Tuesday, 21 August 2012

LeMond Revolution Power Pilot Review - August 2012.

If you want to save yourself a few minutes, I'll sum up this review right away. Don't waste your time or money on this head unit/device. Don't even waste your time reading this short review of it. If you work for LeMond or sell these things, I urge you to burn all your stock. Please. If you want a glowing review, go read a paid advert in a bike magazine. If you want my honest 2c..... read on.... at your own risk.

Backing up a few steps - I love my LeMond Revolution trainer. The high inertia fly-wheel, great road feel, well engineered hunk of metal is my indoor trainer of choice. I get a few hours a week training on the Revolution and it comes with me to every TT. I didn't opt for the Power Pilot add-on initially as I've got SRM cranks reporting power and the ~US$439 (RRP) was a little steep. I unfortunately picked up a Power Pilot unit while my SRM is having a short holiday for battery replacement.

I'm a certified data junkie on the bike. From the early days of Polar 725 iR uploading, learning to master the two button PowerTap Cervo (little yellow computer), SRM PCV, Garmin 705/500/800 - I've trained, raced, downloaded and analysed data from them all. Things have come a long way in the past few years, especially the ANT+ devices. So when unboxing the Power Pilot I was keen to turn it on and have it sing and dance as you'd expect something with this price tag to do.

New Toy! Pure Joy?

The nightmare begins.....
The package contains the head unit itself, ANT+ speed and cadence sensors, a very budget heart rate strap, and a 60+ page manual describing in detail how complex they've made basic functions.

Read from front to back.... fell to sleep twice doing so.
Monster sized unit compared to the Garmin 800 and 500.

Installation of the speed sensor was straight forward. I've been using another ANT+ speed sensor taped to the LeMond for the past few months. I wanted to pair that to the Power Pilot but couldn't initially work out how to do it. I've been totally spoilt by Garmin's intuitive interfaces.

Where to put the head unit was my next challenge......



Hmmm... Not ideal.
Getting the thing up to speed seemed a little too easy..... turns out the default wheel size was incorrect. A few finger busting double button presses later it was sorted. They have a whole list of wheel sizes in the manual, the LeMond Revolution has ONE fixed wheel size...... that isn't LISTED! I'm clearly missing something here. Anyhow, a Google search turned up 2096 for anyone who's still reading.

For this kind of money you don't expect to buy frustration. You buy things that just work. Apple products come to mind. Yes they're expensive, but you turn them on and they work. 3 year olds nail the interface on Apple products. I digress, I'm comparing Apples to Oranges, or in this case, lemons.

So time for a work out..... The unit has no concept of intervals or laps for those familiar with every other bike computer out there. There is a 'training mode' which looks like an egg-timer style count down with pre-programmed zones. Too complex for what I do. I want to warm up, hit lap at the start and end of each interval, then cool down. With no 'lap' you have to pick the peanuts out of your data file post ride with other software (none supplied with the unit!)

Speaking of ride data....... Once you're done there is a USB port in the side of the unit for data transfer. Without reading the manual, I assumed it was similar to the Garmin. Flash drive on the device, plug it in to your computer, read the data. Nope. The USB port is for a USB drive/key/stick, you have to insert a USB key, press some magical button combination, wait for it to upload your data to your USB key, then sneakernet it to your computer to import it (Device Agent, Garmin Connect, Strava, etc). Then you have to remember to delete the workouts on the unit or it'll download them with your next USB export. Oh, and there is no USB key included in the package.

The two-step tango to get your data off the unit is annoying. Having it take 40 minutes to copy a 60 minute workout to the USB key is a show-stopper. This isn't a bug, this unit has the latest firmware. It would be faster to have a pen and paper and record your data samples during your workout, then type them into a spreadsheet manually post ride.

40 minutes to upload a 60 minute workout to the USB stick! No joke. 

Some perspective here. Looking around at the other technology I have at home, routers, firewalls, game consoles, low end laptops, all jam packed with technology and wireless connectivity all under $250 - you're telling me for $400+ this thing can't even be plugged into my computer? A two step process is unacceptable, the time it takes to upload is ludicrous. I would have been impressed if this had direct WiFi access as a network drive. Finish your workout, import the data from the head unit as a network drive, done. That'd be amazing. It'd be like putting technology from 2005 to good use!

"You had one job device, ONE JOB!" - To do a little math to convert current speed into a power figure. Surprisingly it does it pretty well. 40km/h is ~360W on the SRM, 41km/h ~385W, etc, the unit was pretty close. The one second display averaging (non configurable) made the on-screen power number bounce around a lot. The 3 second power average on the Garmin is the power field of choice. US$439 to perform a little math and introduce a whole swag of other problems? Yuck!

Right - Some ideas for LeMond. Kill these units quick smart, the price tag and 'function' of them is a nightmare. I'm not covering new ground here, any Google search reveals the same frustrations from customers. The product they need is something that emulates a power meter device (doing the speed/math internally) that can be paired direct to a Garmin or other compatible head unit. Simple. Sure there is a lot to do behind the scenes but this 'outsources' almost every problem this unit has. From no software, shitty data download, cheap HR strap. Drop the price of these magic middleware "LeMond Revolution PowerBox" devices to $200 and we'll have a unit I'll sing from the tree tops about!

Thanks for reading my murderous review of this unit, which was more than it deserved. When I get my SRM back I'll do a speed-ramp test and graph it against power and post that up. Then anyone with a LeMond Revolution can get a ballpark estimate of their power without one of these units.

Update: This is the Lemond Revolution power profile ramp test I did at about 66m elevation. Elevation is important as at ~1700m at Falls Creek 42km/h was only 330W.
Keywords: Lemond Revolution Power Profile. Lemond Power Profile. Lemond Power vs Speed chart graph.