Stages Dash L200 Review | M200 | Performance BikeNav

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Stages Dash M200 Review L200Stages Dash L200 Review | M200

In a Nutshell: A highly customisable ‘pro’ experience includes Adaptive Training Zones, Maps, Routes, Elevation Profiles, Structured Workouts, Training Plan Sync and wide sensor support including Garmin Varia.

Like their predecessors from 2019, the new Stages Dash L200 & M200 on review here are targeted at performance cyclists.

Dash owners will happily take the upgrade but it’s a hard call to get you to switch from a Garmin Edge, Wahoo Elemnt or Hammerhead Karoo.

Verdict: GOOD ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - Ticks all the important feature boxes
  • Price - 85%
    85%
  • Apparent Accuracy - 75%
    75%
  • Build Quality & Design - 80%
    80%
  • Features, Including App - 95%
    95%
  • Openness & Compatability - 90%
    90%
85%

Summary

The Stages Dash L200/M200 ticks all the boxes yet doesn’t seem to strike a killer blow when Jo Public compares it to a similarly-priced Garmin Edge.

Stages Dash M200laps L200Sure the screen is bright & clear, the display metrics can be flexibly configured with a degree of automation and the whole computer can be rotated 90-degrees. But are those features enough to get you to buy one?

The features that are excellent lie behind a subscription paywall. If you pay the subs you get access to: complex plan creation that includes automated, periodised progression; complex workout creation; and detailed, post-workout analysis & compliance.

That paywall immediately limits the Dash to performance cyclists and coaches who really need the pro treatment delivered within the Stages cycling Ecosystem

But if you want a change from Wahoo or Garmin then Dash will not disappoint.

 

Pros

  • Immense flexibility with profiles, layout and metrics – the best there is.
  • Excellent screen
  • Connects to Strava, Komoot, TP and RwGPS
  • Connects to smart trainers, power meters, Varia and speed/cadence sensors.
  • Free, global, cycle-specific maps in colour
  • Supports Route elevation profiles & TBT
  • More than 10-hours of battery life – the headline is based on realistic worst-case usage. You will probably get around 14-15 hours.

Cons

  • Lacks Di2 integration (planned)
  • App Subscription required for course builder, workout builder, advanced ride analysis, & historical data review tools
  • Garmin price levels
  • User experience could be improved

What Is The Stages Dash 200-Series?

The Stages Dash 200 Series comprises two high-end bike computers targeted at performance-oriented cyclists. They share the same features with differences only as a result of the size ie the L200 has a longer battery life than the M200 and a $50 price premium.

stages-dashStages Dash Evolution

The Dash 200-Series is all about improved hardware.

The original Stages Dash (2016)/Dash L10 was superseded by the significantly improved 50-Series (L50 and M50) in 2019. There has been a steady stream of software updates since then culminating in March 2022. That full set of features is on the Dash L200/M200.

Stages address previous issues with buttons, interface and mount plus adding in a faster-charging battery, IP57 waterproofing and WiFi uploads. L200 and M200 are the most capable pieces of handlebar hardware Stages has produced.

The app ecosystem has evolved too and is focused on the free Stages Cycling app plus premium software features available through the Stages Link platform.

It’s also worth noting that Stages partnered up with Giant Bikes and the L200/M200 are also sold under the Giant brand with identical features.

Stages Dash compared to Wahoo ELEMNT and Garmin EDGE

The M200 would be best compared to a similarly-sized Wahoo BOLT 2 or Garmin Edge 530. You might compare the larger L200 to an ELEMNT ROAM or Hammerhead Karoo 2. Neither Dash model has a touchscreen whereas the Garmin Edge 830 and SRAM-Hammerhead Karoo 2.

Stages would say that what sets their Dash units apart would be the price; good course handling; good workout functionality; good, free maps; plus comprehensive data presentation and analysis in Stages Link.

Wahoo would claim they had a more intuitive & reliable bike computer whereas Garmin matches 95% of what Stages offer and more besides.

Stages Dash M200 costs £240, US$$279, €280

Stages Dash L200 costs £290, US$329, €340

Stages Dash M200 auto profile L200

First Impression, User Interface & User Experience

I’ve used the smaller M200 much more than the L200 and have covered just over 1,000 miles.

The physical design is similar to Garmin, Wahoo and Hammerhead. Stages seem to have taken the safer route here with a design that has been proven to be liked by many cyclists. Controlling the head unit mostly from top-buttons is probably the best method and Stages has done that.

The profiles, screens and metrics once set up, are great. They are clear to read and I like how the screen can be “just so”. For some strange reason I decided to flip the screen orientation to landscape on my TT bike and that worked great.

It seemed to take a little while to link up to all my sensors and 3rd party data platforms but no more so than with my first experiences on any other unfamiliar bike computer.

My sense of the flow from one screen to the next was that Stages are a little tech-driven rather than cyclist-driven. There are frequent messages that appear informing you exactly what is going on, of course there’s an option to turn all that off…that’s just what a techy would do! I suppose a certain kind of person will love that but certain other kinds of cyclists definitely will not… the experience is too busy. 

Let’s start off with the high-level specs and features. I’ll then go on and discuss some of the key aspects of the Dash.

 

Stages Dash L200 Specifications & Highlights

Here we have the highlights of the Stages Dash. Some features are unique, some are rarely found, and some are found on competitor models but are nevertheless worthy of mention.

Features of Note

  • Free, global cycle-specific maps (custom OSM) available to download
  • Comprehensive connectivity to leading cycling platform and cycling sensors via ANT+/BLE  – FE-C, power meters, speed, cadence, HR and Varia sensors. WiFi+USB too.
  • Overlay routes and TBT (not re-routable), create routes online and 3rd party route sync
  • SMS and phone call notification
  • Can be mounted either portrait or landscape and the screen appropriately rotated. Screens have dark/light modes
  • 16 data fields on some screens (max 12 on M200)
  • Upcoming elevation profile when following a course
  • Auto-adaptive training Zones that follow changes in your physiological performance parameters
  • Structured workout support, supporting multiple targets per step, supporting repeat previous steps and more
  • Workout compliance (actual vs. plan)

 

Stages Dash M200 Technical Specifications (L200)

These are the technical specifications of the M200 plus a few notes I’ve added for clarity. There’s nothing especially unusual here other than the lack of a touchscreen and an average battery life.

Technical Specs Dash M200
Manufacturer Stages Cycling
Dimensions (L×W×H mm) M200: 81 mm x 51 mm x 22 mm

L200: 94 mm x 60 mm x 22 mm

Weight 77g (105g for L200)
Waterproof Rating (IPX) IP57
Display EverBrite OCA screen, non-Touch
Display Size 2.2″ (2.7″ for L200)
Display Resolution 240x320px
Battery Type USB lithium-ion (1600mAh, 2300mAh L200)
Battery Run Time 18+ hours with reduced power mode enabled. 10 hours at max operation (Displaying maps with 1 sensor connected, with 100% backlight).
Battery Charge Time >2.5h, up to 24 hours of use (3.5 hr for L200)
Mount Type Standard quarter-turn (like Garmin)
Memory 16 GB
Alerts User-selectable audio and visual alerts
GNSS GPS and QZSS
Compass GPS-based, non-magnetic
Barometric Altimeter Yes
Accelerometer Yes
Thermometer Yes
Ambient Light Sensor Yes
Display View Switchable Portrait/Landscape
Companion App Yes, Stages Cycling
Wireless Connectivity ANT+, BLUETOOTH, and Wi-Fi
Sensor Compatibility ANT+ and BLUETOOTH
Phone Compatibility iPhone and Android

 

 

Ride Profiles & Metrics

Dash has an interesting take on ride profiles. You can use one of the pre-canned ones or create your own based on the focus of your workout – speed, power or HR. Here. metrics are automatically added to the profile when an appropriate sensor is paired.

Automation is clever and sometimes useful but I usually want a specific screen for specific purposes be that navigation, indoor workouts, commuting, navigating, racing, climbing or whatever. Personally, I prefer automation elsewhere like, for example, how Wahoo’s Strava Live Segment pops up with 100m to go or how Garmin’s ClimbPro appears when the next climb is almost upon you.

Putting my personal preferences to one side, Stages delivers a powerful profile creation feature most notably giving you highly flexible screen layouts that allow you to alter the size and position of individual metrics.

Stages Dash M200 eat reminder L200

Dash also allows a large number of screens per profile and the ability to set orientation (portrait/landscape), eat & drink reminders, the source of each kind of data and more besides.

The ride metrics are cleverly chosen from an impressively huge list. When you want to choose, say, a 3-second power average you only choose the field as a generic power field. Then you go on to specify the operation (average) and the span (3-seconds) – this is the best way I’ve seen to handle long lists of metrics in a sensible and accessible way. But you do that once or twice and you are mostly set for life and so rarely need to revisit the awesomeness.

Here are some screens for a custom Climb Profile showing how I add a reminder and then change an elevation field to a 3-second power field, and combine that with a graphical elevation profile.

So, this is really cool stuff. I can’t think of anything quite as comprehensive as this from any other bike computer. Perhaps an out-of-the-box Garmin could get close but a Garmin would have more functions if you then included the capabilities of some 3rd party CIQ data fields.

Note: Profiles can be changed on the Dash however the app is much easier to use

If you are a data nerd you have already bought a Dash. However, if you are overly concerned about the shade and hue of your handlebar tape then you would probably think that the Dash’s visual aesthetic is a little rough around the edges. And if you are an occasional cyclist you might think this all looks a bit too complicated.

Stages Dash M200 profile L200

The Ride Experience

We then come to how Dash feels and looks during a ride in all its technicolour glory.

Dash displays a colour wheel for power metrics or many other colourful fields based on your zones. If you curate the right screen for your needs the colour can really help highlight key performance metrics and whether you are on target – all from a quick glance.

stages dash m200 bright screen review

 

Being overly critical I would say that the buttons are a tad too spongy (but perfectly fine) and I would say that the UP arrow button is less easily pressed because of its central location – I would tend to use the right-most DOWN to scroll to my selection that way.

The screens tend to look better than reality in the official imagery but the screen IS great nonetheless.

Courses, Routes, Maps & Navigation – Stages Dash L200

I synced my courses from Strava, I could equally have added them manually or synced from Komoot, RwGPS or Stages Link.

Courses support both POIs and TBT instructions with road names if it comes from the source.

Stages have an excellent route builder but it doesn’t add much, if anything, over what you can get elsewhere in 2022. Advanced route building is a premium feature on several platforms and so it’s not a surprise that Stages requires a subscription. But you can use whatever type of account you already have with Strava, RwGPS or Komoot for no additional cost.

 

 

Structured Workouts & Plans – Stages Dash L200 Review

If you are following a plan or just looking to control a smart indoor trainer then you’ll almost certainly use structured workouts. Dash comes supplied with some pre-installed workouts and I used mine from Training Peaks, TrainerRoad works too. Pairing and controlling a Wahoo Kickr was great.

One great feature of Dash is its compliance borders or colour-coded workout metrics. Green is on-target and +/-5% is automatically coloured yellow and red is off-target. You can have multiple, active compliance metrics. These can be used to good effect on complex screens.

I won’t dwell on the Stages Workout Builder (subscription required) but it is excellent and integrates well with Dash. One particular feature I like is progression workouts where you can create one workout for your plan that progresses in difficulty over the weeks of your plan, for example adding additional reps or intensity.  the definition of the progression is stored in one workout and so you do not have to create and manage duplicates.

Here is an example of part of the workout builder (beats Garmin)

Stages Dash - Stages Link

Stage Link Advanced Analysis

Stages Link requires a subscription. You do get free post-ride analysis on the Stages Cycling App but the Stages Link platform is a much more powerful beast. Again, I won’t dwell on it too much as it requires a subscription.

 

 

 

Bugs

Bugs will be fixed soon enough.

The main issue that stood out to me was that workouts and courses were not immediately and silently synchronised over WiFi to the Dash from Strava and Training Peaks.

Stages Dash M200 L200

Accuracy – Stages Dash M200

Stages make a point of saying that elevation accuracy is +/-20cm with the barometric altimeter. Elevation is accurate providing the initial fix is good. GPS accuracy was less good but probably fine for most people.

Elevation Accuracy – Stages Dash M200

This one was from 3 hours of reasonably hilly cycling and the Dash is good, matching an elevation-corrected track.

GNSS / GPS Accuracy – Stages Dash M200

I compared the Dash M200 to several devices over several weeks and the accuracy is generally not great but just about acceptable. You can see here the tracks from one typical ride that the Dash, in green, just doesn’t hug the road as it should in places. These are the worst parts of the ride and I’d say otherwise it was fine

 

 

 

 

 

More Thoughts & Opinions

People are going to buy this great bike computer. But not so many. Those that do buy it will probably love it.

I’m not entirely sure what vision Stages have for their Dash units.

Stages listened to criticisms made about the previous generation of Dash bike computers. Buttons were fixed, mounts were changed, and Strava and Training Peaks integrations were made. Whilst fair, the headline prices for Dash remain in the ballpark of Garmin Edge/Wahoo Elemnt – with a slight discount in some cases.

However, Stages would also like you to subscribe for access to the course builder, workout builder and advanced analyses. That doesn’t make sense to me. Sure the workout builder is market-leading but I want superior features like those in the base price to tempt me away from Wahoo/Garmin. Plus I can easily get the rest of the more meaningful features offered by stages for free elsewhere.

Stages must realise the volume implications of their pricing – ie if it were cheaper they’d sell more. So perhaps the purpose of Dash units is to get added as sweeteners into Stages Bike deals, Stages Power Meter bundles or Giant bikes deals. I can’t see them making any market share gains in the aftermarket when people like you are faced with Garmin (the safe option), Wahoo (easy-to-use, just works), Hammerhead Karoo (feature-packed coolness).

So that all sounds a bit negative, right? Maybe. However if you just want a change from your Garmin then the Dash really does have a lot to offer.

Price, Discounts & Availability – Buy Stages Dash L200

These are not too widely available at launch. You should be able to get these from Giant/Stages stores plus at these links.

 

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