Streamlines FORMA Review

Streamlines Forma reviewStreamlines FORMA Review

Streamlines FORMA is my favourite performance cycling product of 2023 and here’s my critical review based on a variety of rides over 2 weeks.

It has one job and it does it well. Plus, it plays nicely with Garmin Edge bike computers.

Q: Where’s the catch?

A: Apart from the cost, there’s no catch. It’s a great product for a performance cyclist.

What is Streamlines FORMA?

It’s a Garmin-compatible cycling position monitor

Streamlines FORMA is a small, lightweight pod that sits on your handlebar stem and measures distances to various parts of your body in real-time while you ride. Garmin Edge then uses that information in real-time and graphically shows if you deviate from your calibrated position; you adjust your ride position accordingly.

3 body positions are recorded into a FIT file with lap averages.

That’s pretty much it.

Maintaining a good aero position will bring mere mortals significant performance gains…more than fabled ‘marginal’ gains.

Jumbo Visma is impressed enough to use it.

What FORMA doesn’t do

My understanding is that FORMA was ‘accidentally’ invented as a standalone product during the development of a full bike aero system project. It was just one small component but it soon became obvious it had a standalone use too

Thus FORMA CANNOT help you with finding the ideal aero position. But it CAN AND DOES make you aware of how you deviate from such a riding position that you may have arrived at from a wind tunnel session or bike fit or even a bit of guesswork.

FORMA takes no CdA measurements nor does it integrate its data with power levels.

Q: Can I use it in a race

A: Yes. However, the UCI has not been approached about its legality in ‘proper’ races.

Who is Streamlines FORMA aimed at?

FORMA is a pro-level product. But it’s also going to be of interest to keen amateurs, most obviously anyone who takes Time Trialing seriously.

FORMA’s Problems

Here are the problems I encountered. I don’t think any are showstoppers for the company and I’m just mentioning them for completeness.

  • Easily comes off a standard Garmin mount. It needs either a tether or smaller manufacturing tolerances
  • Setting up the product is fiddly. This comment is perhaps more of an indictment of how Garmin’s widgets and data fields work and I guess Streamlines had no choice other than to work how it does.
  • When set up on the ‘stem’ of my TT bike, it’s not readily visible without glancing down. Even then, my short-distance vision isn’t great and the CIQ data field display is relatively small. Having it as a full-screen data field would then mean I have to page through screens during a race/ride (that’s not going to happen). Perversely, when riding on aerobars, having the data field on a Garmin watch would make it more readable for me if worn on the underside of the wrist.
  • I’m using a Garmin Edge 540 and the company’s CIQ DF/app didn’t work properly at first but do now. Forerunners/Fenix are not supported.
  • Rider/Bike combinations can’t be individually saved unless you manually take note of the readings and re-enter them later.
  • It needs an auto power-off facility. Otherwise, it’s yet another product I forget to turn off and then find it devoid of power when I want to use it. It does seem to recharge quickly to a point where it works.
  • The setup manual could be clearer. Some of the wording is vague.
  • You need to wear tight clothing to get an accurate distance reading
  • When on the bike, FORMA can move several centimetres as it is on a spring-loaded mount. This is not a problem per se. However, it can move independently of the bike on bumpy or rough roads but will quickly return to position. It’s just that when it moves like this it doesn’t display an accurate position. I would say it doesn’t normally move.

Streamlines Forma laser light adjustment knob

Streamlines FORMA Setup

There are 4 stages to the product setup: the physical fitting to the bike; installation of the CIQ software; ‘gross’ calibration and daily fine-tuned calibration.

Fitting to the bike

I put a standard Garmin stem mount on my road bike and it just so happened that the same mount would fit my TT bike’s aerobars. You might have to find a creative solution for your specific bike but I would guess that most bikes will work either with the stem mount or one of two mounts that Streamlines sell.

The secondary issue is that you will probably want to fit both your Garmin Edge bike computer AND the FORMA to your bars which needs more space than normal. This was fine for me but just think about how you will do it.

Streamlines Forma ciq

Install the CIQ Software

You will need to install FORMA’s CIQ data field and CIQ widget. I’m assuming you know how to load and use both of these in the usual way. Technically you don’t need the widget but it makes the calibration a bit easier.

There is also a smartphone app. There are no firmware updates at the time of writing so I didn’t need to use this.

Gross Calibration

There are two positioning switches on FORMA. One at the front and one at the back. These change the ‘gross’ positions of the sensors before you do the fine-tuning of a calibration. I’ll leave you to read the manual. But I had both flipped UP.

Next, you press the ON button 3 times and a bright red laser appears for 20 seconds or so. Put some masking tape on your sternum and get someone else to twiddle the knob on the front of FORMA until the laser points at your sternum whilst in your ride position.

Daily Calibration

This is the easy bit.

Calibrated positions are permanently stored but will need to recalibrate on a new bike or with even the smallest positional change and perhaps even with different clothing.

I used the widget to calibrate my position rather than the data field. You press CALIBRATE and then have about 3 seconds to settle into position which can then be saved in both the widget and data field. You can enter or change these values manually in Garmin Express or the Garmin Connect IQ smartphone app, or simply recalibrate.

General Ride Experience

It’s just a case of turning on your Garmin and the FORMA. They pair quickly and automatically.

FORMA’s data field has two curved bars, one representing the range of travel for your head position and one for your waist position. A dot on the curve represents your current position over the last 3 seconds, or so, and moves as you do with only a very slight lag. As you get further from the reference position, a red colour coding will alert you.

The data field needs a good half of the screen to be easily visible to me. Perhaps the company could make better use of the colouration and screen real estate. It’s OK though. It’s certainly actionable but perhaps could be improved.

Streamlines Forma usb charging
USB Charging

My Ride Experiences

I used my road bike and TT bike for some harder efforts (2-ish minute sprints, 20-minute tempo, that kind of thing). The stark truth is that FORMA tells me I’m not as good at maintaining my position as I thought I was!

What I found surprising was that my head position was mostly OK. It was more that my back was arching to alleviate fatigue and open up my hips.

I used FORMA a little bit indoors on the Wahoo KICKR. It worked perfectly fine indoors, it doesn’t need wind or motion.

Post Ride Data

The positional information is stored in the FIT file as a developer field. At the time of writing, I don’t think Training Peaks can show the data. It’s easy enough for them to add though, the same would apply to Golden Cheetah and others.

Here you can see two recorded laps. the second had a better position overall but was slower albeit not on the same piece of road and cars/roundabouts played their part too.

Road Bike

The same data is available in Connect with overlays such as power or heart rate

 

or just the raw chart

more

Streamlines plans to add charting capabilities to the online dashboard in a few weeks. With charts like this

More: Streamlines FORMA Manual

Streamlines FORMA Review Summary

At £475 it’s an expensive product but one which can deliver performance gains to competitive cyclists who want to maintain the optimal ride positions in races that they determined in wind tunnels or from bike fits.

More: streamlines.aero

 

Streamlines FORMA Review
68%

Verdict: Streamlines FORMA is my favourite performance cycling product of 2023

Realise performance gains from the bike fit and wind tunnel in real life.

 

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