Whereas once the big news in power meters was higher-end models with enhanced feature sets, the trend nowadays is lower-cost offerings that can bring the technology to more people - and US upstart Ashton Instruments is promising an all-new design that'll come in at just US$500.
Ashton Instruments is still in the final R&D phase of its as-yet-unnamed power meter and pending patent paperwork unfortunately means that certain details remain foggy. Co-founders Bill Dixon and James Schulmeister told BikeRadar, however, that the design passes over traditional strain gages in favor of some sort of solid-state sensor that will provide the same data quality but without the high associated costs.
The Ashton Instruments power meter will insert into the hollow spindles of SRAM or FSA road or mountain bike cranksets to start, using a clever plug-and-play form factor that will supposedly be easy to transfer between multiple bikes. Users would have to recalibrate the system after a transfer but otherwise, Dixon and Schulmeister say the meter can be wholly user-installed with no special tools required. In essence, it'll be no more difficult to install than the steerer tube plugs commonly used in carbon fiber forks.
Although Dixon and Schulmeister declined to give away too many technical details, they did say that the power meter worked by measuring the amount of twist in the bottom bracket spindle under power. As a result, the Ashton Instruments meter will be a left side-only device (like the Stages Cycling power meter) that will assume an even power output between both sides.
Other claimed features include magnet-free cadence sensors, user-rechargeable batteries, a weather-resistant and durable aluminum case, auto-zeroing and temperature compensation, both ANT+ and Bluetooth wireless transmission, and low weight.
Interested riders shouldn't rush to place their orders, though. While Ashton Instruments says its power meter design is quite developed and reasonably well tested at this point, the target release date isn't until some time in 2016.
Will this be a repeat of the Garmin/MetriGear snafu, or will Ashton Instruments actually be able to deliver on its heady promises? Only time will tell but Dixon and Schulmeister are certainly very cognizant of the Garmin/MetriGear story and are confident that history won't be repeated. We shall see.