Long Promised Joule 2.0 review

Well, man, this has been tough. I decided a while back to purchase and try a Joule 2.0 from Cycleops, and it basically took me most of the summer to really get my head around it. I’ll go in to more detail as we go, and I’ll try to post some photos, but in a nutshell, it is ALMOST my favorite on-bike Power Meter head unit. I’ll explain the almost as we go along…

After over a decade in which Power-Tap used their now-ubiquitous “Little Yellow Computer”, it became obvious as technology progressed that a more capable bike computer was a necessity. Other head units have added features and functions, and the Little Yellow Computer (from hereon called the “LYC) just wasn’t cutting it. Savvy cyclists needed more memory, more windows, more multifunctions, longer lasting batteries, backlights, uploads, downloads, and all sorts of things. Based on my own experiences, the following is my own list of wants and needs for the Ultimate on-bike Power Receiving Device.

  • Gobs of memory – the ability to store weeks and months of rides, if not years of rides, in one location. You can NEVER have enough places to back things up.
  • Long Lasting Batteries. Something that would last at least 6 hours while recording everything, and including a backlight for indoor use, as well as cloudy days.
  • The ability to read TSS, IF, and PNorm, not JUST on an overall ride basis, but also on a per-interval basis. I know this may cause some controversy, but way back in 2002 and 2003, when I was learning about TSS, I believed that  PNorm was probably more important on a per-interval basis (especially for longer intervals), than it might be for overall ride purposes, because it yielded a more realistic ‘physiological effect’ that would account for things like rolling terrain, traffic, road conditions, and the like.
  • A Barometer to read elevation and feet or meters climbed.
  • The ability to switch from bike to bike to bike, using the new ANT+ Sport technology so that each bike’s unique power meter, speed sensor, cadence sensor, and heart rate sensor, could be stored, and called up with a minimal amount of hassle.
  • On-screen torque zeroing and calibration.
  • Customizable screens showing what I wanted to see, and when. Something very malleable.
  • GPS
  • Cost below $500
  • Weight below 200g
  • Either USB upload/download and charge, or wireless upload/download and charge.
  • Easy navigation and intuitive menus.
  • Must be robust enough to withstand the elements, sweat, and crashes.

Well, you know, this is a tough list, but honestly, I think the Joule almost made it.

Let’s start by going down the list of features for the Joule 2.0, based on my own list above, okay?

  • Gobs of memory – CHECK. Joule offers over 20 hours of memory in 1-second recordings, and can store summaries for up to a year’s worth of rides. This one was big, and it helps a ton.
  • Long Lasting Batteries – CHECK, SORT OF. My own experience with the Joule was that it definitely lasted the necessary 6-8 hours per ride, but that if you keep the backlight on, which I’m prone to, it’ll run down in less than 5 hours. Comparing it to the 705, I don’t think it has as long a battery life, but I think they must be using either smaller or cheaper batteries. The Joule also just has a mono-color screen, so the battery life sort of puzzles me. Still, it’s worked for just about every ride I’ve been on for any duration, though the battery signal does drop about every hour or 90 minutes.
  • The ability to read WKO+/Coggan/Allen Metrics. OH HALLELUJAH I THINK WE FINALLY GOT A GOOD ONE HERE! YES! But wait…. The formula used by the Joule is ever so slightly different than the one used on WKO+, and, well, if anything, the Joule’s on-screen TSS scores tend to read a little high at the end of the day. It’s not the worst thing in the world, and I suspect it has more to do with the way the Joule is recording or not recording zeros and stops when I’m in traffic, but comparing the Joule’s downloaded TSS scores with the exact same data from a Garmin 705 that is just kept running, regardless of stops, always reveals that the Garmin’s values are higher, and closer, to the numbers read on the Joule’s head unit itself. It’s a bit of a mystery, but honestly, I think I can handle it. I just have to ride about 2-5% harder or longer to get the desired TSS scores on WKO+. IF for an interval is nice, so that you know how hard you’re riding in each interval, as is the ability to reveal wattage zones, and Pnorm, all on the same screen as time. TSS for intervals isn’t as important for me, but the Joule presents just about all the information you need to know on a per-ride and a per-interval basis, which is VERY helpful.

I figured I better post this. More to come.


4 Responses to “Long Promised Joule 2.0 review”

  1. 2010/09/29 at 6:05 pm

    What about the handlebar mount? I’ve lost two LYCs this year and want to make sure the replacement I buy doesn’t suffer the same fate!

    • 2010/09/29 at 8:00 pm

      You bring up a great point – the handlebar mount is solid, at least from what I’ve been able to determine. It’s actually pretty hard for me to get the Joule 2.0 off the stem. The tab is just plain tough.

      I owe y’all photos, but honestly, I’m still figuring out why the Joule 2.0’s TSS scores are always a good 10% lower (more when you go through traffic), than when I read them on WKO+. I think that’s the biggest downfall on the thing. Still, there is a LOT to like.

    2010/10/17 at 1:30 pm

    Does your Joule 2.0 overstate cumulative ascent? I’ve tried two head units from them now, both of which measure 20%-50% greater cumulative ascent than my Suunto watch or a Garmin head unit (or a simple elevation change table). It also looks like the grade % is overstated while climbing.

    • 2011/06/27 at 7:42 am

      Norum – sorry I did not respond to this comment earlier. Let’s just say I have a LOT of catching up to do on this blog and the CCD blog.

      I think the Joule works on barometer readings, while the 705 I have works on both barometer and GPS. There is a delta between the two, but I tend to rely on the 705 for elevation.

      One of my pet peeves about the Joule is that last year, when I tried to use the VAM feature, it would not reset VAM to zero on intervals, and I had to look at it later on, after downloading. VAM is not used by WKO+, but I venture that it does have some merit.

      The recent release of the new Joule, which should be available Q4 of 2011, uses GPS like a Garmin 500, and may ‘fix’ the elevation discrepancies we’ve both seen.

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