getting into the game is exciting news. It means more choice, and while it does seem odd that a company with no prior cycling interest is launching a power meter, they know a thing or two about electronics so they have the potential to produce a really good product. Pioneer describe the move as “part of its activities towards opening up new horizons for innovation in people's lives and culture.” It's a quote that suggests there is more to come.
They’ve joined up with Blanco this season to put the product through some race testing, and we spotted it at the Tour of Belgium last weekend. The SGY-PM900 Pedalling Monitor Sensor comprises two strain sensors individually attached to the inner face of the crank arms. A wireless transmitter is mounted to the cranks to relay the data, via ANT+, to the head unit. Accuracy is a claimed ± 2%.
One obvious attraction of the Pioneer system is separate left and right leg power measuring, which systems like SRM can’t offer. The pedal-based systems will also be able to do the same, which is one reason why there’s so much anticipation surrounding those products. It allows you to do things like smooth out your pedalling and ensure you’re pushing equally hard with both legs.
Currently, the Pinoeer system is only compatible with Shimano Dura-Ace 7900, 7950 and 9000 cranks but they’ll undoubtedly have plans to increase compatibility with Campagnolo, SRAM and other cranks.
The zip ties are far from the tidiest solution, but it’s hard to see how Pioneer could get around this unless they modified cranks, which would incur a cost premium. The weight of the three modules ia a claimed 70g, so you’re not adding much weight to the bike at all. A CR2032 battery powers the sensor and provides somewhere in the region of 200 hours of operating time. The modules are IPX6-rated water resistant so they should survive the pounding of British weather.
The SGX-CA900 Athlete Cyclocomputer head unit has a 2.2 inch 320 X 240 pixel resolution QVGA colour LCD touchscreen that uses a similar mount to the SRM device. It also boasts GPS so it can provide similar routing facilities to the Garmin Edge 800-series. There’s also a barometer and thermometer for elevation data. A Li-ion battery is charged through a mini-USB port and the battery life is a claimed 12-hours.
Pioneer have developed their own set of online tools for analysing, tracking and sharing training rides, and it’s not yet clear if it will be compatible with Strava and other training websites.
Availability is expected sometime this summer, and no UK price has been set. A US price of $2,000 has been bandied about, to give some indication of where it will fit in the market place.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.