polar power unit vs others

Discussion in 'Power Training' started by mdplayer, Feb 16, 2005.

  1. mdplayer

    mdplayer New Member

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    Ok so heres a question for you folks who currently own and use power meters. I am currently looking into buying a power meter but am not sure which one I should go with. I already have the polar 720i hrm so the cheap (and clear choice) should be to go with the polar one. But is this a real effective unit? I've done a lot of reading and found this article, biketechreview.com/archive/pm_review.htm to be very useful.....but again, is the polar unit really worth the money I am shelling out for it, or should I just spend the bigger bucks and get a power tap or the SRM?
    Also..do all the wires tend to get in the way. I watched the video on Polar's website last night how to install it and it just looked very sloppy(mostly the rear der. wire). I'm sure a better job could be done running the wires, but I wanted to know what you folks thought of it.

    Thanks
     
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  2. rob of the og

    rob of the og New Member

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    The wires are easy enough to route neatly. As for the value of it... well it's obviously not as good as Powertap or SRM, but then it's cheaper isn't it? If you can afford to pay big bucks for the other ones and are willing to put up with the limitations on equipment that they force on you, then go for one of those.

    In my case I decided that I wanted to be able to use different wheels for winter training vs racing so that ruled out Powertap. I can't afford the SRM, and there aren't too many other options really. Like you, I already had the S720i, and found some deals on EBay so I ended up with power readers on both my bikes for less than the cost of one Powertap, and far less than an SRM. I know that it's not quite so accurate... but it's pretty close according to all the reviews I read. As I have 2 independant units I can compare the numbers and am happy that they are at least consistent between the 2 bikes if nothing else!

    Beware though - if you intend to do most of your training on a static trainer then forget the Polar Power system. It doesn't work for some reason to do with the way that the pick-up 'locks on' to vibrations.
     
  3. mdplayer

    mdplayer New Member

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    I think thats the most important part of it all...even if my numbers arent close to someone else or whatever, atleast i can truely track my progress being it is atleast consistantly right or wrong....

    thanks
     
  4. Steve McGregor

    Steve McGregor New Member

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    It's interesting you ask this question, because the debate regarding the value of the Polar unit has come up again on Wattage. You may want to go over there and check it out, as both sides of the argument are being effectively expressed. This might help you make your decision, or, it might make it more complicated again.

    Steve
     
  5. rule62

    rule62 New Member

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    I was asking myself these same questions about a month ago when I was buying a new bike. My LBS offered to let me ride with the Polar Power Kit for a few weeks and see how it did. Their comment to me at the time was that they have had about a 50/50 success rate with the Polar Power Kits, meaning that only 50% of the ones that they install end up working properly. As far as the install goes, it is really pretty simple to get everything routed and zip-tied into place. Polar's design is actually pretty good, and their recommended install approach is pretty easy to translate to the bike. The LBS had done enough of them that they sent me out with a fairly good setup. As a part of my subsequent troubleshooting, I nevertheless ended up having to raise one end of the power unit with a shim so that the entire length of the main sensor unit road parallel to the drive chain. Otherwise, I would get readings that would drop in and out, especially when I was changing rings and gears a lot.

    From the start, I had trouble with the head unit (bike mount) losing contact with the receiver (725i HRM), mostly when I hit bumps or when I pressed a button to record a lap or change the readout. That problem was fairly predictable and easy enough to identify, but I never could find a way to consistently prevent it. As a result, in an hour ride, I probably spent 10 minutes of it trying to nudge/coax the receiver back into place with the head unit contact points. I tried everything short of welding the HRM into place with the contacts, but never could get the head unit and receiver to consistently hold a connection during a ride. That above all else absolutely and psychotically sucked.

    I also had a lot of trouble from the start with the main unit's (power sensor) power readings cutting in and out. I was finally able to determine (mostly from reading forums) that the problem typically traced back to a weak or ineffective connection between the cadence magnet and the main unit. I was never able to keep a good cadence connection with the magnet that Polar supplied. It was just too small. There were suggestions about how to get a bigger magnet in place to correct the problem, which I tried. The first thing that I noticed thought was that the bigger magnet would tug really hard on your chain. Several times, I had the magnet pop right off the crank arm and lodge on the chain or worse down in the cassette. When that happens, or even if you just lose a good contact between the magnet and the main unit's sensor, you not only lose the cadence information on your receiver but also the power readings. Even with the suggested BAM (big ass magnet) held in place by frikkin fiber tape I was never able to get through a training ride without losing the cadence readings, power readings and associated ride data.

    I took the unit back to the LBS last week and have been using their PowerTap training/demo wheel ever since. I find it a lot easier to use, and with power readings that are a whole lot more reliable and true than what I was getting from the Polar unit...in those times when I could get it to properly work. I have yet to have a problem one with the PowerTap set up.

    Having said all of that, I know that there are guys who have the Polar Power Kit and continue to use it without any trouble at all. Even as the LBS points out, 50% of the units they sell never come back with reports of problems. For me, the Polar approach just didn't work out, and the main thing that I am looking for is reliable ride and power data.

    Hope this helps! ;)
     
  6. mdplayer

    mdplayer New Member

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    may i ask where do over there is?? im assuming a website, but not sure which one...

    thanks
     
  7. mmitchel

    mmitchel New Member

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    Bicycling Mag has an article in March 05's issue. page 62. there is a great chart comparing 4 diff systems. SRM Pro/am, Ergomo sport, Powertap SL/Pro/standard and Polar. I was going to dive in and get the Polar, but now I am leaning towards the PowerTap. My experience with Polar is mixed. So I am leary of getting a power system from them. Bicycling mag gave the PowerTap the best overall rating.
     
  8. ric_stern/RST

    ric_stern/RST New Member

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    The PT being the best overall unit is my current recommendation (see my interview at cyclingnews.com). I also thoroughly recommend the SRM Pro as being excellent (but it's obviously more expensive).

    ric
     
  9. steve

    steve Administrator
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    I also have this problem :mad:

    For what its worth stay away from these peices of junk and get a SRM or powertap. They're good when they work but very frustrating when they don't.

    cheers
     
  10. Steve McGregor

    Steve McGregor New Member

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  11. rule62

    rule62 New Member

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    Thanks for chiming in Ric...and nice work on the articles by the way. Good stuff! ;)
     
  12. ric_stern/RST

    ric_stern/RST New Member

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    no sweat! glad to help

    ric
     
  13. squidwranglr

    squidwranglr New Member

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    I have never had this problem and I take my S720 off the mount very frequently (because I'm training for triathlons and need it for my other training sessions). I think if you take the time to place the HRM on the mount properly and strap it down with sufficient force (almost at the threshold of stretching the wrist strap), it never loses contact, bumpy roads or not. I have also noticed that depending on exactly where the knobby ends of the tie wraps you put on to install the mount on the handlebars, they can interfere with the buckle on the wrist strap and keep you from strapping it down tightly.

    I find the Polar power unit to be worth the money. That is, it is absolutely worthless on the trainer (but I have charted speed vs power for my Kurt Kinetic trainer, so I implicitly know my power levels on the trainer within +/- 5%), but on the road it is a great training and pacing tool. I have noticed that since I have gotten the Polar power meter, I attack longer climbs more consistently, because I know what power level (as measured by the Polar unit - I'm not necessarily saying it's an absolute and precise reading) I can maintain for how long.

    On the other hand, I have compared the Polar power readings from some of my longer climbs against analytical models predicting necessary power output for climbing steady grade and they've always come in within +/- 5%, well within reasonable measurement error for me. Mind you, I haven't repeated the same climb with all different chainring/cog combinations, but other people have done such tests and found the Polar to be quite accurate and consistent on the road.

    You may want to check out this site:

    [size=-1]http://mywebpage.netscape.com/rechung/wattage

    [/size]I'll warn you though - the site often exceeds its montly bandwidth limit and is inaccessible, in which case you may want to search for it on Google to see the cached version.

    My parting words are that I am happy with my Polar power unit. If you get one, take the time to install it properly. I hear people talking about 15 minute install times. That's ridiculous. I am a very mechanically apt guy and I spent 1.5 hours installing it to my satisfaction of various sensor tolerances, wire routing, etc. and I've never had cadence magnet dropouts, bad contacts, etc.

    Berend
    [size=-1]
    [/size]
     
  14. Woofer

    Woofer New Member

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    I have owned and used the PowerTap, SRM Pro, and Polar power units and would highly recommend against the Polar. I think one would be better served by doing known distances against the clock and recording the results (either on the flats or up a hill) as a measure of progress rather than spending the money to get the Polar, and all the time to debug the install. Had all of the problems with Polar listed by the users here, the cadence magnet too weak, put a powerful magnet on, now the chain gets pulled by the magnet or the magnet gets pulled off, when switching between multiple wheels there's even a problem because one of my disk wheels would rub against the power sensor every so often when the power sensor was in the optimum position, also, putting the heart rate monitor properly tight on the bar mount makes it a pain to install and remove to download recordings or for using the watch with different bikes.. Polar technology is as good as it ever is going to be - there is no intention for them to improve it as the original designer has offered to help them and they have refused his help, both SRM and PowerTap are continually ( if slowly ) refined over the years. If price is a determining factor and all you can afford is Polar, you would be better off buying nothing and using the analyticalcycling web site to calculate your power from short time trials or velodrome efforts.
     
  15. squidwranglr

    squidwranglr New Member

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    I couldn't disagree more. If you are serious and informed enough about cycling as to be thinking about a power meter and it's not just a fad item for you, and your budget allows only something in the Polar range, you would still benefit from it. Greatly, I believe, actually. Formulaic calculations like those at Analytic Cycling and a few others are great for post-ride analysis, but you don't get the benefit of during the ride feedback from them. As I said in my previous post, I find that the Polar does a very good job of quantifying my effort, far more objectively than RPE, heart rate or speed. Futhermore, whether folks like it or not, a properly installed Polar unit is quite accurate when compared to its more expensive peers:

    http://mywebpage.netscape.com/rechung/wattage/
    http://web.archive.org/web/20030309132525/http:/www.solariscentral.org/cycling/Power_Output_FAQ.pdf

    Also, this is a nice summary table of all power measurement systems, their features, pros and cons:

    http://midweekclub.ca/powerFAQ.htm#Q8

    I am just a happy Polar owner and as I said before, if you're willing to invest the time for a proper install, I think it's a very useful product.

    Berend
     
  16. Woofer

    Woofer New Member

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    I think all of our advice should be taken with a grain of salt as most people who own something will tend to recommend it to others as an affirmation of the wisdom of their own purchases.
    :)



    The ten percent instantaneous variance and the accuracy limitation limit ( > 1000 watts not reliable), and the minimum five second recording period minimize it's usefulness for sprinting and emphasize it's utilitarian role for steady state, endurance efforts. Whether this limitation is of any importance to the original poster is not known.


    OTOH, I have owned three of the four systems on the market now (skipped Ergomo) so I have done a long term Rosetta Stone test.
     
  17. mdplayer

    mdplayer New Member

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    thanks all for all the info....it doesn't quite clear everything up....

    I am a general manager of a shop here in the US and even though I would get both units for quite a discount, I would certainly rather spend significantly less on something. More than $500 in my pocket sure puts a smile on my face. I won't be racing anytime soon, I just wanted something to help track progress through out the season.. I know I will take the time and effort so set things up properly, so thats not quite the issue. I guess I was just curious if it wasn't a complete waste of my money...and with all the evidence, for my gerneral purpose, I certainly think it will be worth it (which is why I ordered the polar unit today). I thank you all for your opinions and your time helping a confused cyclist on this one. Even if it is complete junk (which I hope it isn't), I can atleast tell my customers interested in one to pick something else.
     
  18. beerco

    beerco New Member

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    Agreed. It seems that the only ones who really advocate the polar have never owned another powermeter. I ran a polar for two years and ended up selling it for a used powertap. I'm much happier now.

    BTW, I had two polar kits for a total investment of around $750. I ended up selling them for around $700 and picked up a used powertap in great condition with two harnesses for $450...awsome deal for a much better system.
     
  19. rule62

    rule62 New Member

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    FYI for those going the Polar route...I just heard back from my LBS. They did a test setup to troubleshoot my returned Power Kit. They were able to trace the problem back to a faulty head unit. After testing other returned units, it seems that their most recent Polar Power Kit failures trace back to that. If the head unit is bad, you definitely won't get a reliable install. So, if you run into issues, you might try swapping out the head unit.

    I'm really satisfied with the PowerTap. Plus I like how easy it is to use with multiple bikes.

    One thing is clear enough to me at this point though. Whichever way that you go, power will definitely help you to be a better cyclist if you use it right.

    Good luck boys! ;)
     
  20. mdplayer

    mdplayer New Member

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    Any idea what was wrong with your head unit? Mine seems to work fine, but the only problem I have with it is storage. The unit certainly doesnt store 500 hours (or whatever the number is) on it. I know that if i dont clear it every 3 rides, the storage is full...

    Anyone else see a problem like this??
     
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