Training for sport continues to evolve as manufacturers are finding new ways to measure and analyze how we perform. Heart rate was one of the first technological advances, and today, power is the gold standard in cycling. But as we continue to push the boundaries of what is possible, companies like BSX, Lazer, LEOMO, Moxy, Pioneer, and PowerPod are creating tools that could be the next advance to help us train into the future.
As athletes, we are always looking at how we can improve our performance and make the most out of the limited time we have for training. Many of us that have been cycling for decades probably followed the same progression. First, it was a simple cyclo-computer from a brand like Cateye or Vetta. Next, we added the Polar heart rate monitor watch before moving on to our first Garmin, and then a power meter like a PowerTap hub. At each step, more and more information became available and we had to learn how to incorporate it into our training strategy. Having a coach has become more popular in the amateur ranks and has helped take the guess work out of reviewing all of this data.
Even within the realm of training with power, we have moved to a single power number to power readings for individual legs, and now to directional measurement like Pioneer’s Force Vector. Other power meters like the PowerPod, can also track the movement of your bike and calculate aerodynamic drag data, but we’ll touch on that more a little later.
Many of these advancements have meant taking data that was once only able to be collected in a lab and moving it to the real world. That’s how heart rate and power measurement started and new products like the BSXinsight aim to measure your lactic acid, Moxy measures your Muscle Oxygen Saturation levels, and the LEOMO Type-R uses sensors to capture motion analysis.
The main question that athletes and coaches have is “how do I use this data?” Some of those areas are easier to answer than others, but one thing we can all agree on is that what happens in the lab doesn’t always translate into the real world. I hope that the information below will help to start the conversation about how to move forward in these new areas of training.
For now, here are some of the new products that will help shape the future of training, and how they can work to improve you as an athlete.
BSXinsight Muscle Oxygen and Lactate Threshold Sensor
The Product: BSX was one of the companies to bring new technology out of the labs for testing Muscle Oxygen and Lactate Threshold with their BSXinsight Lactate Threshold Sensor. The calf sleeve with an attached sensor uses a LED light array to essentially look inside of your calf and transmits data through ANT+ and Bluetooth to your cycling computer or watch. The biosignals created inside of your muscles are read by the light array and that information is used to provide real-time lactate threshold curve information. In the past, this information was only able to be obtained by blood-based testing that involved measuring levels of lactic acid in your blood while you were performing to exhaustion in a lab.
What it measures: Lactate Threshold (LT) is the point during high-intensity workouts that lactate starts to accumulate in your blood faster than it can be removed. Lactate is created by your body during the process of converting carbs into energy, and when too much lactate builds up, you start to feel nauseous and your body essentially forces you to stop and recover. By increasing your LT, you can work harder for longer.
Real world usage: BSX believes LT is the ultimate in measuring performance. By determining your LT, you can determine specific ideal training zones and define athletic capacity. During training or races, you can monitor the zones you are training in, similar to heart rate or power training, and make sure you are training in the correct zones in real time to improve the quality of your training and performance on race day.
Who can benefit: Runners, cyclists, and triathletes at all levels.
Lazer Inclination Sensor
The Product: Lazer says this is a body posture monitor. This sensor is fitted in the back of your helmet and measures the angle your head is at and sends tactile or audio alerts to remind you to keep that position with your head. In the perfect world, you’d set the angle in a wind tunnel with aerodynamicists, but a good fitter would be the next best option.
What it measures: The Lazer Inclination Sensor doesn’t record any data, but it does help to remind you to hold that position to remain the most aerodynamic you can.
Real world usage: In training and racing, this device will send you a reminder to help you maintain the form you’ve spent all that hard earned money on during a specialized fit or wind tunnel time.
Who can benefit: Any cyclist or triathlete using a compatible Lazer helmet looking for that reminder to stay aero.
The Product: LEOMO’s motion analysis tool, the Type-R, takes motion tracking out of the lab and into the field. In the past, motion tracking and analysis was reserved for bike fitters mainly. Now coaches can review a cyclists form, quantify it looking at efficiency and power, and provide tangible feedback to the rider on changes that can be made. The head unit collects data from five wearable sensors that have three axis gyroscopes and accelerometers. These sensor track movement of your feet, thighs, and pelvis, and provide Motion Performance Indicators (MPI) that will help you learn more about your form and how to improve it.
What it measures: The LEOMO Type-R sensors measure leg angular range, dead spot score, and foot angular range, all of which is done independently for your left and right side. The pelvic sensor provides information on pelvic tilt, and there are more data points on the way with future software updates. The head unit also can receive ANT+ signals from sensors measuring power, heart rate, cadence, etc. You can review the MPI’s in real time while you are riding, and dive even deeper afterward using LEOMO’s in-depth data analysis software.
Real world usage: The Type-R can show you relationships between energy usage and form over time and provide tangible feedback on changes to your position, among other things. As time goes on and
Who can benefit: Cyclists and triathletes trying to improve their form and maximize their mechanical efficiency
Moxy Muscle Oxygen Monitor
The Product: The Moxy Muscle Oxygen Monitor tracks the amount of oxygen in your muscles, or Muscle Oxygen Saturation (SmO2). In some ways, it is similar to the BSXinsights, that it uses light sensors to measure inside of your muscles. Your muscles need oxygen to perform and Moxy determines the percentage of hemoglobin-and-myoglobin-carrying oxygen in the capillaries and cells of muscle tissue. Unlike BSX, the Moxy can be placed just about anywhere on your body that has muscle, though placing it on the muscles that are exerting the force will provide the best readings. Moxy attaches to your body using tape or adhesive sticker patches and comes with a light shield that surrounds the sensor to help block out light. It can all be placed under your cycling shorts or compression shorts to be less noticeable.
What it measures: SmO2 can vary depending on work load, recovery, and some other factors, but essentially the higher demand on your muscles, the lower your SmO2 levels will be since your heart and capillaries need to catch up. As your heart rate increases and your blood vessels dilate, your SmO2 levels will increase. By using Moxy, you are collecting data to see how your training is affecting your body’s ability to provide oxygen to your muscles.
Real world usage: In the past, this test would be performed by running through specific efforts on a treadmill or a bike with blood taken at specific intervals, similar to an LT test. Instead of looking at the lactate build up though, you are looking at oxygen levels in your blood. You are testing not only your levels as you perform but also how quickly you recover doing recovery periods.
Who can benefit: Any athlete looking to improve their training and performance by increasing their muscle oxygen levels.
Pioneer Dual-Sided Power Meter and SGX-CA500 Computer
The Product: We have reviewed the Pioneer SGY-PM68 Dual-Sided Power Meter and SGY-PMLTC Single Leg Power Meter Upgrade Kit, so check out those articles for more details. When used with the SGX-CA500 computer, Pioneer offers their Force Vector data to help show you the direction and amount of power you are putting down at 12 points along your pedaling stroke. Pioneer uses a proprietary ANT+ signal though, so their computer is the only head unit that can collect and show this data in real time. If you switch to standard ANT+ signal, other head units will be able to receive power and cadence information similar to other dual-sided crank based power meters.
What it measures: The Pioneer power meters collect data like power and cadence like other power meters but steps up to show efficiency and directional data when used with their head units.
Real world usage: The data collected by Pioneer helps to provide real-time information on your pedaling efficiency. Not only is it collecting data on the power, but it shows you whether you are sweeping through the dead spots in the pedal stroke, and what you are doing on the back stroke. Coaches and athletes can use this data to make adjustments to fit and form to increase efficiency in your pedal stroke.
Who can benefit: Cyclists and triathletes looking to improve the efficiency of their pedal stroke.
Note – Pioneer had their expanded sensor network on display at Interbike. This expanded network placed sensors on various parts of a rider and their bike to collect additional data. At the time, there were no definitive plans to bring the ESN to the public but look for another article coming soon to talk more about this project.
The Product: The PowerPod is a different kind of power meter. Instead of measuring power directly, it uses multiple types of data inputs to accurately calculate power output. It uses accelerometers and air pressure sensors within the pod, along with speed and cadence sensor information to calculate the power you are putting out. When enabled, it can also provide additional data in regards to side-to-side motion, pedaling efficiency and even aerodynamics. While most power meters are usually locked to one bike, the PowerPod can be moved from one bike to the next by moving it from one handlebar mount to another.
What it measures: Above and beyond power, the PowerPod also measures the motion of the bike and can provide efficiency metrics for things like rolling resistance and drag. It can go as far as showing you data on how braking and handling affected your efficiency.
Real world usage: The expanded data can be useful in reviewing how much your bike moves and how much efficiency is lost. You can use it to tweak your bike fit to see changes affect your efficiency. The CdA (drag) numbers can help show you real world aerodynamics information that was previously only found in the wind tunnel.
Who can benefit: Any cyclist or triathlete looking to improve their efficiency.
Other than trying to understand the information and how to use it, one of the biggest challenges is how to bring all of the information together. Items like the BSXinsight is essentially another sensor that connects to you cycling computer and can incorporate some of its data into websites like Garmin Connect, Strava, and TrainingPeaks. Other products like the LEOMO Type-R, Pioneer power meter and PowerPod all have proprietary software or websites that you use to analyze the data collected (Note – The Pioneer and PowerPod can transmit data to computers, but you’ll need their software to get the most out of it.). Unfortunately, there will be times that you will have to look at one website for one set of data and another website for a different set. One day though, as the various technologies start to gain traction and become more widely used, the integration will come.