WatTeam recently released their 2nd generation of power meter. It’s dual-sided and dual-band (ANT+ & BTLE). That makes it generally appealing to a wider market. However at $499 it also comes with an attractively ‘low’ price tag. You won’t find another dual-sided offering from a company you’ve heard of at that price point.
Is there a catch?
Read on and we shall see. However the things to watch out for are: DIY installation; accuracy; and durability of the design. The other notable catch would be that these are permanently attached to your cranks unlike a pedal-based solution which you can switch between bikes. Of course such switchable pedals would cost 50% more…
INSTALLATION, UNBOXING, PAIRING & FIRST CALIBRATION
The installation is covered in great detail in (this post): WatTeam PowerBeat – Installation, Unboxing, Pairing & First Calibration. It’s not an overly exciting read but the “ease” of installation of this product is KEY to its success, so you might care to take a look if you are genuinely thinking of buying one.
Installation is a one-off exercise and so I’ve moved that section to a link as readers tend to be less interested in that. However if you are unsure of YOUR DIY bike skills then I would urge you to have a read of the detail and see what you might be letting yourself in for! it took me longer than I expected and I installed on 2x cranksets.
Here is a summary of the more salient installation issues:
- Crank compatibility – the POWERBEAT will EXPLICITY NOT work on every crank. Indeed only a relatively limited selection of popular cranks are supported. Look in the manual (here).
- Installation is relatively OK but you might be daunted by the worry of making an irreversible mistake when gluing the sensors to the cranks with industrial strength adhesive.
- The stated installation time of 30 minutes is a little hopeful. It will most likely take you 2 hours spread over 2 days.
- Instructions are clear and detailed. You MUST also follow the installation with an accompanying app (no exceptions) which is integral to the installation and setup process.
- The COMP PODs and SPACERS can add up to 6mm to your Q-factor – if you don’t know what Q-factor is then don’t worry.
- The mandatory calibration app requires Android 4.4.2 and iOS 10.0 or above.
- The hardware design is generally good for the method of attachment it is trying to achieve. My longer term worry would be catching the PowerBeat whilst transporting the bike – the same concern I have for the Garmin Vector 2s. The PowerBeat is SMALLER and LESS likely to be caught. I’ve also read some concerns about the PODS not properly adhering to Ultegra 6800 cranks.
It’s a power meter. If the battery is charged and the power meter is paired and calibrated then it’s ‘just another sensor’
There doesn’t seem to be any particular delay or unusual behaviour.
Calibrating each day takes a few seconds and is made easier if your head unit auto-prompts you to do it eg Garmin Edge.
I found that establishing the ANT+ pairing was as quick as with any other PM. A few seconds, at most, from spinning the cranks.
When the cranks are spun a fairly large LED comes on which is much easier to see than on the BePros, for example.
When cycling there were no dropouts that I noticed and the various moving averages for time seemed no different in their responsiveness to those from any other PM I’ve used.
Stopping for extended, coffee-related periods induced no unexpected behaviour ie I returned to the bike (head unit left running) and the ANT+ sensor was picked up again when it woke up.
The pod doesn’t get in the way at all. I have the sensor cable taped down…that cable might catch on something if not properly taped down.
All good when in use.
I had a cunning plan for doing some clever comparisons. Unfortunately I was unable to install Garmin Vector pedals on the same crank as the Powerbeat. As shown to the right their respective pods get in the way of each other.
So I was only able to compare the BePro pedals with the PowerBeat. who knows which is correct? Although the BePros are known for decent accuracy.
I could probably make lots of assumptions which would likely be wrong so instead I’ll let you look at the charts of the new Powerbeat and my 18 month old BePro (below).
I had various issues with the BePro pedals that I was comparing the PowerBeat to. The bottom line was that I thought there was something wrong with the PowerBeat calibration but actually I’d made a mistake/misunderstood how the BePro handled a 165mm crank rather than my usual 172.5mm crank. Let’s not go there right now but I’ll just admit my guilt in the matter!
WARNING: Several of the following comparisons have used files manipulated by fitfiletools.com to align the NP averages to compensate, essentially, for an incorrect crank setting BY ME ON THE BEPRO. The power %age adjustment is uniform throughout the file AFAIK so the comparisons of peaks and troughs, below, should be valid. However the %age adjustment required each ride to align the NP averages varied. I will try to change all of these images over time with data from new rides but it takes a lot of time and this is not my day job. Apologies.
Let’s start with a supposedly steady state effort with a few hillettes. The Powebeat was 19.6% higher ~(BePro 19.6% lower). So I adjusted the entire file accordingly with fitfiletools.com. Then, as you can see, there is good visual alignment of the two power tracks. Before the recording started, this workout/test was based from a dynamic calibration of the BePro (backpedal) as well as multiple static pre-ride calibrations of both. BePro NEARLY ALWAYS reads zero in the static calibration and has done so over the last 18 months, the PowerBeat varies and could be 76 one day and 83 the next. Indeed the static calibrations can typically change by +/-1 if repeated 30 seconds later.
This second chart is a ride in the Surrey Hills which, if you’ve been there, have quite poor quality roads in many places. Not cobbles. but not good either. The PowerBeat average was 14% higher (BEPRO 14% lower) before the crank length adjustment. Most of the spikes are red (PowerBeat) but they are NOT false spikes on the whole and are usually accompanied by a similar but lower powered spike of the BePros. The BePro spikes higher too sometimes (blue).
If I had a nice power averaging and overlaying tool than above then my charts may well look something like this instead…..
DCR’s take on this ride of his was that “…this ride went pretty well for WatTeam, and there’s nothing sticking out of concern in this particular ride…“. His only concerns were bumpy roads affecting readings and power levels over 700w. I suspect most people who can put out 700w for more than a few seconds wouldn’t buy an entry-level PM.
And here is another adjusted chart of mine, also with a 10 second offset this time as well (sigh). These are a few minute-long efforts at over 300w and then an attempt at an all-out max on a flat road (the 800w spike). As above, other than me having to adjust the average levels, the two match well considering we don’t know if either one is right.
Just looking at the charts it all seems hunky dory.
My concern is that the %age difference between the BePro and the PowerBeat seemed to vary. I could come up with various hypotheses for this but it seems fairly pointless to do that with this data right now. But there WAS a differenc caused by me BUT I would expect a relatively consistent difference
CHANGING BETWEEN BIKES
The PowerBeat app clearly already includes functionality for their stated intention to allow the pods (not sensors) to be transferred to another bike.
If you had identical cranks then you probably could switch the pods on those cranks to another bike.
My charts, above, are all from the same bike/cranks. I did change the COMPLETE cranks from bike to bike. After you’ve done this a few times you then become quite familiar with the re-calibration using the supplied water bags. It gets much easier with repetition. I suppose that re-calibration might not have been required but I played safe.
The main problem I had here was with the Android app. I used several phones because the Bluetooth connection was not sufficiently robust. Indeed I wasted MANY hours trying Android-based calibrations. HINT: Use an iPhone. I do have an iPhone but the Bluetooth is broke for some reason and my iPAD has too old a version of iOS for the PowerBeat app…sigh.
I tried a few Bluetooth head units/watches but pretty much gave up quite quickly. It seems pointless using an AMBIT/SPARTAN for this product where only one side of power is used. I did not have success with the Polar M460, although it should work on the M450 which is essentially the same in regards to Bluetooth power meter pairing (Source: Polar).
RESOURCES + TRIVIA
- Manual (here)
- Name of the strong glue: Alpha Wat 1 fast epoxy adhesive (now you know)
- You can permanently remove the sensor with a SHARP knife
- Firmware updateable through the app. It says the ‘next version is free’ which I suppose that at some point in the future there could be optional extras in the firmware.
- PowerBeat can officialy take up to 30 seconds to start transmitting (but I never found it to be that slow). After 3 minutes of non-use ‘standby mode’ is entered.
- Special metrics are produced and transmitted: Torque Effectiveness; Pedal Smoothness; cadence; dual power/balance.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION
Based on my ‘inconclusive’ experience with the accuracy tests, I cannot either recommend or discourage the purchase of a WatTeam PowerBeat. Although I got the feeling that the PowerBeat accuracy was ‘probably alright’ and other PowerBeat users have found good results elsewhere.
Here are some NEGATIVE points that stand out for me:
- The experience with the installation and calibration through the ANDROID app is poor. This is probably the fault of the handset manufacturer in many cases, not WatTeam’s developers. However the PowerBeat app just didn’t work as well connecting android to the PMs as with iOS.
- Installation of the sensor is angst-ridden as you only have one attempt. It will take you several hours over a 48 hour period unless you adopt a Gung-Ho attitude with your investment.
- I don’t like the way the charging cable and the sensor plug into the pod.
Here are some NEUTRAL points that stand out for me:
- The power readings compared to the BePro seem plausible and there appeared to be no dropouts.
- The design is broadly reasonable. The weak point seems to be the cable from the sensor to the pod. If it’s taped down properly then it can be difficult to UNPLUG THE SENSOR from the POD, especially on smaller cranks.
- Pairing and initial calibration required unplugging and re-plugging the sensor into the POD many times, this probably ‘re-boots’ it for the purposes of pairing. It was a REAL faff. To make matters worse, you will still have to unplug it for periodic charging. I would have preferred (yet another) custom charging cable that ‘clipped’ on.
- I appreciate you wouldn’t want to base your purchase on my accuracy test figures alone.
Here are some POSITIVE points that stand out for me:
- If you are a DIY-biker, then these could well be for you especially if you want dual-sided, dual-band power on a single bike.
- The day-to-day static calibration and usage based on ANT+ is good.
- The extra Cycling Dynamics are a ‘nice-to-have’
- Good price for dual band/dual-sided power.
- Good battery life
- The POD has a relatively low profile and so, with care, will probably not too easily get caught when you are wo/man-handling the bike around.
- I would have thought the PowerBeat will work with any pedal-cleat combo (not crank…only supported cranks). That’s a plus for those of you who like specific pedals/cleats as current pedal-based solutions are restrictive in the cleats they support.
- Remember, the dual-sided nature of WatTeam’s solution addresses athlete’s with power imbalances better than the inherent inaccuracies of a single-sided crank solution.
So that’s my honest experience with the product. Probably not enough to make you buy it by itself. But if you want to reward an honest view, in conjunction with your wider research, then you will help this blog in a small way by purchasing from PowerMeterCity using the image to the right. You will even get a 10% discount with the code TFK10. Non-US buyers please be aware of import duties.
Available now US$499