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Brim Brothers launches $999 cleat-based power meter

The Brim Brothers Zone DPMX power meter can be used on any bike, just take your shoes with you

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A power meter that lives on your shoes, stuck between cleat and sole, calculating power with a combination of light, nearly indestructible piezoceramic sensors and accelerometers mounted on the shoe itself.

That was Irish engineer Barry Redmond’s dream four years ago, when he first brought the Zone power meter to Interbike, stuffed in a shoebox and looking more like a Lego reject than a polished product. It’ll be done in twelve months, he said. It wasn’t. He said that again the next year, and the next.

Twelve months turns to 48, but who’s counting? The Brim Brothers Zone is finally going into production; VeloNews will have a test sample soon, Ray Maker of the DCRainmaker blog has already had a short go with one, and consumer availability is set for early 2015. What was once a two-man show out of Dublin, Ireland is now a real company. “I have marketing people now, board members even,” a constantly smiling Redmond said at the Interbike show on Wednesday.

The Brim Brothers Zone DPMX

The Zone is the world’s first cleat-based power meter, though it doesn’t actually replace the cleat itself. The force sensors live in a small plate that sits between a Speedplay cleat and the sole of your shoes, which takes the place of the three-hole to four-hole adapter Speedplay provides for those not using four-hole shoes. It adds a marginal amount of stack height compared to that Speedplay adapter.

It will cost $999, $1 less than the $1,000 estimate Redmond gave VeloNews four years ago. Brim will sell it direct to consumers via its website, rather than use a formal distribution channel.

The Zone is compatible with any shoe, but only with Speedplay pedals, at least for now. While I was in Brim’s booth, Look’s president, Thierry Fournier, came by to take a gander.

Wireless communication between the unit on each shoe and your cycling computer is performed via the popular Ant+ protocol, so it will work with most head units.

Opening the box (which is quite a bit more polished than the shoe box of 2010) reveals everything that is required for installing and using the Zone meter. That includes two force plates, which connect via a flat wire to a small pod full of accelerometers and radios that sits on top of each shoe, as well as a small Phillips-head torque key to ensure that the cleats are not over tightened.

The force plates must be installed flat to get accurate readings, but of course the bottom of every shoe is curved. Each end must be propped up with the same small wedges used to mount any Speedplay pedal to a three-bolt shoe. The only extra step is the application of a rubberized glue substance galled Sugru, which will fill any small gaps and ensure that the force plate remains perfectly flat.

I’ll spare you the fine details of installation, but it should take no more than 10 minutes or so, followed by a 12-hour cure time for the Sugru. Once everything is installed, it’s set-and-forget; if you swap bikes, just take your shoes along, and your power meter comes with you. The cleat can still be removed and placed on another shoe.

The Zone power meter is by far the easiest to swap between bikes, because there’s no need to swap equipment at all. All parts are contained on the shoes, there is nothing attached to the bike. Just bring your shoes with you, clip into a Speedplay pedal, and voila: watts.

To charge the meter, you remove the two shoe-top pods from their holsters and place them in Brim’s dedicated charger. Charging takes about two hours with a fully drained battery, and each charge will last 15-20 hours of ride time. That’s quite short relative to most of the market, but other power meters don’t use rechargeable batteries. Redmond recommended that riders simply charge the pods when charging their cycling computer.

The complicated math that goes into calculating which forces moving through the bottom of your shoe are actually moving the bike forward (rather than just bouncing up on and down on the pedals, for example) mean the Zone can also provide a number of metrics unique to dual-sided, accelerometer-based power meters, data similar to those provided by the pedal-based Garmin Vector. Currently, the Zone provides left/right balance, but further Spinscan-like metrics will be added down the line.

Redmond hopes to have his 2,500 pre-orders fulfilled by the end of the year, with wider availability shortly thereafter. Keep an eye out for a full review of the Zone later this fall.