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This post is the UNBOXING, PAIRING and INSTALLATION part of the main review of the WATTEAM POWERBEAT dual-sided power meter. The main PowerBeat review can be found (here).
These sections tend not to be too interesting but read on if you like!
I made the mistake of trying to install these FIRST on unsupported cranks. Don’t do it!
I tried again WITH SUPPORTED CRANKS and all the data comes from the supported cranks. some of the images belwo are from each installation.
It comes in a nice box. I like the teal colour…very haute couture 2017.
Removing the sleeve reveals a cardboard box full of goodies.
The most important components of the POWERBEAT product are immediately in sight in the opened box and you will instantly understand that the RIGHT COMP UNIT goes on your right crank behind your right pedal and then one of the white-plastic covered cable jacks will plug into it. It sounds simple and looks fairly simple, below.
However there are a LOT more bits and pieces lying beneath the surface. Essentially all the extra bits and pieces are what you need to install, calibrate and charge the power meter. What you can see, below, will be all that you will need to use the product on an ongoing basis ie including the charging as well.
But that then leaves all these very exciting bits and pieces for the installation:
These are what the bits are for
- The blue bit is a bag of industrial-strength adhesive (requires mixing with the blue bit)
- The alcohol prep pad is for cleaning your crank
- The swab is for swabbing the glue on the sensor
- The sensor has a white cover (which later comes off) and a line-jack type end
- The grey squares are very fine glass paper
- The R & L guides with AAB on them are for marking the position of the sensor on your crank
- The pencil is for doing what pencils do best
- The 5x circular black elastic bands have a little plastic tab to hold while you manoeuvre into position to hold the sensor in place as the glue dries
- The two black strips with the black circle at each end hold the sensor cable firmly against your crank and, yes you spotted it, shouldn’t be in this photo as they will be permanently installed on your crank. Apologies, I’m only human after all.
INSTALLING THE SENSOR
The installation manual MUST be consulted when installing the sensor. The manual is QUITE PRECISE, DETAILED AND CLEAR.
But essentially all you are doing is: cleaning your crank; putting some pencils lines on the cranks with a guide; cleaning the sensor; gluing the sensor on.
So what you have to do IS straightforward. But you have to do it EXACTLY right. You only have one attempt with the glue.
So, whilst attaching the sensor will take about 20 minutes, in reality you will do a trial run and you will read the instructions VERY carefully. It will take the best part of 2 hours, possibly longer. If you did it a second time it might all take 20 minutes. Although the installation time will be spread out over longer than a 48 hour period as that is the length of time IN YOUR ROOM that the adhesive needs to cure..
Here are a few photos of me installing the sensor (note these are on the unsupported cranks I tried first – only use supported cranks)
The photos show: the use of the plastic guide; the crank after it has been ‘sanded’ down ie virtually no surface marks; the elastic bands on the crank and ready for the sensor; and finally the elastic bands holding the sensor in place for 24 (48) hours.
SENSOR INSTALLATION ISSUES:
- If you can’t change a household electrical plug then you won’t buy one of these as the installation will daunt you.
- Crank compatibility – the POWERBEAT will NOT work on every crank. Indeed only a relatively limited selection of popular cranks are supported. Look in the manual (here).
- I decided to use a non-supported crank (ROTOR). Indeed the left crank is not from the same set as the whole original crankset. There are at least three issues with the ROTOR. In terms of the sensor installation the issues are that
- The flat surface for the sensor is about 6mm wide and the sensor area is about 5mm wide.
- The flat surface is not horizontal.
- It won’t work (see later)
- I used a bike maintenance stand. A turbo trainer is the recommended way to keep the bike still during installation
- You *MUST* use the app when installing the PowerBeat. After the gluing stage there is a 24 hour timer on the app which you cannot get past to perform the calibration.
- In most normal conditions the curing/drying time for the glue is 48 hours. Consult the manual carefully.
INSTALLING THE COMP PODS
The comp pods contain the excellent rechargeable battery and the Bluetooth/ANT+ transmission components.
The comp pods are easily attached along with the pedal and a spacer/washer or two.
Here we have a fully glued sensor.
From another angle…
Next we tape the sensor’s wire to the crank to avoid any dangly bits to ‘catch’. I’ve used the straps supplied with the PowerBeat. the instruction don’t mention that you need to clean this part of the crank but even if you don’t, the straps adhere very strongly. As you can see, my ROTOR crank is ribbed and I will probably end up using insulating tape to secure the wire…just in case.
A close up of the tape and this time the COMP POD is being charged.
Here you can see the gap between the COMP POD and the crank. I had a non-matching pair of ROTOR cranks and the gap is different on each side. The bottom of the COMP POD is meant to be parallel to the crank. It was QUITE tricky for me to do this – you will have no problems however. The reason I had some difficulties was that I also had to align something on the BePro pedal and to do both was the hard bit.
COMP POD INSTALLATION ISSUES
- The tape that holds the wire in place seems will NOT last a long time. Mine was starting to rip after fiddling with it several times during installation ie before I even rode with it. Insulating tape will easily rectify the situation if such a problem occurs for you, so I’m not overly concerned about that.
- The metal bracket of the COMP POD is over a 1 mm thick. I required 2x 1mm spacers on one crank and 1x 1mm spacer on the other crank in order to ensure that the comp pod bracket was installed against a complete and flush surface. This added 3mm+2mm to my Q-factor. I suppose that won’t be a problem to people buying a PM at this price point. If my knee starts playing up as a result of the 5mm increase, you will be the first to know!
- As mentioned installing with power meter pedals is tricky. But no sane person will do that and anyone who tries deserves to find it tricky! (ie me!)
- The power cable has a very good and snug fit. It strikes me as likely to be reasonably waterproof. Unfortunately the snugness makes the cable jack hard to remove. Trying to remove the cable jack on the drive side can have your fingers nicely whacking into your chainring when it finally comes out…which can and does hurt. Be careful.
OVERALL INSTALLATION ISSUES
Looking back, it seems very much easier than it was at the time. Mostly it is the worry of making a terminal mistake that increased my caution.
The COMP UNIT and SENSOR both seem a little exposed and vulnerable to getting snagged when the bike is being hauled in and out of cars. I had the same criticism for Garmin’s Vector 2 pods.
I initially was going to install the PowerBeat onto my MTB as I only use it for trail riding rather than serious MTB riding. But even my ‘mostly harmless’ trails involve lugging the bike over stiles and going through stuff that will either snag or knock the COMP unit. I would have taken care but I imagine at some point I would have forgotten and bang would go the PowerBeat COMP POD (replacements can be bought). A MTB version is planned which has a cover.
I expect that any subsequent version of the PowerBeat will see a reduced size.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine for a road bike and probably looks less out of place than the dangly bits on a Garmin Vector 2.
PAIRING WITH THE APP
The app will not install on iOS unless you have v10.0 or above. I installed on Android 6 (4.4.2 required) yet had problems passing the pairing stage with several Android devices (Samsung, Huawei)
Pairing with the Android app was not easy and took many attempts.
After your first, good 10 minute ride you will need to perform a one-off ‘master’ calibration. No doubt there will be very slight vagaries in the precise positioning and orientation of the SENSORS. By dangling 4.5kg weights we can perform a calibration dance and the PowerBeat will do the physics necessary to give us the sacred watts.
FYI: This same process can also be performed on other dual-sided PM solutions (eg BePro) and, indeed, might be advisable after a few months in case one side or the other needs tuning. My BePros needed to lose 2% on the left side after a year. I’ve no idea why, although now they are +0.5% (right) and -0.5% (left). Strange. Now you know.
Last year with the BePros I had to use 10kg weights for this. Tricky! The PowerBeat rather cleverly uses two plastic bags each of which will hold 4.5litres of water; which, as a good scientist knows, will weigh 4.5kg. Sorted. Naturally two of these special plastic bags, complete with carrying strap and hook, are included! Not the world’s most exciting photo of 2x plastic bags and 2x black clips follows…
The clips seems to attach easily to Shimano and LOOK pedals. No doubt there will be a few awkward models of pedal out there.
The clips+bags need to dangle freely downwards. I had the bad slightly touching the frame/cranks at times but apparently this is fine.
The calibration tool/app is quite neat and even tells you to move the pedals slightly if the app needs them to be in a better position for calibration. HOWEVER I had real problems with: the ANDROID app being a bit reluctant to communicate with the pedals all the time and my old iPAD did not have >iOS10. I persevered with the Android app.
HOWEVER: As I earlier indicated, I had to do the whole thing again with different and supported cranks as the ROTOR ones did not work. This involved replacement sensors.
On the next bike I had other issues. Installation was MUCH easier now that I had the confidence to breeze through it. It probably took an hour or so over a couple of days if you include preparation time.
The second bike had TT bars and was unstable when turned upside down. This was especially challenging when calibrating with only one bag on one of the pedals ie the bike had to be held vertical, did that affect the calibration?
I had planned to use Garmin Vector 2s for a comparison but as you can see here, they don’t fit on at the same time as the PowerBeat. The 2 pods get in the way of each other.
Having pointed out the Garmin Vector incompatibility I need to point out the reality that no-one else in the world is likely to have that problem in simultaneously wanting to Garmin Vector pedals!
The second bike had 165mm cranks. This highlighted some other potential issues
- When doing the warmup ride to ‘bed in the pedals’ with the PowerPod, an unconnected connector cable is likely to get snagged…not good. This would mean you would permanently damage the sensor and it would need to be removed and replaced. CONNECT IT
- There is not masses of space to both secure the connector cable to the crank with the tie and allow it to be unplugged and re-plugged – which is regularly required for charging and to restart the pods if pairing fails.
My understanding is that the power transmission in some dual-sided power solutions, like BePro, will involve sending right side power to the left side unit which then re-broadcasts the full power metrics. The PowerBeat broadcasts BLE power from both sides to your head unit in dual mode.
In the app you set one of the these 3 modes of pairing and then pair to your head unit/watch as you normally would:
- ANT+ eg AMBIT2 or Garmin Edge;
- Bluetooth SMART Single Channel eg AMBIT3; or
- Bluetooth SMART Dual Channel eg V800/V650.
I found initial pairing to any device tricky. Even to an ANT+ device. It seemed to be affected by the smartphone being connected to the sensors even though the correct method of broadcasting power had been selected. NOTE ALWAYS CLOSE THE APP BEFORE TRYING TO USE THE POWERBEAT ON A HEAD UNIT/WATCH.
I also presumed that, to save battery, the PowerBeat will only transmit on one frequency ie the one specified in the app. But that appears NOT to be the case. ie you could pair an ANT+ device and either a BLE single or dual (I’m not 100% sure on every combo)
However once paired all was good. I stuck with ANT+…it’s WAY easier.
So, BLE Single Channel is left-side only power but doubled up. This might put off some Suunto users, for example, who were hoping for an average of the two channels.
Pairing to single-channel BLE requires the right-side power connector to be temporarily detached.
Ascertaining which BLE head units/watches are dual-BLE is somewhat tricky. If I find a link I’ll put in here. I have to admit being somewhat in the dark on this.
For example my Polar M460 paired twice ie with the left and then also with the right pedal but does that mean power should show on both sides on the M460? Indeed I got no power through at all. Have I paired it properly? or is it just that the M460 doesn’t support the WatTeam PowerBeat at all? PowerBeat tells you to check your head unit manual..well I checked links from the M460 manual and they didn’t shed any light.
Couple this uncertainty with the limited crank compatibility and YOU really NEED to do your homework.
PowerBeat specifically state that these devices work: Polar m450 (Polar say M460 is effectively same), Lezyne Polar v800, unto Spartan. ‘Obviously’ Garmin Edge and Wahoo ELEMNT are tested to have worked.
3rd PARTY INSTALLATION
It is possible for a 3rd party to install your PMs here: http://watteam.com/shops-installation-centers/