Photos: Pioneer

Power is the ultimate metric. Heart rate, speed and cadence all matter, but only power can truly unlock your potential. The pros have known this for years and club riders are catching on. The market place, for many years dominated by the German’s at SRM, got very crowded the last few seasons. PowerTap, Quarq, Look, Garmin, Rotor and Stages are all battling to deliver your power numbers and new players are entering the fray.

Perhaps the most unexpected of the new players is Pioneer. Yes, the same Pioneer that makes DJ equipment, car stereos, CD players and other consumer and professional electronics. It turns out the Japanese audio brand has extensive experience with all the things it takes to measure power effectively – they know how to measure and transfer complicated data, they have the ability to correct data errors in real time, they have been in the navigation business in North America longer than any other company and their engineering staff is full of passionate cyclists.

What Pioneer has just launched is the second generation of their crank based meter. The Belkin team used the first generation last year and much of their feedback was used in creating this next generation. The Belkin team is currently using the second generation meter on the World Tour and it is this meter that Pioneer will be taking to market in mid-March.

NEED TO KNOW

• It uses sensors on both the spider and the left crank arm providing individual leg metering.

• The meters are currently only compatible with Dura Ace and Ultegra cranks.

• While the initial version suffered from compatibility issues, this second generation is essentially compatible with 100% of frames, although may require an aftermarket TRP brake for bikes with BB mounted rear brakes.

• It uses the ANT+ protocol, working with Garmin devices as well as their own head unit, the SGX-CA500.

• The meter delivers individual leg power numbers every 30degrees of pedal stroke as well as the angle of force, all graphically displayed on the SGX-CA500.

• The Pioneer head unit is WiFi enabled to upload ride files directly to their Cyclo-Sphere online service, but produces FIT files that can manually be uploaded to Strava or Training Peaks as well.

• The Pioneer unit adds 66grams to the crank set.

• Pioneer will install meters on new cranks at their California facility. Their distributors have been trained to retro-fit customer’s cranks with the meters.

• Priced as complete crank sets. Dura Ace 9000: $1850, Ultegra 6800: $1550, SGX-CA500 Head Unit: $300.

The new Pioneer meter, at first blush, appears to be more than competitive in the growing power market. Compared to a Stages meter, it may be heavy and slightly more expensive, but it appears to provide much more data, although there is still some debate about what exactly an athlete does with knowledge about power differential between legs. When compared to other crank based meters the Pioneer is less expensive, weighs less and delivers more data, although it is limited to Shimano alloy. It is waterproof, meets industry accuracy standards, +/-2percent, gets 120 hours out of two CR2032 batteries and transmits wirelessly. Following up on an overly complicated unit with compatibility issues, Pioneer’s second generation appears to have solved every one of these issues to potentially jump to the head of the class. We’ll know for sure when we get a long-term test unit in. That should occur in March. Stay tuned for our full review then.