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.
This year was legitimately a quiet year in power meters. At least terms of substantial new products. There were only a handful, and within that, only a couple that were truly new. The rest were very minor incremental updates that in some cases would barely be seen as new products. Plus, we did lose one power meter company just a few days ago as well.
This year also didn’t see major price shifts. Some minor ones, but nothing earth-shattering. Without any significant low-cost entrant or player making accurate and reliable units in the market, the majors need not respond with lower prices of their own.
To recap all of the major power meter announcements and reviews I’ve published this year (in reverse chronological order):
Note, I’m excluding running power meters here. Maybe some day there will be a good listing there, but today is not that day.
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 or Favero Assioma pedals 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:
There are tangential products on other areas of the bike (like handlebars or air pressure sensor-driven ones), 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):
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, all power meters on the market today transmit via ANT+ to compatible head units. This allows you to use one of many dozens of different head units out there. For power meters specifically, ANT+ tends to be the most stable and the protocol with the least compatibility issues. Most power meter and head unit companies would strongly recommend using ANT+ over Bluetooth Smart if your power meter is dual-capable. In fact, Wahoo even forces connections over ANT+ rather than Bluetooth Smart. This is mainly to reduce incompatibility issues.
Bluetooth Smart: Bluetooth Smart (or BLE/BTLE for short) has become the norm on power meters now as a dual ANT+/BLE configuration. Only one unit on the market today (Avio) is not dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart, and even they are looking to enable that in the short-term. Bluetooth Smart is most popular when used with applications on platforms like iOS that don’t support ANT+ (or some Android phones). It’s also used with watches from Polar and Suunto that don’t support ANT+. The downside is that the power meter landscape, even in 2018, is still messy when it comes to Bluetooth Smart compatibility. For example, some watches don’t support left/right data via Bluetooth Smart, and other devices can’t properly calibrate via Bluetooth Smart. Some devices will incorrectly double power via Bluetooth Smart too.
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, all 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 (Stages LR, 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, SRM/Look pedals).
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 was initially 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 last year, other manufacturers couldn’t display this, but Garmin has effectively opened the standard up last fall, however at present it’s yet to be implemented. At the ANT+ Symposium in early October 2018, the ANT+ Power Meter Technical Working Group (TWG) did finalize most of these metrics. Companies including Garmin, Wahoo, and Favero have all committed to supporting these metrics. It’s likely others will as well as soon as those three move.
Battery Type: Power meters either use user swappable disposable batteries (coin cell or AAA), or they use rechargeable. The one exception is SRM’s crankset units which use a built-in battery that needs to be sent back to the factory every once in a long while. 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/P2 that runs on AAA batteries get a bit less time, as do units such as Favero and WatTeam that use rechargeable batteries. 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. Rechargeable batteries like Favero’s are designed to last well over 1,000 charge cycles. Or if you do the math, like 50-70 years of usage. You’ll never hit that before you move on to something else. Ultimately, your choice between rechargeable and disposable is really about preference.
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.
Power Meters Today:
I initially thought about redesigning this section for 2018, into different categories (pedals, cranks, etc…), but as I read through what I did in past years I realized there was actually logic to my madness. Mostly in that it allowed me to more easily dive into the detailed nuances of each solution, rather than trying to lump them all together.
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 18 years – longer than most folks realize actually. 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 G3 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.
At Eurobike 2018 they showed some new PowerTap G4 hubs that significantly expand disc brake compatibility, though these haven’t started shipping yet. They also shift from coin cell battery to rechargeable, but those initially will only be focused on disc-brake wheels and not regular wheels. No dates for any of them.
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 (I own three units, one for each bike). 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).
Since we’re on PowerTap products already, we’ll continue that trend with the P1 and P2 pedals. I’m separating out these three products (G3/P1-P2/C1) 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. Last month (October 2018) they introduced the PowerTap P2 pedals which shaved a bit of weight off and slightly increased battery life. Otherwise, they’re basically the same. 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. Same as Garmin Vector 3 and Favero Assioma. 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 two years. 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 almost two years ago. Also worthwhile noting that PowerTap’s bearing service policies are wonky though, and can be cumbersome if overseas.
Would I buy it: Up until last fall, the answer was a resounding yes. But with Favero Assioma’s quite a bit cheaper, it’s a harder pitch (see my full power pedal recommendations here). The P1 pedals did get reduced to $799, which helps a fair bit, but the P2 pedals are at $899, which hurts their standing. Still, you’ll find either of the two sets of PowerTap P1 pedals I own floating around my bikes in-use as test units quite a bit. And the P2 pedals are headed through the testing now.
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, however in 2018 they significantly pulled back inventory to only selling the C1 direct from PowerTap, and not via retailers.
While this could be seen as a negative (and it probably is), the positive side is that the price is incredibly competitive these days. The challenge with the C1 was always compatibility. If you had a compatible crankset, then it was an astoundingly good option for the price (or any price). But if you didn’t have a compatible crankset, then it wasn’t on the table. With PowerTap moving to direct sales for the C1, we’ve seen it often offered at really good deals.
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. More or less set it and forget it.
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. Note that some people did have waterproofing related issues with earlier units and the battery caps, though I haven’t seen any of those recently in comments.
Would I buy it: Yes, I have no issues buying this unit (and recently recommended it as a solid option for my Dad’s bike). It’s been proven reliable and accurate, and after nearly two years of being on the market, save the early battery cap issues. 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.
Power2Max has been on the scene for roughly a little over 6 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 an exceptionally quiet year for them in terms of news/events, with them skipping the major trade shows after a busy previous year with their new Power2Max NG units they announced at Eurobike 2016. Still, they’ve been chugging away at making solid power meters.
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 newer 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. I really can’t say enough good things about the NG ECO.
Disadvantages: On older units, there isn’t a method to turn off auto-zero (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.
Woah, a lot has happened in the last year on the Vector front. If we skip past the fact that Vector 3 was Garmin’s third iteration of the pedals, it was this time a year ago that the company had about a month of Vector 3 shipping under its belt. A calm before the storm if you will. One hell of a storm.
And while things seemed fantastic at first (for the company and users alike), it wasn’t until January that everything basically fell apart. A tidal wave of users started having issues when their coin cell batteries needed normal replacing. People started getting dropouts, power spikes, and occasional small kittens died. Garmin spent the spring iterating through various solutions (while still shipping new units), ultimately deciding on a re-engineered battery pod that was sent to all customers in early summer.
Some customers never had any issues. It sounds like the number of customers that did have issues was likely in the 10-20% range. What’s more important though these days (if looking to buy Vector 3) is how many new customers are having issues. From an anecdotal standpoint, the number of people having issues has almost completely dissolved (between a combination of the new battery pods/caps and software updates). Though I do occasionally see a few blips, but it’s hard to know whether those are just normal odds and ends seen on every power meter.
For my own purposes, I have my own Garmin Vector 3 pedals I got last December, and they’re even on the old caps (seriously) without issue. No problems. I use them in testing without issue. But I also know folks and have friends that have basically chucked their Vector 3 pedals against the largest wall they can find. I don’t know if perhaps those folks had weathered the storm, they’d be fine as well with all the updates.
Ultimately, I don’t have concerns recommending new Garmin Vector 3 pedals in late 2018, but I certainly wouldn’t buy someone’s used on eBay – god only knows what that person might have done to them along the way.
Finally, by way of non-drama items, 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). The entire battery pod drama/saga I just outlined in the above multi-paragraph section.
Would I buy it: Yes (finally, I haven’t recommended Vector pedals prior)). I continue to like mine, and when I’m not testing something else it’s the pedal I default back to.
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.
Last 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.
The company hasn’t stopped there though. This past spring the company issued a firmware update that increases power meter accuracy while also supporting non-round rings (oval rings/q-rings), one of the few power meter companies to do so. Then this past summer they issued yet another update adding in new Zwift Bluetooth Smart compatibility, as well as a slew of features via their desktop app. And finally, they’ve been hoping to issue another update sometime by the end of the year that will introduce Cycling Dynamics support as well (once ANT+ formalizes support of it). Seriously, there’s no other company in the power meter space that’s seemingly as focused on making consumers happy with updates as Favero.
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. The company keeps adding new features over time.
Disadvantages: The small pods still remain, and they require slightly different cleats (same as PowerTap P1 pedals). I’ve seen some cases where their support can be fishy on warranty claims, usually pushing back a bit harder solves it – but it’s a notable trend.
Would I buy it: Absolutely, I have zero issues with this unit. It’s a great alternative to the Garmin Vector 3 or PowerTap P2 pedals, simply saving upwards of $200+ over those options. It’s also the power meter that’s on The Girl’s bike these days. 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 on her first bike.
Two years ago at Eurobike they introduced the DZero generation of units, which slightly increased accuracy but more importantly added Bluetooth Smart compatibility/connectivity. These units are well regarded and stable, and it’s what I initially put on my new bike last winter (seen above). I’ve got no issues with it, and would have zero issues recommending it. Just works.
Note that in the last few weeks we have seen some prototype Quarq units show up on pro bikes, however, little details are known about those – except that a SRAM media event is scheduled for later January 2019.
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 with little tangible product benefits above those competitors (except support, which SRAM handles better for most international folks).
Would I buy it: From the standpoint of “Have I bought it?”, the answer is definitely yes. In fact, I put a new Quarq DZero on my new bike last winter. Plus, I own an older Quarq Cinqo, then a Riken, and The Girl also uses the older Cinqo on her tri bike.
These days Stages isn’t just left only, but dual as well. As many know, 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 a year ago at Eurobike they finally announced the intention to sell their long-awaited dual option, which has both left/right sides (you can see the right side above too). It’s what Team Sky has actually been using for years in testing. They started shipping that this past winter (my full in-depth review here), and in fact, it’s now the default on my main test bike. I decided to swap to the Stages LR from the Quarq DZero merely for practical reasons: It was Shimano, and with testing more and more Shimano left-only units, I could easily swap crank arms when needed. It’s not a slight on Quarq, but just a practical DCR-test-specific thing.
As part of the shift to the Stages LR product, Stages also refreshed their left-only power meters, to their new ‘Gen3’ models. These significantly increased transmission over ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, hoping to resolve connectivity issues that have challenged many Stages owners over the years. It certainly seems to make a difference, though the signal’s still not as strong as most power meters out there.
Note that Stages technically sells three basic variants: Stages LR is dual-sided (hence, L = Left, R = Right), Stages L is left-side only, and Stages R is right-side only.
Advantages: Shimano variants are 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, and their Gen3 design seems to resolve virtually all connectivity issues people were seeing (firmware updates in Spring 2017 for Gen1/2 units also helped quite a bit, if one hasn’t done that yet via the Stages app).
Disadvantages: Stages LR is fairly limited in terms of crankarm compatibility still. Also, while signal strength is good – it’s still a bit less than most competitors. For the Stages L or R (non-dual), the single-sided approach means simply doubling left-leg power, may not be a fully accurate representation of your power (high or lower). Note that existing Gen1 left-only units are NOT upgradeable to dual leg units, however Gen2/3 are.
Would I buy it: I have zero issues with the Stages LR in terms of purchasing one, and in fact did so this past June for my main test bike. As for the single-sided variant, that’s a much more complex question (that really applies to all left-only units, not just Stages). 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 4-6 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 a left-only 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 for left-only 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 (2016, 2017, 2018), and in fact a driving force for Stages going with a dual setup was feedback from Team Sky.
Next, we’ve got 4iiii Precision. They announced four years ago at Interbike, and are now onto their third generation of products – the latest being their ‘Podium’ lineup (with the Podium Pro technically being the 5th generation I think). 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, either directly or via Specialized’s power meters, which are rebranded and slightly tweaked 4iiii power meters.
I’ve seen really good accuracy on both their single and dual leg setups, as I showed in my in-depth review. I haven’t spent much time with their slightly updated Podium lineup however, 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 from $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 for their left-only units 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.
This past winter Specialized decided to get into the power meter game themselves. Sorta. While the end-state product they have is definitely unique, it also leans heavily on their partnership with 4iiii. To say that it’s purely a rebranded 4iiii power meter would be undercutting some very real differences between the Specialized variant and all other 4iiii units – in particular on carbon cranks and with changes made around certain temperature variance edge cases. Inversely though, to say that it’s vastly different would also be a mistake. It’s like non-identical twin siblings (of the same gender).
The core differences include a far greater weather-sealed pod, which Specialized said they did to appeal to their pro teams using pressure washers to clean bikes. Additionally, the company says they changed aspects of the strain gauge design with 4iiii to account for temperature shift seen on certain carbon crank arms.
The unit is coin-cell operated and from an accuracy standpoint was very strong in all my tests with it this past winter/spring. The unit is offered both on Shimano crank arms, as well as S-Works carbon crank arms. It’s also offered both as an add-on for new bikes, but also straight from Specialized within their accessory store online (meaning, you don’t have to have a Specialized bike to buy it). Interestingly, they commissioned what I’d regard as the most detailed and insightful power meter accuracy test to date. Obviously, it showed it performed well, but if you dig into the details they didn’t hide the areas that it struggled slightly with either – so that’s actually good. Everyone I’ve talked to in the industry about the study (including their competitors) has largely agreed the framework of the study could serve as a good baseline for others to test power meters as well.
Advantages: Built atop the well understood 4iiii power meter design, coin-cell battery for those that like that. App for tweaking settings virtually identical to that from 4iiii. Has a carbon crank-arm offering.
Disadvantages: Changing the battery is a bit of a pain in the butt, even with the right tools (and not having the correct tool makes it a serious pain in the butt). Limited crank arm selection, just Shimano and their own.
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 4iiii….and apply them here too.
This past summer SRM introduced not just a pedal-based power meter, but the technology platform for what the company views as the next evolution of all their power meters. However, this pedal wasn’t purely an SRM invention, but rather is from the partnership of LOOK and SRM. SRM states that they brought their power meter expertise, while LOOK took the pedal side of things. Of course, in reality, that’s not actually true. One only need to look at the pedal installation/calibration process to see it comes from what LOOK previously had with their own pedals (which in turn were from their partnership with Polar years ago).
No matter the origins though, this is a new product in SRM’s wheelhouse and one I’ve been testing since June. Albeit with somewhat mixed results. I haven’t been as befuddled on my final decision of a power meter as this one in a long time. The SRM pedals don’t install as easily as the Favero/Garmin/PowerTap pedals. They require a fiddly installation process with special tools that is easily prone to errors (and just a pain in the ass). If you plan to move these pedals between bikes often, I’d look at other solutions.
But assuming you get it installed, it’s mixed. Some days it’s rock-on perfect. Easily tracking my efforts. Yet other days it’s oddly low (compared to 2-3 other power meters that are well trusted). There’s no clear reason why this occurs. I’ve also had issues with batteries draining in a single day too – but that seems to be transient. A new set of EXAKT pedals arrived this morning (technically my third), and I’ll dig into them further.
If we set aside the accuracy and battery oddities though, and just assume it’ll work out – it’s still a tough pitch. The installation is what it is, and the price is almost twice that of all other proven pedal based power meters on the market. But then again, you probably already knew that.
Advantages: True look-KEO compatible pedal (with KEO cleats too – some pedal based power meters aren’t exact KEO matches). Claimed battery life higher than other rechargeable units (100hrs vs 60-80hrs).
Disadvantages: Expensive, installation process is cumbersome.
Would I buy it: Not at this point. I just don’t see a specific reason over any of their competitors. Not for accuracy, nor looks, nor price, nor ease of use, nor reliability.
SRM cranksets have 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). Even SRM admitted straight up during their presentation that aspects like the new SRM EXACT pedals new temperature compensation algorithms were implemented because the existing SRM crankset units didn’t have true temperature compensation.
The good news is that SRM does see these updates to their technology coming to their crankset lineup (including things like dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart), though, there isn’t yet a timeframe for it.
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 an SRM crankset, 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).
Pioneer has iterated nicely through three generations of power meters over the last five 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 a major refresh for their power meter lineup, adding in Bluetooth Smart support and increased waterproofing – as well as a smartphone app for configuration and data download. They maintained their price point at $799USD for a dual system (sending in your own cranks), as well as other single-sided and pre-built with cranks already attached options as well.
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.
In addition, this fall they rolled out support for their pedaling metrics to the Wahoo BOLT/ELEMNT series, which is a major win for the company. Also, they announced a new head unit that should help quite a bit as well.
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.
Verve introduced their Infocrank power meter in 2014, which is a dual crank-based power meter with strain gauges on both crank arms. Additionally of note is that the unit has custom designed crank arms that are specific to Infocrank. The company hasn’t really made any notable changes this year to their lineup, though the units still remain a viable option.
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.
ROTOR has been in the power meter market for more than six 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 last year.
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. 2INpower had slightly tweaked the branding with variations on the 2INpower (such as appending DM), though the best explanation I can get is that nothing has changed internally.
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.
This startup company from the UK has recently launched a left-side only power meter, Avio PowerSense, that aims to be the least expensive direct force unit on the market. They started shipping in various beta states last spring, though have ramped up shipping in more of a production status this fall. The pod attaches to a left crank arm in a similar manner to Stages or 4iiii, though, a bit longer in length than either of those companies. Essentially though, the same concept.
The company offers a few ways to get the unit (some only within the UK, but expanding out to the EU this week), including buying the add-on kit for an existing Shimano 105 or Ultegra crank arm, as well as an installation service. They also offer complete cranksets with it pre-installed. The power meter transmits total power (by doubling the left side), as well as cadence, via ANT+. It doesn’t broadcast via Bluetooth Smart at this time, though the company says that’s on their roadmap and may be possible via simple firmware update.
Advantages: Perhaps the least expensive left-only power meter on the market (to my knowledge), has a self-install kit (though I haven’t tried that yet). The company also offers an installation service too, or pre-installed crank/crankset options.
Disadvantages: Limited crankset compatibility (just Shimano for some products, but is expanding to other cranksets), no Bluetooth Smart support. Some products are only available in the UK at this point and time, however, the company has started expanding into the EU this week for others.
Would I buy it: It’s tough. I’ve been using one (or, actually, a pile of units) on and off since spring, and up until late summer it’s definitely felt more like a beta product. I think they’re getting close, and the company in the last few days plans to send over their latest variant. While it is available for sale and purchase today, I don’t have enough time on the latest unit to make a complete determination here. The lack of dual ANT+/BLE is also a tough one as well.
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 hard to say. However, I haven’t heard any complaints from readers on it.
Team Zwatt launched two summers ago via crowdfunding with a few different power meter options. Behind the scenes, they also provide the technology for Easton/Race Face power meters. In the spring of 2017 they started shipping their own Team Zwatt units to customers, and it sounds like things are mostly chugging along smoothly these days. I’ve had a few readers use units lately, and mostly stuff seems to be working fine. I initially heard of some minor issues early on related to the subscription aspect – but those concerns/issues seemed to have dissipated.
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 or two 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.
I’m just concerned at this point the pricing doesn’t really make sense for the subscription aspect. All-in it ends up being more expensive than Power2Max – which has more compatibility offerings than Team Zwatt. I like the concept, but I’m not sold on the current pricing model.
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!
Two years ago 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. Then last 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 – and one of these darn days I’ll get around to writing up the longest power meter review ever on this site. 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.
While my review is still somehow not out yet (mostly on account of me using my tri bike less and less these days), you’ll actually find data in a number of my product reviews already over the past year. I just need to circle all that data up into a single post and call it macaroni.
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 ensure it fit my specific crankset requirements. But technologically it’s solid.
It’s been more than two years since Shimano debuted their Dura-Ace integrated power meter. While Shimano started out with their high-end Dura-Ace, everyone in the industry knows how this story ends (by going to cheaper models eventually). Unfortunately what nobody really predicted would be the troubles that Shimano has had with the product – a line of issues longer than…well…even Vector.
It was initially delayed about a year before it started shipping in the fall of 2017. They started off slowly in Japan, and then eventually sent out units to media reviewers (including myself). But universally all of us had the same issue with the inconsistent power readers, especially left/right balance. Of course, incorrect left/right balance issues really isn’t an issue with left/right balance – but rather fundamental power accuracy. After all – each side is measured individually, and the balance percentage value is merely done after the fact as a simple 3rd grade math equation.
To date, Shimano has yet to fix the issue.
Atop that, the unit doesn’t transmit power over Bluetooth Smart. Shimano had originally slated that for the end of 2017, but then pushed it to sometime in 2018, and these days the standard answer given is down to ‘no date known’. It does connect via Bluetooth Smart to the Shimano app, but that’s merely for firmware updates.
Finally, from an actual purchasing standpoint – you likely can’t even purchase one of these if you tried (perhaps a sign of the situation). They’re telling some retailers that they won’t get stock until late 2019. Yes, 2019. So there’s that for ya.
Advantages: It looks kinda pretty. And I suppose being all-Shimano purchasing/distribution, one vendor to deal with for the issues you’ll have.
Disadvantages: Magnet based means slightly more complex install, isn’t accurate, and doesn’t broadcast Bluetooth Smart (with no timeframe for when they’ll enable BLE power). Can’t buy it unless it’s from some retailer that’s sitting on stock forever.
Would I buy it: I can’t see a scenario where I would.
This short section is for products I’ve yet to get hands-on with. They are largely products that are brand new on the market (but actually shipping), but haven’t made their way to me yet. That doesn’t mean they’re bad (or good), it just means I haven’t seen them in person:
Tempo Power Meter: This company initially launched a crowd-funding campaign, but didn’t hit its goal. Instead of giving up though they pressed on (self-funded) and are now shipping units starting from $299USD (including the crank arm). They make a left-only solution akin to Stages and others, and their $299 option is based on the Shimano 105, with Shimano Ultegra at $349 and $399 depending on the variant. That would be the least expensive direct force power meter on the market for US buyers. Given I haven’t tested one I can’t speak to accuracy (claimed is +/- 1.5%), however do note that it’s ANT+ only, and not dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart. So decide whether or not that matters for your specific use-case. Further details here.
Giant Power Pro: Giant now enables you to equip your Giant bike with a power meter, which is dual-sided and affixes to your crank arms. There isn’t much in the way of accuracy-focused reviews out there (most reviews have focused on the bike rather than the power meter). It’s a bit surprising to see a major company come out with a power meter without any tale of development work, nor any claims by industry power meter partners. The design doesn’t mirror others on the market, so it’s hard to say if there’s a OEM partner somewhere (which would bolster credibility). Typically power meter companies work for years to get accuracy nailed down. Of course, Giant is a big company and has plenty of resources to get the job done. Note that it too lacks Bluetooth Smart, and as such is ANT+ only. Further details here.
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 $199 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. 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 it’s down to $49 these days). It’s also a good option for those that travel and are stuck with hotel bikes and want to get some mileage with Zwift on an otherwise non-useful hotel bike. 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.
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 a year or two ago (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 I haven’t re-tried it (or seen any trusted individuals that have reported good results on it).
Unreleased or Cancelled Products:
Lastly, 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). In some cases I’ve test ridden versions of these products, or seen them in trade shows.
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.
IQ2: This pedal spacer based power meter fits in between your pedal and your crank arm, which means that it makes it more compatible than any specific pedal design, or any specific crank-arm manufacturer can. The downside being that it can impact (increase) the q-factor of your stance (how far your feet are apart). The IQ2 power meter was introduced/announced in April 2018, and while initially slated to ship in September, the company says they’re going to start shipping Nov 29th. At present no independent media outlet (or any outlet/person/pigeons for that matter) has tested the unit yet. So it remains to be seen whether or not they can achieve what will be the most impressive power meter development cycle in power meter history (and deliver an accurate device). If so, it’ll be a huge win for the consumer. But I still suspect we won’t see a fully accurate unit until sometime next spring, but of course, I’m happy to be proven wrong.
Next, we’ve got now defunct or otherwise discontinued products. In years past I’ve included full sections on products that are no longer in production. While the parent companies may still be around in some cases, these units are not being manufactured and thus I’d simply not recommend them any longer.
WatTeam: The company just closed sales of units last week. While I’ve written plenty on them over the years, with this announcement I wouldn’t recommend purchasing them, primarily because the unit is so heavily dependent on not just their mobile app, but backend servers that do calibration and configuration. While WatTeam has committed to continuing support, I find that these types of last-ditch commitments only go as far as the next change of wind direction.
LIMITS: To the best of my knowledge, this company is no longer producing units (nor responding to customer support requests). The company started as a crowd-funded power meter project, and eventually raised significant sums of money. The company started shipping units in mid-2017, however, accuracy never quite got to the point of being accurate enough for meaningful usage. Here’s my past accuracy-focused post on them, as well as significant reader comments.
In past years I’ve written entire sections on the entrants below, but this year I’m just going to simplify things a bit, as most of these have remained in this section for the better part of forever. You can look at last year’s post if you really want details on what I certainly wouldn’t recommend buying:
XPEDO THRUST E: This is a pedal-based power meter touted by Xpedo for about the last half-decade. Every time I see them at industry trade shows I ask about it, and they consistently respond it’s only a couple months away from shipping. It’s a bit of a running joke, which, they don’t realize they aren’t in on when I ask it. I asked again this year though nonetheless – and the answer remains the same. Note: first photo above.
Luck Shoe Power: This cycling shoe based power meter is designed to fit just below the base of your cycling shoe, and was designed specifically for Luck’s cycling shoes. Getting clear and concise answers out of the company at Eurobike is always tricky. The first few years I chalked it up to some language barriers. However, these days I’ve decided they simply don’t have a saleable product. They usually bring enough to a trade show to easily pedal and show on a big screen, but no place to actually order them. I’ve seen no evidence of this being out in the wild anywhere. Note: second photo above.
Then there’s a list of companies that I don’t see as being in business anymore – either because they’ve said so, or because they’ve gone silent. But since I’m sure people stumbling onto this page may not know all the historical information, here’s the quick versions:
Ashton Instruments: Ashton Instruments made the media rounds at Interbike four 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. 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. Best I know, the company is no longer in operation. I haven’t heard from them since 2016. Note: third photo above.
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. I haven’t heard from them since then. Note: fourth photo above.
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 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 2019 – dependent entirely on whether or not IQ2 can put forth a viable product. If they fail to do so, don’t expect any meaningful price shifts from the industry. And finally as noted somewhere up above, I don’t expect anything otherwise unannounced will hit on the market until spring as well.
Of course, if I haven’t covered something – feel free to plop questions down below. Thanks for reading!
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