DC Rainmaker http://www.dcrainmaker.com Fri, 12 Feb 2016 18:11:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.3 Behind the Scenes at Quarq HQ http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/02/behind-scenes-quarq.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/02/behind-scenes-quarq.html#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 05:01:13 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=56608 A while back (ok, a long while back), I went on a bit of a circuit around the US and visited a number of companies.  One of those was Quarq.  As long-time readers know, I occasionally do Behind the Scenes … Read More Here ]]> IMG_9194

A while back (ok, a long while back), I went on a bit of a circuit around the US and visited a number of companies.  One of those was Quarq.  As long-time readers know, I occasionally do Behind the Scenes posts on various companies in the industry.  With it being the quiet period here prior to spring, I figured I’d break out some of that goodness, starting with Quarq.

I think there’s a fascinating amount of stuff that goes into building a product that’s fun to share, and provides more insight into how companies operate (both good and bad).

As with all of my ‘Behind the Scenes’ posts, I cover all my own travel expenses to visit these companies.  So, if you find them interesting, your support and awesomeness via a variety of methods is always appreciated (see the sidebar).

Located in the middle of…

…nowhere.  That’s approximately where Quarq is.  Actually, the longest Interstate Highway in the US from Seattle to Boston (I-90) goes directly by it.  So you can see all of America on one drive – including a power meter manufacturer.

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Simply take Exit 14 and then turn at the Applebee’s, look for Walmart, and you’ve arrived.

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But no matter where you’re located in this grand world, there’s still no place like home:

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The additional benefit to being located away from cities is the beauty of it, which lends itself well to riding. And as a bike industry company – that’s what you’re really looking for. Plus, as I saw during my visit, it snowed in the morning, and was t-shirt weather by afternoon.  Perfect for temperature compensation testing.

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An impressive number of employees either commute by bike, or have bikes on hand for lunchtime rides, as seen in one of their entryways.

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Not surprisingly, I’ve found this to be the norm at bike companies the world around.  And like others, they have a small array of cycling memorabilia and art in around the office.  Quarq, as an entity that’s part of SRAM, is pretty involved in ArtCrank, one of the best known cycling-focused art entities out there.  You can often find artist’s work available for auction to benefit various non-profit causes related to cycling:

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But for the most part, it’s a rather subdued office.  It lacks the famous jerseys of the now-defunct LeMond Fitness location near Seattle, or the impressive gallery inside Specialized.  Yet, I think it’s kinda what sets Quarq apart.  They tend to be a bit more humble than others – and this shows.

And since the above is the sum total of the non-gadgetry portion of Quarq HQ, we’ll get right into a bit of geek fest.

Research and Development:

Like any company, Quarq is pretty much constantly at work on next generation products.  When I visited, they were still in trials of the Quarq Race Intelligence system, but also preparing what would become the Riken AL.  While both are on the main stage these days, the Race Intelligence is still very much young as a platform.  But, one I fully expect to expand over time given the huge potential as event organizers realize how to market it.

Much of the non-coding work of these products occurs just up the hill from the main manufacturing plant, in another nondescript building that overlooks the valley (and Walmart) below.

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Inside you’ll find a vast array of machines and equipment that would make any geek drool.  Especially those with a penchant for machine shop.

For example, we (just like the power meters themselves) can start with this CNC machine, which is literally cutting the power meter bodies from these apple pie sized chunks of aluminum:

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Here’s those apple pies:

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Here’s what it looks like through a few of the steps.  Totally automated:

And a couple of quick pics within that process:

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After they are machined they are then anodized, which is done outside of the facility and then returned back to Quarq.

They’ve also got this wireless test chamber, which allows them to test wireless signals (i.e. ANT+) in an automated manner from different directions.  The crank-arm will actually spin, just like in real-life on a bike.

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In case you’re wondering – they actually purchased it on eBay, and then had to figure out how on earth to get it to South Dakota.  Thankfully, the seller agreed to transport the beast.  Or rather, Jaws.

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Meanwhile, a dedicated clean-like room (with different entry requirements) is setup for a machine that laser-validates both the various components produced within the factory, as well as those from 3rd party suppliers.

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The unit is effectively a tolerance checker.  Oh, and it’s measuring a deviation of .0014mm on this specific pass.

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For me though, the most interesting room was the one next door.  It’s here that the company beats the crap out of products and validates various aspects such as load and force.  For example, the below home-built rig allows quick validation against a known weight (something common among folks that want to validate calibration on a power meter):

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There are four of these machines here on just this one side of the room…in case you’re bored on a Monday afternoon:

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However, there are other similar units with abilities to test additional functions, such as stress and fatigue.  This particular rig is running the power meters through a specific ISO certification aimed at cycling, via ISO 4210-8 (exact details here, in case you were wondering).

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And then there’s my favorite – which is the fully automated pedaling machine.  They can turn this on and have it run for as long as they want, giving a defined load and testing pattern:

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Oh, and they can also change the gear.  I think they were a bit proud of their mini-Di2 setup.  They noted they’d be looking to convert it to SRAM RED eTap, however, as of current it’s still slumming it on Di2.  I inquired this week as to the reason: “All the eTap goes to paying customers!”

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And if you want to test 18 spiders at once, there’s a machine for that too.

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Same goes for waterproofing tests, also possible via this test chamber:

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(At this moment, I’d like to remind you this is all just the R&D warehouse, we haven’t even got to production facilities yet).

Need to change out the chainring for a test?  No problem.  Here’s a few to pick from:

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While almost everything R&D focused occurs in the hill-side building, there are certainly cubes available for work that doesn’t require sitting in front of a piece of machinery named ‘Jaws’:

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For most of those workers, this sign is more appropriate:

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As is the small cartoon located above some test equipment – something I’m sure many RF engineers will appreciate:

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Of course, not all products make it to market.  For example, check out these two goodies from the olden days. It was the original Qranium and another attempt at a Quarq head unit:

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But some do.  After all – this is one of the original prototypes of a Quarq power meter:

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While that may seem crazy looking, it’s actually very much in line with how power meter prototypes are made today.  I’ve ridden numerous units that looked pretty similar to that (albeit slightly less boxy – but sometimes still with plastic wrap).  It’s the way engineering works – start ugly, and then refine to a consumer product.

How to build a Quarq PM in 13 Easy Steps:

So, you want to build your own Quarq?  No problem – let’s walk through how exactly you do that.  It’s a multi-step process that I was able to walk through each component.  To begin you’ll need to take one of those chainrings that we saw machined in the previous step by the crazy automated machine.  I’m considering that piece a pre-curser, since this is all about assembly.

One of the big shifts that Quarq made about 3 years ago was a move to be fully ISO9001:2008 compliant.  As a result, they brought in someone that was pretty deep into the manufacturing world.  Said differently, they brought in the mother of all process dudes.  His job was to tighten up the manufacturing line to produce more reliable and repeatable production.  Every piece of the below build process now has a specific QA (Quality Assurance) plan, as well as a specific validation test.

Again, none of that is terribly surprising to most familiar with manufacturing, but the specific timeframes help to provide context for some pieces I’ll dive into later on QA issues in general with older Quarq units.

Step 1: Laser Etching the ANT+ ID

First up is getting the ANT+ ID assigned to a piece of hardware.  In the Quarq world, the ANT+ ID is the serial number, and is essentially its social security number. You can see the spider in Jim’s hand there, prior to loading into the machine.

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The machine then uses a turntable to automate the etching of 6 units in serial:

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This seems like a good time for a quick video – so here’s the laser etching:

Ok, so it looks cooler in person.

Step 2: Strain gauge gluing:

During this step, they take the spiders and then glue the strain gauges on them.  As with every power meter manufacturer I’ve visited, this is considered pretty secret stuff – and thus I was unable to take photos of this.  The reason it’s considered so secret is that the exact details of how you glue a strain gauge on can make the difference between accurate and non-accurate results.

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While other major competitors have figured this out, these companies want to limit newcomers from just picking up their secrets and saving months or years of trial and error.

Step 3: Circuit Board Installation:

Next, it’s time to install a circuit board.  This is the piece where they add the communication chipset (e.g. ANT+ connectivity), as well as other internals that allow computations.

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Step 4: Medusa – First Electrical Test:

In this test, using a system they’ve affectionately named Medusa, the units are quickly tested to a first pass of baseline functionality.  Calibration does not occur at this step.

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Step 5: Cover plate added, filled with molding material:

Here they go ahead and add the cover plate that acts as the outer shell.  In addition, they add in a molding material that helps to waterproof the unit.

Step 6: Decals & battery compartments added:

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Next, they’ll install the Quarq decals, as well as add the battery compartment components.

Step 7: Waterproof & Radio test:

Then comes a 20-minute bath inside this uber-expensive Rubbermaid container.  This is a simple waterproofing test using real water (some companies will use a pressurized air system instead).

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After its dunk, the unit goes into another chamber to test the communications stack, and ensure it has consistent and strong signal (across the entire rotation). This is important so that your ANT+ head unit can pick up the power meter data stream.

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Step 8: 10K Point Thermal Test/Calibration:

From there it’s off to the sauna for the 10,000 point calibration that Quarq has publicly talked about a fair bit.  This calibration procedure tests and sets how each individual unit responds to a temperature range from 0°F to 140°F.

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It takes 2.5 hours for this entire test sweep to complete, which occurs inside this gigantic oven-like machine.  At this point in the test, it was going through 129.6°F:

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Step 9: Prepare for finishing:

At this point the units are functionally complete.  Depending on what someone orders, the exit process will differ slightly.  On these racks, there are blue buckets for each type of power meter coming off the line.  Think of a single blue bucket as a Pringles can, with a pile of power meters lined up neatly inside it in a row.

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Step 10: Chainring & Crank Arm Install:

Like a Dell computer, you’ll order your power meter with a specific configuration.  They build most products to order (though try to keep enough inventory on hand for any combination).  It’s during this step that they’ll affix whatever your preferred components are:

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Step 11: Calibration check:

Next, it’ll get put on one of the automated machines for a 5-minute calibration test.  This ensures that it passes all tests as a fully functional power meter before heading out the door:

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Step 12: Boxing time:

Next up the units get boxed up.  You can see a single plastic container for each order.

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Oh – and if you’re a warranty customer, you’ll also get a free water bottle in your box.  And, if you ask during the customer service call, they’ll happily send you a free t-shirt too.  However, they can’t send them on international warranties due to customs tax issues. Sad panda.

Step 13: Shelf & Ship:

For their most popular unit combos, Quarq will stock those ahead of time, which will sit on shelves until they head out the door.

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Meanwhile, everything else gets ready for shipment out into the wild blue yonder:

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And a few days later, it’ll find itself at your doorstep.

Customer Service & Support:

There’s a bit of a long running joke in any power meter thread regarding Quarq’s customer service reputation. It notes that while Quarq’s customer service is probably the best in the entire sports technology industry (friendly people, easy to reach, accommodating, quick to act), it’s that athletes wish they didn’t have to use it so often.

That perception, and the reasons behind it was a key part of my conversation during my visit with them.  I was curious to know what, if anything, had changed that might reduce that perception.  To begin though, a brief understanding of what happens when you call Quarq with a support issue.  First off, you talk to someone in this small row of cubicles.  They all have window seats – about the only window seats in the building.

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Just beyond the windowsill is the mother lode of bike parts.  These are essentially quick reference units of everything from chainrings, to Quarq PM’s, crank arms, to bottom brackets.

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This allows one of the handful of customer service folks to run over to the rack and grab whatever part you’re talking about.  This is pretty common in any customer service call center dealing with physical goods, but it’s still pretty cool to see all the parts lined up on someone’s desk.

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The first thing they’re going to do after saying hello is to get your Quarq serial number (which is just the ANT+ ID).  For fun, we took the Quarq Riken in my review (which is mine), and decided to look it up.  Since I didn’t bring it with me – we just pulled my ANT+ ID number off of the In-Depth Review page:

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Next, you’ll see the complete history of that unit on the right side of the screen (above to right).  This tells the full life story of that power meter from build to ship.  In my case, it was forwarded off to SRAM Netherlands before being shipped to me (to simplify logistics).  What’s really interesting though is to see all of the iterations of tests that the unit went through.  In fact, you’ll notice that my unit initially failed two tests coming off the line.

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However, you read up in the source, and it went back through to ‘re-work’, and was addressed and re-tested prior to going back out.  We can actually see the two line items within the test that it failed, and that after re-work those were addressed.

But it gets cooler (no pun intended).  One can actually lookup the temperature tests that were done, and look at the exact plots for each and every power meter that went through that chamber:

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This is somewhat like having a black box of every power meter going off the line, so that down the road if there is some oddity that starts becoming a trend, they can figure out why.  In fact, in many of the steps along the way in my ‘Easy steps to building a Quarq’, it’s recording data for that unit that’s available for lookup during a call potentially years later.

And that’s where the conversation turned to addressing Quarq service rates.  Which, I should first point out that like any internet forum is always something where 100% of unhappy people complain, and about 1.5% of happy people say so.  So everything is always unbalanced.

Still, there’s no benefit to Quarq in having to deal with a service issue/swap.  It costs them money and causes an athlete issues.  So every single power meter that comes back for any reason is torn-down to figure out the offending issue.  Every unit.  From there, they do trending, which ultimately allows them to start addressing issues.

For example, back about 3-4 years ago they had more issues with units giving sporadic power readings.  As they started tracing that down with returned units they found water ingest as a frequent cause.  Many may remember my now somewhat infamous original Quarq Cinqo water ingest accuracy issue that manifested itself during a mountain ride as part of another power meter review.  That was three years ago, on a unit from ~6 years ago.

Through more investigation a fair majority of those cases (including mine which they tore down) came from the simple battery cap system.  They spent boatloads of money re-designing the battery cap.  One might think that’d be straightforward, but finding the right balance between something that was easy to twist off (threaded) but didn’t have the threads fail or folks over-tighten proved to be challenging.  All units now though ship with the improved battery pod system, which has dramatically cut down issues.

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But that’s just one example.  While they showed me a listing of all the root causes, I wasn’t permitted to take a photo of it.  It was fascinating to see though, and each component that was changed/addressed to fix it and when and where those fixes were implemented from a timeframe standpoint.  It was clear though that in the 2-3 years ago range is where there was a steep drop/focus on addressing returns.

I think Jim Meyers (founder of Quarq) summed it best when he said (paraphrased): ‘When you build 100 power meters, you think you know it all.  Then you build 1,000 and look back and realize how little you knew at 100.  Then you build 10,000, and realize how little you knew at 1,000.’

Any good company will aim to always better their products and learn from it – and I think that’s what every consumer ultimately wants from a company.  You want one that stands by existing products in times of service/support, and at the same time to be working on how to tweak/advance the product in newer generations.  And in turn, I think we’ve seen Quarq do a pretty good job of that over the last few years.

Thanks for reading all!  And be sure to check out the rest of my ‘Behind the Scenes’ posts!

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DCR Expansion On the Horizon http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/02/dcr-expansion.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/02/dcr-expansion.html#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 12:50:42 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=56484 Over the last few months, many of you have asked how I might expand the DCR blog.  For example, with it becoming a full-time thing, a number of you wondered whether I’d expand into new product categories like bike components, … Read More Here ]]> IMG_5976

Over the last few months, many of you have asked how I might expand the DCR blog.  For example, with it becoming a full-time thing, a number of you wondered whether I’d expand into new product categories like bike components, recovery systems, or perhaps even consider offering branded DCR apparel.  While all very viable options, I’ve decided to take a slightly different tack for expansion.

In my case, I’ve enlisted The Girl for assistance (or, perhaps she enlisted me for assistance). Either way – in doing so, we’re brining onboard some new testing talent – beginning in July.

This individual will be responsible for testing devices that require small hands, small wrists, or just general cuteness.  Additionally, this individual is estimated to be able to provide vast amounts of sleep tracker data for capture and test.  Or, we hope so anyway.

Now given July is high time around our neck of the woods for the Tour de France spectacle, it’s hoped that this individual will be able to jump right into their newborn job responsibilities without too much fuss.  Either way, I’m sure there will be plenty of adventure right here in our little apartment – and the French broadcasters do an excellent job covering the race anyway.

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With that – we’re super-excited to get another little one roaming around these parts (even if Lucy doesn’t know what’s coming for her yet)!

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Garmin Index WiFi Smart Scale In-Depth Review http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/02/garmin-scale-review.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/02/garmin-scale-review.html#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 12:40:28 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=56393 It’s been a few months since Garmin announced their Index WiFi Scale (at $149), so it’s time to dive in on an in-depth review and see how things have shaped up.  Most importantly: Is the scale worth the premium over … Read More Here ]]> It’s been a few months since Garmin announced their Index WiFi Scale (at $149), so it’s time to dive in on an in-depth review and see how things have shaped up.  Most importantly: Is the scale worth the premium over others on the market?

While Garmin has a long (and mixed) history of scale integration with 3rd parties via ANT+ scales, this is actually the first scale they’ve made themselves.  And unlike those past scales, this one is all about WiFi.  Sure, it has ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart – but only for setting it up.

I’ve been using the scale now for a few months, so I’ve got a pretty good idea of how well it works.  Like always, I’ll be sending the loaner scale back to the folks at Garmin here shortly.  So, if you found what you read here useful, consider using the links on the side to support the site.

With that – let’s begin!

Unboxing:

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The scale comes in a box not unlike most other scale boxes.  Except, this one is lime green.

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On the back, there’s the circle of life logo.  This serves to remind you that the extra 18 chicken wings you ate at the Super Bowl after the generous helping of 9-layer dip will require more than just a walk around the block to clear out.

Cracking open the box you’ll find the scale wrapped in a protective sleeve.  It’s also got a paper manual sitting atop it:

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Below that you’ll find four little black pods.  These are for use on carpet.  If you only have hard wood/tile/etc floors, you can throw these at unsuspecting people within your household.  There’s also four AA batteries.

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If we unwrap the scale, here’s the prettiness that we get:

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Ok, with that in mind, let’s get this thing setup.

Setup & Configuration:

While the scale is wireless, it is not powerless.  For that you’ll need to grab those four AA batteries that came with it, and crack open the compartment door on the back of it.

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You’ll also notice two buttons/sliders right near it.  One button allows you to change between stones (weird British thing), pounds (weird American thing), and kilograms (everyone else on earth).

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The other button is for triggering a reset and/or pairing of the scale.  Before getting all press-happy though, you’ll need to know that in order to setup the scale you have to have either a computer (with the ANT+ adapter), or a mobile phone on iOS/Android/Windows Phone.  If you lack at least one of those things, I really can’t help you.

In my case, I’m going to use the Garmin Connect Mobile app for my phone.  But I’ve also done the computer route too.  Once you’ve got the app open you’ll search for a new device, and specifically, the Index Smart Scale:

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Now is the time you finally get to press some buttons.  Or rather, one button.  On the back of your scale go ahead and press that little reset button to get the scale all excited.  This may or may not be the first time someone has thrown a wrench at you for pressing their buttons.

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The app will find the scale via Bluetooth Smart, and then confirm pairing with it:

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A few seconds later it’ll complete pairing and then go on to ask you for your name.  This is the name that’s displayed on the unit itself when you step on (so multiple people can use it).  It also needs you to validate height and gender, so it can do its math magic around other metrics.

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Next, it’s time to pick out a WiFi network.  Typically, you’ll choose your own here:

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Then it asks you for the password:

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Note that the scale won’t work with WiFi networks that require you to sign-in (such as at a hotel).  And while we’re at it, note that it does indeed require WiFi.  The Garmin Index scale DOES NOT transfer weight data over Bluetooth Smart or ANT+.  Both of those channels are ONLY used for setup.  Again, it must connect to a WiFi network to be useful.

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With that – we’re setup and ready to roll!

In the event you have others in your family, you can invite them to use the scale.  This allows their Garmin Connect accounts to tie into the scale.  Garmin supports up to 16 people to use the scale at once (making it appropriate for the Brady Bunch, or your entire tri team).  But more on that in a later section.

(In case you’re wondering, the scale can only remember one WiFi network at a time.  I actually brought it with me while travelling in November and December, pairing it to my phone at the time.  And then re-pairing it back when I got home.)

The Basics:

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Now that the setup is done – here comes the complex part: Stepping on the scale.  I know, there are so many ways you could approach this.  From the left…or the right.  Or just stepping straight on top.  But no matter how you mount your scale, the result is the same: It wakes up and tells you your weight.

You need not kick it first to zero it (though sometimes I do).  Rather, you just get on.  Within 1-2 seconds it’ll have your weight and blink it at you.  It’s exceedingly quick.

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Next, it’ll ask you your name.  Why?  Well, because it needs to validate that before giving you other body metrics.  It’ll take its best guess at who you are, and as long as your weight and others in your household are semi-far apart, it’ll likely nail it.  But if you’re within a few pounds of each other then you’ll just tap your foot until you see your name listed.

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Once that’s done it’ll come back to you with additional metrics.  A small icon along the button indicates which metric it’s showing you.  It goes left to right, and the first is BMI:

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Then, it shows you Body Fat Percentage:

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Then Water Percentage:

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Then Muscle Mass:

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Then finally Bone Mass:

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Meanwhile, along the top you’ll see a small progress bar, this indicates the unit uploading via WiFi to Garmin Connect.  When it’s done – it’ll give you a little checkbox, and then shortly afterwards turn off.

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And with that – the entirety of the scale’s hardware capabilities has been written about. Donzeo.

But wait – what about accuracy?

Well, that’s where things get tricky.  First, because the scale doesn’t record more than two measurements for the same time, that makes it tricky for me to just get on and off the scale 10 times in a row to see how consistent it is and have that data recorded (a common complaint among smart scales in general).  Still, despite my lack of automated means – I did step on and off the scale numerous times, and would get the same values.  So, that’s a good sign.

Next, how does it compare to other scales? Well, I’ve got about a dozen scales floating around the DCR Cave right now.  But focusing on the most comparable models (Fitbit Aria & Withings WS-50), I was getting either identical weight values, or within .1-.2 pounds.  Pretty common, and actually in-line with what I saw years ago when I did scale testing.

Finally – if I look at metrics like body fat and muscle mass, those are at least staying consistent (within 1-2%).  Given I haven’t changed much, this is to be expected.  What I’ve seen in the past is that while these metrics may not be absolutely accurate, they are at least consistent.  Ultimately though, for me I don’t put much value in these extended metrics using electro impedance like other scales (nor do I put much value in people using calipers, most folks screw that up – despite having done it ‘hundreds’ or ‘thousands’ of times).

App & Website:

There are essentially two main ways to view your data from the weight scale: From the Garmin Connect website, and from the Garmin Connect Mobile phone apps (iOS/Android/Windows Phone).  And technically, on Windows desktops, you can also use the Windows Universal app to also view the data too.

Starting with the website and on the dashboard view, you’ll see a widget of your weight, as well as a small graph.  You can customize the graph to add a specific weight goal, as well as change the week.

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Meanwhile, on the scale widget, you can jump in to invite other users, or tweak some basic user settings (such as height, gender, time zone etc…).

Next, if we click on the ‘weight’ option, we can dive deeper into the data and charts.  The first and default chart is your weight chart. It simply plots your weight against various time frames that you can adjust (7 days, 4 weeks, 6 months, 12 months).

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However, you can also click the drop-down box to change to other metrics from the scale:

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Meanwhile, along the bottom are the given data points from your scale.  You can see each metric that’s recorded by the Index Scale, as well as the date.  You can also manually add your weight if you know it (such as while travelling).

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Lastly on the site you can add a ‘Goal’ metric, which simply shows up as a black line on all your graphs.  You can see below I added a goal at 175lbs, and then it added a black line there.  Goals can only be added for weight, not for other categories (i.e. BMI, Body Fat, etc…).

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All of this data looks basically the same on the mobile app.  You’ll dive through a number of layers (why it can’t be added to the main health dashboard is a little odd), and get down to the Weight options:

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From there you can change the view, but the default will show you the averages for the past 7 days, and then below that you can click on any individual measurement to get details for it.

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Everything is pretty straightforward here.  The one thing that is missing however is the ability to export your weight scale data (something both Fitbit and Withings provide).  I would think a very simple CSV export of date/weight metrics would be perfect.

Device Integration:

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One of the chief complaints about Garmin devices in the past has been that it doesn’t ‘pull’ data from Garmin Connect back to the device itself.  For example, your weight data.  If you updated your weight on Garmin Connect, it would never update on your watch.

However, that’s no longer the case.

Back in the November/December timeframe I noticed that my weight started being correct on my devices.  It used to be that I pretty much just set the same weight across all my devices, and I’d fluctuate +/- 2-3 pounds within that weight depending on the workouts I did.  However, now, it correctly updates every time it syncs.

Or at least, every time it syncs via the mobile app.  It does not appear to sync my existing weight when I connect via Garmin Express (desktop), nor via WiFi.

That may be because the sync is actually happening on the mobile app.  You’ll notice there’s a  ‘User Settings’ option under the devices menu.  So it appears that it’s that little bit of connective tissue there that’s pulling it all together.

While I haven’t tested every device out there, that menu does appear on the Fenix3/Fenix3HR, FR230/235/630, and Vivosmart HR.  It probably now appears on numerous others.

Of course, the singular benefit of this functionality is that your calorie counts will be slightly more correct.  Obviously, it’s rather negligible for your calories if your weight goes from 178lbs to 176lbs.  However, if your goal is to lose weight (and a lot of it), then it’s handy that the device is lock-step with your scale.

Other Users:

You can add up to 16 users on the Index Scale, where each person’s data is tied to a Garmin Connect account. Note that other scales have tapped out at 8-12 users. So in order to be a user on the scale, you must have an account on Garmin Connect.  Not that it’s a tough requirement, creating an account is free and only takes a second.

Once that’s done, the ‘owner’ of the scale can go ahead and ‘invite’ other people, either via the desktop app or the mobile phone app.  You’ll find a list of your ‘connections’ (friends), or you can just search for people.

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Once invited, they’ll show up in your list of users:

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Then, over on the account that you invited, you’ll go ahead and accept the invitation and specify your height/gender/etc (likely already there from your Garmin Connect settings).  You’ll notice it asks for a weight; that’s to allow it to figure out who you are automatically as a guesstimate.  Once you weigh-on once, it’ll then update that field automatically.

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From there it’s as simple as standing on the scale like before, and then it’ll auto recognize you based on your weight. If it fails to do that, you can simply select your name from the list of names on the scale.

3rd Party Integration:

This will be a very short section.  At present, Garmin does not have any integration enabled for 3rd parties except MyFitnessPal – and even that doesn’t seem to work consistently.

Unlike other companies in the space (everyone else being Under Armour, Fitbit, Withings), Garmin doesn’t have an API that allows any 3rd party to tap into the data.  As such, other apps can’t get your weight data, making it rather limited.

This is especially odd because the person most likely to purchase the (more expensive) Garmin Index Scale is the person who already has multiple pieces of Garmin gear.  Thus, within that line of thinking, that same person is likely to be data hungry/savvy and using 3rd party platforms like Training Peaks, Strava, or Sport Tracks to manage their training.  Yet, those are the platforms that Garmin does not currently transmit weight to.

While no doubt MyFitnessPal is huge in terms of tracking calories and weight, given the integration doesn’t seemingly work half the time, it seems like a missed opportunity.  Plus, with Withings scales being sub-$100, most folks are just going to go that route anyway for weight in MyFitenssPal.  As I don’t believe most folks will care about the advanced metrics like muscle mass.

Either way – there’s really no excuse for Garmin not offering 3rd parties the weight data (nor any ability for you to export it out yourself).  They already have the platform (Garmin Connect Auto Sync) setup to do exactly this.  To simply send the weight .FIT file to 3rd parties along with the activity .FIT files is trivial.  Yet still, three months after release – nothing has changed there.

Bugs & Quirks:

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Now, the Garmin Index scale is not without its oddities.  For the most part, it does exactly what you ask to it do: Confirm your suspicions that you’ve eaten too much pizza.

Weighing more than once per day: However, there are some undesirables within it.  Most notable is that it doesn’t record more than one measurement per day per user.  So if I step on the scale prior to a long run in the morning, it’ll record that value to Garmin Connect.  But, if I step on the scale again after my run – then the earlier data record is oddly discarded – keeping only the last data point per day.

Garmin says they’re working to enable multi-point recordings, but don’t have a specific timeframe for implementation.  It sounds like it may still be a few months away.

Setup: Some folks have had issues with WiFi setup and connectivity.  In my case, I did not have issues on a final production unit.  However, I did have troubles earlier on.  It appears that almost all setup/configuration troubles folks have had were in the first few weeks of the product.  Subsequent software updates (mostly on the phone apps), have made that process pretty solid.

MyFitnessPal: While Garmin has a partnership with MyFitnessPal to sync weight data, it seems to work sporadically. Sometimes the weight shows up, sometimes not.  And sometimes it shows up days later without explanation.

No Athlete mode: While not a huge issue to most, there lacks an athlete mode, which means that some bio-impedance metrics like body fat % can be inaccurate on those who are super-active.

As you can see, it’s not a huge list of quirks, but minor things to be aware of.

Market Comparison & Recommendations:

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Back in November I wrote about all of the WiFi scale options on the market.  Since then, only one new scale has arrived – the UnderArmour/HTC WiFi Scale (which I posted about here).

And, ultimately my original post pretty much holds just as true now as it did a couple of months ago.  Your choice in scale really comes down to where you have your data, and which devices you currently use.

While there are additional features like muscle mass and body fat on some – the accuracy of such metrics is questionable at best.  So for me, I’m just focusing on weight.  If my weight is right, and if I’m exercising regularly – everything else falls into place.

And again, for me, the lack of the ability for Garmin’s scale to sync to sites like Training Peaks makes it far less appealing than others such as the Withings Scale.  On the flip-side, if you don’t use 3rd party platforms and only use Garmin Connect, then the Garmin Scale is pretty much a one-stop shop (albeit one that’s more expensive than other options).

Lastly, in that other comparison post I do talk to some of the more creative ways to get a 3rd party scale’s data (like Fitbit and Withings) into Garmin Connect.  So you do still have cheaper options.

Said another way: There’s nothing wrong with the Garmin Index Scale hardware – it’s solid.  It’s the backend software that makes it a harder sell for many athletes.

Summary:

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So – do you get the Garmin Index Scale or not?  Basically, it all comes down to one question: What platform are you using to monitor your weight, and do you want the extra advanced metrics?  If that platform is Garmin Connect, and if you want those advanced metrics – then the Index Scale is solid and generally works well.

However, if you don’t care about advanced metrics and you use other platforms for your weight – then you can save a bunch of money and get a Withings or Fitbit scale.  They’re just as easy to use and provide the same base weight data.

Which isn’t a slight on the Garmin scale itself – again, it works just fine.  It’s quick, efficient, easy to use, and is pretty much trouble-free.  Rather, it’s a complaint about the platform.  And these days – platforms are everything.

With that – thanks for reading!

Found this review useful? Or just want a good deal? Here’s how:

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 exclusive benefits on all products purchased.  By joining the Clever Training VIP program you get a bunch of money-saving benefits, which you can read about here.  By doing so, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get to enjoy the significant partnership benefits that are just for DC Rainmaker readers. And, since this item is more than $75, you get free 3-day US shipping as well.

Garmin Index WiFi Smart Scale (select drop-down for white or black version)

Additionally, you can also use Amazon to purchase the scale (though, no discount). 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.

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.

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A Week of Skiing in the Alps http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/02/week-skiing-alps.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/02/week-skiing-alps.html#comments Mon, 08 Feb 2016 13:28:25 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=56383 Rather than a ‘5 Random Things’ this morning, I’m going to do a quick recap of my time last week in the Alps.  A group of us rented a ski chalet on the side of the mountain and enjoyed a … Read More Here ]]> 2016-02-02 11.16.03

Rather than a ‘5 Random Things’ this morning, I’m going to do a quick recap of my time last week in the Alps.  A group of us rented a ski chalet on the side of the mountain and enjoyed a full week in the snow, with 6 days of skiing (including one night out skiing).

Unlike in the US where most tend to go to the ski area for weekends or long weekends, in Europe it’s far more common to go for a complete week at a resort.  Everyone in France is aligned to checking in/out on a Saturday.  So services like trains are absolutely jam-packed with vacationers on Saturday both going to and from the mountains.  And lift passes and rental equipment is designed around a 6 ski day week.

In our case, the high speed TGV train was about 4 hours to a station just below the ski area, and then a quick 30 minute drive up to the mountain. We had found our place on one of the various vacation rental platform sites, however, what may have sold it for us was that they somehow actually had a drone promo video for their property. Seriously. Oh, and the property was awesome.

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Sitting across the street from the Courchevel 1550 lifts, it gave us easy ski-in/out access all week.  Courchevel is part of the larger Trois Vallées ski area, boasting numerous mountains all linked together (including the famed Meribel and Val Thorens) – and some 183 ski lifts.  Each morning we’d start from our lifts and then wander throughout the mega-resort.  By staying ‘down’ at 1550 (which is the elevation level in meters) as opposed to 1850, we’d save money over staying higher up on the mountain.  And – it means we got an extra ski run each day!

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One of the advantages of a ski chalet/condo/apartment versus a hotel is being able to cook your own meals.  So each night one of the three couples rotated through for cooking dinner.  Given we’ve got a pretty food-oriented crowd (including one actual chef), there was tons of great food each night.  We also did raclette one night as well, as you could rent the raclette machine from across the street (pretty handy).

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While up on the mountain we enjoyed all it had to offer – including the various places to eat mid-day.  I think lounging around on these chairs is my favorite parts of skiing in the Alps:

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And, they throw pretty epic parties too, such as this one mid-mountain as the lifts wrap up for the day:

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We got pretty lucky on the weather.  While it totally crapped out the first day (actual rain), it got nice for two days, and then snowed heavily mid-week while dropping in temp quite a bit.  This gave us awesome powder the last few days, making for epic shots:

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Speaking of shots, between all of us – we had an absolute crap-ton of camera gear.  I think we were in the nine action camera range, plus DSLR’s, and then three different drones.  Not to mention phone cameras, mounts, and watches.  And to be clear – it wasn’t totally my fault!

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I spent the sunnier days testing out AirDog, the autonomous drone.  It worked fairly well, though there’s definitely a bit of a learning curve involved.  Once you figure out its quirks, it’s super easy to use and does a pretty solid job of things.

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Here’s a video I put together using just footage shot from the AirDog of me skiing on the sunnier days.  Had we had more sunny/powder days, I’d probably have experimented a bit more.  I shot virtually everything in the video off-piste (not on marked runs), so I’m not buzzing around lifts or things. Personally, the off-piste terrain is more interesting to me anyway (both to ski, and to film).

There are some imperfections in the gimbal and wobble, some of that to do with a non-final dampener in the unit that has a known bug (a replacement for which should arrive shortly).  Still, it’s impressive.

As noted, I’m not really the best movie making guy.  That credit goes to our resident editing expert, David, who has properly documented many of our trips (such as last year’s ski trip).  He’s cooking away on the main movie of our week there (which is shaping up to be epic), but in the meantime he put together a quick and fun video about the powder:

Once his other one publishes, I’ll plop it into a Week in Review post for ya.  It’ll be worth it!

Now we weren’t limited to just the powder.  We also toyed around in the terrain park a bit, and in particular on the gigantic pillow.

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It was like jumping into the ball pit at McDonalds as a kid, a short video here.

I was tracking all my runs using a Garmin Fenix3 HR, utilizing the Ski/Snowboard mode.  This means that it automatically pauses when you go up the lifts, and then resumes recording as you start skiing again.  It was flawless in that respect.

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Here’s all of the links to each of the ski days on Strava:

Day 1 Skiing – A Very Wet Day
Day 2 Morning Skiing – The Sun Comes Out!
Day 2 Afternoon Skiing – Friends with drones
Day 3 Skiing – A four-mountain trek
Day 4 Night Skiing: Into the darkness we go
Day 5 Skiing – The Fresh Powder Awaits
Day 6 Skiing – Pushin’ for more cushion

As for all the gear I was using, I put together this short video explaining it all. Sorry about the audio quality, somehow one of my mics got turned on in my backpack, and thus I had no battery for it.

And finally – for those of you wondering, yes, Lucy was up there.  She seemed to rather enjoy running around in the snow.  Especially chasing snowballs (though, she never could figure out where they went after they hit the ground).

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She also enjoyed sledding.  Or, at least, chasing after the sleds.  I think she was terrified of being in the sleds themselves.

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With that – thanks for reading, and have a good week ahead!

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Week in Review–February 7th, 2016 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/02/week-reviewfebruary-2016.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/02/week-reviewfebruary-2016.html#comments Sun, 07 Feb 2016 18:38:52 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=56348 The Week in Review is a collection of both all the goodness I’ve written during the past week around the internet, as well as a small pile of links I found interesting – generally endurance sports related. I’ve often wondered … Read More Here ]]> WeekInReview_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb

The Week in Review is a collection of both all the goodness I’ve written during the past week around the internet, as well as a small pile of links I found interesting – generally endurance sports related. I’ve often wondered what to do with all of the coolness that people write, and while I share a lot of it on Twitter and Facebook, this is a better forum for sending it on to y’all. Most times these different streams don’t overlap, so be on the lookout at all these places for good stuff!

So with that, let’s get into the action!

DCRainmaker.com posts in the past week:

Here’s all the goodness that ended up on the main page of DCRainmaker.com this past week.

Sunday: Week in Review–January 31st, 2016
Monday: Power meter prices plunge further as Pioneer & SRM join PowerTap in price cuts
Wednesday: First Look: Fitbit announces new Fitbit Alta activity tracker

As most regular readers know – my posts tend to ebb and flow with travel.  This past week I was skiing in the Alps, so less posts.  While this upcoming week will be overflow. An expansion of…posts, as it may be.

The DCR Podcast:

Here’s the low-down on what was covered this past week in the DCR podcast:

– Discussion of my first few days of a ski trip, and differences to North America
– Early thoughts on Air Dog drone after first use
– Stryd running power meter (and when Garmin will support it)
– Gathering resting HR data, and what to do with it
– The Gingerbread man
– Discussion of the motor-doping fiasco

Thanks for listening! Subscribing and rating in iTunes is much appreciated, and be sure to send in your questions via the voice mail widget at the bottom of the podcast page!

And MORE Podcasts!

This week two different podcasts aired that had me on as a guest.  It just so happened both got published at the same time.

RunRunLive Podcast! – On this I chat with Chris Russell about me a bit, and then a lot about the history of sports technology, where it’s been, and where it’s going (you can just click the ‘Play’ button on that page).

Pace the Nation Podcast! – I catch up with the folks behind the running group (Pacers) that got my really into running, and also where I met The Girl.

So yes – tons of fun things to listen to for the week ahead!

Stuff that I found interesting around the interwebs:

Here’s a not-so-small smattering of all the random things that I stumbled on while doing my civic duty to find the end of the Internet:

1) GoPro confirms Hero5 arrival for later this year: However, don’t forget they also semi-announced an impending new 360° consumer action cam for “soon” back at CES in January.  Plus you’ve got the latest GoPro Karma drone video from last week, below:

2) YouTube wants to start streaming 360° video: The most obvious use case I see for this is actually in races, on things like team cars (think Tour de France) or even the famous time check/split motos that tell the lead riders their leads.

3) Ways to Eradicate Mechanical Doping: Six specific ideas from Greg LeMond on how to deal with the issue before it becomes bigger.

4) Land Rover goes in reverse to try and hit cyclists: Meanwhile, rider has Fly6 camera on his bike, captures whole craziness. (via Chris G.)

5) Over 13 million wearable activity trackers sold in 2015 (doubling over 2014): Said differently, no, the Apple Watch didn’t kill the market.

6) Unreal swinging of iPhone to capture slow-mo footage: Really, just watch the below craziness. (sent in first via Mario, and many others)

7) Fitness trackers leaking private data? Some are, and some were.  Interesting to see various companies identified that have reacted already.  For example, Garmin released an update this weekend to address it.  Yet you have to wonder why they ignored earlier calls from researchers and CBC when others reacted immediately pre-publishing. (via Oliver)

8) There’s a Fat Bike World Championship Race (in the snow): Seriously, and these galleries and clips are awesome.

9) “An athlete who requires 10,000 hours to become world-class is a drain on the system”: And other worthwhile thoughts on the subject.

10) Measuring your sweat: Well then, at least something useful could be coming of that sweaty puddle below my trainer. (via Drew)

Crowd Funded Projects of Athletic Note:

I regularly sift through Kickstarter and Indiegogo (plus a few others on occasion) looking for sports projects.  If you’re unfamiliar with projects, read my detailed post on how I decide which projects I personally back.  Note that as always with crowd funded projects, assume the project will be late and will under-deliver on features. Thus far, on the numerous products I’ve helped ‘fund’ (except a leather bike handle), that’s been the case.

Fitpal: It’s a sticker system that monitors your HR and other metrics for up to 5 days.  It’s kinda like Ampstrip from a year ago but hopefully won’t bail on us backers before they ship. Regrettably, doesn’t look like it’ll have ANT+ support (so you wouldn’t be able to use it with ANT+ devices as a replacement HR strap).

Sports Technology Software/Firmware Updates This Week:

Each week I quickly highlight some of the new firmware, app, software and website service updates that I see go out. If you’re a sports technology company and release an update – shoot me a quick note (just one liners is perfect, or Tweet it at me is even better) and I’ll make mention of it here. If I don’t know about it, I won’t be able to post about it. Sound good?

Garmin Edge 510 & 810 Firmware Update: Adds Varia Radar support (and a few minor fixes).

Garmin Epix Firmware Update: A bug fix.

Garmin Fenix3 Beta Firmware Update: Adds audio prompts via phone, other fixes.

Garmin VIRB Edit for Windows/Mac: Adds a handful of minor features, additional improvements.

Thanks for reading all!

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First Look: Fitbit announces new Fitbit Alta activity tracker http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/02/fitbit-alta-announced.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/02/fitbit-alta-announced.html#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2016 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=56299 Today Fitbit announced their latest activity tracker – the Fitbit Alta.  This unit is effectively a replacement for the existing Fitbit Charge (or previous to that, the Force).  However, unlike those, this unit sports smartphone notifications,  move reminders, and the ability … Read More Here ]]> Fitbit-Alta-Front-Black-Band

Today Fitbit announced their latest activity tracker – the Fitbit Alta.  This unit is effectively a replacement for the existing Fitbit Charge (or previous to that, the Force).  However, unlike those, this unit sports smartphone notifications,  move reminders, and the ability to auto-recognize workouts (the Charge/Charge HR only has caller ID).  It also goes vintage and re-gains the ability to change your bands for various options, like the old Fitbit Flex.

The Basics:

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The Fitbit Alta comes almost exactly one month after Fitbit’s announcement of the Fitbit Blaze at CES, which is their higher end ‘smart fitness watch’.  There are actually a number of similarities between the two units, from battery life to notification capabilities.  For example, both units get about 5 days of battery on a single charge, and both carry with it the new auto-recognize functionality.  Though, only the Alta has move alerts. And lastly, both units feature tap/touch capable screens (the Alta’s being an OLED mono-color display, whereas the Blaze is full color LCD).

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On the downside, neither is waterproofed terribly well, claiming only 1ATM waterproofing – or effectively a non-official variant of IPX7.  That means it’ll usually be fine in the shower, but definitely isn’t something you’d take swimming (or high diving).  Further, neither unit includes the ability to do true/proper smartphone notifications.  Instead, both rely on just text and phone alerts – which is completely opposite what the entire rest of the industry has done (this means you can’t get things like Twitter or Snapchat notifications).

I feel like there’s gotta be some single person at Fitbit that’s horribly against proper smartphone notifications.  You know when you’re at work, and there’s always someone (we’ll call him Bob), that’s been upset about the change in coffee filters for years, despite everyone else already moving past it and well beyond caring.  That’s Fitbit with proper smartphone notifications.  The excuse of ‘trying to keep things simple’ holds about as much water as a Starbucks napkin.  Luckily, once they decide to move onto the first phase of acceptance, it’s a relatively trivial software update to add to these devices.

Now, that quibble aside – from a spec and usability standpoint, the unit actually does a good job at balancing features and form.  For example, it includes changeable bands – something the Fitbit Charge/Charge HR lacked.  You can simply pop the bands on and off.  Below I’ve got a brown leather, and black band option.  But there’s also a bangle available too.

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The accessory bands are $29 for the ‘classic’ colored bands.  Then $59 for the leather bands (like the one seen above), and finally $99 for the stainless steel bangles.

As for the bands, they are much smaller than the Fitbit Charge/Charge HR – or even the equally pretty display of the Polar A360:

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The two band sides snap in using a clever little push-button system, and then the bands hold together with a double-holed clasp.  I’d rate it pretty darn resilient to accidental removals.

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You can see how it fits here on a women’s wrist (The Girl’s, to be precise).  She was impressed with the size of it.

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Now at $129, it lacks an optical HR sensor like the Charge HR has.  Given the size of the unit, I’m honestly not sure where they’d fit one in with expanding it.  This thing isn’t much bigger than a few pieces of Good & Plenty candy tied together.

Its new inactivity/move alerts match what the rest of the competition has had for years, namely Garmin & Polar first, and more recently competitors like Apple, Microsoft and Under Armour.

Now despite the size, it’s actually a bit heavier than the Fitbit Charge.  I weighed it in at 29g, versus the Fitbit Charge coming in at 20g:

Fitbit-Alta-Weight-Size

Fitbit views this unit as a bit of a complement to the Fitbit Surge for athletes.  So the thinking is that you’d wear the Fitbit Surge during your workout, but might switch back to this for the rest of your day.  To aide in that process, Fitbit does have the capability to auto-switch between up to 7 activity trackers dynamically during the day.  So it’ll simply figure out which unit your using and grab the step/activity data from that, allowing you to have a complete picture of your day.

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That’s one area that competitors (such as Garmin & Polar) have faltered at delivering on.  For those companies you need to specify a single device to be your ‘activity tracker’.

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Finally, as noted earlier, the display is an OLED tap display.  It’ll automatically turn on/off based on your wrist movements (just like the Fitbit Blaze).  Like most companies, Fitbit does this to save battery on otherwise power-hungry displays.  In my case, the unit I tried was not powered, so I was unable to get a good feel for how reactive the display is, or how well it would work if wet  (such as with sweat or a light rain).

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The unit will start shipping in March, roughly when the Fitbit Blaze is expected to become available.

As for whether or not to get the Alta – I think it really goes back to my usual statement on keeping your activity tracker in the same family as the rest of your health/fitness devices.  For example, if you have a Fitbit scale – then it likely makes sense to keep the activity tracker Fitbit.  Whereas if you have a Garmin scale, then it doesn’t make much sense to get a Fitbit tracker.  And the inverse is true as well.

With that – thanks for reading!

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Power meter prices plunge further as Pioneer & SRM join PowerTap in price cuts http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/02/further-pioneer-powertap.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/02/further-pioneer-powertap.html#comments Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:00:00 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=56313 (Updated 11AM US Eastern Time Feb 1st with SRM addition) The power meters prices be fallin’ again, and the snow and ice hasn’t even thawed yet on winter.  Here’s what’s been dropping. Pioneer Price Drops: Today Pioneer dropped their power … Read More Here ]]> (Updated 11AM US Eastern Time Feb 1st with SRM addition)

The power meters prices be fallin’ again, and the snow and ice hasn’t even thawed yet on winter.  Here’s what’s been dropping.

Pioneer Price Drops:

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Today Pioneer dropped their power meter prices, upwards of 30% – pretty massive.  Once the dust settles you’ll be able to pickup their Ultegra 6800 series left-only crank arm with power meter for $559, down from $799.  Meanwhile, the Dura-Ace 9000 series left-only crank arm is $629, dropping from $899.  With the left-side crank, you’ll still get the higher data capabilities of the Pioneer platform, such as the higher resolution data of pedaling metrics than most other competitors.

You’ll remember back at Interbike when Pioneer announced modest price updates, they were ‘upstaged’ mere hours later by Stages and their significant price cuts, bringing their units down to $529.

Both of Pioneer’s left-sided units can then be upgraded using their ‘Ride Side Upgrade’ kit, which has been lowered to $579 (from $749).  This is really one of the major differentiators compared to both Stages, and currently 4iiii.  Neither has a right-leg upgrade kit available should you want the benefits of full left/right power down the road (others such as Garmin & Polar do however).

If you want to simply purchase the whole left/right kit straight up, then you’re look at $1,299 for the Ultegra crankset, and $1,499 for the Dura-Ace crankset.  Alternatively, if you want to send in your own cranks, you can do so for $999 (which remains unchanged).

All of this follows last month’s firmware update that enables the ability for you to re-broadcast ANT+ from your Pioneer head unit.  This allows you to gather the higher fidelity metrics to your Pioneer head unit using Pioneer’s private-ANT channel, and then still see that data on other ANT+ devices or apps (like Zwift & TrainerRoad).  Of course, you can always broadcast everything directly in just ANT+ from the power meter as well (but then you lose advanced Pioneer metrics).

IMG_4464

Pioneer’s got some pretty solid units in the market, and if you’re looking to start on a left-only option and then expand to a dual system down the road, it’s priced fairly well there.  At the same time, if you plan on upgrading to a dual system far down the road, you’ll want to keep in mind that there are numerous dual-capable power meters pending in the marketplace for launch this year at much lower dual-prices.  Obviously, everything in the market shifts – but I’d be hesitant around the cost-benefit of purchasing a left-only unit now and then upgrading beyond this calendar year.

PowerTap Price Drops:

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Now while I didn’t cover it previously given the craziness of CES, PowerTap also dropped their prices – exactly 30 days ago.  In their case they dropped their PowerTap hubs to $599 from $729.

In addition, while they were at it, they also dropped the PowerTap Bluetooth Smart & ANT+ caps down to $50.  Yup, $50.  However, that’s because they’re only shipping dual caps from here on out.  In fact, all PowerTap products will be dual capable.

And if you want a dual-capable PowerTap cap (i.e. dual ANT+/BLE), for your existing hub?  Well, that’ll cost a bit more – some $150 for the dual cap.  Changing caps isn’t tough, but if you already own split products (one ANT+, one BLE) then a dual just makes your life easier.  I’ve been using the dual cap in various testing iterations since last spring.  Zero issues for me.

As for the PowerTap P1 or C1 units, no price drops there.  And, I certainly wouldn’t expect to see them.  They can’t keep units on the shelves, so there’s zero reason to drop the price at this time (and they’re priced quite competitively in the market).

SRM Price Drops

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(Updated/Added section based on new SRM announcement)
In addition to Pioneer and PowerTap, SRM has also now announced they’ve dropped their prices – making it the lowest the company has ever sold a new power meter for. The base SRM is now down to $1,399USD for spiders using Specialized, Cannondale, SRAM and ROTOR crank arm. This is without crank arms or chainrings. This represents a 30% drop in price – on par with the drops of other companies.

SRM noted in their press release that:

“This pricing change has been months in the making. We have listened to customer and retailer feedback, and after intensive analysis SRM is proud to be in a position to respond to those demands.” (SRM Founder & CEO, Ulrich Schoberer)

If you’re loooking for crank arms & chainrings to be included with the power meter, then the lowest price is now $2,199 (from $2,970).

A Few General Thoughts:

I suspect we’ll continue to see larger price drops of the higher end units, while probably still seeing some smaller drops on the mid-range priced units.  However, some of that will be predicated on cheaper options starting to ship.  For example, we saw 4iiii’s start to ship last summer, which was likely single-handedly responsible for Stages having to drop prices.  Similarly, PowerTap’s P1 pedals were likely responsible for Garmin having to drop their Vector pricing by $200 this past fall.  And of course the entire market was responsible for SRM’s price drop.

While bePro has come out with very solid and capable units that are also sub-$1000, I don’t expect that to represent significant pricing pressure simply because bePro has very limited distribution.  So getting them is tough, and bePro has a pretty deep backorder (with even further limited production capability).

Still, the big ticket items to watch this spring would be WatTeam to start shipping (according to them, just a few weeks away), as well seeing if and when 4iiii or Stages dives into dual-capable products.  4iiii has shown it, but hasn’t clarified dates.  And Stages has played the card that the dual units they have are only for Team Sky and related pros.  That’s no doubt true today, but one would be a fool to think that’s the long term play.

The biggest thing to keep in mind is there is no ‘race to the bottom’.  With a few rare exceptions, every one of these products (and everything I’ve covered in this post) is just as accurate as any other product at any price range.  It’s simply a case now of numerous companies being in the market (vs 2-4 previously), and new technologies driving the prices lower.

With that – thanks for reading!

Side note: Trying to find a power meter? Read my 2015 Power Meter Buyers Guide, published this last fall.

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Week in Review–January 31st, 2016 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/01/reviewjanuary-31st-2016.html http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2016/01/reviewjanuary-31st-2016.html#comments Sun, 31 Jan 2016 20:10:58 +0000 http://www.dcrainmaker.com/?p=56305 The Week in Review is a collection of both all the goodness I’ve written during the past week around the internet, as well as a small pile of links I found interesting – generally endurance sports related. I’ve often wondered … Read More Here ]]> WeekInReview_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb

The Week in Review is a collection of both all the goodness I’ve written during the past week around the internet, as well as a small pile of links I found interesting – generally endurance sports related. I’ve often wondered what to do with all of the coolness that people write, and while I share a lot of it on Twitter and Facebook, this is a better forum for sending it on to y’all. Most times these different streams don’t overlap, so be on the lookout at all these places for good stuff!

So with that, let’s get into the action!

YouTube Videos I’ve uploaded:

On Thursday I headed out into the countryside to try out the new follow-me action cam drone, Airdog.  It was just me by myself, and all these shots are from my first ride with it trying it out.  Everything is controlled by a small remote control on my arm (sorta like using a Garmin).  Here’s a very short montage I slapped together in a few minutes with the footage.  None of the footage is edited in any way.  But I learned a number of things that should make it look sweeter next time.

DCRainmaker.com posts in the past week:

Here’s all the goodness that ended up on the main page of DCRainmaker.com this past week.

Monday: 5 Random Things I Did This Weekend
Tuesday: ISPO 2016 Sports Tech Roundup: FINIS Optical HR Swim Tracker, Kuai, Evalu, WatTeam and XMetrics
Thursday: Microsoft Band 2 In-Depth Fitness & Sport Focused Review

Stuff that I found interesting around the interwebs:

Here’s a not-so-small smattering of all the random things that I stumbled on while doing my civic duty to find the end of the Internet:

1) Motor caught in cyclocross world championships: It was bound to be found/seen sooner or later, and the first case of someone being nabbed has arrived.  Congrats to UCI for continuing to focus on this, as well as also vindicating some folks in the cycling journalism world that have been covering this sort of thing being a possibility for a while (like Shane Stokes).

2) Snow swimming in Finland: (Yes, this is older) Not gonna lie, this is epic.  Especially the flip turns.

3) Battery life in wearables: A good article on the challenges of battery life in smart watches today.

4) Obstacle avoidance in trees for drones: This is cool, but keep in mind that anytime you’re talking a CES keynote/stage demo, it’s something well-rehearsed.  Also check out this related article, that’s a very good and fairly objective read on the state of the industry (written by one of DJI’s employees)

5) How Zano raised millions of dollars on Kickstarter and backers got nothing: If you have some time (it’s long), this is probably the best article to read this past month.  Very solid, and I suspect some amazing parallels to other projects of interest to readers here.  A key takeaway here being that merely having something that appears to function on video, is totally different than something that is actually a useful device day in and day out for end-consumers.

6) Pro cycling team to use Zwift to pick 2017 rider: Pretty cool idea – and another example of Zwift’s savvy when it comes to the merging of the pro cycling scene with getting subscribers.

7) Periscope adds GoPro integration: Those of you watching my Periscope feed this past week got to see me trying this functionality out during a night ride around Paris.  Keep an eye on my feed for some live skiing footage this week (assuming it stops raining…).

8) Pebble smart strap adds optical HR & wireless charging: A brilliant example of extensible (connected) straps.  Especially if it’s true that it uses Mio HR technology, which means it’s likely to actually be accurate. (Thanks Ted)

9) Dog bandits half-marathon, and podiums: Well, sorta podiums.  Seriously, start to finish. (Thanks Randy)

10) Google MyTracks app to die: I can’t say I’m too surprised.

11) British motorist jailed for driving head-on at cyclists: Well then, that’s just bat-crap nuts.  Seriously, watch the video. (via Marc)

12) Fitbit captures exact moment man’s heart breaks: Ahh…so sad! But, yet, pretty cool. (Via, my Dad)

13) Product delays of note: While I don’t have any links – just an FYI that the Wahoo ELEMNT release has been delayed while they sort out a communications issue.  Meanwhile, the Fly12 shipments have also been held up after discovering an issue with the video sensor.

Sports Technology Software/Firmware Updates This Week:

Each week I quickly highlight some of the new firmware, app, software and website service updates that I see go out. If you’re a sports technology company and release an update – shoot me a quick note (just one liners is perfect, or Tweet it at me is even better) and I’ll make mention of it here. If I don’t know about it, I won’t be able to post about it. Sound good?

TomTom Spark firmware updates: It gains 24×7 HR monitoring, among a few other tweaks.

WKO4 now available for PC: You’ll remember the Mac version launched this past summer.

Garmin adds HR charts on Vivosmart HR: Nifty little graphs on your wrist.

Best Bike Split gets Zwift workout & Garmin FE-C support: Pretty cool, and really nice example of integration from the company.

Polar V650 gets route guidance: One step at a time, the unit is getting more and more features.

Thanks for reading all!

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