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PowerPod rolls out ANT+/Bluetooth Smart version, improved road surface algorithms

While at Eurobike, the folks behind the PowerPod have made two notable announcements.  Readers will remember the PowerPod was announced last Eurobike and started shipping a few months later.  It’s become pretty darn popular since then, as a way to get power data from something you easily mount to your handlebars.  These two announcements are aimed at addressing the two remaining gaps in the product.

Bluetooth Smart PowerPod:

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As part of the Kickstarter campaign the company had announced a Bluetooth Smart variant of PowerPod that would allow transmission of power via Bluetooth Smart.  This would enable apps such as Strava and now Zwift to connect to the device, but also allow head units like the Polar M450 and latest Suunto wearables to connect over Bluetooth Smart.  It previously only transmitted your power over ANT+ to compatible devices (anything that accepted the ANT+ power meter device profile).

As part of that stretch goal, the company had planned to ship that variant this past spring, but delays upon delays set in.  However, they’ve now got units coming in off the manufacturing line that should start arriving in people’s hands by the end of the month for new pre-orders.

They had the BLE model on the stand at Eurobike, allowing folks to see how it works.  In a nutshell it works the same way as the original unit, except that now it broadcasts your power numbers as BLE.  However, it still requires pairing to an ANT+ sensor for speed.  Given that virtually all BLE sensors are dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart these days, that’s probably not a huge issue (albeit a minor annoyance).

DSC_9037

The other thing to note is at this time there isn’t any form of Bluetooth Smart PowerPod mobile app to setup configuration on the PowerPod.  It’ll still require the desktop app for any advanced configuration (it doesn’t need it out of the box).

As a totally random side note, while talking with Argon 18 (a bike company) about their new crazy sensor-laden bike (post coming up shortly on that) which has an aerodynamic sensor in it, I’d really like to see a renewed focus from these companies on pushing through at least a draft of an ANT+ spec for aerodynamic sensors.  Argon 18 is pushing data to a Connect IQ data field to get live CDA information. That’s something that PowerPod has also entertained (but not done).  Given the ANT+ Symposium is in a month, it seems like the perfect time for both of these ANT+ members to get together and do something cool.

Having a spec for this would make it easier for 3rd party companies (Garmin, Wahoo, and now Stages) to implement live CDA data fields into their head units.  And creating a draft spec isn’t all that difficult, but it’s even easier if at least two companies can agree on it.

New Road Surface Algorithms

In my in-depth review I noted that by and large the numbers were pretty solid compared to numerous other power meters.  This sentiment was echoed my countless readers in the comments.  However there was one area that both myself and readers found could be a challenge was when road conditions changed – such as to gravel or cobbles.

That’s because the PowerPod based its power numbers on given calibration condition, and when that surface condition changed it threw things for a loop.  The unit used to take about 5-8 minutes to automatically recalibrate while riding, so if you transitioned to a gravel road permanently it would work out over time.  But if you changed surface conditions constantly, it wouldn’t be so good.

They’ve introduced a new feature called Dynamic Coefficient of Rolling Resistance (DCRR), which is like saying DCR (me) with an extra R for good measure.  You can never have too many Rainmakers.

With this new feature the unit measures road roughness at 800 times per second and adjusts accordingly.  They’ve been testing it on chip roads (which behind cobbles are among the worst for screwing with accelerometers) as well gravel roads.

The company walked me through a detailed presentation of the changes, which I’ll basically distill down into the following two key slides.  The rest is here if you want to view it.

The first slide shows the differences between a direct force power meter (on the right), and the PowerPod pre-firmware update (No DCRR correction) on a rough section of road.  You’ll see it measures substantially lower than reality, which is exactly what I saw as well.

image

Next, you’ll see the results where they turned on the corrections, which brings the difference to 2.6w between the two, which is far closer (and well within what I’d expect).

image

Not too shabby.

I haven’t tested the update yet, but you can.  The firmware released last week so you’ll just go ahead and connect your PowerPod to your computer using the usual software updater process.  At which point you’re good to go.  The update is free.

Perhaps later in the fall when I get a chance I’ll go ahead and do a side by side ride across a variety of conditions (including cobbles) to see how it handles.  I may wait for the Bluetooth Smart variant, just so I can knock out two birds with one stone.  But in the meantime, would be interested in hearing from DCR readers about DCRR, especially those that can show comparisons (their default Newton software does allow power comparisons exactly like above).

With that – thanks for reading!

(P.S.- Hang tight, working through about a dozen backlogged Eurobike related stories like this over the next few days, including more power meter details and lots of other sports tech gadgets!)

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85 Comments

  1. Jeff

    If there was a standard Garmin ANT+ data field for drag coeff, i could really see this being very useful, and desirable for people who already have a direct force PM.

  2. Tommy Haywood

    Can it display actual headwind speed to determine if you have a headwind or tailwind. Or basically if the wind speed is more/less than your traveling speed. This would be a useful thing to see

    • Paul S.

      After the fact it can. As Ray points out, there’s no ANT+ profile to allow a device to share/show information like that. But the Isaac software can after a ride do an analysis of the file the PowerPod records internally to retrieve the wind speed during the ride. It seems pretty accurate; it gets head and tail winds they way they felt during the ride and the wind speed is comparable to that provided by weather sites and also matches the way it felt.

    • The company’s other product, the Newton, acts as a head unit (along with the same mathematical power magic as the powerpod), and can display real-time wind data.

    • RP

      Hi,

      And couldn’t the Cda value be shown on a Garmin Edge in realtime via a custom made Connect IQ datafield/datacreen?

    • Paul S.

      I suppose it could if it could be made to broadcast the appropriate info via private ANT. But only the latest Edges have ConnectIQ, and a lot of older Edges are still in use. It’d be better in the long if someone could put together a proposal for an ANT+ aero (or choose a name) profile, which broadcast maybe wind speed, CdA, maybe Crr. (Of course, older Edges still couldn’t display this, but it would open it up to non-ConnectIQ devices from other manufacturers.)

  3. Ale c

    Ray, so its possible to get the data vía bluetooth when i get home? No more wires? Or still an app needed?

    Ps. On saturday i was near the dcr cave (iam from argentina ) …went there but was closed… I knew that but hope you were thre and take a look :)))

    Thank you!

    • No, will still require download if you want to sync after the fact. But if you have your phone with you, you can now record straight to that in realtime.

      Bummer on the Cave! I’m usually around, but was getting back that day, so a bit exhausted by time I got home.

  4. Tim

    I am a big fan of PowerPod. I was running a G3 hub on my beast bike, but was able to drop all that extra weight with the PowerPod added instead, I am not a major competitor, but do like the idea of a good ballpark idea when training, which the PP is great for. As a bonus I was able to move my G3 onto my trainer bike, Zwifting is a lot more fun now.

    • Dan

      The G3 hub is about 330 grams – 80 grams heavier than an average hub. It looks like the PowerPod weighs 32 grams. So the savings is 48 grams, or less than one tenth of a pound.

  5. Thomas

    Any word of the DCRR update will be passed to the older units?

  6. Diego

    Ray, with this new firmware is it possible to be used with MTB? Thanks!

    • I’d have to defer to the PowerPod folks for that, not sure.

    • Paul S.

      For what it’s worth, I’ve been using mine with my MTB all along. I’ve nothing to compare it with, though, but the numbers seem reasonable. Yesterday was the first time I used it with the new firmware, and I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. But I arrange my rides so that I descend on gravel or better and only ascend on the rough stuff (yesterday was all gravel or pavement), so I wouldn’t expect much of a change.

    • We’ve had lots of folks use PowerPod with MTB, and I’ve used it that way myself. This firmware will definitely work in MTB applications.

  7. Olivier Champoux

    Hey!
    Why are you talking about PowerPod and Zwift? My understanding is that PowerPod only works outside or i missed something here.
    Thanks

  8. Jim

    Hi Ray,

    You made mention that this can be hooked up to Zwift. I thought this worked by measuring wind resistance, how will that help Zwift ?

    cheers

    • Paul S.

      It uses a function that relates power to “speed”, a separate function for every trainer, presumably measured by someone (manufacturer or VeloComp). That’s why you need a speed sensor indoors.

    • ubrab

      But then, you need a speed sensor, but…not a Powerpod? I’m not sure I get it either: I’ve been running Zwift with speed + cadence sensor on a standard (not smart) home trainer: what would a PowerPod add to this configuration?

    • The specific scenario (albeit narrow), this would work with is if you were using the iOS app version with PowerPod and didn’t have a dual ANT+/BLE speed sensor, but an ANT+ speed sensor. That’s because the PowerPod would consume ANT+ speed data, and spit out BLE power data, which Zwift could use.

    • Jeff

      it turns Zwift into a fun competition of “who has the most powerful cooling fans” in their zwift caves.

    • Nah, it’d ignore wind in that case.

      But…that would make for a hilarious video idea…

  9. Nathan Robinson

    I would just be more than happy to have a device using my dedicated SRM for power input and spitting out CdA CRR estimations. CRR would be sweet for measuring tire degradation.

  10. Hamish B.

    @nathan robinson the newton 6 can display real time CdA if you have it set up and an ant+ direct force power meter (such as your SRM). but I guess you are wanting an ant+ CdA data field transmitted to your SRM for display.

  11. Neil S

    Its a shame that this retails everywhere in the UK at £300, which is a 33% markup on US pricing at current exchange rates – strange coincidence how everyone sells it for exactly the same price huh? ;)
    It looks great, but at that price, its too close to the retail prices for strain gauge powermeters…. looks overpriced at present for this market anyway…

    • Gordon

      Yeah I agree, really wanted to pick one of these up but in the UK its far too close to strain gauge prices.

    • Jon Patterson

      Keep an eye on the clever training website..I picked one up in the Spring for £180 – by getting a sale price, using the DCR discount code and that even included shipping. I was prepared for import duty but luckily didn’t get hammered.

      I’m not THAT serious about my power data so that was an entry point I was willing to pay!

    • Hamish B.

      if you have multiple bikes, you can move the pod very quickly between them, especially if the bikes have a gopro compatible mount already installed on the handlebar. Not so easy with a bottom bracket based meter, do-able with a powertap wheel I guess and a bit more work with say pedal type meters.

      I don’t know if the powerpod supports multiple bike profiles like the newton 6, (john hamann may answer here?) (also by ibike, same insides as powerpod, but has a display and touch buttons) which I have. I use it on four different bikes (commuter, cargo/kiddy carrier bike, trashy bike I take with me when travelling for city transport, and mountain bike.), bought extra handlebar mounts so the swap takes only 20 seconds.

      Interval training on a cargo bike with the little guy on the back can be just as hard (but lower speed) and effective than on a fancy expensive bike!

    • If you purchase PowerPod from powerpodsports.com, the price is $299 + $50 international shipping. That sum converts to £262. However, you’ll pay 20% VAT on the inbound shipment, which brings the total to £314. So, a £299 price is somewhat lower than our equivalent US price.

      US retailers aren’t required to quote sales tax as part of their pricing, EU dealers are required to do so, and VAT tax in Europe is quite high.

    • Hamish B.

      hi john, I had already posted re UK VAT before I saw your reply!

      does powerpod also support 4 bike profiles and auto profile changing between bikes?

    • Paul S.

      Yes, it does.

  12. Hamish B.

    for those who say it’s not value for money – see my post about multiple bikes. With a well set up profile, the newton6 reads within a couple of percent of my old powertap wheel.

    Also, it doesn’t have bearings, chainrings, seals etc that can wear out or whatever, as wheel/pedal/BB meters do. Get a new bike, no prob, transfer the pod over, no need to worry about new BB standards or be stuck with one wheel choice.

    The price difference for UK? VAT (now 20%?) is more there than for USA retailers (not sure what the minimum state sales taxes are, probably zero for some states.).

    Apologies for championing it, as I know there are some who hate the concept, but it does work well! I can certainly believe that the tech could have been woeful in earlier iterations which may have earned a bad/meh rap, but it’s great now.

  13. yucko

    >>> You can never have too many Rainmakers.

    Uhh…does The Girl approve of that plan?

  14. Tyler

    Maybe you’ve pointed this out before, but this device doesn’t seem to take into consideration the weight or aerodynamic profile of the rider, at all.

    I’m probably at what most bike companies consider the extreme size for bike riders – 5’11”, 180 lbs.
    My biking buddy is 6’4″ and 305 lbs, and yes, he does more than keep up with me in the flats.

    He’s pushing out a heck of a lot more watts than me on the same speed/terrain/wind speed ride.

    • But it does.

      There’s a default weight, and you can change it as you see fit in app settings. Also includes aerodynamic profile.

    • Tyler

      Very good.

      How’s the aero profile work?
      Sort of a S, M, L scale?

    • Aero profile is based on 10 years of data and proprietary analysis. Weight, height, and ride position are used. Much more precise than S, M, L… :-)

    • Tyler

      Cool.

      So the user inputs all of these things into a survey?

    • David Z

      So if I using any of Garmin devices where my personal data is recorded (weight) will the Powerpod read it or I need to add it in an original software?

    • Hamish B.

      you need to set weight in the software. on newton6 you can do it on the unit, but powerpod has no display.

      I’d expect that the ant+ side of the powerpod is just broadcasting power, not listening back for anything from the garmin.

      I guess theoretically it would be possible to write a firmware for the powerpod so that it could be adjusted via bluetooth. but I think it’s better that development effort is spent on getting the highest possible power measurement accuracy than on bluetooth stuff.

  15. Dan Reese

    John Hamann, any thoughts on using the Powerpod on a Fatbike?

  16. JayTee

    Hey Ray. Really interested to hear how you think Powerpod would work for race wheelchair power? Mount location would seem a challenge, but otherwise a solution in a space where there is none (that I’m aware of)?

    • We used a Newton two years ago at the Challenge Atlantic City triathlon, with a race wheelchair. It worked fine… :-)

      As Hamish says, as long as you can find a place where PowerPod can get a clear view of the air, you’re OK.

      CdA is not obvious, but perceived effort (PE) will provide a guide. Coast downs would increase the precision of the measure; if you provide ride files we will help with that measurement.

      Cadence is nice but not critical. If we get CdA right, then watts will be zero when you’re not “pedaling”.

  17. Hamish B.

    @jaytee I think definite possibility with some challenges:

    1. Mounting orientation and clear air. Needs to be in clear air. For powerpod this could be a gopro mount out front of the steerer tube.

    2. “Cadence” sensing. Powerpod and newton need ant+ speed and cadence sensors to work. Speed for obviius reasons and cadence so it knows when you are not powering otherwise it will show zero power. Maybe a magnet on your arm/wrist triggering sensor on chair edge? I assume some wheelchair athletes have a cadence solution?

    3. Aero CdA value to use. Newton6 can do coastdown procedure To mmeasure it. Dont know if pp can do this. Or estiimate. Or use multiple coastdowns a known hill with measured vertical dop and process though goldencheetah aerolab. Happy to help.

    • JayTee

      Thanks for the reply! For reference, here’s the front-end of a race chair.

      To mount the powerpod up off the top of the steerer, you’d need a custom mount to hang it the right way up, but up out of the draft of the front wheel. If you could mount from the bottom of the PP, that would be marginally better. If on the steerer itself, the PP would tilt every time you went around a corner (ie ~50% of track length). Would that be a problem too?

      Regarding the non-constant power associated with each “push”, I don’t see this being a problem so much for an average measure of power, as power to the wheels is dependent on cadence, force on push-rim, time on push rim (ie momentum impulse) and efficiency of contact with the push rim, so if you were just looking at improving aero position and measuring average power over a session, maybe you don’t gain anything to that aim by looking at the additional complexity.

      I acknowledge that coasting (eg down a hill) would give you an unrealistic estimate of power during that period, but if all the racing is on a track (flat), that wouldn’t be a problem. Could still do the coast-down CdA measurements though to look at aerodynamics without a wind tunnel

      Additional reading: there are people looking at all the complexity associated with push mechanics to measure actual instantaneous power, but in the same way that PowerPod is shaking up the direct force bike market, perhaps they’re overlooking another approach using wind measurement?
      link to ubimon.doc.ic.ac.uk

  18. Bartu

    I have a canyon H36 Aerocockpit on my bike, with the special canyon mount for my garmin edge… does anybody know how i could fix the powerpod? the cockpit is too wide for the usual mount.
    Im happy for any advice, i would love to buy a powerpod…

    • Hamish B.

      powerpod is compatible with gopro mounts. Pretty sure there would be a system for canyons to mount a gopro under a garmin computer.

      link to rec-mounts.com

      saw similar on ebay but already ended.

    • Jon S

      I bought one of these for a fiver and it fits under the Canyon mount fine.
      link to ebay.co.uk
      You need to remove the screws that hold the Garmin quarter-turn adapter in place and then use the longer screws from the GoPro adapter to pass through the GoPro adapter -> Canyon mount -> Garmin adapter (the garmin adapter has captive nuts in it). I was concerned that being a plastic mount it might flex too much, but I still seem to get sensible power values, consistent with using k-edge mounts on my other bikes.

    • Bartu

      Thx! Thats exactly what im looking for…

    • Bartu Altioklar

      Is the k-edge mount working as well?

    • Jon S

      Yep, they’re rock solid. I’ve got the xl combo mount on my winter/training bike, and just a basic, round handlebar mount (the same design as the mount that comes with the PowerPod) on the base bar of my TT bike.

    • Bartu

      alright then, im buying the k-edge for my canyon garmin mount… the powerpod’s already on the way!! thanks again for the advice

    • Hamish B.

      be sure to register and log in to the ibike forum for assistance with getting your bike profile (that’s the setup of aero, rolling resistance, calibration etc) sorted in case you have any issues. John H has also posted a very good youtube clip about tuning the profile for best accuracy. Once you have it all dialled in, it works great. Sometimes the first 6-8 minutes of a ride will give slightly high or low numbers because either the pod has been slightly bumped and the slope has been changed (will recalibrate automatically), or because of the way air pressure has changed between rides (at least on my newton 6, but powerpod might have corrected this). In both cases, the unit will self calibrate automatically and be correct after 8 minutes.

  19. Greg

    Does this change anything in that the PowerPod is essentially giving you FTP numbers when on the trainer? How well does that translates to outdoor/real use? that’s a major concern of mine. i did purchase the PowerPod and found that the numbers were extremely inconsistent when i used it, so returned it. but if it makes sense, i’d reconsider

  20. Dave

    Any word on a release outside the USA?

  21. Dane Franklin

    Hi,
    You mention that BLE/ANT+ versions are shipping on new pre-orders?

    I ordered one through Clever Training in July based on recommendation and discount (Thanks!). Just been informed they are now not shipping mine due to manufacturing delays until mid October!

  22. Alan

    Hi. I checked out the PowerPod website and they offer a version with a “Power stroke upgrade key”. Is this a must-have when purchasing this unit? Does it increase accuracy or something? Thanks

    • PowerStroke measurement adds analysis of the left/right, front/back, and side/side motion that results from each cyclist’s unique style of applying power to the bike, as the crank turns. You can download more information about PowerStroke here:

      link to ibikeforum.com

    • Alan

      Thanks! Will the powerpod work with a wahoo speed pod on front axle and ELEMNT computer?

    • Yes to both questions!

    • Alan

      Thanks, John – goin’ in! And thanks to Ray for the in-depth demos and reviews of this device. Looking forward to trying it out and will report back.

    • Hamish B.

      I have a newton6 with the powerstroke upgrade. (the powerpod is essentially a display-less newton6).

      Powerstroke does show you how how even your pedalling is. Is it worth the extra cost? Depends how much training to try to get a perfect pedalstroke (and being able to possibly quantify improvement) is worth to you, compared to just the advantages of training with power which the base powerpod cost gets you.

      The powerpod and newton are quite underrated. I have an old wired powertap on one of the bikes that I also use my newton on (it’s a very old yellow powertap hub, so old I expect it to die eventually), and apart from the times when tilt calibration of the newton has drifted (resulting in first 8 minutes of a ride being slightly off power wise – not a big problem for training rides), it’s power figures are within about 2-5% of the powertap hub numbers. Given its inter-bike portability (no need to worry about bottom bracket sizes/standards, pedal torque or possible damage to threads from moving pedals back and forth between bikes, or being limited to one set of wheels) and super light weight, it is awesome value, especially at the sale price.

    • Carlos

      Any idea if the powerpod and Polar V650 are compatible?, has anyone tried that?. Thank you

    • We will see if we can get a V650 for testing, then let you know. It should take only a few days.

    • We’ve now tested PowerPod BLE with a Polar V650, and are pleased to report that there is compatibility. PowerPod BLE receives ANT+ speed and cadence sensor signals, then transmits power/speed/cadence in BLE format, all of which are correctly received by the V650.

    • Carlos Pinilla

      Thank you very much!! it is a great option

  23. Wetri2

    I spoke with someone at Velocomp yesterday about an issue I was having but I think it was just a bad micro usb cord. I did ask about using the Isaac software in trainer mode with Zwift and he said there was no need because Zwift works in a similar setup. If I had the Bluetooth version of Powerpod would that change things with actually registering power through the Zwift app? Is there a way to make a firmware update for Ant+ Power Pod owners to gain the Bluetooth functionality?

  24. Alex

    Will either of the Powerpods work with the Garmin Vivoactive?

    • Not natively, no.

      There are some 3rd party apps that can connect to power meters via Connect IQ though.

    • alex

      so if the vivoactive wont store the power file, will I be able to combine the power file from the powerpod with the rest of the ride recorded by the vivoactive, once the file is uploaded to strava or training peaks?

  25. martin

    Will the powered function with a SRM power control 7 computer?

  26. martin

    Will the powerpod function with a SRM power control 7 computer?

  27. Can someone tell me if the firmware update holds up for a gravel bike user?
    Thanks!

  28. Andrzej Weber

    After each transatlantic trip my Power Pod goes for a “loop” as you say, showing 0 W for a long time or randomly ridiculous numbers way in excess of my FTP.
    The device needs resetting and recalibration to work properly again.
    Any thoughts why is this happening and how to prevent this from happening?
    Thanks in advance.
    Andrzej

    • Transatlantic trip? If so I’m guessing you’re transporting your bike. When you reassemble it the handlebars aren’t in precisely the same position.

      PP will take 8 minutes to recalibrate itself in the new position. During that time watts can be low, or high, depending on how the handlebars are reset.

      Just keep riding and PP will settle down.