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Pioneer Exits Power Meter Business as Shimano Buys Their Cycling Business

Pioneer

Pioneer announced today that as part of an agreement with Shimano, quietly penned back in December, they’ll be exiting the cycling business. That includes ending their power meter and bike computer product sales. Shimano has purchased unknown assets in conjunction with that agreement, and does not plan to continue to carry-forward the Pioneer product line. Pioneer, however, will continue support for Pioneer products.

The exit was announced first in Pioneer’s Japanese channels, and then in their English and Facebook accounts. I’ll give them credit, their Facebook post is clever:

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While there’s plenty of questions on Facebook, the vast majority of them are actually fairly well answered in the company’s FAQ statements, which I’ll dig into down below.

What it Means:

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Before we get into some of the analysis, here’s the quick snippet of text from their official press page on the transfer of the cycling business to Shimano:

“PIONEER ANNOUNCES TRANSFER OF CYCLE SPORTS BUSINESS

Pioneer Corporation announced today that it has signed an agreement to transfer certain assets of its Cycle Sports business to Shimano, Inc. (“Shimano”), a leading manufacturer of bicycle components globally.

Through this agreement, Pioneer will transfer the assets of these technologies and conclude its related operations. Sales by Pioneer of pedaling monitors, cycle computers, and other related products will cease by the end of March 2020.

Shimano plans to develop products, web services, and applications using the Pioneer Cycle Sports assets and make Shimano services available to customers who currently use Pioneer’s Cyclo-Sphere web services, PC tool, and smartphone applications. Cyclo-Sphere will continue to be available to consumers until Shimano’s services are introduced.

Pioneer will continue to accept customer inquiries about cycle products and services and provide repair services on Pioneer Cycle Sports products sold prior to the asset transfer per the terms of any applicable product warranties.

Background
Pioneer Cycle Sports developed and introduced the world’s first pedaling monitor, cycle computers and web services (Cyclo-Sphere) for cyclists in 2013. At present, the product’s third generation has been developed and is used by many cyclists.

Shimano’s bicycle components are highly regarded and equipped by many cycle athletes. As a result, a significant portion of the Pioneer Cycle Sports product portfolio has been designed to be specifically compatible with or sold pre-installed on Shimano components. The transfer of the Cycle Sports technology to Shimano will incorporate Pioneer’s strength in electronics and IT technologies, enhancing the functions of Shimano products and services and achieving the aspiration of Pioneer to contribute to a wider range of customers.”

I just wanted to paste that there, since I suspect eventually it’ll go away. History is fun.

Now, as they say in their FAQ (which I also pasted below), they’ll continue to support the Pioneer products both in and out of warranty. This actually makes sense, given that Pioneer is a sprawling company, of which cycling is just a tiny itty-bitty bit. It’s easier for Pioneer to simply keep the handful of employees onboard within their existing support organization to handle the existing Pioneer customers.

That also goes for the Pioneer Cyclo-Sphere website, which is the main conduit between Pioneer bike GPS units and the rest of the internet, including things like uploading to Strava, TrainingPeaks, and more. It also was a complete training log platform, along with advanced power meter force metrics. Without that conduit, I’m not sure off-hand if those head units will continue to work for uploading purposes.

However, probably most interesting is this little line item in the press release:

“Shimano plans to develop products, web services, and applications using the Pioneer Cycle Sports assets”

I’ve bolded the important parts above. But they double-down on this again in the FAQ section too:

Can I register a new account on Cyclo-Sphere?: Yes. Cyclo-Sphere will continue to accept all new accounts until Shimano launches its new web service, at which time subscribers will be directed to re-register with the Shimano service.”

Essentially, this FAQ hints that Shimano is planning on launching their own web service for connectivity between cycling GPS computers and the rest of the internet. That could imply that Shimano is working on a head unit, or at least some sort of training log platform site. Or maybe an in-depth power meter site. We don’t know yet, and Pioneer’s FAQ also covers that too:

“When will Shimano’s web services and alternative Pioneer Products be released? Pioneer cannot comment on Shimano’s Web services or its future products. Please contact Shimano for further information.”

Still, that previous FAQ answer is potentially a stunning hint at what Shimano might be up to. They of course have their existing Shimano R9100P power meter already, which has widely regarded as the least accurate mainstream power meter in 2020. However, most of that accuracy largely comes from the R8000/R9100 base crankset that it’s built off, primarily on the right side. The engineering of that latest crankset has caused accuracy issues for all power meter companies building units atop it, including Pioneer as well as Stages, 4iiii, and others. And of course, Shimano themselves.

So to that end, I’m not certain that Shimano’s play here is really power meter focused. Meaning, I don’t think they bought Pioneer’s assets for their power meter tech. While Pioneer’s power meters have historically been very solid, and included numerous advanced metrics, I don’t think any of those metrics had patents that provided a competitive reason to purchase them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they had some patents mixed in there. But everything they’d released to date was largely within the consumer realm already in bits and pieces from other companies. Their force vector display bits was mostly unique, but also something numerous other companies had shown off at one point or another – and even implemented.

Thus I’ve gotta believe the tie-in between Pioneer’s statements around a web service and the purchase of Shimano’s assets has more to do with their bike computers than anything. And perhaps leveraging the existing web platform was seen as a faster player towards that goal. Launching a bike computer is hard, but getting the app and web platform that’s considered critical is just as hard.

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And unfortunately, while Shimano makes great cycling components – they have a long history of making poor apps and connected devices (excluding Di2). Remember Shimano’s Action Cam? Yup, that little gem of a product managed to go nearly a year after initial release before its first software update. Most people had given up on it by then.

Or way back when their small ANT+ connected bike computer that wasn’t connectable or downloadable to anything else. Or that it took more than a year and a half for Shimano to add Bluetooth Smart power meter broadcasting to their power meter, years after everyone else already had it. Shimano always has grand plans for connected sports tech, but Di2 aside, the actual execution fails every time – with things mostly ending up half-baked. Be it action cams, power meters, or head units.

Meanwhile, while Pioneer never quite nailed the ‘beautification’ of their earlier products, their latest attempts from about 18 months ago with the CA600 head unit was a solid step in the right direction. Not only did that head unit step things up dramatically from the past, the company brought Wahoo onboard for integration of their pedaling metrics into Wahoo bike computers. While Pioneer never ended up adopting the ANT+ Cycling Dynamics standard, this did serve as a stop-gap.

For historical purposes, here’s a copy of the FAQ page that Pioneer published:

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Going Forward:

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Less competition is never a good thing. Mostly.

While there are now less power meter players (fear not, there’s still plenty of power meter companies left), it’s plausible that by picking up some of Pioneer’s assets we’ll gain competitors in a different field. Perhaps the bike computer field. Pioneer was never a major player in the cycling bike computer arena. Though, with the right marketing I think their CA600 might have made good inroads in a V2 variant. Thus it’s plausible that with enough engineering, a Shimano driven V2 of the CA600 could offer a real alternative to Garmin, Wahoo, and other bike computers.

But that’s still a tough scenario to imagine. That would require Shimano to demonstrate significantly different app/platform skillsets than they’ve done for any products to date. Obviously, the company could acquire them. But if there’s anything I know about sports tech is that the most successful companies in this business are where they are not through just hiring more employees, but because the employees they already have are really damn good at building their existing products, in the field already.

For example, Shimano is really damn good at building cranksets and related hardware bike bits. But as I’ve said up above, they’re less good at building app/platform systems. And while Pioneer was trending in the right direction, I wouldn’t put Pioneer in the same category as a Garmin or Wahoo in that realm.

Still, I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of it. Hopefully it’s more competition in the bike computer realm, which is always good for consumers. And hopefully it’s not the company figuring out ways to reduce competition dramatically in the power meter and crankset realm. Only time will tell.

With that – thanks for reading!

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37 Comments

  1. José

    “Most people had given up on it sense then.” Should be “since then”.

  2. Greg Friedman

    Hi Ray,

    Is there ANY INFO AT ALL about Giant’s power meter???? I have had one for a year, and I like it. And I believe their is a 2nd updated version coming out this year? Is it accurate at all? Do we know if its a rebranded PM from someone else? The battery life was horrible at first, but through some software updates, it seems to be better now. But even their app updates don’t give you any info about what has changed. I would love some, heck ANY info about this product. Thanks!

    • I haven’t seen anything yet. Like you, the first Giant PM was less than optimal. I believe GPLAMA posted some on it, for the one he bought with his bike.

    • I’ve covered both the Giant PowerPro (MY19) and Giant PowerPro 2 (MY20). It’s over on YouTube.

      They’re Shimano cranksets and suffer from the same issues as all other Shimano cranks (RIGHT side) when used as a power meter with externally placed strain gauges. The MY20 tested as one of the ‘best’ though.

  3. Hideto Sakamaki

    Price cut! $179.99- CA600!

  4. Philip

    It’s a shame Pioneer through in the towel and that of all companies Shimano picked up the pieces. Wahoo would’ve been a much better match. The CA600 is a solid unit that has received consistent software and mapping improvements and hopefully won’t become a paperweight.

    • Wahoo actually had a number of interesting ties into the CA600 – with rumors on how that could go forward. But with ROAM, that honestly became less and less important for Wahoo. There’s little that the CA600 could do that Wahoo either didn’t already have, or couldn’t already implement.

      Plus, Wahoo bought themselves a power meter companies last year. Or rather, bought themselves a pedal company for the purposes of making it a power meter company. Just a matter of time. With Pioneer, they were wedded to Shimano’s cranks, which is super risky for companies. Both today (it doesn’t work accuracy wise), but long-term when Shimano eventually decides to make it impossible for 3rd party companies to build power meters atop it. Or, when they just bake power meters into every crank and call it done (that day will come, just depends on when exactly).

    • Jimbo

      Philip, how do you like the CA600? I see alot of people saying the back light is hard to read. Do you experience this? Other say they just simply increased the brightness of the back light, so do does this mean you have the backlight constantly on at a certain brightness?

  5. Chris Capoccia

    We’ll see if Shimano figured out how to make an accurate crank-based power meter

    • I’m on the edge of my seat (saddle?) waiting to see the crank design of the new DuraAce crank.

    • Fred Stig

      May the Almighty Lobster on High bless us with 110/130 BCD cranks again. No more asymmetric, 4-arm designs, please (and while at it, please take all BB30-anything away). Though the 5800/6800 switch did allow me to snatch up an Ultegra 6700 crankset for just around $100, new/unused. The Lob works in mysterious ways.

  6. Sloe Anolder

    “by then” to be colloquial…but we knew what you meant anywho…

  7. davie

    I vaguely recall that, prior to the R9100-P announcement, Shimano bought a company which provided cycling power metrics (I think?). But nothing ever seemed to come from that.
    Now they have Pioneers IP, however Ray is suggesting they don’t really want the power meter tech (including cycling metrics). It sounds like groundhog day.
    If they truly just want the cycling computer side as suggested, that is odd also. Garmin and Wahoo (which integrates pioneers cycling metrics) have a high cadence feature/bug fix update cycle. There is no possible way that conservative “it’s ready when it’s ready” shimano will adopt that approach either so the devices will struggle.
    Is shimano really going to go it alone with a computer/web service? Ray published an article a while back about a company being set up by industry stakeholders to provide that back end web-service to anyone who would like to access it.
    All in all, this is a very strange one. SPD or SPD-SL power meter pedals? Dura ace 9200 crank power meter complete redesign??

  8. B

    I suspect Pioneer power meters sold incredibly well in Japan but nowhere else. I would hazard to guess they are the majority of power meters in use here. They’re just ridiculously expensive, though.

  9. chup

    That Shimano web service may pave way to user data gathering and analysis for AI. Every company is on-board for AI development.

    • Dave Lusty

      Every company talks about AI, for sure. Almost nobody is actually doing it, and of those few, even fewer are doing anything remotely useful or new with it. The vast majority of machine learning I see was already being done with traditional maths techniques and boils down to anomoly detection or refinement algorithms. As of 2020 AI and ML remain an unfulfilled buzzword.

      I’d be interested in why you think Shimano need AI. I work in the field and can’t think of a useful scenario around their power meters. Garmin, Strava and Training Peaks might make use of big data techniques and might find some ML useful there, but they’ve shown an astonishing lack of interest in using their datasets to progress training techniques.

    • chup

      I’m not sure how useful AI is for Shimano’s business. But surely data mining is the basic requirement of AI. Seeing SRAM dived into data gathering by the AXS website, Shimano may think they want to catch up in that front.

      Stages Cycling offered free power analysis portal for non-Stages users, and I think they are doing data gathering for analysis as well.

    • inSyt

      Algorithms are now labelled as AI. The search box on this site can now boast of using AI.

    • Dave Lusty

      Nope, not by professionals they aren’t. AI and algorithms are very different things and although Ray is a very smart ex-IT pro I very much doubt his search index uses AI.

    • Dave Lusty

      @chup yes data is at the heart of AI, but a use-case and outcome are even more fundamental than data. Data can be acquired once you have a use-case but AI on its own achieves approximately zero outcomes. What I said was that I can’t see any use-cases for Shimano to use AI, not that AI isn’t useful in the fitness realm. And I stand by that statement.

    • “the search box on this site can now boast of using AI.”

      “although Ray is a very smart ex-IT pro I very much doubt his search index uses AI.”

      Oh, trust me, the search box on this site is the furthest thing from AI out there. It’s frankly the dumbest thing on this site and if it was a physical object I’d throw it out the highest window of my tall downtown hotel right now, timed to exactly when a massive garbage truck could run it over…and then back up over it.

    • Enrique Mordetzki

      I agree Ray. Sometimes it gets difficult to find content on the site, e.g. find a specific entry published a few months (or maybe years! 😮) back. The search box is not very helpful!

    • David

      Yeah, AI as it stands now is mostly just weighted series of “if else” statements.Really should be called Artificial Semi Intelligence (ASI). Maybe I should trademark that…

    • Huey

      Traditional machine learning takes something complex that humans can do, breaks it down into all the factors that go into human decision-making, and then teaches a computer to do it. The use case I can see is maybe having an AI which acts like a personal trainer based on all your weight, body type, power metrics, schedule, etc. But I‘m not sure the bike technology we have now can do some of the critical things like recognizing injuries, poor bike fit, muscle weaknesses, etc. Short of that I’d really like someone to tell me how to fix my crappy pedal stroke without having to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars. Maybe all the force vectors on the Pioneer system would help with that but I’m unable to find what an “ideal” pedal stroke should look like, given that it might depend on the specific geometry of a person’s bones

  10. Wolf

    I am struggling with the statement “while Shimano makes great cycling computers”.. Am I missing something here?

  11. Aar

    So, I’ve actually been expecting this exact move for a few years. Cycling products have always been a tiny little side line for a huge company like Pioneer. Shimano has always had the gaps mentioned in the areas of Pioneer’s strengths and there is a geographic/cultural synergy. This post and the FAQ focus on IP but what about the people? Will any Pioneer employees be moving to Shimano? In my observation, when people follow IP in targeted acquisitions the results are much different than when they don’t.

    I suppose this means that a 3rd gen crank and CA600 will be more affordable this spring!

  12. Benja

    Hi
    I have had 2 Pioneer Power Meters and both the CA500 and CA600 bike computer. Never had any problems with anything. I have loved using somthing all others dont have – I would never use Garmin 🙂
    I really hope Shimano picks up after Pioneer and either makes a new Power Meter og a new bike computer (or both).

    • Same here … a super super happy Pioneer customer with rock solid performance of the units. 😉

      In doubts if I will pick-up a spare set … or what would be a similar good alternative (no Garmin please).

  13. Paul

    Ironically, I was having issues with my left and right Pioneer PM unit just this week here in Melbourne Australia. Service wise, I reached out to the reseller who initially sold it and they took no responsibility for the unit and said that if I needed it looked at then they would have to package it up and send it to the Australian ex distributor in Sydney. So I learnt from other resellers in Melbourne and Sydney that Pioneer pulled the plug on distribution in Australia a while ago which meant this product has been for sale here in Oz for a bit. I did manage to find a bike shop who may be able the help but if the issue needs to escalated then off to Sydney my cranks go. Serviceability is the biggest issue for owners of Pioneer legacy PMs moving into the future. And my confidence in Shimano picking up the pieces is on the fence. Shame, because these PMs are usually accurate products.

  14. ReHMn

    Power meter supply from Di2 battery?
    Or power meter software update via E-Tube, maybe?

    • Gary P

      “Power meter supply from Di2 battery?”

      Why stop there? Why not a whole-bike electrical architecture that can power your Di2 system, power meter, lights, and computer off a single, common battery. Staying on top of the charging status of all those devices can be a real chore.

  15. Steve

    Shimano should have bought SRM

  16. Huey

    I guess it’s moot now, but I don’t think you ever did a full review on the SGX-CA600. If I have a Pioneer power meter and want the advanced metrics, does it compare favorably to the Elemnt Bolt? I like the color screen for maps but I hate the older, clunky and unresponsive SGX-CA500 I have now

  17. Kuuba

    Hey

    Shimano & Pioneer cooperates in powermeter business just from their beginnning – this type/similar of powermeter is included in Shimano Bikefitting system, and it is only one in whole market which shows real pedalling effeciency (same as Pioneer). If You compare Shimano bikefitting screenshots to data from Pioneer computers You will see some analogies 🙂

    Anyway I hope all this data will end in Shimano future powermeters!

  18. Kirk

    Has anyone had success getting the live pedaling feature to work using a SGX-CA600 and SGY-series power meter? I recently got a CA600 and was hopeful that I could use the live pedaling feature in the control app but I can’t figure it out. All other app functionality seems to work fine.

    Regarding the comment about the dim display on the CA600, I would agree that it is much dimmer that the Elemnt but if you want a feature rich computer with the ability to upload to cyclo-sphere then the CA600 is your only option. Uploading with the Elemnt would have been awesome but I waited over a year to be able to upload pedaling metrics directly to cyclo-sphere from the wahoo and now that’s never going to happen (wahoo confirmed). I think max brightness with shortest backlight timeout may lead to best battery life outdoors but others may have more experience here.