Velocomp Powerpod Unboxing and Review

You can find the company website here

And you can find a Kickstarter page (no longer active, but has a nice intro video. Since posting this, the intro video is also available on Youtube.) here

So, I ordered a Powerpod from Velocomp Thursday (May the 4th), and this afternoon I received an email from the company saying the package was out for delivery! Whoa! That’s pretty fast Amazon Prime-esque delivery times. Actually maybe even faster considering it was delivered < 48 hours after I placed the order. I walk up to my mailbox and the USPS person handed the package to me. Really impressive.

This is what the box looks like from the outside,

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The packaging is very minimalistic – which I actually like. Also for a small company starting out, this is to be expected.

Now, I was considering a Pioneer power meter, and I wasn’t discouraged by the price so much as the fact that I owned two bicycles – and one of them is a Campy Athena Crank. So, I was really undecided on (A) Which bike to get the power meter for, and (B) How do I get power data if I ride the other bike ? Anytime I have to make a decision that involves more than a simple yes or no, I just put off the decision making way into the future. 🙂 Enter the Powerpod, and the fact that it can be used on multiple bikes easily, and I was immediately sold.

How I chanced upon the Powerpod was, I was reading an article that Apple might be working on a patent for power generation based on a wind sensor, and someone in the comment section pointed out that someone already had a fully baked product out there that did the exact same thing. I google the company’s name, and voila, DC Rainmaker has an article on it. Now, I was kinda introduced to the Wahoo ecosystem by reading DC Rainmaker’s posts as well, and that has worked out marvelously for me. I love all of the Wahoo items I have. I love the heart rate sensors, the speed and cadence sensors, the Wahoo Elemnt. I even briefly owned a Kickr snap, but did not enjoy riding on a trainer.

Back to the Powerpod, I am unboxing the product as I type this post. First things first – I am slightly disappointed that the usb port does not have a rubber cover to it. I am wondering now if this is going to be waterproof. I remember reading in DCR’s article that he it can be ridden in the rain without issues. I might have to fashion some kind of rubber washer for it, or maybe just stick some black electric tape over the usb port.  {Since writing this post, I contacted Velocomp, and they assured me that the USB port and the wind port are both waterproof. In fact, I did earlier read in the comments section that you just rinse them out if they ever get dust on them. I feel more confident now that this will work in rain and such without problems. } However, they did have a picture showing which way the connector needed to go. Considering established companies like Gopro can’t get this right, (not for the USB cable itself, but for the battery and SD Card) I guess, you need to give them points for it. The usb is also micro-USB which is what most electronics products come with. They could move to USB-C and that would take the hassle out of the connector not being reversible, but not a big deal, considering this is for charging and not data transfer. I meant to say not massive amounts of data transfer like video from a camera, but I have been corrected that the USB port is indeed used for data transfer, when you hook it up to your computer to get advanced raw data analysis. 

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I already have a K-edge Wahoo/Gopro combo mount on one of my bikes, and noticed the Powerpod comes with another mount. Considering my Campy bike is EPS and has very less cabling in the front, I think I’ll use the regular adapter with this.

Instructions:

  1. There is installation instructions stuck to the inside of the box.
  2. The rest of the instructions are printed out on paper and included in the box.

Btw, I put the Powerpod on charge just a while back, and looks like it is fully charged and ready to go.

You can find the instructions here

I skipped two pages of advanced instructions for now. I’ll get to that at a later point in time.

Pairing to Speed and Cadence Sensors:

I own Wahoo speed and cadence sensors – so I’m going to proceed to pairing the powerpod with them. Ok, so I brought the sensors alive, pressed on the button for 4 seconds, and it blinked green, followed by solid green, followed by orangish blinking ?? Did I actually pair it ? I’m going to try again.

Ok, it seemed to do the same thing again. Blinking green followed by solid green, followed by blinking amber/orange. I guess it’s paired. We’ll figure it out. Took all of 5 minutes really. The sensors did pair correctly, so, there was no cause for concern there really.

Folks over at Velocomp tell me that,

  1. Blinking Green – Searching for sensors
  2. Solid Green – Speed sensor paired.
  3. Orange 3 flashes – Cadence and or heart rate strap paired.

Ah, so that’s what it was – I tried pairing the Speed and Cadence sensor at the same time. So, the Solid Green was the Speed sensor getting paired, the 3 Orange flashes was the Cadence sensor getting paired. 

Apparently, pairing a heart rate sensor is also supported, and is valuable in gathering useful data. I’m going to check this out as well.

Pairing to my Wahoo Elemnt bike computer:

You’re supposed to do this from the Elemnt. Ok, I was able to go the menu, Sensors, Add Sensor, and it took less than 30 seconds to pair to the Elemnt. It’s now added to the Elemnt. The Powerpod has a Solid Yellow light on, indicating that it is now ready to be calibrated.

At this point, I need to take a break to clean my bicycle 🙂 It’s the weekend you know. I think once I have it spotless and lubed, I’ll attach the Powerpod to it, and go ahead with Calibration after that.

Ok, here’s an odd thing – while I have shut down my bike computer, and wandered off into corners of the internet, the Powerpod’s LED is still solid amber. Looks like it needs to be calibrated 🙂 How do I shut this thing off ? Ok, apparently if I go about wandering the internet, it should power off in 20 minutes. …. And it did shut itself off – no worries there.

… … …

Calibration:

So, I attached the Powerpod to the K-edge mount a day after I started with the process, and turned the power button on, and started my Wahoo Elemnt up. I initially did not see any indication of anything going on, but as soon as I started riding, the Watts started going from 0-100, which was basically the calibration completion process.

One of the issues is with my particular bike is even with the K-edge mount, a couple of cables still end up touching the power meter. Considering this is a 105 bike, and does not have cables in front of the hoods (like Tiagra, Sora …etc), I am a little annoyed by this. I am also a little worried about if this will affect actual power numbers. I haven’t tried the provided mount yet – that might actually be better in terms of nothing contacting it.

Folks over at Velocomp were kind enough to suggest that I either use a zip-tie or actually trim the cables – which to be honest, is a very reasonable suggestion. My bike does have unnecessarily long cables!

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Test Ride:

So, as the caibration was going on, this was my test ride 0. When I see the ride on Strava, it has power numbers. You’ll see “Weighted Avg Power” instead of “Estimated Avg power” and also Avg and Max power numbers. Fig below shows a workout with power numbers, and another for comparison without the power numbers.

Endomondo showed no power data whatsoever. Apparently, there is no support as you will find in their forums. Bummer. Now, both my Strava and Endomondo account are not Premium. I am sure with a Premium Strava account, you’d be able to see Power charts and such.

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The Wahoo Elemnt App did a nicer job of giving more details for free.It has, Power Zones, Power Metrics, Power Curve (which for this ride is bogus), and Avg and Max Power per Lap.

I am interested in it recording the power numbers with both my Wahoo Elemnt, and possibly also my iPhone. I’ll see how the data from the two compare. (Ironically the only app that will let me record view the power numbers on my iPhone will also have to be a Wahoo app, since I do not have a premium subscription to Strava.)

More after a few more rides, and collecting some meaningful data…

 

GoPro Hero 5 Black – Data overlay

Ok, so I bought a GoPro Hero 5 Black to capture some videos. I am not really into high octane action sports, so this is really for my own consumption/documentation. That said, it would be nice to capture some of my bike rides and some of my hikes just to be able to share with Friends.

One of the reasons I bought the GoPro is I am not invested in the Garmin ecosystem. And while Garmin’s G-metrix is definitely better than GoPro’s data overlay’s, I don’t think I necessarily need cadence, heart rate and power data on my videos. I think for my purposes speed and elevation suffice.

I had the camera mounted on a K-edge Wahoo/combo mount – so it was out in front and you won’t see the handlebars, or the brake cables …etc. I really like this mount. The second reason I bought this mount is I could also use it with a Velocomp Powerpod.

The camera itself worked well – I was able to shoot 1080p videos at 60fps, and it shot more than an hour. (close to 70 minutes). There are minor quibbles I have with the camera as well, but nothing as infuriating as the software. For instance, simple things like making sure the batter and the microsd card go in only one way, or at least have a picture saying which way it goes in, is a minor thing, but goes a long way in terms of user experience.

The software experience on a Windows 10 laptop was miserable. (A high end windows 10 laptop – a Lenovo P50 with Nvidia Quadro M2000M and Intel core i7).

First of all, the Studio app in itself was really sucky. It frequently got stuck, and refused to let me work continuously on it for more than a few minutes at a time. Other than this, it was actually quite ok to work with – I got the hang of things, and was able to edit a hour long video to a 7 minute video. It took me forever though! thanks to all the constant hang.

Next, I found a good workflow with the Studio app – I was able to splice the sections I wanted, put it together with free music …etc.But then there is no option to do the data overlays from within the Studio app. At this point, I had finished editing the video I wanted.

Gopro’s second Quik app gives you these controls, but I could not get the clips I edited on the Studio app to work with Quik for data overlay. Horrible! And when I asked Quick to overlay data on one of my raw videos to see if I can then edit that, it took forever for the conversion. I gave up at this point and decided, the overlays were not worth hours more of my time.

I need to double check on how much time and storage this takes up, but it seems like a badly thought out software.

The other thing that’s horribly thought out is, I’d like to see a GPS map of my entire ride, and highlight the portion I have completed. When the videos get broken out into howmanyever 4GB videos (every 17 minutes in my case), it just shows that segment in the map – which is pretty useless and lacks context.

I am going to close out this post with however cool Gopro thinks it is as a company, it needs to execute the details well, and get a level of polish to the products where it is intuitive to use. I am not at all surprised to find their share prices are taking such a huge hit. They have been resting on their laurels, and deserve to be kicked on the rearside to get their act straight.

/rant

errr, but maybe there is no point to ranting about ideas unless they are fully formed and fully thought through. But then again, that wouldn’t be a rant now, would it ?

/endOriginalRant

Ongoing rants:

What does it take to break a mans’ back – bad posture, that’s all really. 🙂

I thought of a couple other parallels to ideas, but they sound crass in my head because they don’t translate well, (well, not a linguistic translation) so I’m going to have to look for better ideas than that.

I thought of a neat little piece/rant which I thought encapsulated an idea real well, but then have no recollection of what it was. Dang it!

So, I was thinking – let’s say you and your apartment co-dweller have a disagreement on the thermostat temperature. You want it set at 76 and he wants it set at 74. You try explaining why 76 is the right temperature, but to no avail. So, you let things be, and agree to let him set the thermostat at 74. Half way through the night, you feel cold, but you agreed to setting the thermostat at 74, so you don’t do anything about it. Let’s assume your friend starts feeling cold at the night too. If he changed the temperature of the thermostat to 76, that would be conceding that he was wrong, but it would solve the problem. If he let the temperature stay at 74, both are cold and nothing was really achieved, except of course, there is no way for you to know that he is cold. But knowing all this, I still have to leave it to his judgement to decide what to do. Because after all, maybe he feels warm at 74 🙂 You do however hope that if he did indeed feel cold too, that he would do the right thing and set the temperature right.

Mirchi Run – Chennai – December 2014

Pre Race:

Having run two half marathons in 2014 (Peoria – Going the Distance and The SF – 2nd Half, and having missed one thanks to the common cold), I was looking to run in India when I would be there for a short vacation towards the end of the year. Unfortunately, some of the bigger name marathons in India did not coincide well with my trip plans, and I was searching for a decent event with at least a half marathon distance. I finally found “Mirchi Run” which was organized by Radio Mirchi, and the date fit me perfectly.

In terms of training, this has been the race I was best prepared for – considering I had enough long runs under my belt, and also had a pretty consistent training regiment – even if it involved a lot of runs on treadmill because of the weather outside. But then, you take a 24+ hour flight, go home and binge on good food for a week, and you pretty much negate all of the training 🙂 A couple of days before the race, I was cleaning some shelf of mine at home and when I got up, my knee gave me such a sharp intense pain that I was genuinely scared. Thankfully, wasn’t much of a deterrent.

Organization:

The event was pretty badly organized, but if you factor in the registration costs compared to some events in the US, some of these can perhaps be overlooked. I think it was either Rs 1000 or 1100.

  • Strike 1: was that the distance they measured and guided us through was not 13.1 miles. Yikes! I had half a mind to keep running till I heard my GPS tracker tell me I was done, but traffic was being opened up on the roads, and it didn’t look particularly inviting after that.
  • Strike 2: There was no official timing. 🙂 When I asked the organizers during packet pick-up where the chip for timing was, they were not even aware of such a thing. I got redirected to multiple people, the way a cricket balls fielding responsibility is redirected by multiple Indian fielders of the yesteryear, only for them to tell me that the timing would be done manually. What a bunch of hooey! I am not too bothered by this since I am not fast enough to have the official time do anything for me, and I track my own metrics anyway.
  • Strike 3: There was no good course map, nor any information of the aid stations …etc. All you have to do is open up a popular marathon website and pretty much ape them on these. There were aid stations though – which was at least better than some events like the SF marathon in 2014.

Packet pick up was the previous day – 27th December 2014, and the packet included a Bib, a pretty yucky looking t-shirt (which I haven’t worn, and wouldn’t be caught even sleeping in.)

Ok, the coolest thing about the packet has to be that the bib number I got was H-007 .That was sweeter than winning the event. 😀 Imagine how cool it is to get a bib number like that. If I got it in a major event I’d be over the moon.

The race was at 5:30am on the morning of 28th December. My dad was nice enough to drop me off at the race. There were some RJ’s on stage trying to do some kind of exercise, which was funny really. (Thankfully I did not know any of them.) Jothika was there to flag off the run – I’m sure that’s what avid runners care about! But other than such PR stunts, it was a pretty decent race overall – there wasn’t any elevation to speak of, and I have never before run on the Marina in Chennai. (Actually, I haven’t even been to Marina all that much.) The weather was as nice as can be expected for Chennai – a little humid, but perfectly cool otherwise.

I had a pretty decent race overall, except for the left knee niggle which after mile 10 made life extremely difficult. I think I was headed for a PR (personal record) in spite of that,(which is not much considering my previous finish times have been pretty pathetic 🙂 ), but thanks to the distance being miscalculated, I wasn’t able to.

Race Stats:

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Pretty pathetic miles 11 and 12.

Post Race:

This was ridiculous. There were dancers on stage and stuff, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. They did give a sandwich and maybe some juice – which I can’t find fault with really. Alas, to add to all the other goof-ups, there was no finisher medal. Sure, I don’t care for such baubles too much, but when it is promised, it should be delivered. They did come good much later by mailing the medal to my address – so yes, they did ‘deliver’ on their promise. 🙂 So, it was ok I guess. My dad took me to a nice restaurant where I had a lime soda, (the price of which was 40 Rs – which I couldn’t digest.) after which we headed home.

My aim is to run a half marathon in every continent eventually 🙂 Unfortunately thanks to the DNF, I’ll have to run again in India – there’s always a next year, and I’ll look forward to running in a bigger event.

Reading

The “About Me” page on Goodreads pretty decently encapsulates things about my reading and reading habits, but they have a word limit in there.

However, here’s an interesting aspect I’ve never talked about to too many people. I never touched a “serious” book. What do I mean by that and why the choice ?

Well, let’s see – I always lapped away at Fiction – you know, the fast paced, ex-CIA no longer with the Government kind of books, or in some cases even slower books, more drama, definitely stirs some of your emotions, (other than just getting your adrenaline pumping.) and has some kind of a message of what’s right and wrong in this world, and all that kind of stuff.

I consciously avoided self-help books because, I always felt it was a bunch of hooey. If people could read books and be successful, first you wouldn’t need so many books, and second, everyone would be successful. Any school kid with half a brain should, simply by observing the world around him know that, that is empirically not possible, and hence you should run while you can, when you see these books. I am not saying people cannot be marginally more successful, or for a small set of people, it will totally change their lives – it might. I’m no shrink – I don’t know what rocks those people’s boat.

But by saying serious, I didn’t mean self-help books. I meant the really good books – they books that made you think, about the problems of the world, about grand philosophy, about what’s really right and wrong – about challenging everything you’ve been taught and thinking beyond. I consciously didn’t read any of those books – I certainly had the opportunity to, had some good books suggested to me, had the interest, but I didn’t.

It might sound stupid when I say why. As a teenager, I knew that I didn’t want to know of these idea, I didn’t want to think about them – I didn’t want to challenge myself intellectually – to become serious, to mull about the world’s problems. I just liked myself the way I was, and didn’t want my ideals to by influenced and shaped by great works. I wanted to find out who I truly was, before I went about reading these books, and letting them shape/fine-tune my thoughts and actions. I always believed that these books changed you in some irreversible way. Once you read them, there’s no going back. You can’t go back to where you were, a week later and forget all of the ideas in there. Looking back, maybe it was a good idea, maybe it wasn’t. My life might have turned out very differently – can’t say for better or worse, but definitely different.

But, now having read book after book of fiction, I think, I finally crave these books, I want my ideas to be challenged, I want my perception of what is right in the world, and what is wrong to be challenged and broadened. Of course, it is a serious undertaking. And unless you do something useful with the way you have processed the information, maybe it’s of no use to anyone. But I think I’m going to give it a shot anyway. I’ll maybe even write down my thoughts on how it goes.

Flipkart Fiasco

Flipkart is something of a butt of internet jokes at the moment. Meme creators are going after the e-commerce website like nobody’s business. 🙂 (Not that I have anything against them – it keeps me entertained.)

Even ‘The Hindu’ had an article quoting tweets and memes. Other facebook groups like ‘Srini Mama’ are doing a fine job of creating memes that cater to a section of the population (Tamil speaking, tamil movie watching.)

Flipkart Sale: Mega success or epic fail ?

Flip(ped)kart

While the innuendos are adorable, and the memes are truly well thought of, I think the Indian e-consumer needs to get some perspective of things.

Most of people’s crib’s about Flipkart have been around for ages on other e-commerce platforms. Amazon for instance has ridiculously priced items too – of course people make awesome fun of it, and Amazon itself sometimes publicizes it. Read about this watch – specifically the first customer review.

There’s also, Amazon’s own list of awesomely written reviews. There’s also this – especially the horse mask.

A lot of times, there are algorithms in the background that will set the price ridiculously high or ridiculously low. There have been many instances of prices being entered wrong, and the seller not being able to fulfill the order because it would be ridiculous to. Of course, when the prices are low, we aren’t complaining – when the price is accidentally high, instead of contacting the customer care, and trying to resolve the issue, we end up posting it on social media – not at all a wrong thing to do. I guess either way, the retailer ends up correcting the price even if only eventually.

Amazon (in the US) definitely does a better job in terms of the website being up, but they are a software behemoth that knows exactly what they are doing.

Price Changes:

When Amazon slashes prices of items already on discount, they show it as a two-step discount. (i.e., original price, discounted price, further discounted price.) This way people don’t think the prices are being inflated before being offered a discount. But anyone who has used plugin’s like camel know – there is no price guarantee in online e-commerce. The prices vary with the retailer intelligently trying to guess how much a person is willing to pay. So, if indeed the prices go up from time to time, there is nothing to complain about. However, if Flipkart did increase the prices of items beyond reasonable limits of what it was before, only to show deep discounts, that was clearly unethical.

There have also been complaints about the prices of some items on Flipkart being more than competing sites, and also being more than a direct retailer price. Again, nothing new – you will find things like this on Amazon as well. Some resellers price the items the way they want – and Amazon doesn’t control it. If you want it bad enough, and are lazy to do some research, then you will end up paying more.

Out-of-Stock Issues:

As for only a small number of items being available at discount, maybe Flipkart could have done a better job of advertising that – but maybe they didn’t want to kill the buzz. Thanksgiving shopping is similar in the US in terms of availability – the amazing deals like eggsbox (sic!) for $50 – there are probably 5-10 per store. Chances are you won’t get your hands on it. It will take people a couple of years to get used to this, and then they will eventually realize, unless they really must have it – like the Gollum must have his precious, it’s not worth the hassle. That consumer maturity will come with time.

Cancellations

This really has no excuses – you should be able to handle multiple requests coming in at the same time. Anyone who knows anything about transactional databases knows that this cannot and should not happen.

All said and done, a bad day for Flipkart, but the consumer needs to understand that if a discount sounds too good to be true, chances are – it is. Most deeply discounted items are also generally useless. As an interesting after thought, I wonder how much resellers make on products if they can afford to routinely give 40-60% off. Are they selling items at a slight loss when then sell it at 60% off ? Or does it mean goods are extremely marked up ? One wonders.

P.S: I buy some stuff on Flipkart from time to time – especially books and music CD’s. (well, music CD’s because (a) I don’t always like enjoying music for free, and (b) I like lossless music, and there is no website where I can purchase lossless Indian music! (at least not that I know of) ) I also compare prices on amazon.in on the books – and have found that no one website has the best price every single time. It keeps changing.