iBike Pro III: Simpler Power

I’ve never been a training ride with my bros, when we’ve not stopped for a teammate to mess with their Powertap; to make sure they get the last possible watt measured, set their intervals up, they forgot to set it right, or something. While Powertaps have certainly improved from the days of failing on the bike, they’re still a complicated on-board, super-power-measuring computer. I’m not a Powertap user and have nothing bad to say about their devices – dudes swear by them, I know.

Kona: measuring

But I’ve avoided Powertaps because I don’t want to over-complicate my riding and train with another computer – I usually just need to ride consistently to get into shape. I spent enough time messing with the first Polar power meter and pulled that off the bike after a season. The Polar was (still is?) poorly engineered. I could sort of understand measuring chain vibrations, but not cords next to pulleys, small connection points, and how it sucked up battery life. SRM isn’t in my consideration for the same reason as Powertap.

iBike is going on 3 years in the market and I’ve seen them on an increasing number of bikes on rides and at races. iBike approaches power meters differently and a big-brained engineer applied Newton’s 3rd law that resistive forces must exactly equal applied forces:

“Power measurement is really about the measurement of force: Power = Force x Speed. Cyclists apply forces to bike pedals in order to overcome the forces resisting forward motion (hill climbs, wind resistance, rolling resistance, acceleration, etc.). Traditional power meters measure the forces applied by the cyclist. The new iBike Pro is the first power meter that measures the resistive forces working against the cyclist.”

I met John Hamann, CEO of iBike, at Interbike and learned that iBike is targeting fitness rides with a new, even easier-to-use model. Simpler power measuring is what I’m interested in and received an iBike Pro III unit just before our Kona trip.

Do the Hokey-Pokey

If you follow power meters, you’ve probably heard about the iBike Hokey Pokey – the setup process of leveling the bike, turning it around, coasting down, and a 4 mile ride. While the obsessive amongst us would do that several times with aero helmet/skin suit and without, I just followed the quick start guide (pdf) and started riding. (Note: vacation rules permit only so much time for these matters, I’ll re-calibrate back home).

The iBike was a quick setup and I’ve been measuring my rides here on Kona (iBke file). I’ve shared the files with Andrew and Joe (coach, teammate) and they think the power numbers are low compared to their Powertaps; possibly, but even if the iBike doesn’t measure like SRM or Powertaps, I can still baseline power and the measurements are definitely good enough (iBike would argue even better).

I’ll take the simplicity over complexity and I’ll let you read all the marketing and determine which unit is best. For the riding and training I’m doing, and the fitness rider, the iBike is a good choice. I’ll keep the iBike a while longer and report back on more rides and how it does in 40 degress and raining.

Cargo Power

The iBike is simple enough to setup, with two sensors and a head unit, that I’m going to put it on Bettie – why not? I’d like to know how much power I’m putting out when delivering the goods. I think other Cargonistas would like to know as well; especially when I turn on the Stokemonkey.

A few issues

iBike has lots of screens, but I can’t see time and my averages on one of them. iBike addresses this with programmable intervals. Considering my workouts change with every ride that’s a hassle. I’d rather just have a watch on the screen.

The setup process, while simplified, still has lots of screens and I get lost frequently on what is a change, accepting it, and how to exit setup. For a while, I was in trainer mode (settings for the wind trainer) and don’t even know how I did that – I’d find myself just pushing the buttons and toggling screens until I got what I wanted.

I also noticed that iBike doesn’t seem to measure when I’m on a descent, with a tailwind, and cranking. I guess that’s in their formula, but I know I’m putting out power, staying on top of the gear, and not sure if iBike is measuring that or not.

Mac Compatible

iBike 3 Mac Software Hooray! The iBike Pro is compatible with Macs – install the software, connect the head unit, and you’re looking at power files. The software isn’t Mac native, installs some odd usb drivers, but hey it works and cool. It’s also free.

I also use CyclingPeaks software to share files with a coach; both online and on the desktop. Note that Peaksware (makers of the software and website) has an unusally restrictive licensing policy for moving the software to another machine and using it on more than one machine. Where most software allows you to use it on a desktop and laptop, CyclingPeaks does not. I think that’s because of their CD-key DRM scheme. I asked their CEO about this matter and he said:

“We do our best to efficiently support customers who want to move the product from computer to computer during upgrades. The policy is simply a business decision. Our pricing is based on single computer installations with a significant discount for people who want to use it on more than one computer.”

Thanks! Donavon Guyot CEO

That business decisions is contrary to software makers such as Microsoft, Adobe, and every other application I own. If you’re considering power-measuring software and a Mac user, iBike wins.

Power is Relative

When considering power meters, remember that the measurements are relative to you. While it didn’t do well on the road, the Polar Power Unit worked great on the trainer and I also have a Taxc with power and it works well, measuring my workouts and I plan power training with it. This comparison chart shows 4 meters on the same bike. iBike is usually lower and SRM higher, which is why the Pros love SRM.

Training with power has matured and become more mainstream, welcoming more riders than just the pros and yes it can make a difference, that last 10 - 15% in a race, a tour, or dropping your buddies on the weekends.

For more on power, check these resouces.

Related Reviews

More iBike reviews and discussion.



10 Comments

Hey Byron,

It’s Boyd from the DLP team and from iBike. I took a look at your file and I figured out why it’s reading a little off. You need to go into the calibration ride setting and ride out two miles and back two miles.

Also, it looks like your weight is the default weight and hasn’t been changed in the settings. Remember it’s bike weight+rider weight+clothes.

Give me an email at boyd (at) totalcyclist dot com and I will walk you through setting this up so you have the type of results I get on all my rides.

Take Care
Boyd

Another iBike guy making a posting!

The iBike 3 app is fully Mac native.

Thanks Boyd. I’ll withhold any final review, as I noted above, I plan on recalibrating and doing the full procedure back at Hugga HQ. I was on vacation with body surfing and snorkeling awaiting me each day. Also, Kona’s terrain and wind conditions are not conducive to the full-on iBike setup.

@john,

To clarify, the app works great on the Mac, but is not OS X native. That means it’s not using native windows and other UI interfaces.

I had a similar experience with CyclingPeaks, probably even worse. I was looking to moving my license to a completely different computer when the one I had died. When I talked to their support, they said I needed to purchase another license to install the software on another computer, even after I specified I just wanted to move my current license.

Too strict if you ask me..

@mm,

You and others have had the same problems. CyclingPeaks has been responsive to my questions and I doubt there’s a large market for pirated power software, so it’s their CD-key redemption method of validating the software and probably a tech support nightmare. They have helped me move my software once—a very complicated procedure, but nothing on my local and travel mac setup, other than buying two copies of the software.

My setup is complicated by the fact that I use VMWare fusion to run XP. Cyclingpeaks does accept every power meter file and worked with us early on when testing the Tacx, but their licensing model is more strict than Microsoft, who explicitly allows two computers.

Note that there’s a balance between fair use and a business’ right to profit from their work. Also, for Boot Camp users you can now move that partition to a new computer by using [Winclone](http://twocanoes.com/winclone/) and avoid reinstalling and activating all your software. It’s the same virtual machine, just duped to another computer. Windows does require re-activation.

I don’t know the detailed definition of the term “Mac Native” but I’m sure yours is fine.  The point I do want to make is that the Mac version of iBike 3 is compiled for use with the Mac (Intel and PPC versions) and that iBike 3 runs as a full Mac application.  The iBike 3 Mac application is NOT a Windows app that is running with a Mac emulator.

@John,

We’re just talking different terms, what I mean is, it looks like the software was converted from a multi-platform environment and that’s perfectly fine, but it’s not running with the Apple Interface Builder templates. In other words, it’s not gun-metal gray, and not built in Xcode/Cocoa.

@John,

I think Byron’s point (and it was something I noticed in the screenshot he posted before he ever posted the review) is that iBike is clearly built with a multiplatform development environment (like Tcl/Tk) whose widgets and environment are a compromise among platforms, instead of what Mac users consider a “native Mac app”, usually built with Xcode and Interface Builder, which has standard Mac menus, widgets, etc., by default.

@Frank

That’s correct; for example the installers don’t run with .dmgs as a native OSX app would do and force a restart. These are just observations and believe me, we’re thrilled here at Hugga HQ to get a Mac power meter application. The USB drivers are the ones that made me the most nervous, with the abrupt install (who knows what it put where and why), no payload description, read me and it causes kernel panics when connected to VMWare fusion.

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