Louise Ramsay finds out more from 4iiii co-founder and chief sales officer Ian Andes
Any cyclist worth their salt is serious about gadgets. GPS, heart-rate monitors, training apps and power meters - the amount of technology out there promising to up their game is vast.
But emerging as the one thing most likely to rank as a cyclist’s future best friend is the power meter. Why? Because power - which in bike world is measured in watts - or more accurately, how that power is used, is seen as key to a cyclist’s success. And as the name suggests, a power meter is designed to work out exactly that.
New to the market is the 4iiii Precision power meter. Fitted onto a cyclist’s existing cranks, it can be used on a single crank for left only power or on both cranks to provide both left and right total power. Priced to be accessible to most riders, the pod is Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ and works with all popular head units. Importantly, the proprietary strain gauge lay-up provides users with power output accurate to greater than 99 per cent.
Which may or may not make sense to you, depending on your area of expertise. Helpfully, Ian Andes, 4iiii co-founder and chief sales officer, is able to clarify things for those who may be less savvy about technology or, indeed, even bikes.
He explains: “Imagine you’re driving a car. You know how much fuel you have in the tank and that it averages 20 miles per gallon in perfect conditions. But going uphill, you average 15 miles per gallon and going down 30. This affects how long the fuel will last.
“A power meter works in a similar way, but instead assesses energy levels. For instance, as long as I average 200 watts on a full Ironman, I know I’m going to end up with fresh legs, but if I average 210 watts, I’m going to end up with tired legs. In pointing out to athletes when to conserve energy over distance or in training, it allows them to pace themselves.”
Andes, who has a background in the technology sector, set up wearable technology brand 4iiii with co-founder Kip Fyfe, who has over 30 years’ experience working in the high-tech electronic industry, four years ago.
A keen athlete, out training one day, Andes glanced down at his sports watch, tripped over a kerb and took a spill.
“I wanted a safer way to work,” he says. “I hooked up with Kip and we created 4iiii. We launched with the Sportiiii. It allows for a training matrix to be observed in the peripheral vision. Athletes just attach it directly onto their glasses. It means that even when looking straight ahead, it’s possible to get all the data about athletic output. It was a success, as were subsequent products we launched, but the Precision power meter is going to be really big for us.”
Power meters first came onto the market almost two decades ago, but cost was prohibitively high back then, meaning only professionals could benefit from their use. But as technology has progressed, costs have fallen - though until now, not far enough for most ordinary mortals to get a slice of the action.
“The price point is actually the biggest difference between the Precision power meter and everything else on the market,” says Andes. “A few years ago a power meter cost £2,000 minimum, but we’re going to retail the Precision power meter in the UK for around £319.”
So in a price bracket that falls into most people’s sights, what else can the Precision power meter offer?
“Most brands of power meter provide similar data,” Andes says. “Essentially, they’ll work out the wattage the cyclist is working at. Apart from the price point, the major difference is how the data is collected.
“The Precision meter collects data from the crank arm at the site of the pedals - where the human connects with the bike unit. In our opinion, it’s the most accurate place to collect data from. We feel that because the 4iiii can collect information from both the left and right crank arm - essentially, from each leg - it can measure the twist in the pedal, how much energy is going into the crank and the propulsion moving the bike forward, which we believe is altogether the best way to go about it. Another bonus is that the 4iiii is incredibly light.”
Who’s going to buy the power meter? “A power meter is unlikely to interest a casual cyclist, but for anyone who uses heart rate data, this is going to be really appealing,” Andes says. “It’s much more accurate, but it isn’t just for serious athletes.
“In terms of weight loss, there’s a temptation to ride really hard to burn off calories, but going at it too fast actually just burns off a higher percentage of glycogen than fat. The Precision power meter allows cyclists to use the data to ride at the best pace to lose weight. But whether your aim is to get trim, win a race or just train effectively, it provides information on the best way to maximise your efforts.”
Great cross-sell product
As a small product set at a price that’s within most athletes’ budgets, the Precision power meter is a good way for sports retailers to cross-sell a specialist cycling product to triathletes, who are - hopefully - already using your shop to kit themselves out with swimming and running gear, as well as other technology aids, such as heart rate monitors.