The North American media was given an advance look at the PowerTap 2012 line in advance of not only Eurobike and Interbike, but also next week’s PressCamp event in Utah.
Which was a smart move. Because the company didn’t launch one item, it launched a bevy of items that each warranted a bit of introspection—and luckily for us, road testing. And what we found was impressive.
The company Wisconsin-based company illustrated it has tested (and continues to test) power options at locations including the pedal, crankarms and chainrings among others, and realizes the benefits—and drawbacks—of such units. “A pedal-based unit measures a slew of other things like bending loads coming at different angles,” CycleOps product manager Jesse Bartholomew said. “They are units in theory that are manageable, but you need to add sensors to adjust for those dynamics—gyroscopes, accelerometers to the strain gauges.”
So with those challenges delaying the launch of products from other brands, CycleOps maintains its bread and butter, with power derived from the hub. Its benefits are obvious; switching from bike to bike is as easy as swapping wheels and head units, and for CycleOps in its PowerTap line, the accuracy is there at plus/minus 1.5 percent. And of course the price is absolutely reasonable. “It’s the ideal place for a power meter, since we’re just measuring torque and speed, some simple measurements, and it’s in a safe housing, it’s repeatable, and durable.”
The only knock on a hub-based setup to this point? The weight. Until now.
August will see the debut of the new PowerTap G3 hubset—G3 representing third generation. The current SL+ front and rear hub with a carbon fiber window cutout to save weight will become obsolete. That shell has been scrapped in favor of a greatly pared down hub body absent any flashy features. The flange of the rear wheel that houses the goods has gone wider for greater stiffness, but has gotten much smaller—and significantly lighter—to just 325 grams. For comparison, the existing PowerTap SL+ hub weighs in at 412 grams.
Of equally great interest to weight savings will be a greatly increased ease of use. The light, thread-off “cap” for the rear hub now houses the unit’s electronics (the replaceable battery and antenna), and Bartholomew said that typically when there are service issues, it’s the electronics that need servicing—and not the hub internals including the strain gauges. This means the user now needs only send back the cap (and PowerTap can then send out a replacement), and not the entire rear wheel.
CycleOps also debuted a revamp of its second-tier PowerTap hub, the Pro. It too gets a weight reduction at 20 grams of savings to 440 grams, a cosmetic re-design, and has a 15mm alloy axle. The hub will price at $799.
Of great interest is the fact that CycleOps also debuts its first stand-alone wheelset. In the past, the company built wheels on Zipp, Reynolds and Hed rims, but the company for 2012 partnered with Utah-based ENVE Composites to create the rims for its own branded, fully American-made wheels.
The wheelsets to be made available will be the ENVE 45mm and 65mm carbon clinchers and tubulars with the G3 hubset, and allow training wheels in G3 or Pro hubset options. Alloy skewers are included with the wheels.
CycleOps staff conducted its own bench deflection tests on the new wheels, and found a 25 percent lateral stiffness increase, with a deflection of about 1.25mm, versus 1.75 omn the PowerTap SL+ hub.
The G3 wheelsets in either 45mm or 65mm iterations will price at $2,999. A version with upgraded CeramicSpeed ceramic bearings, aptly dubbed G3C wheelset.
Here’s where the weight element gets interesting; Bartholomew said its weight testing put the G3 45mm wheelset against the Zipp 404, and the G3 wheelset came in about seven grams lighter than the Zipp. With a power meter built into the hub. He also pointed out that a crank-based power meter will add at least 250 grams to a bike, in most cases more.
“We wanted to choose our partner carefully, and we could have sourced overseas, but one of the reasons we chose ENVE was the weight savings,” Bartholomew said. “It’ll be a great advantage we think to finally offer a complete solution.”
A newly revamped Pro hub will be made available complete on an alloy training wheelset at $999. CycleOps says the Pro hub, at $799 alone, will exist as the only power meter with the same 1.5 percent accuracy range at under $1,000.
CycleOps staff confirmed that by the time the product debuts to the public, the new wind tunnel designed Smart ENVE tubular wheelset range will also be built and made available with the G3 setup.
Both the new G3 and Pro hubs and wheels will be available in August.
In November, CycleOps also debuts the new design of Joule and introduces Joule GPS power meter computers. The Joule will retain features (customizable dashboard, training stress scores, etc.) and will feature a few improvements over the existing Joule 2.0 computer, but mostly gets much smaller and less expensive at $169, or with a heart rate strap included at $219. Bartholomew noted that only Bontrager’s Node computer is cheaper, but that unit does not allow for data download.
The new Joule GPS—aimed a competitor to Garmin’s Edge 500—will be absent an on-screen map, but provides all the same downloadable data, but does GPS captures for post-ride analysis. It will price at $269, or $319 with a heart rate monitor strap. The Joule will have standard battery replacement (in comparison with Garmin’s rechargeable units), but the Joule GPS will be rechargeable on a USB Mini port located at the front of the unit. the Joule will feature a combo dot matrix screen instead of a full dot matrix.
The company gave us insight into its new CycleOps Training Camp programs (www.cycleops.com/trainingcamp) to serve as a centralized database for PowerTap users to compare data. The service will allow user to set up their profile, upload ride data, “friend” other cyclists, create teams and see where you rank on a global scoreboard in any number of categories including ride time, intensity and distance. It will also serve as a landing point for GPS data, and MapMyRide will integrate with it on its iPhone app. This will debut in July around the Tour de France.
Finally, CycleOps created a “poor man’s power meter” with a program it calls PowerCal. With an October release, the $199 system will use data from a user’s graded power test to convert heat rate data into a power reading, without actually needing a PowerTap to derive power readings. Bartholomew says early estimations, puts it at within about five percent accuracy. The consumer will need to purchase their own head unit to gather the readings, but the program will price at $199, or with a speed sensor at $229.
Also releasing in October is PowerTap’s VR Training. The Virtual Reality program will allow for course duplication, allowing ride data to be loaded into Training Camp. Any videos will be either popular routes provided by CycleOps, or will be user-generated, with Google map fly-over video. The rides can also be downloaded to your home power trainer. The software will now come included with 400 Pro and PowerBeam trainers, or stand-alone for $200.
Out on the road, the new 45mm G3 wheels we tested were were impressive for its weight savings, let alone their solid ride quality (which we expected having ridden ENVE wheels). We hefted one of the fully built G3 rear wheels and it’s truly remarkable how much it feels like a standard, power meter-free wheelset. On the road, the feeling is even more palpable; a group climb through nearby Golden Gate Canyon (led by former U.S. Postal Service pro and noted Vison Quest coach Robbie Ventura and former pro and current EpicCamp coach Gordo Byrn) was remarkable for what we didn’t notice during the long climb: the weight. Not only is there not a huge weight penalty using a bike with a power meter now, there’s actually a weight savings when using the G3 when compared to some non-power integrated wheels.
We’ll look forward to more miles on the G3 hub, as we’re quite impressed with what equates to nearly a 25 percent weight savings. Triathletes that once saw using power in races as a severe weight detriment may now look at PowerTap with its G3 as a viable race-day option.