Pioneer get into the power meter game

Electronics giant Pioneer launch into cycle market with their first product, a power meter

by David Arthur   May 29, 2013  

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.

16 user comments

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cue, the 'how much' comments

posted by webby [4 posts]
29th May 2013 - 9:28

7 Likes

Interesting that a mass-market consumer electronics maker is getting into cycling, and in such a niche area. They could have started with normal bike computers, but that's a much more crowded market. They obviously think there's room in the market here.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3564 posts]
29th May 2013 - 9:42

7 Likes

It'd be nice to see how the product works. Those graphics don't really show you what it can do.

I like the idea, but at $2,000 it's still out of my league. I guess I keep having to trust the computer on my turbo trainer.....btw does anyone know how Strava's estimate of power works? It always seems to be a bit 'low' in my opinion. But I only have stationary bikes and turbo trainers to compare it against.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1310 posts]
29th May 2013 - 10:14

8 Likes

Hi Colin, I know what you mean about Strava. Have you checked out Trainerroad for turbo work? That sounds like it might get closer to the mark. You buy a £40 ANT+ sensor for the back wheel and pair it with your smartphone or whatever. Trainerroad have calibration for loads of Turbo Trainer models (mine is listed on their site), so it then works out your power based on your wheel motion + knowledge of your turbo model. I've not actually gone for it myself yet, but suspect I will do so for the winter.

Re Strava, I also note that the latest update removed the best effort wattage figures over 5 and 10 minutes in the free version. No doubt they are still there in the paid version, but I've not bothered upgrading.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3564 posts]
29th May 2013 - 10:53

6 Likes

Pioneer have completely missed the market here. There are already plenty of £1000+ power meters with all the recording and reporting tools well developed by other folk.

What they should be doing is bringing their electronic expertise to market in a stack-em-high, flog-em-low model.

Most serious cyclists/triathletes/others have bought or have access to power measuring. The real money is made selling to people who will stretch to £300ish but not beyond.

If they team up with Shimano they might make that market although they could have already tried approaching the big S but couldn't reach agreement

posted by kitkat [251 posts]
29th May 2013 - 11:52

5 Likes

Thanks Notfastenough. I'll have to check it out.

I concur with the other comment, as I've already indicated on another post, unless you fit it into the £200-300 bracket (and show it is reliable) then for many people the cost is not worth it for many. HR monitoring gets most of what you need to get training benefits. You don't need to spend as much as a bike to do that (in fact perceived effort is quite frankly good enough for most). The tool is only ever as good as the user anyway.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1310 posts]
29th May 2013 - 12:30

8 Likes

Far too expensive and not portable. I've got several bikes and need to have something I can transfer between bikes.

How about a solution built into my shoes?

posted by Old Cranky [276 posts]
29th May 2013 - 14:16

10 Likes

Old Cranky wrote:
Far too expensive and not portable. I've got several bikes and need to have something I can transfer between bikes.

How about a solution built into my shoes?

Just your shoes? I have this vision of you cycling around on platform cleats.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1310 posts]
29th May 2013 - 14:20

9 Likes

Not transferable? It's as transferable as any crank based system...

posted by stuart_23 [1 posts]
29th May 2013 - 14:56

9 Likes

Extortionately expensive. but another player in this market can only be a good thing; competition will, with time, drive down prices.
This is a new market for Pioneer and, with a bit of luck, if they price in line with the established players they're going to struggle to gain traction.
If they're serious about diversifying into the cycling market, I suspect they will employ penetration pricing. That $2,000 might be the RRP, but I suspect (hope!) that there will be some fairly significant discounting to get their product accepted.
Let's face it, if the cost is the similar, would you really choose Pioneer over SRM / Quarq?
Shame the $ is not still trading at 2:1 against £ though Crying

posted by Al'76 [126 posts]
29th May 2013 - 15:10

8 Likes

Yep still WAY too expensive for the likes of me..Im sure there's an Irish startup working on a shoe based system...

posted by NeilXDavis [117 posts]
29th May 2013 - 15:38

7 Likes

Yes BRIMBROTHERS shoe based system sounds interesting..

posted by NeilXDavis [117 posts]
29th May 2013 - 15:40

7 Likes

But still in and around the £1k mark

posted by kitkat [251 posts]
29th May 2013 - 16:26

8 Likes

Can only think that the fundamental problems must be difficult to solve, otherwise a. the Garmin Vector would be out by now, and b. some little startups would be touting a £400 device by now.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3564 posts]
30th May 2013 - 12:29

9 Likes

Power meter systems are expensive because of the strain gauges themselves - we're talking mega complicated and fine tolerance instrumentation here, which has to be miniaturised yet sturdy enough to stand up to everyday use. Just think about what they do, it's a device which determines the force you put into the crank by measuring its distortion. That distortion would be imperceptible to you or I if we were able to try and feel it with our fingers!

They just aren't easy enough or cheap enough for the manufacturers to produce for them to offer lower prices and it be worth their while... yet.

StuayEd's picture

posted by StuayEd [66 posts]
8th June 2013 - 0:28

5 Likes

Strain gauges aren't very expensive nor are the electronics, and they are (by themselves) insanely accurate. It's all the labour involved - including calibration. Since I've been building prototype powermeters and asked about pricing a lot, I finally broke it down. Based on my calculations the low end of this type of system is 700 dollars. The more people involved the more it goes up. You have to put financial muscle behind driving down the cost much lower than currently. So a consumer low end price for a full crank system is close to 800.

http://keithhack.blogspot.ca/2013/06/good-cheap-fastpick-two.html

posted by kwakeham [1 posts]
26th June 2013 - 21:23

6 Likes