11
Sep
10

Joule 2.0 review, Part 2

To continue the thoughts before I get distracted with a couple of other projects and essays, let’s get back to the bullet points that were not commented on during the original blog post. I covered the first 3. Now, let’s continue.

Here are the bullet points yet to be covered. Honestly, I’m sure I’ll remember some more things at some point in the future. It’s hard to write thoughts down or read them in to your iphone when you’re rolling along, no?

  • 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.
  • ROCK SOLID MOUNTING ON A STEM OR HANDLEBAR
  • Easy navigation and intuitive menus.
  • Must be robust enough to withstand the elements, sweat, and crashes.

Let’s cover the points.

  • Barometer – CHECK. The Joule definitely covers current elevation and feet or meters climbed, and while I haven’t tried it, I’m pretty sure it has an elevation calibration protocol. Now, one of the REALLY cool things that the Joule does, that other head units don’t yet do, is that it measures VAM, or “Vertical Ascent Meters per Hour”. This was a measurement of climbing put together by the nefarious Dr. Ferrari, to basically come up with a way to look at how the best climbers fought their way up mountains. At the time of this writing, however, the VAM feature measures VAM for the entire ride, and it does NOT reset with intervals, even though you can see it on interval windows. I’ve brought this to the attention of Cycleops, but have not heard a response from them at this time. It should be an easy fix, though you never know with these firmware developers.
  • 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. – CHECK. OH HOLY COW I CAN NOT BELIEVE HOW INCREDIBLY AWESOME THIS FEATURE IS! SET OFF THE FIREWORKS AND LIGHT THE SPARKLERS! THIS FEATURE IS AWESOME! CYCLEOPS, I CAN NOT THANK YOU ENOUGH!  Now, while I calm down, let me explain why this is sooooo critical. There is a subset of the power meter crowd, and even the non-power-meter crowd, who have more than one bike. There are also folks who have more than one power meter. I know, I know, that’s a seriously small subset, but honestly, when you get in to these things, you start to realize that you may need different cranks or wheels for road cycling, time trials, track, and even mountain biking. The only other head units that are worthy of use right now are the Garmins, and it definitely takes time to ‘find’ the new and unique codes every time for the ANT+ protocol that is the common wireless language for all of these power meters, speed sensors, chest straps, and cadence meters. Heck, even the foot pods for runners use ANT+. Me? Well, you have to look at this in the context of someone who is constantly measuring power for all cycling applications (YES, THAT IS MY JOB… SORT OF), but I have 3 quarqs and two powertaps. All wireless. Until recently, I had a Garmin 705 for the road and TT bike, a Joule 3.0 for the Gary Fisher Simple City, and a Garmin 500 for the mountain bike. So, it’s a lot of hardware and sunk expense to get the convenience I wanted… Probably close to $12k. But the Joule 2.0 (I’ll discuss the 3.0 in some PS or epilogue at the bottom of this or another post) allows you to record the unique speed, cadence, speed/cadence, HR straps, and Power Meters for each of those bikes, and then pull them up for ‘activation’. It takes about 1 minute. I now have 1 unit for four bikes, and honestly, I couldn’t be happier. I’m still keeping the other units for other reasons, but yeah – for now, the Joule 2.0 is a universal data trap.
  • On-screen torque zeroing and calibration. It’s there, it’s doable, and once you know how to navigate the menus, it’s easy. I’ll leave it to the Wattage forum to correct me on the esoterics of things, but suffice it to say that my multiple PM’s show very little drift after the first two weeks of break-in. I’m happy.
  • Customizable screens showing what I wanted to see, and when. Something very malleable. CHECK!!! Again, WOW and WOW and WOW! I love it. I probably should try to shoot some photos to include on this screen, just to show you what can be done, but again, HOLY COW. The OPTIONS are awesome. I can switch the amount of information presented from 2 things to over 8, and I can actually cycle instants, averages, maxes, and other stuff so that the information I want to see can be dead-center on the screen, OR,  on the bottom of the screen in a divided area. I really ought to pull up SnagIt and build you some images, but I wanted to get the words written first. So in a nutshell, HECK YEAH you can modify and alter this thing to no end. You also get options on the amount of time you want the backlight on (don’t laugh but mine’s permanently on,and that’s got a lot to do with why my battery doesn’t last as long) , and how you want the contrast set.  This is a great feature list.
  • GPS – “XXX”. Now, NOT having this feature is interesting. I think it has more to do with cost, with complexity, with weight, and with battery duration issues. And with all the new websites and features coming out that highlight just how awesome GPS is and why it’s God’s Gift to Cyclists of All Ilks and Trades… well, I was sold and thought that it was the absolute best thing to have on a cycling head unit. BUT, there are some real limitations to GPS… First, it doesn’t tend to accurately display “Z” values in terms of altitude, especially when the changes are so minute. Second, it tends to work best at speeds above 25mph, from what I can tell. Third, Anyone using GPS in an attempt to be accurate on distance traveled is going to be disappointed when every time you go over that same piece of road or trail, you’ll get a different value. It’s just not that accurate (nothing is, really. Go read James Gleick’s “Chaos Theory” about how surveyors looked at a border between two countries, at the same time, using the same instruments, and ended up with wildly different values.). So, I’m actually going to hedge my answer here, and say that it’s MOSTLY unnecessary. The only reason I DO still like having GPS is that the Joule is dependent upon Speed or HR to begin and maintain its’ recording. That’s kind of a weakness, since we do stop and sometimes walk away from our bikes while leaving the head unit on the bars. But overall, it’s okay not to have GPS. I would love to have that, but I think I understand why they didn’t…. Though I’m still not sure and I’m definitely a waffle on this one.
  • Cost below $500 – Hmmm. Barely. Internet listings show a cost of $450-$500. ALWAYS add the cost of the head unit and interpretive software when you buy a powermeter!
  • Weight below 200g – Nailed it. The head unit is about 75 grams, the mount is less than that, and the GSC10 is about 50, so you’re in for everything at <200g. Those riding integrated ANT+ kits like those found on TREK bikes and maybe a few others. Needless to say, you won’t feel the weight on your bike. It won’t affect balance or anything else, and the unit can be mounted on the handlebars, the stem, or the frame if that’s where you want it.

Okay – I’m getting the itch to actually break out the Descente kit and go ride. I’ll keep plugging along on this review and will make a solid effort to shoot some photos of the features. My parting comment right now would be to suggest to Cycleops that they duplicate something they did a LOOOONG time ago, with their LYC, and build a Joule 2.0 and Joule 3.0 simulator for their website. It might overcome one final bit of stigma associated with all these new head units – their complexity.

Part 3 to come.

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