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Pioneer announces new color-mapping GPS bike computer, plus new power meters

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In some ways, Pioneer can be easy to forget about in the power meter scene, though I’m honestly not sure why. They’ve consistently delivered a new round of products every year at Interbike – almost as consistent as Apple can be counted on to deliver new iPhones in September. Each year Pioneer tends to announce new crank-arm models, and roughly every other year they drop the price. All while every once in a while announcing new head units.

The real kicker here though is that their pricing scheme and power accuracy is actually quite good, albeit global product availability a little more fragmented than some companies.  They’re of course used by a couple of Pro WorldTour teams, but that’s just a function of sponsorship and doesn’t imply accuracy.  As for their bike computers? Well, they haven’t exactly been the Beyoncé of bike computers.

But as of today, that might be different.  They’ve moved up in class.

Oh, and the power meters? They too got some long-overdue changes to add in Bluetooth Smart and a pile of other features.  Here, let me explain. Actually, this quick video I put together covers everything:

Just want the text details? No problem – keep cruising below!

(Side note: Today Pioneer also announced a partnership with Wahoo that lets any Wahoo ELEMNT/BOLT user show Pioneer’s advanced cycling metrics on their Wahoo head units, for any edition Pioneer power meter ever made. I talk about that in this separate post.)

The Head Unit (CA600):

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Historically I haven’t been a huge fan of the Pioneer head units. Mostly because they felt outdated and were clunky to use. They did, however, have significant features in them, and a ton of data field flexibility. With the new CA600, Pioneer is clearly aiming to address its shortcomings.

You can see right away these look a heck of a lot better. They have slight similarities to the Wahoo BOLT design in terms of the three inset buttons on the top of the unit closest to the rider, as well as the exterior button layouts.

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But the Wahoo similarities get much more defined on the back: They’ve adopted the Wahoo ELEMNT/BOLT mount. This is important because it means you’ve got far more selection when it comes to bike computer mounts. Most mount companies these days make Wahoo-compatible mount plates.  Of course, the aforementioned Wahoo partnership is undoubtedly making this bit easy.

Still, the majority of changes are in software – and have nothing to do with Wahoo (both Wahoo and Pioneer confirmed that Pioneer has done 100% of the software on the CA600). Right away you’ll notice the new 2.2” color LCD display. They’ve gone to a more vertical orientation than the wider orientation in the past. And now, they’ve got mapping:

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The unit can do breadcrumb trail maps, turn by turn maps, as well as cue sheet directions. Routes can be downloaded from Strava Routes or Ride With GPS. The company says you’ll get course profiles (elevation), off-course alerts, POI’s, and turn by turn messaging. The feature wasn’t enabled yet on the unit I test rode, so I can’t really say how well that piece works yet.

However, they did note that the off-course routing will be similar to Wahoo in that it gives you the direction of your course/route, but won’t give you street-level re-routing to get back on course (compared to something like a higher end Garmin/Sigma/Hammerhead unit that will give you newly generated street names to get back on course).

Where they go beyond their competitors is around friend tracking during a ride. Sure, Garmin and Wahoo both allow you to see where your friends are on a map. But Pioneer also allows you to see their data (up to three riders worth). I didn’t have any friends on my test ride (though you can see the screen on my test unit in the video), but here’s what it’s supposed to look like:

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In addition, they’re rolling out Strava Beacon integration (that’s Strava’s Live Tracking platform), as well as Strava Live Segments will be included too.

Like past Pioneer units, you’ll also get all of the advanced cycling metrics around force direction as well. You can see this as I ride along where the bottom of the screen is showing the forces of each pedal stroke.

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Similarly, you’re going to get a pile of WKO4 specific training metrics. I wasn’t able to capture these easily out on my test ride (just like my above photo during my ride came out so-so due to the harsh sun). So here’s a slide showing them much better:

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(Once back in the Netherlands, the more dreary weather will cooperate for better outdoor mid-ride photos)

In addition to supporting all the standard sensors for ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart (including ANT+ FE-C), they’re doing some crazy cool ANT+ to Bluetooth Smart rebroadcasting of the power meter signal. This means that if you have an existing Pioneer power meter that’s ANT+ only, the CA600 will actually re-broadcast it via Bluetooth Smart so that 3rd party apps can tap into it via Bluetooth Smart.

For lack of anywhere else to stick it – here’s a cool overview of all of the screens you can add in. Keep in mind that you can customize all of them. So this is just like a sampler platter.

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Now I would caution that the very early pre-production unit I rode with doesn’t look anywhere near as clear as these screenshots. You can see it a bit in the photos above, but keep in mind that taking photos of almost anything in the harsh desert sun is tough. Also, Pioneer noted that the unit I had was hand-built and hasn’t been tuned for contrast/brightness/clarity yet.

Finally, one of the most interesting technical differentiators they’re rolling out is the inclusion of A-GPS. That’s assisted GPS, and is often used by phones in denser city areas to offset the impact of poor GPS signal. Assisted GPS uses cellular towers and a slew of other data points to determine your location. It has its pros and cons though too.

But what Pioneer is doing is blending the data from standard GPS alongside the assisted GPS (A-GPS) signal from your phone. The idea being that when you ride through crappy GPS signal area (such as a city, like my recent test), you can get a cleaner signal.

I’m not aware of anyone doing this across any sports/fitness devices today. Even with Apple, their A-GPS integration is either/or. You switch over from A-GPS to regular GPS, but it’s a hard-cut (which can also have impacts too).

I’ll be interested in testing this of course. Error correction will be key here. For many conditions going with regular GPS will be better, whereas A-GPS might have limited applicability (but hugely beneficial in those cases). So ensuring that it doesn’t give bad GPS when A-GPS is crap is important too.  All things I look forward to testing!

Speaking of testing, the head unit is slated to start shipping later this year in December at $359USD. To be clear, you DO NOT need a Pioneer power for it (just like you don’t need Garmin Vector to use Garmin’s bike computer). It works fully with all ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart common cycling sensors. It weighs 85g and has a claimed battery life of 12 hours.

Power Meters:

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While the cool sexy news was up in the previous section, the more practical news for Pioneer power meters is down below here. They’ve now iterated to a new generation of power meters that adds in much needed Bluetooth Smart support, as well as some under the covers changes around the strain gauge design. Plus above the covers (for real) changes to the pod waterproofing to now withstand direct pressure washer forces.

Starting off with the most important bit – Bluetooth Smart, you may remember that up until now the Pioneer units have been a blend of ANT+ and private-ANT transmission. You could toggle between either mode, with the ANT+ mode being the most compatible with all bike computers on the market, while the private-ANT variant was only compatible with Pioneer’s head unit. But, with that private-ANT variant you got the more advanced cycling metrics, including the various force measurement bits.  Essentially, all the stuff you see below was from the private-ANT variant:

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(Private-ANT simply means they don’t follow a specific ANT+ protocol. For example, Shimano does this with Di2 – instead of following the ANT+ Gear Shifting protocol. In the case of Pioneer, the more advanced cycling dynamics protocol for power meters isn’t done yet, so they roll their own.)

In any event – all this stuff was fine and dandy, but meant that if you had something like Zwift on an Apple TV or TrainerRoad on iOS, you couldn’t connect to the Pioneer power lineup without a bunch of accessories.

Now you can.

The Pioneer power meters from here forward have new hardware in them that allows concurrent ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart. In addition, you’ve still got the private-ANT mode for the added metrics if you want those and have a compatible head unit.

Next, is some behind the scenes bits that might not be sexy, but are actually important. Pioneer has ever so subtly changed the strain gauge design for the latest generation of Shimano cranksets. Now, as opposed to using the same design for the left and right sides, they’ve shifted to having different designs for each side.

The reason? Starting last year with the latest Dura-Ace models they were seeing variances in flex from the materials that Shimano was using for the R9100 generation units, with clear differences between the left and right sides (which could and would impact accuracy). In fact, Pioneer quietly introduced this change last year with those units on those R9100 cranksets.

But this year they’re being more open about it, and also rolling it out to all their cranksets – which they believe gives the greater accuracy across the board on their lineup.

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Of course, this little tidbit is actually a somewhat big deal – and something a number of other power meter companies have been grappling with since the Shimano change last year in the new models.

Last up on the changes docket is an increase to the waterproof spec of the units. They’ve increased that to IP66 and IP68 water resistance. The main goal here was protecting against direct water pressure washers. I suspect this came from their work with multiple WorldTour Pro teams, who frequently use such tools for cleaning bikes.

As for availability and such, the Shimano Dura-Ace and Ultegra units will start shipping in November, at the same prices as before (see below). They’ve got both pre-installed kits and kits where you send in your crankset and they install it for you.

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They will be shipping this year’s model with a red colored cap, though there are 6 other accessory colors you can get instead if you want.

Updated App:

Just a super quick note since it crosses both of the above sections, they’ve redesigned the app to work with both the power meters as well as the head units.  The new app can connect directly to the power meters to not only tweak various settings, but also display real-time power from the power meters. Most notably, the pedaling metrics:

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You can also see above the changing of the data fields from the app.

In addition, the app contains many of the details from your workouts as well. Here’s a handful of screenshots from Pioneer:

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I didn’t get a chance to fully test out the app, but certainly plan to in the future.

Wrap-Up:

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Overall I think this is a very strong showing for Pioneer at Interbike. Rolling out a pile of new products including much-needed updates to support Bluetooth Smart on their power meters, alongside a much improved head unit. And of course that sidesteps the equally important step of having Wahoo Fitness adopt/implement the Pioneer pedaling metrics over on the Wahoo ELEMNT/BOLT head units. That’s huge for Pioneer users, especially ones that already have Pioneer power meters.

Pioneer has always done a solid job of making accurate products, so I’ll be looking forward to seeing whether that continues to hold true with the latest generation of units later this year when I can start testing them.  Similarly, I’m hoping that maybe we’ll see some of the influence from Wahoo trickle down to Pioneer’s software group for the head unit, focusing on simplistic and ease of use.  At present, things seem to be headed in the right direction for the new CA600.

Look for a review from me later this year, once both are ready to start poking at in more detail.

With that – thanks for reading, and don’t forget to hit up all the other Interbike coverage here. And follow on Twitter for plenty more tidbits!

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44 Comments

  1. Eric H.

    I just replaced a Pioneer PM with a Stages a few weeks ago. If I knew his was coming, I’d have stayed with Pioneer. I’ve had two of their power meters and they have been very reliable.

    I’m glad to see they are staying current. The new head unit is impressive.

  2. For the head unit, both Wahoo and Pioneer use Android as the base OS on their units. Guessing they are both using lots of the same open source frameworks which makes the units seem similar.

    For their updated smartphone app. Any word on when they will support android? They promised android support last year when they announced the app but it never came.

  3. Andrew

    Editing assistance “I didn’t get a chance to fully test out the app, but certainly

    Wrap-Up:”
    I think a few words might be missing in the first sentence. 🙂

  4. IC

    Did you get any pictures of the non-drive pod? i heard a rumor that it might be a lower profile design…

  5. Benja

    Hi
    2 questions:
    1) Does the new headunit work with the old Pioneer Power Meters and still get the advanced cycling dynamics (12 points recording pr. rotation) ?
    2) Any news of better supply in Europe ? I cant find anywhere in Europe that sells any Pioneer Power Meter products ?
    Thanks

  6. Aar

    Need a deeper dive to determine whether the CA600 is worth replacing my Garmin 1030. Having to use Strava for live tracking is quite a bummer. Glad to see turn-by-turn but rerouting could be a significant gap. Still want a bezel-free, slimmer, full function bike computer. Pioneer pedaling dynamics are game changing for me to the point that I use a CA500 beside the 1030 on solo rides.

  7. cycloscott

    While on the subject of power meters….

    Anything stepping up or releasing soon for MTBs? The current pickings are mighty slim.

  8. Michael Gagliano

    Any chance the new head unit displays Varia radar? I’m guessing not, but it appears to be one thing that keeps a lot of people staying with Garmin. Seems like a no brainer.

  9. Drew

    Will the ca600 headunit rebroadcast any ant+ device via Bluetooth smart or does it have to be pioneer specific?

  10. Davie

    I have a superseded left leg pioneer. It has one big issue. Massive lag broadcasting ant+ data – usually 5+ seconds. And this is with a magnet. Its even worse when you just use the internal accelerometers. The 4iiii before it never had such a problem. The issue does not exist with private ant transmissions. I wonder if that has been fixed?

    • davie

      Ray, regarding the above ANT+ lag issues, I’m not the only one reporting that problem, but I just deal with it.

      If you test the new updated Powermeter. I’m guessing you’ll probably use the wahoo and a pioneer computer, but can you also incude single-leg ANT+ broadcasting to Garmin as one of the use cases?

      Many thanks.

    • I never saw the 5-second delays (one can easily see in my charts of those reviews that there’s definitely not that when I compare it to other power meters on the market, it reacts the same). I virtually never used the private variants, all public ANT+.

      I’ve always kinda wondered why a handful of people have reported it. Curious to see if I can find a way to repro it on this generation either way.

    • masanori

      Hi Ray, I am glad to see others reporting this 5 sec issue. From zero-starting, like a signal start, My Pioneer PM is very slow to start reporting watt value. it looks about 5 sec, (or more) . Contacted to Pioneer support and they say it is expected but I didnt understand why nobody complained about it. If some people including you, is not seeing this 5 sec and there’s some conditions to improve it, that would be really great.

    • Eli

      I have dual sided using their private ant to their head unit (the old one) which rebroadcasts as ant+. I see no lag. (No including when using the last x seconds avg field)

    • davie

      Ray, my suspicion (only) is that the pioneer system was designed way back for dual with private ant as its main requirement. Then stages came along and made left-leg only popular. Splitting pioneer into single left leg was a secondary requirement? and causes the delay as its designed to function primarily paired with a right leg? Maybe its designed to wait to hear from its right leg buddy before broadcasting the ANT+ signal?
      Again, a guess only.

  11. tqubed

    Thank you Pioneer! What took you so long? The CA600 gives me everything I need: Strava Live segments, BT-Smart, slightly larger screen and mapping. I will be upgrading my CA500 and 9100 dual-sided PM as soon the new pioneer solution is available.

  12. gillie

    While it is still relatively new in its announcement is there anyone with information on Giant Bikes new in house power meter that is coming standard on their higher end 2019 bikes? Or a potential upcoming review?

    link to giant-bicycles.com

  13. Christian Barnes

    I am livid. Starting last year with the latest Dura-Ace models they were seeing variances in flex from the materials that Shimano was using for the R9100 generation units, with clear differences between the left and right sides (which could and would impact accuracy). In fact, Pioneer quietly introduced this change last year with those units on those R9100 cranksets. This explains why my power meter shows 80/20 now and one side reads much higher numbers. Pioneer kept this quiet ! Why ? I would expect them to advise all their customers of this and offer to fix it for free. I purchased mine 3.1.17 as one of the first to purchase the DA9100 dual sided. Ironically today I called them and they didn’t even mention this and all they said was for me to send the power meter to them to check it out. That means I will be about 15-20 days most likely without my crankset. I have stages, I have a quarq and I have never had issues with those power meters. They have been consistent and reliable. I am not going to comment on the Pioneer Head Unit I have, or the mobile app, or Cyclo-Sphere or their documentation quality but its really disappointing to read this today when I took a chance with Pioneer because I was told it was the best. I even called two bike shops for support today and all they said they can do is calibrations and everything else Pioneer wants you to send the cranks back. Thank you DC Rainmaker for this info since Pioneer didn’t disclose any of this. I am not the kind that posts negative or positive reviews but this got my blood pressure up.

    • Hi Christian-

      I think there may be some misunderstanding here. Your unit already has this built-in. It’s a physical hardware change, not a software one. It’s physically a different strain gauge design that was implemented for those cranksets, including the R9100.

      In the case of accuracy adjustments, the differences they were seeing were a few percent (like 2-4%), not 30-40%. The reason they didn’t want to disclose it was simple: Competitors had to figure it out themselves. Obviously, there’s no reason to disclose that to end users (no other power meter company discloses their exact stain gauge designs). It’s been obvious over the past year or so that other power meter companies have struggled with this, especially startups.

      If you’re seeing 80/20 though, that’s nothing to do with this. That’s simply just something broke. That’s purely a support type item were something is horribly amiss on your unit and they need to sort it out the normal support way.

      Cheers.

    • Robert Villanueva

      Ray:

      To the question of the changes in materials change, could this be leading to the L/R balance being off? I am noticing on a new Stages LR that my balance is off by 2-3% to the left compared to my old P1 pedals.

      Thanks,

      RV

    • Exactly. I don’t know if Stages accounted for it, though, it trended well for me against both Vector 3 and Assioma. I think I even have some P1 sets in there.

  14. Jon

    It would be great if you could add alert tone change and alert volume control to your feature eval check list for computers. There are a lot of older riders who would benefit from these features. I have asked Garmin for alert tone/volume control and haven’t gotten any real answer from them. If experts like yourself started asking for these features it could help make it happen sooner. I would consider dumping my Edge 1030 for another brand computer that provides Varia RTL510 alerts that I can hear.

    I have a left side Pioneer PM that has worked flawlessly for the last 2 years. So thumbs up for Pioneer.

    • Robert Villanueva

      Ray:

      To the question of the changes in strain gauges due to the materials change, could this be leading to the L/R lance being off? I am noticing on a new Stages LR that my balance is off by 2-3% to the left compared to my old P1 pedals.

      Thanks,

      RV

  15. Von Schlarb

    Need to know that Trek compatibility though.

    • dizpark

      I am curious, what is it about trek compatibility?

    • John

      Carbon frame Trek road bikes can have chainstay clearance issues with “chunky” crank-arm mounted power meters.

    • dizpark

      Yes, I see, if that is what Von Schlarb referred to. Yes, chainstay clearance is an issue with a number of frames. I did not know that Trek road bikes are affected too, but I looked at the newish Trek Checkpoint SL gravel bike and there is virtually no clearance ‘at all’, so even the tiny 4iiii pod (which I believe is lower profile than both stages and pioneer) will not fit.

    • Von Schlarb

      dizpark, sorry am just seeing this but John said it better than I could. Trek is notorious for lack of clearance between the cranks and chainstays. The previous version has a Trek compatability chart on their site. I’d just love to see it updated with the newer year models so I could know from them for certain.

  16. Robin

    Hi, Ray. This must be Christmas v3.0 (with Eurobike being Christmas V2.0 one Christmas being V1.0). I’m mega jealous of tech waters in which you swim and the backed goods The Girl provides you at home!

    Well the CA-600 be a viable option for people using power meters other than Pioneers? You mentioned in the video that with CA-600 you can record data at faster sampling rates. Do other PMs, like my PowerTap G3 hub transmit data and at faster data rate than my Garmin records? While pedal dynamics hold no interest for me, a higher data rate and other power metrics not available with Wahoo or Garmin are interesting.

    Maybe a comparo between the CA-600 and the new Stages head unit offerings might be in store. The two seem the replete with training metrics and maybe training plans?

  17. Paul Aebischer

    Does this mean that the new power meters will be able to accept firmware upgrades via the app? Current gen Pioneer PM user here and that is one area I was curious about.

    All of the other stuff is great as I am also a Wahoo Bolt user.

    • I haven’t heard of any inline app updates yet.

    • Matthew Beckwith

      I just looked on the Pioneer site, and it now says under the new Ultegra dual leg power meter – link to pioneerelectronics.com

      Cyclo-Sphere Simplicity

      Installation and setup are a breeze with the Pioneer Cyclo-Sphere Control App. Manage everything – power meter functions, mode switching, magnet calibration, zero calibration, pedal copy and firmware updates simply with our intuitive iPhone or Android interface. It really doesn’t get any easier.

  18. David Tang

    Does it concurrently broadcast private-ANT along with either ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart? It is the force direction/pedalling efficiency metrics which makes Pioneer attractive (at least for those of us trying to figure out injuries on one side) and we would want to be able to see that on a Pioneer or Wahoo computer while still connecting to Zwift etc. Can it do that? In your review, it sounded like private-Ant is an either/or option to concurrent ANT+/Bluetooth Smart.

    Thanks.

  19. Eli

    Seems like the app will only support Bluetooth connections. So will be useless for those of us with older pioneer power meters. So even if your phone has Ant hardware built in, no power meter connection is possible

  20. art

    Does the pioneer on the map page display the speed of the cadence and heart? I can not wait for this option in Garmin. The map page has only a map view. There is no define additional data for display.

    • Paul S

      Every Garmin I’ve ever used (Edge 705, 800, 1000) allowed up to 2 data fields on the map page. That’s what I have on my 1000 currently. You’re waiting for something that already exists.

  21. Zach

    I’ve been wanting to leave the Garmin 1030 due to some major issues they just don’t care to fix (remote disconnects, the dreaded delamination of the screen, etc). However the one thing that keeps me with Garmin is:

    1. Custom maps. I don’t want to create a ‘route’ or huge single gpx file to represent a large mountain bike trail network every time I travel somewhere. This is better done with a custom map, which the Garmin allows me to do with 3rd party software after gathering all the GPX files of my local trail networks. Is there any way of loading up a large network of trails to overlay on top of Openstreetmaps, as it’s not always up to date?
    2. No plans to show street names? (likely a deal breaker for me, same as Wahoo).
    3. Any word if this will do custom apps, like Xert?
    4. Will these fancy power metrics work with Stages cranks?
    5. This will connect to ANT+ ? If I understand this preview it will, but not while BLE is connected for any other device?
    6. Any tests done with full finger gloves, or water?

    Looking forward to a full review!

  22. claudio castelli

    really hard (impossible) to find a shop to buy or a place to send the crank to install the unit. here in europe(italy).

    • Benja

      I have the same problem here in Denmark. Cant find anywhere that sells Pioneer Power Meters. I will be buying my new Pioneer headunit and Power Meter in the US.

  23. John Vance

    I had a Pioneer kit installed on an SG 9100 crank last July. It had a very substantial power imbalance – like 55/45 left-right. I wound up shipping it back and they claimed they recalibrated it, which seems to have fixed the problem. Could they have installed newer designed strain gauges back then?

  24. So they have the app for the iphone:
    to connect to the power meter:
    link to itunes.apple.com
    to view your history:
    link to itunes.apple.com

    But absolutely nothing for android. No information on if they can connect to older Pioneer power meters that are only Ant. (Many android phones have ant chipsets built in and very easy to get an OTG cable to plug a ant stick into an android phone)

    They love talking about their athletes on their facebook page but anything technical or updates on their actual products? Nope. Plus if you look at how they promote their athletes they only seem to use their power meter as a basic left right power meter and ignore all the extra data pioneer can give. You would think they would want to promote that, but no….

    BTW they promised this whole training assist in the past with training plans but that seems to have only been released for ios users:
    link to bikerumor.com
    (Seemed to be indications they would use their advanced functionality for pedal stroke training)

    As a basic true left/right power meter, they seem great, not so sure they care much about the advanced functionality.