Matt Miller, a PhD candidate at Massey University
in New Zealand, and Dr. Phil Fink, have created a new device that's designed to measure how hard and how often a rider is braking over the course of a ride. Why is this important? Well, think about it – what's the easiest way to go faster? That's right, don't use your brakes. The trouble is, that's easier said than done, especially without being able to figure out exactly where you're braking too much or too little. Miller and the rest of the team working on this project hope that their brake power meter can help make it easier to perfect braking technique, whether that's in order to win on a particular track, or to improve a rider's skills.
Ideally, the data will be able to be displayed in conjunction with helmet cam footage that's gathered at the same time, allowing a rider to see exactly how much power they were applying to the brakes in each section of trail. Imagine pre-riding an enduro or downhill course and then being able to go over the footage later that day to figure out exactly where you could let off the brakes. According to Miller, they've found that braking harder, but less often, leads to faster lap times than more constant, lighter braking, but until now it's been difficult to gather data to prove that theory.How Does It Work?
The first generation of the brake power meter looks like something that Doc Brown could have dreamed up in Back to the Future
, with an almost comically large data collection unit mounted to the handlebars. It's an exercise in “Kiwi ingenuity” as Miller put it, a way to test the concept before worrying about things like weight and appearance. On the prototype the front and rear brake calipers are mounted to brackets that allow the caliper to move slightly during braking in order to determine the torque that's being generated. Taking that torque number and multiplying it by the wheel's velocity allows for the amount of watts being generated to be determined. One obstacle that arose was measuring power when the rear wheel was skidding and no longer turning, but Miller said they should be able to overcome that by developing an equation that factors in the velocity of the front wheel.
During testing, which took place on trail bikes, the highest number measured was 10,000 watts, but Miller expects that they'll find even higher numbers once they start getting elite-level downhill racers on the device.
Miller also had the second generation of the device on hand, a drastically smaller unit that relies on a strain gauge and an accelerometer encased in carbon fiber and mounted directy to the rotor. The goal is to have the final version available by the middle of next year; a small power meter company called ZWatt will be helping Miller and company with taking the project from the laboratory to the market. No final price has been determined, but it's expected to be in the range of what a typical power meter costs, although the caveat is that two units will be required, one for each wheel.