By Lynne Fitzsimmons
Before getting the Rox 9.0, my most complex cyclecomputer was a Shimano Flight Deck. By profession I am a User Experience Research and Design Engineer, most recently for complex test and measurement instrumentation. I design and test the user interface for data acquisition, visualization and analysis applications. So I approached this product as I would any other data collection and analysis tool.
It took longer to remove my venerable Cateye Astrale than it did to install the Rox 9.0 sensors and magnets. I chose to use the provided O-rings, as I might want to move the Rox to another bicycle. There weren’t quite the number of O-rings in the dimensions I needed, but I had spares from other products, so no problem.
The cyclecomputer can be mounted on the stem or handlebar. But some line drawings on the installation sheet were incomplete. It Wasn’t clear how the speed sensor was to be oriented to the magnet. When I saw the green flashes I figured I got it right.
You can configure this cyclecomputer on the bicycle or with the provided PC software. Like for most cyclecomputers, the setup method was not initially intuitive, so I decided to go to my PC.
PC Software Setup
The Sigma Data Center software on the CD was V1.0; the most recent version is V1.1a. I realized this after installing V1.0, so I had to manually uninstall it and download the new version. I have WinXP SP3. It required a reboot to get things running. I recommend skipping the CD installation altogether and installing the latest version directly from the website.
Although this is Windows software, Sigma chose to depart from the standard Windows user interface. There are no menus along the screen’s top, only buttons with labels. The one on the top left connects to the cyclecomputer. (It just says “Connect,” but not to what.)
Many buttons in the interface are redundant. Slightly different terminology is used for the same functionality, and there can be moments of uneasiness (“Am I erasing my bike computer here?—) until you realize that each major function can be initiated with at least 2, sometimes 3, different buttons.
I pressed the Connect button and was offered the opportunity to get the settings from the cyclecomputer, or change them. This is much easier than doing it on any bike computer I’m familiar with. I could name my unit, set the language, set the date and time, put in my particulars for the heart monitor (including 3 zones), provide 3 preset altitude values (my house and 2 favorite ride start locations), set wheel sizes for 2 bikes (automatic detection), and set the odometer for 2 bikes. Altitude values were retrieved from Google Earth.
The language is British English translated from German, so some terminology was a bit obscure. It is also inconsistent. The cyclecomputer itself is referred to as the unit, the bc, the BC, or the appliance. Getting data from the cyclecomputer is variously referred to as loading or exporting.
I saved my cyclecomputer settings to a file. While doing so, I was presented with dialog in German, rather than English. Text is not always updated to reflect the selected language or distance units. In one case the label is metres, yet the value is given in feet. Cadence is reported in upm rather than rpm.
Tip: Import your settings from the cyclecomputer, modify them, and then resend them. Otherwise you’llstart from the defaults when you want to change settings.
The cyclecomputer needs to synchronize with the speed sensor, the cadence sensor and the HRM strap. The speed sensor kept cutting out and I suspected power-line interference. Then I moved it closer to the magnet and all was good.
If I pause about 10 minutes or more on a ride, all the sensors may not resynchronize when I restart. The only way I’ve found to force a sync is to pop the computer out of the mount and put it back in. I’ve been doing that at the beginning of each ride, at a minimum. It would be nice to have a button to initiate a sync.
By this point, after doing the setup on the PC, I realized that reading the manual would be a good thing. Using it, I walked myself through all the functions, some of them twice. Once I had the operating model in my head, I was good — able to navigate easily.
Note: The Sigma website has an interactive simulation.
I had to read the altimeter instructions a few times. And I would have liked a few more words about how or why I would want to use some of the other functions (Distance+ and Distance-, for example). Otherwise, the detail is fine for such things as starting and stopping a Logbook and setting Waypoints.
You can create 2 Favorites screens, each with 15 different readouts (6 viewable simultaneously). It is quicker to set them up on the PC than on the cyclecomputer itself, but either is quite doable. Once these screens are configured, you can easily view the data important to you without pressing buttons while riding.
I generally display one of my Favorites screens while riding and don’t fiddle with it much. I might look at Temperature or switch Time and Trip Distance, but That’s it. Everything else I want to see is already displayed — Speed, Altimeter, Heart Rate, Cadence and some not-too-useful (to me) climbing functions.
Operation is done with 5 buttons — a big silver one on the face (used solely for the Log function) plus 2 on top and 2 on the bottom. Text prompts are provided by default; you can turn them off. Although there are often multiple levels of menus and displays, I find the Rox 9.0 much, much easier to operate than my Polar heart monitor.
I normally wear 2.5 magnification glasses to read but had no trouble making out data on the cyclecomputer’s screen without them. However, depending on light conditions during setup changes, it was sometimes hard to distinguish between bold and un-bold digits to be sure which were being modified. If your eyes are sharper than mine this may not be a problem.
A “Trip” is basic ride summary information. The Rox 9.0 collects data until you reset it. If you want to download Trip information to the PC, you need to save it while resetting it.
A Trip includes:
- Cycling values: Distance, Average Speed, Max Speed, Ride Time, Distance+ and Distance- (interval counters)
- Cadence values: Average, Maximum
- Heart rate values: Average, Maximum, Calories burned, time in zones 1, 2, 3; percent in zones 1, 2, 3
- Temperature values: Minimum, Maximum
- Uphill values: Distance, Time Climbing, Average Speed, Vertical Gain, Average % Incline, Max % Incline, Max Altitude
- Downhill values: similar to Uphill but for descending
- Notes: any text you’d like to input on the PC
The memory stores the 7 most recent Trips. When the memory is full, it saves the current Trip while discarding the oldest one to make room for it.
The Rox 9.0 has a block of data memory that can be used to save “Logs” until the memory is full. The length of the log is a function of the sample interval (5 seconds, or 10, 20, 30 seconds) and the available memory.
The maximum Log recording times at each sample interval, respectively, are (hours/minutes): 14:17, 28:34, 57:07, 85:41. You could create logs for each day of a week-long tour or collect log data for brevets as long as 1,200 km.
To select the sample interval and start the Log you press and hold the big button. While logging, pressing and releasing the big button sets a waypoint (marker). These are also set automatically when you pause during a ride.
You can download saved Logs and Trips. Just pop the cyclecomputer into the USB PC dock, press the green Connect button in the Sigma Data Center software, and you are presented with an array of possible activities. (You can even check the status of all 4 batteries — cool feature.) But what you’llbe doing most is downloading data.
Note: The cyclecomputer clock loses time while it’s in the PC dock. I find that really annoying, having to reset it each time.
Here is where the interface gets tedious. Some of what you’re told on the screen is unnecessary (never waste a user’s time reporting ordinary success). I won’t bore you with all the particulars. Just be aware of the potential for tedium and perhaps the need for a workaround if you’re interfacing with Excel 2003
When you’re ready to view your data. the Sigma Data Center lets you analyze a Log, look at individual Trips or see 2 Trips side by side.
Opening a Log presents you with a multi-line graph. As the photo indicates, you can view plots of Heart Rate, Speed, Altitude, Temperature, Inclination, Rise Rate (feet/minute), Waypoints and Pauses.
The graph is shown with an x-axis choice of miles or time. The y-axis can be changed by clicking on the specific plot line. For example, if you click on the heart rate plot, the y-axis will change to beats per minute.
Below the graph is a set of tabs. The one called “Current” shows the values at the point where the cursor is placed. The Markers tab has a list of Pauses and Waypoints. Working with the graph reveals several design shortcomings. For example, rather than manually dragging the cursor to see the plot data values at Waypoints, it would be better to use forward and back buttons (think jumping from track to track using an online music player) and see the readout update.
One nifty feature is that you can look at the stats for subsections of a Trip by dragging the endpoint cursors. I often ride from my home to the start of a club ride. This way, I set a Waypoint when the club ride starts and ends so I can see my statistics for that part as well as the overall Trip.
My PC doesn’t have enough USB ports, so peripherals are always beings swapped in and out. If you do that with this dock, you’llget a “found new hardware” warning. And when you ignore that because you’ve already installed it, you will find that you cannot connect to the unit. Something in the registry is wrong. Oh, and installing the driver gets you this:
It can be ignored, but it’s disconcerting.
A friend said of the Rox 9.0: “For that price, it should fold the laundry and take out the garbage!” It is expensive at $249 but you could pay $100 more for the similarVDO Z3 PC-Link (or about $80 less for the Rox 8.0, almost identical to the 9.0 but lacking the Log feature).
For the money, the 9.0 provides lots of functions, some of which I haven’t figured out why I need. Maybe the fast boys know. The PC software, while clumsy in places, does work. And it’s upgradable, so maybe they’ll fix those annoying translation and localization errors.
I characterize myself as a data and graphs person. If you are also that kind of person too, I think you’lllike the Rox 9.0.