Alphamantis, Notio, Velosense, and others have all had a go, but despite varying degrees of technical success this product category has not reached wide adoption or commercial success.
Aerolab is ready to take its pull at the front. Will this be the brand that finally breaks away?
Aerolab asserts that its newly released technology will allow almost-real-time measurement of aerodynamic drag, rolling resistance, and an assortment of other metrics, and will do so in a simple and robust manner that minimizes the time, labor, and expense of previous approaches. The precision of a wind tunnel brought home to your garage. Or, more likely, your local bike fit studio.
While real-time aero data, visible to riders while they’re riding as promised by the Velosense system previewed at Interbike in 2018 is the aero sensor Holy Grail, this appears closer to science fiction than science. The current state of the tech requires a series of test runs to gather data sufficient for robust analysis, subject to post-ride analysis. Aerolab has crafted a business model based on this.
This is not a plug and play system, and some degree of training and expertise is needed to generate a reliable result. Last week Aerolab released a set of training modules for bike fitters to educate them on the system.
Pricing to fitters is based on a 12, 6, or 3 month lease, costing $4985, $2995 or $1895 respectively.
Because of the expense of the system, the training required, and the need to familiarize oneself with the software, this is likely to be a fitter-driven process, much like the difference between a consumer buying his own wind tunnel time versus contacting with a bike fitter or aerodynamicist familiar with the wind tunnel process.
Aerolab is courting bike fitters, and sees this business class as an ideal purveyor of their technology. Giving fitters the ability to offer aerodynamic testing as a component of bike fit is obviously an attractive proposition, but Aerolab is looking well past this. Its brand managers believe their product can greatly expand the palette of services a fitter provides. “Which is the fastest wheel on the market?” is not a proper question according to Aerolab (if we understand the thinking). “Which is the fastest wheel for me, on the particular bike I own and on which I will race?” is more like it. This is the kind of answer its tech aspires to provide, with the bike fitter as the service provider.
Even more, Aerolab believes it’s technology can answer not just aerodynamic questions – what wheel is faster, what bike position is faster, hands high, hands low, cockpit lower or higher, armrests narrower or wider, which helmet works best for me, personally, etc. – but solve rolling resistance questions, specific not just to the type of tire, but to the wheel it is on, and the specific real-world course conditions it will be used on.
How does all this compare to the other product offerings in this category? According to bike aerodynamicists familiar with the landscape, Garmin – which purchased Alphamantis in 2017 – is not close to releasing a product. "We are continuously researching and innovating and can’t comment on any future or unannounced products or plans," is Garmin's statement when asked about Alphamantis. If Velosense has a product, we don't know about it.
The Notio sensor that we profiled back in 2017 is available on the market, but despite the attractive price point of $599, doesn’t appear to have generated a lot of momentum in the marketplace.
One source commented that both SwissSide and Aerolab have the ability to collect and process yaw data, which the other aero sensor products (according to the source) do not. To the best of our knowledge, SwissSide is focused on using their proprietary technology in a product development and manufacturing consultancy role rather than a consumer facing one.
One user of the tech, formally a user of Alphamantis, is encouraged, telling us that Aerolab has finally gotten to a place where this tech is usable and reliable. Emphasis on “just.” If you’d have asked him about Aerolab six months ago, he may have said the tech is not quite ready. Aerolab technology is being used, right now, with confidence according to those with whom we’ve spoken, both for new bikes that are in development, and for pro cyclists and triathletes who want to dial in their positions and equipment. More to come…