Sunday, December 9, 2012

Wattbike Review

Reality set in at the end of this week bringing snow, fog, wind, and cold! Unfortunately, that brings a lot of training indoors. Fortunately we got the new WattBike shipped this week. I heard about this company at the ACSM Annual Meeting in San Francisco this summer. I researched the company a bit and decided that it would be a good addition to the Human Performance lab (which is on a tight budget).  I broke in with about 6 hours of riding since it arrived on Thursday including a 3 hour ride today. Here are my thoughts so far.

First, I was impressed by how easy it was to get into the same position I ride on my Tri bike. It took me about an hour to put the unit together out of the box, and all of about 10 minutes to switch to my saddle and get my position set up. I honestly could not feel the difference between the two set-ups. The Wattbike has numbers on the adjustable parts. I wrote down all of my numbers and am able to quickly get into my position for every ride. An added bonus is that it uses Look pedals so I didn't have to do any cleat switching.

Overall, the ride was smooth. I enjoyed it much better than the indoor trainer with my bike which was a bit of a surprise. It was much quieter and I didn't have to worry about any slippage when I stepped on it. At the end of the my second ride, I did 3 all out 20-30 second sprints. I got above 1100 watts on each and there was no issues. It is easy to get to the RPM:Power ratio that I usually ride at on my trainer and outdoor rides. Added bonus #2, you won't burn through tires every month like I do on the trainer.

I like having the "shape" screen up while riding. In just 6 hours of riding, I have learned a lot about my stroke and even seen some improvement now that I focus on efficiency a little more. That is information you just can't get with  a wheel based Power system. The electronics on this system are where the real benefits are, in my opinion. I like how easy it was to look at the ride data on screen after the ride and transfer the information to a computer for a more in-depth view of the workout. There is so much more data to break down (and learn from) with the Wattbike than the PM on my bike. It is also really convenient that I can upload the workout directly to my Training Peaks account with graphs, etc. The ability to have the bike link directly up with a computer gives you even more options for viewing information during the ride.

One thing I wish it did was link with my Ipad (or any other tablet). It is a little easier than a laptop to mess around with with in-ride. I also wish it would give a warning when the storage on the computer was getting full. I didn't get a chance to review the second half of the data from my second ride because the storage on the bike's computer got full. I didn't know until after the ride. I will make sure I delete the computer before every ride from now on so that doesn't happen to me again.

The reason we purchased the bike was for research. Once I got the shipping notification, a student I am working with on a project went through the IRB process so she was able to start data collection as soon as the bike arrived. The data collection process has gone off without a hitch through about 20 of the 60 trials. We are (anxiously) waiting to run the data, but it is nice to have a reliable piece of research equipment that can be used as a training aid as well. I am looking forward to getting more familiar with this as I train on it through the winter and supervise research on it in the years to come.

Link to their website:

Picture of "shape" output after 3 hour ride (I've got some work to do...):


  1. Matt

    any view on how the power measurement on the wattbike compares to other power meters? i.e. i only have access to a wattbike but would like to know how i compare to guys riding road bikes with power meters


    1. It is pretty close. I have rode a hub based power and am currently riding a quark. For the most part, my power outputs on the two are pretty close. FTP tests on all three have been +/- 5 watts which is to be expected even on the same device. However, it almost always overestimates my distance when compared to outside riding (maybe I am just not aero enough :)).

      I have never tried an all out 10 second spring on my TT bike, but I did a few times at the end of a 2 hour ride on the Wattbike. According to that, I was able to hit 1150 watts three consecutive 10 second sprints at the end of a ride. I was pretty surprised by this being I have never worked on sprinting, and only about 140 lbs, and was fairly fatigued. I'll have to try it out on my TT bike and get back to you about accuracy at the extremes.

      Thanks for reading, let me know if you have any other questions.