Measuring power not just for elite cyclists anymore

Many companies that offer stationary bicycles are taking a page from elite cyclists in terms of measuring power output on bicycles. This new feature on some high-end and commercial models of stationary cycles is intended to help consumers measure progress over time.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

It used to be only competitive cyclists gave a hoot about power measurements on stationary bicycles, but some fitness manufacturers are pushing hard to make the average consumer care too.

“Power measurement is becoming a very popular subject for cyclists, professional and recreational alike,” said John Buse of Stamina Products. Measuring power is a direct descendant of the power taps, or meters, elite cyclists attach to their bicycles to track their progress and aid in training.

“Power has only really come to stationary cycling indoors in the last year or 18 months,” said Damian Hessian, vice president of sales and marketing at Wattbike (www.wattbike.com). (Click here to see an Apr. 8, 2011 SNEWS recap of the 2011 IHRSA show, including a look at Wattbike.)

Kevin Corbalis, executive vice president of marketing and product development for Star Trac (www.startrac.com) said that some of the early attempts at displaying power on stationary cycles was merely forecasting what the power output and calorie burn were based on different variables, but now StarTrac and other companies are focused on measuring the actual power.

Proponents of tracking power argue that it can help users increase pedaling efficiency and track improvement over time. But since there is no uniform standard in the fitness industry for measuring power, consumers will have to take the separate companies’ words on accuracy of power measurements. Of course, each company claims to have the most accurate measurements.

But the products that feature actual power measurements don’t come cheap – none are with price tags below $2,000 – and many are intended for a gym or class setting. Still, some say measuring power on stationary bicycles will be the wave of the future.

How does it work?

Pat Warner, senior vice president of product development for Foundation Fitness (www.foundationfitness.net), said measuring power on stationary cycles is the next step for many companies offering stationary bicycles.

At Foundation Fitness, power on its FreeMotion cycles isn’t just about displaying wattage, Warner said, but it's about measuring power and using that to determine calories burned, speed and distance during a workout.

Foundation Fitness measures how much force is being put on the crank. Wattbike measures the pressure on the chain and how it’s supplied to the pedals to measure the power and wattage, and the Relay Fitness Group (www.relayfitness.com) measures torque.

“A majority of bikes in the indoor cycling arena do not measure power through measuring torque,” said Relay Fitness Group’s co-founder Marko Vujicic. “They are using yet another estimate that tries to get close but is not truly accurate.”

Foundation Fitness has its own testing facility at its Boulder-Colo., office that tests the consistency at which the bike measures power. Life Fitness (www.lifefitness.com), also entering the category, has a biomechanics team in its Franklin Park, Ill.-based labs that tests the accuracy of the products measuring power.

Though Star Trac has something up its sleeve in terms of a new bike that measures power, Corbalis said, the exclusive licensee of the Spinning brand is not ready to release exactly what that technology will encompass.

“We’re in the process of developing a bike computer but I don’t want to get into any specific details,” Corbalis said, but added “We’re doing our (research and development) and we’ll provide an appropriate level of accuracy.”

Who should care?

As a retailer, you generally like to how you’re doing from month-to-month, year-to-year, in terms of profit. The idea behind offering power measurements is to offer consumers a way to track progress and let them see how they’ve improved month-to-month, year-to-year.

“Everybody wants to find ways to become effective in their workout and get more from it,” Corbalis said. “There are great training methodologies associated with power. You can benchmark where you’re at and you can see how your performance has improved.”

Prior to these power measurements on bikes, Warner said, there were less accurate ways for people who used indoor cycles to measure their progress. Much of the information displayed were estimates rather than measurements.

“If you work out on our bikes with power measurement and you burn 600 calories on one day when you work out and the next day you burn 660 calories, you have a 10-percent improvement,” Warner said. “That’s based on power measurement, not a theoretical heart rate calculation off of calories or how fast you were pedaling.”

Many of these companies have yet to introduce their power measurement products to the retail level. Although, Wattbike will sell direct-to-consumer, and Life Fitness, which is selling some of the products through specialty retailers, provides training on how to properly explain the power measurement concept.

Corbalis of Star Trac said this is important for specialty retailers who want to sell these types of products, “It’s not just about power, it’s about education.”

--Ana Trujillo

Related

Valencell_Healthset.jpg

Listen up: New technology uses ears to measure workout stats

Your ears are listening to your workout – not just the pounding of your feet on a treadmill or the grunts with every lift – but the measurable body data that evaluates it. So imagine a world where earphones can track that fitness feedback – monitoring athletes' distance ...read more

ChalekTonusPic.jpg

New company distributing handheld product to measure BMI

With the measure of good health having moved over the decades from body weight to body fat to body mass, calculating a number to determine wellness has become more difficult. The "body mass index," known as BMI, uses a rather complicated formula that sounds Greek to most ...read more

Todcast_quiksilver_thumb_051311.jpg

‘Just post it’ is the new mantra in social media

If there is one thing a resort or snowsports or outdoor manufacturer can do to ensure failure on the social media front, it’s by not doing anything at all. In a rapidly evolving market, where even the so-called “experts” seem to be making it up as they go along, enthusiasm and ...read more

MyZoneLogo.jpg

MyZone’s goal is to measure movement – at the gym, at the park, or even at the supermarket

Heart-rate monitoring has been the simplest way to measure and rate physical activity for a long time. But understanding what it means, helping people understand it, and then using the results to get people more active remained baffling. If those behind the MyZone company ...read more

EliteLocations_Small-030510.jpg

Housing Scam Alert Update: Elite Locations appears to be legit travel biz, but….

On March 5, we issued an alert that a travel company, Elite Locations, was contacting SNEWS® readers telling them it could book rooms for trade shows (click here to read the March 5, 2010, SNEWS story, “Elite Locations emerges as Travel House disappears”). On April 5, we received ...read more

Timex to Showcase Elite Training Devices and Fitness Technology

MIDDLEBURY, CT - Timex, a leader in outdoor and sports performance timepieces, will showcase its robust portfolio of elite training instruments and fitness measurement devices at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2011. “Timex continues to put forward reliable, user-friendly ...read more

Channel_Signal_Logo-2010sq.jpg

Channel Signal: Measuring social media's ROI top-of-mind for 2011

Channel Signal regularly shares some of its analyses of the major topics online that are important to the subscribers of SNEWS®. The topics will range from promotions to marketing initiatives, to issues that have virally exploded into crises. What are the online conversations? ...read more

Power_Players_Lounge09.jpg

Power Players' Lounge: Transitioning your company to the 'next generation'

In January 2009, SNEWS® named the industry's first class of outdoor industry Power Players (click here to read). "Insight and inspiration provide an edge that everybody can use in these economic times," SNEWS reported when it announced the Power Players. "Both can be found by ...read more

Torch.jpg

Torch: Visibility solutions for the avid urban cyclist

The magic happened at a red light. Nathan Wills was stopped behind a motorcyclist. “He had the smallest tail light I’ve ever seen on a motorcycle and he was dressed in all black,” said Wills, the founder of Torch Apparel. Having just purchased his first motorcycle, Wills faced a ...read more