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Poor man’s performance improvement measurement

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Poor man’s performance improvement measurement

Old 02-05-18, 02:34 PM
  #1  
SDF15
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Poor man’s performance improvement measurement

Hi,

I apologize if this topic was already discussed but computer tech changes at a much faster pace than mechanics and old threads might not be of much help.

I am looking for a cheap performance measurement solution and after doing some research the cheapest solutions (powermeters are out of my reach) are to measure heart rate and cadence.

I have found two different solutions:
- iphone/ android based connected cadence and heart monitors like the wahoo rpm and tickr
- or all in one cycling computers like the vdo m5 ( sensors included)

What would you choose if the price would be the same and why?

Things to consider:

Measurement accuracy
Long term reliability
Obsolescence
Battery life
I have two bikes would like to switch easily between the two
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Old 02-05-18, 03:24 PM
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If all you want to do is document your improvement, then you just need something to measure distance and speed.

HR is a very nice thing to have, IMO, as initially it helped me see when I was expending energy at an unsustainable rate for the remaining distance or hill yet to come on the ride. I've since gotten a better idea of the other physical clues so I pay less attention to HR while actually riding.

As well cadence is nice too. Being a lugger or masher as a kid, I now see and have proof that as I am able to spin faster and maintain a fast RPM, that I can have speed and a slower HR than I ever would trying to mash out speed in the high gears, no matter how strong my legs get.

I don't think it matters much what you get. Phone app or dedicated device. I use a Garmin 500 because I prefer dedicated devices for battery life and the simple fact I can keep my phone safely tucked away. Of course you can still keep your phone safely tucked away and still track your ride and stats, but don't you want to see some of that while riding?

I don't want a map on my device though. I navigate well by intuition and usually just a glance at a map gives me what I need to know for the ride. As well I can pull my phone out and bring up a map the few times it's needed..... weather and radar maps too!

Accuracy... well that's a hard call, all are accurate enough. Comparing any two devices will cause grief though.
The accumulated data from many rides will tell you if you are improving. Looking at any two will not be helpful toward that no matter how accurate the device. One ride is never the same as the next, even when the same route.

Battery life, I think dedicated devices will fare better, though others have disagreed with me. But maybe it's a matter of not leaving the phone screen on so the stats can be seen during the ride. My Garmin edge 500 I can see the screen at all times.

Obsolescence..... it's obsolete the day you buy it. Electronics like this get superseded by new versions with better features very rapidly. However you can still use it obsolete or not. My 500 has been obsolete for quite a while.

But to sum up... it doesn't much matter. Just start recording and saving your data on distance, speed and time. GPS track, cadence, heart rate and other things will give you more wealth of information to consider.

Whether you use an app on a smart phone or a dedicated device it doesn't matter. Just use the same one to track your data with for the sake of the consistency of the data.

For a smart phone, you'll likely need bluetooth sensors. I'd try to buy the sensors that have dual output of bluetooth and ant+ just in case you decide to switch to a device that needs ant+..... or vice versa. I think Samsung phones are some of the few that actually have ant+ so in that case you can just get ant+ sensors, but still it might be wise to get the sensors with both ant+ and bluetooth.
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Old 02-05-18, 04:09 PM
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Of course it all depends on your goals.

For cadence only, I'd probably hunt for a cheap handlebar mount cycle computer that has speed + cadence. I don't know if the cheap ones also include HR. But, for the most part, I prefer the cheap handlebar mount computers for real-time speed.

I like using Strava and/or Ride With GPS for my ride tracking. RWGPS tends to give better real-time data. Strava gives good off-line data analysis. Plus, Strava's "segments" are fun.

I run Strava off-line, so I've memorized where the segments are that I want to use as a challenge.

One can also create segments, either personal or shared that you can use as part of your workout routine.

I've had troubles earlier getting external sensors to synch with RWGPS and Strava on my phone. I suppose it is time to try that again.
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Old 02-05-18, 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by SDF15 View Post
Hi,

I apologize if this topic was already discussed but computer tech changes at a much faster pace than mechanics and old threads might not be of much help.

I am looking for a cheap performance measurement solution and after doing some research the cheapest solutions (powermeters are out of my reach) are to measure heart rate and cadence.

I have found two different solutions:
- iphone/ android based connected cadence and heart monitors like the wahoo rpm and tickr
- or all in one cycling computers like the vdo m5 ( sensors included)

What would you choose if the price would be the same and why?

Things to consider:

Measurement accuracy
Long term reliability
Obsolescence
Battery life
I have two bikes would like to switch easily between the two
The cheapest and most reliable performance measurement solution is a stopwatch and a hill. Seriously.
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Old 02-05-18, 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
The cheapest and most reliable performance measurement solution is a stopwatch and a hill. Seriously.
Yep.
I have logs of times for two different climbs, a series of rollers, both 1 mile and 4 mile TTs and a sprint area that go back years.
All are used as "tests" and for high intensity work all season long.

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Old 02-05-18, 04:36 PM
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VAM on a hill. As your fitness improves you'll be able to climb faster.

You can still buy gadgets for the sake of buying gadgets, but that's the answer.

If you're going to buy a sensor, you should keep your options open and buy ones that support both BT and ANT+ protocols.
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Old 02-06-18, 01:52 AM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
The cheapest and most reliable performance measurement solution is a stopwatch and a hill. Seriously.
Thank you all for the feedback. The problem I have is that when riding in a group I get systematically dropped on climbs and seem to recover the lost distance on flats. Having done some reading it looks like a I have a low power to weight ratio. I am not a particular heavy rider (65kg or~143lbs) which means that probably my power output sucks.

The majority of training advice and material I got are either related to power measurement and need a powermeter or to heart reat intervals and keeping a good cadence arround 90 rpm. I have no clue how fast I spin, I compared myself with other riders in the group and the bracket range is quite wide between different riders. I tried spinning more uphill but this leaves me completely out of breath when trying to keep up with the herd.

To get back to my initial post: wouldn’t a cadence and heart rate monitor help to improve on my particular issue rather than just a stop watch and a hill? At least I would know if have to train either my cadence or torque more ...
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Old 02-06-18, 10:48 AM
  #8  
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Originally Posted by SDF15 View Post
To get back to my initial post: wouldn’t a cadence and heart rate monitor help to improve on my particular issue rather than just a stop watch and a hill? At least I would know if have to train either my cadence or torque more ...
Only in the aspect that it gives you a number you can look at after your ride, compare to other rides and maybe more solidify your goal in your mind.

However I've used HR and cadence since I got serious about riding for the exercise and health I needed. For that reason I just mentioned above. It helps me to see where I was and what I am now. If you ever decide to get a coach or talk with someone that knows a lot about training on a bike, the past data might be useful to them. I too can't yet justify the cost of power meters. I'd favor Garmin Vector 3's if I could.

If you have a smartphone already, you can try some apps right now. Some have a free version with less features or a free trial period or are just inexpensive. An Wahoo TICKR HEART RATE MONITOR strap and Wahoo BLUE SC SPEED AND CADENCE SENSOR, both bluetooth/Ant+ will leave you positioned well if you decide to try a dedicated device later.

I picked dedicated device in your poll, but that's because I prefer them. You and others might prefer a smartphone with apps. It just does not matter unless there are some specific features or signal reception issues that may be pertinent to you or another individual.

Smartphones generally do better in urban environments with tall buildings. The phone can use cell towers to to augment the gps satellites and find recover faster from a brief loss of signal. A dedicated device might get better GPS service when way out in the middle of nowhere. However if you want someone to know where you are while riding, you are going to have to have a smartphone to provide the necessary link for data communication.

I like Garmin devices, I've used them for hiking, driving, sailing and cycling I've got/had probably over ten different Garmin's. So they are what I'm used to using and dealing with their quirks, which every mfr's have. I've heard Wahoo devices are good. Lezyne SuperGPS is likewise supposed to be good too.

I like the reviews this guy does....... https://www.dcrainmaker.com/product-reviews
His picks are not always mine, but that's because he has different needs. However he writes a thorough review.
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Old 02-06-18, 10:54 AM
  #9  
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Dedicated bike mounted units enjoyed proven accuracy for years that cell phone based apps are still struggling to achieve. Not to mention the advantage of seeing the data real time as you ride on a compact, function specific easy to manage unit.

This approach also allows you to keep the more expensive, and fragile device tucked away until/unless it's needed.

BTW- you probably already own the only performance measurement device that matters, a wrist watch. If you're doing the same distance faster, then you're improving. If not, then you're not.
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Old 02-06-18, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by SDF15 View Post
wouldn’t a cadence and heart rate monitor help to improve on my particular issue rather than just a stop watch and a hill? At least I would know if have to train either my cadence or torque more ...
Time vs. Distance is the Gold Standard metric when working to build Power and/or Speed for me.
Any effort as mentioned above is judged by Time, how it was achieved in technique is irrelevant.

Coming from a competitive background I've had a ~$130 Cateye Strada computer, simple by the standards of today's doo-dads, w/ speed, pace arrow, cadence and HR on my "A" road bike for years. Since all of the tests mentioned above are ridden solo as HIIT I do monitor cadence and shift to remain in my "power band" known from experience and ignore HR during the effort. I watch HR for recovery to start the next interval and know when to quit.

That being said tests/intervals are also ridden on a fixed gear w/ only a stop watch, old school in more than one way.
Getting to know/feel RPE (relative perceived effort) is just as effective for me, as the times tell.

In short it's the structured work on Power & Speed after sufficient base miles provide Endurance that matters in improving fitness not the doo-dads.
Hersey perhaps in a sub-forum dedicated to Electronics, Lighting, & Gadgets, but there you are.

As they say: Times will Tell.

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Old 02-06-18, 11:26 AM
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would inform the debate to list components and prices.

1. speed & cadence : I see Wahoo listed at $70 for the combo vs $55 for Garmin.
2. HRM : It is where the alternatives get complicated. HR strap is, let's say $60; wrist is about the same.
3. Display : could be a bike dedicated head unit, or a smartphone. In my experience, both work well, with dedicated head units being more weather resistant than smartphones. Not obvious how to consider prices, as a phone is most likely to be something that you have already, so you may want to consider the price of a decent mount+protective shell; a bike computer is a single purpose device that will set you back... it can vary a lot. from under a $100 to close to $1000 depending on the features you are looking for.

4. Then there is the "I have two bikes" issue. Means two sets of sensors.

---

5. You may want to consider a smart watch with integrated HR. Not the best on a bike, but the bang/bucks ratio is decent.

Last edited by gauvins; 02-06-18 at 02:33 PM.
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Old 02-06-18, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by SDF15 View Post
Thank you all for the feedback. The problem I have is that when riding in a group I get systematically dropped on climbs and seem to recover the lost distance on flats. Having done some reading it looks like a I have a low power to weight ratio. I am not a particular heavy rider (65kg or~143lbs) which means that probably my power output sucks.

The majority of training advice and material I got are either related to power measurement and need a powermeter or to heart reat intervals and keeping a good cadence arround 90 rpm. I have no clue how fast I spin, I compared myself with other riders in the group and the bracket range is quite wide between different riders. I tried spinning more uphill but this leaves me completely out of breath when trying to keep up with the herd.

To get back to my initial post: wouldn’t a cadence and heart rate monitor help to improve on my particular issue rather than just a stop watch and a hill? At least I would know if have to train either my cadence or torque more ...

If you're getting dropped on the hills, and making it up on the flats, then hill repeats are in order.

Power = torque * RPMs, which means you can put out the same power at any cadence. Realistically that isn't true because you can't do 1,800 RPMs, but you can do a decent range. And that means cadence is kind of a red herring. It's especially not a useful thing during hill efforts because that range of cadence that you can use is more limited by the hill, so when you're climbing you basically take what you can get.

A heart rate monitor can be a great pacing tool but keep in mind it takes 30 to 60 seconds for your HR to reflect changes in your power output, so it won't be useful for titrating short efforts like intervals.

Finally I'd like to point out that fitness improvements will benefit you whether there are numbers or not.

With all that said, I record cadence, power, and heart rate on my bike. If I had to choose one, it would be power; if I had to choose two it would be power and heart rate.
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Old 02-06-18, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by SDF15 View Post
Thank you all for the feedback. The problem I have is that when riding in a group I get systematically dropped on climbs and seem to recover the lost distance on flats. Having done some reading it looks like a I have a low power to weight ratio. I am not a particular heavy rider (65kg or~143lbs) which means that probably my power output sucks.

The majority of training advice and material I got are either related to power measurement and need a powermeter or to heart reat intervals and keeping a good cadence arround 90 rpm. I have no clue how fast I spin, I compared myself with other riders in the group and the bracket range is quite wide between different riders. I tried spinning more uphill but this leaves me completely out of breath when trying to keep up with the herd.

To get back to my initial post: wouldn’t a cadence and heart rate monitor help to improve on my particular issue rather than just a stop watch and a hill? At least I would know if have to train either my cadence or torque more ...
I'm not against HRMs or PMs. I use them both, and they can be very effective when used as part of a plan which you can get from hiring a coach or gleaning the massive amounts of stuff online and in print. But you have to analyze the data and do the work, or they're just expensive doodads. I have a Quarq, which is a crankbased PM, and a Garmin 500 head unit. I think I originally paid $1500 for the Quarq and $200 for the Garmin. I'm sure you can get a used PM and head unit for much less these days.

PMs are great for structured workouts where you are trying to hit a specified wattage for a specified interval. The longer the interval, the more useful it is. They're also great for identifying strengths and weaknesses. Finally, they're great for keeping you honest on recovery days. I still use the HRM but mostly to track cardiac drift. (long boring topic, not really relevant here)

Personally, I think cadence is overrated and the 90rpm is a thing like "you must drink 8 glasses of water a day." It sounds good, so it gets repeated. As you've seen for yourself, cadence is pretty much self-selecting and different riders find different cadences more comfortable. If you want to know yours, you could get a cadence monitor, which is basically a magnet that you put on a crank arm and a sensor that transmits to a computer or smartphone. Or you could look at your watch and count every time your knee comes up.
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Old 02-06-18, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
If you're getting dropped on the hills, and making it up on the flats, then hill repeats are in order.
Also, consider that there are two main factors in group riding: strength and savvy.

Example: Dale Stetina won a national championship road race in the 1970s after being off the bike and unable to train for an extended period.

The course had several short hills and one major climb. He was almost dropped the first time up that climb, but he slowly worked his way up to near the front of the bunch on the flatter sections of the course so that he could gradually drop back on the big climb while staying in the group.

He stayed at the front of the group for the last climb and (if I remember correctly) soloed to the win.
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Old 02-06-18, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by SDF15 View Post
Thank you all for the feedback. The problem I have is that when riding in a group I get systematically dropped on climbs and seem to recover the lost distance on flats. Having done some reading it looks like a I have a low power to weight ratio. I am not a particular heavy rider (65kg or~143lbs) which means that probably my power output sucks.

The majority of training advice and material I got are either related to power measurement and need a powermeter or to heart reat intervals and keeping a good cadence arround 90 rpm. I have no clue how fast I spin, I compared myself with other riders in the group and the bracket range is quite wide between different riders. I tried spinning more uphill but this leaves me completely out of breath when trying to keep up with the herd.

To get back to my initial post: wouldn’t a cadence and heart rate monitor help to improve on my particular issue rather than just a stop watch and a hill? At least I would know if have to train either my cadence or torque more ...
Same here. Even among my own age group (I'm 60, 160 lbs with maybe 5 lbs excess fat) I struggle to keep up on climbs, while I'm reasonably fit for flats and faster than average on downhills.

I was curious about heart rate and cadence monitors but decided to just modify my training. Last summer I tackled more interval training and hill repeats. Just painful grunting it out to improve on my weaknesses. It helped.

I can track my gradual improvements via Strava. But it's also important to factor in conditions. Wind is a huge factor. Last week riding the same climb on separate days I barely managed 8 mph one day and 18 mph another. The difference? Wind direction. It was 20 mph headwind on the slow day, 20 mph tailwind on the fast day. On neutral days I'm usually averaging 14 mph.

So speed/time alone aren't useful guides without context. Same with Strava's power estimates for folks who don't use power meters.

Eventually I might get some benefit from a heart rate monitor, but I'd need to be closer to peak fitness first. Meanwhile I just stop and manually check my pulse after a near-maximum effort.
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Old 02-06-18, 01:24 PM
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As to the original question:

Check out this HRM: https://4iiii-innovations.myshopify....oducts/viiiiva

It connects via Ant+ and Bluetooth and has a smartphone app so you can use that as your bike computer. You'd still need a sensor to get cadence data.
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Old 02-06-18, 01:37 PM
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Ride as fast as possible up slopes that are 7-10 minutes long. Go easy for half that time and try again. Stop with a 10% time increase.

Your time will almost be inversely proportional to power, with 90% of your effort going into lifting the weight of you plus your bike up the mountain.

Speed variations due to wind won't dominate measurements as they would on flat ground where aerodynamic drag has a bigger impact on speed than your fitness, with speed increase approximately proportional to the cube of power as in a 5% gain increasing your speed 1.6% from 18 to 18.3 MPH.

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Old 02-07-18, 08:53 PM
  #18  
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I think your question doesn't really correspond to what you're looking for. Bang for buck is in the smart phone, because whether or not you have a bike computer, you're likely to have a smart phone. So to get bike functionality, all you have to do is add an app, and that's either free or cheap. I use my iphone and ridewithgps. I pay $50/year for the service, and I could get away with the free version. I look at my distance and speed and my speed up hills. This helped me improve my speed, distance, and my hill climbing.

There are some people who are better (in speed, distance, climbing ability) than I am, and to reach their levels, perhaps the best thing for me is to get a bike computer with sensors. That would give me more accuracy. My app running on GPS alone isn't super accurate, but it's good enough for me.

If you want to climb better, try to stay out of the saddle for as long as possible. With each climb, try to stay out of the saddle longer than yesterday. And at the top of a tough climb, you'll be slower for a minute or two, but try to recover your breath and get back up to speed as fast as you can.

On long climbs, try to find a pace that you think you can maintain if, hypothetically, the hill went up for the rest of the day. Alternate in and out of the saddle.

And this will sound weird, but I say don't shift down too low. Once you shift down, you're not going to shift up before the climb is over.

Follow these techniques, and you may not be a world class climber, but you will get better. I managed to survive and finish the Hillier Than Thou this past September. It had a ton of very tough hills. The warning on the web page says, "If you don't train for this ride, you will regret riding it." I was not at all the fastest participant, but I did OK, and I was one of the older people, and I certainly had a heavier bike than everyone on the ride. So I was pleased.
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Old 02-08-18, 11:36 AM
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If you find a long enough hill, any imprecision in GPS won't matter.

And I know this is obvious but it's good to remember it's doing the work not seeing the numbers that makes you improve.
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Old 02-08-18, 01:30 PM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by Iride01
If you have a smartphone already, you can try some apps right now. Some have a free version with less features or a free trial period or are just inexpensive. An Wahoo TICKR HEART RATE MONITOR strap and Wahoo BLUE SC SPEED AND CADENCE SENSOR, both bluetooth/Ant+ will leave you positioned well if you decide to try a dedicated device later.
Lots of good advise here so no point in me repeating what others have said. However, I will comment and agree with this statement. Wahoo has a free cycling app, Wahoo Fitness, that will use any Ant+ and BTLE sensor, providing Ant+ is supported by your phone. I used my iPhone with the sensors listed above for over 4 years but I did have a Wahoo RFLKT connected to it so that I could see my ride data without having to view it on my phone. Unfortunately, my RFLKT went belly up and are no longer made by Wahoo but I have seen them still available on the net. As for the battery life, I purchased a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt to replace my RFLKT and the battery usage, per ride, is about the same as when I used the phone with the RFLKT and all the sensors connected to it.
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Old 04-09-18, 06:38 PM
  #21  
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Bumping a slightly old thread.

What would be a better bargain for the budget-conscious, buying some BTLE/ANT+ sensors now and then later getting a dedicated computer that can display them, or buying a bundle?

I want to start tracking cadence and have it stored with my rides on Strava, so either sensor-to-phone or computer-to-phone connectivity is a must. Heart-rate would also be nice but I can wait on that. I don't need to see the readings in real-time, but would be fine with a computer if there was a good deal on a bundle now or just a compatible unit later. The compatibility is what worries me, if I buy just some sensors now, will it be more difficult or expensive to pair them with a computer later rather than buying things together that are known to work with each other?

Some options I'm considering are https://www.rei.com/product/897753/w...ensor-with-ant (last day to use my 20% off coupon!) https://www.performancebike.com/shop...gi-dbl-40-6175 and https://www.performancebike.com/shop...-speed-40-1091
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Old 04-09-18, 07:21 PM
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@surak, you're doing what I've been thinking of doing, because I'm not in the mood to pay the price for a computer. I realize they're more convenient than using a phone app, as I've been doing that a lot already. Limited ability to use the controls while the bike is moving is the biggest problem so far, and it's tolerable. So if you buy some sensors and hook them up to your phone, please report how well this works.
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Old 04-09-18, 10:48 PM
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Not sure that I understand the question. But FWIW, I've successfully paired ANT+ sensors with my phone (Android). That would be cadence/speed/HRM/power.

ANT+ is a standardized communication protocol, so there shouldn't be hardware problems.
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Old 04-09-18, 11:23 PM
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I ended up ordering the Wahoo RPM Speed and Cadence sensor bundle rather than the other Wahoo BlueSC I linked to earlier because it was magnetless and also had a shoe mounting option for cadence. The cheapest computer I've found so far that should work with the sensors, were I to get a dedicated one rather than use a phone, might be the REI Garage CatEye Stealth EVO+. I'll post an update on how well just using a phone works once I get some time with the sensors.
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Old 04-10-18, 06:28 AM
  #25  
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Do you have a link for the bundle you bought? Thanks.
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