After giving private previews at Interbike, iBike have finally announced the release of their new product, the iBike Dash + Power (there’s also a basic model that doesn’t do power). The Dash is essentially an iBike head unit which houses an iPhone or iPod Touch in a waterproof and shockproof casing. The unit takes advantage of the iPhone’s many capabilities and supplements it with a wind sensor, barometer, accelerometer, and spare rechargeable battery tucked under the phone.
What you get with this (un)holy alliance is a GPS power meter head that can generate its own power readings with iBike’s algorithms (based on measuring resistive forces), or receive direct power numbers from any ANT+ power meter. Thanks to the iPhone’s touch screen, the Dash promises to be much more intuitive to use – you don’t have to remember which button to click, click and hold, or double click, or which two buttons to press simultaneously. You’ll instead scroll through a number of user configured screens. For example, you can have a map, power, weather, and interval screens, each with editable lines of data. Data can be displayed numerically or graphically, in case your brain is bad with numbers when oxygen deprived.
The Dash app is a free iTunes app, so iBike can easily add features as they’re dreamed up. I was very pleased to see some of the suggestions I made at Interbike incorporated in the app. Firmware updates will go through iTunes like any other app updates.
Battery life is 4 hours with a fully charged phone and the supplemental battery. You can carry a spare battery for longer rides. iBike are unsure how much more battery life you’ll get out of the iPhone 4. The unit mounts on an aluminum bracket that replaces the headset top cap, so it should fit just about any bike with a 1 1/8” no threadset. Uploading ride files is dead simple – the Dash emails it to you or your coach with the touch of a few buttons.
Bring the Hate
As much as I love innovation, the negatives have to be addressed. First of all, it’s big. I know some purists who think Garmins ruin the lines of their bike. I don’t even want to know what they’ll think of the Dash. Secondly, the screen will be hard to read in direct sunlight. Come wintertime, you’ll need special gloves if you want to use the touchscreen. And finally, the price. The basic cyclometer version retails for $299, and the power version for $849, which puts it between offerings from Garmin/Saris and SRM. If you thought the Dash would be cheaper since you’re supplying the iPhone, well, think again. The Dash, with its array of sensors, is more than a simple iPhone mount, and all that R&D ain’t free, either.
And the Love…
To be realistic, I think the touring crowd will embrace the Dash quicker than the racing crowd – a touring company can send their clients out with turn by turn route maps while tracking each rider’s whereabouts. So then what’s the big deal? For me, having only touched the Dash without using it, it’s all about the potential. After all, we’re talking about strapping a PC to your bars and feeding it speed, power, HR, cadence, slope, acceleration, wind speed, and location data. The possibilities are endless.
For example, you can add a GPS elevation plot in Aerolab to further refine CdA measurements (Aerolab presently uses a barometrically derived elevation plot). The Dash’s ability to sense braking forces could further refine Aerolab data, eliminating a previously unfixable error in virtual elevation calculations. I’m also hopeful that the Dash will eventually be able to crunch an approximate CdA figure on the fly (perhaps even graphically a la Aerolab), a feature that could make field testing different positions and equipment very quick and painless. Heck, maybe someday we’ll be bragging about our max G’s in a sprint instead of our max wattages. Or maybe we’ll have instant VAM or w/kg readouts.
As good a job as iBike seems to have done with the Dash, I’m looking forward to what’s next. The hardware’s in place, and it’s on a platform that anyone can write an app to. I’d love to see this thing get some traction so that brainiacs like Robert Chung and Andy Froncioni jump on board.