After much traveling over the holiday period and into CES, it was finally back home for the weekend. Glad to be enjoying the city and not bouncing around.
1) A quick test ride
This past week was mostly a ‘catch-up’ week for me following CES. I was trying to clear out various items from 2015, from some leftover reviews, to just random administrivia junk. That’ll continue a bit into this upcoming week with both reviews and more mindless administrivia.
However, on Friday I did get my road bike all re-configured. Prior to the holidays I basically took off all the power meters to send back to various companies, leaving it kinda naked. I ordered a new bottom bracket to be able to stack back on my existing Quarq Riken, as well as my long-dormant Stages Power left-only crank. From there I complemented that with my PowerTap G3 hub in the back, and PowerTap P1 pedals up front. Finally, I mounted up the PowerPod production unit (it’s been on my tri bike since arrival some weeks back). Oh, and there’s a Suunto Ambit3 Vertical in there. Phew!
Wait! I also put on a PowerCal, because…I was curious. I’m curious for a lot of reasons – but mostly I’m just curious to gather some longer term data against how it compares against a host of power meters across various price ranges (from units like the PowerPod to Stages to the P1’s).
For this ride though, the purpose was simply ensuring all of these units were actually functional and working. One of the things that makes testing tough is getting so many units working and happy at once. There’s always some kid that’s upset about something, be it on the PM side, or the head unit side. So this was just ensuring everyone was in the minivan, not screaming, and happy for future rides.
And, the ride mostly worked out after a few tweaks here and there. Thus setting me up to capture good data from the rest of the weekend onwards.
2) Testing out drones in the countryside
Saturday afternoon David and I headed out to the countryside to test out some drones…and generally just toy around with them. We’ve often gone on trips with him and his wife Lillian, such as our ski trip last winter.
I had received the HEXO+ drone (after a nearly 20 month wait on Kickstarter), two weeks ago, and this would be my first chance to use it. Initially when it launched the main appeal was that it was highly capable for cinematic shots and also would contain a follow-me mode that could be targeted at sports. I wanted to get in some test flights ahead of going to the Alps later this month, so I could decide if it’d be of use there from a sports standpoint.
We got everything unpacked from the little Autolib and then started off with some basic flights with the DJI Phantom 3’s first (his and mine). These are trusty units that we figured we’d get warmed up on.
A nearby chateau made for some pretty pics, as the sun occasionally broke through.
After that, we began on the HEXO+. Which…turned out to be the biggest waste of $879 I’ve spent.
In an era where a DJI Phantom 3 Standard costs $499, this is $850 more (it’s $1,349 on retail now). And more importantly, it does 100 times less.
The ONLY thing the Hexo+ can do is these basic cinematic moves as seen on this single page (well, it takes a slight scroll down to see the final two actions):
There are no other options. There is no preview of the live video (like both 3DR Solo and the DJI Phantom 3 series). There is no method to otherwise control it, beyond pausing it wherever it is, or telling it to come back to you. There is no method to control the recording once you press ‘Record’ on your GoPro on the ground. It burns through batteries like they’re going out of style. And unlike the SOLO or DJI P3 units, I have to add my own $400 GoPro. The level of lame-ness is astounding.
I could do everything the HEXO+ does with the DJI Phantom 3 standard and a combination of the default app, and the AutoPilot app ($29). And save more than $800 (+ the GoPro).
I had been optimistic that what I saw a year ago outside of CES during a demo around linking camera movements together or custom movements would manifest itself in this unit in a more mature manner. But ultimately, it didn’t.
Here’s to hoping that my AirDog unit ships out this week, so I can get in some test flights before a ski trip to the Alps for a few weeks. That unit seems to be far more suited to sports given it has a waterproof watch-like transmitter you wear and the unit just follows along, and the video folks are posting thus far on YouTube is really looking pretty good (though, it does need a bit more stabilization that I’d hoped, but that’s fairly easy in post-production). Plus, and most importantly, it just folds up into your backpack.
3) A Saturday Night Run
After getting back from droning on with David, The Girl, and I headed out for a nice jaunt around the city along the river.
The weather was pleasant for running, not too cold, nor rainy or windy. Somewhat perfect for a winter run. We simply ran down to the Eiffel Tower and back, turning around and taking the other side of the river back.
Here’s our route – a pretty straightforward one. Given it was both winter and well after dark, there were virtually no crowds to run around. Quite nice.
I didn’t have too much sports tech on me, just a few watches to compare stats for the Microsoft Band 2 against.
4) A Sunday Stroll by Bike
I headed out Sunday morning for a whirl around the Bois de Vincennes by bike. The main goal simply being to validate that all the bike power meter stuff I did on Friday was suitably happy for future usage.
And sure enough, it was.
The units seemed to line up pretty well. The PowerPod and P1’s were reading a bit higher than the others, so I may see if that settles out over the next ride or so. I’ll probably also update my and my bike weights for the PowerPod via their software. It uses a default number, which is pretty close to mine, but I can get slightly better accuracy and pull it in a tiny bit closer. So I’ll do that, just because that seems logical.
I could technically also update the calibration values based on one of my other power meters, but honestly that would seem to be cheating a bit, given the purpose is to review it as a standalone unit and whether it’s worth the lower cost.
5) Weekend foods of note!
We ended up eating out a bit more this weekend than normal, though I’m not entirely sure why. First up we returned to our favorite little Italian spot, da Zavola. It’s only two blocks away, and we primarily come here for the risotto (they have one risotto offering per night, which changes daily).
As time has gone on since the attacks, the economic impact has become more and more clear. We were the only patrons this night (a Saturday night), for a time when in past winters this restaurant is often reservation-only full. This recent article talks to the trend a bit. Obviously, there are sometimes just random nights where bookings are down for any restaurant – but the complete lack of tourists in Paris is readily apparent, even in a time of year that is less busy than summer.
But, as always our risotto was fantastic.
Sunday afternoon we headed down to the Grand Palais for lunch. It’s often used for large exhibits, as well as an ice skating rink in the winter (though, not this year – all of them across the city were apparently cancelled).
We’d actually be eating in a restaurant just inside called the Mini Palais.
The dishes were modern and quite good, though the restaurant has a pretty large capacity – so it’s a bit louder in there. Being only a block from the Champs-Élysées, it likely does better with tourists since it’s close by and listed on many tour guides. About half of the tables near us seemed French, the others non-French.
The food was quite good – and I’d happily come here again. Below a pumpkin soup on the left, and then on the right a chocolate ball with ice cream inside and molten chocolate on the outside. I think there was some caramel in there too. Because life is better with caramel.
Finally, I should mention that on Sunday, I did get a treat at the CupCakery following my bike ride. But more on that in another post.
With that – hope everyone had a good weekend (or long weekend for those in the US).
Thanks for reading!
Riding without Barend Plugs???? So dangerous!!!! 😉
Yeah, I noticed it Sunday afternoon as well (it’s actually just the right one, the left one is there, but black).
Really looking forward to your overall thoughts on the Band 2.
Yup, it’ll be mostly sport-focused, though I’ll give some general use thoughts as well.
I am very interested as well. I am torn between a GPS smartwatch that does all day activity tracking,(or something like a Garmin Forerunner 235) vs something like the Microsoft band 2 which does it all I think.
My biggest negative with the Band 2 is that heart rate is averaged over a minute during an activity making it almost useless for intervals. You might get around this with some apps that record a live heart rate but I don’t want to have my phone with me
I still like it for general activity, notifications, sleep tracking and hopefully golf when the weather allows
hui, hope you can get your money back for the HEXO+. Or is this really $1,349 down the drain?
In my case it’s the $850ish or whatever I paid for the original Kickstarter price (backers usually get a discount). Unfortunately, with the way Kickstarter works there is no refunds or the like.
But, at least I didn’t pay $1,349 for it like today’s retail price. Eeks.
I’m first 🙂
Personally, I’m surprisingly uninterested in drones. Outside of some special use cases, they are a solution/hobby looking for a problem; kind of like RC cars. I love tech, so I’m waiting to see what finally makes them valuable enough to actually go buy one.
I see them simply as an extension of action cameras. Right now though, the options are cumbersome to use. Sorta like if you rewound 25 years ago, an ‘action cam’ was a gigantic camcorder. So you didn’t ride/run/ski with it yourself, but someone else captured you.
Similarly, today the drones (minus hopefully Airdog) are still too cumbersome (and sometimes non-safe/non-smart enough) to do sports and have them capture a video clip.
I’d love to see a drone connected with this technology to make the footage potentially have more value (not just entertainment). Following a tennis player through their stroke. Live hill climb repeats etc.
Yup, that’s what ‘Follow-me’ drones do (such as Airdog). Very similar technology concepts.
I’ve actually got a Soloshot, but couldn’t really figure out a use case for the sports I do (swim/bike/run), as in all those sports I’m quickly moving out of range of a camera. Whereas something like surfing or kite-surfing, I’m able to stay in a closer area. There’s also the element that the cameras Soloshot is built for…just aren’t really used by many today (a DSLR for example is fine, but then you can’t control zoom automatically).
Got it. I was thinking the use case (other than being cool and interesting) could be around coaching of drills (where coach is remote), visualization of form or team sports where you want to review with the team.
It seems like a lot of folks find the ‘follow me’ function of some multirotors to be very appealing. However, in practice, it turns out to be more of a gimmick.
Any of the Arducopter (APM and Pixhawk) based flight controllers can do this, the DJI machines can now too. I am generally impressed that it works as well as it does, but people soon find out that to get quality cinematic shots, they should be in control of the craft.
Further, I think it generally a bad idea to have no conventional RC controls. It will eventually come to bite you. I have been in RC for 20 years, and now shoot some commercial work with my multirotors. While they have completed many GPS based missions on their own with great success, I am ALWAYS on the sticks and monitoring everything.
I have noted that the Hexo+ videos on youtube (from actual customers) are only so-so in terms of camera smoothness. Unfortunately, a stand alone gimbal, like they use, doesn’t perform as well as DJI’s. I am a 3DR fanboy myself, but nothing compares to DJI’s gimbals.
Yeah, the gimbal + automated motion quality of the Hexo+ was just not worth uploading my video. Agree completely.
I do find that some apps can do a decent job (Autopilot for DJI is really good if you get the hang of it), but I’m generally with you on not wanting to leave the controls. I think that’s because I’ve had too many non-response and/or flyaway situations with both 3DR and DJI. For example, DJI bases it’s follow-me distance limit upon the initial starting point, not how far it is from you currently (which is stupid). Further, it also fails to account for elevation changes (up or down).
That said, I think the appeal of AirDog is the waterproof remote type system and hopefully superior follow-me. In looking at the videos real users some have uploaded to YouTube, the gimbal isn’t as good at DJI, but it’s good enough that one pass in post should make things look pretty. Hopefully…
Some other thoughts on the Kickstarter follow drones: With the complete failure of the Zano, and the late arrival of Hexo+ and Airdog (props to them for shipping now / soon), one thing is clear; drones are hard. I think that is actually a Chris Anderson (3DR) quote.
2-3 years ago this would have been awesome, but it seems they are too little, too late. The two big players in the consumer drone market, DJI and 3DR, both have products that pretty much do these follow functions (minus a few specifics), but also do a ton more. Low latency HD streaming, control of the camera remotely, waypoints, telemetry to name a few.
Hexo and Airdog made big splashes with $1 million KS campaigns, but the fact is, to make a dent in the consumer drone game, 1 million isn’t going to develop much now. The competition is good enough today it is hard for a start up to compete. The currently available drones are actually very good! It seems that a lot of KS backers do not know what is already available to them.
I believe both hexo and Airdog are running variants of Arducopter anyway.
I look forward to what GoPro has to offer. They have the resources to compete and potentially add something.
Totally agree. In many ways, drones are a lot like power meters. And his quote (I’m pretty sure it was him as well) is exactly the same for PM’s. It’s really easy to make something you call a power meter, but it’s really difficult to make something that accuracy/repeatable/stable/etc… (as LIMITS is learning).
The whole Zano thing will be super interesting once we get more clarity on what went so horribly wrong. They got to the point of showing numerous videos of functioning product, which gives more and more cred to the theory of an internal meltdown within the company (people).
I agree on GoPro having the resources to deliver something cool, and compete on price while they’re at it. I suppose we’ll know soon enough…
I do crit racing and have always dreamed of having a drone settle in behind me in “follow” mode maybe 20′ above the pack, but we’re doing 30ish MPH and not sure if we’d “drop” the drone or not. but how cool would that be??
Hi Ray, can’t help thinking of that 520 review when I see 3 of them on your bike. =)
Hi Ray, I’d love to hear you initial thoughts about the Vertical and Suunto move here.
Me too 😉
Same here! Also, when should we roughly expect your Ambit3 Vertical review?
Stick a Black Magic Micro Cinema Camera on the drone and you’ll have a whole world of 4k Globlal Shutter and control loveliness at you’re finger tips. GoPro really is agricultural in comparison.
So, what is it with this special treat on Sunday that’s worth an extra post?
Is it a “Ray, our family is going to grow” treat?
@Bndit-you may believe your comment was well intentioned on your part, but that’s just rude to make a comment like that. You don’t know a person’s/couple’s circumstances and comments like these (by you and others) are insensitive.
@anon, if that is your real name, relax a bit. By your reasoning, I couldn’t even say to you “Nice day, isn’t it?” just in case you weren’t having a nice day.
But will say it anyway. Have a nice day Anon 🙂
Nathan-Not everyone wants children, and when you and/or your spouse goes through a period of infertitlity treatments, you’ll also be sensitive to people’s inappropriate comments. People make announcements if and when they make announcements–they shouldn’t be quizzed or hassled.
What software do you use to plot all your power data onto one graph?
It’s custom software that I’ve had put together for this specific purpose.
I’ve been slowly beta testing it with a handful of folks. If you have a use case where you are often doing multi power/HR/cadence/GPS-track/whatever comparisons and are interested in beta testing – drop me a note.
Hey ray, in your reviews, just a suggestion I’ve made before, but a comparison of devices with like features is valuable in my opinion and others as they’ve stated. If you could include that it would be great.
All the reviews should have a table to compare where you can slice and dice with any device ? super useful!
That’s a great idea. I’ll get right on it.
😉 my comment was more “that it should be there” not that you should implement one hahah best feature of your site BY FAR
Indeed, my comment was more smart-ass as well. 😉
that’s what i figured 😀
I seriously did get a kick out of plotting the Tom-tom Multisport next to the 235 to the f3 this fall. I had a MS and it had gaps and that chart (along with the F3 being on sale) lead me down the slippery slope 😀
I hope the weekend at the CupCakery went well. I saw the update on the IG post, hopefully there will be another place to visit in the future!
Edge 520 review?
I’m curious in what you found with that PowerCal comparison, I notice it wasn’t on your followup day’s graph.
I found that it averaged very close (spot-on actually) to the other PM’s, however, that it was more variable in response to sprints and shifts in power. Which, I pretty much already knew.
This meant that the graphs tend to look ugly, yet, it all works out in the wash for longer averages (about 45-60s in length). But I didn’t show it on that chart simply because A) I found a bug that wouldn’t allow me to add a 6th power meter in my tool…and B) I was too lazy to create a secondary graph in the post and finally… C) In looking at it, it would likely have caused more confusion and explanation than I wanted to add into the post already. 😉
That said, my goal is to collect a bit more longer term data on it, as well as use it for some testing with supposed upcoming crowd-funded power meters to demonstrate whether or not a $99 ‘power meter’ is better than XYZ power meter.
I got a PowerCal after your initial review and I reckon it works just fine. I can’t compare the numbers to a proper PM but it does add extra pretty graphs to GC and Strava 🙂
Thanks, Ray. I agree with Nathan below in that I got one after one of your initial first-impressions post (and it was just $50) so I thought I would try it out.
I don’t really rely on it for much for a number of reasons:
– I’ve yet to find a device that will show the watts meaningfully (I am primarily a runner and don’t want the expense of a dedicated bike computer, so I use the Wahoo app and a Vivoactive/Fenix, none of which will display power in anything but point-in-time)
– It has been about the MOST finicky HRM strap for spikes/surges out of all the ones I own. There is almost not a single ride that I can due where the HR doesn’t blow up to 250+ at some point, which also impacts the Wattage #s. I’ve tried everything, including electrode gel, and it is just consistently bad in this area.
One big use I’ve found for the PowerCal is when I’m travelling. It’s a way of using any hotel stationary bike to get time and distance in zwift, and hence keep training and riding with others.
I did find it was incredibly important to calibrate, or else my power was far too high … probably a reflection on my current fitness. Finally, you don’t a power meter to do this, you just need to know your rough levels and can set your own constants based on this.
How exactly do you do that? When I open up “Configure PoweCal” in Poweragent the popup box shows the current A.B and C variables for my device.
But I can’t seem to override any of the values with my own numbers. Am I doing something wrong?
Very keen to calibrate my powercal, (I think its reading 20-30% low) but I don’t have a proper powermeter to do the full calibration test.
Thanks for the drone update! And for the heads up about autopilot – looks very good. I’m in the process of borrowing a Phantom, and I certainly think that autopilot will be one thing on the list of things to try with it.
da Zavola looks great – I hope that clients start returning soon….
Hey Ray. Sorry the HEXO+ didn’t work out for you. Do you know anything about the Lily camera (https://www.lily.camera)? It sounds pretty cool and the video looks amazing. I wonder if it will be another disappointment…
I love the concept of Lily, but they’ve taken ‘misleading’ to a whole different level. Their promo video was pretty much entirely fake. For example, they show footage that they imply is from the unit, when in reality that’s from a gimbalized camera (and recent footage they shared looks nothing like it). Other aspects like take-off/landing were very different in the video than from their tests they’ve shown.
I think it’s cool (and I am a backer), but I expect they’ll delay further.
Too good to be true… Guess it’s up to GoPro now.
Curious if you have any word on when Powertap plans to update the P1 with more advanced cycling metrics?
Thanks again for all you posts.
No word on date. I’ll ask.
I’m a huge PowerCal fan. I have two PowerCals, both work great and give me what I need for power. When I compare what other riders in my group use their power for it’s all the same, basic effort calculations and for that PowerCal works great and doesn’t matter what bike I am using. Always surprised why folks don’t just try that first instead of the complexity of a crank, pedal etc and cost therein.
Any specific reason why you use so many Edge units for power meter testing? Why not use watches, which have smaller footprint and you can fit more in the handlebar?
I find watches more finicky and actually less flexible. With Edge units the mounts are in a specific location. With watches I have to use the little rubber handlebar mounts (otherwise they flop around). With the rubber mounts (or any watch mounting), it takes more time to do/undo bars, vs a split-second quarter turn mount.
Also, with the Edge units I can use simple micro-USB, so I don’t have to worry about having the right charging cable with me. Lots of little reasons. Plus they also support things like Di2 data and such, which the watches don’t.
Thanks Ray. I though it had something to do with sample rates or other technical issues. Good to know it is just for convenience.
Ray, have you ever done a before/after weight comparison of you and the bike when testing? I bet it adds up pretty fast!
Meant to say before gear is loaded and after 🙂
No, never have. Maybe next time. In general watches/computers don’t tend to add too much, but sometimes the other camera related gear adds up more than anything else.
On the power meter side, most are small adds (for example, I think Stages is only about 19g). Basically, I should just eat less ice cream and cake.
You are living the life, mon frere. Love France and Paris and Le Tour and bikes and gadgets and hey, the pastries are extraordinaire! Enjoy your reviews. If I ever get back for Le Tour, I will have to hit you up for some restaurant recos. Best, Matt
Been meaning to ask this for awhile. In past post you wear mittens with the word Run on them. Where did you get those? Thanks.
I don’t know precisely. I often bought the $1 gloves at running Expo’s pre-races (such as before the Marine Corps Marathon, Philly Marathon, etc…). In theory you were supposed to throw them away, but I just have sorta kept them forever. 🙂
I’ve got a bunch of pairs, mostly mis-matched.
Gotcha, thanks for the reply!
When shimano introduced flight deck shifters/computer people said it was mad and unnecessary. Now I look at Ray’s bike with 5 edges and 2+ watches I can only wish to see the face of those people 😀
Nice weekend, bet you are looking forward to the next one like me.
What about the GPS accuracy of the Ambit 3 Vertical ? It is a good evolution of the ambit 3 ? When we will have the pleasure to read the full review ? Do you think that suunto will announce the Ambit 4 at the ISPO ? Thanks
Just a note, but remember to register your drones with the FAA before flying them in the US now. Likeliness of getting caught may be pretty low, but it is only $5, so not too bad.
link to registermyuas.faa.gov
Yup! Though, I don’t have any US travel on the radar for some time. So no specific rush at the moment.
Right now, as I understand, the FAA site is rejecting foreign IP addresses. The AMA has said they are trying to fix that.
Here is to hoping that the various legal challenges ground the FAA illegal registration soon, anyway.
Yeah, I don’t have a problem with registration per se…but I also think it’s crazy that we have to register drones when we don’t have to register guns. Consumer drones* have killed exactly nobody, compared to guns at last count killed 33,169 people per year in the US. Sigh.
(And, just to be clear, I don’t have any problem with gun ownership either, just making the point about registration being wonky for drones.)
That said – I do think some of the software-based restrictions that DJI has put in place is smart. Being able to unlock if authorized if a perfect balance between people doing stupid things (which harm all of us being able to use drones long term), and giving people flexibility to do cool things.
Powertap P1 better then other PM’s or just more flexible?
looking to replace my garmin vectors, which i’ve sent back to garmin twice… (showed way less then my effort at first (1.st time i sent them back.),second time they showed to “high” values between hard sprints intervalls etc.)
I have read your well written “in Depth review”, and the powertap pedals looks like a great match for me, as i wish to use them on multiple bikes.
I find them on-par with other PM’s for accuracy, but far more flexible. Thus, win to the P1’s for me, and portability. Obviously, different folks have different needs (for example, I don’t care much about things like Cycling Dynamics).
Thanks, P1’s on their way.
Ray, can you please ensure your reviews for activity trackers and GPS watches include a treadmill test. I would venture that many of your readers live in climates that have cold weather during the winter, and would probably be on a treadmill. In reading on the web, the TomTom Spark Cardio is awful on the treadmill, yet accurate otherwise.
That along with a product comparison like you did for the Vivosmart HR would be great additions to your reviews.
The Microsoft Band 2 and Garmin Forerunner 235 look interesting to me, but the issues people are reporting with the Garmin really have me worried about making such a big purchase. I want to use the device for when I play soccer (I simply wear a wrist band to cover the device so the ref allows that) and track how much I ran, and my HR. I am getting a Mio Fuse for free, so for the HR tracking during the soccer game that might be the most accurate, but it has no GPS and I’d like to accurately measure my distance covered and pace.
Great post, Ray. A spectator at the recent US National Cyclocross Championships put together a really cool video of the event using drone footage: link to cxhairs.com. Provides an awesome perspective on an event that takes place across a large park and really helps capture the feel of a cyclocross race!
It will be very interesting to see how the airdog behaves in a skiing environment… I don’t suppose the LIDAR is designed to avoid e.g. cables from the lifts?? Nor that there is a GPS fences system build into it. So you’d have to start and land it well clear if all of that. And make sure that the spectacular off piste run don’t pass under any lifts…
I wish someone would add the follow-me (or follow buddy really) functionality to a helmet mounted gimbal/stabilizer. Sorta making yourself a low flying follow me drone.
This is slightly OT, but what software do you use to compare multiple power meters?
It’s a custom app right now that I’ve been testing/working with a developer on since summer. I’ve onboarded some DCR readers as beta testers. If you’re often doing PM comparison work, shoot me a note and I can get you added to the beta.
Sorry for the silly question, but what program do you use to compare power meter graphs?
one question on drones. have you already seen lily, the follow drone, which seems like the ultimate version of airdog?
It does look cool. But I think it’s still a long ways away. Their entire marketing video wasn’t real – nothing they showed in that was (or even still is) possible today. Their most recent update about a month ago showed some pretty rough video of just taking off and landing.
They’ll get there, but for now, I’d look elsewhere.
do you have a time schedule for the in-depth review of the PowerPod?
Since I got addicted to Zwift I would like to have power measurement in real life on my bike.
Read a lot of your in-depth reviews and buyers guide but it is difficult to decide.
I’d like to add just two more rides to my collection for data, which I’ll do this week. If I end up doing those earlier this week, I’ll publish at end of week. Else, I’ll publish early next week.
Hiya Ray, is there a reason the powerpod review keeps slipping? Not complaining but I’m quite looking forward to seeing what you make of the software side of things. If it’s just not finished then cool, hopefully though you’re not spending the extra time looking into bugs etc!
No, I just got swamped coming out of MWC. It’s the next review up. Tuesday sometime.