News: Why does it take so long?
Monday, June 6th, 2011, by Barry
The evolution of the prototype electronic boards, with the oldest at the top and newest at the bottom.
A few early examples of the many many prototype force sensors we built (by hand) and tested meticulously.
A glimpse of the new streamlined box for the electronics.
A lot of real research
The work needed to develop an innovative product like this is huge. It can’t be done in a year, or even 2 years. It just takes time and an enormous amount of dedication and patient work.
Our cleat-based power meter is a completely new way to measure power, and has required the development of a number of new pieces of technology. The original crankset-based power meter has been around for about 25 years, and that basic approach has been copied by most of the new power meters that have appeared recently. They had the benefit that much about how to implement the crankset approach was public knowledge, so the amount of basic research required was small. On the other hand, we chose a completely new way to measure power so we had to develop it all from scratch.
Developing a unique force sensor
For example, one of the major developments we’ve completed is the tiny force sensor that goes inside your cleat. This has taken a very large chunk of the last few years. If you think about what the sensor has to do you’ll understand why developing it has taken that time. The sensor has to measure very accurately the forces that you apply to the pedal. The peak force it has to measure can be the equivalent of 2 or 3 times the rider’s weight, so the sensor must be able to take quite a hammering. It must be robust (you’re going to walk on it!), it must be waterproof (think of Irish winters), and it must work correctly over a very wide temperature range from frozen winter to baking summer. And lastly, it must fit inside a cleat, so it must be just a few millimetres high and a few millimetres across. Nothing like this existed already, so we had to do all the research and development to create it. No wonder it has taken 3 years.
Working in public
There are also other reasons why it seems to be taking a long time to develop the power meter. One in particular is that we’ve been working more or less in public since we started, which means that it has been a long time since many people heard of us but there’s still no Brim Brothers power meter. Most new products are not developed in public like this. They go through a number of years of development without anyone outside the developing company knowing about it, and when the new product is finally unveiled it’s usually available to buy within a few weeks or months. So the time from hearing about it to buying it is short, and you’re not really aware of the years that it took to develop the product.
We took a deliberate decision to be very open about what we were doing right from the start, but a side effect of that is that the time from hearing about our power meter to buying it is much longer than you might be used to for other exciting new stuff. Just remember that what you’ve been watching in Brim Brothers for the last 2 or 3 years is a part of the product development process that is usually hidden from you!
Progress is solving problems
Of course there are many aspects of our power meter development that we choose not to make public. We’re putting a lot of work into this, so we don’t want to make it easy for anyone else to copy us! We’ve overcome many technical challenges during the development, and progress has been a long series of engineering problems and solutions. These many small steps are not visible to you, so our progress may not always be apparent. Sometimes when the Brim Brothers blog is quiet for a while it’s actually because we’re busy making progress!
After all that I still hear a chorus of voices out there saying “Yes, but when will it be available?”. Once again, the answer is that I can’t be specific. We still have much testing and refining to do, and there are too many unknowns that could affect the launch date. The best I can do is to tell you that we’re aiming for early 2012. We’re working as hard as we can to get there as quick as we can.
Just one more thing
We’re getting real close now to announcing the name of the power meter and releasing detailed photos of the production prototype. No computer generated graphics here – only the real deal. Watch this space.
PS: Almost forgot to mention that you can now follow us on Twitter to keep up to date with our progress.