Article by Pete Giddings
Cycling’s technical evolution from steel frames, woollen jerseys and steak breakfasts to the isotonic mix of carbon composites and electronic gear shifting that we see today has been driven by men far removed from the flashbulbs of the podium.
In an unassuming industrial park in rural Norfolk, engineers renowned for constructing and honing Formula 1 and rally car components are pushing cycling into uncharted territory. BERU f1systems have brought together virtually every available measurement of rider performance to create a professional training tool leaps ahead of anything the cycling world has even envisaged.
On its release, the radical design, bespoke manufacture and £25,000 price tag of BERU’s Factor001 made waves through the cycling world and into lifestyle magazines. But by focusing on those aspects, that initial coverage almost totally missed the point. The measurement technology is the true heart of this project – the Factor001 is a bicycle capable of unravelling the threads of data that form the fabric of a perfect race.
So, is this sensor-saturated superbike the future of bicycle training? Despite aiming to break free of cycling tradition, the familiar measures of cycling performance such as speed, cadence and power are still central to the Factor001’s data acquisition. Eight tiny magnets embedded in the rims of the unique wheels log position eight times per rotation so that previously undetectable fluctuations in speed can be detected. Cadence and power are both measured with startling precision by the painstakingly CNC-machined Factor001 cranks.
By measuring the deformation of each aluminium crank arm using carefully positioned strain gauges, BERU claim to measure pedalling forces with just 0.1 percent error, while pedal position is recorded every one degree of rotation. Project leader Simon Roberts explained: “We have huge experience in this type of measurement. We saw the errors and calibration requirements of competitive power meters and knew we could do better. There's no need to calibrate our system each ride and, by measuring pedal forces very close to application, we minimise inaccuracies and gather more useful data.”