Welcome to GamJams Midwest Tech, where we check out new gear and gadgets designed for bike racers like you.
In my bike shop days, we fielded a fairly large number of phone calls and saw a number of visits concerning cycling computers. Not "Which one is better?" or "What functions does it have?" No, it was, "Why isn't my computer working?"
More often than not, it had to do with the alignment of the magnets and sensors. Or, rather, the misalignment of magnets and sensors.
Trek solved the problem on its higher-end carbon models with a little trick called DuoTrap — a sensor that sits in a built-in port on the non-driveside chainstay. Put the magnets in the right spot and you're done. There's no adjustment of the sensor at all. Bolt it in and go ride. Pretty cool.
Today, though, I'm Madone-less (which is regrettable, as it was a nice bike), so I've been checking out other options. I've grown fond of having speed, cadence, heart rate and ride time on one screen, so I picked up an Interchange Digital Combo Sensor (speed and cadence) from Bontrager. It's designed to pair with its ANT+ Node computers — the 1.1 and 2.1. I'm quickly realizing why we got so many phone calls.
The first impression of the Node 1.1 is a positive one. The packaging is reminiscent of Apple's packaging. Rather than toss everything in a small plastic bag, there's a little insert (right) from which your building materials are presented. It's a nice touch. The sensor is less fancy — it's just zip-tied to a cardboard card. That's pretty standard operating procedure.
Mounting the computer on the stem is straightforward: Zip-tie the base in position, click on the computer. Done. It's a nice, multifunction computer that does what it says it will do. No complaints there.
The sensor was a different story. It still involves zip-ties, but only because of the fairly unique proportions of my chainstays. The bike du jour is a Trek Cronus CX Ultimate. It has big, chunky, rectangular stays, making the included rubber strap (seen here) designed to mount the sensor a non-starter. No way that's going to work. So we go to zip-ties.
On round or ovalized stays, this would not be a problem. But the square stays of the Cronus make it tougher to get the sensor attached good and tight. And so, we cinch and swear and pull really hard — and it gets close. But not close enough to stay exactly where we want it. On a recent ride, my speed numbers dropped out. So I stopped to readjust slightly. Then the cadence numbers blanked out. After about 10 minutes of monkeying around later, I have it lined up again. But for how long?
This is by no means a non-endorsement of the Node setup or dual-sensor piece. They're both well-made pieces of bike bits. And the Node 1.1 is a very nice update from the original Node 1 model. Rather, this is a call to more manufacturers to start thinking about integrated solutions — that DuoTrap (and a similar system from Giant) is looking really good right now. (You could also say that idiots like me shouldn't be trying to attach sensors to cyclocross bikes. And that would be fair.)
Because if a guy like me — with enough shop time to have seen it all (or close to it) — finds it frustrating, I can't imagine what it's like for everybody else. No more zip ties, please.