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CycleOps Virtual Training In-Depth Review

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While the CycleOps PowerBeam Pro has been around a while, their entertainment and training software – Virtual Training – just came out late last year.  I’ve been using beta versions on and off since last spring, and with the final version released, it seemed time to take it for a spin and share my final thoughts.  Starting with – is it worth the cost?  And how does it close the gap against other trainer platforms, especially newer ones?  Well, I set out to find out.

In doing so, I’ve got a pretty good grasp on how the unit works, as well as all the inside and out details.  Because I want to be transparent about my reviews, once my evaluation period with the PowerBeam + software has elapsed, I send it back to them in Madison, Wisconsin (in fact, it’s already with me here and boxed up and ready to drop-off at UPS tomorrow).  Simple as that.  Sorta like hiking in wilderness trails – leave only footprints.

Now one quick note – I’ve already reviewed the PowerBeam Prolast year.  While there have been some minor changes to the unit itself, there isn’t enough to justify a full review of the same unit again.  I’ve covered those difference between the old and new unit below (and the changes coming there).  So, if you’re interested in ‘the full solution’, just look at it as twice as much information!

Lastly, at the end of the day keep in mind I’m just like any other regular triathlete out there. I write these reviews because I’m inherently a curious person with a technology background (my day job), and thus I try and be as complete as I can. But, if I’ve missed something or if you spot something that doesn’t quite jive – just let me know and I’ll be happy to get it all sorted out. Also, because the technology world constantly changes, I try and go back and update these reviews as new features and functionality are added – or if bugs are fixed.

Initial Setup and Configuration:

Installing the application is pretty easy and straight forward.  You’ll download the most current version of the Virtual Training software from the site.  In fact, you can download a ‘trial’ version if you’d like (simply an inactivated full version).

The app installer also enables 3rd party integration scenarios, such as downloading from devices (for creating courses).  You can just check/install what you need.  I would install the K-Lite Codec pack as some of the videos may require it.  A codec pack enables your computer to view different video file formats, sorta like understanding different languages.

For those computer geeks in the crowd, you may be surprised to see the K-Lite pack included in a production/paid product (as it’s freeware).  Historically K-Lite has often ‘lifted’ paid codecs from other companies, and redistributed them without permission.  My understanding is that practice has ended as of last spring.  Fwiw.

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At any rate, the installer will bumble along.  It doesn’t take too long, even on a slow computer.

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It may go ahead and install Google Virtual Earth (it will, unless you already have install it).  You’ll need that for the mapping components.

Once everything is done and installed, you’ll be here.  This allows you to change the language, as well as change from Statue (Miles/MPH) to Metric (Kilometers/KPH).

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Before you go any further, go ahead and plug-in that CycleOps USB ANT+ stick:

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Now we’ll go ahead and select our device type – in our case, the PowerBeam Pro.  Note that if you have a power meter (such as the PowerTap), you can actually use that instead of the Power Beam (if you don’t have this trainer at all), and the software will still work from a riding standpoint.  Obviously it won’t magically provide resistance control, but video playback will work.

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Then, it’s time to activate the product.  You’ll just type in the nice long product key inside the CD case that you got.

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It takes about 30 seconds to activate:

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With that set, you’ll notice the title bar (top window bar) no longer says ‘DEMO’, and you’re good to go!

Now you’ll create a new user, or download an existing user.  Either way, it only takes a second.

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In my case, I downloaded my existing account.  This is handy in the event you need to move between computers (you can de-activate and then re-activate easily between computers if you need to).

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With that, you’re signed in and good to go!

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Lastly, if you want to tweak any settings – there’s a handful you can change that we haven’t already covered.  Those are mostly Google Earth layer settings.

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Ok, let’s get the accessories all paired up.

Pairing to PowerBeam and ANT+ Accessories:

Now that we’ve got everything installed, we’ll need to pair it to the PowerBeam, and any other ANT+ accessories (i.e. Heart Rate strap).

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I’m going to assume you’ve got that USB stick plugged in, otherwise you’ll get this:

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Once that’s done, this screen will illuminate.  You can see the different types of sensors that you can pair.  In my case, I’ve paired the PowerBeam Pro and a cadence sensor, but haven’t paired a heart rate strap.

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So I can click on ‘Find New Device’, and go ahead and walk through the new device wizard:

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In this case, a different cadence sensor:

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Once you’ve got all your accessories paired up, then it’s time to calibrate the PowerBeam, which takes about two minutes to complete:

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You need only pedal at 18-20MPH (fear not, the resistance isn’t hard), and then at the end it’ll have you stop pedaling and record how long it takes to spindown.

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Finally, unrelated to initial setup, you’ll be able to select a Virtual Partner on a given course , which is essentially racing against someone else (either from your own history, or from online).

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Now that I’ve covered the setup – I’m going to talk about the core ways you use the actual product.

Riding Video Routes:

Video routes are those routes that include a video (shot somewhere in the world) shown on your screen, alongside a GPS file that controls the resistance of the trainer – just as if you were riding it outside.

Now before you can ride a route, you’ll need to search out the route from the online repository and download it. Sorta like Netflix.  You can download as many routes as you’d like, and ‘keep them’ for as long as you like.  Storage space is really your only limiter.  There’s a ‘good’ selection of videos.  Not great, but good.

Below is the search screen for finding new routes to download.  You can filter them by location or other parameters, but the key checkbox you’ll need is the one I’ve circled/yellowed – which is the ‘video’ checkbox:

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Once that’s done you can select a route that sparks your interest.  Routes are added all the time, and I’ll show you in a bit how you can create (and add) your own routes.

If you click on a route you can look at a bit more information on the route, and then go ahead and start the download process.

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Before you download it’ll let you know how big the download will be.  In most cases, I’ve found most videos to be about 500MB (.5GB) to 2GB, with most routes being about an hour in length.  Though there are some rides where you can piece together multiple segments.

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Once started the download progress will display on a screen that you can hide away.  The progress bar is also seen in the upper right corner of the application.

In my experience (across multiple internet providers and locations), the download speeds aren’t quite as fast as your home network probably is.  Meaning, budget a bit of time (30-60 minutes) to complete a download of (for example) a 1GB file.  In other words, do it the night before.

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As noted previously, you can see the status in the upper-right corner, as well as in the ‘local routes’ section, which shows things you’ve downloaded.

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Now comes time to ride the route.

You’ll go into the Local Routes area and double-click on a route.  Local Routes simply means “Things on your computer” whereas Internet Routes means “Things you can download to your computer”.  There’s a lot of little wording things throughout the application that don’t quite jive in native English.

Much of it being because the application wasn’t developed by CycleOps, but rather licensed from a company called Univet, which also provides the software for other companies in a rebranded format.  This is both good and bad.  It’s good in that it’s a bit more stable that some training applications out there because they’ve been doing it longer.  But on the bad side, there’s some language issues as it wasn’t previously in English.  None of the language items are show-stoppers, but they rough up a bit of the ‘polish’ so to speak.

At any rate….

We’ve double-clicked on the route.  At which point it’ll go ahead and validate your ANT+ accessories and connectivity to the trainer.  Then you’ll be given the option to calibrate the trainer, as well as select/change the user.

Once all that’s done, you’ll be brought to the starting screen.

It’s here that you can go ahead and start your activity.  Within the activity, you’ll generally be in a screen like the below (taken from a different video I rode):

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This screen shows you along the left side your current metrics.  Some of this is dependent on ANT+ sensors (Heart Rate & Cadence), while others is based on data from the PowerBeam (Power/Distance/Speed), and finally, some of it is based on data from the video (Slope).

In the upper right, you’ve got the Google Earth aerial view of where you are on the route.  You can change that window to show other details like splits and stats instead.  And, you can swap the view such that instead of showing the video in the big window, you can show it in the small window.

As you ride through the video, the trainer will automatically adjust the resistance and slope based on the data recorded in the GPS file – which is in turn synchronized with that from the video.  Thus as you climb a hill in the video, you’ll also climb a hill from a resistance standpoint.

The video playback speed is based on your speed.  So at certain speeds above/below ‘normal’ (the recorded speed), other aspects of the environment may look out of skew.  For example, if on this path I slowed down to 4MPH – then things would be pretty ‘slow-motion’ feeling with respect to other cyclists or cars I might see.  Make sense?

Once you’ve completed the ride, it’ll give you a ‘Race Summary’.  I took the below from a shorter ride I did, showing some of the stats:

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Let’s look at GPS routes (without video), and then building your own routes.

Riding GPS routes:

In addition to riding video routes, you can also just ride Virtual Earth versions of routes.  These are routes where someone (or yourself) is re-riding a given GPS course.  The course is then overlaid onto Google Earth, enabling you to simulate the ride a bit better.

When you search for routes, you’ll simply ensure the ‘Video’ option is unchecked’, so that it returns all routes:

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There’s a fair bit more routes without video than with video, so you’re more likely to find something you like here.  And if you don’t, you can go grab/steal/borrow a GPS/GPX file from any number of online sources such as MapMyRide.com/Garmin Connect and others.  I talk more about how to do that later.

In the results, you’ll see which ones include videos and which ones don’t:

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In this case, I’m actually going to ride a route of my own that I created.  Once I’ve loaded it up, you’ll see the view is simply the map screen.  In this case – at a very high level.

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Along the bottom of the ride is the elevation profile that I’ll be riding, and in the lower-right is the slope.

As I start the ride, I can go ahead and get zoomed in a bit more and view exactly where I am along the route.  Just like in the video mode, the trainer will automatically adjust the resistance to simulate hills.  In the below screenshot you can see that I’m just about 32 seconds from the start of the course, headed along the river.

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Within this mode, the unit is using the Google Earth graphics engine to pull building imagery and 3D model information.  How much imagery depends on the settings we talked about earlier, as well as your computers processing capabilities.  In my case, I actually put this on an older computer – one that the newer Tacx TTS suite (a competitor) won’t even run on (in Google Earth mode).  Yet here, it ran just fine.

You can see below the Louvre just to the right of my little ‘dcrainmaker’ yellow dot.

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And again, just another screenshot – this time adding in the current ride stats window in the right corner.

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Beyond that, everything else is the same as video mode (except the video of course).

Creating your own GPS (and Video) routes:

In addition to riding the routes that are available ‘in the cloud’, you can also create your own GPS routes, as well as video routes.  By creating your own routes you can ride those courses in Google Earth. For example, you could go pre-ride a course for an upcoming race or event.  Or, you could simply ride an outdoor course indoors when it’s raining and cold (my preference).

Creating GPS routes is pretty simple.  You’ve got two options, first, you can import a GPS file (in a few different formats) into the application.  From a format standpoint it supports most of the major devices out there on the market today, either directly or indirectly.  When I say indirectly, I mean that it doesn’t for example list the Magellan Switch, but that unit spits out files in the formats it does support (.FIT for example).  Given what I know about devices, if you have a device, it’s got about a 95% chance of working with the below file types.

And noted above, if you don’t have those files just go and download it from MapMyRide.com or Garmin Connect.  If that route exists as a race/event/ride, then I can guarantee you that someone on this planet has ridden it and uploaded it to one of those two services.

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To import a course, you can use just about any file format known to mankind:

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Once you import it in, you’ll see a elevation profile along the bottom, and the total data points/distance/ascent from the file:

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Next you’ll be able to smooth the profile to remove any GPS issues.  This is important.  Note for example the max slope listed before/after in the two items.  Quite frankly – THIS is the special sauce here that many might overlook.  Without this smoothing you’ll get moments where the PowerBeam would apply significant resistance in an attempt to ‘recreate’ that unattainable 38% slope.  But by having this smoothing you see that at the worst point, it’s 11% (which is still pretty steep), but certainly attainable.

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After you finish importing, you’ll see it available within the route editor to go ahead and tweak.  For example, you could remove points (shorten), change the route, or even add points (lengthen).

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Then, upon saving you’ll find it within the Local Routes area.  If you select to upload this to the site, then others can ride it as well.  Note that in the below, you’ll see it doesn’t have a video, so the icon doesn’t show a video preview clip.

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When it comes to riding these routes, it works identically to those that you imported in from the ‘Internet Routes’ section.  In fact, if you look at the previous section, the route that I used there was one I created above.  Cool, huh?

In addition to importing in routes, you can simply create your own routes.  You’ll effectively play connect the dots to put the route together.  Now, while it’s straight forward, it does take a few minutes to get the hang of, primarily due to some weird wording things.

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To start off though, you’ll want to check two buttons.  First is the button that locks new route points to the road.  And second is the button that locks your route to the road.  Otherwise, it’ll do this:

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When in reality, you actually want this.  The key difference being one follows the road, while one tries to make an illegal crossing over a river and a baseball field.  Foul ball!

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Those two buttons are here:

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Next comes creating new route points.  You’ll just right click on where you want the route point to be created, and then select either ‘At beginning of route’, ‘In middle of route’, or ‘At end of route’.  While I think the intention here is to make it so you can make more complex routes and add points later on, it makes it a bit confusing.  In short – just always click ‘At end of route’ and life will work out.

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If you select a point sufficiently far away, it’ll try and find the right routing between those points.  Sometimes this works out fine (close destinations), and sometimes it’ll send you up on a highway at 70MPH+, as in the case below:

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I also found that if I selected a point too far away, it would just sorta give up and not display and error message.

But in general, it works fine.  And in most cases, since you’re actually specifying a route to ride, you’re usually pretty specific on what that route should look like.  Thus you’re probably down at a pretty close level.

Overall though, it’s still fairly straight forward to create GPS routes.

Creating Videos to Ride:

Now comes the more interesting part – creating courses with your own GoPro videos (or, whatever video camera you’d like).  First, you’ll need to have both a GPS file and a video file.  Ideally, those are time sync’d together.  Of course, if from a race this can get a bit tricky.

I have a number of video files with GPS tracks that I’ve taken over the years, but most aren’t super-well sync’d together.  So I decided to aim for the stars and pull up the course last June with a FR910XT exported GPS file.  Since the GoPro file was split into two pieces, it seemed like I may be in for some trouble.  Honestly, going into it I had about 20% confidence this would work.  But I set out trying.

(Side note: Because most longer GoPro footage will be spliced into multiple files, you’ll need to put it together into a single file in order for the CycleOps software to utilize it – otherwise it’ll try and speed up the GPS file to match the shortened video.  You’ll need to grab some freeware (or paid) program to tie them together.  Note, try and ensure that the the file length is almost EXACTLY the same as the GPS length.  If there are differences, it’s really difficult to align everything because even though you can do a starting offset, you can’t do an ending offset, which means it’ll ‘scale’ things instead of just playing from the offset.)

After getting the files copied over, I went ahead and created a new route based on the GPS file as above.  First, importing in the file:

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Then comes smoothing things out.  Again like above, note how important it is to apply the smoothing – specifically look at those Max Slope numbers along the right.

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Once the GPS file is pulled in, you’ll see the overview of the raw course on the map.  In this case, my Alcatraz ride:

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Next comes adding the video.  You’ll do so by clicking the ‘Load Video from File’ button.  Note that you’ll likely have to change the dropdown within the box to ‘All files’ instead of ‘All Video formats’, otherwise you’ll just see an empty box like below:

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Once you’ve imported it in, you’ll see the preview in the lower right corner.  At this point, it assumes that your video starts at exactly the same point as your GPS file.  In my case, that’s a flawed assumption.  My video starts in the transition area some 22 seconds prior, while my GPS file starts at the exit to transition.

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So you’ll have to finagle a bit to get the video to lineup precisely to the GPS start point.  Otherwise, things will look out of whack.

This will take a while.  The tools are a bit funky here in terms of aligning points.  Reading the help file will leave you more confused (I think it went through Google Translate a few times too many).  The most important tip I can give is simply right click where you want the video to start on the track file in the map window, and then set the offset there.  I know that sounds simple and maybe even obvious – but I assure you, it’s really not.

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Once that’s done, you’ll see the offset displayed.  So in this case, it’ll start the video from the 22 second marker instead.

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So, once that’s all done, just save everything up (locally).  This takes a bit of time. Like, a long bit of time.

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Eventually it’ll finish, and upon doing that you can actually upload it to the service.  This means that as I go on cool rides around the world, I could share them easily with you.

To do so, you’ll click ‘Upload to Internet’ in the lower left corner.  Upon doing that, it’ll go ahead and finalize the official listing location, in this case – San Francisco.

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Then it’ll confirm everything – including the video sizes.  Eek that’s big!

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Then you can click ‘Upload’, and wait forever.  in my case, some two days was the quick back of the napkin math.  I assure you, not because of my connectivity.  I cancelled it prior to finishing, but I may try again in the future.

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Of course, for me, riding it myself is more interesting.  Here, I’m able to ride it just like any other video course I could download.  Here you can see my view during last years Escape from Alcatraz just after the mount-line.

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And then a bit later:

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Again, pretty cool stuff – and lots of potential.

Notes about Fall 2012 changes to PowerBeam Pro Trainer:

I just wanted to very briefly touch on some minor changes to the PowerBeam Pro that have occurred in the last few months, and what those mean since my original review.  As you’ll read below, any (negative) changes should largely be eradicated here in the coming weeks.  Thankfully, the positive changes won’t disappear however.

Lack of ANT+ power broadcasting…or not?

Up until the end of last summer, the PowerBeam Pro trainers that were being sold included the ability to broadcast the power being outputted into ANT+ as a stream that any power meter compatible head unit could pickup freely (such as an Edge 500).  The idea being folks could record their workouts on the head unit of their choice, since sometimes folks already had workflows around training data.

However, around August the retail/distribution channel of PowerBeam Pro units came to a bit of a halt as CycleOps had a new updated version coming out.  When it came out a month or so later, it lacked the ANT+ power broadcasting.  Gonezo!

This wasn’t published and ended up leading to some confusion (well, a lot of confusion).

I talked with CycleOps about this a week or two ago, and they confirmed that starting later this month (February), all new PowerBeam units will again include automatic broadcasting of the ANT+ power stream.  The reason it was pulled was that in order to improve some of the electronic aspects of the trainer, specifically around communication, they removed all non-essential communication and rebuild the pod from the ground up.  In doing so, they pulled the ANT+ power broadcasting, not thinking that too many folks were really using it.  As they went to market with the updated device, that component never made it back in.

Since release, they’ve received feedback, and as such the final testing is underway to add that back in.  For those who bought trainers between then and now, CycleOps will update your firmware for you.  However, that will take some cross-shipping back to them, as it’s not an end-user serviceable item.  They’re working the details out on that.

Either way, it’s good news to see a change there.

TrainerRoad Integration

One item definitely worth noting is the just announced last week integration of Trainer Road (TR) with both the new and old models of the PowerBeam Pro.  This is the first time that the CycleOps trainer has been integrated (above board) with a 3rd party software solution.  Historically, Saris/CycleOps has been fairly closed in allowing other developers to connect to the unit.

But the TR guys and and the CycleOps folks apparently had a chat and got it all worked out, and now TR can control the resistance on the unit.  Joining the two other trainers at current they control, the CompuTrainer and KICKR.

While the TR software update isn’t public just quite yet, I had a chance to run a beta version. Setting it up is essentially just as simple as connecting to the KICKR (and quite a bit easier/cleaner than connecting to the CompuTrainer).

Once you’ve got it paired, then all you need do is start the workout like normal with them.  They don’t have a specific timeline for the change/update, they did publically announce it, and it’s in private beta versions – so I suspect it’ll pop –up soon.

A more open platform?

Given these two changes, I have to believe this might signal the start of a more open platform for the PowerBeam Pro.  While it’s no doubt that opening up the platform may reduce sales of the Virtual Training software, I think CycleOps realizes that the Virtual Training software is somewhat limited in functionality compared to what other platforms (namely Tacx with TTS) are doing at half the price.

For example, in comparison to those suites, the Virtual Training suite lacks many features such as street view riding, predefined workouts (though, that’s coming), 3D computer generated courses.

By opening up the platform they could allow others to fill those gaps.  More importantly however, it ‘levels’ the playing field between them and the Wahoo KICKR, which is priced just a tiny bit lower at $1,099 (compared to $1,179 for the PowerBeam).  From a pure hardware perspective, it’s relatively close to a wash.  Yes, the KICKR has Bluetooth Smart – but ultimately as long as CycleOps allowed control of the PowerBeam, the end-resultant is pretty similar.  And, some folks prefer not to have to remove their rear wheel each time as you’d do on the KICKR.

Essentially, it would allow consumers to pick whichever hardware platform made the most sense.  Now again, they haven’t fully opened up things today, but I’ve gotta believe that doing so would really help keep them in the game going forward over the next 12-18 months as more apps start to show up in the marketplace for trainers.

Comparison Tables:

You can utilize the below comparison table that’s dynamically updated over time (so as features change via firmware) to compare the different trainers that I’ve reviewed.  Note the key part being ‘I’ve reviewed’.  There are no doubt many other great trainers on the market, it’s just that if I haven’t reviewed it, I don’t feel right including it based on some marketing fluff.

Also, as you’ll probably notice, these are higher end trainers.  If you’re looking for lower-end options, see my general trainer recommendations post.

Function/FeatureCycleOps PowerBeam ProWahoo Fitness KICKRTacx GeniusRacermate CompuTrainer
Copyright www.DCRainmaker.com - Updated November 5th, 2013 @ 10:06 amNew Window
General: Price for trainer$999$1,099.00$1,340$1,629
General: Is Software Bundled for free?NoYesDependsPartial
General: Cost of software if not bundled$5 (tablet)/$10 (Desktop)N/A$185Base included, optional extras
General: Available today (for sale)Available todayYesAvailable todayAvailable today
General: Availability regionsGlobalUS/Canada/Europe/Aus/NZGlobalGlobal
General: Connects to computerYes3rd Party RequiredYesYes
General: Uses mouse/keyboard as control unitYes3rd Party RequiredYesYes
General: Has standalone control unit (handlebar)YesNoYesYes
General: Uses phone as control unit (handlebar)NoYesNoNo
General: Can use tablet as control unitYesYesiPad - Q2 CY2013No
General: Wired or Wireless data transmissionWirelessWirelessWirelessWired
General: Wireless between trainer and controllerPrivate ANTANT+ & Bluetooth SmartPrivate ANTNone
General: Power cord/supply requiredYesYesYesYes
Function/FeatureCycleOps PowerBeam ProWahoo Fitness KICKRTacx GeniusRacermate CompuTrainer
Resistance: Can manually control resistance (increase/decrease)YesYesYesYes
Resistance: Can specify wattage level (i.e. 200w)YesYesYesYes
Resistance: Includes motor to drive speed (simulate downhill)NoNoYesNo
Resistance: Maximum wattage capability1,000w+2,000w1,500w
Features: Ability to update unit firmwareYesYesYesNo
Features: Measures/Estimates Left/Right PowerNoNoNoYes
Features: Can directionally steer trainer (left/right)NoNoYesNo
Function/FeatureCycleOps PowerBeam ProWahoo Fitness KICKRTacx GeniusRacermate CompuTrainer
Accuracy: Includes temperature compensationYes
Accuracy: Support rolldown procedure (for wheel based)YesYesYesYes
Accuracy: Supported accuracy level+/- 5%+/- 2%+/- 2.5%
Software: OS Compatibility (included apps)Windows/iOS (Virtual Trainer Software)iOS (iPhone/iPad/iPod)WindowsWindows
Software: OS Compatibility (3rd party apps)Windows/Mac (via TrainerRoad)Windows/Mac/LinuxNoneWindows/Mac/Linux
Software: Has real-video type functionalityYes3rd Party RequiredYesYes
Software: Has computer-generated course functionalityYes (via GPS import)3rd Party RequiredYesYes
Software: Has Google Earth-style functionalityYes3rd Party RequiredYesNo
Software: Has Google Streetview-style functionalityNo3rd Party RequiredYesNo
Software: Has coaching mode (ability to pre-create workouts)Yes3rd Party RequiredYesYes
Software: Has online multi-player racing/competitionsYes3rd Party RequiredYes3rd Party Required
Software: Can create workout based on outdoor GPS rideYesYes, Wahoo Segments AppYesYes
Software: Can export data/history files post-rideYesYes, All Wahoo AppsYesYes
Function/FeatureCycleOps PowerBeam ProWahoo Fitness KICKRTacx GeniusRacermate CompuTrainer
3rd Party: Allows integration with other software applicationsCase by case basisYesNoNo, but some out there.
3rd Party: Integrates with TrainerRoadYesYesNoYes
3rd Party: Can upload history files to TrainingPeaksYesYesYesYes
3rd Party: Can upload history files to Garmin ConnectYesYesYesvia Golden Cheetah
3rd Party: Can upload history files to StravaYesYesYesvia Golden Cheetah
3rd Party: Can open history files in WKO+YesYesYesYes
3rd Party: Can open history files in Sport TracksYesYesYesYes
3rd Party: Can open history files in Golden CheetahYesYesYesYes
Function/FeatureCycleOps PowerBeam ProWahoo Fitness KICKRTacx GeniusRacermate CompuTrainer
Data integration: Can re-broadcast power data as open ANT+Yes and No (see review notes)YesNo3rd Party Required
Data Integration: Can re-broadcast data as open Bluetooth SmartNoYesNoNo
Data Integration: Can receive ANT+ power meter broadcastYes (Joule/VTS)App yes, trainer noYes3rd Party Required
Data Integration: Can receive ANT+ speed sensor broadcastYesYesNo3rd Party Required
Data Integration: Can receive ANT+ cadence sensor broadcastYesYesYes3rd Party Required
Data Integration: Can receive ANT+ heart rate sensor broadcastYesYesYes3rd Party Required
Data Integration: Can receive Bluetooth Smart HR sensor broadcastNoYesNoNo
Data Integration: Can receive Bluetooth Smart cadence sensor broadcastNoYesNoNo
Data Integration: Can receive Bluetooth Smart speed sensor broadcastNoYesNoNo
Function/FeatureCycleOps PowerBeam ProWahoo Fitness KICKRTacx GeniusRacermate CompuTrainer
Purchase: Amazon LinkLinkN/ALinkN/A
Purchase: Clever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10AKG)LinkN/ALinkN/A
DCRainmaker: Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

Remember to click the ‘Expand Results’ button as it’ll show a gazillion more rows than the quick preview above.

Summary:

The Virtual Training software is cool, no doubt.  Despite some of the polish issues, the underlying functionality does work well.  And the Netflix style of all you can eat videos is hugely appealing to me.  While the quality of the videos may not be as high as those that you pay $100 a video for (i.e. CompuTrainer Real Course Videos or Tacx Videos), I personally care more about variety than HD quality.  Now, that may sound strange coming from me (someone who loves HD programming and spends a lot of time on high-quality photography), but ultimately, when I’m working hard on a trainer, I’m not realistically appreciating the super-high quality imagery as much as I would sitting there watching the Discovery Channel HD on my couch later at night.

The singular concern I have about Virtual Training is the price.  That’s it.  It’s just really darn expensive ($315US) [Updated note, the pricing mode has shifted, now it's $10/month for desktop and $5/month for tablets].  Note that if you buy the trainer, then the software is included, which makes it quite reasonable.  It’s buying it separately that’s pricey.  When you look at competitive suites (such as the Tacx TTS suite), they include exponentially more functionality than the Virtual Training suite…and at significantly less cost.  Of course, it doesn’t include videos, but does include way more other components.

Then there’s the less tangible things to compare.  And this is where comparisons get tricky.  From a stability standpoint, I’ve had no issues with the Virtual Training.  Whereas I have (and hear from many others) issues with the Tacx suite from a bugs standpoint.  It also requires a beefier computer (TTS suite).  And then from a customer service perspective, I’ve never heard a bad thing about the CycelOps customer service folks.   They just ‘make it right by the customer’.  I can’t say that about others.  In fact, I get complaints weekly from folks begging for help dealing with support requests with other companies.

All that said, I like the Virtual Training software, and I like the fact that it’s relatively easy to create and upload my own videos.  And now that I know the tricks to doing so (well, only one trick: align everything perfectly), it’s really tempting to do more ride videos for folks.

Pros:

- Easy to use, simple interface
- It just works factor, not buggy
- Netflix-style ‘All you can eat’ on videos
- Ability to easily create my own GPS routes from just about any file type
- Ability to create my own video routes rocks

Cons:

- Expensive…really expensive
- Some English language issues
- Video quality can vary
- No workout feature (i.e. specified power levels) in software, requires Joule
- Doesn’t work natively on Macs

Found this review useful?  Here’s how you can help support future reviews with just a single click!  Read on…

Hopefully you found this review useful.  At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device.  The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love).  As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers an exclusive 10% discount across the board on all products (except clearance items).  You can pickup the PowerBeam Pro (and software) below. Then receive 10% off of everything in your cart by adding code DCR10AKG at checkout.  By doing so, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get a sweet discount.  And, since this item is more than $75, you get free US shipping as well.

- Virtual Training Software (standalone)
- PowerBeam Pro Trainer with Virtual Training software

Additionally, you can also use Amazon to purchase the unit or accessories (though, no discount on either from Amazon).  Or, anything else you pickup on Amazon helps support the site as well (socks, laundry detergent, cowbells).  If you’re outside the US, I’ve got links to all of the major individual country Amazon stores on the sidebar towards the top.  Though, Clever Training also ships most places too and you get the 10% discount. Thanks for reading!

And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible.  And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below.  Thanks! Finally, I’ve written up a ton of helpful guides around using most of the major fitness devices, which you may find useful in getting started with the devices.  These guides are all listed on this page here.

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138 Comments

  1. phil

    Nice review as always! One comment though-if that is your bike in the first picture you might want to get a longer rear derailleur cable. That loop looks terribly short, and probably is not helping your shifting.

    Reply
  2. Jonathan

    Nice and complete review as always.

    I guest like my folk and other question( powerbeam pro review), I have seen and I’m still not sure if we are or will be able to control the powerbeam pro with any other ANT+ device ( like garmin 800) or even Iphone with a ANT+ key ?

    Is the Joule and the computer the only option for stand alone control for manual training ? A bite a bummer to increase or decrease resistance with a laptop on my handle bar.

    Best regards

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, not at present (aside from TrainerRoad as noted above). The PowerBeam doesn’t adhere to an open-ANT resistance control spec. Mostly because such spec doesn’t actually exist.

      The Wahoo folks are finalizing the spec with ANT+, and plan to enable it on the KICKR. Thus, once it’s ratified CycleOps could adopt it, which would really pull them into being fairly open and all tons of apps to control it (via ANT+).

      However, I suspect that would additionally require the trainer to be sent back to them – again, if they did it.

      Reply
  3. Hi Ray,

    Thanks for the info. I am wondering if you would still recommend Tacx Bushido or it is out of the favor – assuming you are reviewing Tacx Genius. If you had a choice out of Tacx Bushido, CycleOps PowerBeam Pro, and Wahoo Fitness KICKR, which one would you choose?

    Reply
    • Jesse Bartholomew replied

      CycleOps is a contributor to the ANT+ development group and will implement an open protocol as soon as it is complete but things just got rolling so it might be a little while.

      CycleOps is also a member of the Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth Smart) Special Interest Group which is also working on a controlled resistance protocol.

      For what it’s worth, we developed the current PowerBeam wireless protocol in 2007 and introduced it to the market in 2008. We’ve made the protocol available to anybody that has requested it which includes Trainer Road, Retul and Wahoo.

      Reply
  4. Karl

    As usual, great review Ray! The only problem is that you just made my decision harder. I had my mind set on the KICKR mainly because the power beam pro did not do Ant+ power broadcast and the “openness” of it. Now that has been mostly rectified, I am back in my quandary. I like the idea of being able to leave my wheel on, unlike the KICKR. I wonder how much of a hassle it will be to mount up to the KICKR. Suggestion: you should do one of your videos showing how long it takes to put the bike on each trainer. Do you have to change skewers with the Powerbeam Pro?. Thanks for the great review.

    Reply
  5. David

    Are Mac users being discriminated, or will the program work for them as well? :-)

    Reply
  6. On a side note: you are in France now, you should start to use an Azerty keyboard, like normal people ;)

    Reply
  7. Justin

    Great review thanks!
    2 questions:
    1. Do you have to pay the same annual fee (c.30euros) to access the google earth function that Tacx charge for their Genius / Bushido and training software?
    2. Does the powerbeam unit power your descent like the Genius meaning you can freewheel down hills?

    Reply
    • Jesse Bartholomew replied

      The CycleOps Virtual Training software doesn’t make you pay the Google Earth fee. We went ahead and took care of that for you (I’m a big Google fan but that one stings a little).

      The PowerBeam doesn’t power your descent but we do calculate a virtual speed within the software so your course times remain pretty accurate. The added cost and hassle of driving the unit on descents didn’t seem worth it to us.

      Jesse Bartholomew
      CycleOps Category Manager

      Reply
  8. I’ve been using TrainerRoad with over a year now, and I can’t see the need to use anything else at this point in time. Its just so easy to use, and I’m getting VirtualPower calc off a Cyclops fluid2 trainer I got for $250 5 years ago and its still running strong. The Tacx and Cyclops software is cool, but at the end of day will I get faster than using TrainerRoad + Sufferfest? Probably not, and the lack of Mac support doesn’t help make it compelling either.

    Reply
  9. Larry

    Question…
    When you “sync” a gps file with a video, is it using the altitude data from the gps? Always thought that z-axis data off gps units was fundamentally VERY poor compared to location accuracy. I know my phone (Samsung GS3) has an absolutely awesome GPS/GLONASS positioning system, and also has a built-in barometric pressure sensor, but don’t know if any of the software out there is using the barometric sensor for improved z-axis accuracy.

    Was hoping the video building software would let you overlay your GPS track within a mapping program with topographic data and sync your video to the track using waypoints, and have the elevation data generated from the topo mapping program.

    I too am waiting on a KICKR, but ultimately would prefer something where you didn’t have to remove the rear wheel. When I went to a local bike shop to try the Power Beam, the bike went on/off the trainer real easily, but the promise of KICKR being open swayed me against investing in Cycleops. Have spent (or suffered) too many years with a Taxc imagic and their ever flaky software to consider Tacx again.

    Reply
    • Jesse Bartholomew replied

      Larry-

      If you sync a file we use whatever altitude data is in the file. In the case of the Joule GPS andGarmin Edge series which all have a barometric pressure sensor, the altitude is pretty good. Some other GPS devices rely on GPS “Z” axis which is very inaccurate as you stated.

      Most GPS “Z” axis data provides limited accuracy as well, even Google Earth is pretty bad. You need a GIS database of some kind to use GPS coordinates with any kind of accuracy.

      Reply
    • Larry replied

      Jesse,

      Thanks for the info. So you could take your GPS track and import it into something like Delorme’s Topo North America software, and generate much better altitude data. Can you recommend other software out there which might do the job as well? Does Garmin BaseCamp have this capability? Didn’t even know Google Earth had any topographic data.

      Reply
  10. Just FYI, the Saris customer support folks don’t YET know anything about the ANT+ “fix”. Presumably they will get the update process sorted out at some point, but as of right now contacting them won’t do you any good.

    Reply
  11. Thor R

    Thanks for this review Ray, it’s narrowing down my choices for my next trainer purchase.

    Did you get the Tacx Genius review done? The link in the comparison table (and search box on the site) takes me to the entry for it in ‘the Queue’ which includes a comment from you indicating you are awaiting the imminent, as of December 20, release of latest software. Are you holding off till the fix for current software issues (analyzer crashing on pause)?

    Cheers

    Reply
    • Thor R replied

      Ahh, just seen that TTS 4.6 was released 29 January. So I guess you have reallocated a “DCrainmaker testing slot” to accommodate all other reviews/work/life, etc.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Indeed, TTS 4.6 was just released last week.

      I had problems going into early January with the brake (basically the trainer resistance unit). We troubleshooted it for a bit, but ultimately, they sent out a new one about 10 days ago. But I’ve been travelling since.

      The Genius review is a wee bit more complex than the Virtual Training review – simply due to number of features, and the fact that I’m reviewing hardware as well (unlike this review).

      Reply
  12. Dan

    Ray, how accurately do you think the virtual rides simulate the actual slopes and grades of a route in real life? I purchased a Powerbeam in December and, while i really enjoy it, in general I find the simulated resistance to be less than “real life.” On simulated gps routes of actual outdoor rides, I find my average simulated speed to be substantially higher and, in particular on simulated negative slopes, I find the acceleration and the top speeds to be much higher than when riding the route outdoors. I am curious what your experience has been and if you have any suggestions.

    Reply
    • Harrison replied

      I don’t think you can find a trainer out there that would simulate the actual slopes and flats as accurately in real life. Smaller flywheel, I think, simulates uphill climbing the best – whereas a larger flywheel has greater inertial for flats and descents.

      Even the Lemond Revolution, will accelerate faster than you could in actual road use.

      Reply
    • Hyksos replied

      Dan, I have used this product for 3 months and have a love hate with it. In short, any uphill ride is great, but I avoid anything with a downhill. Downhills greater than -0.5% are simply unrealistic and frustrating. You will spin out with zero resistance. Aside from buggy software, this is the #1 issue with this software.

      One would think the quick fix is to suppress slopes > than -0.5%. The long term fix is to model air resistance. But as it is right now downhills are a waste of time.

      Reply
  13. David

    When writing a review, one would think that the fact that the program only works on a PC would be worth to mention at least once… since that’s sorta a hefty ‘con’ for a lot of readers of the site; and thus potential buyers

    Reply
  14. Clint W.

    I read your review and was curious until I saw the price of the stand alone software. Then I was curious again and looked at univetsystems, which is apparently where this software comes from. You can get what looks like the same thing through them for a subscription, which I guess over time could cost more, but initially costs less than what cycleops is charging.

    Then I got a bit more curious. I don’t have a power beam, power meter, or computrainer, just a garmin speed and cadence sensor and an old mag trainer. I hooked up Peripedal and set it to broadcast my virtual power out (which TrainerRoad should be able to do soon as well) and then hooked that “power meter” up to the univet software (which looks exactly like what you reviewed) and it worked just fine. The only thing missing is the “erg” ability, but since a watt is a watt that shouldn’t be much of a concern.

    Basically I got the software to work with a mag trainer and a speed and cadence sensor without spending the price being charged by Cycleops. I thought that might be interesting to at least one other person.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      It’s funny, I was looking at that yesterday a bit on the Univet systems site. I sent back the trainer already, but I may play around with the software and see what the exact differences are (aside from branding). I suspect there is some limitations around how clean the pairing looks.

      That said, like you noted, it may be great for many other folks – and at a reasonable price. Very reasonable.

      Hopefully, the Erg capability that CycleOps is requesting they add for themselves, also gets added to the platform.

      Reply
  15. Mitch T.

    After reading your reviews and others, I was a bit torn between the Tacx Bushido and the Powerberam. I bought the Powerbeam Pro. I bought a new laptop at the same time. I had problems downloading the VT software that came with the Powerbeam. I kept getting an error message when the Windows Installation Wizard tried to install VT. I have to admit-I was very frustrated and thought I might be making a scene at my local bike shop where I bought the Powerbeam. Wednesday morning I called Cycleops and was pessimistic that they could help with my computer issues. “Matt” at Cycleops asked a few questions and then gained access to my laptop through Windows remote access and he reconfigured my laptop and had me going in half an hour. He was smart enough to figure out that I had three USB ports on my laptop and that the one onf the right side of my laptop had less connectivity than the other two ports on the opposite side. This was enough to prevent the USB stick from working and to prevent VT from installing properly. Who would have guessed? This was the best customer service I’ve had in years from any company. I am very happy with the product and am glad I went with Cycleops.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Great to hear they sorted it out.

      I’d be willing to bet you might have a Lenovo Thinkpad. The right port is often yellow colored, and is in theory a pass-through for power, which means you can plug in something like a phone and you’re laptop will continue to charge it (even if powered off).

      However, in practice, they’re a PITA and result in lots of oddities. You can change the settings in the BIOS, but it doesn’t seem to help all devices.

      (Speaking from experience…)

      Reply
  16. Jared

    So Powerbeam vs Kickr?

    Reply
    • Mitch T. replied

      Wow, Rainmaker, you know your sh*t! Yep, a Lenovo Ideapad Y580.

      Reply
  17. KT

    Thanks for the great info! I’m almost first in line for a KICKR, but have had a Cycleops 400IC for years and will likely give VT a try, since I unfortunately have to ride indoors more than outdoors due to work/family. Anyway, do we have the ability to scale down the power on the rides on VT eg 80% of whatever the ride was actually done at? I would guess yes, but didn’t come across that anywhere.

    Reply
  18. Ian

    Nice review, really want to see your thoughts on the genius and maybe a VR showdown now you’ve got all the contenders….

    Reply
  19. blair

    my review of this review: 4 out of 5.

    This is the user guide the software should have come with. There are some things that I wish had been discussed, though.

    First, I had a lot of trouble setting mine up because I didn’t start with an existing account. The instructions confused me and I ended up creating the account starting from the wrong place and had to back it all out and start over (and I wish I was at the computer that has those notes so I could detail it here).

    Second, the Joule 3.0 and Joule GPS units are different, and the software is not really cognizant of that. A Joule 3.0 appears to have more control of the software, while the Joule GPS is merely there. At least the software disables the trainer control from the Joule GPS, which otherwise defaults to a 1.0% slope (if you don’t know this, the trainer just feels hard to ride when the software isn’t being used and the Joule GPS is on). And if you don’t have a Joule 3.0, mouse and/or keyboard are essential to controlling the software (I think; there may be hidden abilities in the Joule GPS).

    I’ve written Cycleops about the user-interface design, particularly regarding the gauntlet of dialog boxes that need to be negotiated when starting a ride, just to confirm things that never change from ride to ride. They said they’d take a look at it.

    Calibration could be discussed a little fuller here, but maybe there’s enough onscreen info to obviate the need. In particular, if you’re not in the habit of pumping your rear tire before each ride, or you don’t pump it to the same pressure each time, your power numbers will be inaccurate unless you re-do the calibration.

    Wireless communication to the trainer, cadence, and HRM sensors seems to be rock-solid; but they appear to have priority and use a lot more bandwidth than I would have presupposed. Other devices such as the internet and wireless keyboard get blocked all the time. This may be necessary to maintain the real-time data scheduling, but it may also be overblown. It could be a problem in the design of ANT+ itself and therefore unavoidable when mixing it with regular computing. Just expect to have to wait if you’re reloading a webpage while riding (surfing the web is handy when riding some non-video routes, though some of those are fun to watch on the map, too; Manhattan is a particular favorite of mine). I haven’t, however, noticed it being so bad that streaming from the web is upset. Pandora is certainly not bothered by it. I haven’t tried Netflix through the computer, as I get that from a BD player.

    Which brings us to the cost discussion. Yes, this thing is pricey. After I spent $1300 on the Cycleops gear and software, I added a cheap notebook ($350, core i3 at 2.5 GHz is plenty to handle all of this), a sale-priced 37-inch TV ($370), a discounted sound bar ($100, though there’s no sound on the ride videos), and a decent BD player ($110). I picked up some vinyl runner ($15 for 6 feet) from Home Depot to use as overlay on the wood floor. That all adds up to well over $2200. Albeit the only essential add-on, if you have a computer and monitor you want to use already, and don’t need to make it a pedal-powered entertainment center, is the mat. And the bike, naturally.

    I have to say that being able to ride Alpe d’Huez all the way, with video, in 1080p and (somewhat) accurate slopes, is one of those features that makes a lot of these issues seem really unimportant. The only way to improve on that would to let me stop and look out over le Bourg d’Oisans halfway up. There are a lot of spectacular ride routes in this world, and hopefully enough people will start uploading them before all of this is somehow made obsolete (or I blow out a knee or something).

    Reply
  20. Benjamin

    Thanks for the most recent review. I was torn on going with the KICKR or this trainer and am looking forward to replacing my Kurt Kinetic with this trainer. One image you posted caught my attention and I am hoping either you or Mr. Bartholomew (who I am impressed with for taking the time to come answer questions directly) can clarify for me. When you connected the Ant+ stick and the program was looking for sensors, it says in small print that only the Joule 3.0 is supported.

    My questions is this…is the Joule GPS that is included in the more expensive bundle supported as well?

    One additional question….at the end of the ride, will I have a GPX or FIT file that I can export and upload to Gamin Connect? I like to keep all of my training in one location.

    Thank you,
    Benjamin

    Reply
    • Jesse Bartholomew replied

      By compatible we mean you can control the software from the device so you don’t have to have the keyboard next to you. Joule GPS can be used as the source for creating routes.

      Reply
  21. Rafael

    Ray, please dont be shy on mentioning what companies you had bad experiences with customer services. I had a really bad experience with tacx. Both the genius was flawed, the software buggy and their customer service is just awful. Unfortunately i cannot comment on the customer service for cycleops as my powertap is being used for years without a single issue. My tacx genius gave up with less than 4 months of use…. Back to the old and reliable kurt kinetic.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Fear not, it’s coming in those review(s) that it’s applicable for.

      Reply
  22. Jared

    In theory could you use the cycleops software to control the kickr after it gets control via ant?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      In theory. Assuming that Wahoo gets it ratified, and CycleOps adopts it per the spec. And I see no reason why they would vary from the spec, since CycleOps gets say in the ratification process as a member of ANT+. Plus, those two companies talk anyway.

      But, that may require the unit being shipped back to CycleOps for an update. Jesse would have to elaborate.

      Reply
    • Jesse Bartholomew replied

      We just need Wahoo to share their protocol with us.

      Reply
  23. Larry

    Any comparison between Virtual Training Software and Kinomap?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hmm, not at this time. When I do the KICKR one I’ll be able to better judge that.

      Reply
  24. Hi Ray – as usual a GREAT review. I have the Powerbeam and VT and everything you noted, good & bad are exactly what I experience. I’m coming from a very old Computrainer, so the VT/Powerbeam is a huge step forward for me. I’m one of those who purchased the Powerbeam in late 2012 and ended up w/out the ANT+ broadcasting capability. I really wish I had known that at the time, because I would have delayed my purchase. It is nice to see that Cycleops is adding it back. Is there some timeframe (besides “February”) when Cyclops will make the exchange process known? There is still nothing on their support site about this issue.

    Reply
  25. Rick

    Ray,
    Great review. As a powerbeam pro owner and virtual trainer user since early December I agree with completely with your write up.

    You mentioned that predefined workouts will be coming soon, do you know if this will include ‘ergo’ control, or predefined target wattage settings, as part of the workout creation? I use the Joule GPS to do this now, ut was looking for some flexibility in using the PC to do this also (removes the extra step to download ride file from Joule).

    Also in your powerbeam Pro review you mentioned that you had some ride comparison data against your Quarq powermeter. Did you ever publish this? In my experience I have seen a bit of drift with the Powerbeam Pro stated wattage vs. my SRM. The Powerbeam tends to run roughly 10-15 watts higher than the SRM after roll down calibration and after 30 minutes of use. I see the variance more in wattage values over 300W. I am using conti trainer tire pumped consistently to 95PSI. I would like ot see if you see the same type of variance.

    Keep up the good work.
    Rick

    Reply
  26. Joe

    Hi Ray, Rick and Jesse,

    I own the powerbeam pro trainer and virtual training software. I’m trying to figure out the cheapest (and soonest) way to start doing ergo (pre-defined wattage) workouts. I’m considering buying a used Joule GPS to do this.

    I am still a little bit confused about the functionality of the Joule GPS vs the Joule 3.0, with the software and trainer. Can you confirm that the Joule GPS can be used to create ergo workouts AND that it will then automatically adjust the resistance of the powerbeam (ie, I won’t have to adjust the resistance myself manually as I follow the workout)? And would this workout be ridden from within virtual training, or is virtual training not necessary to ride ergo workouts?

    Also Jesse, do you think they will ever come up with options for virtual training such as adding wind, or additional rolling resistance manually? Like Dan said above, I have found my speed and times to be faster on the virtual training software than when I ride the same course in real life.

    Thanks, and keep up the great work, Ray!
    Joe

    Reply
    • ATucker replied

      Joe,

      I have the Powerbeam with Joule GPS. I can confirm that you can run an erg workout using just the Joule GPS and that the Joule GPS will will automatically control the Powerbeam without any additional input from you. I can also confirm the Virtual Training is NOT required when you are using the Joule GPS to control the Powerbeam. Nor is a computer of any kind required. Just the Powerbeam and Joule GPS.

      The workout is created in PowerAgent on your computer, loaded via USB cable to the Joule GPS and then run from the Training>Workouts screen on the Joule GPS. You can see how to create a workout at the Cycleops site: link to cycleops.com

      You can also control the Powerbeam manually using the Joule GPS in the Training>Workouts>Manual Power screen. This lets you increment the load up or down in 10W increments. If for some reason you cannot finish a erg workout, you can interrupt the erg workout and complete your ride using a manual workout.

      In Ray’s review, he mentioned Saris will increase the functionality of the Virtual Training software such that the user can execute erg workouts using the VT software. This feature is included with the Univets software, but disabled in the current CycleOps version of the VT. Perhaps Jesse can update on a timeframe when the interval feature will be ready.

      Reply
    • Jesse Bartholomew replied

      A Tucker is correct regarding Joule GPS and control of the PowerBeam. Let me know if you need further clarification there.

      We hope to have the interval/workout feature added to the Virtual Training software sometime this summer.

      Reply
    • Joe replied

      Thank you very much for your reply, ATucker – you’ve answered all my questions. And yes, it would be great if Jesse could update us on the timeline for creating workouts within Virtual Training – that would certainly be the most ideal.

      Reply
  27. Joe

    Just saw this – thanks Jesse!

    Reply
  28. Mitch T.

    I could use some help, please. I have a certified coach who has implemented a training plan for me on Training Peaks. He gave me a user name and password on TP to use to see my daily workouts. As stated above, I have the Powerbeam Pro hooked up to a flat screen with a laptop but NO Joule GPS. After each workout, I want to upload my data to Training Peaks so that my coach can see my data. When I first installed the VT software onto my laptop, I recall being asked for a user name and password for MapMyRide and whatnot, and I went ahead and typed in my DIFFERENT user name and password that I already had (different from what my coach gave me for Training Peaks). If I had been thinking clearly, I would have typed in my new user name and password my coach gave me for Training Peaks but I used my old MapMyRide user name and password instead. Can someone give me a step by step as to how to integrate my Cycleops VT software with Training Peaks so that my workout data gets uploaded to Training Peaks for my coach to see?

    Reply
    • I think your best bet on this one is to install the CycleOps PowerAgent software. PowerAgent syncs your VT data and PowerAgent can handle uploads to TrainingPeaks (as well as Strava hint hint wink wink) very easily.

      Reply
  29. daniel

    some idle thoughts. I really do not understand why Saris is mandating control of the licencing in North America. I really really wanted to buy this software but I just cannot bring myself to spend 350.00 especially without trying it. Then my other issue was if I did buy it I did not want to wait to use it, I want to download the software and go, not wait for a software package. Who even does that anymore. So I started thinking. My first thought is ANT+ is ANT +. There is not any special branded ant+ that I am aware of. So I called cycleops and asked, if I buy the software can I use my pre-existing ant+ usb stick and just get the license number? I was told no I needed the “cycleops” ant plus stick. So I did some more googling to find out the software package was actually developed by Univet and all saris did was buy the licence rights for north america. So I started reading the univet site and they do not require anyone else in the world to wait for a ant+ stick, they just have you download the software, take the licence number that they email you, type it in and go. So everywhere else but North America cycleops owners enjoy a convenience we don’t.

    So I thought a little about that. I guess I feel two ways about it. Either Saris is trying to protect North American customers by charging for a “lifetime” license which over time would make the software cheaper, or they are trying to extort as much as possible from a captive customer base.

    Univet sells multiple licenses, a 6 month and a yearly and maybe others. I understand that in the long run it will cost more to purchase univet licenses but it also means I am not locked into a software platform with a major investment so I can use it now and if a year from now there is something better I can switch with a lower
    loss. Also I like to think that licences that are paid for yearly keep a steady flow of income into the software company which funds constant improvements and updates.

    plus with a 6 month license I can really try it out. saris wanting 350.00 for an untried product without any really good refund policy is kinda tough.

    My next thought is if you lived outside of north america and then moved to north america would you then have to “give up” your already purchased software? I think not.

    So I emailed a family member in europe, I had them purchase a 6 month license and then email it to me. I then downloaded the univet software and started using it immediately.

    It works perfect, all features work and I am not tied into anything.

    In this day and age of a global economy I find it hard to accept Saris trying to control software purchases with physical border boundries. since they are simply re-licensing the product why not offer multiple purchase levels. what is the downside, that maybe customers would renew their 6 month licence every winter? Or are you worried the 6 month people will defect to some other software? if you are why not simply keep the development of it fresh enough that we do not have to?

    anyway, it is another option. almost everyone these days knows someone outside of north america

    Reply
    • blair replied

      Daniel, you might want to read that license all the way through, because your assumption that you’re licensed to use the software in North America even though you bought a valid license code outside North America may be incorrect.

      Reply
    • A few points I thought I’d bring up-

      We (CycleOps) had been looking for a partner that could provide us with a software solution that we felt was on the same level as our PowerBeam hardware since the PowerBeam was introduced in 2008. Our objectives were to provide a complete system that was easy to use and full of value.

      This search led us to Univet which, at the time, offered a great product but was limited to wired interfaces. We invested in the development needed to support the ANT+ network and quite a few other feature enhancements and packaged them up with our trainers. These improvements were made available through the Univet version as well. Because we invested in this development and because the new ANT+ compatibility requires an ANT+ USB stick we felt it would be easiest to package these things up with a different distribution model in the US. (Regarding the ANT+ USB stick, you don’t need a CycleOps stick but you do need an ANT+ USB2 model).

      We sell the CycleOps version of the software globally but the Univet version does have some restrictions. We are considering adding a subscription based option based on the Univet pricing structure.

      Reply
    • To be clear, if you live in the United States and use a Univet license it is not valid.

      Reply
  30. Justin

    I think the things I’ve read here have persuaded me to buy a powerbeam with virtual trainng software as a replacement to my Tacx Genius which has been a nightmare!, so thanks everyone. Apologies if these topics have been covered and I’ve been too stupid/confused to understand :-/

    I just have a couple of final questions before splashing out my money if anyone is able and willing to answer.

    1. I already have a garmin edge 500 so, without a joule head unit, could I adjust the slope and resistance of the powerbeam as I ride via my laptop or do you need the joule? and do you see a live streaming graph of your power / heart rate etc on the lap top as you ride non gps/video routes?
    2. Does anyone know if the GoPro Hero 2 or 3 models have an inbuilt GPS? – my thinking here being I’d like to buy one and film my own rides to then share on the virtual suite’s database.

    Thanks :-)

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      1) No, not with the Edge 500 (controlling resistance). Requires a Joule. You do however see your HR/Power within the software.

      2) No, neither GoPro models have GPS built in. But, just take your Edge 500 + the GoPro and you’re good to go (which is exactly what I did with my example above at Alcatraz).

      Reply
  31. Justin

    Thanks Ray, that’s helped. It looks in the UK that we can buy 2 models of Powerbeam. A) without the Joule and B) with the joule.

    I guess if I can’t control the slope and resistance on the fly with my PC it’ll have to be the more expensive model with the Joule for me. Getting pretty pricey though with a video camera etc involved too for the ‘full on experience’.

    Thanks again

    Reply
    • blair replied

      The Joule 3.0 can do it on the fly, and it can control the menus in the software. It’s much trickier with the Joule GPS, which doesn’t talk to the software, and can only control the powerbeam when the software doesn’t have control. And even then it’s fiddly. The only way I’ve found to do it is to browse to the traning menu on the Joule GPS and change the training mode and set the resistance there. Then it goes back to the main displays, and if you want to change resistance you have to go through the whole process again. Attempting to +/- on the resistance display didn’t do anything for me. I may have missed something about it, but I’ve resigned myself to always selecting a suitable ride on the PC.

      Reply
  32. ATucker

    Blair: As you stated, on the Joule GPS to change the load or slope, you have to go to the Main Menu>Training>Workouts and select your workout, including Manual Power and Manual Slope. Once you do that, the Joule GPS goes back to the Dashboard displays. However it inserts a new Dashboard that will allow you to change power (or slope) without having to go back through the Main Menu. Scroll through the dashboards pressing the top right button until you get to the one that allows you to change power or slope. Relatively easy.

    Reply
    • blair replied

      I know I tried that, but I didn’t notice the resistance changing. It did change when I left the setup screen, but after that, nada.

      I will play with it again and see if it behaves differently.

      Reply
    • blair replied

      Okay, I’ve had a chance to try it, and it was a disaster.

      I went into the training menu and tried both Manual Slope and Manual Power. Each one put me right into the page with the slope or power display, and I used the +/- buttons to attempt to modify the resistance. No change. I tried each mode several times. No change.

      I know the unit is controlling the slope because when the Joule GPS is on and the PC takes over and overrides it I can fell the default 1.0% drop to 0%. Interestingly, before I’d installed the software I rode a couple of times just with the Joule GPS and noted that I wasn’t getting much speed out of the bike, and figured the setup felt like about a 1% slope. I was gratified when i later discovered that the Joule GPS actually sets itself to exactly that slope when you power it on. Or at least mine does.

      Having decided not to play with it any more, I used the INT and – buttons to try to reset it back to its power-on state. And instead of resetting it locked up. That was yesterday. It’s still on, still frozen on the slope-training screen, and no button does anything. I thought I’d let the battery die, but with the GPS disabled (it does that when it detects the powerpro unit) it’s not using any juice other than to keep the LCD segments dark, which any old-school LCD watch user knows means months and months of waiting to kill a single tiny watch battery, and that’s with the colon blinking, which causes switching current which is the biggest draw in such devices. The fat battery in this, with a totally static display might go a couple of years without changing.

      It’s a brick.

      But there’s an “AC” button on the back, and I have the paperclip needed to actuate it. I suspect that it will wipe a few weeks of ride records, but what else is there to do? The battery is sealed in there, so no way to do a disconnect reset. Here goes….

      Pressed it for 5 seconds, and released. Flash of light on the screen, then blank, then comes on normally.

      Hey! It has my old kms in it still.

      Most importantly, it still has Slick (my bike with the training tire on it) and my particulars and all the sensors programmed in. At least I won’t have to go through pairing again.

      Okay. Disaster averted. But not without a look over the wall and down the crevasse.

      But my Joule GPS still doesn’t work for manual control of the resistance. If it actually does for other people, I’d need a replacement or firmware update. If it doesn’t work for anyone, then everybody would need that.

      Reply
  33. blair

    Slight update: to be clear, the +/- buttons varied the numbers on the screen, but the resistance at the wheel didn’t change. Power measurements work fine, and the Joule GPS makes the resistance go up when the Joule GPS is turned on. Just not when it’s changed manually.

    Reply
    • Rickk Barrosa replied

      Blair,

      I had the same issue when I first received my power beam, the Joule GPS would not adjust to the power settings I would select. I contacted customer service at Saris via email and they provided a link for an update to the firmware that corrects this issue.

      I’m sure Jessie can chime in further.

      Rick

      Reply
  34. FSonicSmith

    I posted above about this and no one stepped into help, even after my glowing accolades of Saris/Cycleops!
    C’mon somebody? After each workout, the Cycleops VT software invites me to “confirm” my workout and it then seems to be uploading somewhere, but I can’t figure out where it’s going. I have a Training Peaks account and I would like the data from each workout to go there. How do I go into VT software and re-direct the uploading of my workout data?

    Reply
    • It’s best to call us directly for support of this nature- 1-800-783-7257

      In a nutshell you need to install PowerAgent which will automatically detect virtual training rides and upload them to wherever you want. (TrainingPeaks, Strava etc.)

      Without PowerAgent, the rides get uploaded to link to virtualtraining.cycleops.com

      Reply
    • dan replied

      the virtual training workout uploads automatically to your virtual training log (online through univet) you can go into your univet virtual training log and then export your workout as a tcx file. then you can have your poweragent software import the tcx file which will then upload to training peaks if that is the way you have it set up.

      what is interesting is saris replied that they funded the development of the virtual reality software yet even though they were paying for the development they did not include a way to upload to their own site or record in a version that poweragent could find without the “re-download” and import?

      just like the licensing arrangement another anomaly that just does not make any sense

      anyway thats the way for now. VT transfers to their own “online” training log and you have to export and upload to poweragent

      Reply
    • I think this is the 3rd time I’ve typed this in the comments here but Virtual Training by default uploads to virtualtraining.cycleops.com AND/OR can sync with PowerAgent which can upload to the cloud destination of your choice.

      Reply
    • dan replied

      sorry you have to type the same comment so much.

      perhaps there is a disconnect because mine absolutely does NOT automatically detect virtual training rides and I CANNOT find where the setting is to make anything transfer to training peaks from within the virtual reality software.

      too bad 1 of those three posts didn’t include instructions

      now my poweragent software will upload anything I want to a whole host of different services once I initiate the transfer.

      interesting enough the ride I took tonight using the manual workout on my joule 3 and without using the virtual reality software at all cannot be found anywhere at this point.
      this is not the first time a workout or activity has gone missing
      it happens often enough I have taken to riding with both my joule 3 and my motoactv side by side ensuring at least 1 unit will capture the data

      Reply
    • Dan, maybe you could give us a call or email me your preferred contact method and I can have somebody walk you through the instructions etc?

      You can email me contact info. at jesse@cycleops.com

      Reply
  35. TITO

    Hi Ray,

    First of all, thanks lot for all this material, I will buy my first trainer and all this reviews were very helpful! I think without it, I would buy the wrong one and would make a very bad decision. Again, Thank You!

    I’ve reduced my options to this CycleOps Powerbeam or Wahoo KICKR and in order to choose one of them, I need to clarify the following, so please JESSE help me out here too :)

    Question to Ray:

    1. I am trying to check the option to buy this item via Clever Training and get the 10% discount according with your post, but the links appear to be broken or something happen… Is there any issue now? I can see the following message: “The link is not currently active”.

    2. The link of Amazon is OK but I am not sure if this version of Trainer includes the VirtualTraining Software and ANT+ USB Package, there is no info about the Software in the link of Amazon, could you confirm that the SW is included? The price confuse to me.

    Question to Jesse:

    3. I live outside of USA, thats mean, I could not carry or return the trainer to some store in order to do any firmware update or similar for obvious reasons… (If it is needed)

    I want the Powerbeam Pro with the ANT+ power broadcasting enabled, and according with review, it will be ready in February, well now is March 2nd… is it? If no, Could you give us and exact date when this feature becomes ready?
    Also as you can understand I need to ensure that I will get the unit with this feature already enabled, how can I ensure I’ll buy the right unit with this item? After buy it, I move out it to my country.

    4. Or maybe is there some way to update firmware in my country without return the trainer?

    5. Feature of Univet called Internet Races are available in VirtualTraining?

    6. The Interval/Workout feature which you told will be ready in sometime this summer, will be a free update for the Software VT and without the need to update firmware of trainer too? It will be compatible in some way with TrainingPeaks?

    Thanks a lot guys!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hi Tito-

      1) I double-checked and all the links work for me (as of now), can you double-check again? You’ll apply the DCR10AKG as part of checkout. Let me know if not, and I’ll definitely try and figure out what’s up. Alternatively, you can always go straight to the Clever Training site and find it there, and still apply the DCR10AKG to it. Everything gets sorted out in the backend later.

      2) My understanding is that specific one is the correct one with the software.

      P.S. – I hugely appreciate the support!


      (I can take a stab at these questions, but Jesse may correct)

      3) Based on my understanding, any unit updates will indeed need to go back to Madison, WI.

      (I’ll let Jesse clarify on if/when the ANT+ update is in there now – and whether that would include units Clever Training has.)

      Thanks!

      Reply
    • TITO replied

      As always, thanks Ray… Maybe could you contact Jesse in order to answer the other questions? :)

      Sorry, but it is important for me to take the right decision.

      Thanks a lot!

      Reply
    • The firmware update for ANT+ must be done in Madison on existing units. We have it ready and hope to release soon pending testing.

      Internet racing is not available in Virtual Training. (our focus has always been on serious training and actual performance gains. While arguments could be made internet racing could achieve this the complexity in offering a positive user experience from all angles outweigh the possible benefits).

      The interval/workout feature will not require a firmware update, only software update. We don’t plan on any specific compatibility with TrainingPeaks but that’s not a bad idea. The big issue, if I understand TP’s workouts, is that they don’t allow you to create the using power. All our CVT workouts will be power based.

      Reply
  36. Adam Mendoza

    Is there way to upload the data from Joule 3.0 to garmin connect or export to other sites?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Yes, you can just export out the files to a generic format, and then go from there. Though, the Power Agent software that works with the Joule GPS includes exporting capability for most sites.

      Reply
    • Adam Mendoza replied

      Great thanks! I just installed it.

      Reply
    • Salman replied

      Hi Jesse,

      Any chance I can talk with you offline about some specifics? I tried speaking with customer service to ask some stuff but they couldn’t really give me any info that I was looking for. I’m pretty much at the tipping point to diving in on a powerbeam

      Reply
  37. Salman

    Now that I’ve weeded through all these trainers, I believe this is the best one for me. However, the one feature that I really liked with the computrainer and taxc is the computer generated courses that have digital riders to train against… Or even the ‘silver man’ like with computrainer where I can race against my own best time, etc.

    Another feature is pre set workers such as intervals. Does the powerbeam with VRT have anything like these? Is it probable that something like this will come as an upgrade down the road?

    Man, this research on trying to find the best trainer for my needs is EXHAUSTING! I might need a therapist to work through these issues :)

    Reply
    • Virtual Training software does have a virtual partner feature that we recently added. You can select any of your previous times or anybody who also rode the same course and uploaded results to the site.

      We’ll have intervals added for fall, until then you need Joule to do an interval type workout.

      Reply
  38. Salman

    Now that I’ve weeded through all these trainers, I believe this is the best one for me. However, the one feature that I really liked with the computrainer and taxc is the computer generated courses that have digital riders to train against… Or even the ‘silver man’ like with computrainer where I can race against my own best time, etc.

    Another feature is pre set workers such as intervals. Does the powerbeam with VRT have anything like these? Is it probable that something like this will come as an upgrade down the road?

    Man, this research on trying to find the best trainer for my needs is EXHAUSTING! I might need a therapist to work through these issues :)

    Reply
  39. Salman

    2 more things: Does the cycleops app for the iphone have any functionality with the powerbeam and VR software? And do I really need the Joule? I’m a real newbie when it comes to tech so I don’t really know why the Joule would be necessary with the powerbeam if I’m using the computer.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No iPhone functionality tied to the CycleOps app that I’m aware of. Sorry! As for the Joule, no, you don’t need it with the computer.

      Reply
    • Steve R replied

      It depends what you want to do. If you want to ride real courses then, No, you don’t need a Joule. If you want to do predefined intervals then, Yes, you do need a Joule.

      Although some comments talk about interval functionality being available in Q2 2013, I can’t find anything more concrete than the comments here on Ray’s articles.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      In comment #46 (or, what’s currently #46 anyway), Jesse notes a timeframe of this summer as a possibility for intervals. Jesse works at CycleOps, and has been great about providing updates and answers here.

      Reply
  40. Tom Mikolinski

    Incredible review as usual. I absolutely love my Powerbeam Pro, however one thing I did notice is that when using VirtualTraining on steep slopes, Alpes d’Huez for example, I get a message that tells me I need to keep my speed up (appears to be over 10mph) in order for the power to properly calibrate. If I don’t, the resistance basically goes to zero. As much as I’d like to climb Alpes d’Huez at over 10 mph I don’t see that happening. Is this something you have run into in testing the virtual trainer on climbs or is there something specifically wrong with mine? thanks!

    Reply
    • Regarding the minimum speed-

      The PowerBeam Pro generates resistance when a the moving flywheel passes by a magnet. The more flywheel speed (wheel speed) the easier it is for the system to generate resistance. There is a threshold where the trainer knows it needs to provide more resistance (because you’re climbing Alpe d’Huez for example) but there isn’t enough roller speed so it prompts you to “speed up”. What it’s really asking you to do is shift into an easier gear so you can increase your cadence which will increase wheel speed. The virtual speed calculated by the system as you climb won’t necessarily change but it will make things easier for the trainer.

      Hope that makes sense.

      Reply
  41. Marco

    Wanted to know if the newer versions of powerbeam transmit power data to the garmin edge. What manufacturing date do I have to look out for to ensure I get the updated units. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Units manufactured after May 1 should be ANT+. Keep in mind we have a pretty deep distribution structure so in some instances units may take some time to move through. There is a date code stamped on each trainer. In the event you get a version that is not ANT+ we can update it for you. Also, we’ll be making these available on http://www.cycleops.com shortly so if you haven’t already bought one you can order there.

      Reply
  42. El Tri Presidente

    As an average cyclist preparing for Ironman Nice while living in flat Miami, what trainer do you recommend? One thing that was recommended to me was Computrainers spin analysis, do any of the other trainers have this feature? I am partial to Cycleops but am open to suggestions.

    Reply
  43. Mike

    The latest issue of Bicycling Magazine (downloaded on iPad) has an ad for Cycleops Virtual Claiming promoting an iOS and Android tablet app. There’s no app in the store yet, though.

    Is this actually coming soon? Or am I crazy….

    Reply
    • It’s coming! We introduced it at Trek World earlier this month and it will be on show at Eurobike. Availability should be sometime in September, maybe October. I’ll try to post some updates here so stay tuned.

      Reply
  44. John

    I bought cycleops power beam pro and the virtual training per your reviews…. well, the virtual training software crashes my laptop. Here is the spec of my laptop (it’s a bit old):

    Operating System: Windows XP Professional (5.1, Build 2600)
    System Model: Inspiron 9300
    Processor: Intel(R) Pentium(R) M processor 2.00Ghz
    Memory: 1024MB RAM
    Direct X: DirectX 9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)

    It gives me the blue death screen. Anyway, I called the support and at first they were trying to help me pretty quick, but still couldn’t fix it. So I asked them if they have any other solution (with e-mail and voice mail), and they haven’t returned my e-mail or phone call since March 25th! I thought that Ray spoke about how the support was much better than Bushido people. I am not so sure, right now. The employee who didn’t return my e-mail is Lauren H. Now I have a piece of software that really doesn’t work and I paid a good money for them. I also have a trainer that I bought thinking I can put a course I can “pre-ride” on the trainer. If I knew this was going to happen, I would’ve bought CompuTrainer.

    Reply
    • Can you email me directly at jessebartholomew@gmail.com to get his sorted out? Obviously something fell through the cracks here. We’ve had good success troubleshooting most issues and our comunication is usually better than 5 month turn-around……

      Reply
  45. I think I have finally made up my mind on which trainer to get.

    It looks like the Cycleops virtual training software is now compatible with the Wahoo Kickr.

    It was how relatively new Wahoo is and software availability for the Kickr, that held me back from buying it.

    I held back from buying the Powerbeam pro because of the facts that, you had to send the power beam pro back to the mother ship for firmware upgrades, I don’t like how the tire rubbing on the roller generally feels on my fluid two trainer, and I really liked how the kickr felt at the Toronto bike show in the spring.

    I am wondering how well the Kickr works with the cycleops virtual training software. From reading the software requirements, it looks like it works under windows 8 with Bluetooth or ant+.

    It also looks like the current Power Beam Pro is off the website and two versions will be available at some point, including a Bluetooth smart version.

    So, I think I will order the Kickr tomorrow, likely from Apple Canada’s site to avoid shipping and duty costs.

    I will keep an eye here for comments. Please comment if you have negative experience with the wahoo and virtual training. As long as all goes well I will comment back once I have real virtual experience myself.

    Rick

    Reply
    • rick replied

      Just checked clever training, and they seem reasonable with shipping to Canada. ($19.00) so with the discount it is cheaper to buy from them.

      Rick

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Thanks Rick – I appreciate it!

      Note that at present, the CycleOps software won’t work with KICKR (at least, not unless something changed unknowingly in the last month or so). As the CycleOps software doesn’t (yet) do control using the ANT+ Resistance Control Profile (which is still being worked on). I’d suspect long-term that’ll happen, but it doesn’t today (unless they’ve implemented something secretively).

      Reply
  46. List of new Apps (Iphone and Tablet in Sept 2013) Windows download link:

    link to virtualtraining.cycleops.com

    Compatibility list:

    link to virtualtraining.cycleops.com

    I really hope I have read this correctly. I will hold until Jesse comments.

    Thanks

    Rick

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Very nice. I didn’t realize that. Nice find! Assuming Jesse concurs that US folks can purchase, I’ve got some tables to update…

      Reply
  47. I was just making my usual rounds in my search for the right decision when I noticed all the changes. It really surprised me yesterday in a pleasant way when I noticed it. After your comment, I just noticed controlled resistance listed under windows with Bluetooth and speed and power listed under ant+. Looks like I will need two dongles to continue to use my existing ant+ heartrate and cadence sensors as well as have controlled resistance with a kickr.

    Reply
  48. danny

    Looks like the virtual trainer is now a subscription based service as of September 2013.

    As a long time computer user, I know it’s never good to latch onto a dead product and be treated as a second class citizen.

    I was going to purchase the powerbeam pro NOW (due to a fantastic fall sale going on) but now considering the KICKR instead as it’s cheaper and I still have to pay the subscription “eventually”.

    The world’s constantly changing!

    Reply
  49. I am hoping that the subscription means other options like head to head racing are on the horizon.

    Subscription based is a bit easier to swallow than the $300+ price tag up front. Whenever I pay that for software there is the next $300+ version down the road that will be required for whatever reason.

    All told, My Kickr is on the way. I hope what it says online is real. I will pay the subscription. I hope to hate winter a bit less this year.

    The only fly in the ointment at present is the fact that Clever Training sent the package UPS instead of US Postal Service. UPS charges us Canadians a ridiculous brokerage fee to collect border taxes.

    Lets see how all this works out.

    Rick

    Reply
    • Rick replied

      Finally Cycleops has announced that subscriptions to their virtual training software are launching October 7th.

      On Clever training, they were great, their shipping department did not know that UPS charges huge brokerage fees to collect sales tax at the Canadian border. Once they were told, they refunded me in the amount of the brokerage UPS charged me. Excellent customer service isn’t having no problems at all, it IS dealing with inevitable problems in an exceptional way. Clever training was exceptional.

      Rick

      Reply
  50. I just got my Powerbeam Pro resistance unit back from Saris and it’s now happily broadcasting power data over ANT+ to my Garmin Edge 800. Simple and mostly painless: call Saris to get an RMA#, figure out how to detach the $#%^&* resistance unit from the frame, ship it to WI, wait a week or two, reattach the unit, and go!

    Reply
    • John replied

      did you have to pay for the RMA shipping? or did Saris pay for it?

      Reply
    • Jesse Bartholomew replied

      Normally the customer pays for shipping back to us and we match the shipping back.

      Reply
  51. Matthijs (Netherlands)

    “The video playback speed is based on your speed. So at certain speeds above/below ‘normal’ (the recorded speed), other aspects of the environment may look out of skew. For example, if on this path I slowed down to 4MPH – then things would be pretty ‘slow-motion’ feeling with respect to other cyclists or cars I might see. Make sense?”

    For me this is great aspect. The video slowing down or speeding up makes the climb real! The open source idea of sharing video’s is really cool as well. Nobody wants to buy a DVD these days when everybody can make his own video’s. Quality is an issue though. Really looking forward to buy this thing.

    Reply
  52. Ben

    Thanks for the great review and awesome site.
    I have a Cycleops Ant+ trainer and I’m trying to decide between using Virtual Trainer and Trainer Roads. Is there any difference in their abilities to automatically control the resistance unit? If not, is there any benefit to choosing one over the other – for instance preprogrammed training plans, etc…
    Thanks so much for any help with this decision.

    Reply
  53. Stephen

    I’m very excited to receive my Powerbeam/Joule GPS and Powertap wheelset. I won a raffle that included all of these. I’m guessing that the wheelset is unnecessary for my indoor setup. The trainer and software will monitor my speed, power, cadence etc. I’m sure I’ll have lots of questions once I receive my prize.

    Reply
  54. Matthijs (Netherlands)

    I have a question. I rode the Tacx Genius yesterday at BikeMotion in The Netherlands. Too bad Cycleops didn’t have a stand to show their product. When trying the Tacx I felt that during climbing a hill with an incline of about 8%, the riding was not smooth. When you push the pedals, it sort of looks like the wheel slips on the roller, but it doesn´t really slip. I could describe it as the unit doesn´t adapt fast enough when you push the pedals. It feels like you are turning an oval wheel, instead of a round one.

    Does this problem occur with the Powerbeam as well?

    Reply
  55. Joe

    Has anyone upgraded to the subscription-based Virtual Training software? I am trying to decide if it is worth paying the monthly fee for. I can keep the current version I have forever, but won’t receive updates. I know they have added power-based workouts. Has any other functionality been improved? Has anyone tried riding any RealLife Video courses?

    I am currently making a couple video courses of my own, but I find the video gets really choppy in the places where I try to line up points in the video to points on the map. Some professionally-made courses (Ironman, etc.) would be great.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Adam replied

      I’m trying to figure out what exactly the subscription service actually gets you. According to the website adding the monthly plan lets you do “Profile indoor training” and “Interval Indoor training” but never goes in to explain what those are. I can guess on interval training but what the heck is profile training? Can I still create/upload/download routes with the free software? I’m rather confused.

      Reply
  56. Stephen

    I’m trying to do a FTP test with my Powerbeam. Is there a way to manually set up a 1.5% grade to do a 20 min threshold test?

    Reply
  57. Ira McKey

    I currently have a powertap and Joule 2.0 with a KK road machine, I have a powerbeam on the way, should get here Thursday, I have downloaded the software as well as 30gb of routes both video and non video. Issue is mental trainer fatigue, I can get through threshold intervals but cant stand to be on the trainer more than 90 minutes, I am hopeful the courses will help on rides past 90 minutes. I specificlly got the powerbeam to ride video courses and while the resoluton isnt great on some of the videos I suspect it will only get better.

    two questions

    1. Other than uploading gps routes and controling resistance on the head unit what do I miss out on having a joule 2.0 vs joule 3.0 or Joule GPS? I figure when my outdoor season starts I may grab a garmin 810, but reality is with Strava premium and every route I ride being in there I can download the gpx file for just about everything.

    2. Can I upload or utilize workouts on virtual trainer for 2×20 intervals? I get I can create a workout in poweragent but wanted to know if there exists or is planned the ability to select an Interval workout based on FTP? within the virtual traienr software?

    Reply
  58. Matthijs (Netherlands)

    I have a problem with Virtual Training with my Wahoo KICKR. In all training video’s or just TCX files with Google Earth the trainer sometimes loses Power. It seems like the connection is lost between my PC and the trainer. It happens about every 10 minutes. Suddenly the trainer backs off the power and picks up again about 5 seconds after. Strange thing. I also use Trainerroad and I don’t have this problem with this program so I think it is software related.

    Somebody knows an answer?

    Reply
  59. dvader

    One thing I find weird with the new Virtual Training subscription structure is if I want to add my own routes including video, then I have to subscribe to both the (PC) desktop version and to the iPad version, as I’m using the iPad on the bike. This also have the effect of making it harder for users to add more video content. Which, I believe, would benefit the company in terms of being able to attract more users. They should turn it around so that you get a month free if you submit a new video route and this route gets approved.

    Reply
  60. Ira

    Just wanted to follow up, I found out I cannot adjust the Powerbeam with a joule 2.0 head unit. I confirmed this when I called Saris Support today. Figured out my powerbeam is about 30w to 40w higher than my Powertap. Because of this they are sending me a Joule GPS unit as part of the warranty so I can manually configure the powerbeam. SUPERIOR SERVICE. Cant say enough good things about Saris support.

    Its this support that will keep me buying their products.

    Reply
  61. Simon Villeneuve

    Just done a workout on my emotion rollers with a powertap and the ipad virtual training app (wahoo ant+ key).
    Was great fun ! and video streaming was good, not freezing everytime. Love the concept !
    But afterwards I can’t seem to be able to upload the workout to the portal….

    Any ideas on how to get my workout out of my ipad ?
    thx for the review BTW !!!

    Reply
  62. Peter

    My recent email to CycleOps concerning a major issue with this software. This product is an expensive commitment, how it could be released in this manner perplexes me. I appreciate DC Rainmaker for providing this forum for comments.

    Hi Cycleops:

    I am a diehard believer in training using watts, specifically your products. I have a ton invested in using your system. I have two road bikes equipped with PowerTap, and recently (a week ago) upgraded to the 420 PRO from the 300 PRO (which I used for 4 years). I live at 7 000 feet, so my indoor cycling equipment is important to me as winters mean a lot of snow, and no outdoor cycling. I used to use the Robbie Ventura DVD’s with my 300 PRO. I have purchased a Virtual Training Tablet subscription and have used the software for training on my 400 PRO. The training routes, however, are extremely limited when using the tablet (iPad) version, as are the interval training workouts.

    Your website suggests building routes on the Desktop version of the software and downloading such after logging in on the tablet version. To do this, however, would require that I purchase a PC (I only own Apple products); then I would need to purchase a Desktop subscription in order to build routes to use on my tablet. This is not a viable solution, by any means.

    To say that your company is the leader in watts based training would be an understatement. You build robust (and reliable) products for real world use, however, your dedication to PC based operating systems is highly questionable. This dedication leaves a big gap when it comes to native Mac applications, and is, currently, the downfall of your product. There is a term in marketing – “cognitive dissonance”; which, basically, means how irritated a consumer will feel each time he/she encounters a shortfall when using a product. I am feeling this way right now with my 400 PRO. I can’t use my Robbie Ventura training DVD’s, I am limited to a handful of unsatisfactory interval training workouts, and without a PC, I am unable to create routes – the sole reasons I upgraded to the PRO 400. (I was unaware at the time of purchase that you would not be intending to support your product with a native Mac application) In short, I am stuck, with a product which does not apply to me, as I do not use a PC. My sense is that I am not the only one out there, I read about this issue on DC Rainmaker’s blog (link to dcrainmaker.com) only after I had purchased the PRO 400. It is clear, after reading his review, that this software (and the PRO 400) was intended only for PC owners, with Mac users left out in the cold.

    This turn of events has left me thoroughly dissatisfied with my choice to upgrade to the 400 PRO. As of October 2013, Apple has sold 170 million iPads, this fact alone leaves me perplexed as to why your company would not consider a native Mac version of Virtual Training software, and commit to a dual PC/Mac launch when it came to bringing Virtual Training to life.

    In closing, and I know that I speak for many Mac users using PowerTap. (I stopped using Power Agent some time ago, rather converting to the Garmin 800 with their software package for use with PowerTap) I think it fair to say that you should position yourself as a dedicated watts/PC company and steer Mac users elsewhere (as opposed to offering weak, unattractive solutions for Apple users). Your current marketing dilutes your brand as you have a solid mass of users who are treated as second class citizens.

    Kind Regards,

    Peter

    Reply
    • Peter,

      Not sure if you got a reply to your letter to us or not but thanks for taking the time to express your dissatisfaction and for posting it here. At the risk of contradicting whatever response you may or may not have gotten from us I’m going to respond here.

      First off, you’re absolutely right, we do not have a native Mac version of the desktop software but we are actively working on it. We first offered the Virtual Training product last year as PC only and for 2013/2014 had to decide between a desktop Mac version or a tablet version. We chose tablet (iPad and Android versions are now available).

      I have to say I’m disappointed to read your comments since PowerAgent was the first native Mac compatible power analysis software available almost 7 years ago but again, I do understand your frustration over not having a desktop Virtual Training option but we’re not ignoring that opportunity.

      In the meantime, have you used the interval feature in the tablet app?

      Reply
  63. blair

    Now the Google Earth won’t work. It’s the first time this winter I’ve tried it. Is this a “feature” related to the subscriptionization of online training access? Because it sure seems like it shouldn’t be. What worked last year should work this year, because I paid full price for this thing.

    Reply
    • blair replied

      Update: the server apparently was down when I tried to connect, and that manifest itself as Google Earth not wanting to load. Not sure why that should be a dependency, but whatever. They have gotten the server fixed and it loads and runs as normal.

      However, the next time I started it up it applied a software update and now Calibration has stopped working. I start the cal and start spinning and it claims it will start calibrating “in a few seconds” but it never does…

      Maybe tomorrow…

      Reply
  64. Mike Quick

    I purchased a power beam ant+ within the last month, due in large part to Ray’s in-depth review early in 2012. Purchasing it here in Canada in late 2013 a lot seams to have changed, not all for the best. I am now waiting for a Joule 3.0 to arrive, (additional $’s not anticipated). I am a MAC user so now looking for a PC to connect to my Apple HD 30″ cinema display, (addition $’s not anticipated) once I have this I will need to subscribe to VT (additional $ not anticipated) I thought I had researched online well, obviously not well enough. I’m riding without any data output and staring at a blank wall BUT I AM RIDING. Having read all the previous comments above my head is spinning, with this tech “stuff” I really don’t want to become a computer geek, I just want to ride my bike through the Canadian winter and monitor my progress with real life rides throughout the world. Is this a case of DREAM ON!

    Reply
    • Sorry for the confusion Mike, between 2012 and 2013 there were two big changes- first we went to a subscription based approach to support tablet apps. and as a result also started offering the PowerBeam without the Joule as an option. Sounds like you got steered towards the wrong option. Do you have a iPad or Android tablet at all?? If so you could skip the Joule 3.0 and PC and just subscribe to the app

      link to virtualtraining.cycleops.com

      Reply
  65. Austin

    I just placed my order for the Power Beam Pro Ant+ with Joule Gps and have a question for Jesse (or Ray!) regarding the forthcoming Ant+ standard called “Trainer Device Profile”. Will this new standard be implemented by CycleOps in the future and if so does it require a firmware update (by sending it to Saris?) for the Power Beam to use its functions? Perhaps only a software update to VT will do the trick?
    Any time frame for a Mac Desktop software package?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      My understanding from talking with Jesse recently is that this won’t be an consumer-updateable change. But that they were looking at ways to possibly send in a unit to get updated. He may be able to clarify though.

      On the bright side, most apps that would be doing the ANT+ trainer profile are adding in support for the PBP on the side anyways right now.

      Reply
  66. Drew

    Here and there on the internet I see the CycleOps PowerBeam Pro ANT+ listed with a model number of 9475. On the Saris/CycleOps site the product is listed with a model number of 9480 (and 9481 if purchased as a bundle with the Joule). Can you offer any guidance on the 9475 model number – are units with this number an older versions of the product (perhaps when the automatic ANT+ broadcast feature was temporarily removed). We’ve got snow on the ground so it’s time to suck it up and put some dollars into a trainer.

    I too wanted to express my thanks for the time and thoroughness you put in to the reviews.

    Reply
  67. Laura

    Thanks for the great review! This is a really good product and me and my partner really like it, however I must question the ethics of Cycleops in trying to force those early adopters of the software that paid a small fortune for it (It costs around £300 per licence here in the UK!) into ditching the already paid for licence and taking out the monthly subscription instead. They are giving an incentive of 1 years free subscription for ‘upgrading’ if done before the 31st December 2013 which is worth $120 so about £90 here in the UK which doesn’t seem very generous given the up front outlay a few months ago. The thing that I find most despicable is that desktop software users are now having their course download bandwidth throttled (A 2.5GB course taking around 8 hours to download instead of the 20 minutes that it should have done!) and now learning that we will not be entitled to any of the upgrades such as internet racing without ‘upgrading’ to the monthly cost. We are great fans of Cycleops products in this household, but owning 2 Powerbeams meant that as well as the high cost of the hardware we also shelled out £600 for 2 copies of the virtual training software a few months ago, is it any wonder we are quite miffed with Cycleops? Surely the people who made the outlay for the software in the first place should be applauded for getting the thing off the ground rather than being victimised for not wanting to pay yet more money out for something we have already purchased. Some may argue that software upgrades would have to be paid for anyway, and I can kinda see that, but throttling the bandwidth of downloads so that you have little choice but to pay out more money is holding current software holders to ransom. Not impressed I have to say, maybe this decision needs looking at again if keeping current customers happy is important!

    Reply
  68. Andrew UK

    Any cyclops joule users out there having problems working with poweragent. Saris is looking at the problem, but wondered if this was a widespread issue or local to me only. I get error messages ie duplicate column name, when trying to save activity to PA and transgferring workouts. Literally just bought the power pro 400 and when it came to using the s/w I ran into this problem. Can I bypass the joule with VT? And save activity that way?

    Reply
  69. Eli Shemtov

    I’ve been using Virtual Training with the Power Beam Pro for a couple of months now.
    Ipad with streaming videos using AirPlay to project onto a 60 inch HD TV.
    There are some occasional (seemingly random) glitches but overall the process has been pretty good and getting better.
    There are some fun rides through great sights and some are actual races.
    If anyone has some good routes to recommend please post them.

    Reply
  70. Drew

    Bought and have used 2-times my PowerBeam Pro ANT+. Great purchase and thanks to the guidance from your review. I do have four questions…

    1. I have a Trek Madone with the built-in Bontrager DuoTap. Is the DuoTap able to connect with Virtual Training (versus having to install the CycleOps cadence device that came with the PowerBeam)? I have tried to connect the DuoTap and it just keeps saying “connecting”.

    2. I’m using the Virtual Training via the iPad and thought to play music from the iPad while riding. After starting a ride I quickly go the Music icon and start a Playlist. Upon switching back to the Virtual Training app the music gets turned off. Is there some way to play music from the iPad while riding in Virtual Trainer that I have not figured out?

    3. Is there someway to stream or mirror the Virtual Trainer app to my flat-screen tv? Thought about Google Chromecast but I’ve heard that is not actually streaming or mirroring directly from the iPad and Chromecast apparently only works for things like videos, YouTube, music etc.

    4. Is there somewhere in the Virtual Training app that gives details about what all the output data means – particularly, in the Power Details section?

    Again, thanks…

    Reply
  71. Giovanni P

    Hi All,

    I just got the Powerbeam with the Joule 2.0 for christmas and I love the concept of it.

    I’m finding one thing REALLY perplexing. The Joule 2.0 (a wonderful unit for actual cycling), does not connect to the virtual training software for controlling the start up sequence and for changing gears while on a virtual course!

    First, why is it being sold in conjunction with the powerbeam with the premise of using the virtual trainer if it doesn’t have the same functionality with the virtual trainer that the Joule 3.0 does??

    Also, why then is the Joule 3.0 not sold separately?

    This seems like the kind of oversite that smart people at an exceptional company like Cyclops would not make.

    Is there a fix that I’m overlooking? Any suggestions?

    -Gio

    Reply
  72. Rickey Wray

    Thank you so much for all of your outstanding reviews. Your attention to detail and fairness is fantastic.

    Now, my question. As a 60+ racer, I bought the first generation of Power Beam Pro years ago. If I understand what CycleOps tech support is telling me, it is ANT, but not ANT+. The person I talked with while helpful was not at all familiar with the first version.

    I still use the original gigantic head unit (not a Joule) for programmed workouts and it does control grade and/or power. However, I would like to try the Virtual Training software and possibly use my Garmin 500 which I don’t think I can.

    If I understand correctly, this older CycleOps cannot take advantage of the Virtual Training as a stand alone and in reality then the trainer would just be like any other trainer without power?

    Any thoughts on the above would be most appreciated and if I confused everyone my apologies and I can try to clarify.

    Thanks so much, Rickey Wray

    Reply
  73. Mark

    Hi,

    Has anybody come up with a way to easily change gear/resistance during rides whilst using a Joule GPS head unit? Using the PC keyboard isn’t really an option!

    Cheers,

    Mark

    Reply
  74. Chris

    In the User information there is a spot for Altitude in in. how does one get this calculation? i.e. my house sits at 6,400 feet above sea level

    Reply
  75. frank

    i just bougth the Wahoo Kickr, trying all the software out there.
    the virtual software works quite well with Ipad, Kickr an Blue Tooth.

    just for creating a route, i need a PC instead of a Mac which is a minus.

    will think about taking an Abo thougth.

    Reply
  76. Rob

    As an update for those who have the in-between Powerbeam that does not broadcast Ant+ for 3rd party as the new one does. I sent it my unit and they flashed it for free and are in the process of returning it. Loved the product before, but love how responsive the company was to my request.

    Reply
  77. Paul

    Can some tell me how I download a video file to my IPad versus streaming video?

    Reply

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