Shimano releases Pioneer-esque software upgrade for latest gen power meters

Shimano's Dura-Ace R9200P and Ultegra R8100P power meters now offer real-time Force Vector data.

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Shimano has announced a free software upgrade for its latest Dura-Ace R9200P and Ultegra R8100P crank-based power meters. Available for installation via the E-Tube Project app, the Force Vector update introduces the ability to measure the direction and strength of pedalling forces through the entire crank rotation.

Shimano claims the new force data is recorded every 30 degrees (ie. at 12 points) through both the left and right crank rotation. This data can be visualised in live time through Shimano’s own E-Tube Ride smartphone app, on a Wahoo Elemnt head unit, or with a newer Garmin Edge head unit via Shimano’s own IQ app. The data can also be examined after a ride with Shimano’s cloud-based Connect Lab. Uploading that ride data can be done via Garmin Connect, the Wahoo Element app, or the E-Tube Ride app. 

Garmin and Wahoo devices are able to display such data.

Sound familiar?

Acquired tech

Years ago, I sat in a dimly-lit room watching how the extensive technology in the fit system (an acquired subsidiary of Shimano) could be used to further bike fits. Most memorable was the in-built power meter that could intricately detect the point of load through each pedal and how the pedal stroke was impacted by minor fit changes.

For most people, it was an overwhelming amount of data, but it also presented incredible opportunities for fine-tuning fits. 

At a similar time, we had electronics expert Pioneer enter the crank-based power meter space. And Pioneer aimed to bring a new level of data to the pedal stroke with detailed live pedalling analysis that could reveal at what point the rider was producing positive, neutral, and even negative power to the left and right pedals. Not too many people made use of that intricate data, but some more advanced coaches, bike fitters, or detail-obsessed athletes would use it to identify muscle imbalances and/or causes of inefficiencies in the pedal stroke. 

Shimano acquired Pioneer’s cycling division in early 2020 and has seemingly been busy converting such data collection over to its own system. Admittedly I haven’t used Shimano’s new Force Vector software, but it sure has me reminiscing about what Pioneer previously offered. 

Likewise, the Connect Lab is Shimano’s replacement for Pioneer’s Cyclo-Sphere app, something the component manufacturer closed down in 2021. Shimano Connect Lab is obviously designed with Shimano power meters in mind, but it can be used with other power meters, too. 

Shimano Connect Lab offers quite a few familiar features to those who previously used Pioneer’s software.

Certainly, a free software update that provides more data is a good thing, but some questions still remain. Why wasn’t this update rolled out to older R9100P power meters that are currently far more prevalent in the market? And perhaps most importantly, has Shimano fixed the accuracy issues that affected its old model power meter cranks? 

Update: Since publishing this article a representative from Shimano has provided the following statement:

“Shimano has made improvements since the R9100. The crank analysis technology was improved, and the sensor placement was further optimized to match the shape of the crank. As a result, the R9200 was able to incorporate Force Vector functionality and accuracy is improved to 1.5%.”

While it’s great Shimano has claimed improved power accuracy of the R9200 model, what this statement also suggests is the accuracy issues that affect R9100P power meter cranks can’t easily be fixed.

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