Product: Athon GPS
3 Lap Timer - Speedometer - Tachometer - Shift Light
Manufacturer: Starlane Performance Electronics
It's a laptimer, what needs reviewing? Surely you jest! This is not merely a "laptimer", this could be the coolest laptimer on the planet. All I needed to hear were those 3 magic letters to spark my interest "G - P - S". When Fred Renz of Yoyodyne said he had a cool new product, my ears perked up. I mean, sure, it's Fred he's selling something, but when Fred says it's cool, by God it is.
My unit for review arrived about 15 minutes before I left for the track, so I didn't even get it out of the box. We hit the track and I opened it up. I instantly thought 'hmm, that's it?' There was really nothing in the box. The timer, 1 wire, a few pieces of "dual-lock" fastener, and this paper thing that I guess was a manual (who reads these days??).
I unscrewed the back and popped in 2 AA batteries and she came to life. I knew it would have to acquire satellites so I set it down and did thumb through the book just to get some general idea on what I was doing.
3 minutes later it had picked up 8 satellites (once initial acquisition is done at a track, subsequent acquisition is mere seconds). Cool! Now I needed to set the start/finish line, so I hopped on a bicycle and made my way over to the actual start/finish line of the track (a mistake I'll explain later). I glanced down while I was pedaling to admire this hunk of beauty and was fascinated to see that I was pedaling at 11mph! I stood on the start/finish line and thumbed through the simple menus and clicked ENTER on start/finish.
As it was dark, I didn't go around to enter other intermediate points yet, but did so the following morning. Same process, find the place on the track that you want the intermediate mark to be set and hit ENTER. You have 3 intermediates and a start/finish for a total of 4 segments. This isn't required, but it's cool to do.
Since I'm retired from the grid, I lined up a couple of test monkeys (Jason Temme, "Super" Dave Rosno and Brian Hall) to try out the unit. In all cases, we put the GPS timer on the exact same mount that their existing lap timers were mounted on.
In order to get the Tachometer and Shift Light to work, we needed to attach a small lead either to a plug wire (external coil like on Super Dave's SV) or wrap the lead 8 times around the 'coil-over-cap' type setups. We only tested the Tach & Shift Light function on the SV because it was the easiest to get to.
On all bikes, it took us between 6 seconds and 5 minutes to install.
click to see full size
Now, for the cool part...
Jason Temme started us out on his Team Serpent Racing Yamaha R6 in practice. The timer worked flawlessly, catching every lap and every intermediate point. When he got off the track, we found 1 slight flaw in my programming of the unit (that mistake I was talking about earlier). By using the "real" start/finish line, the guys didn't have enough time to look down at the timer before hitting T1 and the infield. I should have made an artificial start/finish line sooner on the straight so they could read it on the straight vice through the infield.
READ JASON'S COMMENTS HERE
The data was easily retrieved and showed us:
It would have showed us RPM's had we hooked up the lead.
Each session out is automatically stored as a different session (and it's logged by date/time), so it was simple to compare times between riders. Additionally, moving from one bike to another was VERY interesting because there was ZERO variance between the points measured. No beacons to mess with, no wondering which beacon you're hitting, no forgetting the beacon. Just dead-on measurements each and every lap.
Next up we slapped the timer on Super Dave Rosno's SV-1000. On Dave's bike we were able to get to an exposed plug wire and fastened 4cm of the lead wire to it (using 2 zip ties). The tach worked instantly (although we did have to set the divisor to work with a twin vice a 4cyl), and we programmed the shift light up for him.
click to see full size - Pic 1 is the tach pickup lead on the SV plug wire
Dave went out on the SV and came back in saying he didn't really pay attention to the shift light, but mostly because he wasn't used to it.
READ DAVE'S COMMENTS HERE
I pulled it off Dave's bike and we popped it on the #1 expert bike of Brian Hall. Brian went out and put down some impressive laps at Blackhawk, recording a 1:10.77 fast lap and a theoretical best time of 1:09.66!
After pulling it from Brian's bike, it was very interesting to compare segment times between the 3 riders and see where one was better than the other, or in Dave's case, where a twin had certain advantages in a segment over 4cyl bikes.
I sent the timer with Brian Hall to Mid Ohio for him to use during the AMA races. He used it and provided his feedback for us.
READ BRIAN'S COMMENTS HERE
In all, we probably should have spent more time with the owners manual, but I just finished reading it and there are a few options in the unit that aren't addressed in the manual which I would simply need time to play with.
I believe that Starlane expects a rider to set the intermediates while riding/driving on a practice or warm-up lap. I suppose this could be done, but it might be tricky at best and could be difficult as the buttons are quite small so getting to them with gloves on is difficult. I'm sure with time a person could figure it out.
The other piece I really WISH this timer had was the ability to export the data. This is really a cross/hybrid between a traditional lap timer and a full-on data acquisition system. Employing GPS is the gateway to information. If they had the ability to export data, then there would be no reason why it couldn't make a virtual track-map! But I digress as at that point you'd have a data acquisition system at $1500 instead of a lap timer at 1/3 or less the cost.
So, where can you get one?
Here's what the MFR/Distributor have to say on the unit
Its core is the new GPS system developed by Starlane with technology and process algorithms used in the most advanced military airborne systems, an essential choice in order to make a sharp and reliable product overcoming all the main limits known for the commercial GPS systems.
surely is by full right the most innovative product in its branch for the philosophy
of the idea and for how it has been developed, as well as for the technological
contained in a very elegant and compact design.
ATHON was born as simplicity and practical solution, cable less and self powered.
It's installable on any vehicle, without electrical connections or external sensors.
1) GPS RECEIVER
AND ANTENNA INTEGRATED INSIDE THE INSTRUMENT:
ATHON's shock tolerant ABS body holds both the GPS receiver and the antenna, such a solution makes it really handy in it's simplicity and doesn't require the installation of any additional part on the vehicle.
2) YOU CAN SAY FAREWELL
TO THE UNCOMFORTABLE INFRARED TRANSMITTERS ON THE PIT WALL:
the GPS system usage for the lap timer makes ATHON totally autonomous without the need of any reference on the side of the track like the transmitters used by the old generation systems based on the infrared technology. Everything becomes easier, without the bother of positioning the transmitter with the uncomfortable battery to be charged and the risk of forgetting it or to see it stolen.
3) FINISH LINE AND
3 INTERMEDIATES MANAGEMENT:
by simply pressing one key it's possible to set, during the first lap, the coordinates of 4 lines (finish line + 3 optional intermediates), every time a line is passed ATHON displays the time and stores its value, so it's possible to quickly verify the performance also in parts of the track far from the main straight, something that would be expensive and uncomfortable with any other kind of chrono.
4) IDEAL TIME CALCULATION:
through the intermediates and splits management ATHON can calculate the Ideal Time reachable by the driver, this feature is obtained by adding the best splits. In this way it's easy to understand which could be the best laptime of the driver without traffic in a specific part of the lap or if he could run a lap at the maximum of his absolute performance.
5) DOUBLE FUNCTION "BEST LAP" LED:
the "BEST LAP" LED light on if the lap time is better than the previous one and blinks if the just closed lap is the session best lap, this solution allows to give the driver the necessary in formation without distracting him.
If you set the intermediates the LED will work also on each intermediate line, it becomes so a very useful tool to understand, without distraction, if you are making a better intermediate or if you have just closed that best intermediate for the session.
6) GPS SPEED READING:
the advantage in using the GPS system brings also the way of reading the vehicle speed with extreme precision and without the need of external sensor installation, it doesn't require any setting by the user and ,moreover, the value is always precise and not distorted by the vehicle lean angle or by possible wheel spinning.
7) TACHOMETER WITH
LED BAR AND SHIFT LIGHT:
ATHON is not only a chrono and speedometer but also an engine tachometer that allows you to set the starting RPM for the LED bar that will grow till the shifting RPM indicated by the 3 ultra bright Blue LEDs of the shift light. It's also possible to show the engine speed on the display. The engine speed reading can be made by positioning the inductive wire near the ignition coil or wiring it to the factory instrument tacho signal wire.
8) DOUBLE HOUR METER
FOR THE PERFECT VEHICLE MAINTENANCE SCHEDULING:
ATHON has also two separate resettable hour meters to keep the scheduled maintenance of the vehicle, the hour meters will run by both the engine speed and the GPS speed signal, such a a solution makes the hour meters able to work even if the tacho wire is not connected.
9) 999 LAPS MEMORY
WITH AUTOMATIC MANAGEMENT OF 99 SESSIONS:
ATHON GPS-3 automatically creates a new session every time you start, in this way you can calmly start analyzing the lap times stored in separate sessions. The system stores Date and Time of every session and for each lap are also stored the lap time, intermediates, maximum speed, maximum engine speed and engine speed at the maximum vehicle speed.
10) STORAGE OF THE
MOST USED TRACKS FINISH LINE COORDINATES:
it's possible to store the acquired finish line coordinates of the tracks you train most frequently, you can store till 16 tracks, so it becomes easy to load the current finish line info without setting it every time.
11) ATHON IS PROVIDED
OF A LARGE BECKLIT GRAPHIC DISPLAY:
this solution allowed the development of an incomparable simplicity and immediacy software for the stored data analysis and the features setting. The display is Transflective type, feature that allows the maximum visibility also under the sun light with backlight switched off.
12) SELF POWERED
BY 2 INTERNAL AA BATTERIES:
making it really autonomous and independent by any electrical connection, besides ATHON has powerful customizable power saving features and self power off to allow the maximum battery performance.
13) WATER RESISTANT:
ATHON is water resistant, it's so possible to use it also while raining.
# Automatic chrono with 1/100 of a second resolution
# GPS system with airborne algorithms
# Digital tachometer
# GPS speed display
# Max RPM reading = 32000; max speed = 350 Km/h o 218 Mph
# Customizable LED Bar and Shift Light
# Settable RPM divisor
# Double Hour meter for scheduled engine maintenance
# 999 lap memory in 99 sessions
# Per lap Maximum RPM and speed memory
# Max RPM for each lap memory
# Speed display in Km/h or Mph
# Customizable self power off
# Customizable power saving features
# Customizable main screen
# Backlit 128x64 graphic display
# Water resistant
# Dimensions: width. 96 mm - height. 74 mm - thick. 22,6 mm ( +7mm battery vain) - weight, 125 gr.
# Power supply : 2 internal AA batteries
# Universal installation
# Destination: cars - motorbikes - scooters - go karts -ATVs
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