Cyclocross riders, would you like a power meter that helped you properly dial in a course and tune the amount of running you need as part of your training,? And mountain bikers, does a double-sided power meter pedal sound cool? Well, according to a US patent application by Garmin, that’s exactly what could be on the way.
Garmin has filed a patent application (US 2020/0114242) that suggests it is considering adding cyclocross and mountain bike-specific features to its Vector pedals. The new tech, which would detect whether a rider is clipped into their pedals or not, could pave the way for off-road power meter pedals.
A Garmin Edge bike computer would be able to display information relating to the rider's exertion level and whether or not they're clipped in. The drawings also suggest that a compatible head unit will also be able to display data on time spent unclipped from the pedals.
The patent application describes how sensors would be able to tell whether you are riding, stopped and straddling the bike, walking while straddling the bike, or walking alongside the bike, and give you performance data based on each.
Patent applications never make for the most riveting reading, but we’ve had a good dig through for the juicy details.
“Embodiments of the present invention utilise one or more pedal-mounted sensors, such as a Vector pedal or any other force and acceleration sensor(s), to determine the status of the cyclist's foot.”
Garmin’s Vector pedals “may be configured to perform this analysis”.
What Garmin could be suggesting here is that they may use features of the current Vector power pedals to measure the clipped in/out data.
Cyclocross is unusual in that it often requires riders to run with their bike. This could be through mud, sand, or even muddy sand. Running and carrying the bike is also used to negotiate obstacles like steep hills, barriers and steps. As a result of the dynamic nature of cyclocross, data on the time spent unclipped from the pedals could provide a useful insight into performance, especially when the conditions require more running.
Having data is all well and good, but it’s only useful if it can inform and be used to improve something. Here’s how we think the clipped in/out data might be used.
Cyclocross is one of the few cycling disciplines where riders have to build in some form of running training into their season preparations. Some head out for long, steady runs while others prefer to replicate the short, sharp efforts of racing.
Garmin says that the new system could provide data on the amount of time spent unclipped from the pedals. This time could then be used to suggest how much running time is needed in training.
This is one that Garmin puts forward as a potential use for the data. They say that the data could provide an insight into how smoothly you rode a particular race or even a lap. The clip-out percentage shows the proportion of time spent off the bike. Lower this figure, and you’ll have ridden a greater amount of the course, suggesting that you’ve improved your line choices.
The data may also be useful in determining which races you perform best in. Do you go better when the mud is heaviest and there is a lot of running to do or are you most successful when it’s dry and you can stay on the bike more?
If Garmin is going to all of the trouble of providing data on being clipped in, it’s very possible that an off-road version of their Vector Power Pedals is on the way too. This would involve a change to a dual-sided pedal body that attaches to a common mountain bike 2-bolt cleat.
Reliability will be a major factor of any off-road pedal-based power meter as any water ingress from either the conditions typically found in cyclocross or the constant jet washing of bikes would wreak havoc with delicate electronics.
Garmin says that “it may be desirable to combine statistics regarding clipped-in status and changes with statistics regarding such actual bicycle performance metrics.”
The metrics they refer to include heart rate, and Garmin already makes a heart rate monitor strap that provides data on run cadence, ground contact time and stride length. There may be scope for integration to show how a rider fatigues during a race and how their running may suffer.
We’ll be keeping our eye out for any further details.
Thanks to Chris Benson, a partner at European IP firm HGF, for bringing this patent application to our attention.