Following its initial unveiling during last year’s fall trade show season, the Stages Dash GPS head unit and Stages Link cloud-based training software are now available to consumers worldwide. Together with its Stages Power meter, the Boulder, Colorado-based company has a complete ecosystem aimed at guiding riders to peak performance through easy-to-use analytics, on-line education, and customized coaching.
The new head unit, which weighs 100 grams plus another 25 grams for the mount, will sell for $399, while a Stages Link subscription runs $20 a month or $200 for a year. Together, head unit and training system are designed to integrate seamlessly.
The Dash was born in part out of increasing weariness of relying on other manufacturer’s often flawed head units. The power meter maker decided it was time to create a unit that was geared specifically toward training. The GPS-equipped Dash has the usual connectivity via Bluetooth and ANT+, works in landscape or portrait orientation, is packed with power-based functions and metrics, and syncs easily with Stages Link.
The goal with Dash and Link is to make training with power more accessible. Before Stages only had a small piece of the system. But after living with these other products for a while, they felt like they could do better, and wanted to push things in a different direction than say Garmin, which is basically a marine mapping system adapted to bikes.
“With Dash and Link, we’ve developed a complete experience that will personally guide a rider through the process of living with and meeting their performance goals with power,” said Pat Warner, SVP of Stages Cycling. “The Stages ecosystem is an easy and fast way for a rider to achieve their best performance.”
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Features of the Stages Dash include near limitless customization of data fields, the ability to offer guided workout coaching, and specific provisions to manage critical training metrics across all devices. Dash is also compatible with other 3rd party devices so you don’t have to use a Stages Power meter to use the head unit. Anyone who purchase Stages Power or Stages Dash receives complementary access to Stages Link for two months.
Meanwhile, Stages Link is a hub of cloud-based coaching, education, training analysis, and equipment management tools that were developed collaboratively with the team behind Today’s Plan, an on-line training service. The system has enough depth for use by top elite racers, but can also be adapted to the limited training time of everyday riders. Stages Link tailors training plans and daily workouts based on pre-set criteria entered by the rider, including metrics such as weight, available training time, functional threshold power, and of course goals, which can be as simple as improving fitness or as detailed as targeting a specific race.
Stages Link can also help riders set up their Stages Dash and keep tabs on Stages Power meters, alerting the user that the battery is low for instance.
Also new is the Stages Link App, which is being billed as an evolution of the Stages Power App. The app provides a wireless connection between a rider’s Dash head unit and the cloud-based Link training and analytics service. The Link App allows a rider’s training plan and workouts to automatically flow from the cloud to Dash. And ride data will automatically upload when the App is used. The Stages Link App can also transfer data to third party analysis sites (think Strava or TrainingPeaks) and provide basic information about workouts, rides, rider activity profiles, and firmware updates for both Dash and Stages Power.
“Dash was born from an unmet need in the training tool space for real-time guidance that’s paired with the immediate feedback of a power meter,” added Warner. “Our new Stages ecosystem provides a simple and intuitive interface that enables a rider to maximize their performance and meet their goals.”
RoadBikeReview’s Initial Take
After a lengthy day of product overview information and a single ride test session, RoadBikeReview was sent home with a unit to be put through its paces on home roads and trails. We’re still in the process of learning what the system’s best fit for us and our needs, but have come away with some general first impressions, which are primarily favorable.
First and foremost, this is a training tool. As one Stages staffer said, “A lot of the more map-based head units out there are to help you find your friends. The Stages Dash is designed to help you drop them.” To that point, if you’re in the market for a GPS that will help you get from A to B, Dash is not that unit. But if you are seriously trying to take your riding to a higher level, the Stages ecosystem could be a great way to get there. Though not inexpensive, the cost of the unit and the training service is far less than that of a coach for a year, which can easily run upwards of $200 a month or more.
The Dash can also make training sessions more engaging. Instead of jotting down your workout on a piece of paper or typing it into your smartphone, the Link system can push the prescribed plan to the head unit, which will then guide you through your workout in real time by displaying what the target effort and duration time are. It’s almost like having a coach perched on your handlebars barking out orders of what you’re supposed to do.
More props to Stages for the level of possible customization. The Dash screen can display up to 16 fields, which for most will be a dizzying amount of information. But it’s just as easy to use various field sizes so important metrics stand out in a way most other head units do not allow. We also like that the unit works in landscape or portrait mode, adding yet another level of customization. All these changes can be effected using Stages Link.
Stages also took a different approach with the mount, eschewing the popular quarter-turn set-up for a click-in mechanism that keeps the unit very close to the bars. The interface is aluminum-to-aluminum, which should result in increased durability and security. Battery life of the Dash is claimed to be between 24-30 hours, which we’ve yet to put to the test. Charging is done via an included USB cord.
And like most current higher-end head units, phone and text messages can be set up to display. (Editor’s Note: This is an Android App-only feature right now, but the iOS App just launched and phone/text receipt functionality will be added soon). Stages says that eventually the capability to push turn-by-turn directions from your phone’s Google maps app to the Dash will be launched. But for now it’s still a work in progress in part because Stages doesn’t believe that will be a big selling point for purchasers of these units.
What they will like is the ability after a workout to import your ride data into Link where you can overlay what you did today versus what you were supposed to do and get a true sense of how close you are to reaching your goals.
Bottom line, while the Stages ecosystem can be a little dense (even bordering on information overload), for riders aiming to up their fitness it’s a streamlined path to attaining those goals.
To learn more visit stagescycling.com.