Tag Archives: Powertap

The planets have realigned

Late last evening I looked out my front door to find a small box that had been delivered by UPS. I instantly knew what it was, but as I opened the door to grab it I hoped it wasn’t a Christmas present ordered by the Beautiful Redhead for one of the Things Three. Ah, joy, it was what I thought it was… my refurbished Garmin Edge 705!

I’m really thankful that John James has let me use his PowerTap for about three weeks now. Frankly, I think he has enjoyed not having the computer connected to him when he’s riding. I’m glad to get him back on the ball-and-chain.

Me? I’ve been out of sorts because my Garmin busted right as I was starting a serious attempt at training with power. That is why John’s generosity was so important. Thankfully I didn’t miss a single session.

Still, it was weird using a system that I didn’t understand. It took me a while to feel comfortable with the PowerTap computer. I was always afraid that I would clear it when I went to set an interval. It was also very different from large display Garmin.

As soon as I got the box open, I cranked up the computer and configured it. Then it was down to the office where my Giant with its Quarq CinQo was sitting in the trainer. I popped the 705 into its mount and then spinned the crank. Nothing happened at first so I started to go through the 705 settings to rescan. Before I could get there the alert popped up that the powermeter had been found!


Today I’ll swap out the PowerTap rear wheel with my own and return the PowerTap wheels, wires, and head to John. Things will now be back to normal. Sure, it is a small thing, but when you are starting out on something new — something you are not sure of — it is good to have something comfortable be part of the process.

I do have to say that after using the PowerTap, I am very happy with the Garmin display. With eight possible configurable panels on the display (and a possible 16 with a simple switch)  it is very easy to have as much or as little information as you desire. That is going to be nice!

On the PowerTap I would have to scroll through the selections in order to see the cadence and the time elapsed. Since one of the things Jim is working with me is my cadence (yes, it is too low) I need to be able to keep an eye on it. At the same time, I need to keep an eye on the time elapsed for my intervals. The PowerTap head made that a challenge.

My Garmin screen will be configured with three display panels: 1) watts, 2) time, and 3) cadence.  On the second display that you can access by tapping the joy stick will have other information such as time of day, average watts, average cadence, etc.  Not only that, but a single push of a button will start my intervals.

Once again I find myself very pleased with the CinQo-Garmin combination. It isn’t that the PowerTap did not do the job. The data I received was not noticeably different. However, the ease of use and configurability of the former wins out in my experience.

Finally, once again, a big thank you to John James and Sunshine Cycle Shop. They have been taking care of me for over ten years now and I know they have my back. They can have yours too!

In case you haven’t noticed, it is dark out there

Monday was an important day in my training. It was the day I was to set my benchmark for my maximum power output. Coach was after my 5 second, 1 minute, and 5 minute power. I sure hope I got what he wanted!

I knew time would be of the essence, so I left to start the test at 4:30 PM. It was the earliest I could get out there. The test was supposed to take about 1.5 hours, so I hoped to be done with some light left.

Thing is there nearly wasn’t a test at all. On Saturday my Quarq CinQo stopped conversing with my Garmin 705. My first thought was that the problem was the Garmin. I reset it and tried all kinds of things to get it to pair once again with my power meter. Finally, I contacted Quarq early Sunday morning to get some advice.

I told them what I did with the Garmin and that I had changed the battery in the CinQo as well as made sure the magnets were in the correct position. Their response was that I did all I could do and that I would need to send it back to them. They were very helpful and sent my a FedEx shipping label and all.

Problem is I needed something to read my power for Monday! My crank and power meter on some plane somewhere heading to South Dakota wasn’t going to help me with my test. So, I went in search of something to use.

First, I went looking for an iBike. At some point, I would like to get one of those things. In the future it would be a good option for my second bike anyway. However, I wasn’t really wanting to fork out that money at this point. Plus, I wasn’t able to find one.

Jim Cunningham offered to allow me to use his SRM, but I knew that would be a lot of work to get all that switched over from one bike to another. If there was another option, I’d prefer to avoid all that stress. What to do?

I sent a text to my friend and Sunshine Cycle Shop manager, John James. I knew I was asking a big favor, but I wondered if he would let me use his Powertap. I knew this would be a good option because it would not take nearly the time or effort to setup as the SRM (or so I thought).

John was great (as usual) and I dropped my bike off in the morning to have the harness and rear wheel moved to my bike. Just before heading out on my test the bike was finished. Turns out it was a bear to get going. John had forgotten a part and called Strad Helms to do him a favor and pick it up from his house.

Then with everything installed, it still didn’t work! It seems that this entire experience of having a coach and trying to get this training underway has been one comedy of errors following another. However, John got it tracked down to a weak battery in the rear hub (one he had just recently replaced).

Soooooo, finally, I was underway. Of course, heading out of town there was a good amount of traffic at that time of day. Thankfully, the program started with a 10 minute warm up ride.  That nearly got me out of the city limits. I was able to start the first segment of the test with only a little bit of interruption because of traffic and traffic lights.

It was a good work out and as long as I used the Powertap correctly, I think I’ll have something good to show the coach. The only problem was that the last three segments were in the dark. Even before 6 PM things started to really get dark on me.

My front light ran out of battery and all I had was my rear light. The last two segments were to do an all out sprint for 15 seconds. I did it on a section of Old Buncombe Road with no street lights. I’m sure I was doing over 30 mph with absolutely no idea what type of asphalt was in front of me!

Thankfully, I didn’t hit anything — and nothing hit me! As I continued toward home after the test I kept trying to avoid the cars coming out of side roads. I felt bad for them since they could not see me. Only once was there a car that started to come out into the road. I was thankful for those that came up behind me. Their lights helped me see where I was going!

I’m afraid that there is going to be a good bit of trainer training going on this winter. If I lived out in the country, I might be tempted to ride at night with all my lights working. However, there is just too much traffic around the downtown area. Maybe I’ll try riding in morning next time… at least it can only get brighter.

My final word on the Quarq CinQo & Garmin 705

I’ve had several different contacts recently concerning my Quarq CinQo and Garmin 705 combination.  It finally drove me down to the basement to do some testing to see if there is a lag in the processing of the data.  I also had to ask myself that if there is a lag… do I really care?

Quarq CinQo Saturn

My SRAM S900 Quarq CinQo Saturn

Some information about me so you understand where I am coming from as I write this.  I am a Category 4 racer.  I do not have a training plan or a coach.  I have a power meter because I love playing around with data.  I am also interested in building a power profile for future training.

Why this power meter?  I was drawn to the Quarq CinQo because of the price, Quarq’s innovative approach to application development, and the fact it would work with my Garmin 705.  Since I already owned my Garmin, it made the price point on the CinQo very attractive.

I do not regret getting my Garmin 705.  I know that there are people who down it as a power collection computer because of some of the algorithms used.  However, as a cycling computer it is pretty stout.  I’m not just talking about the GPS portions.  If I were to buy another cycling computer, it would be another Garmin.

So, what about the two of them together?  What about this lag that people are complaining about?  I went to discover what was up.

First, I have been riding with my new CinQo power meter and Garmin 705 computer with updated firmware for several rides now.  Second, I have gone into my “lab” to test and see if I could isolate a consistent delay in data making its way to my Garmin.  I’m now ready to give my opinion.

In real life, I have to admit that I just don’t notice it.  My approach to data is to go out and ride.  When I’m done, I move the data to my laptop and then analyze what I’ve collected.  I notice no lag at all in that case.

Yes, there have been times when I will bottom out at the end of a downhill and then kick up a new incline.  I will look down at the computer and then start pedaling.  I came to notice that I would not see the data appear on the screen until I had completed one full revolution with each crank arm.

So, I moved it into the lab.  I put the bike on my stand, held the Garmin in one hand, and then started turning the crank with the other.  Let’s see what happens.

I started the crank at dead top center.  On the Garmin I saw a blank line where the power would be displayed. I turned one revolution.  The Garmin registered a zero, but no number.  Hmmmm.  I tried it again and this time did two revolutions.  After the first revolution the zero appeared and after the second the power reading came up.

Wow.  That was a delay.  Now, that didn’t seem to be consistent with what I was seeing out on the road.  Then I stumbled on something.

After bringing the crank to a stop, I started the revolution more quickly.  This time the Garmin was registering a zero before I started to turn the crank.  No sooner had I finished one revolution than I saw the power data appear on the Garmin.  I repeated this several times and could not even time the delay with my stop watch.

What appeared to be happening is that the Garmin would “go to sleep” after a time of inactivity from the CinQo.  When this happened, there was a more substantial delay (we’re talking around 1.5 seconds).  However, when the Garmin was “awake” I couldn’t get the watch started and stopped fast enough.

Quarq tells me that the CinQo starts sending the data at the conclusion of the first revolution.  This will always be the case as long as they are using the ANT+ protocol.  So, if you want power data collection as soon as you move your foot a fraction, I guess the CinQo isn’t for you.

The Garmin 705 appears to take about a half second to display the data (when it is awake – as it would be in most cases when on a ride).  If you take that half second and a quarter second for the CinQo to calculate and transmit, you will be looking at the potential of three-fourths of a second delay.

So, what is my opinion?  If I were to go out to buy a power meter, I would do the same thing again.  The cost of the CinQo is a big factor to me, but so is the fact that they are building their system for growth.  If I don’t like the Garmin, there are other computers I can connect it with — even the iBike.  There will be even more to come.

I ride with friends who have Powertaps.  One particular riding buddy is a very similar rider to me (a much more experienced rider, but very close in build and riding style).  It is very interesting to see how similar our data is in WKO+ following a ride.  I am confident my system is doing as good of a job as the Powertap system.

What about the SRM?  Well, they aren’t letting me test their meter and I can’t afford it.  I do like the SRM for one of the same reasons I like the CinQo over the Powertap – it is crank mounted and not part of the rear hub.  However, I cannot say that I have compared the two in any way.

Here is the bottom line for me.  I have had absolutely zero problems with the construction or capabilities of my CinQo.  The Garmin is a known item that might do so many things well it isn’t necessarily the best for collecting data.  To me, its other positives outweigh that negative.  I have been given no reason not to be happy with my Quarq CinQo.

The apparent lag?  I know it might be important to some people, but I just don’t care.  Perhaps if I were a professional it might be a bigger deal to me.  However, for an amateur like me, I highly recommend this system.

The Quarq CinQo has given me consistent data for multiple months. I can say that the data I’ve analyzed has told me a lot about myself.  I have adjusted my riding to strengthen my weak points and been encouraged by the gains I’ve seen.

They say that ignorance is bliss.  Perhaps I am just ignorant of some major flaw in the product.  I have not experienced anything close to being what I could call a flaw or failure.  I am a very happy Quarq – and Garmin – customer.  Someone is going to have to have a pretty strong argument to make me otherwise.

It was like an evening time one day classic

Last night I managed to get out on a group ride. Wednesday was a short spin for me, but that was the first time back on the bike since Sunday afternoon. It has been even longer since I had ridden in a group.

This was just an unofficial ride with some friends. Eight of us headed off toward the base of Paris Mountain and over near Travelers Rest. We would turn around out there and then head up Paris and then back home.

John James was out of the blocks fast. Matt Tebbetts, Matt Turner, and I were hanging on. Before long, we were away from the other riders.

Understand, this is not a No Man Left Behind kind of ride. It varies in purpose. Sometimes in the past it has been a conserve and then see if each member of the group can get his personal best up Paris. At other times it is simply a hammerfest to see how many riders are left at the end.

This ride was one of the later. Turns out John was working to keep his average power for the ride over 250 watts. Several times I looked down and saw numbers of 300 to 400. On one section where John and I were pulling up the road together I saw sustained wattage of over 500.

The four of us went looping through some roads between Furman and TR. On the way back, we turned onto the Swamp Rabbit trail and did some rough riding in honor of the classic going on over in Belgium. That was a lot of fun.

As we flew along the road we had John, Matt Tebbetts, and I in POA Cycling kits. Matt Turner was the odd man out with Les Amis colors. John slid back to me once and said, “I feel like we are away off the front in some one day classic.” If so, Mr. Turner was in trouble. Actually, he was riding very well and had put a hurting on me during a couple of pulls.

As we neared the base of Paris for the climb up, we saw Mike, Art, and Blair going toward Altamont on the Frontage Road. By the time we got there, they had already turned up for the climb. Too soon it was going to be our time to follow them.

I knew there would be no personal best for me tonight. My hope was that I could just make it to the top without the other riders creating to big of a gap on me. As soon as we turned up I knew that was going to be tough.

Before long it was just a line of red going up the climb as Tebbetts, John, and I got around Mike and Blair. Art was no where to be seen. I didn’t expect that we would catch him before the top.

Tebbetts kept talking about how he would see us at the top. I was jokingly accusing him of sandbagging. I know he wasn’t. The issue is that he just can’t stand not being with the leading group. He was going to work to stay there regardless of how he felt.

John and I were starting to get put into trouble as Matt just kept tapping out a steady cadence. Then John eased up a little to recover some energy. Then he moved to the front and created a gap between the other two of us.

When we got to the wall, I was behind the other two guys. I could see both guys ahead of me. John was going to get to the top first. Matt had a pretty good gap on me as well. Perhaps if he slowed I could catch him before the top.

I shifted to a slightly harder gear and slogged along after them. Matt beat me to the top, but I had gained on him enough to cross the line close to his rear wheel. Still, it was a bad night with a time of 13 minutes.

After waiting for Turner to join us at the top, we started down the other side. Now the group was larger with Mike, Blair, and Art joining us for the ride down. Blair and John took to lead. The rest of us followed.

Blair then went way off the front. I could tell that most of the riders decided that we were not going to allow him to make it to the bottom first. Turner moved up and started pulling us through the rolling sections. By the time we reached the downhill portion, he had brought us even with Blair.

There were several attacks before the final turns, but then it was just Blair on the front with me right on his wheel. I sat there and let his draft suck me down the road. No need to work here. It was just a matter of waiting for the right moment to go around him.

We made a right turn and then started into the final left sweeping turn. I slipped out of his draft and put the hammer down. My bike went by him with ease. It is amazing what the draft can do for you. I came through the final right turn onto the straight with lots of speed.

I’m sure I was hitting close to 50 mph at that point. My WKO+ says I registered 71.8 mph as my max speed. Obviously, the satellites got mixed up on that one! Looking back at my Garmin I see that it registered a top speed of 50.18.  Hmmm, I wonder what makes the big discrepancy?

There was one little sprint to close out the night. Once again I got in Blair’s draft and nipped him at the line. Then John came flying pass me saying as he passed, “I’m not trying to be a pill, I’m just trying to keep my power average high for the ride.” I took a breath and jumped on his wheel.

We finished together and had amazingly similar power averages. He uses a Powertap and I use a Quarq CinQo coupled with the Garmin 705. He is about 5 pounds lighter than I am, but was putting out more at some points. Had we switched power systems, I believe the results would have been the same.

That was a big effort. It was easily harder than any Donaldson Center ride I have been on this year. Come to think of it, that was probably the most effort I have put out in an hour and a half for a long, long time. You know what? It was a blast!