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How do you differentiate your product in a category that, by its very nature, requires lock step uniformity? This is the issue in the power meter category these days. “Impress your friends! Our power meter gives you the biggest wattage numbers!” “Want flexibility? Our power meter gives you different numbers every day!” Not likely.
Power is about accuracy and consistency. Every power meter should give you the exact same data. Once weight became a non-issue thanks to Stages crank based strain gage measurement, other manufacturers followed suit and power meters have been at risk of becoming a commodity. “What’s the cheapest way I can get that wattage number on my bars?”
After redefining power measurement and putting that number on more rider’s bars, Stages wants to take the next step, helping riders better use that number. To do that, Stages felt it needed two more products to go with the meter – head unit and online training platform. That creates the power ‘ecosystem’ Stages feels is required to properly use power, and it’s how it plans to differentiate itself. Together these three products create an environment that isn’t about navigation, route finding or sharing achievements, it’s about training, a market Stages saw as underserved.
We know the Stage’s power meter well and we already saw the Stages Dash head unit at the summer bike shows. The third part of the platform, Stages Link online training, is a partnership with Today’s Plan, which we know very well. Stages made the right deal here – Today’s Plan is the best online training platform bar none.
The Stages Dash is roughly the same size as a Garmin Edge 820, and not surprisingly, it puts a premium on the way data is displayed. The unit can be used in landscape or portrait mode. No word on which is more aero, but landscape has become our preferred view. The screen is very crisp and clear, with incredible customization through the Stages Link website, showing Stages commitment to using the unit for training.
It’s possible to set up screens with all the info you want to see when your just out spinning, you can focus on just one or two metrics, putting wattage up top in a huge font and you can set screens for specific workouts and intervals, showing up to 16 metrics with target watts, how much time left in the interval, percentage of FTP, etc… All these screens can easily be toggled between with the buttons on the left of the Dash. It’s similar to Wahoo’s perfect view set up, but with an added level of customization. The Dash is clearly a unit designed for power, the first screen as a ‘zero reset’ option your power meter. No more hunting in deep in menus to find the calibration screen. In ‘workout’ mode the Dash prompts you when to begin and end intervals and what your goals are during the interval. Dash is not alone in offering capabilities like this, but it really is the slickest way to execute a pre-loaded workout.
Stages has chosen front light vs. back light for the unit and a simple black and white screen with no LED’s or animations. While they claim 24 +hours of use on a single charge, we haven’t experienced quite that much life, but you could certainly do Dirty Kanza on a single charge.
The unit communicates with both Bluetooth and ANT+ and works with other power meters on the market. Stages prefers Bluetooth since it provides 96channels for the meter and head unit to switch between to find a strong, interference free signal. It probably helps that Bluetooth isn’t owned by Garmin like ANT+. The Dash does not have WiFi so it won’t automatically find a familiar WiFi signal and push to Link or Strava. You can do that by plugging into your computer, or using the companion app to push the ride data from your smart phone. That data is recorded in a .rde file compatible with Link. When data is pushed to Strava or other third part apps and software Stages creates a .fit file ans trips off some of the power data Link takes advantage of.
The Dash unit is a bit chunky, not quite as slick as the Wahoo or the latest Garmins, but part of that is the silver, metal band running around 3/4’s of the unit. This is actually where the mount fixes to the Dash for both portrait and landscape mode. It’s a solid, metal on metal, interface that shows a preference for function over form and we can’t argue with that.
Link & Today’s Plan Engine
While Stages makes no bones about the unit being focused on training it does have plenty of other capabilities, perhaps without some of the bells and whistles Wahoo and Garmin provide. It can notify you if you get a text or phone call while riding as well as push turn by turn navigation from your smart phone. Those notifications won’t cover your important data incase that phone call comes in right in the middle of your FTP test.
The Stages Link platform, as we mentioned before, is based on the Australian service, Today’s Plan. It’s essentially a virtual coach. With Today’s Plan you plug in your own metrics, choose a goal – the platform has a huge amount of events preloaded to choose from – and it creates a program based on your schedule and the time you have available to train. That plan is entirely customizable and changes based on how well you progress. We used it to prepare for the 2016 Cape Epic and it worked absolute wonders. We can’t recommend it highly enough, and Link works on the same engine, pushing all those workouts to your Dash for easy execution on the road. Well, it may not be easy to execute an interval at 350watts, but you’ll certainly know what you’ll need to do.
A Stages Dash costs $400, with a heart rate strap available for another $50. Each Dash comes with two months of free, premium access to Link, with all the virtual coaching and analytics you could desire. After that it’s $20 a month or $200 a year, a fraction of what a coach would cost with much the same benefit. With out the subscription Dash users can use Link to track workouts on a the calendar and view power data.
As pre-launch firmware was updated and the iOS app became available we’ve had limited time with the Dash unit working at full gas. Look for a follow up long-term look at Dash and Link soon.
For more head to stagescycling.com
It’s easy to judge a book by its cover. We... Read more →