Even "Gold Standards" Tarnish.

Last week CompuTrainer announced they were ceasing production. DCRainmaker's post pretty much sums up the situation better than I can. It's a sad story of a initially innovative company making a solid, durable product, then getting swept aside as they failed to keep up with advances in technology and the marketplace. When you sell yourself as the "gold standard" (they put it on their banners at trade shows), you have to understand that even standards have to adapt over time to meet current realities.
The idea that they didn't incorporate the ANT+  protocol blows my mind. It's been over 10 years since Garmin bought the company that developed it, and since then it's been the de-facto cycling sensor standard. Heartrate monitors, speed sensors, power meters... pretty much everything that can tell you how much you suck at this sport is connected by ANT+, and has been for a decade. To not incorporate all of that data into a system that is supposed to be the "gold standard" for training? I don't get it, and obviously neither did the market once it got crowded with smart trainers (Wahoo, Tacx...) and virtual training environments (TrainerRoad, Zwift...) that could provide that connectivity and exponentially more versatility. CompuTrainer made a very durable product, but it outlasted its desirability. 
That failure to stay ahead of the curve makes me wonder about the long-term viability of another "gold standard", SRM. I have three of their power meters, bought on the used market off of eBay. They've been extremely stable, very reliable, and with periodic maintenance I expect them to last a very long time. However, SRM is another company that is in danger of ceasing to exist if they don't step up their game. Their list prices are higher than any of their competitors, in most cases double. I would certainly not own one, let alone three of them, if I was paying retail. Even a "pro-deal" puts them far outside of my comfort level, and I'm certainly not against spending far too much money on a sport I suck at.
Instead, I wait until the batteries die. People will dump them for a fifth of retail instead of sending them to an authorized service center to have the batteries replaced and the calibration verified. This costs $100 (plus shipping) every couple years. If you're handy with tools and can solder, you just replace the batteries (maybe $50) and get on with life. If neither one of these options work, you dump your very precise piece of equipment on eBay. That's when I swoop in and pick up yet another power meter I don't need.
To SRM's credit, they did adopt the ANT+ standard years ago, expanding the versatility of their core product beyond it's initial wired design and proprietary head units. They flexed when bike component manufacturers started introducing 40 billion different crank and bottom bracket standards. They haven't been exactly idling, but...
Unfortunately for them, they haven't addressed the main issues that allow me to buy their product on the used market so cheaply. They haven't introduced a model that allows for easy end-user battery replacement. Every other power meter on the market uses batteries that can be sourced locally. Most use CR2032 coin batteries. Sure, they don't last more than six months with heavy use, but you can buy them for a couple bucks and replace them mid-ride if you need to.
As I mentioned, their pricing is much higher than any of the competition, for accuracy that may or may not be very marginally superior to that of Quarq or PowerTap or Power2Max... There's a lot of very stable, repeatable, and reliable options out there, with greater connectivity options, for a fraction of the cost. Many of them are in use in the pro ranks (although don't get me started about Stages).
They don't make much money off me when I buy one off of eBay. I generally have them sent in for service to replace the battery and check the calibration, then I do it myself to save some money. For the most part, I bet the guys who sell them to me don't buy another SRM, either opting for one of their competitors or leaving the sport (e.g. bucket list triathletes with a lot of money). This isn't a great business model. Sure, there are guys who buy them because they are the best for certain applications and that level of precision is required, but they are a very small subset of an already small market. 1% of current power meter users, tops. There are also guys who will pay retail because they want "the absolute best" in everything, even when they don't need or use the capabilities it provides. The kind of guy who always trains on tubulars, "because that's what the pros do" (most pros don't). Again, a small subset of the current power meter market.
Little by little, SRM's dominance in the power meter market that was based on their early innovation has been chipped away. The last couple years other companies have been jack-hammering huge chunks out of it. I don't know how they will continue if they don't start playing in today's market, instead of doing things the same way they always have. I'm not saying start making junk so you can drop prices to compete with Stages, but throw a guy a coin battery or some Bluetooth connectivity. Make a lower-tier line out of your older technology that the average MAMIL can afford without pissing off his wife. You know, compete. Otherwise, you'll end up like CompuTrainer and the "gold standard" mantle will 
fall to someone else.


Popular posts from this blog

New Cheapness.

Reality Check.

Not Pretty.