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Just over a year ago, Norwest Equity Partners invested an undisclosed sum into Wahoo Fitness. Clearly, this was always going to be more about a significant business expansion rather than building a slightly better HRM. I’m pretty sure that’s right as Wahoo released the ‘slightly better HRM’ a few months before the investment (Tickr FIT)
So Wahoo has got a series of dual-band chest straps called Tickr-somethings. Check. And they’ve got speed/cadence sensors. Check.
They’ve got two sizes of performance bike computer plus the obligatory new BikeNav (ELEMENT ROAM). Check.
They’ve got relatively basic indoor bike trainers and they’ve got a very nice top-end (ish) direct-drive smart trainer in the KICKR. Heck, they’ve even now got a ‘SMART BIKE‘ to MORE THAN rival the WattBike Atom. Check. Check. Checkity-check-check.
They’ve always had the Wahoo MAT, which I’m sure is a very nice mat. And they’ve also had the desk-thing for a while. Again, probably a nice desk but they won’t sell ten million of those and take over the world. I could be wrong.
The aforesaid mat doesn’t rumble and simulate the cobbles of the Paris Roubaix (queue sad face emoticon 🙁 ) but the KICKR CLIMB does bounce up and down just like the Tourmalet and the Wahoo smart Fan probably blows freely like the Scirocco if your solar panels are cranking out enough juice on a hot summer’s day. Check and check again.
I guess it would be nice if they could build something like Zwift and invest some of that cash there. There could be a long development cycle though. Oh, wait a minute. They bought The Sufferfest in July this year. I almost forgot that. Check.
Perhaps tandems, unicycles, brake levers and handlebar tape wouldn’t be the greatest of corporate matches. So today’s announcement is that they’ve just acquired SpeedPlay, who make pedals that many of you haven’t heard of. You know, the funny round ones that you very occasionally see.
Wahoo has not acquired a power meter pedal business – I hoped for a while that they would buy ASSIOMA from Favero but I would imagine the price for that would be high. So Wahoo is PROBABLY (IMHO) going to build a power meter pedal (or maybe some power tech closely linked to a pedal or shoe) from the ground up and I’d imagine that’ll take several years. Me? I would have done some co-branding-cum-licencing thing with Favero’s ASSIOMA and whacked Favero’s tech onto something that’s Shimano SPD-SL compatible. But, what do I know? Maybe that’s Favero’s next announcement? IDK.
I guess the clue to this announcement today from Wahoo came a few weeks ago when the new SMART BIKE was announced and the previous image of the pedal (above) came out at the same time in the Bike’s press pack.
Random sentence of some relavence: “Wahoo and Speedplay share a common approach of leveraging technology to develop products that enhance the performance of cyclists,” says Chip Hawkins, Wahoo CEO
Tri- watch? Hmmm. That would be nice but I’m not going there.
Buying and integrating a company is tricky. It’s not just a case of ‘oh yeah it’s something to do with expensive bike tech, so all will be good‘ (you’re clever, you knew that).
Wahoo will have had to have looked at VERY many factors with their acquisitions including cultural fit, brand fit, technological fit, customer fit as well as their strategic customer/tech targets for growth and especially the ability to enable them to repay their new financial backers tenfold (it will be at least tenfold).
The smart bike looks awesome and I think it will do well. I’m less sure about what will happen with The Sufferfest and, although this section is entitled ‘opinion’, I don’t really have one yet on potentially the best power meter pedal of the indeterminate future. Sorry.
Oh …go on then.
Well, I reckon the tech in power meter pedals is currently ‘about there’. The basic problems of accuracy, standards and durability are mostly solved and I suspect there will only be slow, incremental tech improvements moving forwards over the next few years. I think pedals are the way to go to deliver a simple-to-install-and-use solution to most of the market…but I’m sure LOTS of other people have had that exact same thought.
The power meter market will continue to grow but I’m not so sure that there are going to continue to be vast numbers of new customers coming in at $1000/installation – instead, we are going to see more power meters coming pre-bundled with the groupset stuff on the new bikes you buy (eg Shimano). Wahoo might find this “OEM” market a little tricky to muscle into, especially with a new, future and unproven product. On the other hand, Wahoo HAVE got a good and trusted brand name (IMHO).
The real money from a future power meter pedal market could come from mass adoption of cheap tech but a) I don’t think that will happen as we’ve already seen several failures of flawed PM products and b) Wahoo aren’t that kind of company anyway. So Wahoo must be planning to be another premium player in the PM market and if they are doing that with some new-fangled power meter concept then that will be highly risky (tech risk) and if they want to build an even better pedal then good luck to them. I’ll still use my Favero Assiomas which are perfectly fine and just work…they simply don’t go wrong. Which is normally what I say about Wahoo products.
Maybe they’ll just make cicular Wahoo pedals? Maybe.
Thoughts? Below. I’ve just run for 2 hours, I’m tired and I’m going to bed.