A little while back I did a write up on the CycleOps Powertap SL+ for mountain bikes. At the time I raved about how well it worked and how useful the data was when downloaded to the PC. At the time someone mentioned that the Cervo display unit wasn’t the greatest, especially given the cost of the system and honestly I had to agree. Well guess what? The good folks at CycleOps must have been listening because they gone and improved it. Yup, the Powertap SL+ now comes standard with the Joule 2.0 display head unit. For those who already have a Powertap you can also purchase the Joule 2.0 to work with your existing system.
The Joule 2.0 represents a quantum leap in both performance and user interface improvement. The old two-button Cervo was a bit of a pain to set up. You needed to remember the right sequence of buttons to press and how many times to press them to access specific data and functions. The new Joule, on the other hand, almost doesn’t need instructions – by playing around with the menu I was able to find almost everything I needed. The Joule 2.0 is also ANT+ compatible meaning you can use it with many heart rate monitors, cadence sensors, power meters, and speedometers from other manufacturers.
The main screen displays six different metrics in real time along with two additional data fields, all of which are user-configurable. Two buttons and a joystick control allow you to get to everything quickly and the intuitive menu is easy to follow and understand. Compared to the Cervo, you also get two new inputs that previously were not included: altitude and temperature. Now that’s what I’m talking about! Obviously the amount of climbing during a training ride is important to know but temperature also has an impact on performance and gives a more complete picture of individual workouts.
The Joule 2.0 isn’t just a fancy display upgrade; the included PowerAgent software takes your training to another level. Believe it or not, saving and analyzing training data is often the difference between first and the first loser in many races. The more detail you’re able to track and respond to, the more quickly you will improve.
The PowerAgent summary report contains basic info about each ride and is good for a quick comparisons between previous rides. The power detail report looks at your ride intensity, including normalized power, watts per kilogram of body weight (perfect for comparing yourself to other riders), and time spent at zero watts. The work report quantifies work completed, including training peaks and calculates a training stress score (TSS) and intensity factor (IF) for each workout.
PowerAgent also produces a peak power report showing a spectrum of peak power data indicating ride intensity at key physiological markers of current fitness compared to previous performances. In other words, you can track how well your heart, lungs, and legs are working from day to day. Power and heart rate data is slotted into zones and plotted against time to show the type of workout you’re getting each time. Finally, PowerAgent includes a surge and climbing report covering all the altitude gained along with a calculation of vertical ascent and grade. Pretty cool stuff for those who want to know exactly what they are doing and how well they are doing it. There are even extra features within the software that allow you to share your info with trainers and others on Twitter, 2Peak.com, and other training websites.
Using the Joule on both my trail bike and my training bike (essentially my XC bike mounted up on my CycleOps Super Magneto Pro) has been a piece of cake. The mount supplied with the Joule is far more rugged than previous models (I always worried it might break, though it never did) and mounts easy enough to most round-ish stems. Some of the shorter machined stems that are not round may have a small issue and need an adapter to allow better placement for the two tie wraps. I also used a little double sided tape to secure my mount in addition to the tie wraps.
On the trails the screen is easy to read and easy to use even with gloved fingers and the real time metrics seem to update very quickly. The only thing that had me slightly concerned was the mini-USB connector on the back of the Joule head unit. The port isn’t covered which means water could potentially penetrate the unit, though I didn’t have any problems in my tests. If you’re really worried, a small piece of tape just might do the trick on rides with deep stream crossings or in rainy conditions. And remember to look up at the trail from time to time instead of staring at the Joule the whole way – I nearly smacked a tree during one ride! The included heart monitor works well without a lot of fiddling to get the transmission synced up.
So, what do I think of the Joule? Well, if you’re on the fence about purchasing a Powertap, this update to the Powertap SL+ ($1,699 MSRP for the complete MTB power system) should make the decision much easier. Even if you have an existing Powertap SL+, I think the new Joule 2.0 ($449 MSRP) is a valuable for upgrade over the older Cervo head unit. Mountain bike training alone isn’t enough if you aren’t tracking your complete progress; fortunately the Joule 2.0 is just the tool to help you reach your competitive goals for the new year.
I would like to thank the folks at CycleOps for sending down the Joule for a review.