Thursday, May 7, 2015

Speed Angle Review

Copyright 2015 4TheRiders
What started as a conversation on BayAreaRidersForum turned into an actual review of this unit. I had previously seen this unit being discussed in other contexts and reviewed their website in consideration of purchasing one for myself. The idea of tracking my lean angle is very interesting to me.

Given the price of the unit though and that it was a “complete package”, my interest waned fairly quickly.

Fortunately, rosemont83 from BayAreaRidersForum happened to own one of the units and offered to let me play with it for a weekend. That weekend also happened to be a race weekend with the AFM.

Offer accepted!


Out of the box

Straight out of the box the unit reminded me of the QStarz unit that I have previously mentioned here. The unit itself is made from plastic and comes with a snap-in holder. Unlike the QStarz unit it has a data cable attached to it for the lean angle sensor.

I fortunately had a RAM mount set up on my 2008 Yamaha R6 and I had a RAM plate in my garage that I was able to bolt to the back of the Speed Angle holder. The end result was not very pretty but it was secure. I was able to mount the unit to my triple tree as suggested by the user manual.

The lean angle sensor needs to be located in a vertical position on the bike with one edge pointed forward. I secured it to the bike’s frame with a good piece of racer tape and we were ready to go!

The unit was not hard to install at all. I like to use the RAM system for things like this (and for phones on my street bikes) because the system is flexible. The holder for the Speed Angle has a number of holes in it so that it can be easily mounted. The holes lined up enough to my existing pieces from RAM that installation was straight-forward.

Software Setup

Before the race weekend I installed the Windows software on my Surface and plugged the unit in with the expectation that the unit would want to grab the latest satellite data from the internet. I was pleasantly surprised that the unit did NOT need to download assistive data. That surprised me as it is the first unit I have used except for my XT Racing timer that is a true GPS as opposed to an assisted GPS.

One point in its favor.

Track setup

Per the user manual, the device is meant to be just turned on and you go. The very first time I went around Sonoma for this weekend that was a true statement. I turned it on, it found the satellites and off I went.

Unfortunately, each time after the first was a little annoying:
  • After realizing the satellites it wanted me to confirm that I am using the same over-writable track (track 15). Seems there is no way to add tracks to the unit that I could find and therefore it wanted to keep confirming where I was.
  • After a warm up lap and then getting into position on the grid I had to start and stop the unit. NOT something I want to be doing while I am watching the 1 board drop! I would have expected the unit to detect that I stopped and reset. That is not the case. I probably could have ignored it and let it sort it out itself but it was distracting.
  • There is no way to set the start/finish. The device determined its own start/finish for the track and it put it way up in T7. Annoying as I like to look at my lap time while I am climbing the hill to T2. Hard to do that when the timer doesn’t know where start/finish is.

Data Collection

All weekend I ran my XT Racing GPX unit and the Speed Angle unit side by side. They were generally within a couple of tenths of a second of each other and the variance in the start/finish line could easily account for that variance. Overall the device felt pretty accurate.

You cannot view your lean angles on the device at all. You are expected to download the data onto your computer to do any kind of review other than raw lap times. Not a huge deal breaker but when I come off the track and look at my lap times it would be fun to also see “max lean” and “average lean” since the lean angle sensor is a major selling point of this unit.

After the weekend was over I was able to process the data without an issue and incorporate it into Dashware to display with my video collection.

I created two videos, one with my XT Racing unit and one with the Speed Angle unit.

XT Racing Data


Speed Angle Data


Opinion

What do I think of the unit? If it were in the high $200 price range I would be interested in it purely for the lean angle sensor.

If they started selling that sensor by itself I would be all over it.

At its current price point, it does not have enough features to justify it over the other units that are available.

The bad:
  • Not being able to input sectors, set the start/finish, or save the track is a huge strike against the unit. Without sector splits it has no value in trying to go faster on the track. Splits are 100% necessary.
  • The windows software is terrible. I get frustrated by the XT Racing software from time to time but now I realize how good that one is. Speed Angle could learn a lot from looking at the competition. This software feels amateurish and the presentation is terrible. For a unit at this price point I would expect higher quality software.
  • No Mac/iOS software or accessibility. This is 2015. There is no excuse to require windows only software. Put a BTLE chip in the unit. They are cheap. Write iOS (and/or Android) software so that we don’t need to lug laptops to the race trace. Seriously. If you can’t figure it out, contact me. I can help you.
  • No power. The unit requires that it be turned off to charge. I can’t hard wire the unit to the bike and receive constant power. Battery charged units are silly. If I forget to charge the unit then I am screwed? Why not allow me to charge the unit while I am riding the bike. I have tons of extra power coming off that stator. Let me burn some of it up charging the lap timer instead of wasting it as heat. Racers would thank you.
  • No external sensors. Not being able to log my TPS and RPM is a huge blocker for me.
There are some nice points, unfortunately not many:
  • It is a true GPS and not an assisted GPS. Very handy when there is no internet access.
  • The lean angle sensor is very cool. I had no idea I was hitting 60 degrees in the carousel. Makes me want to see what I hit at Chuckwalla!
  • The accuracy is solid. No complaints there at all.
  • The mounting bracket is very nice. Way better than what I got with QStarz and more flexible than what I got with XT out of the box.

Conclusion

Would I buy this unit? As it is now, I would not. The price point is simply too high for what you get. For a small amount more I can get a much more flexible unit. For less I can get a comparable unit without the lean angle sensor.

The only attractive thing is the lean angle sensor. Sell that on its own and I will be the first in line to buy a few. The rest of the unit needs to go back to testing. I suggest they go out to a race weekend and test them in the wild to see what the issues are. The User Experience is terrible.