Once again, it’s time for the annual power meter buyer’s guide! It’s where I round-up every cycling power meter on the market, and talk through what’s happened in the last year. I give my opinions of every single power meter on the market, as well as some general guidance on choosing a power meter.
I’ll note that when I first set out to update/write each of them I thought to myself “It seemed like kinda a quiet year”. But what I failed to realize until I had to type it all up was that almost every company in the power meter market released something new in the last 12-14 months. See, many companies announced items at Eurobike/Interbike 2016 (a year ago), but not many delivered until this past winter (2017). Thus, in a lot of ways there hasn’t been a comprehensive look at what’s happened till now.
What we didn’t see this year was the dramatic price drops that we saw in years past. Instead, we saw modest price drops. Partially because there isn’t a ton of floor left to drop prices significantly, and partially because there was no single major product price driver drop. Still, we did see some incredibly compelling product price lowering – WatTeam down to $399 for a dual left/right setup, and Power2Max with their NG ECO down to $499 for a crank spider based offering.
To recap all of the major power meter announcements and reviews I’ve published since last year’s guide (in reverse chronological order):
Power Meter Pedal Shootout: Vector 3 vs PowerTap P1 vs Assioma
4iiii Announces New Precision Podium Power Meter Lineup
Favero Assioma Power Meter In-Depth Review
Hands-on: Garmin Vector 3 Power Meter
Hands-on: Stages LR Dual Left/Right Power Meter
Power2Max NG ECO In-Depth Review
Power2Max NG Power Meter In-Depth Review
ROTOR 2INpower In-Depth Review
Quarq DZero Power Meter In-Depth Review
WatTeam PowerBeat Gen2 Power Meter In-Depth Review
4iiii Precision Pro Dual Left/Right Power Meter In-Depth Review
Note, I’m excluding running power meters here. I think there’s something to be said for such a post, and very soon (with at least four running power meters on the market right now). But 3 out of 4 of those offerings are just weeks away from exiting beta, or in a beta-like state, so I think I’ll wait till December or January for that.
The goal of this post is NOT to give you a final answer that says ‘this is the power meter to buy’. If there’s anything I want to change in the industry it’s the mindset that there is a single perfect power meter for every consumer. Thus, if you ask someone for “the best power meter”, and they give you any answer other than “it depends”, don’t trust that person. That person should be asking you your specific use case, bike placement limitations, and how much you want to spend.
The cycling market has many unique use cases and thus you’ll need to take into consideration your specific requirements. For example, it’d be silly to go out and buy Garmin Vector if you’re looking to put it on a mountain bike. And similarly, it’d be silly to buy a PowerTap hub if you currently have HED H3 wheels, since it wouldn’t fit there.
Note that I’m not going to cover why you’d use a power meter here, nor how to use it. For those, start here with these posts. Instead, I’m just going to focus on the products out in the market today, and those coming down the road.
Finally, remember that power meters tend to be about as fiery as politics and religion. So keep in mind this is just my view. There are certainly other views out there (all wrong of course), but this comes from my perspective of trying out all the products below and hearing feedback from literally hundreds of people per day. There are no doubt edge cases I can’t easily cover in a single readable post, but I think I’ll cover 99% of the people out there. The remaining 1% can consider a donation of gold and/or expensive rocks for my further thoughts.
With that, let’s dive into things.
Power Meter Placement:
Before we start diving into the brands, features, and functionality, we should probably talk about placement. The reason being that unlike a bike computer that works on just about every bike on the planet, power meters actually have more limitations than you might think. Some limitations are straight technical (I.e. it won’t fit), and some are preference based (I.e. I don’t like it). In either case, for most people, this section will help narrow down the selection a bit.
Let’s just briefly ensure we’ve got everyone on the same page as far as where these things all go, starting with the below photo and using the text after it as a guide.
As you can see above, we’ve got five main areas we see power meters placed today:
1) Rear wheel
2) Crank spider
3) Crank arms
5) Bottom Bracket/Axle (not visible, behind tip of arrow)
There are tangential products on other areas of the bike (like handlebars), but none of those currently on the market actually have strain gauges in them. Thus they are more estimations (albeit some highly accurate) than actual force measurement devices. So for much of this post I’m keeping the focus on what’s known as “direct force power meters” – which are units that measure force via a strain gauge of some sort. And finally, I’m not going to talk about companies that have gone out of business (I.e. Ergomo, Brim Brothers), or products that haven’t been made in a long while (I.e. Polar chain power meter). Not that I’d recommend either anyway at this point.
Back to my photo-diagram, I want to expand out the crank area a bit and talk specifically to that. Here’s a quick cheat-sheet of which products are where (I’ve added a single-line item for non-direct force options):
Rear Wheel: PowerTap hubs
Crank Spider: Quarq/SRAM, Power2Max, SRM, PowerTap C1, Team Zwatt Zpider, FSA (Power2Max OEM)
Crank Arms: Rotor, Stages, Pioneer, 4iiii, WatTeam, ROTOR 2INPower, Team Zwatt Zimanox, Shimano, XCadey, Cateye (4iiii OEM)
Pedals: Garmin Vector, PowerTap P1, Polar/Look combo, Favero Assioma, Favero bePRO, Look, Xpedo
Pedal Spacer: LIMITS
Bottom Bracket: ROTOR INpower, Team Zwatt Zpindle, Race Face/Easton
Non-direct Force Power Meters: PowerPod, iBike, Arofly, PowerCal
In the case of left-only variants of some of those products (Polar/ROTOR/Garmin/PowerTap/4iiii), it’s still the same placement, just on the left side instead of both sides.
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. Think of this like a ‘list of terms’ you’ll need to be familiar with.
Total Power (Watts): This is the obvious one – every power meter has this today (even estimated ones!). This is simply measuring and transmitting your total power output to a head unit of some type.
ANT+ Support: Another relatively obvious one, the vast majority of power meters on the market today transmit via ANT+ to compatible head units. This allows you to use one of dozens of different head units out there. I’d be very hesitant to choose a non-ANT+ power meter unless you already know which head unit you’re going to pair to it (for example, the Polar V800 or Suunto Spartan).
Bluetooth Smart: Bluetooth Smart (or BLE/BTLE for short) has become the norm on power meters now as a dual ANT+/BLE configuration. However, I’d warn that the head unit support for Bluetooth Smart power meters remains (STILL!!!) a mess with different units working on different head units, even varying by firmware versions. Thus by and large even companies that support dual ANT+/BLE power meters on their head units (like the Wahoo ELEMNT/BOLT), are recommending folks use ANT+ when connecting from the ELEMNT to power meters, as it tends to work better. In time that’ll resolve itself, but the industry is still growing there. We are finally seeing Garmin support BLE power meters in all of their 2017 devices (Fenix 5/Edge 1030/FR935), so that’ll likely help drive some firming up of workability too, purely due to sheer numbers of people using Garmin units.
Left Only Power Meters: These power meters only measure power from the left side. All of these units then simply double the left power and produce total power. Stages really exploded this category with their left-only power meter, and other vendors followed suit including Garmin (Vector S variants), Rotor (Rotor LT, ROTOR inPOWER), 4iiii (some models), LIMITS, and Polar (Keo Power Essential) and many more. Note that all bottom-bracket power meters are left-only power. There are likely more I haven’t listed here.
Estimated Left/Right Power: This became all the rage just prior to true left/right units coming out, starting with the 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. The PowerTap C1, Power2Max units, and all SRAM/Quarq models currently on the market use this method.
Actual or True Left/Right Power: This is limited to units that can measure your power in more than one location. Thus why we see it on pedals, as well as the more expensive crank-arm or pedal based power meters. You can’t measure it directly at the spider, instead you have to measure it upstream of that such as the cranks (ROTOR dual system, Infocrank’s dual system, Pioneer’s dual system, WatTeam dual, Shimano’s dual system, 4iiii’s dual system), pedals (Garmin, Favero Assioma/bePRO, Polar/Look, Look alone).
Pedal Smoothness & Torque Efficiency: These two metrics are available in the high-end power meters which contain true left/right power measurement as well as a supported head unit.
Cycling Dynamics: This is Garmin’s suite of Garmin Vector specific features that enable data such as platform offset and where in the stroke your power is coming from (power phase), as well as seated and standing position. Polar also has a variant of this in some of their new cycling units as well with their own pedals. Up until recently, other manufacturers couldn’t display this, but Garmin has effectively opened the standard up last month, so now it’s up to other companies/apps/head units to add support once ANT+ finalizes it. Still, I generally don’t see huge value in this day to day in my training. It’s geeky yes, but not a purchase decision swaying item for me.
Battery Swapping: All but one unit on the market today (SRM) supports battery swapping by yourself. SRM requires you to send it in (but gets way longer battery life in between swaps). The vast remainder of the shipping 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. However, some of the newer units like the PowerTap P1 that runs on AAA batteries get a bit less time, as do units such as Favero and WatTeam that use rechargeable batteries (using micro-USB cables). Still, other rechargeable battery options like the Power2Max NG can get longer battery times per charge, along with Team Zwatt’s and Race Face/Easton’s models.
Calibration options: All units on the market today support some sort of calibration function, though to what extent is what differs. Some have numerous options (I.e. Quarq with an app allowing you much further access), while others are more black-box (I.e. Stages and Polar). For the most part, your primary concern here is really that some sort of calibration occurs, and that you can trigger it to happen on demand. Beyond that, it tends to get to more advanced calibration and torque checking methods. It should be noted that the term calibration can have very specific meanings to different people (technically most people are really doing a zero-offset). But for today’s post I’m going to keep it a bit more generic.
Ok, with all the core power meter features covered, let’s dive into the brands available today.
The On-Market Options:
We’ll start with products that you can effectively take home today. They’re in the market, available today for purchase and you can more or less install them today on the bike. They may have slight backorders if you were to order today, but units are shipping to consumers (which is where I draw the line). For the purposes of this section I’m focusing on direct force power meters (DFPM’s), in a later section I’ll cover non-DFPM’s.
Additionally, in the following section after this, I’ll cover announced but not yet shipping units that are on the road to market.
Note, this list is arranged in no particular order, you can use the sidebar shortcuts to quickly skip to different products. Also note that I’ve updated sections as appropriate for this year, but for products that haven’t changed, I’m not going to re-invent the text just to re-invent that text. I’d rather spend that time eating cookies and ice cream.
PowerTap has been around more than 17 years – longer than most folks realize actually. Though their popularity has really grown in the past few years, especially in the US. The iconic PowerTap hub 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.
These days the PowerTap hub products ship with a dual capable ANT+/BLE cap. But if you find an older G3 unit that has an ANT+ cap on it, you can buy the dual caps or the BLE-only cap. Thus it’s pretty flexible that way. I use the dual caps on my units without issue across a wide number of devices.
Advantages: Easy install if you buy a wheelset 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 straightforward. Good customer service.
Disadvantages: Limited to a single wheel, so training vs racing scenarios can be tough. Also limited on things like disc wheels. And if you have multiple bike types where the wheel type changes (I.e. going from triathlon to cross), you may be in the same pickle there.
Would I buy it: Absolutely, and in fact, it’s one of the units that I’ve bought myself as a workhorse in my power meter testing (two units I own…three soon actually). 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 wheelsets 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).
Relevant Posts: CycleOps Joule and PowerTap Wheelset In-Depth Review, PowerTap’s new hubs, Bluetooth Smart Trainers, iPad apps, and more, A sneak peek at two new PowerTap products (including high-speed data cap)– Note that I don’t really have a super-new In-Depth Review of the PowerTap G3, for no particular purpose, though you’ll find data from it in virtually every one of my power meter reviews.
Since we’re on PowerTap products already, we’ll continue that trend with the P1 pedals. I’m separating out these three products because they’re so different (different placement, etc…). Versus if a product is simply a slight model change by the same company (I.e. Quarq Elsa to D-Zero), I’m lumping them together with differences noted in that section.
As for the P1 pedals, they were announced in the spring of 2015 and started shipping in the summer of 2015. Since then they’ve been adopted by many people, primarily due to their simplicity and ease of use. They can record some advanced metrics to the PowerTap mobile app, but not to the extent that Garmin Vector or Pioneer do. No worries though, they do have total power, left/right power, cadence, and other core metrics. Additionally, they also have dual ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart transmission.
Advantages: Easiest install of really any power meter out there (except perhaps the PT hub if it’s already in a wheel), no pods or torque wrenches required. Just a simple hex wrench to install and off you go, no settling period required either. Pricing is competitive with other full left/right units currently shipping. I view the AAA battery as an advantage, though a small group of folks sees it as a disadvantage (I love that I can get a replacement anywhere in the world at any tiny little store on a route if need be). Finally, no pods are on the units – so nothing to worry about breaking easily.
Disadvantages: Only a Look-Keo pedal/cleat type, and at that it’s not exactly a Look-Keo pedal (slight differences). Also, the battery life is more limited than some other power meters. Finally, there’s been a handful of folks that have seen issues with play in the spindle, though that’s largely dissipated in the last year or 18 months. PowerTap says that they addressed some early manufacturing issues there. Note that any earlier reviews seen on the interwebs with power spikes have long seen been resolved in a firmware update last winter.
Would I buy it: Up until this fall, the answer was a resounding yes. But with Favero Assioma now sitting $250 cheaper, and Garmin Vector 3 priced the same, it’s a harder pitch (see my full power pedal recommendations here). I’ve argued that PowerTap should be priced at $899 vs $999, and then it’d be ‘fair’ (since Garmin’s new pedal is sleeker and has more data). Still, you’ll find either of the two sets of PowerTap P1 pedals I own floating around my bikes in-use as test units constantly.
Relevant Posts: PowerTap lowers P1 pedal price to $999, matches Garmin Vector 3, PowerTap P1 Power Meter Pedals In-Depth Review, First rides with the PowerTap P1 Pedals & PowerTap C1 Chainring…and more, PowerTap announces P1 Power Meter Pedals, also PowerTap C1 chainring unit
At the same time that PowerTap introduced their new P1 pedals in the spring of 2015, they also announced a new line – the C1 chainring power meter. This unit ships with the chainrings, per the pod you can see attached to the chainrings above. The company started shipping the product late fall of 2015.
I used the unit quite a bit across multiple seasons and into the winter without any issue. It’s essentially very similar to that of the Power2Max and Quarq units. The only major differences you’ll note are really more around compatibility with various cranksets.
Advantages: Dual ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart compatibility, ability to install onto your own compatible crank arms, price, and long battery life.
Disadvantages: Limited chainring compatibility is really the main one, being that the company is only offering certain compatibility options. For many people this won’t be an issue – but it’s worth noting. Like most of the other crank-spider region options (Power2Max/Quarq/etc…), it’s not hard if you know what you’re doing – but might be slightly intimidating to those not as familiar to figure out which model is compatible with your bike. Fear not, it’s easy for your bike shop though.
Would I buy it: Yes, I have no issues buying this unit. It’s been proven reliable and accurate, and after nearly a year of being on the market, I hear virtually no complaints. I kinda put the PowerTap C1, Power2Max and Quarq units all in the same boat: All are great options and all are fairly similar in features (and roughly in the same price range) – simply go with whatever fits your requirements around compatibility best.
Relevant Posts: PowerTap C1 Chainring In-Depth Review, First rides with the PowerTap P1 Pedals & PowerTap C1 Chainring…and more, PowerTap announces P1 Power Meter Pedals, also PowerTap C1 chainring unit
Power2Max has been on the scene for roughly a little over 5 years now. Since then they’ve repeatedly driven down the costs of power meters in the industry, and gained significant market share in doing so. This year was no different by starting to ship their Power2Max NG units they announced at Eurobike 2016, as well as announcing and starting to ship their less expensive Power2Max NG ECO units this past summer.
The units are typically sold with or without cranks, so you’ll need to add your own, or purchase them from Power2Max pre-installed. The new NG units bring with them dual ANT+/BLE (the Type-S is ANT+ only), as well as a rechargeable battery. It also brings a bit of a steep increase in price. Whereas the NG ECO units still have ANT+/BLE, a coin cell battery, and skip on some of the advanced pedal metrics that you won’t actually use.
When I use the Power2Max (like Quarq and PowerTap), I find them among the least finicky and most ‘easy to use’. Day in and day out in testing, these units tend to ‘just work’ for me with very little calibration worries.
Advantages: The least expensive crank-based solution on the market today (NG ECO specifically due to price). Solid accuracy with a growing crankset compatibility matrix.
Disadvantages: On older units, there isn’t a method to turn off auto-zero today on units (which is really only an issue for the most advanced of advanced users), but the newer NG units do support it. Beyond that, it’s really hard to find disadvantages of the current units.
Would I buy it: No problem at all here, as noted above – it’s probably the best deal for a complete (captures all power, not just left) power meter on the market today, primarily the NG ECO. I love that they’re well into the ‘just works’ category. I have no concerns with purchasing any of the variants (NG ECO, NG, or even the older Type-S) – just be sure that if you get the Type-S, it’s one heck of a deal.
Relevant Posts: Power2Max NG Power Meter In-Depth Review, Power2Max NG ECO In-Depth Review, A look at the new Power2Max NG power meters, The Power2Max Type S Power Meter In-Depth Review, Power2Max drops prices…again. Now $610US, Power2Max releases new Type S line, expands compatibility, Power2Max introduces Type S mountain bike power meter, additional road bike models
With Garmin embarking on their 4th year of Vector, they released their 3rd generation Vector, aptly named ‘Vector 3’. The goal here for them was to basically do away with all the past complaints, be it big or small. Gone are the pods that hang off the side, gone is the requirement to use a torque wrench to install it, and gone are the re-branded pedals.
While the company started shipping Vector 3 in early October to consumers, fulfillment has been slow going and delayed a bit. Still, I’ve been using it since late July and really impressed – especially with the final production unit. You’ll likely see my in-depth review drop any day now. I’ve been constantly swapping bikes with it, and it just works.
Garmin is the only company that offers Cycling Dynamics today (though, that’s soon changing), which includes all assortment of metrics on your pedaling style. Some of these metrics can be interesting from a bike-fit standpoint, but many don’t yet have a specific training or racing purpose. I’d hoped by now we’d have seen some science-like papers or something that showed the value of these, but nothing has happened in that realm – a number of years on.
Advantages: Cycling Dynamics, full left/right power recording, Vector 3 is now totally portable with no pedal torque wrench required. It looks like a normal pedal finally.
Disadvantages: Pedal choice (just Look-Keo compatible, albeit with a Shimano Ultegra upgrade/accessory kit available for Vector 2 units…not Vector 3).
Would I buy it: Yes (finally, I haven’t recommended them for years). I’m really liking mine, and I suspect it’ll become my default pedal going into the new year. The main reason I’d switch from the P1 to Vector 3 is primarily that it’s a nicer looking pedal, though the Cycling Dynamics pieces doesn’t hurt.
Relevant Posts: Hands-on: Garmin Vector 3 Power Meter, Garmin announces Vector2 (and 2S), also upgrade kit for original Vector owners, Garmin Vector In-Depth Review, Garmin announces Vector S: $899 power meter, also announces Cycling Dynamics,
A few years back Favero came out of nowhere one summer to debut the bePRO power meter pedals. Surprisingly for a company nobody had heard of, they shipped near-immediately and were actually accurate. Oh, and they had great pricing.
This past summer they repeated that performance with their Assioma pedals (seen above). This added Bluetooth Smart capabilities, as well as simple installation that didn’t require any complex tools. A simple hex wrench and you were done in a few seconds. I reviewed them as well this past summer and found their accuracy solid (and moveability also solid). Better though is that they came in at $795USD for the dual leg set, the lease expensive dual-power meter pedal option on the market. They are rechargeable, and get about 60 hours of battery life per charge.
Advantages: Price – the unit is $795USD for the dual pedals, installation is easy and no longer requires tools like the older bePRO pedals. Accuracy is solid, and it can quickly and easily be moved.
Disadvantages: The small pods still remain, and they require slightly different cleats (same as PowerTap P1 pedals).
Would I buy it: Absolutely, I have zero issues with this unit. It’s a great alternative to the Garmin Vector 3 or PowerTap P1 pedals, simply saving $200+ over those options. The only downside compared to Vector is that it’s not quite as sleek, nor does it have Cycling Dynamics.
Years ago, Quarq became the first non-SRM crank-based power meter that was actually affordable. Starting off on straight road bikes, they’ve expanded to other areas including track and cross bikes. The unit replaces your existing crank spider and depending on the model is typically sold with specific crank arms attached. You’ll need to ensure your bottom bracket is compatible, but if you shoot the Quarq folks an e-mail I’ve found they can usually help anyone figure that out easily. All Quarq power meters are made in South Dakota (US), along with servicing and shipping from there. The Quarq Cinqo was actually the first power meter I bought, and what The Girl subsequently purchased as well for her training.
Last year (2016) at Eurobike they introduced the DZero generation of units, which slightly increased accuracy but more importantly added Bluetooth Smart compatibility/connectivity. The units didn’t start shipping till the winter though, and Quarq struggled with backorders well into the spring. These days things are all caught up though and from my testing, the accuracy is solid and is easily a trustable power meter.
Advantages: Crank-based design means no wheel swap issues. Accuracy on-par with other units. Can swap chainrings without issue. Easy replacement of battery, and can utilize phone apps for further calibration. For me, it has a high ‘just works’ factor. The addition of Bluetooth Smart into the DZero Units was much needed.
Disadvantages: Crank arm selection has diminished some with SRAM acquisition (reducing compatibility), and while some pricing adjustments recently have helped, they do tend to be a bit more expensive than the Power2Max or PowerTap C1 options.
Would I buy it: From the standpoint of “Have I bought it?”, the answer is definitely yes. In fact, a DZero unit is set to become my base crank power meter on a new bike I’m building and should arrive in the next week or two. Plus, I own an older Quarq Cinqo, then a Riken, and The Girl also uses the older Cinqo.
Relevant Reviews: Quarq DZero Power Meter In-Depth Review, First Ride: Quarq’s New DZero Power Meter Series, Quarq introduces new $799 RIKEN AL power meter, Quarq/SRAM RED Review, Quarq RIKEN In-Depth Review, Eurobike 2014 Power Meter Roundup: Quarq News
As many know by now, Stages really started the whole left-only trend, in that it’s attached to your left crank-arm (seen above), and thus is only measuring the left leg power. It simply doubles the left-leg power to get total power. This means if you vary, or vary in certain conditions, then the power might not be accurate – or something that you could compare to years from now on different products. They were also the first one to do dual ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart dual broadcasting.
But this past year at Eurobike (2017) they finally announced intention to sell their long-awaited dual option, which has both left/right sides. It’s what Team Sky has actually been using for years in testing. The option is slated to start shipping here in the next month or two, though I did get in a preview ride or two back in August. Once they have final production versions of the dual units, I’ll definitely do a review there.
For now, the focus is on their single leg option. If you are really set on a single leg unit– they make a great number of different crank arm configurations, and their underlying tech is solid.
Advantages: Inexpensive option. Easily moved from bike to bike with a simple Allen/hex wrench. Contains both Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ (and dual-broadcasts). Their new Gen2 design seems to resolve most people’s waterproofing concerns that caused earlier deaths. Also, their firmware update this past spring seems to have resolved many triathlete’s issues with head units not picking up signal while in the aero position (far less common on road bikes).
Disadvantages: Left-only approach means simply doubling left-leg power, may not be fully accurate representation of your power (high or lower). Note that existing left-only units are NOT upgradeable to dual leg units.
Would I buy it: This is a much more complex question (that really applies to all left-only units). Technically speaking it’s a well-made unit that accurately measures the left side. From a pricing standpoint, it’s tough to recommend the left-only approach with other options in the same price ballpark that fully capture all power. Further, as I’ve collected a tremendous amount of power meter data over the past few years with 3-5 power meters concurrently, I’ve started to understand my specific personal left/right balance biases. For most of my riding, there’d be no major issue with Stages. However for longer or higher intensity rides where I might fatigue more, I see some inaccuracies on Stages due to my personal leg differences. You might be the same, or you might be perfectly even. I don’t know.
I know it’s easy to point at Team Sky and simply say “It’s good enough for Froome”, but again remember that Team Sky has been using the dual setup (not the single leg setup) for years, and so it’s not really same-same.
Relevant Review: Hands-on: Stages Dual Left/Right Power Meter, Stages 2016 Sea Otter News, Stages drops prices, down to $529US, Stages Power announces carbon crank options, talks a bit about dual-leg power, Stages Power Meter In-Depth Review Update
Next, we’ve got 4iiii Precision. They announced three years ago at Interbike, and are now onto their third generation of products – the latest being their ‘Podium’ lineup. Their initial product line started with a $399 left-only power meter, but these days they have both left-only and dual left/right options. They also sponsor/equip two WorldTour Pro teams.
I’ve seen really good accuracy on both their single and dual leg setups, as I showed in my review this past spring. I haven’t spent much time with their slightly updated Podium lineup they announced at Interbike, though I don’t expect that to be a substantially different product.
4iiii is a great option when you want to get into dual-leg power either cheaper than most other options, or if you want to go single-leg now and upgrade later.
Advantages: One of the least expensive power meters on the market today at $399USD. Can be applied to most cranks (non-carbon). Contains both Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ (and dual-broadcasts). Ability to upgrade to dual-leg on some models is key.
Disadvantages: Left-only approach means simply doubling left-leg power, may not be a fully accurate representation of your power (high or lower). However, if you have the dual-leg setup, that’s not a concern.
Would I buy it: For the dual-sided, absolutely. For the left-only, sure, but take the exact same general left-only comments I made for Stages and apply them here.
Related posts: 4iiii Announces New Precision Podiiiium Power Meter Lineup, 4iiii Precision Pro Dual Left/Right Power Meter In-Depth Review, 4iiii Precision Power Meter In-Depth Review, 4iiii Announces New Factory Pre-Install option, Dual Timelines/Prices, A Brief Update on 4iiii Precision Power Meter: Starts shipping this week, 4iiii’s Introduces $399 Power Meter, Precision: My First Ride With It
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 solid power meters. But no power meter out there today is perfect. Not even SRM. They all have conditions where they do really well, and conditions where they do less well. It’s understanding those conditions that’s most important. Which doesn’t take away from SRM, but rather simply serves to note that I believe there’s a bit of an urban legend with them being the ‘gold standard’. Many of the products in this post can produce just as consistently accurate power as SRM (which again, SRM is good at doing).
This past year SRM released their rechargeable unit, which had long been in development and trade show display. However, the challenge for the company at this point remains the high price as well as lack of connectivity like Bluetooth Smart support.
Advantages: It’s a well established brand with a well understood product. The reliability is generally very good. With ANT+ you can use any head unit you’d like, and aren’t limited to just the SRM head units.
Disadvantages: Expensive. Servicing isn’t as open as other power meters on the market today. If looking at their head unit (not required), the current generation is simply really expensive for what you get. No BLE support. Also, some SRM units have problems with Wahoo ELEMNT/BOLT bike computers.
Would I buy it: While I do actually own one, I certainly wouldn’t recommend someone else buy one. With the exception of very specific technical use-cases that other power meters can’t fulfill (higher speed recording rates with older head units), I feel that for 98% of the market today, there are more budget-friendly options that are just as accurate. I don’t subscribe to the “gold-standard” concept, maybe at one historical point, but not in this market. And as the Pro Peloton has proved, virtually every other power meter in this list is just as good as an SRM (if not better).
Relevant Posts: Eurobike 2016 Power Meter Roundup: SRM, Eurobike 2015 Power Meter Roundup: SRM, First look at new SRM PC8 head unit with WiFi/GPS/ANT+ & Bluetooth, Eurobike 2014 Power Meter Roundup: SRM., Interbike 2014 SRM: Their iOS app, PC8, and their thoughts on low-cost power meters
Pioneer has iterated nicely through two generations of power meters over the last four years, plus other crankset models, roughly paced at a new set of models per year. This year was true as well as the company rolled out Shimano R9100 support for the units. They maintained their price point at $999USD for a dual system (sending in your own cranks), and a slight dip in price to $559 for a left-leg system (also sending in your own cranks).
The Pioneer approach is a bit different than most other power meters on the market in that you don’t do the install yourself, but rather, you get the kit sent to you fully installed after sending in your crank arms. Additionally, it’s one of the few units on the market with true left/right high-speed data (starting at 12 samples per second (at 60RPM); faster the higher the cadence). The company does though sell complete cranksets (like the above pictured one) ready to go, but of course since that includes the crankset, it’ll cost ya a bit more. Note that the higher speed data is only available on their Pioneer head units.
Advantages: Has the highest recording rate of any dual-leg power meter on the market today, measures left/right power and associated metrics more in-depth than anyone else. A completely pre-set system once it arrives to you. Any choice of chainrings you’d like on the planet. Plus, the $999 complete system price for dual-leg isn’t too bad (for your own cranks).
Disadvantages: For crank arms, you’re somewhat limited to certain cranksets though that has definitely improved. There can be a small delay when you send away your own cranks to get it installed (versus buying a pre-installed set), though realistically very few power meters are available next-day anyway. Some have seen very minor delays in track-start type situations, but I think that’s very limited in scope.
Would I buy it: No issues at all for the dual system. I’m a bit mixed on the left-leg side. If you don’t plan to buy their head unit or upgrade to a dual left/right system down the road, then honestly there are cheaper (and better) options from Stages and 4iiii that do dual ANT+/BLE.
Relevant Posts: Pioneer announces new power meter options, head unit upgrades, bike sensor modeling, Power meter prices plunge further as Pioneer & SRM join PowerTap in price cuts, The Pioneer Power Meter System In-Depth Review, Interbike 2015 Power Meter Roundup: Pioneer, Eurobike 2015 Power Meter Roundup: Pioneer
Verve introduced their Infocrank power meter in 2014, and continues to chug along with updates to the platform and hardware options. This dual crank-based power meter has strain gauges on both crank arms. Additionally of note is that the unit has custom designed crank arms that are specific to Infocrank.
The unit transmits on ANT+, and uses small coin cell style batteries that you can go ahead and replace as required (no sending in needed). I tested one for…well, an exceedingly long period of time. And I saw absolutely zero accuracy issues with it – and can validate their claim that you don’t ever need to worry about pressing the ‘calibrate’ function on your head unit. Of course, at the same time, most other power meters are fairly accurate as well – but Infocrank seems to be more hassle-free when it comes to that side of things.
While they did introduce some data analytic options over the past year or so, we haven’t seen them add in Bluetooth Smart support yet, which is becoming a competitive requirement for all power meter vendors.
Advantages: Complete end to end system that’s mostly ‘install and forget’, gets fairly long life on coin cell batteries. The company claims higher levels of accuracy compared to the competition, but I’d say it’s more of a ‘just as accurate’ statement instead. Though the lack of requirement to occasionally manually zero is handy and low-maintenance.
Disadvantages: You’re limited in crank compatibility, since the units are built into their crank arms. The batteries can also be a bit fickle to find in out of the way places (thus, carry backups if you’re in the countryside somewhere – SR44 silver oxide batteries). Also, no Bluetooth Smart support.
Would I buy it: It’s tough. The price is higher, though sure, cranks and chainrings are included – but that’s far from justifying the price increase compared to other units that are just as accurate. Also, the lack of Bluetooth Smart support is challenging. So there’s nothing technically wrong with the unit, but I think it’s sliding back into being uncompetitive these days.
Relevant Posts: Sea Otter Power Meter Tidbits: Stages & Verve Infocrank, Verve Infocrank Power Meter In-Depth Review, Eurobike Power Meter 2015 News Roundup: Verve Infocrank, Eurobike Power Meter 2014 News Roundup: Verve Infocrank
ROTOR has been in the power meter market for more than five years now, and has iterated through four different products in that time. They’ve changed technology and partners along the way, but I think they’re finally in a good spot with their latest 2INPower system, which was announced last year (2016), though made widely available in 2017 and that’s when I tested it this past spring.
The 2INPower system is unique in that it’s one of the few power meters to actually work with elliptical chainrings (of which ROTOR is famous for). Additionally, they have a pretty extensive suite of software tools for doing pedaling analytics (primarily indoors). They also went with a rechargeable battery as well as adding in Bluetooth Smart support, both of which worked well for me.
From an accuracy standpoint, I found it great outdoors across a wide variety of conditions, but I did have some weird indoor trainer quirks that ROTOR couldn’t solve. These quirks were echoed by other people, none with a resolution.
Advantages: Compatibility with ROTOR cranks and elliptical chainrings (most power meters don’t do this accurately). Ability to track additional stroke/balance metrics through their software platform.
Disadvantages: Limited compatibility with cranksets. Note, the older ROTOR sets do NOT do Bluetooth Smart, but 2INPower does. Though, I don’t really recommend the older ones anyway.
Would I buy it: It’s tough. My challenge with it is that I saw accuracy issues indoor (as did others), and at the end of the day ROTOR couldn’t provide any resolution to that (for me or otherwise). If that was resolved, I’d have no issues with it technologically. Pricing is trickier though.
Relevant Posts: ROTOR 2INPower In-Depth Review, ROTOR announces new INpower power meters, starting at $779US, First look at new ROTOR Power Meter, Eurobike Power Meter Update Post: Quarq, ROTOR, Pioneer, Brim Brothers & Ciclosport
WatTeam broke onto the market a couple of summers ago (2014) with the announcement of a $499 left/right power meter system, which as of September is now down to $399, or $259 for the single-leg system! The sensors attach individually to your left/right crank arms, and then have separate communication pods that hang off the side of the crank arms.
They started shipping about two years ago, but then ran into snags and had to pause for a year. Then last winter (2016/2017) they resumed shipping and you’ll remember my in-depth review around then. Overall things were pretty solid, though I did notice two quirks (extremely rough cobbles and some hard sprints caused issues). They’ve since fixed the cobbles piece. This is something that’s definitely worth reading through the review to understand the precise limitations and whether or not they might impact you. And for the price, it’s definitely worth considering.
Advantages: Self-install, price is incredible, and by far the lowest dual left/right power solution on the market. Also, doesn’t require a specific pedal type.
Disadvantages: Some limitations on crankarm compatibility, plus the sprint accuracy issue I saw is still outstanding. Some might also dislike the install procedure, but it’s silly easy.
Would I buy it: For the right person, yes. I think as a triathlete you could actually use this unit without issue, since most triathlete training/racing (non-ITU) doesn’t involve huge sprints. Instead, it’s more about sustainability of power. Plus, the pricing is incredible.
Related Posts: WatTeam announces $259 power meter pricing, new models and more, WatTeam PowerBeat Gen2 Power Meter In-Depth Review, A Fall 2016 Update from WatTeam and their $499 PowerBeat, A WatTeam PowerBeat Spring 2016 Power Meter Update, A Preview: A Week Riding the Watteam PowerBeat $499 Power Meter, A chat with the CEO of Watteam and their new $499 power meter: PowerBeat, Watteam’s PowerBeat: A first look at prototype/beta power data
Next up we’ve got a small gaggle of new units from Easton and Race Face, cohesively branded as their CINCH power meter. The two brands are both owned by Fox Factory. The CINCH unit is designed to be compatible with road, mountain, and cyclocross bikes, making them a bit wider spread on the compatibility front than some other power meter companies that may target just road riders. The main draw here is enabling both companies to offer consumers units that are compatible with their group lineups with minimal hassle to get a power meter.
The underlying tech though is actually kinda interesting. In this case, for reasons that are a bit weird – neither Race Face nor Easton wanted to disclose that the units were actually powered by Sensitivus (more commonly known as the company behind Team Zwatt). In fact, you may remember this very crank from my Team Zwatt preview test a year ago.
As for the tech itself, the unit is left-only as it’s placed within the bottom bracket and won’t capture the power from the right leg. This makes the left-only nature similar to that of Stages, 4iiii Precision (non-dual), and many others offering single-sided solutions. Though, priced from $599USD for the unit itself, it’s a bit more than those companies. Also, it’s micro-USB rechargeable, and gets about 400 hours.
Advantages: Broader compatibility with mountain biking and cyclocross bikes. Reasonably long-term battery life, dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart.
Disadvantages: A bit pricey for a left-only unit, though options are admittedly slim for off-road usage.
Would I buy it: I haven’t had a chance to test it in-depth, so it’s too early to say.
Related Posts: Sea Otter 2017 Power Meter Roundup
Team Zwatt launched last summer via crowdfunding with a few different power meter options. Behind the scenes they also provide the technology for Easton/Race Face power meters. This past spring they started shipping their own Team Zwatt units to customers, and it sounds like things are mostly caught up these days. I’ve had a few readers receive units lately, and mostly stuff seems to be working well. I’ve heard of minor teething issues with the subscription service, but nothing that’s a blocker.
What’s unique about them is their subscription approach, which lowers the upfront cost of the unit by supplementing it with a subscription service fee. This way if you take a prolonged break from needing a power meter, you can turn off the power meter function while still leaving it on your bike (and stop paying for it). While I did test out a beta version a year ago, I haven’t tried a final production model yet to see how it all works now that things are past the testing phase. Still, I think it’s definitely a compelling model if priced right.
Advantages: Lower upfront cost, a few different power meter attachment options, company has experience as an OEM to other brands – so not really an unknown startup.
Disadvantages: Pricing is a bit questionable longer term, especially compared to some other models on the market these days.
Would I buy it: It’s hard to say. The pricing model is both a pro and a con, and I’m not sure for me specifically if that pricing model works. But if it works for you – go forth!
Last year FSA partnered with Power2Max to put together what was at the time a unique branded option from FSA by Power2Max at a relatively reduced price. It was (and still is) a very solid deal. This past summer Power2Max made that power meter available themselves as the Power2Max NG ECO. It’s the exact same physical unit, just different branding, and very slightly different firmware.
In my Power2Max NG ECO in-depth review you’ll see that it does exceptionally well. And likewise, on another of my bikes I’ve had the FSA PowerBox as well since summer, and it too is very solid. Both are great. The only difference to be aware of is that the two companies sell different crank arm configurations, and in the case of FSA you have to pay extra for a firmware update to enable Bluetooth Smart. Whereas with the P2M NG ECO unit it comes with it. But again, you’ll need to look at what crank options you want to see what makes the most sense for ya.
I’m hoping to get my review finally published here soonish, though you’ll find data in a number of my product reviews already from the last few months.
Advantages: Accuracy is solid, super easy to use. Generally good pricing once you remember that the carbon cranksets are included within the price.
Disadvantages: Bluetooth Smart costs a bit extra, so you’ll want to factor that into the price.
Would I buy it: I’d have no issues buying it. I’d just want to do my research and ensured it fit my specific crankset requirements. But technologically it’s solid.
Related Posts: Sea Otter 2017 Power Meter Roundup
Shimano Dura-Ace Power Meter:
Last year prior to the 2016 Tour de France, Shimano announced their Dura-Ace integrated power meter. While Shimano is starting with their high-end Dura-Ace, everyone in the industry knows how this story ends (by going to cheaper models eventually). Still, the product does have some minor quirks in terms of hardware design. Some of that is likely done to have it match the general Shimano Dura-Ace aesthetic, more than just technical reasons. The pricing (which is confusingly different across the world) may be a stumbling block for now, but I’m sure that’ll eventually be less of an issue.
The company had planned to start shipping earlier in the year (2017), but kept pushing that back. However, they did seed a handful of units within Japan back in September, and have very slowly dripped out a few more units to various markets. I’ve only seen a single plot’s worth of data from any 3rd party, and that was shared to me by a competitor of theirs – so I’d take it with a grain of salt. Shimano had promised a review unit to me by mid-September, but that keeps getting pushed back. Still, I’m looking forward to trying it out once they’re ready.
Advantages: Integrated into Shimano purchasing/distribution, one vendor to deal with. Has Bluetooth Smart app configuration options.
Disadvantages: Magnet based means slightly more complex install, unknown accuracy, unknown longevity. Only ANT+ power broadcasting though, Bluetooth Smart is purely for settings tweaks.
Would I buy it: Maybe, but I need a unit to test it. Also, I’m hesitant on pricing at this point.
(This section talks specifically to the Polar-branded Look/Polar combo, see next section for Look-branded option)
The Polar/Look Power System pedals is more than 6 years old at this point, though it’s had a few overhauls along the way – most notably now being full Bluetooth Smart compatible, which gives it compatibility
Note that there’s been a bit of a relationship status change been Polar and Look, so things are in a wonky state right now. Look announced their own dual ANT+/BLE version two years ago, though availability of that is questionable at best.
Polar also has their Keo Power Essential, which is a left-only option. In this scenario you just get the left pod and pedal, and then it doubles the power for the right side. This has the same inherent limitations as Stages and others, but also offers a lower price point than the full Keo dual-pedal system.
Advantages: Pedal based means theoretical portability, system largely ‘just works’ once you get it installed. Appears accurate, but really hard to validate all aspects. On Polar head units, you do get more pedal metric information than most units offer.
Disadvantages: Installation is a bit complex. Not as easy as Assioma/Vector3/PowerTap P1. Limitations on crank widths/lengths. Only Bluetooth Smart support (not dual ANT+/BLE). Generally overpriced.
Would I buy it: Definitely not. Plus, I’m not even sure Polar is actually selling this thing anymore (certainly not making it).
Look Keo Power:
(This section talks specifically to the Look-branded option)
As noted in the previous section, Look spun off their own product from the previous Polar partnerships two years ago and started shipping earlier this year. That product upgraded the pods used, as well as added dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart solution. In other words, it became a viable option within the power meter world.
The only problem is – aside from seeing this on a couple of sponsored riders in the WorldTour, I’ve yet to see any real-life people with this. And I’ve even heard from a few DCR readers that sent in their Polar pods to Look to get them ‘upgraded’ to the dual ANT+ variant, only to never get them back (many months later). So…yeah.
Advantages: Pedal based means theoretical portability, dual ANT+/BLE allows multiple head units.
Disadvantages: Only one pedal type, limitations on crank arms/types. Incredibly overpriced when it launched.
Would I buy it: No. It’s overpriced. Simple as that. At $1,500 for the dual set, that’s far more than the PowerTap P1’s which do exactly the same thing and don’t require funky installation or have pods hanging off the sides. Plus, it’s really unclear whether this is even a product anymore.
Relevant Review: LOOK’s new dual ANT+/BLE Power Meter Pedals: A bit more information
LIMITS came onto the scene during the spring of 2015, as part of an Indiegogo campaign that planned to ship by the end of 2015. That didn’t happen. However, they did recently start shipping initial units over the last 3-4 weeks. The unit sits in between your pedals and your crank arm, offering near unlimited compatibility. It’s priced at sub-$300.
I’ve historically been very skeptical of their product, timelines, and company. Like, the most skeptical I’ve ever been of a product.
Earlier this summer (2016) I received a production unit from a backer who attended their launch event, which I published a detailed comparative review of sorts here. In short, it failed. The company then went back and worked on some further firmware updates and minor hardware changes, which aim to fix those issues. However, by and large, those firmware updates haven’t fixed the issues. In the last few weeks (Oct 2017) they sent out notice that they’re working on a new Gen2 version, and people still waiting on their Gen1 versions will get that instead, eventually.
Advantages: Compatible with virtually any pedal type, crank arm, or wheelset. Inexpensive.
Disadvantages: Simply isn’t accurate, battery caps easily break off, questionable horrible customer service. Some people are concerned with q-factor changes (basically increase in distance between your two pedals), though, most don’t realize your q-factor changes anyway between a mountain bike and road bike for example.
Would I buy it: No, not at this point. If they can address accuracy issues (which they haven’t after more than a year), that’s different. I’ve yet to see a single data set from someone with multiple power meters showing accurate data.
Relevant Posts: LIMITS Power Meter Accuracy Data
RPM2 FOOTPOD POWER METER
The RPM2 power meter is essentially a footpod (insole) that you put in your cycling shoe to measure power. The company started in the medical space, and then branched out into the cycling and running realm. Initially they only supported their own app for recording of power (which was a non-starter), however they’ve since branched to ANT+ compatibility as well.
The company started off focusing on the elite athlete as their target market, but has since rebranded as ‘casual cycling use’. I haven’t spent any time with this unit unfortunately however. I’ve gone back and forth a little with them on getting units, but nothing much ever materialized. It’s tricky because there’s specific measurements you need for each foot (not just shoe size), and thus the units aren’t resalable either. I haven’t heard of any DCR readers having a good experience with it unfortunately.
Advantages: Not bike dependent being insole based; can move easily from bike to bike simply inside your shoes.
Disadvantages: Resale value is effectively zero, being it’s sized to each of your feet individually.
Would I buy it: Given the disadvantages, I’m struggling to see a reason I would buy it.
XCadey Power Meter
This is a left crank arm power meter similar to the design of Stages. The price has been appealing for many people because it’s sub-$200. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any evidence that this Chinese power meter is at all accurate. From the company’s own eBay pages (which is where they sell it), they use power meter comparison graphs that quite honestly look horrible. The power is often wrong by upwards of 80w (compared to an SRM and PowerTap hub data they provide), and in fact it’s virtually never aligned properly. You’d be far better off looking at a non-DFPM such as PowerPod down lower for roughly the same price. Or spending a bit more on something like the WatTeam single-sided unit. While some have asked for a review, I’m honestly hesitant to waste time on a product that the company can’t even bother to cherry pick the best possible data to publish on their sales/marketing pages. What’s the non-good data look like if this is the best they have?
Advantages: It’s still at least a Shimano crank arm even if it doesn’t provide accurate power numbers.
Disadvantages: It doesn’t appear to provide accurate power numbers.
Would I buy it: Nope.
Finally, we have a few options that use calculations to determine your power output. These units don’t actually measure your work effort using strain gauges, but instead rely upon other environmental factors. Thus the name of non-Direct Force Power Meters (DFPM). Some take offense to these being called ‘power meters’ since they lack a strain gauge, but frankly that’s stupid. There’s no international definition that states how a power meter shall measure power, but rather just that it measures it in some way. These units come to a measurement via different methods than direct force measuring strain gauges. I don’t care whether they use strain gauges or small chipmunks, as long as it ends up accurate. Inversely, if it’s inaccurate, then it’s useless – even when using a strain gauge.
Historically (in all the years I’ve been doing this), I’ve kept these as a separate category – in large part because they were indeed so different in terms of not just product design, but also accuracy. However, I do want to highlight the PowerPod as being one that for the right consumer I would recommend.
PowerPod: This was launched at Interbike 2015, and then started shipping about 60 days later. The concept is built upon the iBike technology of using aerodynamics for power. In my in-depth product review, I found it did very well against a suite of power meters in a wide variety of conditions. For a $299 power meter, it does quite well. There are specific edge cases where it might not handle as well, but if you understand whether or not you fall into those edge cases – then you can make the right decision. I do think the unit is on the edge of pricing though, in that at $399 from 4iiii you get a direct force power meter that reduces those edge case (albeit left-only). Whereas I think a $249 price point is far more wide-reaching (and they tend to do $199-$249 on sale). My In-Depth review can be found here, as well as the boatloads of people in the comments who are largely quite happy with the device. Finally, the company also started shipping a dual ANT+/BLE option, which helps compatibility a bit more as well.
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 above 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, however, this is effectively a head unit combined with the PowerPod noted above, which determines your power output. My challenge with the iBike has primarily been the head unit side, and not the power meter side. Compared to the head units of today, the head unit is just horribly dated. But I think the company is on the right track with the PowerPod and focusing on a solo power meter rather than the full package. So far so good there.
Arofly: This small pressure sensor power meter only works with phones (their app specifically), and their mini head unit. So unlike the other three above that don’t require a phone and app, this does. I briefly tried the unit back last spring (with the phone app), and found the experience less than awesome. Since then they made a bunch of tweaks based on some of that feedback, but ultimately it still requires their app or their head unit. To me, that’s basically a non-starter. Nothing good comes of that.
Next, we’ve got power meters that are currently in a pending shipping state. This means that as a regular consumer, as of the date of this publishing, you can’t actually get your hands on one quite yet (though, some do offer pre-order options). Nonetheless, since I’ve been fortunate enough to actually ride most of these, I can offer a bit of perspective on them. Of course, until they do release a final product things could change. Ones that look promising could flop, and others that have challenges could be superstars. We just don’t know.
What we do know however is that nobody in the power meter market has actually hit their projected timelines for initial release of new products (I’m not counting minor variants). Seriously, nobody. Not SRM (new rechargeable model took years until finally this spring), not Garmin (Vector was years delay), nor Polar (Bluetooth edition took years too). Despite what the interwebs would tell you – it’s rather difficult getting a mass produced accurate power meter, regardless of whether you’re a company with hundreds of millions in revenue (Garmin), or a startup (WatTeam). Remember that it’s easy getting 95% there in power meter development, it’s the last 5% that can take years (and often does). Nonetheless, here’s what’s in the theoretical pipeline.
XPEDO THRUST E:
Next, we have the perennial party crasher at bike events worldwide, the Xpedo Thrust E. This pedal-based unit has been continually shown for a number of years as ‘almost ready’, typically just ‘2-3 months away’. Astoundingly, last year (2015) they actually said March 2016 – as opposed to the usual 3 months away. Then by Interbike 2016 it was “Maybe March 2017”. I checked again at Eurobike and Interbike, and they said they’re working on it.
Either way, there were a lot of “maybe’s” said within their discussion. Simply put – I doubt we’ll ever see it ship at this point.
Luck Shoe Power:
This Spanish company is making a power meter cycling shoe. Well technically it’s a bit of a shim that slides under their cycling shoes, but either way – it measures and transmits your power. I briefly saw them at Eurobike in August, but they weren’t able to provide clear timelines then. They had it on some bikes and were pedaling, but they seemed non-confident in it as a product. Still, if they can achieve accuracy for the prices they’re talking – that’d be awesome.
Relevant posts: A Look at Luck’s Cycling Shoe Power Meter
Finally, a quick listing of companies that have ceased to make any noise at all in the last 12-14 months (official or rumors), and as such, I’d consider them off-market:
Ashton Instruments: Ashton Instruments made the media rounds at Interbike two years ago (2014), and then I visited with them again during the spring of 2015 where they demonstrated their bottom bracket based system, which they hoped to sell for under $500 in the spring of 2016 (last year). These former MIT students have the foundation for a potential power meter company and product, and were able to demonstrate it to me both indoors and outdoors. They also have riders on one of the local teams testing out basic prototypes of the platform. Note that the solution will be limited to measuring left-only power.
Dyno Velo: I visited these folks at Interbike 2015. They’ve got a bottom-bracket region power meter, very similar to what Ashton Instruments is doing. As I noted in the post, I think they have the potential to have a solid product if they can make it a bit more consumer/bike shop friendly. Their pricing will likely be in the same ballpark as the Ashton Instruments option (and targeting the same customers). At that time they wanted to ship in early 2016, but I thought they’d need to make some minor tweaks to their designs in order to achieve that. Still, nothing major since then. I get the feeling they thought my post last year was the end of them (ok, maybe not ‘got the feeling’, they said exactly that).
Brim Brother’s Zone: This was a Speedplay based cleat power meter that was long in development. As of October 2016, the company ceased operations. While they got close, they ultimately couldn’t transition from 95% of the way there to 100% of the way there.
I suspect we’ll see more companies join this group over the next year, as the price of power meters continues to drop and thus push viable budget options into being non-viable due to consumers going with name-brand options they trust at only a slight price premium.
Buying Used Power Meters:
Everything in this post is talking about new units whereby you are the original owner. So when I talk about costs there, that’s my baseline. With that in mind, there’s nothing wrong with buying used cycling gear. However, in the case of power meters, I’d caution that accuracy is of the utmost importance. After all, if you’re buying an inaccurate/untrusted power meter, you might as well just send me the cash instead and I’ll send you back random numbers.
Thus if you buy a used power meter my only caution would be to spend the money to have the manufacturer validate/test it, this is especially true if you don’t know the source of the unit.
For example, I’d be less concerned if you had a close friend that used a PowerTap for six months and then decided to swap it out for something else due to changing their rear wheel for a disc. In that case, you would know if your friend was having issues with it, and the reason behind the sale (new wheels).
Whereas, if you buy randomly from an unknown person you don’t know the history behind it and I’d be inclined to ensure a trusted 3rd party can complete a test on the device to ensure accuracy. In most cases, the best 3rd party to complete that test is the manufacturer itself.
Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, as I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy used. I’m just saying trust…but verify.
So what should I 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 situation. I’ve tried to outline all the major pros and cons of each unit on the market, and in simple language whether or not I’d purchase it (or, purchase it again). I’d probably narrow down first where you plan to place the power meter (I.e. pedals vs crank arm vs etc…), then narrow down a brand. Placement will drive usage (I.e. changing bikes or not).
The landscape will continue to change. As I noted in the above sections, the market continues to expand, and thus you’ll continue to see new brands – and we’ll continue to see drops in prices as we have every year for a number of years now. However, just like last year, I don’t expect to see any further price drops this year, with the first round likely not coming until probably Spring 2018. Unlike last year there’s no announced but not yet shipping product that the industry is collectively waiting for to determine if they have to adjust pricing (last year it was WatTeam). As such, I don’t expect any major pricing shifts anytime soon, perhaps not even till next summer/fall. And finally as noted somewhere up above, I don’t expect anything otherwise unannounced will hit on the market until spring.
Of course, if I haven’t covered something – feel free to plop questions down below. Thanks for reading!