A WatTeam PowerBeat Power Meter Update

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Today WatTeam has announced that they’ll be postponing further shipments of their $499 PowerBeat power meter, while they work out some kinks that the first shipped production units have run into.

You’ll remember the journey started about 20 months ago in August 2014 when the company came onto the market with a power meter that could be DIY glued onto most crank arms (aluminum and carbon).  It was appealing not only because of the dual aluminum and carbon nature, but because it wasn’t restricted to a specific pedal type (i.e. like Garmin Vector, PowerTap P1, or Brim Brothers).  It installed in between the pedals and the existing crank arm, and was even semi-portable in between bikes.  I had tested a beta version of it last summer, which went mostly fairly well.

The company started shipping pre-orders to customers about 4-5 weeks ago, and I’ve been testing the same version as other consumers since then.  In total the first production batch encompassed about 140 units.  Small by some standards, but also in-line with first production batch run numbers for most power meter companies.

Unfortunately since then folks have run into issues around accuracy, primarily around drift – appearing to be related to temperature shifts (but not always).  As I’ve noted in recent comments, I would be counted among those seeing issues.

While I’ve had some multi-hour complex terrain rides that were beautifully accurate the entire time, I’ve also had a number of rides that just made no sense at all (indoor and outdoor).  Like others, I’d been working with WatTeam to try and troubleshoot my issues – but it became clear over the last week or two that it wasn’t just a ‘me’ problem*, but a wider one.

*I’m always concerned about product problems that impact just me (for any number of reasons) being the singular basis of a review.  Meaning, if I’m the only one seeing it, then is it because I’m doing something wrong (my fault), or because I’ve found an oddity in the product that hadn’t been considered (their fault)?  In most cases, it’s because I’m doing something wrong.  And in most cases, companies are able to get me cooking.  Nonetheless, I tend to spend extra time going back and forth with companies when I see severe oddities, as was the case here.

In any case, at this point WatTeam has suspended further shipments and sales of the PowerBeat product while they work out the cause of the various issues folks are seeing.  They don’t yet know if the issues can be fixed via software update, or will require hardware changes.  Nor do they have a timeline established (which is probably best).

They noted that all Batch 1 people will receive a free upgrade to whatever the next version is (via hardware or software).  Or they can request a full refund at any time.  They can continue to use their PowerBeat power meter in the meantime.

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Here’s their full posted comment/statement:

“Following the release of our first batch, we’ve discovered some problems related to temperature compensation that we hadn’t caught despite extensive beta-testing. We are committed to producing an accurate, dependable power meter at a fair price, which is why we’ve made the decision to stop sales and focus on finishing R&D for v2.0 in order to have an uncompromising product.

 

Since we are perfectionists, all existing POWERBEAT owners will receive an upgrade to v2.0 at no cost when it comes out.

 

The Phase 1 product is working, but there are known issues for some customers. Therefore, Phase 1 customers can keep enjoying their current version of POWERBEAT and will get our full support and will also be entitled to a FREE upgrade as soon as v2.0 is out.”

While they haven’t specified any timelines, hopefully they’ll be able to sort out whatever the root causes are.  They seem to be very close, but clearly need more time to work out whatever their issues are.  There’s clearly demand for a $499 dual-sided power meter that’s as flexible as their product stands to be.  But at the same time, if it’s not accurate, it’s no more valuable than an empty water bottle.

Finally, since they’ve ceased sales/shipping of the product, I’ll be back-burner’ing the review until they get to shipping again and I can test whatever the final product will be.

Thanks for reading all!

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38 Comments

  1. VJGoh

    This makes me feel good about their product and their commitment to it. Next time I’m in the market for a power meter, I’ll definitely remember this.

  2. JJones (ijustinj)

    Ah, ha! So I am no crazy. I had already boxed mine up and shipped it back for a refund before seeing this post. Makes sense, but I don’t know that it all boils down to a temperature shift issue. I dropped big bucks on an Elemnt just because the Watteam support insisted my problems were because I couldn’t zero within the Cyclemeter app on my iPhone. Cannot tell you how disappointed I was to find that despite the pricey new head unit the power meter still gave me crap data.

    Anyway, I hope it works out for them but in any case they need to really improve on their customer service. I know that others have reported what I experienced with good service at the start but it dwindled to next to nothing.

  3. Very customer-facing approach.
    Bravo

    • The customer service experience of JJ seems to be at odds with that experienced by Ray.
      My previous comment was in reaction to Ray’s post. Let’s hope that Ray’s experience is the norm and that JJ’s experience was just a one-off

    • I think if I was following JJ’s trials correctly over the last few weeks that they were fairly responsive initially, but than seemed to be more grasping for straws towards the end.

      I suspect that’s mostly inline with them coming to grips on it being a bigger problem than they realized.

      That seemed to be online with what others were reporting as well.

    • JJones (ijustinj)

      Yes Ray, I think that you summed it up nicely and I agree with you. I realize that my initial comments sound harsh but I do hope they succeed. If I do not have a power meter by the time they get it all sorted I may just try them again.

    • Ken

      While I appreciate your frustration, surely you had to be aware you were using v1 from an unproven vendor.

      That’s the cost of being bleeding edge.

      It seems like they are acting responsibly and I agree w others that if they pass the DCR test when the bugs r fixed they’re worth considering.

      Now let me get back to my proven Garmin 810 that still has trouble syncing via Bluetooth to my iPhone…

  4. Kris

    Great to hear they are supporting the current users, hope they get it figured out sooner then later as I’m just starting a build I would love to use them on.

  5. Drew

    So, just so I can verify that I’m seeing the same thing that others are seeing…
    My perception has been that as the temperature increases, the readings get lower.

    I’ve noticed that as the weather warms up, similar effort rides have been giving lower power numbers. I’ve been going crazy re-calibrating from my Garmin every time I start and mid-ride and saying to myself “there’s no way that was a 250w pull, I was doing 350 for the same effort yesterday” or “I was killing myself going up that hill, how was it only 400w?”

  6. Darren

    Has Watteam sent out an email with this info to people who have pre-ordered? There is nothing on their website or facebook page.
    It is great they are acknowledging an issue an working to correct it but there is no info out there other than what we have here. I am now on the fence if I want to keep my order or cancel and pick up a different meter

  7. Matt B

    Are you watching, LIMITS?

    Good on Watteam for taking the tough decision, I hope it pans out well for them in the end.

  8. Matt

    Watteam,

    Please respond to my refund request sent directly to your support email sent on the 16th. I have still heard nothing. Failing on initial shipping date is one thing, failing on delivering a useful product is another.. but failing to refund and ignoring customers in light of this would be a step too far.

    • Watteam

      Dear Matt, we’ve looked at our records and couldn’t find a refund request from you. Please email our support team at support@watteam.com with your order number or call us at 1-949-656-8609 and we’ll be happy to issue a refund today.

      Best,
      Watteam Support

    • Matt

      Hi Watteam,

      It was sent 14/4 at 11.22pm AEST. I have resent it to your support address again on 21/4 at 9:16pm AEST.

      Regards,
      Matt

  9. Howard

    Hi Ray and Watteam,

    I noticed that when I am on my trainer and the fan blowinig toward the pedals, my power output would become frantic, say like jumping between 90 to 180ish. Is this a temperature compensation problem? I never owned a power meter before, so not sure whether this is a problem or not.

    Thanks,
    Howard

    • I didn’t see the jumping frantic, but rather the jumped at stayed at a much higher value aspect (with a fan). It sounds like they were investigating whether or not that was related to temp comp.

      To be 100% clear though, no other power meter has issues with fans on trainers – so as I noted to them, it wasn’t really acceptable. Hopefully they’ll sort it out.

  10. Jacky Wong

    I am glad to receive the update from Watteam. I love their attitude, it is the way it should be for all companies in the world.
    I will wait another 2 months before I made the decision to buy a power meter and will put watteam on higher priority.

  11. Andy

    That’s WatTeam finished then.

    Sorry to say it, but once you have a reputation for being inaccurate it’s hard to shake, first impressions and all that. When you think they have had since 2014 to produce this, test it out, then build it properly, its a bit off-putting to find the product doesn’t work, and don’t try and convince me by saying ‘some of my rides were ok’, how do you know? you don’t. Any metric could be out on a ride, you just won’t know. If i had you up against a wall and said I’m going to put a bullet through your head based on the accuracy of this product would you trust it? simple answer is no.
    And before you go saying ‘nothing else is 100% accurate either’, you and I both know there are power meters you would trust more with your life than this.

    Its game over for WatTeam, they had a good punt but they won’t recover from this, I predict within a year they will be struggling for sales and eventually they will pull out of the power meter market.

    • I don’t think it’s game over at all. They shipped 140 units, saw issues, and stopped to address.

      They’ve got a good price point, and one that appeals to consumers. So assuming they can fix things, they’ll be fine. Had they continued to push forwards and let it slog on for months and let review after review come in and say they were inaccurate, then they’d be hosed. But in this case, they made the right choice to nip it before it got to thatpoint.

      To my knowledge there are no reviews published of the PowerBeat at this point.

    • Drew

      I’m going to agree with Ray. While this is defiantly a speed bump, I don’t thin it’s “game over”.

      First, from my personal experience, I’ve received great customer support. Hopefully JJ’s experience was an anomaly, because at least for me, taking care of your customers far outweighs a few hiccups with the initial product rollout. Especially if they have made a promise to make it right as they did with the free upgrade to 2.0. While I’ve experienced some issues with power readings myself, I think they are definitely on the right track. I think they just need to get the bugs worked out, and it looks like they are getting out in front of it by addressing the issue head on instead of continuing to ship and trying to fix it with product in flight.

      Not the first company in this market to have a hiccup with a product rollout, and I’m sure they won’t be the last. Probably not the best example, but I remember hearing about iBike (newton and power pod) back in the mid 2000’s and everyone thinking it was vaporware and that they’d never get off the ground. And while they may not have had the market success of Stages or Wahoo, they are still around and still putting out product.

    • Alex

      Stages got a negative review by Ray initially and then fixed their issues. Now they sell wildly. They could do this because they were just about the cheapest PM out at the time. Watteam is in a similar position, they will be the cheapest dual sided power meter available.

  12. Russ Starke

    I am one of the 140. Eagerly awaiting v2.0. Not complaining, just listing a few issues to see if anyone else experienced the same. I have done at least 12 water bag calibrations and have had varied results (including weighing bags to the hundredth). If I do it on a work stand I get #s that are way low, or with no power at all. If I do it with the bike upside down I get better #s. No matter how many attempts I end up with #s that are 80/20 left/right. I cannot comment on current accuracy, as I have no other meter to compare to. I did have a spike the other day of 10,235 watts. Was not even breathing hard. I have tried comparing my results with this: link to gribble.org

    • Dmitry

      I’m in the 140. Same thing with calibration. Every time differ settings (‘Gain’ – numbers on support page). I compare my power with Strava estimation and other riders (same weight). Sometimes it pretty accurate (off by 10 watts), other times +-30%. Bluetooth is working great with Polar m450. I’ll probably wait for update 2.0.

    • To be fair, the variance in calibration numbers day to day isn’t a bad thing by itself. That just represents change in temperature typically (a good thing to track, if done properly).

      The challenge is/was the variance in calibration numbers within a ride, or even within a few seconds if repeated.

      Now that second one (variance of cal numbers within a few seconds) was due to a software bug that should have been resolved in the latest firmware update. That bug would incorrectly average the previous calibration value with the current. Hence why WatTeam was suggesting doing 3-4 calibration values, so ‘clear’ that issue. So I was doing 3-4 in a row, until all 3-4 matched.

      (Note: This all ignores the water bag issues, which like you I became exceedingly good at. And for those curious – the issue isn’t the water bags per se, since that’s fine. It was the variability you’d see in terms of repeating what appeared to be identical weigh-ins each time with them. I believe they can simply solve this in software though ,since on the backend via support if you called they knew exactly which weigh-ins were ‘bad’. So simply exposing that sort of detail to the user in real-time would have made us all happy.)

    • Chris D.

      I am also one of the 140. I have had lots of issues on the trainer (not fan-related, as I had the same experience in a hotel room with no fan. Hey, gotta pass the down time at my kid’s soccer tournaments somehow). Power starts off pretty much in-line with Zwift ZPower (via a Kurt Kinetic trainer with Garmin speed sensor). However, it very quickly drifts very low, to the tune of 80w-100w difference.

      Outdoors, I *think* I am usually getting pretty decent results, though I have noticed occasional oddly low numbers. When I say “decent”, I mean they are roughly where I would expect them to be based on the admittedly suspect ZPower numbers. I weighed my bags and I think they were overfilled (they were 4.6kg, not 4.5kg). Assuming my heavy bags were causing PowerBeat to underreport wattage, that would likely put me even closer to my ZPower range.

      I seem to be getting spotty balance figures, with somewhat frequent “80%+” readings on my Garmin 810. I have been unsure whether that is a problem with the sensor, an issue of the timing of measurement within my pedal stroke or even poor pedal stroke technique. Whatever the cause, it is obviously something that needs fixing.

      When I bought this, I expected there was a pretty good likelihood of not getting accurate power readings for the first couple of months. I assumed there would be algorithm tweaking for quite a while and that it would take real-world user data to get things dialed-in. Now maybe there is a hardware issue. Whatever. The price point and features (assuming they eventually get this to work) were right for me to take that risk and I am happy to give it some time. Cycling toys and patience don’t usually go together for me, but it isn’t going to kill me to wait a bit longer to see this play out.

      I appreciate that WatTeam is choosing to pause to focus on fixing this, rather than compounding the crap-show by continuing to ship units and adding to the support overload. I am happy to contribute data to help get this resolved. WatTeam, I am probably your only Chris D. in NY state, so feel free to hit me up.

  13. JJones (ijustinj)

    Hey Ray, are there any updates from Watteam?

    • No. To be honest, I kinda expect them to go quiet for a while. While they’ve discussed no timelines with me, I’m mentally expecting that we’ll probably hear major news around the Eurobike/Interbike timeframe. I suspect the challenge is deeper than they first realized (hence the stopping of shipping).

      I could be wrong, and would be happy to get an update saying it’s mere weeks away – but just in terms of my uninformed guesstimate, I’d say fall.

    • Hi
      Our R&D team is working hard on smoothing out the issues, we currently don’t have an ETA but hoping to offer a better and improved version as soon as we can and we’ll communicate a more solid timeline once we know more.

  14. Jacky Wong

    Hope there is a update soon. Just leave a msg to show my support.

  15. Martin Björgvik

    Any news on what is happening? it´s been 3 months since the update ?

  16. dan

    Any behind the scenes info on the update Watteam sent out today?

    Evidently they have a new sensor that fixes things.

  17. Rai

    Hi Ray, I came across your website while looking to see if others are having the issue I am! I received my replacement and after gluing steps and upon waiting 24+ hours the glue is not holding the sensor to the arm. The customer service was very helpful and sent a second sensor. After the gluing process (I made an extra effort to follow the steps to minute details and waited at leat 30 hours) I got the same result; the rubber around the sensor plate doesn’t stay glued to the crank arms. Have you heard if others are having the same issue? I have the Shimano aluminum arm.

    Thanks!

    • Drew

      Rai,
      What cranks do you have? With my 6800 Ultegras I had tons of issues with the old v1 sensors staying attached. One of the things we ended up doing when working with support was sanding the arm under where the sensor is glued down. That was added as an official procedure with the new gluing instructions. I’ve worked with their support team a lot over the last 11 months. If nothing else, they are very dedicated to working on these issues until they get it right.

      I did get a pair of the new sensors over the holidays when they were still testing them, and I did have one come off a new 6800 crankset on the non-drive side. The current ones I have, since they sent the official release of v2, are mounted to a crank that I had mounted several v1 sensors to. It has been sanded down nearly to bare aluminum. I haven’t had any issues with this set of sensors, but at this point it’s only been about two weeks.

      It definitely can be frustrating, but customer support has been really good in my case, so I’ve been OK with waiting for all the bugs to get worked out and relaying the issues I’ve come across.

    • Rai

      Hi Drew, thanks for the information. I have the same exact crank! I’ve contacted the customer support and waiting to see what they say. I assume they will have to send me a new sensor again unless I can reglue the cover back on and not sure how that will impact the pm. I will be sure to sand the crank down to the aluminum next time. It seems the glue they are providing is not sticking to the sensor cover for some reason.

    • Drew

      I think the two part epoxy that they are using now is much better than the glue they used with the first generation, but I also definitely think there is something with the coating/anodization Shimano put on the Ultegra 6800 cranks that is causing problems with adhesion. I’m also not suggesting that you sand them down that far as if you decide not to stay with the Watteam pm it will leave the crank arms permanently defaced.

      In my case, I didn’t intentionally sand them down that far, early on they suggested light sanding with the paper that was sent with the v1 sensor and they just ended up that way after repeatedly cleaning and re-gluing sensors. I wasn’t terribly worried about scarring them as I had other scrapes and scratches on the arms and a second, clean, crankset. The switch to wet-sanding with the ultra fine grit paper came a little later on, maybe a month or two before I got to test the v2 sensors. They were on a clean crankset, the “official” replacements that came earlier this month are on the “old” heavily sanded one.