The PowerPod is a low-cost power meter also with extra bits of cycling efficiency data – all without using a strain gauge.
In a few words…
It’s an interesting product that I approached with a high degree of scepticism. It mostly won me over with it’s 3/4-tier offering:
- It uses wheel speed whilst on your turbo as a proxy for power when indoors
- It uses changes in wind/air pressure, some inputs from you and some maths to have a fairly good stab at estimating power on your road bike in most riding scenarios.
- It produces estimates for your aerodynamic riding position
- (An upgrade for cycling stroke analysis exists)
I’m not yet sure if I will complete a detailed review on this product.
Who will buy this?
The PowerPod is an unusual product that might appeal to a power-newbie or a power-pro but, strangely, not someone in between – unless they have lots of bikes.
If you have a few road bikes, an old-school indoor trainer and not much spare cash then the PowerPod is a compelling alternative to a more expensive direct force power meter. It can be moved between bikes more easily than any other ‘power meter’.
If you have all the power meters in the world and a bit of an obsession with getting faster, then the PowerPod might also give you a self-operated alternative to a wind tunnel to reduce you CdA.
Why would you not buy this?
It’s a less accurate option than some direct force power meters – although you might argue that it could be better than a single-sided crank using 50% estimation.
It relies on a relatively consistent cycling position for each bike profile when outdoors and when indoors several factors (eg tyre pressure/temperature) affect the accuracy of the power/speed curve.
If you are just swayed by the indoor use scenario then you can achieve a similar goal for almost nothing with an ANT+ stick and a computer.
If you are able to save up a few hundred more pounds/euros/dollars then you could buy a crank- or pedal-based solution.
There are red/black ANT+ versions and a more expensive version that supports both ANT+ and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) power transmission. You would only need BLE if you have a recent Suunto (AMBIT 3, SPARTAN) or plan to use Zwift or STRAVA directly though your smartphone.
The PowerPod needs to be mounted under your handlebars on a GoPro compatible mount in clean flowing air; beware cables and hands. MTB, Road and Cyclocross bikes are all fine but you need to think carefully about your specific TT aerobars and the precise position of the PowerPod which will require a specific and expensive TT mount and you will need bars that don’t flex.
The ANT+ ID (not BTL) of your speed sensor determines which bike profile is automatically chosen. I would recommend one of Garmin’s newer magnetless speed-only ANT+ sensors FOR EACH BIKE and a single cadence sensor as an optional add-on for the PowerPod.
- Consider: if you regularly swap wheels between your bikes what about the speed sensor and the bike weight setting?
- Consider: the GSC-10 speed/cadence combo sensor is a faff to move between bikes.
- Consider: WAHOO for a BTL/ANT+ dual-band, non-Garmin sensor.
- Consider: if you intend to get wheel speed from a disc wheel or a covered wheel. It’s tricky.
Configuration & Calibration
Note: You may equally have a non-Garmin device. It’s easier than writing ‘cycling computer’ or ‘head unit’.
After pairing, as you would with any normal ANT+ power meter sensor, you perform a one-off outdoor configuration ride for each bike, on one of the 4 available profiles. This takes 5 minutes and is complete once your Garmin’s display has counted up to 100w (100%) after which it will display Watts normally. Wheel-speed and Cadence are received DIRECTLY from each sensor by your Garmin and by the PowerPod. Calculated power is re-broadcast from the PowerPod to your Garmin using ANT+ or BLE (the latter if you have dual band).
Ignore the ‘power meter calibration option’ on your cycling computer.
Rider+Bike weight, height, and ride position are all used in the profile which can and should be changed to the correct values on the app.
Indoor: The power/speed curve of your model of trainer and its resistance level needs to be set ie it is NOT a simple straight line relationship on many trainers
One important setting is Dynamic Power Smoothing (DPS) this is PowerPod’s method of providing you with a single meaningful power figure through a range of power output scenarios. Turn DPS ‘off’ if you want to use your Garmin’s various average powers (3s, 10s, 30s).
At the start of each outdoor ride and on the turbo trainer you are ‘good to go’ straight away. If you replace the PowerPod on the mount then a calibration is wise as there could be small variations in the installation angle that need to be accounted for.
It appeared to me that there is less than a 10% inaccuracy when deliberately riding in the ‘wrong’ riding position to that set in your profile. eg I found that riding on the drops compared to a ‘on the hoods’ profile was generally around 5% more efficient. So here you see the use of the words inaccuracy and efficiency – when you do something to increase the PowerPod’s INaccuracy then you are merely introducing some factor that is causing your PowerPod to deviate further from a reading from a direct force power meter – essentially, that is how you assess the effect of your position on drag. ie PowerPod, in some circumstances, turns inaccuracy into a benefit! Clever.
With a correctly configured PowerPod and factoring in inaccuracies in other power meters, you can expect accuracy to within 5% of the real power levels and that would be similar on an indoor trainer from my experience.
One of the great things with the PowerPod is that it overrides wheelspeed and assumes that zero pedalling equals zero power; that really helps when cycling/freewheeling downhill and when using an indoor trainer for intervals. However it cannot know your riding position – so tell it.
When riding in groups the PowerPod is designed to assess the drop in frontal pressure and compensates to give a correct power figure. I didn’t find the readings I expected when riding with two friends so I will have to investigate this some more.
Battery life is about 20 hours between charges and the PowerPod is charged via USB. I never tried charging whilst using the PowerPod.
It is also possible to use the PowerPod in conjunction with a normal power meter. Using the manufacturer’s ISAAC software and assuming that the normal power meter is correct, you could assess the difference of the two power readings to work out different coefficients of drag and rolling resistances in different setups. Whilst ‘gross’ positional changes do show a difference, I’m not convinced that smaller changes like a 5mm rise in the seat position or a slightly better tyre would deliver any certainty of an ‘improved’ setup – though I never tried it! IMO the manufacturer is likely to develop a Garmin CIQ app which will let you see real-time changes to CdA as you ride outdoors. That might be a time for me to look more closely at small changes to my riding position.
The supporting software is ‘old school’ and mostly worked well with a few Windows glitches from time-to-time.
Summary & Comments:
You will get the benefits of training with power from this product. It is easy to switch between bikes and between profiles.
Power outputs seem broadly consistent over a variety of uses and over time but there are subtle variations eg 300w in outdoor mode and 300w in indoor trainer mode WILL be physiologically different because of the different calculation involved – but probably close enough to work with.
For a first time power meter buyer with one or two bikes, this is a compelling product when sale prices are around US$200/GBP200/EUR200. With the regular prices normally being quite a bit higher, the likes of a 4iiii PRECISION crank (ANT+/BLE) or BePro pedals (ANT+) quickly become more attractive power meter options.
I do not have unlimited funds for sports kit. In the distant past, having been a long-time user of proxy-power on an indoor trainer, my personal preference was to wait until I could afford a low-end direct force power meter that I felt comfortable in being able to move from bike to bike myself ie crank or pedals. If you are never likely to be able to justify over GBP/USD500 for a direct force power meter then the PowerPod is a compelling purchase.
As a higher-end, existing power meter rider, if you intend to work on reducing drag by implementing positional changes then I strongly suspect that you would have to be willing and able to commit a significant amount of time to working with the PowerPod to do this. Set against that, even a 1, 2 or 3% improvement in your setup is a material improvement, so it might be worth it. I can’t devote that amount of time BUT a nice CIQ app would certainly interest me to investigate further.
NB: If you intend to take training seriously over many years then you WILL ALMOST CERTAINLY end up buying all the bits of kit you ever wanted. IMO it’s easier to take the financial hit when you start out and get all the benefit from the kit right from the start. A power meter is one of those things.
Support & Warranty
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- Warranty: http://www.ibikesports.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Warranty012816.pdf
All versions ship now and there are European resellers. Any reseller is free to discount as they see fit so you will find sales if you look around and wait.
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