Batteries, batteries everywhere

I had a bit of fun putting my iBike Aero on my Draft fixed gear bike. The fun ended when I just could not get the iBike to configure correctly. Perhaps my experience might help some other iBike users avoid some frustrations.

My setup works this way… instead of the two sensors (one for the crank arm to measure rpm and one for the wheel to measure speed), I use a Garmin cadence sensor that allows me to mount the unit in one location on my chain stay for both readings. This helps cut down on the “senor clutter” on the bike. Thankfully, the iBike Aero with the wireless base allows you to install firmware that allows the two devices to communicate.

I am using the wireless base for the iBike unit on my stem. The data collected from the Garmin sensor and the various data collection points on the Aero is then communicated to my Garmin Edge 500 that is mounted on my top tube near the base of my seat post. I could just as well carry it in my back pocket. I don’t plan to look at the Garmin, but I do want to keep my data collection consistent when it comes time to upload the ride information to WKO+. This setup allows me to keep using my Garmin to communicate with my coaching software.

So, what is the problem? The problem is I could not get my iBike to configure correctly. It all had to do with the “tilt” configuration. My understanding is that the iBike uses gravity as one of the important forces from which it calculates the power reading. Obviously, going up and coming down an incline affects the way gravity exerts its laws on you. In simple terms the “tilt” measurement helps calibrate the device’s awareness of gravity.

When setting up the device you are told to place the bike on level ground and mark where the wheels touch the ground. You then start the calibration process. The device screen tells you to HOLD STILL. The printed instructions say to hold VERY still. That capitalized VERY always played with my confidence. It gives you the impression that it is VERY easy to mess up this process.

You then turn the bike 180 degrees making sure that the rear wheel is now place where the front wheel was once. This done you push a button and once again hold VERY still. After another 180 degree turn that puts your bike back in the original position and another few seconds of holding VERY still, you should receive a message on the screen that says, “Good tilt.”

My problem is that it said, “Bad tilt.” I tried and tried again and again. I even set it up so that I could let the bike stand without me touching it. Unless there was some underground tremor I was unaware of that bike was VERY, VERY still. “Bad tilt,” the iBike continued to say.

I then took the iBike and placed it on the USB mount that connects it to my computer. FYI, the iBike only comes on when you connect it to the base. One base is the one used to connect to your computer, the other base is on your bike. Once I got the iBike on the USB base, I went through the process on a flat table. On the first try I got a “Good tilt ” message.

What on earth?! I went back to the bike and raised the spacers and flipped the stem in order to create a flatter angle on which to mount the iBike. Perhaps the device was on too steep of an angle on the bike.

Still no go.

I did notice the screen of the Aero was a little hard to read. Perhaps my problem was a battery issue. I had already replaced the battery in the Garmin cadence sensor because the iBike kept losing the connection with it. I thought for sure I had a new battery in the Aero, but I tried again.

Still no go.

There was only one other battery left. It was the one in the wireless base mount there on my stem. However, I didn’t see how that would be the issue. The iBike has its own battery and the battery in the mount only powered the wireless chip, right?

Anyway, I took another 2032 battery and dropped it into the mount with the + up. I knew something was different right away. The contrast on the Aero screen was greatly improved. Suddenly, I was full of hope!

Set. Hold VERY still. 180. Set. Hold VERY still. 180. Set. Hold VERY still.

GOOD TILT!

What a relief! I had almost come to the point where I thought I had broken one of the sensors inside the Aero when I wrecked back in May. It is a testament to the unit that it survived the hit it took during that race. What a relief that it was just a battery!

So, now I understand that the battery in the iBike mount does more than provide power for the wireless. It also helps to power the iBike unit. If you ever have trouble getting you tilt to work, be sure you replace the batteries in both your iBike unit and stem mount.

Now it is time to go out and do my first calibration ride on the fixed gear. That done, I’ll be able to train with power using both my fixed gear and my road bike (using the Quarq CinQo). Good thing because my training starts tomorrow.