We have chosen to review the iBike Pro because it is such an unusual product and it has gotten so much attention in the realm of power training (which is one of the things we are all excited about ! ) and in the press. The iBike is being touted by iBike and some major publications and media as “Precision accuracy comparable to the highest-priced power meters”, a “MUST HAVE” and “Top 50 Christmas Gifts list”, but it seems to us that none of these publications has actually tested the iBike under real life training conditions. We have, so tune into our in-depth review below to find out if the iBike really lives up to all of these expectations.
iBike Pro, The Review
iBike Review – Overview
The iBike has a unique design that doesn’t measure power directly as do other power meters, but measures the forces that work against the bike and rider such as wind resistance, rolling resistance of the bike and climb angle (combined with the total weight of the bike and rider). To measure climb angle, the iBike uses an internal accelerometer, which must be calibrated during setup so that it can account for the mounting angle of the iBike on the handlebars. To measure wind resistance, the iBike has a pitot tube type opening in the front of the device that measures wind pressure. The aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance are estimated by the iBike during the setup of the device by having the rider do a coast down procedure. Wheel speed is also necessary to calculate speed and power and is measured using an ordinary wheel speed sensor. Lastly, the total weight of the rider and bicycle must be taken into account and are also entered by the rider during the setup of the iBike unit.
iBike Review – Setup
The iBike comes with:
- Two CDs, one with the iBike software (Mac and PC) and the other with the TrainingPeaks software package.
- A USB cable connector that allows the rider to connect the iBike to a Mac or PC.
- The iBike handlebar mount which is connected to a wired wheel speed sensor.
- Wheel magnet and screw.
- Mounting hardware such as zip ties, double sided tape and two rubber mounting strips.
The first thing that we noticed was that there is no manual, but we eventually found it on the CD. The handlebar mount looks cheap and the bottom half is very thin and flimsy looking. The wheel magnet is one of those that fits over one of the spokes and so will not accomodate bladed or non-standard spokes, so we used a wheel magnet from another bicycle computer that we had in our shop. We were almost afraid to tighten the handlebar mount too much because it looked like it could easily break, but because a tight mount is important for good power readings we did tighten it firmly to the bicycle, without breaking it, and were ready to continue on with the iBike internal setup. The iBike setup instructions in the iBike manual (on a pdf file on the CD) were relatively easy to follow once we found the right pdf file. We worked our way through the instructions entering total weight (rider, bike, gear, water, etc.) of the rider (as measured by a bathroom scale) and wheel circumference. We also noticed that our iBike was indicating a 4mph wind while sitting on the counter with no wind in the room. This did not bolster our confidence in the device. Eventually after digging through the manual we found that there was a special setup screen to zero the value so we zeroed the wind value and then continued on to the tilt calibration procedure. This took a few minutes but was not too difficult basically allowing the ibike to determine its angle on the handlebars by taking a tilt reading and then turning the bicycle 180 degrees and taking another reading. Lastly we performed the coast down procedure as described in the manual. It took us a while to find an acceptable straight, slightly uphill 1/4 mile section of road without any stop lights or stop signs but eventually we found one and pedalled up to 20 mph as directed in the instructions and then coasted. After a while the iBike indicated that it had completed the coast down. The instructions say to double check the coast down by coasting while watching that the wattage is within plus or minus 20 Watts and so we had to repeat the procedure a couple of times until it fell within this range. The coast down only measures aeordynamic drag in a single riding position so the iBike may be less accurate if the rider rides both on and off the drops.
Total installation and setup took about an hour and a half. We were now ready to begin testing the iBike.
iBike Review – The Gadget
The iBike has an iPod like interface with so many screens that it is somewhat confusing at first, but sensible once you read the manual and get used to it. The iBike has some interesting features such as temperature, elevation, wind speed and hill slope. All of these can be seen on various screens while riding the bike and can also be saved to the PC or Mac and displayed by the iBike application. We found it particularly helpful to find specific parts of our ride based on the hill slope that is displayed on the PC application. It was difficult, however, to zoom in on specific sections of the ride and this made it more tedious to create good graphs for this review. The iBike temperature has been correct during our testing so far, but we haven’t yet had the chance to thoroughly check the accuracy of the iBike elevation, wind speed and hill slope, so check back because that will be coming soon…
iBike Review – The Power Meter
In order to have a basis for comparison, we decided to test the iBike side by side with another power meter. For this comparison, we chose the PowerTap power meter which uses a strain guage in the rear wheel of the bicycle to measure power. We tested the iBike vs the PowerTap under several riding conditions including:
- Flat smooth roads
- Downhill smooth
- Rough Roads
- In the Draft
As you can see from the links above, the accuracy results were disappointing. The iBike comes with Cycling Peaks software that is widely used and accepted as a great power training tool, but since the iBike isn’t accurate what good is it? (Or as we tech geeks say, “Garbage in – garbage out.”.)
iBike Review – The Conclusion
First let us say that we like some things about the iBike. It is a neat gadget that is priced below most other high end power meters on the market; plus it can tell you things like hill slope, wind speed and elevation. But to be fair, there are some other pretty cool gadgets out there that include GPS and heart rate for less money than the iBike (For example the Garmin GPS Edge 305HR has heart rate and GPS but not power). Also, unfortunately, there are several serious flaws with the iBike when it comes to accuracy, reliability and power training.
The iBike doesn’t have a heartrate monitor and cadence costs $89 extra . We feel that these features are very important and the competition, such as the Powertap, Ergomo, and SRM have both of these feature built in. Sure you can buy an additional heart rate monitor, but why spend the money when you can just buy one computer that does it all? Cadence costs an additional $89 for the iBike, but the other power meters include it for no additional charge. This makes the iBike equivalent price $488 (still without heartrate), thus eroding the value equation for the iBike. iBike is promising a heart rate monitor *soon*, but how much will it cost ? Also, the cadence and heart rate monitor functionality are both contained in a separate iBike handlebar mount. Does this mean that either the rider could have heart rate or cadence but not both? Most likely the hear rate monitor mount, whenever it is released, will also have cadence; so the customers who buy the cadence mount now will end up throwing it away later (along with their $89) to get the heartrate and cadence combination. In summary, when you start adding up all the add-ons to get the iBike to the same level of functionality as the other power meters it is still less money , but not as attractive.
The iBike doesn’t work with an indoor trainer. If you are a serious cyclist, then you likely spend a few months of your training season training indoors due to cold or inclement weather. That being the case, then you are going to end up buying two power meters if you get an iBike, so why not just buy a single more accurate power meter such as a Powertap, SRM or Ergomo?
The iBike is inaccurate. Much of the press we see on the iBike relates how the average power numbers of the iBike are the same as that of competing products. That seemed reasonable until we actually trained with the iBike and the competing power meters side by side. Much to our surprise, the iBike drifts high and low a significant amount while attempting to hold a steady wattage. And the iBike is inaccurate going downhill (Click here to see the review and graphs of the iBike downhill). Saying that the average power indicates accuracy is like saying that your watch is accurate if it is plus or minus one hour all day long. At the end of the day the time may be correct, but during the day you will probably not be on time.
The iBike is unreliable. The iBike completely fails in cold weather. At around 35 degrees F and below, the iBike becomes erratic and drains the battery completely, causing it to shut down after about 45 minutes. When drafting behind other riders, the iBike was often not even in the ballpark of the correct wattage (graphs coming soon.) and less than even the smoothest roads send the iBike into never never land with incorrect readings (Click here to see the review and graphs of PowerTap vs. iBike on rough roads using the latest firmware). It also states in the iBike manual that the iBike is not accurate while turning.
So in conclusion, our take is that the iBike doesn’t really live up to the accuracy claims that have been made about it (and when we called some of our local bike shops to ask about it, they had reached the same conclusion and refused to carry the product). The iBike is a pretty neat gadget if you aren’t a serious athlete and wouldn’t rather have something with GPS (and for less money). If, however, you are a serious athlete, then we recommend that you spend a little more and get one of the better power meters that are on the market.