Power meters have flooded the market in various shapes, sizes and prices in the last few years. There are hub based, crank based, wind based and pedal based options, left crank only, single pedal units, shoe mounted units, glue-it-on-yourself units and send away your crank units. Needless to say, the days of there only really being SRM units, are well and truly gone. Pioneer was somewhat of a surprise entrant into the expanding power meter market when they first launched their dual sided crank based product a few years ago. However, the functions offered by the meter and its association with professional team Lotto Jumbo indicated that they were to become a serious player.
The Pioneer Gen 2 Power Meter is a crank based system with strain gauges mounted on both left and right crank arms to allow for independent measurement. The Pioneer system offers the unique ability for real time analysis of pedal stroke in terms of left and right pedalling ‘efficiency’ and a display of the force vectors applied by each foot. These are displayed visually as force vectors (aka: lines) at 12 locations around the crank revolution. The pedalling efficiency can be shown just like any other data field: for the left side and right side, as an instantaneous measurement, or averaged over the lap or workout. Similarly, the combination left-right efficiency is viewable. These force vector and efficiency metrics are obtained via the strain gauges returning data for forces in both the radial (in line with the crank) and rotational directions. The resulting vector allows the forces applied during the pedal stroke to be analysed in greater detail than most power meters can. The efficiency metric is a measure of the proportion of the rider’s pedalling force which is being applied as rotational force.
The power meter is Ant+ enabled allowing it to be paired with most common bike computers such as Garmins. Importantly however, the aforementioned features are only accessible when the power meter is paired with the Pioneer SGX-CA500 head unit which is sold separately ($349).
It is recommended that installation of the power meter is performed by a qualified distributor, however it is quite feasible for the individual to install themselves. The most difficult part is getting the correct placement of the two magnets on each side of the bottom bracket. These magnets are necessary in order to enable the Pioneer unit to determine high positional accuracy for the 12 point vector analysis. Once the physical unit is in place, connection and calibration with the head unit is reasonably straightforward.
The head unit itself is both a strength and drawback of the Pioneer system. It is a touchscreen unit allowing the user to swipe through display screens and perform more direct actions via long press such as selecting individual data fields to modify. It provides wifi connectivity and can directly upload to Cyclosphere (Pioneer’s analysis software), which can then sync to third party platforms such as Strava.
The Cyclosphere Software is an interesting part of the Pioneer power package and capable of a huge amount of analysis. The design of Cyclosphere looks very dated however, which despite not affecting functionality, will be a bit off putting for many users.
This brings us to the discussion of the usefulness of the vector analysis and efficiency metric. There is no doubt that these are quite fascinating features, allowing the rider some interesting insight into their riding. However, what is more doubtful is whether the average rider can use the information provided to any useful effect in their training.
Power measurements themselves are the core business of any power meter, and the Pioneer unit from all accounts is highly accurate. At a recommended retail of $1499 (when you provide your own chainset), this unit is competitively priced, especially for a dual sided unit. The value decreases if the head unit is also purchased. Lower priced single sided variants are available too and can also be installed on your crank if you send it to them and priced from just $799.
The unit itself is built robustly and while this was a short term test, the build quality indicates that it should hopefully be reliable over the longer term. The Gen 2 units are in use by Lotto Jumbo cycling team and apart from publicity, this requires a level of reliability and robustness, as well as the opportunity to elicit devlopment feedback.
In the Gen 2 model, Pioneer provide a robust system which, if anything, provides too many features for all but the biggest of data lovers.
Pioneer Gen 2 Power Meter
RRP: $1,499 (when cranks are provided)
SGX-CA500 Head Unit
Distributor: FRF Sports www.frfsports.com