Thanks to platforms such as Strava, the recording and analysis of performance data has moved from pro to amateur ranks. But most power meters are still priced for pros. Arofly intends to change this with the X-Elite – a product of Taiwan’s high-tech industry.
There are many reasons why amateur cyclists want to record and analyze their performances. For some, it serves to keep track of their riding and keep them motivated, others need the data to compare themselves to peers and a third group might follow a training plan to improve their overall fitness or to get ready for a big event. Platforms such as Strava and various fitness apps are amplifying the thirst of amateur cyclists for data. But thus far power meters have been a costly product – no matter if they were built into the cranks, the pedals or the rear hub, they would easily cost US$1000 or more, including the mounting of the system to the bike.
With the X-Elite A1, Arofly aims to disrupt and expand the market for power meters, as the retail price for this system is set at US$379 worldwide. Rather than putting precision strain gauge strips on cranks, pedal axles or rear hubs to measure flex and thus calculate the watts cranked out by the rider, the Arofly team, formed by post-grad students at NTHU, hardware and software engineers at TBS and funded by the TBS Group Corporation, has opted for an entirely different route. They measure the deflection of the rear tire instead, using a smart algorithm to filter out any noise such as potholes or curbstones and to get the real signal, being the real-time pedaling effort of the rider.
To do this, an oversized valve cap is mounted to a standard inner tube and then coupled to either the head unit or a smartphone. This greatly reduces the amount of labour needed to install the system and thus further lowers the costs to get this done. The sensors and Bluetooth sender are all built into that valve cap. While early versions used a smartphone app to receive and show the data, Arofly has now come up with its own head unit, added a cadence sensor and further improved the precision of the measurements. The sensors wirelessly connect to the X-Elite head unit via Bluetooth. No need to run ugly cables from the sensor to the handlebar or to change crucial parts on the bike.
There are two caveats however: First the X-Elite system is not compatible with tubeless builds due to the sealant. And second the signal will become less clear if a rider has a very clean and efficient pedal stroke, evenly pushing and pulling all the time. But that kind of rider most likely can afford the more expensive systems on the market. Instead Arofly is aiming at fitness-oriented consumers who want to keep track of their activities across a range of different sports. Thanks to its price point, Arofly’s X-Elite may well become the Fitbit of the power meter market, appealing to a much wider audience and thus bringing this technology to the masses – thanks to some innovative Taiwanese minds.