No blog post last Friday as I was down in Glentress at the Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland attending the launch of the Limits power meter. It was surprisingly quite a low key affair, but all the Limits team were present along with some key riders and familiar faces from the world of Scottish cycling.
I was keen to attend as all I wanted was to see Limits in the flesh. What I got was more than I bargained for. After long chats with each individual in the Limits team, COO Gordon Drummond gave me a couple the units I had ordered and even installed one of them on my mountain bike which gave me a great excuse to try it out and ride the awesome trails at Glentress.
The object of the test was merely a proof of concept. For Limits this is arguably the worst-case-scenario but they were quite happy for me to pedal away into the woods using flat pedals and hiking boots, even though the manual clearly states not to use standard shoes as they may cause irreparable damage to the sensor.
On quite a few occasions I found myself standing on the unit (hence the above point about standard shoes) as I moved my feet around to negotiate the tricky terrain that even the Glentress Blue run throws at you. I only had one Garmin GPS and so I used my iPhone and the Wahoo app to record the data from the Stages PM. I also used HR which both devices picked up as a data sense check.
I basically messed around for a bit doing multiple laps of the course, calibrating both Stages and Limits at various point in the ride and trying different things to see if I can cause some data and hardware disruption. After all, this was a proof-of-concept test and a deliberately cobbled together one at that. Now that I had confirmed to myself it wasn’t vapourware, all I wanted to know was whether the numbers that Limits produce are in the same ball park as Stages. That was all. It wasn’t a multi-million pound controlled test in an inert environment funded by large companies who have their own agenda, it was little old me riding his bike around a forest, testing a device that has cost me less than $250 and has been put together by a very small team of individuals who have the balls, vision and energy to create an affordable power meter in hardly any time at all (in power meter production timescales).
For what it’s worth, in my honest opinion, Limits have delivered on that vision.
And again, for what it’s worth, in my opinion, Limits should be applauded for their achievement.
But you can’t please everyone. Even though I was playing the role of eyes and ears and collaborator for Cycling Weekly, I had a personal agenda too. I wanted to know what the Limits team thought about the media firestorm that seemed to have engulfed them. I was expecting stoic responses such as “that’s business” or “water off a duck’s back”, but I got the distinct impression the backlash from social media had really got to them and taken up bandwidth that would have probably been better used getting the product to market sooner.
In conversations with the Limits team whose size is only in single figures, I repeatedly picked up on theme, which I interpreted as “Five core individuals, working overtime, pulling together trying to hit very aggressive project timescales, to deliver a device that works and costs no more than a Garmin in as little time as possible”.
And again, for what it’s worth, in my opinion, they should be applauded for their achievement.
But this is business, so let’s take a hard line and forget emotional and human aspects of getting an idea from beer mat to reality.
The question most people will rightly ask is, does it work? Well, a quick glance at the Wahoo app and comparing Normalized Power with Stages (currently on my fourth incarnation of this particular type of PM) and the numbers are ball park and one is within 10% of the other. Like I say, this was not a multi-million pound controlled test in an inert environment funded by large companies who have their own agenda. It was little old me riding his bike around a forest in hiking boots testing a device (which many thought didn’t even exist with suggestions of it being an internet scam) to see how it compares with a well established power meter that’s had plenty of issues of it’s own over the year’s (despite Team Sky’s endorsement). Having invested over five grand purchasing and testing power meters in the last three years, I’m happy with this unit (you could argue I should be distraught). For $250 you’re not getting the International Space Station. And no it doesn’t make toast! Next grumble?
Yes, like days of the week, it’s predictable that some sections of the social media world will be the ones that grab the online headlines for negative reasons, but it’s the silent majority that will decide with their wallets if this device is an affordable power meter. We need balance and we need facts, not opinions based on the square root of zero. Limits is not perfect, nothing is, I just have to look at myself to reaffirm that point. Maybe the nit-pickers should ask themselves whether they are perfect before deciding on being critically deconstructive.
And then maybe those that are perfect should then dedicate their perfection to sleepless nights, dedication, energy and drive to produce a power meter that costs less than $250 in record time with no flaws whatsoever? That’s something I will definitely invest my money in.