My Pioneer power meter – A love story

 My bike with the power meter installed

My bike with the power meter installed

I will say straight off the bat, Pioneer are a big supporter of mine. Having said that, please believe that I have tried to remain objective with the words that follow.

I joined the Pioneer Team at the start of the year and have been using their “Pedal monitoring system” ever since. This system has 2 parts: a dual-leg power meter (true left/right power) and the Pioneer Cyclometer (computer). Being a true left/right power meter, means individual power meters can be found on both the left hand side crank (discretely on the inside of the crank arm) and less discretely as bling on the right hand side crank (in fashionable red or black caps).

Now what makes this power meter special you may ask? Well I’m glad you did because I will tell you exactly what appeals to me:

 

LEFT AND RIGHT

Pioneer is one of the very few power meters that will measure the power output from your left leg and right leg independently (and no, your Quarq does not, it estimates left leg power based off your right leg). At first glance this may seem like a feature for high-end riders or people interested in quantifying discrepancies in power output between left and right legs…and it is, but it is also very important in terms of giving the average user ACCURATE ABSOLUTE POWER (the all-important wattage number seen on your bike computer). The issue with left-only or right-only power meters is that if your legs produce different amounts of power, your total or absolute power will never be correct. Take mine for example. Since using my Pioneer power meter I have found that I consistently produce 48% of my total power from my left leg and 52% from my right leg (this figure is often exacerbated during efforts). So when I have had right only power meters in the past, I have often felt that given my power numbers I belong in a pro tour peloton rather than enduring a swim and run to boot. As an example if I were to generate 400w on my Pioneer, I could safely assume 208w was coming from my right leg and 192w were coming from my left. Based on this power from each leg, a right-only power meter would suggest I was generating 416W total where as a left-only would say 384w. Don’t get me wrong, one sided power meters have their place (if the price is right) all I am saying is left AND right should be the gold standard. As the saying goes, two power meters are always better than one.

 The complete set, ready to go.

 

DATA SAMPLING

Don’t worry, I won’t go into this too much. In short, this comes back to the accuracy of the power meter reading you see on the screen. The Pioneer power is the world’s first power meter to record power samples 12x per revolution (every 30 degrees). At each sample, the force vector is taken which allows you to see which direction you are applying power to the cranks. Basically, this allows you to see how hard your downstroke is vs your upstroke and everything in between. All I can tell you additional to this, is that it’s cool. You can see this information real-time on the Pioneer Cyclometer but I have found that information a bit too much to deal with during a ride. For me, this is much cooler to see afterwards (preferably with coffee in hand) on Pioneer’s own version of Training Peaks/Garmin connect, namely Cyclosphere (more on that in a bit).

 In action on the road - all the data you need to stay on track.

 

CYCLOMETER (computer)

Like I mentioned before, you can use your current ant+ cycle computer (Garmin Edge/ Forerunner, Magellan, Polar etc.) but you get extra readings when using a Pioneer Cyclometer (such as force graphs, pedal efficiency, torque effectiveness). The computer is a mix between SRMs PCx line and Garmin’s Edge. It sort of looks old-school to me but has A LOT of features. Coming from a Garmin Edge 810 I have been really impressed with the Pioneer Cyclometer (SGX-CA500) and can honestly say I prefer the simplicity of the display. The only thing I miss is my “Intensity Factor” field and perhaps Bluetooth at a stretch (but everyone knows WIFI trumps Bluetooth). For me cool features include:

-          Touchscreen

-          WIFI upload

-          Graphical display

-          One touch field expansion (just want to look at the power field, touch it once and it goes full screen)

 

CYCLOSPHERE (Pioneer’s data website)

I LOVE THIS SITE! Cyclosphere is strangely both intuitive and complex. You can look at data really simply (in a table) or view a route in a map or you can geek out and look at individual pedal strokes during the ride in graphical format (bars, scatters lines…you name it, they have it). Zooming and smoothing data is really easy too which is useful when analysing non-lapped intervals. Don’t get me wrong, I am still a Training Peaks user through and through (Cyclosphere is riding only) but when I really want detail on a ride, I am on Cyclosphere. It also links directly with Training Peaks, Strava and Twitter and Facebook. I have included a link below to my 2015 Busselton 70.3 bike data on Cyclosphere. Here you will be able to see the general layout of cyclosphere as well as how the power is recorded and viewed. NB. You will only have basic access to my data.

Busso 70.3 Bike data on cyclosphere

ITEMS OF NOTE

The Pioneer system is designed to be used on either Dura-Ace 9000 or Ultegra 6800 cranks. This precludes the use of non-circular chainrings given the shape of the pod and the way it is mounted to the crank on the right hand side. I have been told there are ways around this but I have since switched to conventional shaped chainrings for ease of use for the time being. The benefits of this process is that if you currently own one of these cranksets, you can pick up a very, very reasonably priced power meter, and with that…..

 

 

PRICE

The final topic to cover is of course the price of the Pioneer system. In recent times, prices of power meters in general have plummeted as the market has become more competitive with the exception of perhaps SRM. Pioneer has come to party with this trend in falling prices. Whilst the dual-leg systems isn't the cheapest, it is definitely not the most expensive either. The Pioneer pedal monitoring system (SGY-PM910) is certainly the most advanced power meter on the market today and in my opinion, the best value for money given the technology packed into the unit. The pioneer system retails for 1499 AUD if you supply your own Dura Ace 9000 or Ultegra 6800 cranks. To buy the system pre-fitted including cranks you are looking at 1759 AUD for Ultegra or just over $2000 AUD for Dura Ace. There are plenty of Australian dealers that stock the Pioneer systems though my unbiased suggestion is that you go see the boys at Ride Advice Cyclery in Perth CBD for the hook up.

I hope you have enjoyed my take on the Pioneer power meter or SGY-PM910. I will say, as good as the Pioneer power meter and cyclocomputer is…. the naming of the various componentry could use a bit of work. Finally, for those of you who are either perfectly symmetrical or prefer to opt for something a little more affordable, Pioneer have just released a left-only option at a lower price point (to compete with the likes of Stages). This is effectively one half of the current dual-leg system. The ingenious thing about this configuration is that you can start with the left-only power meter and add the right-side when either your symmetry becomes limited or if funds become readily available (the latter is far less likely for triathletes). Being the tireless investigative reporter that I am, I won’t rest until I can get up close and personal with Pioneer’s left-only version in order to bring you the exclusive scoop ;)

 

Until then…