What is it?
Shimano Connect Lab is a web application, or ‘website’, that lets you upload fit files of rides or workouts, and also post them to linked platforms (Strava, TrainingPeaks and Today’s Plan). Its main focus is analysing your power data, or perhaps more specifically: helping you analyse your power data by displaying a lot of performance numbers, stats and graphs.
If it means anything to you, it’s basically a modern version of Pioneer’s Cyclo-Sphere. This isn’t a complete surprise, considering that Shimano Connect Lab is meant to replace the now discontinued Cyclo-Sphere service.
If you haven’t yet, visit the new service by browsing to https://connect-lab.shimano.com - you’ll be greeted by this screen:
Shimano ID requirement
As you might have seen in the image above, you need a SHIMANO ID to log in. This isn’t something completely new - Shimano first introduced SHIMANO ID when they launched E-Tube Project 4.
Back then its usefulness was limited, all an account really let you do was store your bike profiles in it and that’s it. Sure, you could log in on a different device and it would automatically retrieve your stored bikes… but that’s about it. Shimano Connect Lab is Shimano’s second service to tie into SHIMANO ID and I suspect they’ll add on more services and sites later.
If you’re interested in the technology behind SHIMANO ID, it’s powered by Gigya’s ‘Customer Identity System'.
Unfortunately, this also means the service is not available in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland and Taiwan. The Shimano FAQ mentions that users in these countries will get access to Shimano Connect Lab this year, but they don’t mention when exactly.
Create an account
If you’ve created a SHIMANO ID before because you used the E-Tube Project mobile app, great! If you haven’t, let’s do that now.
You can create a new account using either a social account - Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple - or using an email address. The only real difference is that if you choose the latter, they will also ask you for your email address and a password.
It’ll also ask you permission to store and analyse your health data.
Connect Lab Dashboard
The service’s main screen is the dashboard. This lists recent activities and statistics. It looks something like this:
There’s the menu on the left, the header at the top right of the page and then the main content area listing all your activities. Note that, because this is the first time I'm using the service, there are no activities yet.
The header area is where your notifications are displayed, as well as the logout and help buttons and most importantly, the Upload button.
Your profile picture is displayed in the menu area on the left, as well as the service’s navigation buttons. It also links to the Settings page.
Once the page is done initialising it’ll tell you to upload .fit files.
Let’s open the settings first though.
You could upload activities or workouts if you wanted to, but the resulting data and statistics would be incomplete. It’s a good idea to visit the Settings screen, go to the user settings and set your FTP and weight.
Besides just setting these values, you can tie each of these to a date, allowing you to track your FTP and weight changes over time.
This is also where you set a profile picture and tell it the type of sensor you're using. This will determine the data and graphs it shows.
If you scroll down a bit you can set the language, units (metric vs imperial), the date and time formats and whether or not to include zeroes when determining your average speed, cadence and power.
The private location section lets you set one or more private locations, much like Strava’s privacy zone. The interface is a bit cumbersome, requiring you to drag the map to the correct position and setting a marker. Still, it’s good to have.
Finally, you can set which activity categories are displayed on the dashboard and what data and graphs are shown for each of these.
There’s almost an infinite amount of combinations you can choose and this is probably best experienced clicking through the service yourself.
Really, there are a lot of settings. These next few let you change the data fields shown for each activity (on the dashboard / overview page).
Shimano Connect Lab doesn’t just analyse your fit files, it can also push the activities to Strava, TrainingPeaks and Today’s Plan.
Clicking the Strava button will send you to Strava to authorise Shimano Connect - and then back to Connect Lab again.
Back in the dashboard, let’s click that upload button at the top. This is where you upload your .fit files - you can upload one file, or multiple. It’s up to you. The max I tried is five.
Now…. if you’re like me, you’ll be waiting for a couple of minutes before you figure that you have to close this dialog box yourself. It says so in the text, but it’s hardly intuitive.
Use that ‘x’ at the top right and close the dialog box. Your dashboard won’t have changed. The notification icon turns red though, indicating there’s something the site wants to tell you.
In my case it took about five to ten minutes to process two activities. Once it’s done, it’ll look something like this.
I uploaded one ride with power data (Di2 road bike) and one without (Di2 MTB).
The top bar - where it says riding time and 1 min peak power - is a bit confusing. You need to select a section with actual rides in it, otherwise it won’t show anything. This isn’t an issue normally, but since I only have two activities here it looked a bit off at first.
If you click the little pencil icon on the ride you can edit an activity. You can rename it, change the ride time, leave a comment or note and delete it.
When I changed my activity to RIDE that didn’t actually do anything. I went into the settings and changed the ‘display force vector’ setting for this activity category.
Now... because my power meter doesn't actually support Force Vector data I cannot show you that.. but that's is how you enable the field.
Activity / Analysis
Let’s open an activity and take a look at the data that’s there. I’ll open the one with power, because there isn’t much to analyse for that MTB ride without power data ;-).
The default analysis page looks like this:
You can drag and drop sections, resize them and remove them. For example, I quickly turned mine into this:
Notice that Add button at the top right? That’s where you can add other data windows.
The selection of windows you can add is limited by the device (and thus power data) you have. In my case I could only add the Pedaling Graph, Device Information, Maps and Force Vector.
The Force Vector and Pedaling Graph windows appeared, but they didn’t show any data. I’m using Shimano’s own FC-R9100-P Power Meter that is not a Force Vector Compatible power meter, but still - it does record L/R data.
When you click the full-screen button you get a nice full-screen version of the selected graph:
You can also change any of the graphs to display other values. So for example, you can display heart rate instead of power, or cadence, or anything else.
Statistics and Power Curve
~~I'd love to show you this, but the page is just too slow. More on this further down the page.~~ About a week after I first wrote this page things started looking up. Processing of activities no longer takes a full day and the power curve and statistics screen actually works!
This is what it looks like:
You can add up to three graphs and change each to display a different time period (all activities, past 3 months, past month) and a granularity (week, month, year). Then you select a metric you want to display:
- Basic information: riding time, distance, elevation gain, average speed
- Peak power: 5 sec power, 1 min, 5 min and 20 minute peak power
- Pedaling: Avg. pedaling efficiency L, avg. pedaling efficiency R, avg. power balance L / R
- Gear shifting: Total shifts, avg. shifting interval. This graph doesn't work for me
- Heart rate: Max heart rate and average heart rate
- Group: Max power, 15 sec, 30 sec, 5 min, 20 min and 60 minute peak power
My power curve only shows the most recent 1 month curve. I'm not sure why. Still, it's better than nothing:
Calendar and Activity list
The calendar does actually what you’d expect it to do - it lists your activities for any given month. You can choose what parameter you want it to display and it’ll also show a monthly total at the bottom of the page.
On the Activity List page you see an overview of all of your activities. It lets you search by Riding Category, name, distance, date, etc.
When you tick the little box to the left of an activity you can edit, upload (share), download and delete your activity.
Let’s share an activity! I’ll share this via a link, because I’m wondering what that’ll look like.
“Disabling [Share via link] makes the link from the Posting Service/Transfer Service inactive. When you post or transfer to another Web Service, [Share via link] becomes active”
What I think they’re trying to say here is: if you’ve shared a link to this activity before and you then disable this functionality for this activity, it’ll also delete the link.
I haven’t shared this activity before so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to show that message now, but maybe that’s just me.
Click Enable and it’ll start creating your link. Once it’s done it’ll automatically update the URL field with your unique link.
At least, it should. I tried again and had better luck this time around:
You can then share this link with your friends or rival cyclists.
When they click the link they’ll see the activity analysis page with all the graphs and data.
Or they should. We couldn’t actually get it to load. If you’re feeling lucky (or brave), here is the link to my activity:
So.. how good is this new web service? Right now? The answer is simple - not very good.
Sure, there is potential. It could turn out to be a great tool. However, it seems to be launched before it was actually ready. Shimano posted a disclaimer on their page stating that it’d be slow for the first few hours.. but I really hope they didn’t mean this slow.
If you intend to use it now, expect to spend a lot of time looking at spinners, waiting.
Let’s hope they fine-tune the back-end and improve performance soon, because it isn’t really worth using in its current state. The lack of official press releases could also be an indication that it isn’t quite ready to be used.
Speaking of the back-end.. there’s something “interesting” going on here.
What? Isn’t Cyclo-Sphere the Pioneer service that was killed?
So what is happening here? Clearly it is making some requests to Cyclo-Sphere.com. Perhaps it’s getting images from there.. or some random Pioneer related data.
Let’s open the browser developer tools and have a look at the network requests it does loading an activity:
Yep. Loading my activity it did about 170 network requests, most of them to cyclo-sphere.com.
Shimano’s new service actually uses Cyclo-Sphere back-end / api / servers to process the data and then simply presents it to the user. The new service is basically just a new front-end for Cyclo-Sphere, with the added SHIMANO ID requirement.
I sincerely hope Shimano migrate this to their own platform as soon as they can and implement some improvements along the way - I don’t see them making the service faster any other way.
When I asked Shimano Europe about the service last week they told me they weren’t promoting it at this time, but would definitely push it more later this year.
Perhaps they’re officially ‘launching’ this together with the new DURA-ACE R9250 / Ultegra R8150 12 speed groupsets that are likely to be announced in a couple of months.
Perhaps they’ll also announce a new power meter to go with it, taking advantage of this ‘new’ platform. I honestly don't know, so we'll have to wait and see.