I like data. This doesn’t mean I ride around single trail looking at my bike computer to make sure I’m on the perfect wattage or cadence. But it does mean that whatever is counting those somewhat important numbers, while I’m pedalling away up a climb or sprinting down a descent, knows what it’s doing. It also means that in those quick moments I have to take a glance at the numbers, I need a screen that shows me what I want to know in either the most detail or the simplest form.
Before my European racing trip for 2018, I was lucky enough to receive Stages cycling’s new bike computer, the Stages Dash. The Dash is one third of Stages new performance ecosystem with the Stages power meter and new Stages Link online platform making up the other two spokes in the wheel. I’ve used a Stages power meter for the last three or so seasons due to its consistency and ease of use and have been looking forward to trying out the new Dash since it was announced. The view of integrating three aspects of the training environment into one package to better manage performance sounded perfect.
Opposed to other bike computers, the Dash puts a premium on data with most of its computing power going into counting… which I’m very grateful for! So, what exactly is it counting? Well numbers, but the big point is how many numbers. The traditional amount has been one data packet per second. For most applications this is good but for mountain biking with so much variability a little more is needed. The Stages power meter sends out 4 data packets per second and the Dash picks up all of these like a hungry cookie monster and spits them out to create a true representation of the power or cadence you have just produced.
This may not sound all that important and is definitely an ‘under the hood’ feature that may be glossed over in favour of the other great features the Dash boasts. Its importance shows during sprints or high-power moments in a ride where you’re only putting out power for a very short amount of time, maybe a few pedal strokes. A perfect example in cross country mountain biking is the start sprint. You come from a dead start and accelerate to 30 or 40 km/h in a very short amount of time. Let’s say 5 seconds, so at one data packet per second that is 5 data packets but at 4 times per second that’s 20 data packets. If you make a graph from 5 points over 5 seconds, there is a bit of smoothing going on whereas 20 points is a much more accurate representation.
Using these numbers means you can see your start sprint in more detail. Okay, now we have established that, but what about if you extend this over a 1:30 hour race or ride with multiple sprints or high-power climbs. Suddenly, you’re gaining a lot more insight into the true demands of the event. Whereas previously I may have ‘lost’ those 4 pedal strokes in a sprint out of a corner on a descent, those numbers are now being counted and giving me an overall better average at the end of the ride or race. From there I can use this data to better design training plans and sessions to target events.
The next step is analysing all this data which leads us to the Stages Link platform. It’s based on the Today’s Plan online training platform that has data analysis and a training plan calendar. The Stages version adds functionality to customise the Dash and monitor the Stages power meter. My favourite function is editing the Dash training pages, which you can see below. With so many page options it can take a bit of time to do direct on the device so the training page creator lets me easily develop the best pages for racing and training.
Below you can see my training pages for my ‘training’ tab. I also have another ‘race’ tab which has very simple pages of two or three metrics to give me a simple view that is easy to read.
1 – The maximum 16 data fields are filled and gives me a general overview of the total ride. The inclusion of peak 30 sec and 1 min max is a cool feature.
2 – Similar to the first, this page gives me an overview of sessions with laps. The lap history chart gives me a breakdown of each laps metrics such as time, average power and speed. Peak 3, 10, 30 and 1min power maximums gives me a good carrot to chase during high intensity sessions. The other metrics are general ride numbers to give context to the lap numbers.
3 – My most used page gives me everything I need to keep track of my ride as I ride. Speed and power are the largest as they need to be seen quickly. The second row shows the next most viewed fields. The raw average power and normalised average power lets me know how I’m going in general terms, while the next row digs deeper into these averages. Intensity factor (IF) is important for endurance rides when I’m aiming to ride at say 60–65% and TSS is good for harder rides to keep track of total load or stress through the ride. Kilojoules is less important, though I do like keeping an eye on it to give the other metrics a bit more context.
4 – This is my effort page with a lap timer and lap metrics. The fields are fairly large to keep it simple for the high intensities. A feature I like is the lap intensity factor average. I generally know what average or normalised power I’m aiming for during an effort and what intensity factor that represents but it has proven helpful having a real time update to help me when I go into ‘effort brain’ and can’t think!