Reviewed: Mavic Wintech USB Computer
Mavic has been a quiet entrant to the computer wars. It seems largely by design on their part. Their Wintech USB units don’t have the features that magazines like to salivate over: they don’t read power, don’t have GPS, don’t have a zillion data streams on display, and, while wireless, don’t run on the ANT protocol. They have four features that together give Mavic computers a unique spot on the bike computer matrix. Those features are unit shape, mounting system, transmitter, and interpretative program. We chose the HR iteration, with the e-Skewer transmitter.
First is the unit shape. It is long and narrow. This results in the display being fairly large, particularly the size of the numbers representing speed. The next two lines of data are smaller, but still fairly large.
The larger font sizes, with the largest on top, then the middle-sized font in the middle, and smallest at the bottom is also good. We measure the height of the numbers for speed, at the top, as being 17mm. The middle line, which is heart rate, is 11mm. The bottom line, speed, distance, and time, is 7mm.
Second is the mounting system. The mount clamps immediately to the right of the stem, is very narrow, and most importantly, can be rotated to sit atop the stem, and any number of positions en route to sitting below the stem, though there’s probably no reason to stash the computer there. The head unit, btw, weighs in at 35 g, the mounting bracket at 17g. The bracket is designed for 31.8mm diameter handlebars, so if you have 26mm bars, you’ll need to use the two included shims, which weigh 2g apiece. The heart rate transmitter is 54g.
One thing we’re concerned about is the durability of the mounting bracket. Setting it up so the computer is in front of your bars seems a bit precarious, especially when you realize that a single screw holds the computer bracket to the mount. That written, the mount does seem to have quite a bit of flex built into it, so the bracket might be very hard to fracture.
The ability to have the bike computer in front of the handlebars is an option we’ve grown rather fond of, thanks to our SRM head unit. The placement in front of the bars is particularly good when we’re riding in the drops as we don’t have to roll our eyes down as much as we do when the computer is on the bar or stem. And any time we’re thrashing up a steep hill out of the saddle, the forward placement is much easier to see. Aesthetically, the streamlined Black unit, is a plus because it doesn’t look like you have an iPad on your handlebars.
The two button design is fairly simple and easy to use. The right button scrolls through the stats of the moment, the left averages and maximums. Hold the right down and you start and finish intervals, hold the left down to set up the computer and pair wireless transmitters, but once the unit is rotated, the buttons are a bit harder to manipulate, especially with winter gloves on. Holding down the interval button for three seconds to start and two seconds to stop an interval isn’t always the easiest, as at the start, you’re raring to go, and at the end, you might well be cross-eyed. Hold down both buttons simultaneously to “save” the ride and zero out the totals. It’s a good thing to do at the start of a race, or if you ride to the ride, and it’s another way to mark intervals. With winter begloved hands, holding down both buttons simultaneously is surprisingly difficult.
This head unit can save 20 hours worth of ride data. Once it goes over 20, it starts to erase the oldest data set first, and then the next oldest, and so on.
The third is the transmitter, or rather transmitters. Mavic gives users four basic options. There is a fork mount, a quick release skewer nut mount, a quick release skewer mount, and a mount for your rear stays if you want to have data when riding a trainer. You can also add a cadence transmitter.
We went with the skewer transmitter. On the plus side, it’s the cleanest mount; no zip ties or plastic transmitter blocks on your frame. The mount is also pretty sleek and well-hidden and impressively hides a 2032 watch battery inside the lever. On the negative, if you switch wheels, you have to either switch the skewer or get a second skewer and program that skewer’s signal into your head unit before you swap it fast in the field.
Mounting the transmitter is easy. You just pull out your old quick release and install the new one. The skewer weighs 66g. While mounting the transmitter is easy, the pairing of the computer to the transmitter was not. The first potential difficulty is mounting the magnet. Both the magnet and the skewer seemed like they were designed for widely-spaced hub flanges and radial spoke lacing. The hub flanges on our Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLR was fine, but the flanges on our ancient Mavic-hubbed training wheels are spaced narrower and necessitated using another magnet, one that could get closer to the transmitter. Also, when setting up the magnet, you have to line up the magnet between to lines that you can only see on the backside of the skewer shaft.
Once you think you’ve gotten the magnet in the right spot, you then have to pair it. We found it best to do this figuring with the wheel off your bike and the computer in your hand, so it’s easier to make minute changes in the position of the magnet. Positioning was hard on the flat, crossed spokes of the CC SLR because there was very little room for movement.
After what seemed like considerable trial and error, we got it right. Timing wasn’t perfect, but Mavic eventually directed us to a Wintech USB FAQ that can be downloaded from their site. It’s pretty helpful and has much more thorough directions than the owner’s manual.
The fourth is their native interpretative program. The USB of the name refers to the fact that the computer has a USB stub built into it. First, run the included DVD or download the program off the web, and then plug the bike computer into your desk- or laptop’s USB port. The program automatically saves rides for you. You can also use the program to set preferences for the bike computer. Unfortunately for Mac users, it is PC-compatible only, though those running PCs inside their Mac will have no problem.
The interpretative program is pretty basic. When you plug your head unit into your computer (remember to hit “save” on the unit before plugging it in), the head unit wakes up and the computer, provided you’ve installed the interpretative program, recognizes that the bike computer is plugged in and automatically pops up a download button. It’s a pretty nice feature and makes uploading data very simple.
Downloading preferences, from wheel circumference to whether to use miles or kilometers, to whether you want to see current heart rate or percentage of max heart rate on your head unit can all be chosen while you’re in Mavic’s program on your computer. We found we preferred seeing our heart rate described as a percentage of max rather than a number. Even though we know the percentages by heart, seeing the number seemed to add more urgency to when we were going hard.
When you get into the program, the ride portion of the computer looks like a diary page. You can see your average and max heart rates and speed and lap splits for any ride. You have a few pull-down options for reporting whether it was a race, whether you were feeling, good, whether it was cold or rainy. You also have some room to write a diary entry. But there is no viewing of your heart rate or speed over time or distance on a graph.
The program also can place your daily distance totals in a weekly, monthly, and yearly graph. If all you desire is a basic accounting of your ride, seeing these graphs are excellent. If you’re looking for more details, like seeing a line graph of average and max heart rates and speeds, the program isn’t there. At least not yet. We’re told that they will be improving the interpretative program in the future.
If you’re looking for a more sophisticated program to interpret your bike computer data, you probably should look for another computer. The files created are not something that is turned into a CSV (comma separated value) file, which is what Training Peaks and other programs that can import files generally need.
But if you’re looking for a recording bike computer that is easy for technophobes, records basic riding data easily and with minimal input and thought from you, and uploads with a single button into a easy-to-read diary entries and simple overview charts, The Mavic Wintech USB computers, once set up, do a very good job.