The Stages Dash L50 is a Feature Rich Cycling Computer
The Stages Dash L50 offers GPS mapping, turn-by-turn navigation, heart rate, power, and of course all of the expected speed, distance, and cadence functions. It also features a bright and vivid display that can be customized to your own preferences. It is compatible with the Garmin Varia radar taillight. It also gives you the option of landscape or portrait mode.
Stages Cycling is best known for their crank arm power meters. Using strain gauges and ANT technology, Stages can offer a reliable power meter that can integrate with many other brands and models of bike computers. I have owned a Stages power meter for five years and have been completely satisfied. Based on this experienced I decide to purchase the Stages L50.
FYI, I spent 24 years working in bikes shops and have installed thousands of bike computers covering about a dozen different brands. I also have an extensive background in software programming and user interface design, along with a degree in mechanical design. I mention this because this review points out many shortcomings and you might wonder, who is the Bozo behind this review?
Difficult to Set Up
Considering the vast number of features, it is not surprising that the Stages Dash L50 set up would have more steps. This makes sense considering all of the features. However, the setup routine is seriously flawed by software that appears to be half-baked and poorly tested.
Stages Sync Desktop App
The desktop app has been phased out since the latest firmware release for the computer. Given how difficult the mounting bracket is to use, it would appear that Stages now expects you to leave the unit mounted and resort to relying solely on the phone app.
Stages Sync Android App
The app has major shortcomings. Once activated it stays on unless you reboot your phone. There is no way to turn the app off. Closing the app doesn’t actually terminate it, rather it stays active wasting memory and draining the battery at such a rate that triggers a warning from my phone. This is in direct contrast with the Stages Power app that is used for the Stages Power meter. It should be noted that I have been incredibly happy with my Stages power meter and the power meter app works fine.
The initial set up and configuration is done by pairing the computer with the app using a Bluetooth connection. In theory, you can either scan a QR code displayed on the computer or the app can search for the computer’s Bluetooth signal and pair up. It took about a dozen attempts using both methods before the app and computer finally paired. During the failed attempts to pair, the app would indicate that it had identified the computer, but it would never complete the pairing.
There seemed to be no logical reason why the app finally paired with the computer.
It’s just awful.
Stages has forsaken simpler designs like Garmin or Sigma use and opted for a toothed system that clasps the head unit. There’s no finesse with this bracket. You need to retract the mounting tab while your angle or roll the computer into place. The interface offers no tactile feedback to let you know it is secure. The instructions claim that there is an audible click when properly engaged. My experience with the original as well as the warranty replacement was more of grinding noise than a click.
The interface is metal against metal and after only a few weeks of use, it began to show wear and the connection became loose and wiggled while riding. Stages includes a lanyard to retain the computer in case it would accidently detach from the bracket. Ironically, the lanyard broke while installing it the very first time.
The bracket is installed using a 2.5mm hex key. This is an odd choice given few cycling multi-tools include this size so if you need to make an adjustment while on a ride, you’ll need to carry an extra tool. Stages does however include a Torx key for tightening a screw that compensates for wear between the bracket and computer. One must wonder why Stages designed the bracket in such a manner.
On both of my units, the power button requires a ridiculous amount if force to operate. No, seriously, this is beyond belief. Compared to any other bike computer or any other electronic device, this is a seriously flawed detail. On several occasions, attempting to power the unit on or off resulted in the computer disengaging from the mounting bracket. The function keys however have good tactile feels and operate well.
The display screen is the best feature of the Stages Dash L50. It is bright and clear. However, both units have had flickering screens. This appears to be attributable to the auto-brightness/dimming mode not being able to respond smoothly making for a rather harsh or startling transition.
Warranty and Return
After a month of use, my original units mounting bracket became unreasonably loose and the screen flickered constantly. I contacted Stages and the unit was replaced under warranty. The new unit was more secure but still difficult to attach and secure. The replacement unit screen still flickered although to a lesser extent. The power button still sucked. The issues with the phone app never were addressed. After enduring all these annoyances for another six months, I contacted Stages about each of the problems, and they agreed to refund my purchase. To Stages' credit, their willingness to replace the computer, and ultimately arrange for a return and refund, was encouraging.
Good idea, poor execution of details. Usability has much to be desired.
The Stages Dash L50 while promising was ultimately a huge disappointment. This is simply the worst bike computer that I have ever encountered. The phone app is buggy and has poor usability. The mounting bracket and power button are further examples of poor design choices made by Stages. The screen is the best feature, but all the other problems overshadow it and makes this computer just annoying. Perhaps Stages will fix these problems, but currently I strongly advise against purchasing the Stages Dash L50.
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