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These hips don’t lie: injuries revisited
About a year and a half ago I ended up in physical therapy due to an injury I sustained A) by carrying drywall by myself, and B) riding a bike that was too big for me. Those two (admittedly dumb) activities resulted in a bulging disc in my spine. During the PT sessions, my therapist informed me that I have a “dysfunctional butt.” Essentially, the muscles I should have been using to support my spine — the core muscles — weren’t firing correctly, or at all. Among other things, that manifested in a broken butt, so to speak, and a rotated pelvis, which in turn led to sciatic pain down my legs.
It took a while, but I got myself straightened out, quite literally. But once I stopped going to PT, it was easy to slip back into old habits. This year, I could feel many of the same painful problems I had last year.
Enter the Type-S, with its very clear biomechanics data that makes it easy to identify when something in your pedal stroke or body position is a detriment to your power, efficiency, or comfort. The Type-S, like its predecessor the Type-R (which was designed more for coaches and less for individual cyclists off on their own), uses a series of Bluetooth sensors secured to various parts of your body to track how you’re moving as you pedal.
The Type-S differs from its predecessor, the Type-R, in size and function. The Type-S is designed as a more consumer-friendly device that incorporates a smartphone-style user interface complete with apps you’ll recognize (like Google Maps), and the ability to function as a phone when you put your smartphone’s SIM card inside it.
Otherwise, the Type-S offers the same biometrics tracking features as the Type-R. You can track your pedal stroke, your pelvic rotation, your leg angular range, and much more, to get a sense of how your body is moving while you ride and what you can do to improve your performance.
Risk, Reward, and Risk Again
It seems clear that the Type-S is capable of revealing much about the way my body moves, which I immediately found intriguing when I was testing the earlier version of this technology, the Type-R. But I was also wary of the Type-S because Leomo’s aim with this consumer-friendly device is, well, to put it in the hands of consumers. My hope in using the Type-S was to discover the ways in which my body was moving that led to power loss or discomfort.
That was also my fear.
Anyone who has ever tinkered with his or her position to find more power or to reduce discomfort can probably see the dangers here. There’s a big risk that interpreting the data you receive from this unit can lead to injury if you simply start tweaking your position or habits without interpretation from a professional. That’s what happened to me.
Ultimately, the Type-S has proven to be an effective tool for improving my pedal stroke and reducing discomfort, and while I have found it to be a tool I’m glad to have in my arsenal, I would caution against using the Type-S without professional guidance from a coach, fit professional, or the experts at Leomo.
There’s more to the Type-S than just the head unit and the mount. In addition to the head unit, you’ll need the sensors, which mount to a cube-shaped charger. When you’re ready to mount the sensors to your body, you’ll need double-sided adhesive tabs that secure the sensors to your skin. Leomo sells refills of these, and it’s a good idea to stock up. The Type-S can track your foot movement too, so Leomo offers sensor cradles that clip onto your shoe laces. They work with Boa laces, too.
The Type-S head unit sits in a cradle mount that can in turn be used with a Garmin-style handlebar mount. On top of that, if you want, you can add an external secondary battery pack that essentially doubles the life of your unit. The battery pack replaces the cradle mount and can also be used with a Garmin-style handlebar mount. If you want to use the unit for other activities like running, Leomo makes a mount for that, too, and the sensors are designed to track running motions as well.
The head unit features a power button on one side and a rocker button on the other side (for scrolling through menus, etc.). These buttons complement the touchscreen, but also make it easier to start/stop recording. A USB-C charging port is integrated into the bottom of the unit. The Type-S also features a camera on both the front and rear of the unit.
Leomo claims an 11-hour battery life, with an additional 7 hours provided by the external battery pack. My first test unit was clearly defective, as the battery only lasted a few minutes on a full charge. The replacement unit performed much better but still didn’t come anywhere close to the advertised 11-hour mark. It was much closer to six hours at best.
Consumer usability was a major design goal with the Type-S, addressing one of the Type-R’s shortcomings. Once you boot up the Type-S, the landscape will feel familiar because it’s essentially an Android-based smartphone-style interface. In that sense, it feels fairly intuitive to find your way around, and you can access familiar apps, too, like Google Maps. In this sense, Leomo made a wise decision to work with what we all know.
The display is bright and beautiful, though not as bright or bold as your smartphone. You can sync the unit with your Google account, an added convenience for which I was grateful.
That said, typing your password into the Type-S is a challenge. The touchscreen keypad is impossibly small; it took far too long for these regular-sized-adult-fingers to accurately input my email address and password. But once it was in, I didn’t find myself futzing with the keypad much anyway. Still, Leomo could certainly make the keypad larger for convenient typing.
To start the Leomo app, simply touch the icon. Simple enough, but here’s where things get tricky: It took me a long time to sift through the various screens and menus to find out how to start recording. The record button is buried, as is the pairing screen you’ll need to pair all the sensors.
It wasn’t until I went to Leomo headquarters that I was told you can simply touch the external button (to the right of the screen) to start recording, and to pause, stop, and save it as well. That certainly made things much easier. Seeing as buttons like this are usually reserved for scrolling up and down through menus, it wasn’t immediately intuitive to hit them to start and stop. But once I knew that was the easiest way to get rolling, it became second nature.
Type-S in practice
I have had several disparate experiences with the Type-S, ranging from frustration to absolute revelation. The frustration part happened early; my first test unit had to be returned to Leomo because the fully-charged battery kept dying within minutes. Then, once I got the replacement unit, I had difficulty pairing the various motion sensors. On top of that, one of the motion sensors wouldn’t charge at all.
Once I got all that sorted (and I did, eventually; it took a while, but I got to a point where the sensors all paired quickly and easily before each ride), I quite enjoyed the experience of using the Type-S. I particularly enjoyed tracking my dead spot score (DSS), which shows you, in real time, where your dead spot is on both your left and right side. It was here that I discovered something interesting about my pedal stroke, and where I got myself into some trouble.
It was clear after one ride with the Type-S that the dead spot on my right side was a major problem. And it made a lot of sense: I knew my hips had rotated in the past, which meant I likely wasn’t getting my full range of motion out of my right leg. My first inclination was to move my cleat, which I did for my second ride with the Type-S. It improved my DSS, but only slightly.
So I did what felt right on that second ride: I pushed my right hip forward slightly. Sure enough, my DSS improved drastically. It seemed as though my hips had rotated again, and getting them into a better position helped a lot.
This is where we come to the risk of a computer that gives you information that’s left up to you to interpret. Because I had played with my position, I ended up with a ton of sciatic pain the next day. Sure, my DSS improved, but I managed to hurt myself. This reinforces my belief that it’s vital to have a professional interpret your data before you start making any changes to your position. Added power doesn’t mean much if it leads to injury.
Leomo’s website offers resources to get you started with interpreting your data and understanding what all of it means. But in terms of turning that into actionable plans, it’s less clear how to do this on your own. Leomo offers access to certified coaches to help you interpret the data from your rides and turn that into an actionable plan, too, though again, it isn’t clear from the website exactly how this process works. This, to me, seems like the best course of action: use the Type-S to record your data and work with a Leomo coach to interpret that data and create an actionable plan.
I did not use a Leomo coach, so I was on my own. A few rides in, I started to naturally push my hip forward to address my DSS. After a long week of stretching every day, the sciatic pain dissipated but I was left with a new pain on top of my knee. Again, this was largely the result of playing with my position without any professional guidance.
With all those pitfalls, I decided it was time to consult the experts. I went to Leomo’s headquarters here in Boulder, Colorado to have them do some live motion capture on video and interpret my data. This is a service Leomo intends to offer to consumers, and while it’s not exactly convenient for most riders to hoof it to Boulder, Colorado, the session was well worth the time.
After a short session at the Leomo facility, it was clear that my initial data interpretations were actually spot-on. My analysis, in other words, was correct, but my actionable plan was, well, injurious. So after going over my data with Leomo representatives, I felt more confident in using the Type-S for future rides. I still wasn’t confident in using that data to tweak my position.
This, to me, is where Leomo needs to improve: When you put a device this powerful in the hands of the masses, you better be sure you’ve got tools in place to make the user experience easy, intuitive, and above all, actionable. Leomo’s not quite there yet, but the tool itself is incredibly useful in the right hands.