Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Vector pedal stroke analysis metrics available

Fulfilling a long-term promise, the Garmin Vector now does pedalstroke analysis! See DC Rainmaker's excellent blog post on the latest firmware update.

The new metrics include:

  1. pedal force offset: this measures how far outboard or inboard the average force is applied.
  2. pedal power stroke: this measures over which angles peak propulsive force is applied
  3. seated versus standing time: if you're standing, the pedals support full body weight (non-propulsive), so the Vector can determine how much time you're standing versus sitting (and record whether you're standing or sitting).

Various applications for these metrics would be bike fit, technique analysis, and interpretation of performance. For the pedal force offset, that obviously suggests a bike fit application. "Power stroke" suggests both fit and technique. Standing versus seating suggests performance analysis: am I faster seated or standing on short steep climbs? What about long sustained climbs?

More data is almost never a good thing. The key is how to act on it.

On fit, saddle height optimization is an obvious application. Can I see some signature in the metrics of the saddle being too high? Does the power stroke compress as the bottom of the pedal stroke becomes less accessible when the seat is too high? Does the top of the pedal stroke becomes less productive when the saddle is too low? I don't know.

My key objection is that the update is provided only for the 510, 810, and 1000. For me, the 500 is the best unit most of the time: it's the most compact, the lightest, and it's relatively easy to use. In most cases, I analyze the data after the event: I don't need diverse metrics displayed during the ride. The numbers are produced by the Vector, not the head unit, since they involve samples taken at substantially higher than the 1-per-second rate of the head unit. So updating the head unit would be simply a matter of accepting the associated data field types. As far as I'm concerned, they don't even need to be displayable. I just want them to be recorded.

Rainmaker made the argument that the Edge 500 is 5 years old now and you can't expect Garmin to continue to support 5-year-old hardware. But this is misleading: the unit isn't some deprecated unit which has been displaced by a superior product in the same space. But they don't, and the Edge 500 is still manufactured and is still popular. If you walk into a bike shop and see it for sale today, that it's 5 years old is trivia. As far as you're concerned it's a current product.

The key point here is that this isn't about increasing the value of an Edge 500, which already has well-established value. Rather this is about increasing the value of the Vector, a much newer unit, so that it works fully with the Edge 500.

So I wish Garmin would fix this unfortunate decision: after spending $1500 on a Vector, customers committed to the 500 shouldn't miss out on important functionality which differentiates the Vector from cheaper alternatives.

No comments: