Garmin recently leaked their own product details on their upcoming Garmin Vector Air product. It’s an opposing force power meter yet, more interestingly, it’s also a Drag Meter as it measures cDa and transmits cDa live to your cycling computer. That’s a pretty niche usage BUT it comes priced at $299.99, thus that niche of people who might actually NEED such a product will be expanded to people like me who might buy a drag meter on a whim to see if it can help me with a bit of free speed. At $299.99 there is not much about the price that we can baulk at.
Leak First Reported: bicycling.com
Briefly How it all Works
I don’t want to dwell on this as virtually everyone reading this post will understand the basic method.
In a nutshell: You must already have a ‘proper’ power meter based on the direct forces you are shoving into your bike and the Vector Air is also a power meter but it works out power from the opposing forces with the air as you move forward. The Garmin Vector Air CANNOT know your body shape which is a big factor in the opposing force calculation. The two power readings are equalised at some point and any subsequent change you make to your position will be reflected in a difference between the two power meters.
The Future of these Products
I’m fascinated by what this technology could bring. Yet I already have one. Well, I have a very similar Velocomp Aeropod and I certainly use it NOWHERE NEAR as much as I thought I would do despite my fascination. AND it’s a good product that even looks nice.
My view is that the future of this market is going to be twofold
- Toys – Relatively “cheap” products for time trialists and triathletes to play with ($299 seems a fair price)
- Scientific tools – More accurate and more complex ‘systems’ geared towards serious-to-pro athletes. $$$$$
Anything in the middle will fail without a decent value-added proposition bolted on to the basic product.
I’ve already mentioned Velocomp’s AEROPOD. There’s also Swiss Side, Aero Lab & Notio Konekt
They all seem similar enough to me. If you want to read more detailed content on many of the factors involved then AEROLAB is a good place to start.
After the Garmin leak, I asked Velocomp for comment. I got none!
Elsewhere, I have been told that Velocomp own MANY patents in this field. Most likely I would guess that Garmin has kindly licenced some of the tech from Velocomp and hence the silence of the latter.
Let’s turn back to the Garmin Vector Air
Garmin Vector Air Specs
These are the high-level Garmin Vector Air Specs
- Size – 50 x 68 x 20mm
- Weight – 52g
- Water Rating – IPX7
- Battery – Rechargeable lithium-ion
- Battery Life – 40 hours
- Mount – Garmin compatible (friction mount compatible)
- Comms – ANT+ and Bluetooth (this could be just Bluetooth to a phone app as Bluetooth Smart is not specified in the leaked specs)
- Sensor Data Capture – power, wind speed, wind direction
- Sensor Data Transmission – Coefficient of Drag (cDa), wind speed, wind direction
cDa requires a separate ANT+ power meter
Garmin Vector Air – What Else We know
Here is the information originally leaked from the Garmin Vector Air product pages
The key points here are
- It is a power meter in its own right. At $299 some might think that’s a good buy for a starter power meter that you can switch easily from bike-to-bike and/or use to capture power data when commuting or riding in situations where you might not want to risk theft or damage to another PM but still want some data (it won’t be as accurate)
- It’s self-calibrating – this sounds trivial but exactly how this works could be the key factor that determines whether you end up using it or not. It needs to work like any other sensor in the sense that it must simply pair and go, although a delay of a few minutes for autocalibration would be acceptable.
- The 40-hour battery life should be more than enough
- Mounting underneath a Garmin out-front mount seems highly sensible.
For the casual athlete, this kind of product will need to provide simple, actionable metrics. Most likely these metrics will need to be there when you are riding. Sure you can perform tests and write down your positional changes in between tests and then go back to your office and analyse the data to the early hours of the morning…I thought I ‘d do that with the Velocomp AeroPod data…but I didn’t.
I suspect that the in-ride uses will boil down to
- Relatively short TTs/triathlons where you really are looking to save seconds and getting the absolute optimal position, as uncomfortable as it might be. You might continually target a specific cDa as you ride
- Longer rides and triathlons where YOU/ME probably can’t hold the most efficient position for over two hours but we know that staying vaguely aero is going to save us many 10s of seconds. We need some indication or reminder to do that.
Price & Availability
We saw with the leak of the HRM-PRO chest strap that an inadvertent listing on the Garmin website does not necessarily mean that the product is ready for imminent release. Nevertheless, it would make sense that this product was released in Q1.2020 if it’s almost ready-to-go.
The price seems too low for Garmin. $299 is less than Velocomp’s price for Aeropod. Because of that, there might be some intentional (and false) leaking by Garmin going on here for some reason that I don’t understand unless it’s an unusual form of market research.