With the TreadTracker being discontinued, it was a pleasant surprise to hear that North Pole Engineering was releasing a smart treadmill sensor. I immediately put in a pre-order which arrived yesterday evening. Here’s my first impressions after installation and my first run.
The Runn… is a smart treadmill sensor that optically measures treadmill speed by placing small, reflective stickers along the edge of the belt. It broadcasts speed, cadence, and incline via Bluetooth and ANT+. The setup was relatively quick and easy and paired easily with Zwift and my Garmin FR945.
I originally placed a single reflective sticker on the belt, which worked fine, but I felt the speed changes were not quite as responsive as with the TreadTracker. I then placed 5 more stickers, evenly spaced every 20 inches, and the response seems noticeably better. Still not quite as quick as the TreadTracker but, at least for me, more than adequate. As you’d expect, the speed seemed accurate and showed the same variance from the treadmill’s display as the TreadTracker.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get any cadence data (in either Zwift or on my FR945). It shows up as a valid cadence device in Zwift but never registers and steps. The treadmill’s deck is definitely bouncing enough to trigger a foot strike so I’m not sure what the issue might be. I’ve sent a request to NPE’s support. We’ll see.
As for incline, my first run was done with the treadmill at zero percent so I haven’t seen any elevation data yet. Zwift reported zero feet of climbing so the unit was either working (and perfectly level) or not reporting data. I’ll check that out next time. Stay tuned.
Having the issue with cadence, I obviously can’t get the Runn… a complete thumbs up at this time. The speed data worked well and seemed accurate so hopefully the cadence issue can be resolved and I can move on to checking out the incline capability. It’s a brand new device and this is just the first run so stay tuned. I’ll update the post as I get more time with the unit.
Update 12/26/2019: NPE tech support responded and suggested moving the Runn… unit to the front of the treadmill to see if it would register cadence. I had considered moving it up there anyway as it might be a little more protected than at the rear. But, still no cadence. They also pointed out that they have an app called “GymTrakr” (Android and iOS) that will display the incline in real-time. GymTrakr appears to be intended to log workouts when connected to GEM-enabled fitness equipment. Ironically, cadence is not one of the metrics that can be displayed with the app. The Runn… was displaying about 1% incline while the bed of the treadmill was at 0% and verified with a rather long carpenter’s level. Certainly would be nice to be able to zero the Runn… via the GymTrakr app.
Update 12/30/2019: NPE tech support followed up with the calibration procedure. It primarily seems to be for calibrating the speed to 5 mph and zeroing the incline. It may, as part of the calibration, do a general reset. In any case, the cadence is now working perfectly. The procedure, however, instructs you to set your treadmill to 5 mph for the calibration. That’s fine if you’re fortunate enough to own a treadmill that’s accurate. In my case, all my measurements have indicated that the treadmill is about 0.2 mph slow (unloaded) at 5 mph and gets worse as the speed increases. I simply used the TreadTracker to set the treadmill’s speed to 5 mph and proceeded with the calibration.
If you’ve got experience with a NPE Runn… or have any questions, feel free to comment below. Thanks for reading!