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  1. #1
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    Cycling Power Measuring Technology

    Why is it that cycling power measuring technology (power meters) never seems to advance to a point where it is readily available? Is it lack of demand (don't think so)? Or is it truly advanced technology that few companies can master? Over the last decade we've seen technology around quadruple in it's power and advancement (think of what PCs and handheld devices looked like 10 years ago). Yet, with cycling power meters, we're stuck with a handful of manufacturers and astronomical prices. I was hoping the new Garmin system (technology came from an acquisition) might provide some relief, but at this point it seems the preliminary pricing is quite high, and I don't even think it's on the market. My hope is that one day a reliable and affordable crankset based system comes to market.

    Does anyone have any insight into these products and technology? Care to share why it's so elusive and exclusive?

  2. #2
    jaded bitter joy crusher
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    Quote Originally Posted by rearviewmirror View Post
    Why is it that cycling power measuring technology (power meters) never seems to advance to a point where it is readily available?
    High fixed costs (R&D, design, testing, tooling, setup) to manufacture precision-measuring devices and a small volume for spreading those costs.

    If 100 million people wanted power meters, the price would plummet (think computers, cell phones, video-game systems, etc.). If the total market is in the ballpark of 10,000 then you're not getting serious economies of scale on the unit price to produce them and you're not spreading the fixed costs over that many units.
    Fredke commented in your thread. You won't believe what happens next!

  3. #3
    jaded bitter joy crusher
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fredke View Post
    High fixed costs (R&D, design, testing, tooling, setup) to manufacture precision-measuring devices and a small volume for spreading those costs.
    Here's how I see part of the problem.

    You're trying to build low-power-consumption, lightweight, low-noise, high-precision measuring equipment to operate for years with little to no maintenance in a hostile environment (dirt, water).

    You could make it cheaper by one or more of the following:
    1) Using honking big batteries
    2) Reduced battery life (need to recharge or replace batteries every two hours)
    3) Using big heavy housing to protect the components from the elements
    4) Using measuring devices that would drift, so the user would have to send it back to the factory for recalibration every few months.
    5) Making it disposable (i.e., likely to fail massively after a year or so)
    6) Reducing the accuracy (measurements plus or minus 20 watts, or subject to drift with changing temperature)
    7) Reducing the measurement frequency (updates every 20 seconds)

    There are probably other ways I haven't thought of to make it cheaper, but you get the picture.

    But cyclists are very demanding: one-second measurement frequency, stable accuracy plus or minus a couple of percent, long-lived, lightweight, long battery life, and no major maintenance over a several-year lifetime despite constant exposure to sand, dirt, mud, and water.

    And as I said above, there aren't enough of us to get the big economies of scale that mass-market electronics enjoy.
    Fredke commented in your thread. You won't believe what happens next!

  4. #4
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    ^ Great points, for the companies already developing it I think they could capitalize on their R&D investment by doing more volume, that will take a shift in pricing at some point. If heart rate monitors or GPS technology was over $2000, only a handful of people would have it because it's not "needed"; however, when the price drops, the volume increases exponentially. My point is that, over the last decade there has been very little change in power meter technology in availability and price, which doesn't fit the technology paradigm very well. I do understand the demand portion of it, but I still think demand will rise as price falls.

  5. #5
    Steaming piles of opinion
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    Quote Originally Posted by rearviewmirror View Post
    ^ Great points, for the companies already developing it I think they could capitalize on their R&D investment by doing more volume, that will take a shift in pricing at some point. If heart rate monitors or GPS technology was over $2000, only a handful of people would have it because it's not "needed"; however, when the price drops, the volume increases exponentially. My point is that, over the last decade there has been very little change in power meter technology in availability and price, which doesn't fit the technology paradigm very well. I do understand the demand portion of it, but I still think demand will rise as price falls.
    Perhaps. But even cadence and HR take a tiny overall slice among cycle computers, which take a tiny slice of bike riders, which is a tiny slice of the population. I can't quantify the market, but it can't be huge, even at, say $350 or so.

    The odd thing is that the individual technologies aren't all that crazy. ANT+ is a standard and comes on $35 sensors. Strain meters come in for a few bucks a piece. The chips and the programming to get meaningful data out of them can't be too huge. And hubs and/or cranks aren't all that complicated as machinery goes.

    But doing them all, well, from one shop? That's tricky stuff. If it wasn't, you'd or I would do it and make a killing.
    A good habit is as hard to break as a bad one..

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