Wattbike is an indoor bike that's a lot more than your average piece of fitness equipment.
Launched in early 2008, Wattbike has been developed in conjunction with British Cycling. They wanted a machine they could use to test a rider's potential, analyse their power and pedaling action, and also compare it to real world data. Wattbike complied, and the result is an impressive bit of equipment.
Wattbike claims it can measure power output accurately and consistently, using the SRM power measuring system as a standard. So if a rider can push 1600 watts on the Wattbike, they should be able to do that on a track or a road bike equipped with SRM cranks. This should be repeatable on any unit, which means that several Wattbike users (taking weight into account) can race each other, either in the same room or over the internet. Alas, unlike some other indoor bikes and trainers, there's no virtual reality display and no automated way to vary resistance during a ride, so you are limited to racing on the flat.
What's also interesting from a technique point of view is the pedal stroke analysis. Because each crank measures power independently of the other, you can get an accurate picture of how balanced your pedal stroke is, and which parts of the stroke you could perhaps improve to generate more power. A polar graph and left/right leg percentages on the display (which can be linked to a PC) means you see this as you ride. You can even see how long it takes to reach peak force per pedal stroke, which has an obvious application for track sprinters.
The software clearly has more than most people will ever need, but it does show the amount high level user feedback that has gone into it.
The Wattbike is priced at £1615. So while being a perfectly good and relatively affordable individual training tool, it's more aimed at sports institutes, gyms, schools and even hospitals as rehabilitation equipment.
We've got one in the office, so keep an eye on the blogs for intra-bike title competitions.