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The Power Meters Buyer’s Guide–2014 Edition

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How quickly a year has gone by since my last power meter buyers guide.  In that time we’ve seen an explosion of new entrants into the power meter industry, some even actually coming to market with products you can walk into a store a buy.  So with all of the announcements for this year taken care of, it’s time to lay out my thoughts and look at all the options.

If there’s anything I want to change in the industry it’s the mindset that there is a single perfect power meter for every consumer.  Thus, if you ask someone for “the best power meter”, and they give you any answer other than “it depends”, don’t trust that person.  That person should be asking you your specific use case, bike placement limitations, and how much you want to spend.

The cycling market has many unique use cases and thus you’ll need to take into consideration your specific requirements.  For example, it’d be silly to go out and buy Garmin Vector if you’re looking to put it on a mountain bike.  And similarly, it’d be silly to buy a PowerTap hub if you currently have HED H3 wheels.

Note that I’m not going to cover why you’d use a power meter here, nor how to use it.  For those, start here with these posts.  Instead, I’m just going to focus on the products out in the market today, and those coming down the road.

Finally, remember that power meters tend to be about as fiery as politics and religion.  So keep in mind this is just my view.  There are certainly other views out there (all wrong of course), but this comes from my perspective of trying out all the products below and hearing feedback from literally hundreds of people per day.  There are no doubt edge cases I can’t easily cover in a single readable post, but I think I’ll cover 99% of the people out there.  The remaining 1% can consider a donation of gold and/or expensive rocks for my further thoughts.

With that, let’s dive into things.

Power Meter Placement:

Before we start diving into the brands, features and functionality, we should probably talk about placement.  The reason being that unlike a bike computer that works on just about every bike on the planet, power meters actually have more limitations than you might think.  Some limitations are straight technical (i.e. it won’t fit), and some are preference based (i.e. I don’t like it).  In either case, for most people this section will help narrow down the selection a bit.

Let’s just briefly ensure we’ve got everyone on the same page as far as where these things all go, starting with the below photo and using the text after it as a guide.

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As you can see above, we’ve got four main areas we see power meters placed today:

1) Rear wheel
2) Crank spider
3) Crank arms
4) Pedals/Cleats

There are tangential products on other areas of the bike, but none of those currently on the market actually have strain gauges in them.  Thus they are more estimations (albeit occasionally highly accurate) than actual force measurement devices.  Nonetheless, for the purpose of this post I’m sticking with products I’d actually recommend, versus ones I’m hesitant to recommend.  Or put more technically: I’m keeping the focus on what’s known as “direct force power meters” – which are units that measure force via a strain gauge of some sort.  And finally, I’m not going to talk about companies that have gone out of business (i.e. Ergomo), or products that haven’t been made in a long while (i.e. Polar chain power meter).  Not that I’d recommend either anyway at this point.

Back to my photo-diagram, I want to expand out the crank area a bit and talk specifically to that.  Here’s a quick cheat-sheet of which products are where:

Rear Wheel: PowerTap hubs
Crank Spider: Quarq/SRAM, Power2Max, SRM
Crank Arms: Rotor, Stages, Pioneer, 4iiii, Watteam
Pedals: Garmin, Polar/Look, Xpedo
Cleats: Brim Brothers

There are three power meter types currently within the crank spider location: SRM, Power2Max and Quarq.  The crank-arms themselves include Stages, Pioneer, and Rotor.  And finally, at the pedals you currently have Garmin Vector, Polar/Look , Brim Brothers (not on market yet), and Xpedo (not on market yet).  In the case of left-only variants of some of those products (Polar/ROTOR/Garmin), it’s still the same placement, just on the left side instead of both sides.

Features and Functionality:

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Now that we’ve covered where each unit goes, let’s talk about the features that the power meters on the market have today:

Total Power (Watts): This is the obvious one – every power meter has this today (even estimated ones!).  This is simply measuring and transmitting your total power output to a head unit of some type.

ANT+ Support: Another relatively obvious one, the vast majority of power meters on the market today transmit via ANT+ to compatible had units.  This allows you to use one of dozens of different head units out there.  I’d be very hesitant to choose a non-ANT+ power meter unless you already know which head unit you’re going to pair to it (for example, the Polar V800 or Ambit3).

Bluetooth Smart: Bluetooth Smart (or BLE/BTLE for short) is the relative newcomer in the power meter market.  Right now there’s three units actively on the market with Bluetooth Smart support: Stages, PowerTap, and Polar/Look (in a few weeks).  Some units on the market offer dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart support (Stages), while others are dedicated (Polar/Look), and others yet offer swappable caps (PowerTap).  I’m a huge fan of what Stages did by going dual as it allows you to buy whatever head unit you’d like on either side of the fence.

Left Only Power Meters: These power meters only measure power from the left side.  All of these units then simply double the left power and produce total power.  Stages really exploded this category with their left-only power meter, and other vendors followed suit including Garmin (Vector S), Rotor (Rotor LT), and Polar (Keo Power Essential).  Additionally, some companies are looking at offering a single pod/solution for one side, such as 4iiii.

Estimated Left/Right Power: This became all the rage just prior to true left/right units coming out, starting with the SRAM/Quarq RED unit offering left/right power.  That platform works by essentially splitting your crank in half and assuming that any power recorded while pulling up is actually coming from the left side, whereas pushing down is from the right side.  Thus, an estimation.  It’s good, but not perfect.  Note that even with true left/right power (below), there’s actually very little in the scientific community around what to do with the data.  While you may think that perfect balance would be ideal – that hasn’t been established.  And some that have looked into it have found that trying to achieve balance actually lowers your overall output.  The only thing folks agree on is that measuring left/right power can be useful for those recovering from single-leg injury.  Power2Max and all SRAM/Quarq models currently on the market use this method.

Actual or True Left/Right Power: This is limited to units that can measure your power in more than one location.  Thus why we see it on pedals, as well as the more expensive crank-arm based power meters.  You can’t measure it directly at the spider, instead you have to measure it upstream of that such as the cranks (ROTOR, Infocrank, Pioneer, Watteam, 4iiii), pedals (Garmin, Polar, Xpedo), or cleats (Brim Brothers)

Pedal Smoothness & Torque Efficiency: These two metrics are available in the high-end power meters which contain true left/right power measurement as well as a support head unit (some Garmin units, and Navi2Coach).

Cycling Dynamics: This is Garmin’s recently released suite of Garmin Vector specific features that enable data such as platform offset and where in the stroke your power is coming from (power phase), as well as seated and standing position.  At this point this isn’t yet available even on Garmin products (coming later this year), so it’s a bit too early for me to make too many judgments.  That said, I certainly wouldn’t let it be a major factor in purchasing.  Polar also has a subset variant of this within their V650 and V800 coming with their Bluetooth Smart Polar/Look pedals next month.

Battery Swapping: All but one unit on the market today (SRM) supports battery swapping by yourself.  SRM requires you to send it in (but gets way longer battery life in between swaps).  The remainder of the units out there today utilize a CR2032 and similar coin-cell batteries. Most get between 200 and 400 hours of run-time before you simply replace the battery.  Brim Brothers uses a rechargeable pod that gets about 16 hours of battery life.

Calibration options: All units on the market today support some sort of calibration function, though to what extent is what differs.  Some have numerous options (i.e. Quarq with an app allowing you much further access), while others are more black-box (i.e. Stages and Polar).  For the most part, your primary concern here is really that some sort of calibration occurs, and that you can trigger it to happen on demand.  Beyond that it tends to get to more advanced calibration and torque checking methods. It should be noted that the term calibration can have very specific meanings to different people (technically most people are really doing a zero-offset).  But for today’s post I’m going to keep it a bit more generic.

Ok, with all the core power meter features covered, let’s dive into the brands available today.

The On-Market Contenders:

We’ll start with products that you can effectively take home today. They’re in the market, available today for purchase and you can more or less install them today on the bike.  For the purposes of this section I’m focusing on direct force power meters (DFPM’s), in a later section I’ll cover non-DFPM’s.

Additionally, in the following section after this I’ll cover announced but not yet available units that are on the road to market.

PowerTap:

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PowerTap has been around 15 years – longer than most folks realize actually.  Though their popularity has really grown in the past few years, especially in the US.  The PowerTap replaces your rear wheel hub, which means that it’s tied into a single wheel.  This makes it easy to move between bikes, but also makes it difficult if you have separate training and racing wheels – ultimately costing one of those two situations to lose out on power.  That said, this past year at Eurobike they seemed to hint at upcoming products in new form factors likely outside the rear hub.

From a cost standpoint their price cuts last year alongside Stages have pretty significantly changed the power market landscape.  The reason it matters is it has brought down direct force power to sub-$800 for a new ANT+ enabled unit.  While Stages does that (at $699), it has limitations around its left-only design (more on that later).

They’ve also introduced a Bluetooth Smart cap this past year, enabling you to relatively easily swap from ANT+ to Bluetooth Smart (or back) for about $120US.  You can make the change back and forth at home in about 3-4 minutes (I just did it yesterday for a test ride).

Advantages: Easy install if you buy a wheel set with it pre-installed (my recommendation).  Auto-zero while coasting helps keep things in check without you thinking about it.  Manual calibration is easy, and swapping out batteries and the electronics pod quick and straight forward.  Good customer service.

Disadvantages: Limited to a single wheel, so training vs racing scenarios can be tough.  Also limited on things like disc wheels.  And if you have multiple bike types where the wheel type changes (i.e. going from triathlon to cross), you may be in the same pickle there.

Would I buy it: Absolutely, and in fact, it’s one of the units that I’ve bought myself as a workhorse in my power meter testing.  Based on what I’ve seen, the PowerTap is the closest I get to ‘set it and forget it’ when it comes to power meters on the market today (talking specifically to calibration/offset variance and stability).  However, if you’re one that changes wheel sets frequently in your training, I’d be more measured in deciding whether it’s worth not having power somewhere (I don’t think it is).  Though, with their recent price cuts, it makes buying two PowerTap’s basically as cheap as buying a single crank-based unit.

Relevant Posts: CycleOps Joule and PowerTap Wheelset In-Depth Review, PowerTap’s new hubs, Bluetooth Smart Trainers, iPad apps, and more, PowerTap gives sneak peek at new product development, and other updates from the company

(Note: CycleOps has renamed its power meter organization to simply be “PowerTap”, and prefers that the company thus be called “PowerTap”.  Thus, I’m using that naming.)

Power2Max:

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Power2Max has been on the scene for roughly a little over 3 years now.  With the addition of their second generation Type-S units last fall (3rd generation units), they further expanded their lineup  You’ll remember from the review I did two winters ago that I saw no major issues with the 2nd generation units.  I now have their latest 3rd generation units (the Type-S) on my bike now in testing.  So far, so good.

The units are typically sold with or without cranks, so you’ll need to add your own, or purchase them from Power2Max pre-installed.  For the crank-less price (roughly under $1,000US ), they are a very solid option.  They do still have some limitations on crank set compatibility, but they continue to expand into new crank choices, as recently as Eurobike’s announcements a couple weeks ago.

When I use the Power2Max (like Quarq and PowerTap), I find them among the least finicky and most ‘easy to use’.  Day in and day out in testing these units tend to ‘just work’ for me with very little calibration worries.

Advantages: The least expensive crank-based solution on the market today.  Good accuracy with a growing crank set compatibility matrix.  Temperature compensation has definitely helped any initial teething pains on v1 units.

Disadvantages: There isn’t a method to turn off auto-zero today on units (which is really only an issue for the most advanced of advanced users).

Would I buy it: I wouldn’t have any problems purchasing a Power2Max unit.  I love that they’re well into the ‘just works’ category.  I installed one this past week on my bike in record time and had it worked beautifully on the first ride – aligning spot-on with my other power meters.

Relevant Posts: Power2Max Power Meter In-Depth Review, Power2Max releases new Type S line, expands compatibility, Power2Max introduces Type S mountain bike power meter, additional road bike models

Garmin Vector:

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Next is Garmin Vector, it’s been out in the wild just over a year now.  The dual pedal system measures left/right power separately, as well as measures other metrics like torque effectiveness and smoothness, as well as soon Garmin’s Cycling Dynamics (such as seated/sitting time).

Over the past year, it’s been interesting watching the evolution of the product.  They’ve made a number of hardware and software changes.  For example, to minimize pedal pod breakage during install they changed the material (and they’ve swapped anyone’s pods out that breaks for free).  Additional software updates coming shortly should reduce some of the calibration steps, as well as a few tiny changes in hardware to minimize cartridge issues seen by a few folks.  Accuracy-wise, the unit seems on par with any other power meter once properly installed.  That proper installation requires a torque wrench (most power meters actually specify one), as well as a specialty crowfoot adapter.  While that adapter has been very hard to find, it’s now being included in the box of all Garmin units.

As noted, at present the only pedal type supported is the current model.  While it sounds like longer term they’ll look at other pedal types, I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.  Instead, I suspect you’ll see them continue to tweak the existing platform via software updates primarily.

Finally, Garmin has released their new Vector S solution, which is simply the left-pedal side of the platform.  It costs about $200 more than Stages, which, depending on what your use case is may be a better option (if you have carbon cranks), or a less appealing option (if you use a different pedal type).

Advantages: Portability between different bikes.  Least expensive true Left/right power meter on the market/available today with potential for more advanced fit-type metrics down the road via firmware updates, like the upcoming Cycling Dynamics

Disadvantages: The biggest drawback right now is pedal choice (just Look-compatible), and then following closely behind that is crank arm choice is limiting due to some widths.  Portability isn’t quite what it seems if you travel (you’ll need a torque wrench to really install properly), but within your house it’s really straightforward.

Would I buy it:  Yes, I own two sets now that I use in power meter testing with a slew of other products.  Again, assuming you spend the 3-5 minutes to install it properly, it’ll give you quite accurate numbers.  Now, that said, I’d be looking very closely at some of the options in the ‘Upcoming’ section down below.  If those end up releasing as accurate as Vector, then Vector will be much less appealing at its current price point.

Relevant Post: Garmin Vector In-Depth Review , Garmin announces Vector S: $899 power meter, also announces Cycling Dynamics

Polar/Look:

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The Polar/Look Power System pedals are almost three years old at this point, but are about to undergo a significant shift being Bluetooth Smart enabled starting in a few weeks.  This will dramatically shift the usefulness of the existing product from being kinda useless due to lack of support in head units, to being highly useful with Bluetooth Smart and support for it in the Polar V800 and V650.  They’re also changing much of the calibration aspects of the system to make it far easier (and more accurate) to use day to day.  From a functional standpoint the pedals appeared to work fairly well in my tests, and did correlate fairly well with other power meters.

At this point I’m putting this mostly in the ‘let’s see how things end up’ with Bluetooth Smart.  I certainly would never buy the W.I.N.D. version at this point, but, I think the BLE version could be very interesting in the coming months.  I’ll be testing that variant alongside the Polar V650, so expect some form of double-review once those products hit availability.

Finally, Polar announced a new version this past summer, Keo Power Essential, which is a left-only option.  In this scenario you just get the left pod and pedal, and then it doubles the power for the right side.  This has the same inherent limitations as Stages, but also offers a lower price point than the full Keo dual-pedal system.

Advantages: Pedal based means theoretical portability, system largely ‘just works’ once you get it installed. Appears accurate, but really hard to validate all aspects (i.e. left/right).  Very few options for configuration means less to mess up.

Disadvantages: Installation is a bit complex. Not as easy as Vector to move between bikes. Limitations on crank widths/lengths.  For the older W.I.N.D. version, worse cycling head unit on the market.  For the upcoming Bluetooth Smart version though, it should be less of an issue due to broad planned compatibility with 3rd parties as well as Polar products.

Would I buy it: I’m putting this on the ‘hold’ list.  Let’s see how the Bluetooth Smart update (and corresponding hardware tweaks) work out.  If it produces clean and accurate power, and if the head unit compatibility is broad, then this might definitely be an option.  Until then…hang tight!  Finally, as for the one-crank version (Keo Power Essential), that’s a bit tougher given that Stages is cheaper and generally speaking easier to move between bikes (and has dual ANT+/BLE instead of just BLE).

(Update Dec 5th, 2014: Polar has just recently released the pedals, however, the V650 head unit hasn’t yet been released yet. From a review standpoint, I had planned to somewhat do both at once. Given the V650 is now in Q1, I’ll likely be timing both the BLE Pedals as well as V650 review to that time frame.  Thanks!)

Relevant Review: Polar Look Keo Power System–Pedal Based Power Meter–In-Depth Review, Polar announces new Keo Power systems, and V800/V650 power meter update plans, and more!

Quarq Riken/ELSA/RED:

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Quarq became the first non-SRM crank-based power meter that was actually affordable.  Starting off on straight road bikes they’ve expanded to other areas including track and cross bikes.  The unit replaces your existing crank spider and depending on the model is typically sold with specific crank arms attached.  You’ll need to ensure your bottom bracket is compatible, but if you shoot the Quarq folks an e-mail I’ve found they can usually help anyone figure that out easily.  All Quarq power meters are made in South Dakota (US), along with servicing and shipping from there.

The Quarq Cinqo was actually the first power meter I bought, and what The Girl subsequently purchased as well for her training.  I’d been using it without issues for 5 years up until this fall when it appears some water ingest got in the the unit causing it some problems.  Quarq’s been known for their customer service (overnight return shipments and the like), and swapped out my older Cinqo for the current Riken (I confirmed that’s their normal replacement policy for out of production units).  Looking at service feedback I see from others, I continue to hear nothing but good things.

Quarq was the first unit to estimate power left/right based on which portion of the stroke you were in.  Since then they introduced their ELSA unit, which also includes the same technology.  RIKEN was also introduced at the same time as a replacement for the older generation Cinqo units.  While RIKEN doesn’t have left/right power, they did gain the ability to swap chainrings without sending it back to the factory.

Comparing ELSA to the less expensive PowerTap makes it slightly difficult to justify the Quarq ELSA/RED prices, given PowerTap is literally half the price for the same accuracy.  Obviously, there are placement differences however.  However, the RIKEN pricing is much better at $1,200US (without chainrings), and really the only tangible difference for most will be the lack of estimated left/right power.  Given it’s estimated, and given there’s not a lot to do with left/right power yet, I think this is a very solid option.

Advantages: Crank-based design means no wheel swap issues. Accuracy on-par with other units.  Can swap chain rings without issue.  Easy replacement of battery, and can utilize phone apps for further calibration.  For me, it has a high ‘just works’ factor.  Also, new firmware update removes need for magnet on bike.

Disadvantages: Crank arm selection has diminished some with SRAM acquisition (reducing compatibility), pricing may not be as competitive going into 2015.

Would I buy it: From the standpoint of “Have I bought it?”, the answer is obviously yes (Cinqo twice, Riken upgrade from Cinqo).  From the technical standpoint, I have no issues with either the RIKEN or ELSA units, which I’ve done quite a bit of testing on.  All of those units perform as expected technically.  And obviously, customer service-wise they’re awesome.  The challenge at present is really pricing and the competitive market, which I’ve touched on above.

Relevant Reviews: Quarq/SRAM RED Review, Quarq RIKEN In-Depth Review, Eurobike 2014 Power Meter Roundup: Quarq News

Stages Power:

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Stages has had a pretty big year this past 9 months or so, most notably with the sponsorship of Team Sky and their headlining athletes.  Prior to that though, in 2013 they rolled out their $699 direct force power meter.  While it had a bit of a rough start the first few months those issues were resolved and now they’ve been adding in new features and greatly expanding crank arm selection.

Stages is unique in that it’s attached to your left crank-arm (seen above), and thus is only measuring the left leg power.  It simply doubles the left-leg power to get total power.  This means if you vary, or vary in certain conditions then the power might not be accurate – or something that you could compare to years from now on different products.

On the technology front I LOVE their ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart dual broadcasting design.  This is even better with Polar’s just rolled out firmware update for the V800, which supports Bluetooth Smart power meters like Stages, and it also works with Suunto’s Ambit3 triathlon watch.

Finally, on the pricing front the $699 pricing was incredibly attractive nine months ago.  However today with the PowerTap pricing where it is, it may give some pause (since PowerTap doesn’t have left-side-only power issues).  Adding to that the pressure soon coming from 4iiii, and we may see some shifts next year once 4iiii actually hits market.

Advantages: Least-expensive unit on the market today actually shipping. Easily moved from bike to bike with a simple Allen/hex wrench. Contains both Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ (and dual-broadcasts).

Disadvantages: Left-only approach means simply doubling left-leg power, may not be fully accurate representation of your power (high or lower).  Not available on carbon crank arms.

Would I buy it: This is a much more complex question.  Technically speaking it’s a well made unit that accurately measures the left side.  From a pricing standpoint it’s tough to recommend the left-only approach with the PowerTap at just $100 more.  If Stages were say $499 – then I think it’d be a much different discussion.  Further, as I’ve collected a tremendous amount of power meter data over the past year with 3-5 power meters concurrently, I’ve started to understand my specific personal left/right balance biases.  For most of my riding, there’d be no major issue with Stages.  However for longer or higher intensity rides where I might fatigue more, I see some inaccuracies on Stages due to my personal leg differences.  You might be the same, or you might be perfectly even.  I don’t know.

I know it’s easy to point at Team Sky and simply say “It’s good enough for Froome and Wiggins”, but the reality is we’re talking about sponsored athletes and teams.  In the case of Team Sky, for some riders that are/were seeing imbalance issues with Stages compared to SRM they simply have gone with a ‘known percentage offset’ for wattage goals.  This is a bit of a throwing the baby out with the bathwater approach though, that numerous folks have proven isn’t terribly accurate.  Which isn’t to take away from Team Sky and Stages, more power to them, but rather my point is that it’s not a one-size fits all implementation.

Relevant Review: Stages Power Meter In-Depth Review Update

SRM:

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SRM has been around since the beginning of power meter measurement, and I don’t think there’s anyone that would argue that SRM doesn’t produce great products.

SRM’s strength has always been around data capture reliability, especially on the head units themselves.  From a power meter standpoint however, they are really just as susceptible as any other power meter on the market to adverse events.  Which, is probably an important point to note: No power meter out there today is perfect.  Not even SRM.  They all have conditions where they do really well, and conditions where they do less well.  It’s understanding those conditions that’s most important.  Which doesn’t take away from SRM, but rather simply serves to note that I believe there’s a bit of an urban legend with being the ‘gold standard’.  Many of the products in this post can produce just as consistently accurate power as SRM (which again, SRM is good at doing).

While SRM and I have talked about doing a product review, I’m not sure there’s a substantial benefit in me doing one on older products.  Perhaps if/when they release either a rechargeable unit with the PC8, or if/when they release a newer low-cost power meter that’s in the market.

Advantages: It’s a well established brand with a well understood product. The reliability is generally very good.  With ANT+ you can use any head unit you’d like, and aren’t limited to just the SRM head units.

Disadvantages: Expensive. Servicing isn’t as open as other power meters on the market today.  If looking at their head unit (not required), the current generation is simply really expensive for what you get.

Would I buy it: I don’t own one, and right now I simply have a hard time seeing the justification of the price over other units on the market today.  With the exception of very specific technical use-cases that other power meters can’t fulfill, I feel that for 98% of the market today, there are more budget friendly options that are just as accurate.  I don’t subscribe to the “gold-standard” concept, maybe at one historical point, but not in this market.

Relevant Post:  First look at new SRM PC8 head unit with WiFi/GPS/ANT+ & Bluetooth, Eurobike 2014 Power Meter Roundup: SRM.Interbike 2014 SRM: Their iOS app, PC8, and their thoughts on low-cost power meters

Pioneer Power System:

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Pioneer has iterated nicely through two generations of power meters in the last year, roughly paced at one per year.  In the process they’ve dropped the price by almost half, and then simplified install and purchasing.  They also released a second edition of their head unit.

While I haven’t released my review of either edition, I have spent considerable time riding both editions.  I do plan to release a review of the 2nd generation version (the 2nd gen version is red (pod color), versus black for the 1st generation – though me & Team Belkin had green caps)).

The Pioneer system is a bit different than most other power meters on the market in that you don’t do the install, rather, you get the kit sent to you fully installed.  Additionally, it’s the only unit on the market with true left/right high speed data (starting at 12 samples per second (at 60RPM), faster the higher the cadence).  While the 1st generation units received a bunch of undesireable attention due to ziptie usage, the 2nd generation units removed that requirement.  It also removed the complex-crazy installation process.

Overall in my use I find it a perfectly functional power meter.  The unit has two modes, one for ANT+ and one for private-ANT enabling the higher-analytic pieces noted above. It’s an either/or situation via a little switch in the battery compartment.  To get that additional data you do need to use their head unit, which while strongly suited for its specific pairing to the power meter, is overall under-featured compared to something like a Garmin Edge 510.  Thus, I’d largely recommend just focusing on the power meter itself unless you have a specific need for the higher end data.

Advantages: Has the highest recording rate of any power meter on the market today, measures left/right power and associated metrics more in-depth than anyone else.  A completely pre-set system once it arrives to you.  Any choice of chainrings you’d like on the planet.

Disadvantages: For crank arms, you’re limited to Ultegra and Dura-Ace Shimano cranks.  For US folks, if you choose to use your own chainrings/cranks, there may be a delay of 7-10 days to send off to Pioneer (local shops can however stock the Pioneer system ready to go).  Internationally however, the local shop will do it all in-house.

Would I buy it: I’d consider buying it without the head unit, but it’s tricky in that the limitations of crank/chainring choice are hard to get around.  Price wise it’s positioned fairly well at the moment though for what you get.

Relevant Posts: No full in-depth review, but recent information here, and older information here. More newer information coming shortly.

Verve Infocrank

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Verve is new on the scene over the past few months, and has introduced the Infocrank power meter.  This dual crank-based power meter has strain gauges on both crank arms.  Additionally of note is that the unit has custom designed crank arms that are specific to Infocrank.

The unit transmits on ANT+, and uses small coin cell-style batteries that you can go ahead and replace as required (no sending in needed).  I’ve got a unit onhand, though ran into some bike compatibility snags during my first attempt.  That said I just received some additional components that should enable it to get installed on my bike this week – so I’m looking forward to seeing how it handles.

Advantages: Claimed higher accuracy levels than the competition, complete end to end system that’s mostly ‘install and forget’.

Disadvantages: You’re very limited in crank compatibility (none) because everything is actually built into a custom crank arm.  Thus, you do need to fully use their system.

Would I buy it: Honestly, I don’t know yet.  Right now I’m slightly inclined to say it’s a bit pricey in the market compared to competitive offerings, but I’ll wait and see how it performs.

Relevant Posts: Eurobike Power Meter 2014 News Roundup: Verve Infocrank

ROTOR:

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ROTOR announced their power meter two years ago at Eurobike, and started shipping about 18 months ago.  The unit is designed to measure both left and right power separately – ultimately meaning you’ve basically got two power meters in a single unit.  They were the first unit on the market to fully support the new ANT+ Torque Efficiency and Pedal Smoothness metrics – even before head units did.  However, since then other units now have that same functionality.

From the start ROTOR had a number of issues with reliability and accuracy for many users.  Software updates over the past year have addressed those for what I can tell are most users.

However, unfortunately, I am not one of those users.  Despite having the unit on my bike for nearly a year (!), I can’t get accurate power out of it.  I’ve had many discussions with ROTOR, swapped numerous data files back, and unfortunately haven’t gotten a clear explanation as to why I’m seeing what I’m seeing.

(For those curious, my specific problem is that I see an elevated right-crank arm value of about 5% or more, depending on the wattage.  The easiest way for me to demonstrate this is with one-legged pedaling on a constant load and RPM (i.e. trainer) where the trainer’s load is maintained between switching legs.  When I do so, I notice that while the left-leg always matches the total power produced by the trainer, the right leg will always be higher than the trainer power.  Yet, other power meters on the bike at the same time show the correct/same total power as the trainer no matter which leg I use.  No amount of calibration and offset tests, installs and re-installs, nor firmware updates has fixed this.)

While I would agree that others are probably using the system just fine and likely with accurate numbers, I simply can’t get those numbers.  Ultimately I can neither recommend it nor not recommend it.  From a testing cycle, I gave it every opportunity to work, and ultimately, I delayed numerous other products reviews to try and get it to work.  I’m just going to be simple about it: I give up.

Advantages: Full left/right power, ability to track additional stroke/balance metrics, compatibility with ROTOR cranks and elliptical chainrings.

Disadvantages: Limited compatibility with crank sets, couldn’t get it to work myself.  Expensive – $2,400US.

Would I buy it: At this point, it’s too early to say.  Up until last week I would have said a resounding “no”, however their Software Update #8 sounds like it has addressed a number of major issues that were outstanding.  I’d like to see how those results stand up to longer use, as well as my own testing later this fall.

Relevant Posts: First look at new ROTOR Power Meter, Eurobike Power Meter Update Post: Quarq, ROTOR, Pioneer, Brim Brothers & Ciclosport

Unreleased Products:

Next, we’ve got power meters that are currently in pending shipping state.  This means that as a regular consumer as of the date of this publishing you can’t actually get your hands on one quite yet (though, some do offer pre-order options).  Nonetheless, since I’ve been fortunate enough to actually ride all but one of these, I can offer a bit of perspective on them.  Of course, until they do release a final product things could change.  Ones that look promising could flop, and others that have challenges could be superstars.  We just don’t now.

What we do know however is that nobody in the power meter market has actually hit their projected timelines for initial release of new products (I’m not counting minor variants).  Seriously, nobody.  Not SRM (new rechargeable model), not Garmin (Vector), nor Polar (Bluetooth edition).  Despite what the interwebs would tell you – it’s rather difficult getting a mass produced accurate power meter, regardless of whether you’re a company with hundreds of millions in revenue (Garmin), or a startup (4iiii).  Remember that it’s easy getting 95% there in power meter development, it’s the last 5% that can take years (and often does).

Nonetheless, here’s what’s in the pipeline.  I’ve vaguely ordered them based on a combination of when the company says they’ll ship with when I think they’ll ship.

Brim Brothers Zone:

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First up is Brim Brothers Zone, I recently previewed this a few weeks back at Interbike.  The Zone system is cleat-based, and attaches to the base of your Speedplay compatible cycling shoes.  This means that you can quickly move from bike to bike, as long as it’s Speedplay equipped.  This is ideal for those with numerous bikes, or who travel and can control the pedal type.

Right now they’re planning to be out by the end of the year.  While I ran into some snags during my test run, they plan to resolve those before shipping.  At $999 for the pair of them (left/right), it’s no doubt likely to be a valid option going into next spring.

Related Posts: Brim Brothers announces Zone power meter production, my first ride impressions

4iiii Precision:

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Next we’ve got 4iiii Precision.  This solution is effectively like Stages, but with a DIY install option and dual-sided support.  And it’s about half the price at $350-$400 per pod (depending on the pod).  Additionally, they plan to offer carbon crank compatibility.  Like Brim Brothers above, I tested this as well, and had quite good results for the early prototype unit I was using.  Not perfect, but definitely very promising.

They’re aiming to be out by December, though, I think January/February might be more realistic.  Still, they’ve got a great engineering team onboard and if you’re in the market for a power meter but don’t need one today (perhaps in a few months), then it may be worth waiting to see if things pan out.

Related posts: 4iiii’s Introduces $399 Power Meter, Precision: My First Ride With It

Watteam PowerBeat

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Watteam broke onto the market in early August with the announcement of a $499 left/right power meter system.  The sensors attach individually to your left/right crank arms, and then have separate communication pods somewhat similar to Garmin Vector.  The system is planned to work on both carbon and aluminum cranks, and is a bit less dependent on the flat surface of the back of the crank arm like 4iiii Precision.

Right now the company plans to hit the market by summer 2015.  I had a chance to test out the platform a few weeks ago and the results while a bit early, certainly show some promise.  Of course, given the timelines it’s a bit early to say how this specific story will turn out – but it’s something to keep an eye on going into late spring.

Related Posts: A chat with the CEO of Watteam and their new $499 power meter: PowerBeatWatteam’s PowerBeat: A first look at prototype/beta power data

Xpedo Thrust E:

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Next we have the perennial party crasher at bike events worldwide, the  Xpedo Thrust E.  This pedal based unit has been continually shown for a number of years as ‘almost ready’, typically just ‘2-3 months away’.  That was definitely true at Eurobike last month where they planned to be just three months away and ready by Christmas.

Of course, it’s no doubt people are interested, as it’s fully self contained power meter in a pedal (without any pods) is definitely interesting.  And the price point at $1,100US for both pedals might be appealing in today’s market (though, likely overpriced in next years market).  While I spent some time with them at Eurobike, it wasn’t enough time or on the right equipment to be able to determine how accurate the unit is.

Ashton Instruments:

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Ashton Instruments made the media rounds at Interbike this year, demonstrating their bottom bracket based system, which they hope to sell for under $500US…in 2016.  These MIT students have the foundation for a potential power meter company and product, and were able to demonstrate pieces of it in a hallway (the power meter is the tube piece sitting above, it goes in the hole in the crank arm).  They also have riders on one of the local teams testing out basic prototypes of the platform.  Note that the solution will be limited to measuring left-only power.

Ultimately while they’ll no doubt be a player to watch in the future, I certainly wouldn’t make any purchasing decisions today or for the foreseeable future based on their product.  It’s simply too far out and with far too many unknowns.

Luck Cycling Shoe Power Meter:

This one slipped into the news at Eurobike as the first shoe-based power meter.  The power meter sits inside the bottom of the shoe, and will transmit over Bluetooth.

I didn’t have a chance to sit down with these folks, but a few others did, and while they report a December delivery date, those that I’ve talked to that have spent time with the Luck folks don’t think that’s anywhere near an accurate assessment.  Of course, I’m happy to be proven wrong.  And since Luck is just ‘down the street’ from France (located in Spain), I’m more than happy to go for a test ride and see where things stand.  Until then, I wouldn’t make any purchasing decisions based on it.

Non-DFPM Devices:

Finally, we have a few options that use calculations and black magic to determine your power output.  These units don’t actually measure your work effort using strain gauges, but instead rely upon other environmental factors.  Thus the name of non-Direct Force Power Meters (DFPM).

PowerCal: The PowerTap PowerCal (offered in both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart) is a heart-rate strap that also transmits power information.  It monitors your heart rate and then uses the rate of change to determine power.  While many hard-core power meter users are afraid to even glance at the thing, I found that when you started looking at real-world data, it wasn’t actually all that bad.  And in fact, it was far more accurate than you’d expect.  In general, I’d recommend this for someone that may be buying a heart rate strap anyway and is interested in power (since you’re basically just spending $50 more, it’s about $99 these days).  While there are some apps out there that can attempt to do the same thing, none of them re-transmit back over ANT+, so the data isn’t included on your bike computer.  Check out the full review for the limitations on where it works well, and where it’s not so hot.

iBike: I haven’t tested out the iBike in a few years now.  I do keep abreast of their changes and updates, which are few and far between.  While I think there’s some very interesting potential in the aerodynamics aspects when combined with a traditional power meter, I don’t see the price as competitive these days with products like Stages and 4iiii.  Further, the head unit hasn’t had a significant overhaul in years and really lacks all of the connectivity of today’s newer units.  I don’t at this point have plans to review the iBike, since to be quite frank I see very little demand from readers compared to numerous other products.  Ultimately, I have to balance a finite resources like time with so many product reviews to complete.

A quick note about buying used power meters:

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Everything in this post is talking about new units whereby you are the original owner.  So when I talk about costs there, that’s my baseline.  With that in mind, there’s nothing wrong with buying used cycling gear.  However, in the case of power meters, I’d caution that accuracy is of the utmost importance.  After all, if you’re buying an inaccurate/untrusted power meter, you might as well just send me the cash instead and I’ll send you back random numbers.

Thus if you buy a used power meter my only caution would be to spend the money to have the manufacturer validate/test it, this is especially true if you don’t know the source of the unit.

For example, I’d be less concerned if you had a close friend that used a PowerTap for six months and then decided to swap it out for something else due to changing their rear wheel for a disc.  In that case you would know if your friend was having issues with it, and the reason behind the sale (new wheels).

Whereas, if you buy randomly from an unknown person you don’t know the history behind it and I’d be inclined to ensure a trusted 3rd party can complete a test on the device to ensure accuracy.  In most cases, the best 3rd party to complete that test is the manufacture itself.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, as I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy used.  I’m just saying trust…but verify.

Comparison Chart Tool:

First and foremost, comparison charts ONLY include products that I’m either currently testing, have hands-on time with, or have published a review on.  While I know many of you would love me to have other products in there, I simply won’t accept marketing fluff as technical truth.  And quite frankly, there’s too much marketing/PR fluff out there to be able to concretely determine whether or not a unit truly has the features it says it has.

You should click the “expand” button at the bottom to see all one gazillion rows.  You can build your own power meter comparison chart here.  Also, since there are too many columns to fit, you can just tap the “New Window” button instead to see all units.

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The charts are updated dynamically, thus if down the road someone updates their prices – you’ll see the most current prices here (even if my text is out of date elsewhere in this post).

So what should you buy?

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At the end of the day, there’s no single right answer to this question.  There’s only ‘best’ answers for a given individual situation.  I’ve tried to outline all the major pros and cons of each unit on the market, and in simple language whether or not I’d purchase it (or, purchase it again).  The landscape will continue to change.  As I noted in the above sections, there’s a raft of at least 3+ power meters on the way before next spring (Northern Hemisphere).  Thus, if you aren’t in a hurry to have one before spring, then it quite frankly doesn’t make sense to buy one before then.

I do however think we’ll continue to see pricing shifts, especially among the higher end units.  That’s simply inevitable as more players enter the market and fight for your cash.  But don’t expect those shifts to occur until 4iiii actually starts shipping.  There’s no reason for other companies to charge less when they know they can keep selling at higher prices until 4iiii actually ships.

Finally, last year power meter Guru Alex Simmons put together a similar post around the same timeframe.  He also covers some of the older solutions that aren’t made anymore, as well as his unique thoughts on many of the offerings here.  Alex is a sharp guy with a lot of good knowledge on power, and his post has been updated for 2014 and is worthwhile reading, as between his and mine I think we may cover questions you have.

Of course, if I haven’t covered something – feel free to plop questions down below.  Thanks for reading!

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210 Comments

  1. Brett

    Ray, just a thing on the Quarq units. Don’t they now do the Elsa RS which is setup for the Shimano 4 arm rings? So this may be a nod from them that they need to offer better selection

    Reply
  2. wai

    The only power meter gadget that I can afford is the PowerCal. :(

    Reply
  3. David

    Ray, great post. One quick question: Are the current non-type s meters from Power2Max the version 1 or 2? I can’t work out if they updated the original versions once and *then* moved to the type s. So I guess I wonder if the ones currently available will suffer the “initial teething problems” you experienced?

    Reply
    • Patrick

      The current non type-s meters from Power2Max are v2. There should be no issues. The ones with “initial teething problems” referred to temperature compensation and have not been sold in a while.

      I have used a Powertap and Power2Max type s and they both “just work” for me.

      Reply
    • Correct. The initial teething ones would have been pre-September 2012 units (what I’m calling v1). V2 are Sept-2012 and beyond are ‘Classic’, and then v3 are ‘Type-S’.

      (Roughly, it’s the only way I can keep track of them when companies don’t change names).

      Reply
    • David

      Thanks Patrick!

      Reply
    • Aaron

      The s-type actually use the same sensor as the “classic.” The main advantages of the s-type are simply better crank choise, lower weight and the improved battery housing design shape.

      Reply
  4. You can buy Hed Jet discs with a Power Tap G3 hub.

    Reply
  5. Ray – I’m a big fan of yours and have linked to your excellent power meter testing (and that done by Greg Kopecky at Slowtwitch and the BikeRadar testers) in my own reviews. While I agree with you that there isn’t a perfect power meter for every cycling consumer in all cases, I do believe Stages is a pretty clear choice today if you focus on the large subset of road cycling enthusiasts across the range of their use situations. I’ve reached this conclusion by studying your tests and the others mentioned above and by doing comparative cost, use, compatibility and availability analyses and by looking at the independent left/right leg measurement question. It would also seem that many consumers and competitors have also reached this conclusion based on pricing and product changes we’ve seen from companies in the market now and many of the products that companies new to the market have announced.

    Consumers will of course always decide for themselves and your testing will continue to be very helpful in helping them reach a decision. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Yancey

      Funny, I see Powertap as the most obvious choice when considering the your listed factors.

      Reply
    • Yancy – The PowerTap G3 is a great choice in the situation where you are a) building a wheel and b) will use that wheel all the time you plan to train or race with power. Otherwise, the cost to add it to an already built wheel and the limitation that you can only use this power meter with a single wheel makes it less desirable. I detail and compare which of the leading PMs works and doesn’t in different use combinations as well as the cost to add each of the leading PMs both to your current set up and as part of a wheel, chainset or bike upgrade in the most populated regions and common currencies (along with the other factors) in part 2 of my PM review. Steve

      Reply
    • Tom

      I returned a Stages power meter for a refund because the data wasn’t good enough for me.

      YMMV.

      Reply
    • hobbyist

      ..and given the criteria, p2m Classic with a discounted price was the only obvious choice for me. With all due respect Steve, you might want to re-read the article and think twice about pushing Stages to everyone.

      Reply
    • Yancey

      I believe the limitation of left only power measurement (Stages) and the lower quality data resulting from the non-validated assumption of “measure half and double” makes the Stages less desirable than Powertap and P2M options. I just don’t understand how you can crown Stages to be the best power meter in the market when it only does half the job. Sure the price is nice but you also are making a bargain with the devil in the process.

      I also think it is inconsistant that you are bearish on the idea of L/R power balance metrics but OK with left only power measurement.

      Reply
    • As Ray noted earlier, this topic can be “about as fiery as politics and religion.” Thanks for your comments in a respectful tone short of that kind of debate!

      Of course everyone makes their own choices; I’m making a recommendation for “most road cycling enthusiasts in most situations” looking to train with power based on my own cost, use and other product and market analyses and after studying Ray’s and others’ tests whose summary points I conclude say Stages is plenty good enough unless you have some kind of unique situation. Slowtwitch said that covers 99% of users after testing SRM, PowerTap and Stages; Bike Radar said the PT, SRM, Quarq, Vector and Stages they tested were “within a few watts” of each other; Ray saw “no discernible difference” between the Quarq, PT, Stages, CompuTrainer and KICKR he tested. I understand and respect that you may have unique needs or preferences for one over another but that doesn’t make the others unworthy.

      Out of respect for Ray (this is his blog after all), feel free to share any further comments with me at the end of one of my PM posts by clicking on my name above. Thanks.

      Reply
    • Chris Cleeland

      I’m not sure why discussing users’ perspectives on powermeter selections in the comments section of a blog post on powermeter selection is disrespectful to the blog owner. You’ll have to explain that logic.

      What I will say is that being “close” in power measurement isn’t of much use. It’s not how the powermeter performs *on average*, it’s how it performs at the fringes. Put another way, when you look at the something like Stages, it’s not particularly useful to explain how it’s similar to other powermeters. It’s more important to look at how it’s different, both in design and actual measurements.

      That said, I suspect that Steve is right that Stages is good enough for most road cycling enthusiasts in most situations, because–at the risk of being condescending–most of those people will not use a powermeter for science-based training. Rather, it will simply be another number recorded (or not!) in the athlete’s notebook never to be used for any purpose. In which case, there is no point in spending money for a scientific instrument.

      Reply
    • hobbyist

      Chris, you’re assuming all bikes are compatible with a Stages. Their crank arm selection is okay if you’re using Shimano but my FSA Gossamer isn’t on their list of supported cranks.
      Why would I spend money on a new crankset to get a left-only power meter?

      Everybody’s situation is quite different. Stages might be cheap in US but here in Europe it’s 699 EUR. Almost accurate isn’t enough at that price level.

      Considering the popularity of services like Trainerroad I feel “science-based training” is more mundane than you think. Otherwise people would be just buying Powercal.

      I have trust in Ray’s work in this area and support 100% his view on there being no one-size-fits-all product in the market.

      Reply
    • AJ

      Discussing the topic of the post in the comments is disrespectful?

      That’s a new one to me…

      In any case, you seem to be oblivious to the fact that people aren’t taking issue on the merits of various power meters with you, they’re taking issue with the strong wording of your recommendation despite its obvious issues. I checked out your blog and one of the first thing I saw was you proclaiming that some Shimano wheel was the best wheel ever. These unequivocal recommendations are very bizarre.

      Reply
    • A couple of random thoughts:

      1) Discussion of what I write is always OK, assuming it’s respectful and doesn’t turn into Fox News/CNN website comments sections (meaning: I’m looking for intelligent discussion)

      2) I think one of the things people are looking at with respect to Stages differences is some of my more recent reviews with pure left/right power meters, showing where some of that difference occurs. At the time of Stages, such power meters weren’t really on the market, making it harder to see where fading/etc occurs.

      3) Also on Stages, I’ve got a years worth of data comparing to 3-4 power meters at once – of which I start to see more interesting trends, again, especially with respect to balance with newer power meters available.

      4) As noted above, there’s no right answer of course. There are perhaps best uses cases for different individuals, etc…

      Reply
    • Ray and others, thanks for your comments. A few responses

      – I respectfully offered to continue discussion elsewhere since many responses were to what I rather than Ray written but if you are ok with my replying here, then I’ll happily do so. Sorry for the length. Quite a few comments to catch up on.

      – First, I’ve made a personally researched and documented recommendation that I believe applies to “most road cycling enthusiasts in most cases.” It’s not universal and if you don’t think it applies to you, ignore it. It’d be easier to say ‘here are the merits and demerits of each power meter’ and leave it at that. Some people don’t have or want to make the time to sort through the performance data, use options, upgrade scenarios, actual costs, compatibility etc., and see the value of others doing that for them and offering up a recommendation.

      – Some people who have commented do appear to be pro and con the merits of various power meters based on their own experience (e.g., comments on Stages in this discussion range from “I cannot see any real difference” to “data wasn’t good enough for me”). Others are judging the merits based on the design rather than the results. Again, that’s your right. The reports from three independent testers I’ve researched and noted (quotes excerpted in my comments above and more extensively in my posts) cover many controlled tests comparing PMs side by side and focus on the accuracy and consistency results judged by the testers rather than the PM design preferences. In my reading of these tests, the Stages, PowerTap, p2m, Garmin, Quarq and SRM all perform to or above the level you need for training, no matter what they cost and how or where they measure power.

      – Much of the current argument seems to be focused on the scientific testing value vs. training value of picking up differences in left and right power. (Not too long ago we focused on the differences in measuring power at the crank vs. the hub). No doubt there is scientific value – I’ve read excerpts of published papers going back to 1976 and seen recent power performance charts of elite athletes showing left and right leg power asymmetry. But is the amount of that difference significant to most road cycling enthusiasts? (The difference being a few watts to indiscernible according to the testers; Ray notes in his comment above that after years of testing, he’s just starting to see some interesting things.). More importantly, does whatever difference change the training approach for most riders? Maybe the power meter gurus like Joe Friel and Hunter Allen could tell us it does, but they haven’t said so in print. I’m open to that day and will embrace it when it comes – I want to ride my best as much as anyone. But, do you need to pay a thousand or more US$/£/€/AU$/NZ$ etc. to test and analyze your data at a scientific level on every ride? Even the companies whose power meters independently measure L/R power (Vector, Rotor, Polar, 4iiii, Watteam – none of which are at the scientific level of a SRM or Power Crank) appear not to be committed to the value of that capability; they will gladly sell you single leg power meter measuring models. And if Ray’s anecdotal comment that Stages is outselling other PMs 10 or 20 to 1 at the LBSs he’s talked to is any indication of what’s happening across the marketplace, it does look like most current PM buyers feel that Stages meets their combination of performance, cost, use, compatibility, etc. needs.

      – Finally to AJ, we could go back and forth over whether my recommendation for “most road cycling enthusiasts in most cases” is strong wording or not. Clearly many readers of this power meter post don’t want a recommendation and that’s cool so any recommendation from me might look strong. And, thank you for reading one of my wheelset reviews though I’m pretty sure I didn’t write some Shimano wheel was “the best wheel ever.” Where I come from (Boston), if I did ever say anything that outlandish, I probably would have written that it was the best wheel “evah!” :) Thanks, Steve

      Reply
    • FreedomFighter1

      Great review of power meters! Thanks for all the info and perspective. After reading the article and most of the comments, I am left wondering a few things…. #1… in valuing power meters, wouldn’t reproducibility of results at a given effort be valued as much or more than (reasonable) consistency with a “standard”? What I mean by this is… If a 180 lb rider with a 16 lb bike going up a 12% hill at 18 mph with zero wind shows 375 watts or 392 watts? Or does it matter more that that same effort, under the same conditions results in the same wattage (within an defined “acceptable range”) on the meter? Wouldn’t/don’t we train using those numbers as a benchmark? Question #2….. I noticed the absence of iBike power meters. While I am not sold on some of the “technology” of these units…. it does seem that many of the “knocks” on the other tested products are (at least marketed by iBike) as “strengths” of the iBike power meters… Things like price point, portability, etc. Like I said, I’m not sold on logirithms, forecasts, and estimations…. (weathermen use this… are often wrong… and make WAY to much $$)…. but I was hoping to see some (non iBike) comparisons… Looking for some thoughts during my research prior to my purchase. Thanks!

      Reply
    • 12% HILL

      18mph at 12% hill ?! You do not need to worry about power meters.

      Reply
  6. Dex

    Great post as usual. I own both a Rotor and Powertap SL+ and I would say my experience is the opposite of yours, as best I can tell the Rotor has been great, the PT has been a pain in the butt! Unreliable and needing constant attention. I’m just packing it up to send back again as its not reading properly giving extraordinarily low readings. I’d never buy another PT again.

    Reply
  7. Chris

    Great post! I’ve been waiting for it, although I think the takeaway for me is “keep waiting.”

    Do you plan on doing an in-depth review of your sending random numbers for cash service?

    Reply
  8. Rob

    Great post, thanks!
    I use a Powertap G3, working perfectly, very satisfied.

    Reply
  9. Jonas

    Regarding the Pioneer unit, isn’t the chainring compatibility pretty much anything that fits on a shimano 4-arm crankset? That may only be a handful right now, but I have to think that the number is going to increase.

    Still looking forward to the full review of this one, including the head unit (even if you hinted that it wasn’t going too blow the competition out of the water by itself).

    Reply
    • HI Jonas-

      Just clarified that line. Should have separated out chain ring and cranks. For chainrings, you can pretty much choose anything as you note. For cranks you’re limited to just the Shimano ones.

      Reply
    • Jonas

      Hi Ray,

      Great. Does that mean that there’s no worry around chainrings affecting calibration? Also, are some chainrings likely to be physically obstructed by the pod?

      Thanks!

      Reply
  10. Alex

    Nice review Ray and thanks for the link. One thing I have noticed with power data is the consistency and accuracy question (what I call quality of data) comes down to what you intend to use it for.

    As an example I get to see how power meters perform during real time aero testing with Alphanantis technology, which amplifies the differences in quality of data between power meters. Such variances in data quality are often not noticeable for general training use. Another application is peak crank force and velocity testing and this also pushes beyond the data quality limits of many meters.
    Cheers, Alex

    Reply
    • Yup, absolutely. We noticed it as well during my aero testing session with them, also noticed some interesting stuff around speed sensors too…

      Reply
  11. Larry

    In my experience you’ve incorrectly characterized the Powertap as having “Good Customer Support”. I’d rate it as industry leading and only wish every company and every technology area treated their customers as well as these folks. It’s hard to imagine a better company in this field.

    I do not work for Powertap or any associated company. I’m only a user who literally just got off the phone with their tech support with outstanding results which went way beyond my expectations.

    Reply
  12. I was waiting with bated breath for this post because I’d like to buy a power meter to help gauge my progress over the winter, and now I’m torn because it seems there will be many more options available in the spring! I’d go for the PowerTap except I also plan to buy race wheels and don’t want to worry about switching out meters. Stages and Power2Max are looking like good lower-cost options, and I’ll take a look at some of the others you mentioned.
    Thanks for such a detailed review.

    Reply
  13. Eduards

    What aspects should be taken in account for mountain bike use? How good is Powertap against mud and water?

    Reply
  14. Great article.

    I’ve just bought a Srsges PM for my TT bike. Had to get the complete 105 crankset as I had a Vision on there before. Have only used once but have a TT test coming up to set my parameters with my coach.

    Why did I buy that? Simply because after chatting with my coach we realised that as a triathlete I’ll be training mostly on the TT bike and of course racing in it. I looked at a Powertap built into a set of Enve carbon wheels. The problem there was that I already have race wheels and don’t want to train on wheels I race on.

    As a relative newcomer to the sport I have no current or previous data so believe that the Stages will work perfectly for my situation. Plus I can move from TT bike to road bike with little fuss if needed.

    Reply
  15. Rick Perner

    I wish cyclocross didn’t require different wheel sets as it means you have to run a cranks or crank arm based power meter…..or in the alternative, I wish I was rich enough to afford multiple cross wheelsets each w a power tap hub

    Reply
  16. Michael

    Any news regarding the osynce icyclopower?

    Reply
  17. Tim Grose

    I’ve got Rotor Power with Q Rings on a Cervelo P3 TT bike (similar to you I think!). I’ve only had mine just over a month and not had a power meter before so am still not sure whether the numbers I see are OK or not. I thought it was reading a bit high (say compared to estimates on Strava) and although signal to Edge 810 was fine it was cutting out to a FR910 so had it sent back to the UK distributor. They apparently installed new crank software and changed batteries. The readings seemed similar although the “range” was a little better. Maybe my numbers are just that. That said I thought I installed crank software 0.9 OK myself and link to power.rotorbike.com suggests no recent “new” software? Will have to try this one legged test. I seem to have a slight left leg bias (about 52%-48%) normally so if my right crank is reading high as well then my balance must be totally wrong!

    Reply
  18. Rick Smits

    Thanks for all the work. Most appreciated. Two short hours, after your link hit my Facebook, … Bike Radar posted their “Best power meters of 2014” featuring the “Factor Power Crank” as their #1 getting 5 stars! Never heard of it until then. Not available in the US! Is that why it wasn’t featured in your review? Cheers. :)

    Reply
    • Just never been on my radar. Talked with them once last year about this time, but then it was set to be part of a full bike solution (a $10K bike no less). In fact, I’m still not seeing the individual unit for sale on their site. :-/

      Reply
    • Rick Smits

      Thanks for the quick reply. For what it is worth, I think I might go down the Powertap path, … although not until my collarbone heals after crashing while trialing a bike with Hydraulic Brakes! Doh! :(

      Reply
  19. Ray D

    Thanks for a great post (as always) Ray! Hoping to be able to budget out a power meter by the end of winter!

    Reply
  20. JakiChan

    Wow, I was looking at the Quarq ELSA to get L/R but thank you for explaining how it’s estimated. That gives me two questions:

    1) Couldn’t Quarq have the same functionality in the RIKEN via a firmware update?

    2) Are there any other advantages ELSA gives you over RIKEN? I can afford $1600 for a power meter but as a Speedplay user none of the other options seem to work for me right now.

    I will say, I think I’ll wait for your Infocrank review. My shop is a Quarq dealer and that’s good for support, but I also would like the best data possible. I have a significant leg-length discrepancy and my coach says he’d like to see L/R data if possible.

    Reply
  21. Greg Purviance

    You are such an amazing resource for tech information. Your efforts are really appreciated. Looks like I will be waiting just a bit longer to play in this space,but the timing should be good for some of the new tech coming out.

    Reply
  22. Spittal

    I’d have to agree on PowerTap. Had several over the years since around 2004. They are just bullet proof. Highly reliable. With the G3 hub that came out a few years ago the weight is no longer an issue. What I have noticed with my own wheel stash is I dont even change from training wheels to race wheels any more. I laced a g3 hub to the rear of an Enve SES 3.4 wheelset and they are durable enough to train and race on. I find I do not change wheels before races anymore, maybe gearing and tire choices. Thats about it.

    Reply
  23. Mr Nofish

    Excellent post Ray. As usual I appreciate your thoughtful ‘there is no right answer’ stance, it’s so refreshing. I also liked the insight nuggets for the regulars and there’s even direct replies to questions that popped up in the comments time and again. No real question comes to mind now, but if you don’t mind satisfying my curiosity:

    1) why the italics on “generally” about the SRM reliability?
    2) can you point me towards any freely available piece of software, Android or PC, that does power estimation from heart rate in a way similar to the PowerCal?

    Thanks and keep up the good work.

    Reply
    • 1) Because it’s not always perfect. Something I actually saw (that almost nobody picked up on) in Vegas during the 4iiii test ride if you look closely at the .FIT file data. Significant drift there.

      2) Let me put that together, I keep meaning to do that, I just had a notepad around here somewhere with a list of a few apps (since people keep asking).

      Reply
    • Mr Nofish

      LOL, schadenfreude, SRM. I like seeing companies acting all holier (well, more accurate) than thou get their asses handed to them.

      A raw list of names will do for me, thanks. If it’s too ugly to post here feel free to shoot me an email at this address – I won’t clog your inbox with a reply, promise!

      Reply
  24. Richard

    You seriously left the iBike out of the test? Probably just being a fan boy here, but it’s the only one you don’t have to replace a component with and will switch from bike to bike to bike. Hell, it does it automatically now. And I am going to take you to task over the updating comment. The Newton has a new body, but it is an evolutionary change over my personal Gen III. So true it doesn’t get major hardware or marketing driven beauty updates very often, but it doesn’t need them. iBike is constantly updating their firmware and offering new features that way. Not to mention the Issac software that is included for free. Also, upgrades are available so you can buy in at a lower price point and get the features you want later. And then you can link it to a DFPM and go stupid on data. And then lets not forget you don’t have to buy a head unit for the thing, and all the incline, temp, and wind speed data. Heck my cheap Gen II iSport I bought 4 years ago gives me TSS, NP, and IF. The new Newton makes mine look like look like an antique, and now they have just released a big firmware update (5.0). It seriously blows my mind that you can’t find the time for the iBike but a one legged PM that cost $200 MORE. That’s OK? For $700 you get a full blown Newton Powerstroke. Oh yeah, the Stages is NOT the least expensive powermeter on the market. It might be the cheapest DFPM, but then I still have to buy a head unit don’t I. Oh, and then I have carbon cranks. And I don’t run Campy cranks on my MTB, or my commuter bike. And did you seriously just advocate the constant removal of cranks arms? I’m a mechanic and I am currently praying your readers know how to properly set the bearing tension on their Shimano cranks. And all own torque wrenches. I need a drink.

    Reply
    • “You seriously left the iBike out of the test?”

      Yup, I did. Because all of the units I focused on are direct force power meters. The iBike is not.

      “It seriously blows my mind that you can’t find the time for the iBike but a one legged PM that cost $200 MORE”

      Yup, I find time for things people are most interested in – as mind blowing as that is. I’ve received (at best) one request per month to check out the iBike. I think I actually went all summer with only one unique request in fact. Conversely, the $500 Watteam offerings (2 legs, btw), I received more requests in the first hour of their announcement than all requests I’ve ever received for iBike.

      My time isn’t infinite (perhaps yours is), and with as many devices as people want me to test, I’m focusing on the things that I get the most interest in. If iBike does something that falls into that category – then I’ll happily change course. Until then, I’m just seeing more of the same, and there’s plenty of other reviews out there that seem to cover that. And, you’ll notice my stance is virtually the same for SRM as well, btw, hence why I haven’t reviewed them.

      Don’t worry though, perhaps that drink will calm you down a bit.

      Reply
    • RichG

      I’ve been an iBike 2007, upgraded to Newton.

      You are correct, iBike products are not common and they rarely get any press. The few other iBike users I run across have been happy with the product.

      It would be great to read a comparison from an independent source. Now that newer power meters are in the same price range. An honest comparison would help me decide if switching would be worth the effort.

      There are many things I like with the Newton and some I do not. Wonder what you will find.
      Rich

      Reply
  25. Stu

    Thanks for the reviews. I have a G3 (Since Oct 2013) and a STAGES (Since July 2014). I love them both BUT, as we know with any Power Meter, to get data, you need to ride with it all them time, not just on your shiny carbon bike, but all the time otherwise those unplanned attacks chasing a Bus / some guy on a 4km climb, will not shine in your Power Curve :-) Since i commute 50km almost daily with 1000hm, i collect great training data but i found that after just one year (+1 winter), my G3’s bearings were shot and therefore i feared the long term robustness of my dear ‘ol G3 (The whole thing inc the pawls etc) In northern Europe, i’d bet the STAGES wouldn’t last much more than 3 years :-( This led me to the STAGES – simple solution, robust, weather proof, no moving parts, illusive in that no one can really see its on my commuting bike, simple battery changing, CR2032 battery can be bought everywhere etc etc. Thus far, i have covered 3000km commuting with only the STAGES, in all weathers, some of which very very wet, alone & in many group rides. I cannot see any real difference between them other than the G3’s cadence take up / smoothness is slightly quicker / better than the STAGES which tends to jump a bit. Rays review of the STAGES indicates it is an excellent option and the data does not, when compared to the others, look far off but overlays identically!!?? Don’t know why people are saying this, did you not see the graphs? From my own experience, both are great and i’d recommend both and as Ray says…..it depends on your own requirements as i decided above.

    Reply
  26. Stu

    Correction: “In northern Europe, i’d bet the G3 wouldn’t last much more than 3 years”…sorry.

    Reply
  27. Duane Gran

    This post reminds me of a project I keep meaning to get started to build a web application where someone can answer a series of questions that would help them narrow down the ideal power meter selections. Your write up does a great job of summarizing the options in the market today though.

    Reply
  28. Tom

    Good journalism means evaluating products in a timely and fair manner – iBike Newton is getting a blatant disservice from your column. You admit to not keeping up on and developments related to this product so you diss it. Why don’t you actually take a good hard look at this device and spend a whole column on all the new things it does and by the way – does well?

    Reply
    • You mean like I did last year with significant items? link to dcrainmaker.com

      As a reminder, I do this not as my day job. And even if I did, it’s just me. I have to prioritize products and posts – as any other media outlet would. I prioritize posts on interest and relevancy, both of which seem low in the iBike from readers. There are many products I don’t post reviews about, because they don’t generate interest from readers, or, something that I find interesting. After all, this is my blog – so I try and focus on things that are interesting.

      Just because I don’t post about something doesn’t mean I don’t follow it. Further, since I see someone posted to the iBike forums about this post, my update comment was specifically on hardware. There’s no way anyone can consider the iBike display unit competitive with what’s out there. I do agree some of the backend desktop software is interesting however (as I’ve said in the past). As for the Newton unit software, I’d hardly consider the ability to finally change display fields an earth shattering update. Since, other units have had that for about 10 years now. I do agree the Dynamic Power Smoothing on the unit is an interesting little feature add, but, the head unit is still so far behind the times that it takes away from that neat feature.

      Looking at software updates, there’s been a handful since last year’s post covering the major ones, all adding in minor features…like the ability to zoom/shift the map.

      And finally, if you believe I’m “dissing” the product, you have no idea what I do when I diss a product. You should read up more there, I suggest starting with the Garmin Edge 1000 review. My comment in this post doesn’t even begin to cover what happens when I diss a product. In fact, my comments in the post are quite ‘Top of the day’ friendly here.

      Reply
  29. scott

    a. ray, great post again. appreciate your effort, and whenever i can, i use your link when purchasing items to help support your efforts. I think power meters are one area that is changing quite a bit, and in 3 years, everything we see now will be out the window.

    b. I just purchased a powertap g3 w shimano alloy wheels for $620 new. Yes, these are not high end wheels, but on my specialized roubaix 2k bike, they are about as good as what came with them. I don’t race, I don’t have multiple wheel sets, and I live where I have to ride indoors for 6 months. So having this wheelset for the winter and trying to improve is the least expensive best option for me. I figure the powertap itself is about $400 if you think 2 wheels, hubs /rims/spokes laced up would cost you $200.

    c. if you have 2k wheels, then i don’t think cost of the power meter is as much of an issue, you can have left right, or even 2 power taps sets for different wheels.

    d. ray, even though i said i use your link, wasn’t able to do this on this deal. sorry about that.

    e. different power meters for different uses for different styles for different people. lots of different, just adding my thoughts as i spent a long time reading about the different options.

    Reply
  30. actaswu

    Hi Ray,

    Thanks for the review.
    I own a Stages power meter which is installed on my tri-bike. On my regular / non-drafting bike, I’ve got a Rotor Power with Q-rings installed.
    Reading some of the bad press, I was a bit reluctant into buying a second-hand Rotor, but as the previous owner urgently needed some cash and lowered the price by quite a margin, my doubts disappeared.
    There apparently are two hardware versions of the device and I’ve got version two, built in november 2013. It’s running on firmware 0.9.

    Ever since the update, I didn’t experience any problems with the power meter, however, I was a bit surprised to find out I’ve got an average unbalance of 46:54.
    I always thought that I had a stronger left leg, but the meter told me the opposite.
    Also, the torque efficiency on my left leg is considerably lower when pushing below 280-290W, reading about 60-75% for the left leg while right is in the range of 80-90%. Above that when climbing and approaching my FTP and above, the efficiency raises to 90-100% for both legs.
    I assumed that my left leg was “hanging” a bit in the pull phase, and I was too tensed while pedalling. I started paying attention to my pedalling style, loosened up and raised my knees higher. That resulted in a higher efficiency as well as power output. The unbalance still remains, but now it’s 49:51 and that ratio reversed when pushing at or above FTP.

    Now, reading about your “high right reading” – experience and curious about the accuracy of my own unit, I did a few tests on my Tacx Fortius trainer. I use a Garmin Edge 1000 as a head unit and once the magnet and sensor for the Tacx were attached, using the Edge, I re-calibrated the right crank (6 ‘o clock – value 1240), then the left crank (6 ‘o clock, value 6140) and gave it a go.

    I noticed that the power readings are 10-20% higher on the Rotor compared to the Tacx when accelerating and once up to speed, the readings are a tiny bit lower on the Rotor, around 2-3%.
    I consider that “normal” behaviour given the location where the power is measured and the inertia of the fly wheel.
    Left and right-only tests show the same tendency.
    I noticed however, that there is bit of lag on the readings on the Garmin.

    What kind of trainer did you use and did you re-calibrate both cranks once the magnet is attached?
    What hardware version of the Rotor do you have?
    Maybe you have a faulty unit.

    Btw; I’m pleased with the Stages too, as long as you keep it dry. (Had a number of outages when the unit got wet and after that it ate a few batteries until I let the unit dry out completely without batteries installed.)

    Reply
    • I used a variety of trainers, including a CompuTrainer and a Wahoo KICKR (which can better hold power consistently). I believe I have v2, since it was about October 2013. While I suggested a possible faulty unit, nobody ever moved to replace it, nor did they offer solutions for how better to troubleshoot. In discussions, I almost got more of a ‘shrug’ than anything else.

      Unfortunately, I kinda eventually have to move on.

      Reply
    • actaswu

      Thanks for your answer.
      Hearing about your experience with Rotor support, It’s astonishing that they weren’t cooperative or proposed to swap units. After all, bad press harms their reputation. I could even understand their behaviour if they weren’t aware of you reviewing their product, but even then it’s not a good attitude towards customers… (Although reading comments and hardware fora, there are a lot of ‘moaners’ around ;-))
      In my opinion, when user calibration is performed correctly, deviating measurements between left and right cranks which have the same type of strain gauges, could only be
      caused by either hardware failure and/or factory calibration of the gauges. It doesn’t make sense to me why the reading should be higher or lower on either side, as the measurement hardware and opposing weight is the same. (At least, with a balanced rider – when one leg is hanging / producing negative output, the opposite crank would get a higher reading due to the opposing force.)
      Of course, I don’t know the algorithm and correction factors used within the product, but to me it seems unlikely that such a deviation would be inherent to the design.
      Or you could just conclude both quality control and support (and PR) at Rotor leaves something to be desired.

      Reply
    • actaswu

      I forgot one more thing, I do have Ant+ connectivity issues between the Rotor and my Ambit 2. I can’t get any reading unless the Ambit is centimetres away from the meter. The signal may be obstructed by the chainrings. (It’s also a mystery to me why Rotor opted for a wireless ANT+ “slave”-transmission between the left and right cranks.)
      I suspect this to be an Ambit problem, as it’s got similar problems with my Garmin HR sensor and Mio Link.
      The Stages works just fine, but then again it’s closer to the meter as the watch is worn on my left wrist.
      And while I’m at it:-) – I noticed the price of the Rotor without rings is currently around 1200-1400€ depending on the store.

      Reply
    • Harri Roto

      I also have the Rotor Power. Was really looking forward to seeing how it compares to other meters’ power figures in your testing. Sucks to hear Rotor had no interest to work with you – unbeliavable given that you are Ray actually the only source on this planet (that I’ve found) who actually does comprehensive objective comparative testing of PMs and publishes the data. Also I would be really interested in getting verification on whether Rotor Power has the same issue as I’ve understood most crank based PMs have when using Q-rings vs round rings, i.e. slightly elevated power figure for most people. (Mostly I’ve been happy with mine, have experienced 3 times during the year I’ve had it a 1sec or so unexplained spike of the power figure. And it used to eat batteries quite fast until a SW update fixed that. And my 910XT drops connection to it very easily, but edge 800 and 510 work flawlessly (this I understand is an issue more with the 910xt than rotor). And the second last SW version caused it to somehow go to eternal sleep overnight that needed removal of batteries to be able to connect it to my garmin again. But with this latest SW have had none of these issues, except one short unexplained power spike (and the 910xt issue). Have no means to verify if one side shows higher power though, below ftp I’m typically 54-52/46-48 % and then ftp and above very close to 50/50 % mostly. Gut feeling is that it can be right.)

      Reply
  31. Ray, Congratulations on an excellent summary of the current state of affairs regarding the power meter market, however I do think you are in danger of doing your followers and maybe eventually even yourself a disservice in not being more discerning over the differences in these devices from the cheapest to most expensive. I don’t think anybody really expects the same performance from a US$300 device to a US$3000 device. To lump them all together in this way trivialises the engineering, development of both hardware and software, componentry and functionality of the more expensive devices and could raise expectations beyond a reasonable level of a consumer buying one of the entry level devices. These are all measuring devices, and you rightly point out they all use the same basic technology to make those measurements, but similar to musical instruments, they are not all created equally. You can buy an electric guitar for US$100, it works on the same technical principles as a Fender Strat, but the Fender is going set you back a bit more cash. Power meters are the same. The cheaper entry level devices are excellent and we welcome them to introduce more and more riders to the benefits of training with power. But as with learning the guitar the more expensive version becomes more and more desirable as growing experience exposes the shortcomings of the cheaper devices. The real value of true, reliable and demonstrable, (just saying it doesn’t make it so!), accuracy of the more sophisticated and expensive power meters should not be underestimated and is something multi device comparative testing cannot scientifically reveal. Surely such a method requires a ‘Gold Standard’ to be defined that all the others can be compared to. This is still dangerous as any error in the gold standard is compounded, a problem with some current systems in the market that are ‘calibrated’ using this comparative method. This is why we have gone to an independent certification body to measure the accuracy of InfoCrank. We would urge others to do the same so the whole business can give the consumer what they need to know about functionality before purchasing any of these devices according to budget or bike compatibility based on marketing BS.

    Reply
    • Thanks Richard-

      The challenge I have with assuming that a device can have a calibration certificate from a lab on accuracy, is that pretty much every vendor has some 3rd party that they’ve worked with to say they are accurate. Additionally, and I may be mistake, but your specific certificate is for accuracy of weight in a non-moving setting. Meaning, it’s not accuracy out on the road in hot/cold temps with cobblestones and varying cadences. So to that end, as I often see in power meter tests it’s easy to get accurate results sitting indoors, the tough part is outdoors in tough/regular conditions.

      I’m not taking away from your accuracy – but as you noted, it’s all about minimizing marketing bs, so, I want to be sure we’re talking the same thing. Again, not saying you aren’t accurate, but there’s a lot of history/data showing that devices such as the PowerTap are just as accurate as devices 2-3 times their price. And as for $300 units, as I noted above, we’ll have to see there.

      Cheers.

      Reply
    • You are correct about the accuracy certificate being conducted in a lab environment. Just as the same process is used to calibrate and certify weigh scales that will go out into the big wide world where that certification is accepted as defining the accuracy regardless of environment. Accuracy needs a context just saying 2% is meaningless. In that regard what we are setting ourselves up for is that we will demonstrate that accuracy regardless of environment. Alongside that certificate we publish a chart showing the absolute error you see in use as a check. I have not seen others, up to now, doing the same but as the importance of (consistent) accuracy over price point becomes more widely understood I think it will become an important factor in the selection of a PM. Oh, and our marketing claims for the accuracy are less than we achieved in the certification.

      Reply
  32. The Garmin Vector is quite interesting to me. I’m very interested to see where Garmin goes with the upcoming Cycling Dynamics. One thing concerns me, though. When I had my last aero fitting, the fitter added pedal extenders to my bike to move my pedals further out and help my legs fit to the pedals better. Am I right in thinking that if I were to get Garmin Vector pedals that I would have to forego this particular modification to my bike fit? Garmin doesn’t make Vectors with different spindle lengths, right?

    Reply
    • In theory, this will actually show whether or not that fit is doing as expected. The reason is that in this case it’s measuring the force as exerted across the width of the pedal spindle, so if it’s now ‘corrected’, it’ll show up nicely. If not, then it’ll show that too.

      Reply
  33. Ed Swakon

    Ray I love your reviews. About a year ago I bought a set of garmin vector pedals and with my coach have been using the power data to guide my training. Two months ago I broke my collarbone and wanted something to keep me going while recovering and to work on hill training (I live in south Florida – no hills). I bought a CycleOps PowerBeam Pro (using your discount code from Clever Training thank you very much). I’ve done several rides on the trainer using Virtual Trainer using some supplied interval workouts (i.e. 5 min at 100watts; 10m @150w; 5m@175; 20m@150w). At the same time I used my Garmin 510 to record power data from the Garmin Vector pedals. The power data from the pedals are, I believe, significantly higher. For example when VT show 150 watts, the vector pedal show 163 watts; when VT shows 175 watts, the pedal show 182 watts. The power data from the PowerBeam is very constant for the interval, whereas the pedal data has considerable noise. I’ve created a graph comparing to output from both. The distance recorded between the two is also very different. 9 miles from the trainer vs. 12 miles on the 510.

    I have several question based on your review and experience using all these devises.

    1. Does this seem like a big difference?
    2. Is there a way to get them to match more closely?
    3. Does any of this have to do with the bike gearing setup in VT?
    3. If there is no way to adjust the trainer output (I’m assuming this is the most likely one to adjust) to match the pedals do you have any recommendations for effectively taking the trainer work outside and visa versa?

    Again thanks for all the time and effort you put into this site – your second job!

    Reply
    • 1) It’s a bit of a differernce, at about 7% (163w vs 175w), however, it’s right at the fringe of acceptability if you’re looking at two devices with margins of error. That said, typically you’d see Vector higher, not the PowerBeam, due to drivetrain loses.

      2) The best way is to ensure calibration of both, especially re-doing Vector after a few rides because it’ll settle a bit. Pop the battery covers and re-start calibration from scratch. For the PowerBeam, ensure that you do the calibration procedures there.

      3A) For distances, yes, that’s simply because you likely don’t have the wheel circumference set correctly within the Garmin 510. Double-check that. For most wheels it’ll be 2096, but you can lookup your wheelsize online and find the wheel circumference, then, go into your bike profile on the Edge and set it there.

      3B) Generally speaking, I’d take the pedals, since that’ll be used inside and outside.

      And thanks for the support via Clever Training!

      Reply
  34. Sam

    I have FSA SL-K Light (carbon) cranks and looking at Stages … according to the Stages website, their FSA Energy power meter would be compatible. However, does anyone know or had experience with a setup where left crank is different to right crank and in my case, it would be an alloy crank on the left side and carbon on the drive side?

    Reply
  35. 2bikes

    One thing with power2max is that, it turns on when the bike is moving. This means that, if you are travelling with the bike, it is on, and consumes battery. The new type-s is not very convenient in terms of battery replacement. That is the only con I have with P2Max.

    Reply
  36. Claude

    Tks Ray for the hard work. Reading the comments it seems many people forget you are not paid to do this and it shows that power meter is still a highly emotional topic!. It is funny to see that marketing dpts are trying to justify price with accuracy. Everybody wants accurate data, then higher price should come with other/differentiated features such as more metrics, etc. anyway, nice work and glad to see all these players! Claude

    Reply
  37. Vanilla_Thrilla

    With the trend towards disc brakes on road bikes, how would this affect the attractiveness of the Powertap?

    If my next road bike is likely to have disc brakes would I be better off getting a crank or pedal based power meter rather than be stuck with a (soon to be obsolete?) rear hub-based power meter?

    Reply
  38. John

    Thought I’d mention in relation to Stages that a number of mates have had ongoing problems with theirs. One mate whom I used to work with is an ultra endurance rider (24 solo mtb) has been through six before finally giving up.

    His issue was with water ingress, and battery life. Battery life seems to keep getting shorter and shorter until finally he gets fed up and sends it in, at which pint a replacement is supplied.

    From: link to bicycles.net.au
    “Got my stages (on an XTR) before they were released in Oz – Jan 2013 I think?

    1st replacement (water ingress) Apr 2013.
    2nd replacement (water ingress) May 2013.
    3rd Replacement (water ingress) Aug 2013 – new battery seal.
    4th replacement (water ingress) Dec 2013 – aussie distributor (who took nearly 2 months compared to within the week direct from the US) – old seal
    5th Replacement (you guessed it) Apr 2014 – new seal

    It just died again. That’s 6 units in less than 2 years. I give up – I love the simplicity and the concept of the product but just too unreliable.

    The pattern is consistent… unit stops working (often after no recent exposure to rain / water). I replace battery and then it eventually dies again. The time between battery changes gets shorter and shorter until I eventually get fed up and e-mail the distributor and ask for a new one (which they always replace).

    Latest unit is also randomly dropping data – stops working mid ride and then starts again. This is new…

    I’ve never gotten a low battery warning from the stages meter.

    Firmware is up to date.
    ArranP”

    Reply
  39. John

    I was looking quite closely at Stages but went to P2M Type S instead. Arran’s story I only heard aout after the purchase. Very glad I didn’t go that way.

    Reply
  40. Phacops

    I asked my usual bike shop to put a Pioneer Power Meter on my Cervelo P5 and it doesn’t fit (the crank is slightly thicker and they told be it touched the frame). Can I do something about it or should I just choose another one?

    The bike shop recommanded a Stages one as it fits for sure but I’m not so sure about that. What would you recommend?

    Reply
    • I’d hit up Pioneer and ask them, I’ll ping them here if you’d like and they can comment. Obviously, the Pionner will give you a truer picture compared to the Stages. Whether or not it’s worth twice the cost is up to you.

      Reply
    • Phacops

      That’d be great to have an answer from them. I’d rather have the Pioneer than the stages.

      Even just acknowledging the problem would be great.

      Reply
  41. garuda

    hey Ray, thanks for not writing up a review on power meters that measures wind speed, and assumes bike weight doesn’t change, nor the rider’s weight, and that you will never be drafting, or riding indoors.

    Reply
  42. EB

    Ray, how far do you think you are from publishing a full review on the Pioneer system?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  43. Joshua Parks

    And speaking of pricing – interesting to see what Verve and Infocrank are doing regarding customer data collection and pricing reduction. There are various strategies regarding ‘name your own price’ – but the most important point to be made that it effectively enables the customer to find a price point that suits. I wonder what this does to the ‘List Price’ of $1,750 – which maybe Verve sees as irrelevant now.

    For me, it’s put Verve/Infocrank back in the considered set. While I’m intrigued by the new, cheap offerings I’m not sure I want to put any of them on my bikes…and thus I’m a little disappointed by the lower priced offerings. At the moment the Infocrank and Max2Power look like the most robust – set it and forget it, two sided options…

    Stages, my friends, you are caught between – let’s see what your pricing strategy is in 2015.

    Reply
  44. Phil

    Hi there

    So I’ve got a pair of Vectors and I’ve already got a Kickr. I’m using the Kickr and trainerroad for indoor sessions and power. how reliable is power on the vectors in comparison to the Kickr?

    I’ve got the vectors fitted on a winter bike and just wondered if the watts I’m getting are equal to what I would be getting indoors on the Kickr?

    Is there any means to test this?

    Reply
    • Daisy Dave

      Could you not just put your winter bike on the Kickr then user Golden Cheetah and your ant usb stick the record both power readings?

      Reply
  45. Dan Hermann

    DC, this article is not in the list of Product Reviews or in the Power Meter category. Is it mislabeled? I had a tough time finding it again. Good luck, Dan

    Reply
  46. Milton

    When the Stages Power meters were out, I thought they are a great alternative to the other crank and hub based power meters. However, I’ve always wondered if a stick on strain guage module would ever hit the market. I simply was just looking at your GPS watch reviews Rainmaker. I’m not even a runner but I liked the in depth reviews. I’ve never heard of 4iiii and a few other power meters you’ve listed, but the 4iiii system looks very promising and since they’re a rookie company, I expect more from them in the future. Thinking about it, I’d like to see a sub $200 power meter like the 4iiii that doesn’t require another crank, hub, spider, or bottom bracket.

    Reply
  47. Francisco Garcia

    I have Campy R11 in my bike, looking for a PM. Power2max or SRM?

    Reply
  48. Andrea

    Hello I live in Italy and I’d buy quark elsa rs.
    for now it isn’t imported in Europe, you know if it will import?

    Reply
  49. Eric

    Will you be able to use the 4iiii on a right crank arm and Stages on left?

    Reply
  50. Dennis Florussen

    Ray,

    I already have a polar V800 , a great heart rate monitor, (but I’m really a polar fan) would you still recommend to go for the Keo / look, or say you take an example powermax or powertap and put a second computer on your steering wheel ?

    Thanks for your answer.

    Dennis

    Reply
    • The challenge you’ll have is being on the V800 you’re more limited in terms of power meter options on Bluetooth Smart. I’d really look at the PowerTap with the Bluetooth Smart cap.

      Reply
  51. Paul

    Hi Ray-

    Hoping you get this in time.

    I want to train with power next year and really enticed by the P2M black friday sale. Power for $750 (classic with cranks and a compact chain ring since my current set up isn’t compatible) out the door seems like a steal. That being said, seems like you’re recommending to wait until the spring for anyone that has the luxury of time (which is me, since I’ll likely just be on the trainer with trainerroad’s power estimator over the winter). Knowing the deals that one can get this weekend (P2M and Powertap come to mind), would you still recommend waiting until the spring?

    Even if the upcoming competition only forces MSRPs to drop to the current sale prices, I’d rather wait since this is an expensive holiday season as it is. But if this is the best it’ll get, I don’t want to miss the boat and find myself a couple hundred dollars poorer come spring time. For what its worth – the introduction of the $500 self-installation PMs wouldn’t really appeal to me, other than how they’d force down prices of models currently on the market. I’d probably only be considering a powertap or P2M given the apparent ideal balance between cost, ease of use, and how they “just work.”

    Your insight would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • I think you’ve summed it up fairly well. No doubt, the P2M sale is good, on a very solid product. I’d have no problems purchasing a P2M unit, they ‘just work’.

      At the same time, if you wait till next spring, you’ll undoubtedly have many more options on the table, all of which are likely cheaper.

      Of course, if you wait 4-6 months you’ve lost what is basically half a year of training with power.

      Reply
  52. Harmless

    Ray,

    On the left leg PMs: user’s brain (unconscious) will discover measurement is left only, and emphasis might be on using left leg (especially at higher wattages), leading to imbalances or even injuries. What is your expert opinion here?

    Now V650 is delayed and you intended to review Polar BLE pedals along with V650, where in queue is review for Polar power-based pedal meter?

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • On the first piece, I suspect not. It’s actually really difficult to focus on left leg for any more than a few minutes. And I’d doubt you’d see any substantive subconscious effort there. If I look at my riding with Stages, while using other PM’s, I still see drift as I fatigue.

      As for the Polar BLE pedals, I don’t have them yet, so it’s not in the queue at the moment. The next power meter review that will be released from me will be the Verve Infocrank and Power2Max S-Type. And hopefully, soon thereafter the 4iiii’s units.

      Reply
    • Harmless

      Thanks for update Ray.

      I checked with Polar Global and power pedals are available on the market, including BLE radios.
      Before I would like to buy a pair, I am looking forward for your expert opinion.

      Will Polar push you a set for review or do you need to pull?

      Thanks.

      Reply
    • I had planned to do them in concert with the V650 (two birds, one stone), but with that getting delayed till February, that leaves me in a bit of a pickle there.

      Right now I’m slightly backed up on power meter posts to publish (Verve, Power2Max, Pioneer), with my hope to knock out 1-2 of those before Christmas. But in theory I’ve also got the 4iiii’s coming in shortly too. Adding to that is that my travel for the next 4-6 weeks is pretty fugly, which minimizes time on the bike. Just to set expectations. Said differently, I suspect I’ll probably wait until the V650 is available simply because I’ve got too many other things in the pipe to dual-do those.

      Reply
    • Harmless

      Hi Ray,
      Thanks for heads-up, looks there is no DCR Polar power pedal review before V650 is established, looks like March timeframe. I can’t wait that long, so I take the risk (if any) and will acquire a set.

      In this case it would be fair you change the wording above, since today your recommendation is to “hold” for Polar pedals due to unavailability. This is not true anymore, they are on stock, you could add a note you will review towards end Q1 2015, does this make sense?

      Thanks.

      Reply
    • Yup, no problem. Done!

      Reply
  53. Emil

    Hi, thanks for providing such useful information. Quick question for you – you say that the Garmin Vector box now includes the crowfoot adaptor needed for a 3/8″ drive torque wrench. But I can’t find this confirmed on the Vector website – e.g. it’s not included in the “what’s in the box” section. Are you sure? What about Vector S? Does that include the adaptor?

    Reply
    • It’s been included for all units shipped after roughly mid-October. Of course, some bike shops might have older inventory.

      I don’t know why Garmin hasn’t listed it on Garmin.com for what’s in the box. But they often have incorrect specification/compatibility items listed there.

      As for Vector S, no, it does not include the adapter.

      Reply
  54. ekutter

    I have been riding a fair amount recently on a Kickr and have a SRM on the bike as well. Fairly consistently, the Kickr is report 15% higher power numbers than theSRM. Given that I have two device off by 15% that each claim 2% accuracy, something isn’t lining up. I do calibrate both. The calibration number on the kickr varies from 580 to 583. The SRM in the 280 range. Last time I sent my SRM in was a bit over a year ago. I’d actually expect the SRM to read slightly higher due to measurement location instead of so much lower.

    Any suggestions on how to know which one is more accurate? I use a combination of Edge 800, 810, and FR920 to record the data.

    Reply
    • Alex Simmons

      Make sure you are using the correct slope calibration value for your SRM, and perform a slope calibration check on your SRM. Then you can have very good confidence that your SRM is reading correctly.

      A slope calibration check is simply noting the change in torque offset readings between when there is no force applied to the cranks and when an *accurately* known mass (recommend 20+kg) is hanging from the pedal spindle with the crank arm in a forward horizontal position. test on both arms.

      Slope = (loaded offset value – unloaded offset value) / actual torque applied

      Actual torque applied = mass (kg) x acceleration due to gravity (9.81m/s^2) x crank length (m)

      e.g. say your unloaded zero offset was 280Hz and it read 1017Hz with a 20.3kg mass hanging from pedal spindle of a 170mm horizontal crank arm, then

      slope = (1017-280) / (20.3 x 9.81 x 0.170) = 21.8Hz/Nm

      Power readings will be out by whatever % the actual slope is different to the slope being used to calculate power.

      Reply
    • ekutter

      Thanks for the quick reply.
      Bummer. I’m going to have to start giving back my Zwift KOM’s. Using a 19.75kg block, I performed the test, plugging the results into link to cyclingpowerlab.com. It shows my SRM under-reading by 0.57%. So even if I was off slightly on the numbers and measurements, that still doesn’t come anywhere near 15%.
      Short of having a SRM head unit, is there any way to verify the slope being used is what is on SRM label? Is there any similar test for a kickr?
      I’ll try my wife’s kickr on tomorrow’s ride.

      On the bright side, this is pretty impressive for a 6 year old power meter to be that close. Not good for a <1 year old trainer to be that far off.

      Reply
  55. Alex Simmons

    Several ways to verify the slope used.

    If it’s a Powercontrol, then you do that by holding down the Pro button until it enters mode to adjust user settings (time, date, wheel circ etc), and scroll through with press of Mode button until you see slope. can adjust settings using the +/- buttons (Pro/Set buttons).

    SRMwin software also record the slope and last set zero offset for each file so you can review it.

    SRMwin software also displays the current Powercontrol settings when it’s plugged in to your computer, which you can view/amend/update.

    If using another head unit, consult the manual the navigation settings for your head unit to display the slope being used.

    Reply
  56. Jim

    I have had my power2max classic FSA w/Praxis rings for just over a month now and I am very happy with it. Fortunately I live near power2max’s North Vancouver shop and Michael took very good care of me including installing everything including a bottom bracket change and giving me a number of useful tips. It has really helped me improve my training and I am making noticeable improvement in only a short time. I heartily recommend this PM and these people.

    Reply
  57. Harmless

    Acquired a Polar Look Keo BLE set, installation went smooth, first indoor ride was positive. It is my second power-meter coming from power2max which was good power meter… But I appreciate additional metrics like true power-balance, force vector per side, especially after my recent knee arthroscopics. To me this set deserves a full review my mr. Ray.-)

    Reply
    • Very nice, good to hear. I’ll definitely be doing a review, but at this point with travel, it simply won’t be started till at least late January. :-/

      Reply
    • Harmless

      Hi Ray, maybe you can confirm the observation below, based on your Polar Headquarter visit?
      Key selling point for me was power vector feature, and I find it not useful in current state. Both Power vectors (one for left, one for right) are instantaneous, meaning it is updated every second, leading to kind of fluctuating situation (especially on rollers). I was hoping to see average power vector for whole ride afterwards in Flow, but only metrics shown in Flow is power ratio (e.g. 51%/49%), there is no post-ride analysis possible on power vector. I asked Polar to add average power vector to flow, and asked for stretched goal having an average power vector per lap. In later case one could analyze how power vector

      Reply
    • For the rides that I do have with the pedals, they were linked to a different account (not mine), so I can’t quite say for sure there. I was pretty sure there was average power though, so that’s definitely odd.

      Reply
  58. I’m kind of cycling newbie, and I was thinking of making the jump to a power meter and indoor trainer.
    My head unit is a Suunto Ambit 3, which has only BLE, so my choice of power meters is kinda limited.

    Main question was: is it better to buy a trainer with power meter or a normal trainer (but I’d still like to have a “smart” trainer, with resistance and training programs controlled by a device) and a bike power meter on my bike?

    Thank you
    Simone

    Reply
  59. DennyH

    I was considering buying Stages, since it provides the features I need at an attractive price. However, there has been a lot of traffic on the web related to battery depletion issues. In most cases, it sounds like there are a significant number of units out there that start to burn through batteries on almost a daily basis once the initial battery is changed. It is unclear if they have ever determined the root cause and developed a fix? Some people have claimed to have gotten 3 or 4 replacements and still experience the problem. Others have replaced o-rings and updated firmware, but it still sounds like the problem is out there. Has there been any resolution on this? I’d like to buy a unit, but I don’t want to have to keep sending it back or burn through batteries on almost a daily basis. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Honestly, I wouldn’t overthink the handful of people who have posted on battery depletion issues. If you look at the total volume of units they’re shipping each week – the number of people that are reporting on various forums having the issue is so small that it honestly doesn’t even cross into the fraction of a percent range.

      Said differently – there are certainly reasons not to get Stages…but I wouldn’t let that be one of them.

      Reply
    • CharlM

      Ray – I have to disagree. I’m one of those with ongoing battery depletion issues, so I’m reluctant to recommend Stages. It’s cheap(er) for a reason it seems. The hinges inside the battery door are also extremely flimsy and you have to be very careful not to break them when opening the battery door (when you have to replace batteries as often as I have to!). Poor design in my opinion. Then there’s also issues with my Garmin Edge 810 struggling to pick up the signal from the Stages power meter. So I’ve had enough. Especially when one of the three hinges in the battery door broke again today and moisture got inside the battery chamber. Am in Hawaii for 2 weeks and seems I won’t be able to log any power data. Not cool, so looking for a better product, even if it costs more than Stages. Any recommendations?

      Reply
    • I do agree that the battery door could be better designed (mostly from breakage) – no disagreement there. But, I don’t think the depletion issues are as widespread as some believe. Of course, I certainly understand how much it sucks when it’s impacting you.

      Outside of Stages, the next options to consider would be PowerTap and Power2Max (slightly more expensive, but not much actually). Or, you could see how the 4iiii’s Precision works out over the next month or so.

      (Fwiw, as long as your unit will at least power on with a CR2032, which are easy to find in a drugstore within the US, you can use a piece of electrical tape to keep the door/battery on, with a tiny bit of folder up paper to apply pressure. Did that when I broke a tab once, works in a pinch for a surprising amount of time.)

      Reply
  60. roger hughes

    hi, I’m looking for a simple cheap system for my Cannondale SI system. I’m happy using left only and my head unit is a Garmin 810.
    What’s the best/cheapest option please?

    Reply
    • Right now the cheapest left only option is Stages. You’ve also got Garmin Vector S, ROTOR LT on the market, and then shortly Precision form 4iiii’s.

      Reply
  61. Mark

    Hi Ray,

    I was wondering about the difference in power between my bushido tacx display and my powertap sl+. It has about 20 -30 watt difference, where bushido says I’m stronger 😉

    any thoughts on who is right? and maybe even why?

    Thx!

    mark

    Reply
    • It’s hard to say. If you’ve calibrated both, I’d tend to believe the PowerTap over the Tacx.

      Reply
    • ekutter

      I’ve had similar issues with sizable discrepancies between my SRM and a Computrainer and a Kickr. Verifying through other means, the SRM was always right and the trainer wrong.

      Reply
  62. Peter Noble

    Hi – just to add my voice to the others who have had stages and have problems with Battery failure. I am on my third Stages with the first two having Battery drainage issues and wildly inaccurate data readouts ( should be putting out around 400 watts in an effort and only reading in the low hundred) the third one so far hasn’t had data problems but has had the original battery replaced not long after installation. All of these units have been installed on one of my race bikes which on average only gets ridden once every fortnight, so its not as though it gets used a lot. Also the battery door design is poor with the Tabs breaking off easily, sometimes it seems for no reason. When I go anywhere now to race I have to take spare batteries as you get no warning on the Garmin unit that the battery is low – it just dies.
    I also have to carry spare battery doors and seals. I have two other Power meters both Quarqs and with the exception of Batteries occasionally – which I get a warning about – have been trouble free.
    Although I haven’t tested the theory I believe my stages reads higher than both the quarqs. I love the concept and potential of Stages for the price but probably wouldn’t buy another one.
    Also great reviews Ray – if I am looking to buy something that you may have reviewed I always check to see if you have given it a look first before making a decision.
    Cheers
    Peter

    Reply
  63. Stu Cann

    Having been following this thread since i bit the bullet and bought a STAGES 105 in July 2014 (Decision made as i needed a ‘non moving part’ Power Meter after my 18month old Power Tap G3 bearings wore out – i commute and train ~300km per week every week and use this time as training time so thats why i bought a non moving part Power Meter), i have had zero problems with my STAGES and have commuted in all weathers, some really really crap, rain rain rain, also in group rides on my Sunday run so it got plastered. In this time i have replaced the battery only once, so in 6 months, thats about 5-6’000km and for info i have the red o’ring and have had no issue with the battery door. Overall, i must say, i am very happy with my STAGES and i guess i am lucky, touch wood, that i have had no issues as mentioned on this thread. For info, my Bro has a Dura-Ace 7900 STAGES and has also no issues with his.

    Reply
  64. Iván Higuera-Mendieta

    Hi Ray!

    As always, thank you very much for such a complete review. I have a question, rather a beginner question since I don’t have any idea about wheel-building. If I buy a Powertab alloy wheelset, which is good for now, but I want to improve to a carbon wheelset, can I use the Powertab hub (the one that came with the alloy wheelset) and put it on the new set of carbon wheels?

    I know this question can have an straightforward answer, but there is a lot of technical stuff I completely ignore and when you are spending +600USD you must have all the information.

    Thanks in advance

    Iván

    Reply
  65. Arran Pearson

    Thanks for the post. I think I’ve gone through most of them now and would say that every meter I’ve owned has had one issue or another. Although most needed to be fixed once then they were reliable.

    I’ve been recommending Stages to friends who are just getting into power training as its a good cheap option and a good way to get ‘into’ the nuances of power based training. Stages have great customer service and agree with Ray’s view that the majority of users don’t have a problem.

    I however have been through 6 in about 18 months and called it a day. Mostly battery door related issues and the mysterious battery depletion problem. They’ve always been helpful and quick to replace it when it dies but had enough – no hard feelings, just didn;t work with my ride in all conditions any where any time riding (MTB).

    MTB options are still a little scarce on the ground but I think SRM are the standout here (and priced accordingly) but so far its just worked (I’ve got a gates drive so chanlines etc are tricky and SRM has the most options).

    Just my 2c.

    Reply
  66. Ryan

    Ray,
    What is the best option for a 11 spd Trek 9.9 speed concept with Di2 ? Thanks for the help!

    Reply
  67. klaus

    any news to xpedo thrust e?
    eg at CES?

    Reply
  68. klaus

    any news to xpedo thrust e?

    Reply
    • John O'Shea

      I’ve had a stages dura ace crank since they came on the market and am on my 3rd replacement. Battery depletion issues and water ingress. Very very poor design on the battery door. I now have to use insulating tape to ensure connection of the batteries and keep the water out! Regardless of price, this is a major design flaw and very surprising that a new product would have such a fundamental design issue. No power data again on Saturday, I’ve given up and have ordered the verve infocranks. A mate in Australia has tested these and reckons they will be the market leader in reliability.

      Reply
  69. Andrew

    Do you think there is a strong benefit to keeping consistent on different meters across different bikes? I just got a new bike and would like to get a PM for it, but would like to keep my old ones as well. I currently run quarqs, but I’m considering stages or 4iiii at some point in the near future. How much difference would or should I expect between a stages power level and a quarq (understanding the single leg issue (btw- my left right balance is usually pretty close to 48/52 or better).

    Reply
  70. Waiting for powermeter price drops :)

    Reply
  71. Phacops

    After having the Stages power meter for now close to 6 months, I can say it’s a disappointing unit.

    I just ask for something to show me a value each time I’m on my bike and this power meter fails to do this. After 2 months of use (3 or 4 times a week during 1 or 2 hours straight each time), I would start my ride and at some point, the power (and cadence given by the power meter) drops to 0 and comes back to a normal value a few seconds later. Sometimes, the unit just disconnects and comes back a few seconds later (the difference with the previous sentence is my watch telling me the power meter is disconnected). I replaced the battery, twice, didn’t change a thing. At the same time, let me say the battery cover is not nice at all, but that’s another story.

    I’ve read a lot about Stages and I saw some people having the same problem as me. I’ve also read some people are very happy with it. I understand my unit could be malfunctioning and exchanging it will fix my problems, but I find it very annoying to buy something in that price range which can have such a basic fault like that. I mean come on, it just fails to display any power, I’m not even talking about accuracy or anything like that.

    I’m looking for a replacement at another brand. It seemed to be a very good value, even if it’s left only and everything, but no. I’m not even mad, just disappointed.

    Reply
    • Phacops

      And just to be clear, the drop to 0 power happens dozens of times during a ride. A coach gives me a workout and expects me to go to some power and then check with my power file and he’s constantly asking me if it’s normal that my average is so low or if I stopped or if it’s just a power meter problem. It’s just a pain to use.

      I don’t think I’m asking too much. Just show me some power EVERY SINGLE SECOND of the ride. Not even a very accurate one. Just show me something.

      Reply
  72. Drew W

    Ray…any update on when you think you will have a review on the Pioneer power meter? I saw a presentation on it this weekend and I’ve been swayed away from the Quarq Elsa RS towards it, but I would love to get your take on it before I pull the trigger. Particularly since there are a limited number of other reviews that I have found.

    Reply
    • Phacops

      Same thing here. The Pioneer seems very solid. It appears it doesn’t fit on some bikes (Cervelo P5) though :(.

      Reply
    • Drew W

      Gen2 of the Pioneer got very interesting
      – Glued & baked on components at the factory (no more zip-ties)

      – True left/right power instead of estimated

      – It uses OEM Shimano cranks that will match your groupset

      – Chainrings are interchangable


      And best of all, the price point is in line (or better than) other crank based systems. It does have the downside of clearance issues on some bikes, and the fact that they have a proprietary head unit (bye bye Garmin 510), but the volume of data you get from this thing look phenomenal & extremely useful to actually help improve your pedal stroke.

      Reply
    • Phacops

      You can’t get the power by ANT+? I think the head unit gives your way more data points and details, but I don’t think it prevent you from having the power by ANT+.

      Reply
    • Drew W

      I’m pretty sure it will pass basic power metrics over ANT+ to Garmin & other head units (waiting on Ray to tell us for sure what is & is not passed), but the whole benefit of the Pioneer system is that it has 12 point power every 30 degrees on the rotation plus a bunch of other “secret sauce” analysis stuff that can only be read over private ANT by their head unit.

      Basically it would be like owning a Ferrari, but only driving it on 35 MPH roads. It will still get you there, but you are not living up to your maximum potential.

      Reply
    • It can also transmit on ANT+ to Garmin units.

      It does do cool stuff in terms of data sent. But I also challenge anyone to show me what exactly to do with that data. For the mast majority of users, how precisely will you train differently with that data? No different that Garmin Cycling Dynamics. For most users, how does that actually translate into changes in workout structure to make you faster?

      All that said, the Pioneer as a power meter itself isn’t a bad deal – it’s in the same ballpark as other left/right capable power meters. I wouldn’t however get the head unit. To me it’s just too clunky to use.

      And yes, a review is still forthcoming.

      Reply
    • Drew W

      Thanks Ray! So if I got the Pioneer, I should just stick with my Edge 510 & I will still get all the same left/right & power metrics of, say, a pair of Vector pedals?

      Reply
    • Sorta. You’ll get lesser metrics (i.e. not Cycling Dynamics), nor the full set of positional data from the Pioneer set.

      Reply
    • Drew W

      Right. So nothing that is Garmin (cycling dynamics) or Pioneer (positional power) proprietary, but the Pioneer crank will still send all basic universal power profile info that a Quarq, Rotor, etc would send to the head unit over ANT+.

      I’m looking forward to the full review when it comes out.

      Reply
  73. João

    Hi Ray. Seems the most interesting to me is the Garmin system. However they have a limitation of 90kg, and I’m 92. DO you know if it’s safe to have them in those conditions? Many thanks

    Reply
    • I would suspect that Garmin built a buffer in there, so by extension I’d guess that 2KG diff is probably OK.

      Reply
    • João

      Many thanks. I’m between the Quarq and the garmin.

      Reply
    • rlh

      Not quite understanding the “weight limit” thing. If I’m 80 kg and I stand and hammeraway at 400 watts (or even 600 watts for a few seconds), isn’t that a lot more force than someone who is 90 kg ambling along at 175 watts? In other words, is there a maximum pedal force issue on the Vectors? If so, what is it? The equivalent of someone 90kg jumping up and landing on just one pedal with full gravity (plus a safety margin)? Presumably that could be reduced to a specific watts number (say 2000 or something) that would give one comfort, based on their own pedaling mechanics, that they are not at risk of breaking the pedal.

      Reply
    • Ian

      The weight limit seems strange to me; especially when Garmin state: “WARNING: The maximum weight limit of the cyclist using the Vector system is 90 kg (200 lbs). Cyclists over this weight limit risk personal injury and property damage” – property damage??

      Any way my weight went up to around 90-92kg last year and I used Vectors all the time without any issue; and as far as I can remember, no property damage or personal injury! I’ve dropped a few kg’s now but I wouldn’t read too much into those weight guidelines – seems like some sort of “cover my ass” type of legal bumf to me :)

      Reply
    • I believe property damage would be in the event something like a pedal broke. You’re bike would likely be said property damage.

      Reply
  74. Ivan

    FYI, for the Power2max ‘road’ version (new version), unlike the old ‘Classic’ version, you may need to take off the spider to change out the battery, since the rubber plugs and screws may not be accessible, depending on the size of the bottom bracket/bike frame.

    Reply
  75. Chris

    I’ve had the Garmin Vector pedals on my old bike and just snagged a deal on a new bike with the Rotor cranks. Is it possible to use the Rotor crank arms with the Garmin Vector pedals for power? Which of the two would you use to report power values? How would the head unit reconcile these power values? Would you simply have to choose which device would send power data to be collected?

    Reply
    • Rotor Cranks, or Rotor Power?

      Rotor cranks are one thing (and perfectly fine). With the new bike, I’d personally use Vector, since I never had much luck with the Rotor power system. No head units on the market today can take multiple power meters concurrently, so you’d just have to choose one.

      Reply
  76. Jim in Colorado

    I raced mountain bikes for several years finishing mid-pack (10th-20th). I bought road bike, put an iBike on it, and did power-based training using the plan in the back of Allen and Coggan’s “Training And Racing With a Power Meter” book for one winter/spring. I won 4 out of 5 races the following summer and moved up to the Expert category. Bottom line: the iBike is an effective tool for power based training. It is VASTLY better than training by heart rate.

    I tried to use my iBike on my mountain bike, but it was not a good match (and they don’t advertise it as useful for mountain bikes). The variation of rolling resistance due to hard pack, soft/loam, mud, leaves/pine needles, etc was a significant challenge. The active suspension meant the iBike had crazy slope numbers to deal with when trying to determine the able of a rocky, root-infested ascent. The iBike did not produce useful data on my mtb. Again — they don’t advertise it for that, so it’s not a knock against them that it didn’t work.

    About the same time, I purchased a road bike with an SRM on it. I had also been using the iBike on my TT bike, so it then took up permanent residence on the TT bike.

    A friend with a PowerTap let me borrow it for a day and I did extensive calibration of the iBike. It was pretty close when I started because I had done quite a few coast-down tests per the iBike protocol, but the PT enabled me to tweak the low speed (15-24mph) and high speed (25+ mph) CDA such that I got a perfect match between the PT and the iBike.

    I think it is a disservice to not include the iBike in your reviews. It is an effective product for power-based training. It is a great first power meter and it is very effective in controlled circumstances such at TTing. I’ve decided not to put an iBike on my next road bike due to variations in weight (number of bottles based on length of ride, the weight of the clothes I put on for a ride in Colorado based on temperature), rolling resistance (concrete, smooth asphalt, rough asphalt, occasional dirt roads), and CDA (sometimes use traditional aluminum wheelset, sometimes deep carbon; sometime use a Bell Sweep and other times a Specialized Evade), etc. Nonetheless, the iBike transformed my training and fitness, helped dramatically improve my race results, and is worthy of consideration. When paired with a direct force power meter, the iBike is unique in the market for those who want to do aero testing of wheels, clothing, riding position, etc. Use it with a DFPM and you become a rolling laboratory for aero testing!

    With that said, I’m looking at replacing my road bike and the SRM that is on it won’t fit the bike I want to purchase, so I’m looking at getting a new power meter. This test is extremely helpful, though it is almost March and many of the products still aren’t out (no fault of Ray’s, of course).

    The Pioneer looks very interesting to me, would very much like to read the review to see if it worth waiting for. I’m not clear on the Pioneer — if you use their head unit, does it produce power files that can be opened in WKO 3.0+? If not, that’s a showstopper for me. Please include info on file formats and if they can be used in TrainingPeaks and WKO.

    The Brim Brothers product has a lot of appeal because I could take it with me when traveling and install on a rental bike. But that’s not a completely compelling benefit. The Power2Max and Quarq are the most likely candidates for my $$$ because I’m not an early adopter — I want solid products that just work every time.

    Thanks for the thorough, objective, extremely honest reviews that include fact-based observations plus what you liked/disliked and why. Very much appreciated!

    Reply
    • EB

      Yes, the Pioneer will produce a file that can be analyzed in WKO+. If you have never utilized the cycling dynamics features for Garmin Vector pedals, or utilized the Pioneer CA500/900 head unit, then you would not “know” what you are missing.

      For example, it would report exactly the same thing to a Garmin 810 that a Quarq would report, with the added benefit of TRUE left right balance and not CALCULATED left right balance due to the fact that it has a sensor on the left crank (looks much like a Stages).

      I found the CA500 head unit a bit buggy, and lacking nav is a showstopper for me. I went back to utilizing an 810 with the Pioneer. At the end of the day there was not really anything I could modify in my training to make the left right balance worthwhile. I would be happy with either a Quarq RS or Pioneer at this point. Maybe a very slight nod to the Quarq RS due to the number of iterations Quarq has been through and the reduction in “fiddle factor”.

      You have to make sure the Pioneer left crank is paired to the right crank, two batteries to check, a switch to toggle between regular ANT+ and private ANT+ (won’t need to touch this if not using Pioneer Head Unit) plus the fact that you could have a pod fail on the left, on the right, etc. I do think it is an excellent unit, but if you want a simple system I would choose Quarq RS if you need Shimano rings, Quarq Riken if you do not.

      Reply
  77. Ron Green

    Curious w know if the in depth review on the Power2Max S is coming soon. You mentioned it was the next one up in November and I don’t think I saw it yet.

    Thanks

    Reply
  78. Good post, I race at a high level and have used both Quarq and Power2Max (Version2), I definitely feel that the Quarq is better than the Power2Max. I’ll get some funny readings on the Power2Max quite often and I feel it’s more in the +/- 7% accuracy range. I’m not sure if it has to do with elevation as I live at 4,500 ft and regularly do climbs that go up to 8900 ft, just a thought not sure if that could be it.

    I’m actually going to purchase the Pioneer next, it looks the most appealing especially with their head unit and although you’re stuck with shimano cranks and rings you’ve got a lot of choices chainring-wise. I race a lot in south east Asia and there are often very steep sustained climbs, 15-20% a lot of the time, so the ability to go from 53/39 to 52/36 or even 50/34 if need be without swapping the whole crank would be very useful for me.

    Reply
  79. Vince

    Great thread, thanks Ray!

    I am a newbie and purchased a Cervelo S3 last year. I have been training with power this winter (Kurt Kinetic) and would like to continue to do so this season outdoors. The crank (Rotor 3D30 BBright 52/36) is compatible with the VectorS (single sided power is ok with me), and Power2Max meters. Cost is similar too. Which would you suggest? Also the P1 pedals are coming out soon, would you wait for these before buying?

    My bike comes with a 11 speed (11/25) cassette, would you change to 11/27 or 11/32 for the hills?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Chuck

      You also have to make sure that your rear derailleur can handle the wider gear ratios. If you have Shimano, make sure you have a GS or SGS, to hold the extra chain.

      Reply
  80. jooo

    Have you ever used a MEP? link to aip-mep.com

    Reply
  81. juan sánchez

    Thanks for another great post, Ray.
    I´ve reading about iBike Newton PM. Any word on it?

    Reply
    • Iván Higuera Mendieta

      It is quite affordable, but also have a lot of trouble with calibration. Also, you can’t use it indoors because use wind changes as a measure of changes in power. Actually, it seems a little to complex for me, I would look for the new PowerTab PM, they are in a good price range.

      Reply
    • If you search the page for ‘iBike’, you’ll find a few of my thoughts, within the comments on it. Might help…

      Reply
  82. Jim in Colorado

    I used an iBike for about 4 years and it enabled me to dramatically improve my fitness by doing power-based intervals. I went from finishing mid-pack in my target events (mountain bike races in Winter Park, CO) to winning and moving up a category. You can use an iBike indoors for trainers that are listed in their software. I used it indoors on my Kurt Kinetic Road trainer for years. The primary issue for iBike to to keep everything the same as when you did your calibration testing (aka “coast downs”) — weight, tire pressure, etc. If you calibrate when you and your bike weigh 190 pounds and then add or subtract a bunch of weight, it will under or over-report power. If you calibrate on a very hard/smooth surface (i.e. new concrete) and then ride a rough surface, it may under-report.

    Bottom line on the iBike: you can definitely use an iBike to train with power. My race results improved dramatically and I know others who have been very successful as well.

    With that said, my road bike has an SRM and I ordered a 4iiii for my TT bike which is the bike I was using the iBike on.

    Reply
    • juan sánchez

      Hi Jim:

      I´ve being doing some reserch and I am convinced that the ibike is the PM that fits my needs better.
      Before I go on, I´d like to say that perhaps I will brake the protocol rules of this site with this message. It´s not my intention; and if in fact I´m braking the rules, please delete this post, Ray.
      Any way, Jim, I´d like to know if you have your ibike available for sale. If so, please reply to me at cafedeltorero@gmail.com

      Juan

      Reply
    • Jim in Colorado

      I sold it and now regret it. Having an iBike and a direct-force PM would enable me to test aero setups on my TT bike. That would be extremely cool. Instead of guessing, I would know for sure which helmet, hand position, etc are fastest.

      Reply
  83. juan sánchez

    Thank you to Iván, ray and Jim for the feedback regardin iBike PM.

    Reply
  84. bruno oliveira

    hi, it woud be nice if you did test on the latest Ibike Newton. You have tested all the others power meters. i think yould be fair.

    *thank you for your review on Bkoll, i bouht after i read your review, it´s great!

    thank you

    Reply
  85. Wendy

    As a supportive wife I want to buy my husband a power meter for his birthday. After diligently reading most of the article :) what would you suggest for an ironman distance cyclist. Also does this cycle power meter also meet the requirement? link to indiegogo.com

    Reply
    • I’d definitely ignore the LIMITS one (see my post from yesterday).

      As for buying one for him, it’s tricky as it depends a lot on what he’s looking for in terms of portability (i.e. using on multiple bikes).

      The best deals right now from a fully trusted and fully capturing data standpoint are: Quarq RIKEN AL, Power2Max, and PowerTap.

      Reply
    • Paul S

      I’ve told my wife never to buy me anything related to cycling or cross country skiing or computers without consulting me first, because I have very specific needs in all of these and I know what I want. The best thing to do is ask him specifically exactly what he wants before buying anything.

      Reply
    • Vaskez

      Hi, Mr. DCR.
      If Precision bouth side configuration will work perfect in practice, How low can or should drop basic options from Quarq, Power2Max and PowerTap ?

      Thank you in advance,
      Vaskez

      Reply
  86. bruno oliveira

    in my opinion, there is a long way in the development. the brand 4iiii´s ifirst said that in late 2014 they would shiping , now they say in late 2015… this other company “LIMITS” don´t even speak when they will start to sell. for what i now the development is very hard and cost a lot.

    it woud be better to buy one that is in the stores now.

    Reply
    • Umm, 4iiii’s is already shipping and have been for nearly a month.

      Reply
    • bruno oliveira

      ohh, so that´s good to now!

      i have a ibike newton 5 and would be nice to compare with the 4iiii precision

      Reply
  87. Lilian

    I have found this review extremely useful apart from the lack of a current review of the iBike Newton5. This new version seems to address many of the concerns expressed in the past and for a dual pedal solution its actually very competitively priced, given than Garmin will cost me several hundred pounds more.

    I know how long it takes to get a product to market and the software bugs ironed out so I was going to go for the Stages but I run a 165 crank which I have only just fitted and they are hard to find and never discounted so for a few pounds more I can get the iBike. I would have gone for a powertap but I had my custom wheels made last year when I wasn’t thinking about a power meter and since I just changed my cranks I don’t want to do it again. That is why the iBike is so attractive as I have to change nothing and I know its fiddly to setup but I can handle that so I look forward to trying it. Its just a shame its so hard to find in Europe.

    Reply
    • Keep in mind that the Newton5 isn’t a dual-pedal solution. It doesn’t measure anything at the crank. It can connect to existing direct force power meters, but it’s not a direct force power meter by itself.

      Reply
  88. bruno oliveira

    i´m using the newton for almost for 1 year. i bougth it on a sale, it cost me the price of garmin 510.

    Reply
  89. Markus

    Ray,
    do you have an ETA of your Keo Power BLE in depth review (or V650 review if the Polar BLE pedals are just a part of it)?
    As i’m interested in buying the Keo Power Essential pedals for my Ambit3, do you think (or know) if they also work well with non Polar head units (e.g. Ambit3, iPhone).
    Thank you in advance,
    Markus

    Reply
  90. Isaac DeRobles

    Hey man, I was hoping maybe you could help me clear few things. I’m looking at the most economical way of purchasing a power meter. My training switches from my giant propel with shimano ultegra di2, and my cervelo p5 six with sram red group set. Can i use the stages power meter crank for both bikes? I’m not sure if the p5 crank is compatitible. I know you ride a cervelo, so what would you suggest? Thank you!

    Reply
  91. JakiChan

    I just noticed this, on the new S-Works Venge Vias DI2:

    “The S-Works Power crankset features our highest quality carbon construction for the best in lightweight power transfer, while also featuring a fully integrated Bluetooth/ANT+ compatible Quarq powermeter.”

    So…Quarq is going Bluetooth?

    link to specialized.com

    Reply
  92. Joe

    Any major updates for 2015? If you were buying a new power meter today (and you can only have 1) what would you buy? Scratch that, you can have 2– one that does left right, and one that doesn’t (either hub mounted or single sided).

    Thanks!

    Reply
  93. Jerome

    Hi, and thanks for sharing so much information

    if i want to use Osymetric chainring or anything non looking like a perfect circle, would you still recommend crank arm/spider powermeter? I am considering either a crank arm solution or a powertap at the moment.

    tks,

    J

    Reply
    • If you’ve got o-rings, I’d go with the PowerTap hub. The only other supported option is the ROTOR power meter, but I personally didn’t have much luck with that.

      Reply
  94. Julio

    Hi Ray, any clue where to buy either the 4iiii or the Stages here in France? I looked into Amazon.fr and Wiggle and no luck. Do you have any partnerships like you do with Clever Training but on French shops or at least in mainland Europe (in Euros). Thanks.

    Reply
    • I’m honestly not sure on either of those to be honest. Neither would be on Wiggle or Amazon.fr, but I believe if you go to both of their sites it’ll redirect you.

      I don’t yet have a partnership live in the EU…very soon hopefully (it’s signed, just sorting out technical implementation items).

      Reply
  95. Mark Cuneo

    Hi Ray,

    Excellent article, I definitely appreciate the “Would I buy it comments” My situation is a little unique. I want a power meter and I want to switch to a compact crank (and yes price is always important). I curious if you could give some direction. Is there a great compact crank/power meter option or should I just pick the best power meter and select the compact crank separately. I have a Giant TCR with Ultegra.

    Thank you!

    Mark

    Reply
    • The compact crank element wouldn’t really impact things too much – since almost all of the crank based power meter companies offer compact crank options. Thus, I’d decide on a power meter first, and then validate they have the crank you prefer.

      Reply
  96. dan

    Do you think Watteam will have the PowerBeat out this summer? Seems like they are having some issues, have you heard anything?

    Reply
    • No, not this summer.

      That said, I just spent the week test-riding a unit (and they spent the week up here in Paris). I’ll have a post published later in the week with all the details.

      Reply
  97. lolwatts

    Not as much ‘real’ movement as i expected since this was published.

    Any plans for a 2015 Guide?

    Reply
    • Yes, another new guide in September.

      As for real movement, we’ve seen most of the major players now in the $600-$700 range with the Spring 2015 pricing wars, plus new entrants like bePRO and 4iiii have started shipping. Not to mention PowerTap P1 and C1 also shipping.

      Reply
  98. Marc steingrand

    Ray great as usual.

    I have the following question , I have a tri bike which has actually the power tap installed this works so far fine I have it about 7 years now.
    But I was thinking going some investments to my bike , like the di2 for doing so I need to change my cranks and gears from ten to eleven that said not sure if the power tap will still work?
    Next I have also a MTB on which I thought why not have power on that so the option I was thinking is buying a pedal solution,
    Is there any solution out at this time which would work on MTb and road bike?
    P1 vector 2?
    Thanks for your help

    Reply
  99. lolwatts

    to ease the lack of excitement (and inevitable disappointment for many) after the giveaway how about a “Wild Predictions” post that predates the two major exhibition shows that are coming up.
    I’ll go first.

    New Stages, dual sided (priced at 70% of P1) – but left side only can also be used for quick/easy transfer.
    P2M real terms (€) price reduction.
    Garmin Vector price reduction (to match P1)
    SRM do nothing.
    Various “shipping soon” dates that fail to materialise.

    Am i correct that there are two shows coming up, and two shows in Spring?
    As far as i can remember Stages announcements have always been during the September shows, correct?

    Reply
  100. AD

    Anxiously awaiting the 2015 guide and holding off my power meter / new bike purchase until it’s published!

    Reply
  101. Matt W

    Not sure if this has already been mentioned but I looked into the option of using Power2max using the 4i’s Viiii smart BT/Ant+ bridge with my V650 and V800. Here’s the reply I got direct from Power2max….

    Hello Matt,
    yes, we have tested it and we are not satisfied, it doesn´t work.
    Please have a look at:link to o-synce.com
    But this is not our main competence so please get in contact with O-Synce. They could help you , of course.
    We ourselves don´t have any Bluetooth solution and we are currently not planning.
    Thanks and best wishes

    Your power2max Team

    Reply
  102. I am looking for a “budget” power meter to use on the trainer during the Colorado Winters. I am not a racer, I’m 51 220# and ride about 1,500 miles a year. While I love riding, I try to keep my cycling fitness though the cold wet months – on the trainer.

    With the various programs out there (TrainerRoad, Zwift) it would be nice to be able to utilize some of they Power Features – but spending $1,000 or ever $500 is a bit much for a couple of months of fitness training?

    Are there any “budget” PMs that do a relatively good job?

    Reply
  103. Scott

    Ray,

    I might have missed it, but in the US, is the P2M pm only available for purchase directly from them?

    Reply