[Please see my 2016 Edition of the Power Meter Buyers Guide Located here.]
With all the new power meter products on the market recently, I figured it’s time to do a bit of a re-group and explain the options and some of my recommendations. 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.
It’s important to remember that no one power meter is a perfect fit for everyone. The cycling market has many unique use cases and thus you’ll need to take into consideration your requirements. For example, it’d be silly to go out and buy the 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. These are examples of technical limitations.
But there are also some non-technical limitations to consider. For example, a product being offered in your country. As it stands today for example you can’t pick up a Stages Power Meter outside of North America and the UK. Thus if you’re training with Froome at his birth home in Kenya or South Africa, you may want to consider how support and exchanges work in the event you crash into a wild buck.
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 traditional 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 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.
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
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. 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. 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 and Brim Brothers (not on market yet).
Features and Functionality:
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 fake ones!). This is simply measuring and transmitting your total power output to a head unit of some type.
ANT+ Support: Another relatively obvious one, every power meter on the market today except the Polar/Look solution has this. This allows you to use one of dozens of different head units out there. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t recommend buying a unit that doesn’t include ANT+ today. I’ll talk more about that later.
Bluetooth Smart: Bluetooth Smart (or BLE/BTLE for short) is the relative newcomer in the market. As it stands today, the only unit offering this is the Stages power meter – which offers dual ANT+/BLE. I’m a huge fan of what Stages did by going dual. PowerTap has recently announced they plan to offer interchangeable caps for it as well. And while not quite as ideal as dual, the interchangeable caps makes a lot of sense going forward. Nonetheless, I also wouldn’t recommend today buying a Bluetooth Smart-only power meter (though, there’s none on the market yet). The reason is simple: There aren’t any Bluetooth Smart head units that don’t require a cell-phone. Meaning, you can’t use a Garmin Edge (any version) with it, nor anything else today. I think we’ll see new units by next spring, but as it stands today, nothing.
Estimated Left/Right Power: This became all the rage over the last 18 months or so, 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.
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.
Pedal Smoothness & Torque Efficiency: These two metrics are just making it into the high-end power meters which contain true left/right power measurement. Today that’s only the Rotor and Pioneer units, but Garmin has stated they’ll be adding it down the line via firmware update.
Battery Swapping: All but one unit on the market today (SRM) supports battery swapping by yourself. SRM requires you to send it in. 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.
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. 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.
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.
From a cost standpoint their recent cuts three weeks ago have pretty significantly changed the power market landscape. Every company I’ve talked to is talking about it (except SRM, who simply doesn’t care about PowerTap). 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).
Looking at the servicing side, I’ve heard nothing but good things on the customer service front – which I believe is really important in a power meter. Though, it’s largely a trend I see repeated throughout the industry. Of course, for power meter companies it’s quite frankly too small of a niche to ignore your customers and get away with it.
Finally, looking at the G3 vs recent GS models, I personally would save the cash and go for G3 over the slightly more expensive GS. Obviously, personal preferences around component types might sway your decision. Also, while the Bluetooth Smart caps aren’t out yet – I really like the fact that they are relatively changeable, at a price point just over $100US – so as the technology landscape expands to include Bluetooth Smart head units, it allows you to make a shift if need be.
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, I just brought the unit you see above a month ago. 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
(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.)
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 shipped 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 be 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 also is the only company out there to have an iPhone and Android app that can modify power meter settings, allowing you to change many internal settings on the power meter if required. Nobody else comes close in this department.
Last year Quarq introduced their SRAM RED unit which in turn introduced estimated left/right power. As I noted above, this 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.
Roughly two years ago SRAM purchased them and as a result their prices have seen a slight but steady rise since then. My concern (and one I’ve shared in person with the Quarq and SRAM folks), is that at this point RIKEN is priced at $1,600US, while Vector is priced at $1,700US. No doubt there may be slim small-percentage edge cases where Vector doesn’t work (i.e. specific wide crank arms or track bikes), but in most cases I’d pay the extra $100 for portability and left/right potential (even if some of that is still undefined). Accuracy on both is equivalent from what I’m seeing.
Further, comparing RIKEN to the less expensive PowerTap makes it even more difficult to justify, given PowerTap is literally half the price for the same accuracy. Obviously, there are placement differences however. And this is all before we even start talking about the ELSA and RED units at $2,000. In my opinion, a more reasonable price for RIKEN (for example) would be sitting about half-way between the PowerTap and the Vector pedals. In talking extensively about this with Quarq/SRAM, they note the following: “We are watching the market and excited that more people will be introduced to power, but we have no immediate plans to alter our prices.”
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.
Disadvantages: Crank arm selection has diminished some with SRAM purchase (reducing compatibility), pricing isn’t as competitive at this point.
Would I buy it: From the standpoint of “Have I bought it?”, the answer is obviously yes. From the technical standpoint, I have no issues with the units – I’ve recently tested the RIKEN, which you’ll see in a review in the next couple days, and I’m currently testing the ELSA. 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, Quarq ELSA review upcoming later this month.
Power2Max has been on the scene for roughly a little over 2 years now. With the addition of their second generation (v2) units last fall, they took care of a number of outstanding issues that gave me concern on previous v1 units (specifically, temperature drift). You’ll remember from the review I did last winter that I saw no major issues with the newly designed units. Last week at Eurobike they introduced a new unit which greatly expands their crank set compatibility position, as well as in some cases reduces the prices for certain combinations.
Last year they added estimated left/right power breakouts, though as I’ll note repeatedly here – there’s no real known value in that today except injury recovery tracking.
The units are typically sold 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 it’s really improved greatly with last week’s announcements.
The only issues I see with Power2Max come from a distribution and servicing standpoint. Today all distribution flows through a single point in North America (and similar in other regions). This means that I often hear that both order fulfillment and servicing can be slow (and with a lot of shipping back and forth). Customer service is generally quite good, but the logistics garner more complaints than I hear from others. Further, their online ordering “process” requires bank transfers – which is a sticking point for many (as a small business owner myself with my wife, you simply need to get over the credit card fees and offer that or PayPal as an option. [Edit: They just revamped their site and now offer PayPal – woot!]).
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: Purchasing and servicing can be difficult to navigate. There isn’t a method to turn off auto-zero today on units.
Would I buy it: I wouldn’t have any problems purchasing a Power2Max unit (once I got past the initial purchasing wonkiness), I think they’re a stable unit with great ANT+ compatibility across the board.
Relevant Posts: Power2Max Power Meter In-Depth Review, Power2Max releases new Type S line, expands compatibility
The Polar/Look Power System pedals are about 18 months old at this point, but really started to reach normal distribution channels last summer, about the same time I released my in-depth review of them. From a functional standpoint the pedals appeared to work fairly well, and did correlate fairly well with other power meters. However, the bigger challenge I believe is that while pedals are desired because of portability – the way the installation of the Look/Keo system is, it’s not at all terribly easy to correctly move from bike to bike quickly.
However, more challenging is really the head units that are compatible with the unit. Right now there’s only a couple Polar units compatible with the unit, both of which are pretty bad when it comes to being cycling head units and functionality (at least, comparable to anything released this decade). This really minimizes the value of using power while on the bike. While they record data fine (albeit, have heavy limitations of only about 5-8 hours of recording time), the on-bike analysis is limited to simply showing current instant power, and current instant distribution. That’s it. Further, since it’s all legacy Polar W.I.N.D. – it’s compatible with none of the numerous other (ANT+) units on market, or even cell-phone apps (such as via Bluetooth Smart, Bluetooth or ANT+).
From a servicing standpoint, virtually everything has to go back to Polar, and then be sent back to Look. Which, depending on your dealer/distributor, may introduce delays into product replacement.
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 mess (zipties and all), portability while theoretical, isn’t real. It’s just not that easy to move between bikes quickly or efficiently. Limitations on crank widths/lengths, and finally, the worst head unit out on the market today for power meters (it was fine 3-4 years ago however).
Would I buy it: I really can’t at this point recommend the Polar/Look system – at least until they either release a functional cycling head unit that’s compatible with it (read: displays more than two power fields), or, release the long-promised Bluetooth Smart power update pods for it (to allow transmission over Bluetooth Smart). Even then, they need to add more functionality to justify the steep price, and a way to actually validate the calibration in some manner.
Relevant Review: Polar Look Keo Power System–Pedal Based Power Meter–In-Depth Review, Update on Polar/Look Keo Pedal Power Meter Bluetooth Smart Plans
The Garmin Vector pedals finally hit the market after years of product development – initially starting off as Metrigear before shifting to ownership under Garmin. Since then further delays ensued due to manufacturing challenges. However with release and availability last month things finally appear to be on the straight and narrow for them.
Vector is a pedal-based power meter that is fully contained within the pedals and the small pods that attach to them. Like the Polar solution it measures true left/right power at the pedal, however unlike Polar it uses the ANT+ standard – thus allowing you to pick and choose which head unit you want from any company that supports ANT+ (almost everyone). The system is designed to be firmware updatable over time, with the Vector team already outlining some of their future plans.
The single biggest issue folks have with Vector today is the pedal platform choice. It’s only offered in a Look-Keo compatible platform, meaning if you use something else you’ll have to shift pedal/cleat types. Additionally, it’s primarily focused on road bikes today, with variants in the pipeline for mountain bikes and other cycling types. Further, it has some limitations around chain clearance and crank-arm widths that may impact some folks.
Pricing wise the Vector Pedals came in $200 more than Garmin previously had announced, at $1,700 – and nearly $700 more than the Metrigear estimated prior to Garmin acquisition. However, that still places them lower than other units such as the Quarq RED/ELSA, SRM units, ROTOR, Pioneer, and Polar.
While you’ll see my in-depth review likely pop-up next week, I’m simply not seeing issues at this point with the unit. It’s just working as expected. The only drawbacks I’m seeing right now are related to installation, and that’s not an issue – it’s just you need to ensure to follow directions. A reasonable request I suppose.
Advantages: Portability between different bikes. Least expensive true Left/right power with potential for more advanced fit-type metrics down the road via firmware updates.
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: At this point, yes. Short of someone finding something really odd in any of the piles of data I’ve publically posted (and others have already analyzed at insane levels) – I’m simply not seeing any accuracy issues. Taking power values at face value every single ride that I’ve done after installing correctly I’m seeing solid. For me, the pedal platform/type wasn’t an issue. Obviously, for others it might be. I also simply don’t have concerns about pedal-breakage issues. As I showed in updated photos in my “First-Look” post, it’s really darn difficult to hit the pods, and even if you managed to break the pedal itself (which is strengthened), then you’re only talking $200 out of pocket.
Relevant Post: First hands-on look & rides with the Garmin Vector power meter
Stages Power splashed onto the scene last September (2012) at Interbike, announcing a $699 direct force power meter. Obviously, given the previous price points that attracted a lot of attention. Upon launching the product in January they had a bit of a rocky start due to some initial firmware teething problems. In the months following they issued firmware updates that from all my testing can tell have resolved the issues (and that’s four months worth of day after day testing).
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. Meaning that if your power balance is significantly non-even, you’ll see your power numbers differ from actual. While there are some studies that look at left/right power, I’ve found them to be so narrow in focus it’s unclear what the impact is. However, as I’m seeing with Vector – there are variations in left/right power in various circumstances. I think over the next few years we’ll understand those better as data becomes easier to collect and researchers begin to understand it better.
In the meantime, I saw that from an accuracy standpoint that in general it was ‘within range’ of other power meters, and you could certainly use it to pace an event, or chart your progress in training. No doubt however that the most ardent of power meter users will find Stages left-only design problematic.
On the technology front I LOVE their ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart dual broadcasting design. And the fact that I can quickly update the firmware from my phone. I’ve also found the zero-offset aspect the most stable out there, albeit it lacks a way to independently validate that calibration.
Looking at customer service, I’ve heard absolutely nothing but positive comments from readers. Overnighting crank replacement out for any issue appears to be the norm, and owning up to things doesn’t appear to be a problem.
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 partial power issues). I think at this point Stages may need to lower their prices further. However do keep in mind that the Stages is definitely more portable, and can easily move between bikes – assuming the crank arms are the same on your bikes (or similar enough).
Advantages: Least-expensive unit on the market today. 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 globally, nor available on carbon crank arms.
Would I buy it: This is a much more complex question than it was even 30 days ago (in case you’re curious, I bought mine about 3 months ago). On the technical merits, I’m simply not seeing any issues. Obviously, each person needs to evaluate the left-only piece. On the 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.
Relevant Review: Stages Power Meter In-Depth Review Update
ROTOR announced their power meter last year at Eurobike, with availability starting back in the January timeframe. 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. And at present, they remain the only unit on the market with that capability.
While they did release the unit this past winter it’s had more than its share of teething problems, frustrating users. The most recent update last week (Software Update 8: SW8) sounds like it’s solving many of those initial issues, but it’ll remain to be seen if it can satisfy all the issues.
I’ve long talked with ROTOR about doing a review and plan to later this fall after Interbike. Realistically that puts conclusion of the review closer to the Thanksgiving timeframe, assuming the unit arrives on time and the testing goes as planed.
Advantages: Full left/right power, ability to track additional stroke/balance metrics – only unit on market to do so.
Disadvantages: Limited compatibility with crank sets, rough history up until this point with firmware/platform stability. Expensive – $2,350US.
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
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. Their announcements around the PC8 seem to signal a solid and more technologically savvy direction for the company moving forward into 2014.
SRM’s strength has always been around data capture and data accuracy, especially on the head units. From a power meter standpoint, 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.
While SRM and I have talked about doing a product review, I’m not sure there’s a substantial benefit in me doing one. I think their accuracy level is well understood, and their current head unit limitations also well understood. As they get closer on the PC8 – I’m definitely interested in seeing how that shapes up (it’s targeted for May 2014). From a pure component/technical specification standpoint (BT/GPS/ANT+/WiFi/etc…) the PC8 head unit has the potential to stand alone in the field (albeit at 2-3 times the price of others).
Advantages: It’s a well established brand with a well understood product. The accuracy is generally top-notch. 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 point, but not in this market.
Relevant Post: First look at new SRM PC8 head unit with WiFi/GPS/ANT+ & Bluetooth
Pioneer announced their system last year at Eurobike, and then formally offered it for sale last week at Eurobike. The unit starts at 2,500€, with US pricing still to be announced in two weeks at Interbike. The Pioneer unit measures left/right power using independent power meters on each crank arm. They received significant internet “attention” due to the fact that the pods on each arm appear to be ziptied on, though that has been resolved since last year. Now they are cemented to each crank arm (though, the internal hub component is partially ziptied on). The installation is limited to certified bike shops only – thus reducing the penetration of the unit (along with the high price).
I haven’t yet personally used the Pioneer system though have had significant discussions with them about it, but they have offered units for me to test/review. Given I haven’t used it, I don’t want to offer too much conclusive thought one way or the other. I plan to look at and review the unit once I get into the fall period, as right now I’m pretty backed up on power meters.
Advantages: Impressive head unit comes with it, has the highest recording rate of any power meter on the market today (starting at 12 samples per second (at 60RPM), faster the higher the cadence), measures left/right power and associated metrics more in-depth than anyone else.
Disadvantages: Complex installation, must be done by certified dealer. Some questions around supportability of components post-installation cementing. Really darn expensive.
Would I buy it: I can’t comment at this point since there simply isn’t enough information available yet to make a solid decision one way or the other.
Relevant Posts: No full in-depth review, but recent information here, and older information here.
Non-Direct Force Options:
There are 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.
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, though, perhaps down the road again I will. I know many folks swear by it, but I found it finicky from a setup/installation standpoint. Given the price of the Stages power meter, I’d really recommend looking at that instead.
There’s a lot of folks doing a lot of work on power meters. I’d say that I’m getting roughly one e-mail a week from a ‘new’ company on the scene looking to talk about their new power meter that they’re working to bring to market. I’d guess perhaps 10% of them will make it to market. At the moment, the general rule of thumb I’m applying is that if a company is fearful of sending me a unit – then they don’t likely have a unit worth buying (which isn’t to try and sound self-important, but rather to put into perspective the very long lead times for power meter development). In the power meter industry, getting 95% of the work done isn’t good enough. It’s the last 5% – or even the last 2% that can take months or even years to get right.
There are others that have popped up briefly via Kickstarter and the like as well. Right now, I’d say that none of them are at the point where I’d wait for them. Once pricing is announced and units without strings hit media folks (doesn’t have to be me), then start paying attention. Until then, reap the racing benefits of training and racing with power now at a price point you can afford.
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.
|Function/Feature||PowerTap G3 Hub||Garmin Vector||Polar/Look Keo Power||Power2Max (Oct 12+)||Quarq Elsa R/RS||Quarq Riken R||Stages Power Meter|
|Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated May 14th, 2021 @ 3:10 pm New Window|
|Price||$599 (no wheel)||$1499||$2295 (pedals only)||$729 (no cranks)/$749 (cranks)||$1299 (R with cranks, no chainrings)/$1399 (RS)||$1099 (with cranks, no chainrings)||$529 (left crank arm only)|
|Measurement Type||Direct Force||Direct Force||Direct Force||Direct Force||Direct Force||Direct Force||Direct Force|
|Attachment area||Rear Wheel Hub||Pedals||Pedals||Crank Spider||Crank Spider||Crank Spider||Left Crank|
|Attachment limitations||N/A||Look Keo Compatible pedals only||Look Keo Pedals Only||Specific supported cranks||Specific supported cranks||Specific supported cranks||Specific supported cranks|
|Weight (additional/net)||315g/325g (full hub)||175g per pedal (inclusive)||24g||From 189g + crank||Elsa R: 576g/Elsa RS: 616g (including cranks)||From 659g (including cranks)||20g|
|Wireless Connectivity Type||ANT+/Bluetooth Smart (depends on cap)||ANT+||Polar W.I.N.D.||ANT+||ANT+||ANT+||ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart|
|Unit auto-turns on when on bike||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Battery||PowerTap G3 Hub||Garmin Vector||Polar/Look Keo Power||Power2Max (Oct 12+)||Quarq Elsa R/RS||Quarq Riken R||Stages Power Meter|
|Battery Life||300 hours||175 hours||465 hours||300-400 hours||300 hours||300 hours||200 hours|
|User or Factory battery replacement||User||User||User||User||User||User||User|
|Battery type||CR2032||CR2032||2 x CR2354||CR2450||CR2032||CR2032||CR2032|
|Low Battery Warning||Yes||Yes, 20 hours||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Features||PowerTap G3 Hub||Garmin Vector||Polar/Look Keo Power||Power2Max (Oct 12+)||Quarq Elsa R/RS||Quarq Riken R||Stages Power Meter|
|Measures/Transmits Cadence||Yes (Estimated)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Ability to update firmware||Yes||Yes||No||Factory Only||Qalvin App & USB ANT+ Stick||Qalvin App & USB ANT+ Stick||Yes|
|Transmits Left/Right Power Balance (Estimated)||No||N/A||N/A||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Transmits Left/Right Power Balance (Measured)||No||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Transmits Pedal Smoothness||No||Planned||No||No||No||No||No||Accuracy||PowerTap G3 Hub||Garmin Vector||Polar/Look Keo Power||Power2Max (Oct 12+)||Quarq Elsa R/RS||Quarq Riken R||Stages Power Meter|
|Measures all power output||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Claimed Accuracy Level||+/- 1.5%||+/- 1.5%||+/- 2%||+/- 2%||+/- 1.5%||+/- 1.5%||+/- 2% (of left leg)|
|Includes temperature compensation||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Done at factory||Done at factory||Yes|
|Supports auto-zero function||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Supports manual calibration||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Supports hanging weights (static test)||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Software||PowerTap G3 Hub||Garmin Vector||Polar/Look Keo Power||Power2Max (Oct 12+)||Quarq Elsa R/RS||Quarq Riken R||Stages Power Meter|
|Phone App to Configure/Test||No||Desktop App (PC/Mac)||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Purchase||PowerTap G3 Hub||Garmin Vector||Polar/Look Keo Power||Power2Max (Oct 12+)||Quarq Elsa R/RS||Quarq Riken R||Stages Power Meter|
|Amazon||Link||Link||Link||N/A||Link||Link||N/A||DCRainmaker||PowerTap G3 Hub||Garmin Vector||Polar/Look Keo Power||Power2Max (Oct 12+)||Quarq Elsa R/RS||Quarq Riken R||Stages Power Meter|
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?
At the end of the day, there’s no single right answer to this question. There’s only ‘best’ answers for a given individual. 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. Based on what I see today, there won’t be any substantial new power meter products on the market until realistically next spring (at earliest). You may see new crank options and the like between now and then – but nothing dramatic.
I do however think we’ll continue to see pricing shifts. That’s simply inevitable as more players enter the market and fight for your cash.
Finally, as I was putting together this post starting earlier this month I saw a similar post from Alex Simmons popup, albeit with a slightly different perspective. Alex is a sharp guy with a lot of good knowledge on power, and his post 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!
Mountain Bike Application? Should that not be on your comparison?
Power meters and mountain biking is tricky right now. The options are slim, and how people actually use power in mountain biking also varies wildly (most just doing analysis). Given I don’t mountain bike with power, it’s not something I’m too comfortable covering as it’d be outside my area of expertise.
Awesome. A guide for my 2nd bike power meter. 🙂
Top quality as always 🙂
Sadly has not helped my Power2Max vs Stages conundrum, but that’s something only I can decide 🙂
On a side note, Power2Max must have heard your comments and they have a revamped website, much easier now.
+1 on second comment.
Just ordered a Power2Max last night using Paypal.
In your Stages article above, I believe you meant to say “Stages” instead of “Powertap” in the following line:
“However do keep in mind that the PowerTap is definitely more portable, and can easily move between bikes – assuming the crank arms are the same on your bikes (or similar enough).”
If you did mean Powertap, then I’m confused as how are the crank arms involved…
Good catch, fixed! Thanks!
Really great overview. Thanks Ray.
One question: for Power2Max you mention “…reduces the prices for certain combinations” – although I cannot find a new pricing on their website. Can you clarify which combinations have been reduced?
Yes, for North American buyers specifically, they have reduced the FSA crank with the 2nd generation P2M to $899, and $999 with chain rings.
A tiny bit more details (and a pic!) in this post here (with the Power2Max responding very actively to questions there as well): link to dcrainmaker.com
Gotcha. Thanks. Obviously this is US only so I could not find anything on their European / German site 🙂
in Europe we have the BOR Bundle that’s very attractive. Plus in both markets, if you qualified for Kona, you are also in for a treat – see our websites for details.
Really enjoy your blog.
I’ve never used a power meter before, however interested incorporating into my tri training, so would welcome some advice on the best value option for a newbie who wants standard power readings as a start.
Excellent test! Thank you so much!
Your continued hard work is (almost ironically) of inestimable worth, Ray. I know I speak for many when I say that this is the first place I turn for an in-depth, critical analysis of triathlon tech or the state of the industry at large – and all credit to you.
When I’m in Paris next I’ll try and catch the cupcakery before you sell out, last time I wasn’t quick enough (story of my life)! Thank you!
Re ability to update firmware for Quarq Red/ELSA – via Qalvin app and Wahoo key (seems to work for me!)? PS thanks as always for the great post(s).
That’s true, though, they don’t make it widely available – meaning, it tends to be only for support incidents. In talking with them last about it, it wasn’t a proactive thing, but rather a reactive thing. That said, I’ll see if that stance has changed.
100% – I only discovered it after emailing them about drop outs (to their credit, I received a swift and detailed reply). The SRAM/Quarq distributors here is Aust (or at least my State) didn’t know about it. My key has been used by more than a few friends (and friends of friends) since!
any indication if quarq are going to update their firmware to support Pedal Smoothness and Torque Effectiveness ?
dunno if I really need it but more data is good ? right ?
In order to accurately implement that they’d need to measure both left and right power independently.
you don’t think their estimates as used on the red/elsa would be close enough ?. Seems to me it’s all a bit of an estimate anyway ?
The ANT+ definition of Torque Efficiency requires it be calculated per crank arm: link to sites.google.com
Pedal smoothness does permit one to do it for non-L/R systems: link to sites.google.com
So, they could do estimations for Torque Efficiency and simply double it (similar to L/R estimates now). That said, what these metrics truly mean in the training sense is still up for grabs.
From my perspective, if Quarq were to add anything via firmware, I’d like to see them support the transmission of zero offset values in non-German mode such that O-Synce and hopefully other units can pick them up and record those values.
Great review – thanks.
Any word on if/when Garmin might introduce new pedal formats for the Vector system?
They specified that they would be targeting mountain bikes first, but didn’t specify a timetable, nor precise pedal type.
Ray, in your section on “Features and Functionality” you forgot one thing: temperature adjustment. Can you add this along with a summary of which power meters offer this and how well they work?
I’ve got it included in the comparison tables (expand), and then under the section: “ACCURACY: INCLUDES TEMPERATURE COMPENSATION”.
It’s an area that’s really hard to nail-down from a testing standpoint, simply because getting good solid temperature swings on a single ride is tough (for me, in Paris). If I had big mountains nearby, it’s much easier. Or, just a giant walk-in fridge I could move into mid-ride.
You know… The Girl could really benefit from a walk in fridge if the business is going to be scalable…
AFAIK, Stages is only compatible with alloy crankarms. Doesn’t that mean you are SOL if you use Campy and other carbon cranks?
Correct, I noted above that it’s not compatible with carbon cranks.
I had a brief email exchange with them a little while back being a Campy user myself and they mentioned they were looking at the aluminum Athena crank. Haven’t heard back in a while and haven’t followed up so I don’t know how far down that road they got.
Ray, after using a Quarq on my tri bike, I jumped on a Stages pm after your updated review. You got me with “Easy to install. Silly easy”.
I totally agree. Shimano 175 cranks on 4 bikes makes it a no-brainer. The biggest difference is being able to use power on my road bike, commuter, etc.
The one thing that I have come to realize is that the best power meter is the power meter you have with you.
I was thinking the Vector pedals would be the most transportable, but it seems like the Stages is the choice there.
Why didn’t you put the Stages power meter in your comparison chart?
Also, you suggest that Stages has “partial power issues” when you say in the summary of the Stages unit above “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 partial power issues).” I recall in reading the updated full review of the Stages power meter that there was not any substantive difference in the data between the single, left crank only technology that Stages uses vs. those used by the other power meters you tested at the time. Further I think only Vector and maybe one other are using technology that allows you to measure left and right power independently and even the Vector folks aren’t able to articulate the value of having these separate measurements.
I was moving toward the Stages based on your earlier reviews but your Buyer’s Guide is giving me pause. Is there an issue? Is it not worthy of being compared against the others? I see the trade-off of slightly higher price (than only PowerTap) to get more portability now that PowerTap has lowered it’s price, but I’m missing what the power issue is with the Stages. Can you clarify? Thanks for all your great work.
Stages is in the comparison chart. As noted there’s too many columns to display, so you have to click the “New Windows” button in the lower corner of the chart to see it.
The market evolves (even in just three months since posting that review), and with the drop in pricing from PowerTap that simply changes overall thinking on purchasing. A 30% drop does that. It doesn’t change anything I saw technically with Stages, but it simply changes the reality of purchasing today. Just like if SRM were to drop their starting prices to be $1,400 instead of the floor of $2,000 – that would be a major change in pricing – and likely impact overall recommendations.
With Stages, you do have the inherent design limitations around left-leg power. As I called out in that review, the impact of which can be seen in testing (slightly lower power) – however, it wasn’t a major wattage difference for me in day to day riding. You may be different, you might not be. You may fade towards one leg or the other, or you might not. What remains however is that the PowerTap is $100 more, and doesn’t have any of those left-only aspects to be concerned about. Which isn’t to say go out and buy a PowerTap, it’s simply to be aware of the products.
Again, it’s all balance between component location, price and personal preferences.
Thanks for the clarifications Ray. And note, that Stages runs $699 to $899 depending on the cranks you are using. If you use, for example, the Shimano crank sets the Stages is $899 for the 7900 and 9000. So its actually a more expansive option than the PT for some crank types, if you don’t change wheels for training and racing. If you do and you chose to buy a second PT, you are effectively into $1600 range, which puts you up against Vector and just a few hundred dollars under the spider based meters. So Stages might run a few percent lower in absolute power measurement for those who don’t favor one leg or the other (as in your tests) but it’s consistent from ride to ride (as per your tests) and is approximately half the effective price of PT or the others if you plan to always have a power measurement to look at. Have I got that about right?
Yup, that’s a pretty good summary. 🙂
Thanks again Ray,
Great overall guide. I’m getting into MTB endurance race/bike packing and so being able to fit those drive trains is a go/no-go factor. Looking at Stages and PT.
BTW is that the first picture of your new PT wheels? Very Nice!
Thanks! Indeed, the new color-scheme is much more neutral and fits things quite a bit better.
As always a great post! It will be very useful now thay I’m looking for my first power meter.
I’m not sure if you have any experience with PT’s alloy clincher set but im trying to choose between the alloys or the 46mm carbon set that you recently purchased. Do you feel that the 46mm carbons are a good all-around training/racing set?
Realizing this is a currently available/DCRainmaker reviewed PM post this is a bit unrelated but looking at buying a PM next spring at the earliest any information on when brimbrothers will be available? Or anything else I should keep in mind? Leaning towards power2max at this point.
In talking with them last week, they’re aiming for just after the new year. Thus, I’d say spring is plausible. I’m in pretty frequent contact with them, so will definitely share more as able.
Here’s the full details in this post: link to dcrainmaker.com
Urgh, was glad to read about the ability to pay using Paypal when purchasing Power2Max, not so in the UK.
I just purchased a PowerTap G3, really like it so far. I have it hooked up to my 910XT head unit but I am not sure where the speed information is coming from. It looks like its coming from the GPS, but I believe the PowerTap transmits speed information along with cadence and power to the head unit. Is there a way to verify where the speed information is coming from or to ensure that its coming from the PowerTap?
Here’s the order Garmin units use:
Cadence from power meter (except PowerTap hub)
External Cadence sensor
Cadence from PowerTap hub
Speed from PowerTap
Speed from external sensor
Speed from GPS data
Ray, just wanted to thank you for all your hard work. Your site has been invaluable to my decisions with regards to cycling products. Such an amazing resource!
Side note, me and my wife were touring Europe on motorcycles this July (Detroit natives), unfortunately Bertie’s was sold out by the time we got there in the afternoon…so congrats?!?
Hope you enjoyed the touring! Indeed, summer can be sometimes tricky for how many cupcakes to make. We got the hang of it towards the end of July, but it’s oddly very weather dependent. So we estimate each day and try as best as possible to have all flavors left by the end of the day, but not be throwing out tons either. Thanks for stopping by though!
BTW, St Malo/St Michel was awesome, your travel blog came in handy. Our favorite was Chamonix and Aiguille du Midi…and Switzerland for that matter. 2 bikes and 2,700 miles later we’re still married!
Ray, your reviews continue to be the gold standard, just as SRM claims to be the gold standard in PMs — only without the break-the-bank price premium! When Garmin introduced their pedal-based PM last month, I noted that that they were a day late (actually, THREE YEARS late) and a dollar short (or $200 long). Stages may not be compatible with carbon cranks, but I was assured that there wouldn’t be an issue mixing an aluminum left crank with carbon on the right. However, Stages does not make a road BB30-compatible crank (they do offer a MTB BB30 crank), which would require me to purchase a new BB as well — unfortunately, a deal-breaker in my opinion.
So now I’ll reconsider PT, although the weight penalty really concerns me. I’d really love a PM, but not at the cost of a decent bike (SRM, Garmin, Polar, Pioneer — these guys need to realize the market has shifted) or significant added weight. ‘Tis a conundrum indeed.
I don’t think you need a new BB, just an adapter between your BB30 and the GXP.
HI Ray , nice review !
Why would you recommend PT pre-install ? Is there any issue to have it install by my local bike shop? Is the warranty different if not pre-install ? Accuracy ?
Also would you recommend any wheel set or company ? Enve Zipp? By the way you have it mount on what for your bike ? Is it the G3 or G3C ? And what is the different only ceramic component and weight ? Or also accuracy ?
So for all many questions
I’d generally recommend the pre-built wheels, simply for simplicity. Mine is the G3, and it’s purely the ceramic component for weight.
From a wheelset standpoint the part I like about buying them from PowerTap is that if something goes wrong in there, the whole thing is “their problem”, versus having to go to a bike shop, get the hub un-installed from the wheel, send the hub in, and then do it all in reverse.
Ray do you have any thoughts on used vs new for a entry level Power meter?
I’m thinking that with the 30% drop on the PT, the used market should drop significantly and fairly soon.
Stages, Vector, and even P2M won’t have much out in the market yet, but hopefully the used PowerTaps are relatively reliable, and available?
Thanks again for the reviews.
Looking at other units that we would potentially be in a logical position to drop price, I’d guess it’s Quarq. Beyond that we wouldn’t see them from Power2Max. At sub-$1K, they are of course slightly more than the PowerTap, but without wheelset issues.
I certainly wouldn’t expect to see Vector drop prices anytime soon. The reality is they are selling each month just under what SRM sells in an entire year. And that’s before they start doing online sales (either on Garmin, or by any retailer), and before they add additional production lines. The absolute earliest I’d expect a price change would be next year at Eurobike/Interbike – and only if others in the market move or other units come on board at significantly lower prices.
So I’d definitely be focusing on Stages, Power2Max and PowerTap for getting into power.
If I wanted one power meter unit for both road and tri bikes, used in racing and training, would you recommend Stages?
I would look at Stages and Power2Max. Or, look at a PowerTap wheelset you’re comfortable using for both racing and training on both bikes.
I thought Vectors would be the easiest when you need one PM for two bikes (training/racing) ?
Swapping a wheel is definitely the easiest. And, I’d say that swapping a crank arm is actually quicker (and less error-prone) than swapping Vector pedals.
Great summary Ray. Having been a happy user of Powertaps for 3 years I’ve had my Vector pedals for a week now and I’m finally able to benefit from collecting power data on my summer bike setup. As Vector is really two separate power meters it begs the question that accurate left right balance requires each pedal to measure force in an equivalent manner otherwise balance differences will appear. Have you had any discussions with the Vecot team on this and how how the calibration process works for each pedal?
I haven’t yet been able to do static torque tests on each pedal to verify them as the Edge 500 bizarrely doesn’t display the raw torque field. Have you done any tests to check the equivalence of each pedal?
thx for this great overview. I was wondering about the rotor power rating. I am on a rotor power crank since may (HW2 and SW7) and I never had any issues or bad datas so far. Head Unti Garmin Edge 800 and I am using Golden Cheetah and Sportstrack for documentation (sometimes STRAVA for having some fun…
It would be nice to hear what problems other riders have or had?! Only negative thing I could say is that Cadence Values are pretty laggy and slow. Today I did the SW8 update and I will check out whats diffrent in a first ride tomorrow…
The biggest complaints I’ve heard have been around cadence. The challenge with that though is depending on their implementation – cadence can actually drive power accuracy. Thus, incorrect cadence = incorrect power (again, depending on exact implementation). Non-smooth surfaces have also been troublesome for some.
Again, SW8 has made good dents in that though, so hopefully things are on the up and up.
Okay, I will let you know if I find out dramtic changes. A fix of this cadence lag would be great…
By the way… Here in this german blog you can find a test of the Rotor Power Cranks tested on a cyclus2:
link to powermeter24.com
Scroll down to the 15th of August 2013
Excellent article as usual. I currently have a PT wheelset (which gets swapped between my TT, race and training bikes) yet am intrigued by stages (for TT and race bikes). Have you had any problems with data error with regard to having two or more power meters imputing data into training peaks? Do you think the data error from having multiple devices would be marginal or would cause fluctuations in the data?
In general I’m seeing them fairly close. For example I can usually swap either Quarq or Vector data without issue, as both are typically within just a couple of watts. And while PT naturally reads a touch bit lower (due to location), for most things it’s fine. Stages tends to be a touch bit lower, though not always – depends a bit on the ride.
So you will see some variations, but I’d wager that simply not calibrating correctly every.single.time on other devices leads to far more variance than people will admit to.
There is one more crank that should be on the market soon, the iCranks out of Australia. (icranks.com). These are a 2nd generation bilateral crank based system that will have three special features – no other system will have all of them. One will be the included torque analysis software that will allow the user to actually measure pedaling technique (watch video here: link to icranks.com ) for the entire circle (some of us think pedaling technique is actually important). Being an Australian company they have been working closely with the AIS during development. The unit is installed on a pair of dual mode PowerCranks which lead to the second and third advantages. Two, PowerCranks include the ability for the user to easily adjust crank length so it is easy to experiment and test different crank lengths to see what happens to both power and technique. And, third, PowerCranks make it easy for the user to improve technique by forcing the user, at a minimum, to completely unweight on the backstroke (at least for those who think this important).
The cranks are almost ready for prime time. They were at Eurobike and, I am told, will be at Interbike this year. Look for them. The one big thing holding them up is getting certification of the radios used.
Thanks for writing this article, I’ve been looking and struggling with a power meter purchase for a while for my bike and I’ve read your reviews on the Stages… then I read this and I’m even more torn about whether or not I should just buy a PowerTap, or the Stages. 🙂
So many neat options, and so many neat technologies… ugh.
Hi Ray, Do you know if the Garmin team has any analysis on the number of “bike swaps” their Vector spindles can endure before they become useless? I use different bikes for commuting, trainer/rollers, road racing and TT’ing and quite often use each in a single week. Before I drop down $1700 on Vector, I want to know that it’s designed to withstand removal and re-torquing at least a dozen times a month for at least a few years.
Thanks for the continued excellent info!
It wasn’t mentioned previously. But I’ll find out before the review publishes.
Hi Ray – thanks for the complete and honest comparison. Just a note on PowerTap service. We have 30 factory trained service centers around the world. That means for the majority of customers they can get “in-market” service (time zone, language, distance). Most service centers offer 24 hour repair turnaround and they all have the same proprietary tools that we use at the PowerTap factory in Madison.
For athletes who travel a lot for training and racing this is an important consideration… nothing like being in Mallorca for a two week camp and not having your power meter work!! We got you covered.
Thank you for a great overview. I’m most interested in the vector but I’m put off by its pric, but more so by its lack of a track record. Do you have any insight into his it might hold up durability wise compared to SRM or quargs?
It’s simply far too early to say at this point.
I believe torque efficiency and pedalling smoothness over 360 deg. are meaningless and not worth the effort of making them available on a PM. What cycling experts do not realize is that it’s possible to apply continuous maximal torque through 12, 1, 2 and 3 o’c and highly effective torque during the remainder of the 180 deg. power application stroke while in the natural racing drops position. What’s needed from a PM is power application efficiency, (i.e) torque return from force applied in the 180 deg pedalling power stroke and pedaling smoothness over only the 180 deg. effective pedaling sector. Maybe BrimBros will be able to provide these values and verify my claims.
I think you really need to take look at the newer iBike. Set up of the units has been significantly simplified in the last couple of years and the capabilities of the units has also been improved, for example sensitivity of measurements.
I find it unfortunate people base their opinion of iBike on information that is several years out of date.
No doubt. Ultimately though I was really focusing on direct force power meters here.
I, too, would like to see a solid review on the latest iBike Newton. Since I finally entered the 21st Century and recently got a new smart phone (iPhone 5c), I did email the developer to ask if they had any plans to update the iBike Dash + Power to run on the latest iPhones (5s and 5c). He said they did not have any plans to do that as all of their focus was in the iBike Newton.
DC’s review of the direct force power meters is excellent!!!! He made his claims as that is what he is focusing on as well as his reasoning for not considering the review for a mountain biker. That was honest and fair. So the iBike and mountain biking is off topic with regard to the above review and these respones.
I’m in the hunt for a solution as a mountain biker and probably fit the typical amateur profile where power training is done on the trainer in the basement during snow and ice season, on the road bike for a large portion of the better outside weather season, and of course on the mountain bike(s) during dirt/gravel training and racing. So a mountain biker on a budget really needs a solution that is portable due to how the training is spread across several bikes.
That leads me back to what attracted me to DC’s review (the link to DC’s review I followed was from a forum at MountainBikeReview.com).
Boy, Garmin can’t come out with their mtn bike pedal solution fast enough!!!! That would be a perfect solution for me since I ride the road bike and the trainer with my mountain bike shoes/cleats anyway. I could swap the pedals between my mountain bikes, road bike, gravel bike, trainer, etc… On the other hand, based on the price point of the Vector pedals (and assuming the mountain bike version if and when they come out with it would cost about the same), I could purchase 2 units of the Stages left crank arm for about the same price to have one on my road bike and one on my mountain bike. Of course, I ride and race 3 mountain bikes – all of them having different cranks, so that would be limiting in terms of being able to swap between dirt bikes. Or dump my road bike in favor of a disc brake cross bike with the same rear hub spacing as my mountain bikes to swap a Power Tap wheel between everything. Not ideal for me since it would involve swapping cassettes as well, but I’m just thinkering outloud here…
Seems like the iBike Newton should “at least be considered” by me, along with others, in my quest to purchase a power system that is transportable between biking platforms.
I’ve only seen one other “review of reviews” of power meters that included the iBike at the following link…
link to cyclingpowerlab.com
It would be nice to see an updated review somewhere. Does anyone have a link? Has anyone heard in inside speculation on when Garmin was shooting for a release of a mountain bike pedal version of the Vector?
Anyway, DC (Rainmaker) – great review. Thank you so much!!!
My biggest complaint about most of the more affordable, crank-based systems (including Quarq, Stages, and power2max) is that they do not offer – nor do they ever plan to offer – anything for those of us who use Campagnolo UltraTorque or PowerTorque crank/BB systems. So I’m limited to grossly overpriced systems (e.g. SRM, Garmin Vector), or wheels (PowerTap, the most likely option out there right now), or the PowerCal, which isn’t an ideal solution.
I wish some of these manufacturers would realize that Campagnolo users aren’t universally rich, nor are we necessarily fringe (like, say, the umpteen press-fit “standards” that have popped up over the past few years – a solution to a problem that didn’t really exist).
Ray: have you ever heard from any of the crank-based manufacturers about their plans for Campy compatibility?
No, but in general, most power meter companies would love to offer additional units for other brands – but typically said brands don’t tend to cooperate…
What are your impressions of powermeter shoes?
link to brimbrothers.com
I talk with them often, and look forward to them coming to market. Here’s a test ride I did last winter on them: link to dcrainmaker.com
Ray, you amaze me constantly. Great collection of data and analysis. Do you expect any surprises from the Interbike that are not already announced since the Eurobike show?
See you in Vegas, baby!
Regarding power meters, I do not at this point.
do you think that Quarq is planning some new product in the next future or a lowering in pm prices?
They now seem a little bit expensive compared to new Garmin and P2M TypeS…
I don’t expect any new products from Quarq in the immediate future. As for lowering prices, I think they’ll be pressured to.
Thank you very much Ray, I think 2014 will be absolutely the Vector year, they have targeted the right price for their product. They offer the best price/features product, but if you want something cheaper Stages or P2M are the right choice..
In my opinion the real bet for the future is Brim Brothers, they have the perfect solution for multi-bike users (you could have powermetering on a spin bike too 🙂
I’ve not used a power meter, and am undecided about which one to buy. Does the Powertap measure the power at the wheel, and then add on some watts to estimate/calculate the power output of the rider, or does it consistently undermeasure compared with pedal and crank based power meters?
I’m riding a recumbent with 135mm rear hub and disc brake, so I believe I’d need the Powertap Pro, which might be a previous generation – do you know of any problems with that model?
My bike makes it difficult to select a power meter! The iBike looked interesting, but it needs to be mounted pretty level, and that’s not possible on my bike. The Garmin Vectors might be worth waiting for if they bring out an SPD version (I don’t like road cleats on this bike). Another option would be to buy the Kurt Kinetic iRide (I have a Kurt Trainer), but I’d need to buy an Apple device, and the iRide obviously only works on the trainer. To complicate matters even further, I use a triple chainset, so that seems to rule out most crank-based systems. The Stages might work, but it’s not available outside the USA.
So, the most likely options are Powertap, iRide, and Garmin (if they bring out an SPD version). Are there any other options, and are you able to recommend any one power meter for this sort of bike?
Powertaps are measured at the wheel. Since it’s 1.5% accuracy like the others, I don’t think it’s accurate to say it under measures. It just measures at the different place.
David, you might want to check out Trainerroad. They use a cadence on the trainer, along with the trainer brand, to calculate power output. Like the IRide it only works on the trainer but it also has workouts and ties into a number of video workouts.
It is a monthly subscription fee of $10.
Thanks. I’ll look into the Trainerroad option. It looks like I’d need to buy a laptop and ANT+ dongle, so probably not any less expensive than the iRide + iTouch. There are quite a few options in the powermeter market nowadays – it’s just knowing which one would work out. I looked at the PowerTap website again, and it seems the MTB Disc hub is now a G3 version which is around £630 – £700.
I just had a PT mtb hub wheel made up at my LBS. It is my 5th PT hub. I’m sold!
PT offers a great rebuild policy. Something that may be mentioned in the next comaprisin chart.
On a side note – readers may be interested in hearing your thoughts on a bike mounted power device vs an indoor unit like Computrainer. Yes, I know they are different, serve different purposes, etc., etc. Nevertheless, I bet many power users would be interested in your comments.
Just a note that Stages doesn’t actually “stock” anything-it takes them up to 4 weeks to ship. Mine took 23 days, so with transit a month. Just a heads up if timing matters.
Thanks Again DC! With powertap on the cusp of releasing a bluetooth smart cap, do you think Stages will lower prices to retain the market sliver they’ve carved out with inexpensive BT smart power meter? I can’t bring myself to spend the money on a stages at this point either.
Honestly I think there’s so few people even using the BT side of the power meter that it’s somewhat inconsequential. I’d be hard pressed to guess there’s more than a few dozen people worldwide actually using just the BT portion of Stages. At best.
Finally the stages power meter support told me they are not FSA compatible yet.
With the winter coming I don’t want to wait before getting a power meter.
So now i’m looking at the powerTap G3. Is there anything to know about the wheel size before purchasing it? I want to make sure the wheels fit on my bike.
My bike : Cervelo P2 2013 51cm Wheels : Shimano R501, Vision Team 650c (size 48)
I’m hesitating between the PowerTap G3 Alloy Wheelset and the PowerTap G3 46mm Carbon Wheelset
I just did my first olympic triathlon in 64min bike, I aim at 55-60min, would you consider the carbon wheelset to give a notable advantage? I would prefer to improve my position and engine before blowing out money on things not too important.
Given you’re on the fairly fast side of things I’d definitely do a bit more research on the aerodynamic side of things. I’m just not super-deep there compared to some.
That said, on the fit side I’d bet you money that you’d save far more time with a proper and more aggressive fit (and focus on aerodynamics) than the wheels will save.
As usual great stuff. I have a quick question, in your comment for Power2Max, you said the disadvantage was auto zero could not be turned off. I don’t have a power meter yet so don’t know enough to know why this can be important. Can you elaborate? Thanks…cheers
Honestly, it’s a very minimal issue for a tiny number of people. Auto-zero automatically compensates for things like temperature variance. Some hard-core folks like to control whether that’s happening to potentially reduce unexpected errors.
But honestly, we’re not even talking 1 in 100 people. We’re really talking probably 1-2 dozen people on the planet. Now, they are very smart people, typically looking at a very specific thing, but ultimately it’s just not a common use case. Or even an edge case. It’s the edge on the edge itself. 😉
I’m going to disagree with Ray here. The necessity of turning off auto-zero for many people is determined by the accuracy of the auto-zero. For instance, with an SRM the auto-zero function is known to introduce and unknown error. (see link to alex-cycle.blogspot.com.au) In such instances it is in thes best interest of all users of the meter to turn off the auto-zero (whether or not they are aware of it).
The issue with Power2Max is that it is hard for us to confirm the accuracy of their auto-zero function. If it works, then yes as you say Ray only a handful of people would really care. If it is in fact a known source of an unkown amount of error, it is a problem for everyone who owns one.
First, thanks for the great reviews and information.
I have a 4 year old Quarq Cinqo that has worked flawlessly until the last few weeks when it started to drop out intermittently on rides, then stopped communicating with my Garmin 310 and 910 completely. After contacting Quarq and following their instructions including replacing the plastic battery cap with the newer aluminum cap, checking the battery tabs, shorting the leads to reset etc. They said that they cannot service the unit since they do not make the FSA cranks anymore. They offered to exchange my FSA with a Riken for $800. In your article you said they exchanged your Cinqo as policy for out of production units.
Is this a common problem with the Quarqs?
Has their policy changed or did they charge for your exchange?
Is the exchange my best bet?
Whoops, just missed the bonktown (ok chainlove.com) sale of 20 or 24 whole Powertap G3C (Note C!) hubs for $599.
Will power2max work with DA 7900?
I want to buy a PM but I don’t know which one… I am between Powertap and Power2max…
Pros: I like the fact that they have more experience in this sector, and I have the feeling they are more accurated than the Power2Max. You can have a PM on another bike only changing wheels.
Cons: the issue about the wheels… I don’t like wheels with 32 spokes (esthetically), but on the other hand, I don’t know if the 46mm wheels are appropriate for training and also for climbing. But above all, I don’t know if these 46mm wheel are so fragile for intense tranining condition daily.
Pros: You don’t have the wheel issue in case you want to change wheels
Cons: I doubt if P2M is a well-consolidated brand. I mean, they have been only 2 years in the marked and I don’t know if the offer the same grade of accuracy than Powertap. This is only a feeling I have about the P2M, it could be wrong though.
I wouldn’t worry about P2M’s accuracy. With their units post-September 2012, I’m just not seeing or hearing any issues (either myself, or from anyone else). Pre-then, yes, they had issues.
Hope this helps with whatever your decision is. Ultimately, they both make great PM’s.
Well, my main doubt is about what wheels I want: the thing is that if I choose the basic wheelset, I can’t go for a 46 mm with the same hub as these wheels have less spokes. So I don’t know if it really deserve to choose the 46 mm wheelset or not. I want to use the PM for training (in a turbo trainer and outdoor) and racing, and I don’t know if the 46 mm wheelset would be a disvantage when climbing.
As a poor student, I went for the cheapest option – alloy powertap wheelset from clever training. Definitely budget setup but they tell me what I’m putting out. The extra weight will make me strong right? I’ll save up for an upgrade. Anyway, I received an extra wheelset in the mail today that I didn’t pay for. I tried calling but didn’t get an answer. I don’t want some poor shipping guy to lose his job over some wheels. Any clever training employees reading this?
Thanks, I’ve reached out to let them know. I’m sure you’ll hear back today.
Please, could anyone tell me if it deserves to go for a 38 or 46 mm wheelset or not? I don’t understand very well the pros of these kind of wheels and I am afraid that although they are better for specific purposes, they could be not that good for general purposes (training, turbo trainer, racing, climbing).
If in general, they are better and it deserves to buy them, I would go for the carbon wheelset, but if not or they are more delicate for general purposes I would gor for the alloy powertap wheelset.
Can anyone help me please?
how do you find the alloy wheelset? Do you think it is too heavy? Would you go for a wheelset with a carbon rim better than the alloy rim?
I’ve been on a few rides, outside and on the trainer, and honestly, the wheels look and feel bombproof. They’re wide 32 spoke rims, so they’re going to have some heft, but no more than any other alloy rim of the same size and spoke count. If you ride carbon, you’d likely notice a big difference. I also ride with Mavic Ksyrium SLs which are alloy rims but are much narrower and have many less spokes. So if you’re coming from a comparable wheelset to this, little change. If you’re coming from carbon, you probably won’t be stoked about the feel. Overall, I like them but funds were my main deterrent from a higher end option. They all help you train more effectively.
thank you very much for your comments. I just thought about other chance I haven’t thought before: PowerTap G3 HED Ardennes Wheelset (link to powertap.com).
With these wheels you have light weight and also durability and versatility for every training/racing condition, don’t you think?
I decided to reject the Powertap option. The issue with the wheels didn’t convince me, so started thinking about Power2max. I went to a cycle store yesterday, and they recommended the Rotor Power. It is a little bit more expesive than P2M, but in your review, didn’t seem like a good option, or at leats that’s the feeling I have after reading it. What do you think? Thank you again
I think it’s still a bit of a work in progress. They published a new firmware version about 3 weeks ago that people have largely said fixes most of the major issues. I don’t have a unit yet, so I can’t really confirm one way or another outside of readers sending me details of their successes (mostly).
I read you are waiting to review the Rotor Power. I’d like to have your opinion about this device before I decide between P2M or Rotor. Do you know when you estimate to have that review?
Thanks a lot!
I don’t yet have a Rotor PM, so it’d be +45 to 60 days after I get one, depending a little bit what’s in the queue. Currently Pioneer beat them to the queue and I can’t ride both concurrently on the same ride, so that hurts a bit.
Thanks for the detailed info (again)! I bought a Stages Ultegra crank and my Edge 810 seems to “lose” it between rides – I know I’ve got to start riding for it to activate, but twice now the only thing that’s made the Edge see the meter is to replace the battery (which was of course brand new, as I’d only just replaced it to make it work the day before!).
Has anyone else had this issue, or is there something I need to do each ride to make it connect? I’ve tweeted Stages as there doesn’t seem to be any support email on their website and I’m in the UK. Thanks.
You should just need to rotate it (the left crank arm, not the right one, even though one controls the other). Beyond that, if there’s some sort of dropout issue you may have a battery contact problem where it’s briefly losing the connection. Here’s the e-mail: email@example.com
I had the same issue with my new Quarq Cinco. It was simply a problem with the electronics (ie an internal short) which kept flattening the battery after a day or two. The Cinco worked fine with a new battery but the Financial Controller put her foot down and wouldn’t let me buy a new battery every other day, bless her.
Thumbs up to Quarq who replaced the unit straightaway.
Thanks Ray and Foxhat – I think it must be a contact problem – yesterday after I posted this I got it working with a new battery – then replaced it with the battery I’d taken out and it worked! I have a Stages meter on my other bike and my Edge picks that up immediately, so it’s definitely not the Edge – also my phone can’t see it via BT when the Edge can’t – but picks it up when the Edge does (and the Edge tells me the battery’s “new”, so I don’t think it’s flattening batteries).
Thanks for the email Ray – I’ve sent them a message. I just hope I don’t need to send it back to the US!
Fantastic job as always.
As most other folk here, I’m in the market for a power meter. I was very interested in a P2M Type S, but just can’t wait until Feb 2014 – there’s a winter of training to be done! My question is regarding your comment about 2 Powertap hubs costing less than/similar to one higher end crank based system. In your opinion, would two separate Powertaps (both new, same models, one in race wheels, one in training wheels) give out equivalent numbers, or as in most electrical goods would there be some variance between units, and therefore not worth doing? In other words, if my FTP on one hub was 320 watts, would it be 320 watts on the other? Or would I be in the realms of the 1.5% accuracy (5 watts either side of 320)?
I hope that makes some sort of sense!
Thanks a lot.
The PowerTap is probably one of the most consistent units from unit to unit, merely because the amount of ways you can hose up the installation is relatively minimal (since it’s typically pre-installed into a wheelset) – especially compared to other units on the market. Thus, I wouldn’t be concerned with two PT hubs and having notable data variance between them.
Any idea when you will try out the iBike Newton?
I bought a unit back in September, but haven’t had the time yet to dig into it. I’m pretty backlogged in running-related stuff right now (and action cams & activity trackers), let alone three other power meters sitting here – two of which are stil in boxes. I suspect once I get past the holidays it’ll get quiet and I’ll be able to start poking more at it.
I’m having an issue with a brand new powertap g3. Is there anyway to update the firmware using a mac? From what I’ve seen there isn’t but just want to confirm
I believe from what I saw the other day in a separate comment somewhere that I cannot find, it does not yet support it.
Okay Ray, lets say that you had been training 17-18 hours per week for a big Ironman. You come out of the water to get on your bike and you were depending on reliable power data to get to Kona. What power meter would you want giving you data for the ride?
Ray, I have a 2007 TREK Pilot 5.2/Ultegra group that has a stock Bontrager Race X-Lite wheelset witha 24 hole rear Hub. I´m an amateur and just train for fitness nowaday (150 miles/week). I´m between the Stages and PowerTap G3. I´f I decide for the Powertap would you recommend their complete built rear wheel or just the G3 hub and install it on my rear Bontrager wheel??
Hi. I am considering to buy a power meter for my cannondale hollowgram SI cranks. My big doubt is which one to buy, the Power2max type S for cannondale or Stages. Stages is more affordable and simpler to install. However Power2max seems more reliable?. Very pleased if you give me advice knowing you have experienced both in your legs.! Thankyou
Question about the stages.
With them offering 105, Ultegra and Dura Ace and these three being interchangeable can you see ant reason why I should purchase one in preference of the others.
The 105 is $200 cheaper than the DA.
$200 is a lot of cash if the only difference is the name on the sticker.
I personally wouldn’t, but that’s really more of a component preference issue.
do you have any idea about when you’ll reviwe the Rotor Power?
I’m working on it, it’s just behind the Pioneer (the Pioneer simply came in sooner).
Hey Ray,I’ve already accessed this article a half dozen times, as I am in the process of purchasing a power meter.
One thing I am interested in is using the power meter while on my indoor trainer (no GPS).Do the SRM or Quarq send speed information to a head unit via ANT+? I know the Powertap does. I would like to stay away from zip-tying on separate speed & cadence sensor.
is there a PM product available that can be used for moto-pacing where the driver of the motor can have the head unit positioned on his machine and pick up the signal from the power meter.
Maybe there is a solution.
Yup, any ANT+ power meter can dual transmit to multiple ANT+ head units. It’s how I do power meter testing. For you, you’d use your regular head unit (i.e. Edge 500, etc..). For the moto, they could also use a regular head unit (i.e. an Edge 500), or, they could also just pickup the Wahoo Fitness iPhone adapter for about $50 and then grab a free app and read the data that way.
Thanks for a great rundown of the various power meter options.
A couple of questions about the p2m meters:
1) Can Shimano chainrings be used with these pms? On the website, that is not an option, but I see that you have used SRAM CRs, which is also not an option. So I assume they have standard 130 or 110 bolt circles? I also assume the newer Shimano chainrings will not work (for example: 6700/6750 or newer for Ultegra)
2) If one opts for the Praxisworks chainrings, it’s only offered as a factory installed option. Does that mean they can’t be removed/reinstalled by the user for replacement/ratio changes later?
3) Will the FSA and/or Rotor 3D versions install in a Shimano threaded BB without modification (BB6700 for example)? I assume so, but I’m not familiar enough with the various BB options to understand the compatibility as they describe it on the website.
Thanks in advance,
For the P2M compatibility type mods, I’d honestly post on the Power2Max Review post (either the full review, or the recent Eurobike announcement one). The reason being that the P2M guys respond there pretty quickly (usually within a day), and could give the most accurate answers.
up front two thumbs up for this pretty precise & complete review!
What I’m wondering about, is why hasn’t anyone put the Torsion-sensors on the BB-Spindle? Is that an Option that anyone to your knowledge is working on? Imho tha should be the most versatile / compatible solution & the electronics + extra wheight would be as close to centre of rotation as possible. To me this option could be implemented by anybody capable of doing the necessary programing. I’ve been looking for a simple solution, portable to different bikes and with a reasonable pricetag for some time now & being in Europe the PowerTap reductions don’t apply itretails and what the pricetag will look like around here.
Please keep up the excellent quality & I’ll be here quite often to get an in deep update. Thanks
We saw that with the Ergomo unit years ago. Ultimately, their implementation was probably their downfall, and the lack of support for wireless protocols (like ANT+) was the stab to the heart. Finally, when you look at portability and compatibility today of power meters, the variety of BB’s makes compatibility more difficult.
Thanks for a really informative website.It”s allowed me to make an informed choice about accepting or rejecting an offer from garmin in South Africa to give me a discount on a 310XT in place of repairing my FR405 which had intermittent memory and pairing problems.(The 405 was only used once before the problem became apparent but had sat in a drawer for 2 years after purchase and so was beyond the guarantee period)
My question is whether it is possible to use only one of the Garmin vector pedals per bike ,with a normal Look pedal on the other side and then multiply the power reading by 2 (or whatever the factor is ) If there is no real benefit to measuring both sides and I only want to look at reproducibility of training output and at trends over a training cycle. There may be a niche for an App here.
No, that’s not possible today. Technically Garmin could make it possible (and they discussed it potentially long term), but not today.
There’s definitely benefits to measuring both sides, since balance varies by day, workout, person, etc…
I’m looking at buying a power meter in the not to distant future so doing my due research at the moment. Love you reviews, definitely provides a fair review.
Just wondering what the difference between a traditional Quarq and the specialized version of the spider are?
Is it just an expensive alternative?
link to specialized.com
I purchased my first power meter, Power2Max, about 2 months ago. My decision was heavily based on your reviews and the responsiveness I saw to peoples questions on Slowtwitch. So far it has been very reliable and I love the new crank but my rides have primarily been indoors. Things are finally getting better outside but since I’m new to the power data I’m a bit uncertain about what fields I want to display on my Garmin 500. I have some nice uninterrupted areas and am intending to do some interval work similar to many of the TrainerRoad rides I have done. So I will need data for these as well as just data I should be monitoring during the ride in a half and full ironman. Sorry if this is redundant and covered elsewhere on your site, if so, and it probably is, if you could simply direct me to it that would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, I’m really looking forward to seeing improvements in my cycling this year.
Here’s an older post: link to dcrainmaker.com
But, basically, for power, I use the following fields: Power 3s (as my instant power), Power 30s (as my ‘trending’ power), NP (Normalized Power), and then Lap power for workouts with segments, where I hold power for a certain chunk. Plus other non-power fields like lap time, and lap distance.
when do you expect to make the review about the Rotor Power?
Does anyone know if garmin will come out with shimano based pedals?
I don’t think we’ll see that happen soon.
Just discovered your blog and it’s great! Being relatively new to the sport I have lots of questions and you’ve provided tons of answers!
Here’s the spot I’m in:
I’ve got Zipp Firecrest 808s with PT (bought used from my coach who had them for Kona).
I’d love to get a disc but finding one with PT is not easy at a reasonable price.
I’ve just come across a deal where a friend is selling his gear and offered me his Vectors and his Super9 Disc for $2000. It’s a great deal. I’m just wondering if I’m better to try to find a disc with PT built in for the same price since I’ve already got an 808 and a training wheel with power. (I’m on a P5 and also didn’t see if you covered whether the Vectors will fit it with chain clearance)
This is a very good dilemma to have. Just wondering what your opinion would be now that you’re comfortable with the Vectors.
does anyone know how to calibrate the Rotor Power? I have read two ways of doing it:
a) First put the right crank vertically with the pedal down, calibrate and then secondly move the left crank with the pedal down also and calibrate again.
b) First put the right crank vertically with the pedal down, calibrate and then secondly, WITHOUT moving the cranks (that means that the left crank is vertically with the pedal up) calibrate again.
Which one is wright?
The first one is the way I’ve been told to do it (both via manual, as well as via ROTOR staff). If you do it the second method, I don’t believe you’ll get the two different calibration values (one high, one low).
here you have the two ways I mentioned from the Rotor manual.
a) Moving the left crank and callibrating. See pg 40 of this link
link to power.rotorbike.com
b) Without moving the left crank. See pg 34 of this linkl
link to bikemotiv.com
Hi, I have the Rotor Power and have been calibrating it without moving the cranks (so right hand crank pointing down) with Edge 800 and Edge 510, as that is what I read somwhere I should do. I do get the two different figures that way, and the figures have been +-2 for both figures since I got the cranks July 2013. Looking forward to reading your review on these and other PMs Ray! Harri
Have you given any more thought to the testing of iBike’s Newton? It seems to have some merit behind its theoretical operation. I am not a racer, but look to improve my rides enough to possibly ride in races in the future, and was thinking this may be a nifty tool to improve with. Your thoughts…
I have bought a unit (Newton), it’s just simply having the time to get through testing. Unlike other units it requires a bit more controlled environment than I can often given. It’s still on my list of things I want to do. This post also explains a little of my thinking as well: link to dcrainmaker.com
I really took to the power measurement on my bkool turbo trainer, and decided that rather to buy a better bike, buying a good power meter would encourage me to get out more (just like my first Forerunner turned me into a regular runner many years ago). I don’t so much mind paying £800 or so for a pair of Garmin Vectors, especially if, like most “mechanical” items, I can expect to recover a reasonable fraction of the purchase value should I really decide to sell them later on.
However, while I see the value that power meters bring, and that they may be worth £800 to me, I would still like to understand what makes strain-gauge power meters so expensive to manufacture – is it purely R&D costs, or does each unit have to be calibrated manually? And (although I realise this is a nearly impossible question to answer), what are the chances of a “disruptive” technology that delivers direct force measurements for a small fraction of the price?
It’s a bit of compounding factors. Take a $1,000 power meter (just keeping it generic). Roughly 30-40% is profits to the retailer/distributor (depends on brand). That leaves $600 left. For some of the units out there, the costs are going to be higher for parts (i.e. Vector/ROTOR), whereas others it’s much lower (i.e. Stages/PowerTap). Then there’s manufacturing costs, etc..
But for power meters the biggest cost is actually R&D, which on average is 3-5 years. That’s a LOT of time to have to recoup costs, and it really adds up. Especially when prototyping on some of these units makes each unit revision costs thousands of dollars for a single unit production run (and a company might do dozens of revisions, each with a multiple of units costing thousands). It really adds up quick. Even something as seemingly tiny as the newer large pedal pods for Garmin’s Vector that were recently announced have been in the works since fall of last year.
Calibration is done for each unit shipped, by every company I’m aware of and have visited. Many of them also include some form of calibration certificate (Polar, Power2Max, ROTOR), though, the data on that is rarely useful other than feel-good.
Thanks for the explanation. With such an open-ended question, I didn’t really expect a response, much less such a detailed one. If R&D is such a major factor, there are obviously economies of scales to be expected that could result in a price drop spiral. However, unlike running GPS watches (which are now ubiquitous and cheap), I guess the key question is whether the market will be big enough to reach that threshold anytime soon (as a counterexample, large format cameras have been around for many years, but have always had a small market and very high prices).
In any case, since I am in the market for power meters, I’ve just bought a pair of second-hand Garmin Vectors. Let’s hope I simply wear them out, then resell value won’t be an issue – and hopefully, like with the early GPS running watches, no amount of depreciation in value adds up to the hours of training gained.
Hi DC, First of all thanks for the tons of awesome reviews and education.
I understand you are possibly currently working on the ROTOR Power Crank review ?
Has the recently released software (SW 0.900 May 23, 2014) updates managed to help to make the crank a consistent stable power meter?
link to power.rotorbike.com
Ray, What is the real value in independent left/right power measurement? I understand it can tell you where you are unbalanced, but from what I understand, nearly everyone has a slightly more dominant side, splits of 47/53% are not necessarily bad or worth the effort to correct right? I feel like my PowerTab does that by showing lower watts that what I “feel” I’m producing in effort, a quick muscle check and focus on pedal stroke and things come back into line.
Also doesn’t pedal based meters not actually give an accurate rubber to road power reading in the end? I’m thinking of a car analogy, it’s like measuring HP/Tq at the flywheel vs the wheels. Wouldn’t you want to account for pedal efficiency, drive train efficiency, road conditions, and all the other factors that give a real “power to the road” result. I get that the numbers are arbitrary for training purposes, just get better regardless if it’s 3w or 1000w as the number being displayed. As I’ve seen you mention, consistency is more important to that you can rely on the values… but wouldn’t the pedal based independent introduce more variability, thus reducing consistency of the cyclists net power?
I’m just wondering if there is any real world value in independent pedal measurements or is it a gimmick? What do athletes with experience in both say… does it actually help them improve?
FYI – I’ve had my PowerTab for 3 months now, best single investment in training I every spent. I had an issue and called PowerTab, reached a real person in seconds, who knew exactly what to do to test and update, he worked with me and ended up being a bad cap, he promptly sent a replacement at no charge… I couldn’t have asked for a better service experience.
I have been on Quarq’s and SRM’s website, read yours and other reviews, and as far as I can tell, all the power sensors are on the drive side for Quarq and SRM? How would this be much different from Stages just on the left (non-drive) side? How is the non-drive side power measured? Is there something in the bottom bracket? I have a Madone 7 series (2013) so inside the bottom bracket won’t work for me.
On the drive-side ones, it’s actually in the crank spider, versus the crank arm. Thus it’s pulling in the power from both legs.
Do you know if you can make a Quarq Red22 130BCD 30BB (or any quarq model) work with 130BCD Road Standard Q-Rings?
I know Rotor offers an SRM alternative but I was looking for a quarq alternative!
I don’t know off-hand on the ‘will it fit’ questions, but from an accuracy standpoint Quarq doesn’t take into account non-round rings (neither does SRM). More details on that here: link to bikeblather.blogspot.fr
Ok! Thanks! I’m currently using a mid-compact chanring (specialized shiv) and as i was going to get a PM i was wondering if I should also “upgrade” my rings’ choice. There are a LOT of opinions around the web! I’m in fact more confused now than when I decided to buy the pm 🙁 !
Great site btw, i always read it, but i’ve never commented before!
The article was very informative. I am a first timer for a power meter. I am not a racer, have only 1 set of wheels and 1 bike. From the information I have researched the Power tap may be the best choice for me.
The article was written in 2013, has there been any significant changes or updates in the market?
The G3 was the Power Meter which you recommended for the best value, if I am correct.
I hope all will be compatible, Fulcrum Racing Zero Wheels, Shimano Ultegra Mechanical, Garmin 1000
thank you in advance for the feedback
I’m agreed with u. Powertap is accurate as well as affordable, n it really helps some of my friends improve in a traceable way. The new p2m also seems worthy.
I checked the power tap site and they do not have a hub for the Fulcrum Zero, since it have 21 spokes.
So will the stages send bluetooth signal to strava app and also signal to garmin 500 at the same time ?
I don’t have a Stages PM.
I do have a MIO Link that can transmit both Ant and BT. That simultaneously sends BT (to the Cyclemeter App) and ANT+ to Golden Cheetah.
I suspect the Stages, as a more high tech device with more battery power, is likely to do the same. It is probably programmable though so if it was me I’d check with the manufacturer formally before spending my money.
Yes, it sends on both ANT+ and BLE at the same time, concurrently. Thus, you can transmit to both at the same time.
Ray: any commentary on pricing to this point in the year? It doesn’t seem like we’ve seen the pricing pressures that you expected when you originally wrote this. Am I missing something? Or is this a dynamic that you’d expect to see played out throughout the year?
(I guess we did see some rebating on Vector, etc. but not the wholesale pricing changes that I’d expected when originally reading this.)
We’ve seen some pricing drops from Quarq already, and I think Vector rebating is the start of things in preparation for the fall season, with new units coming on and as a result likely further pressure. I suspect we’ll see some changes by the end of Interbike.
Quarq is now selling & pricing the PM “bare”, without chainrings, and the chainrings are an add-on option.
IMO, very nice, if you already have a set of compatible chainrings or want to use something other than SRAM rings (eg, Wickwerks).
Even with Quarq’s chainring option, seems the price has dropped $150-200 compared to early 2013 🙂
I would like to know the reason why Garmin-Sharp prefers the use of Garmin Vector pedals without the pod (so they just use it as a pedal and not as a PM) in combination with an SRM? Im thinking of buying the Garmin Vector PM but now I’m getting doubts because the pro team sponsored by Garmin choises to not use them :/
I asked Garmin, here’s what they said:
“In regard to the pictures posted – as part of our partnership with Slipstream Sports, Garmin works with the athletes, mechanics and head of Sport Science to continue to develop our products, including Vector. By doing so, we are able to make improvements and enhancements before these products are made available to the general public. As such, it is not at all uncommon to see different combinations of Vector, pedals, and other power meters on team bikes. We are committed to the constant improvement of our products, including our Vector power meters.”
As for the real reason – it’s anyone’s guess. Some have guessed that it’s due to mechanics workload, though, I don’t really think that holds a lot of water. By the same token, I also don’t think it’s accuracy. Assuming you install it right, I’ve heard of very few (almost none I think) issues with accuracy on Vector. Just not seeing problems there. Ultimately, it also could be some internal politic thing as well, given that Garmin won’t be the title sponsor next year. I suspect over time we’ll find out the real reason, but at this point I just wouldn’t let it shift any buying decisions (in general, I’d never let pro team choices dictate buying decisions – since it’s all just marketing efforts from every camp).
I’ve read several independent reviews and blog comments, indicating the Garmin pedals are a bit fussy to setup & calibrate. Torquing is critical , as is setting the correct “installation angle” of the pedals.
With the time pressures a pro team mechanic is under, this is probably something they simply don’t want to mess with.
Plus, the risk that a crash will damage the electronics “pod”.
Assuming bottom brackets among multiple bikes are the same, a crank PM can typically be moved between bikes in under 5 minutes. From what I’ve read, the Garmin pedals take longer because of the required installation procedures.
As of today(?) there is a 150 US / euro price cut on the power2max classic (not type S). How does this change this guide?
It’s only temporary, but in general I’d have zero problems recommending the class P2M – works great. So if comes down a bit to whether you prefer a rear-wheel PM or a crank PM. For many people with a single bike but multiple wheelsets (i.e. triathletes), then the P2M is probably a better option.
On the flipside, if you have multiple bikes with non-similar BB’s, then the PT is a better option.
Posted on roadbikereviews, but looking for your input…
got a bike fit, their ‘fit’ machine had a power meter showing very poor efficiency in my pedaling.
i don’t own a trainer or power meter yet. I ride in New England, can’t really easily watch my garmin or focus on my pedaling techniques while adjusting for pot holes, gravel, ups, downs, etc.
So i figure the best thing to do is to get a trainer for the winter and a power meter. Indoors I can focus on technique. I was going to get an inexpensive trainer ($150-300) and maybe one of the above meters. I would also need Software and the ability to connect to a computer, which isn’t addressed here.
But looking at the prices, it seems like maybe a wahoo kickr or a trainer with integrated power and the ability to hook to a computer would be the better way to go if I am not concerned with a power meter on my bike.
Anybody who has used both care to chime in and give me the plus/minus of each type and recommendation as to which way to go. thanks.
Have to say – eagerly awaiting the 2014 update review with all the changes happening in the market. Was pretty set on Stages but now w/ Vector S I’m back on the fence. Appreciate your 2 cents if you follow my logic.
* Age group triathlete – want to train/race by Power instead of HR/RPE.
* Easily transferable between road and tri bike (not daily, but easily enough)
* May rent or upgrade wheelset for races so concerned a powertap is not easy to move around.
* Definitely <$1000 as hard to justify the spend
* No concerns w/ 1leg power … but the Garmin S offers nice upgrade potential down the line
So was going to go Stages + a new crankset on 1 bike to make them match… but now Vector S seems FAR simpler to just swap as needed from the pedals.
Is it THAT simple … or anything else I should consider?
My current plan calls for it to be out next Thursday.
I’d agree with your logic and thought process though. And yup, it’s largely that simple. The one minor difference is ensuring you have a torque wrench to tighten things down on the Vector side, whereas Stages is a bit more flexible there.
Awesome Ray – thanks for the quick response and awesome write ups!
Great overview Ray. I’m anxious for the updated report since Garmin has a rebate on their Vector pedals through the end of the month. So many options these days, so your thorough reviews are so helpful!
Ohh yea – final point … looking to buy now in the fall… so hypothetical things coming in Spring/Summer are too far out for me.
is there a 2014 edition for power meter? i have sram red and would love to get a stages, but their email confirmed not anytime soon. 🙁
SRM does offer a unit with user changeable battery on an FSA K-Force Light 386Evo crankset.
Also, with a battery life in the order of 3000-4000 hours it’s not much of an issue.
Only real issue I see with the SRM units is the price.
No, the rechargeable units haven’t hit market yet. They’ve basically had to start over again.
hi just wamt to ask about rotor power. you said the disasvantage is” limited compatibility with cranksets” whats the meaning of that? in thir manual they said thay almost all bb shells can acomodatw their power meter. thanks
You must have ROTOR cranks. No relation to the bottom bracket.