Once again, it’s time for the big dance that is Kona. Or more technically – the Vega Ironman World Championships. It’s when the fastest long-course triathletes in the world gather on a small island to collectively consume more electrolyte-filled drinks and gel packets in a day than most cities could ever down.
However, this marks the 10th year that power meters have been tracked at Kona. In that time we’ve also seen a pretty dramatic shift in the market and the players. And in the last 2-3 years I think we’ve really seen things start to stabilize, at least for now. I expect this will remain fairly constant until Shimano gets around to putting an (accurate) power meter in their Ultegra cranksets with either a minimal or minor price increase. Meaning, until they make it a no brainer.
Of course, this data set is part of the larger annual Kona bike count that looks at which bike frames and components are most popular. But like past years – I’m most interested in the geeky data, specifically, the power meter data. As I’ve done for a crap-ton of years in the past, I’ll analyze the power meter count data that was released this morning by Triathlete Magazine, and talk about the trends.
A Bit of Backstory
For those not familiar, historically Lava Magazine and now these days Triathlete Magazine, in conjunction with a bunch of industry folks, count all of the bikes entering the transition areas. By ‘count’, I mean that they give them a complete rubber-glove exam of componentry. While this might be an interesting consumer publication tidbit, it’s really about industry marketing. It enables big companies to brag about domination in the bike industry for everything from the bikes themselves to helmets to wheels.
For example, here’s an ad from a few years back (2014) that Quarq did almost immediately following the bike count numbers.
Starting in 2009, the Kona bike count added power meters to the list of counted parts. So we’ve now got almost a decade of power meter numbers to work from. Enough to start developing some interesting trends. For many that follow the industry, these trends won’t really be a huge surprise.
By the same token, it’s really important to understand that these numbers don’t paint an accurate picture of power meter usage across the board. Why’s that?
Because Kona Qualifiers are the pointy end of the pack. The super-pointy end. They also tend to be well beyond the normal triathlete Type-A mentality (that I fit into as well), which means that in addition to spending all their time on their sport they also spend all their money. They tend to gravitate to the more expensive options, especially for things like weight savings or if the word ‘carbon’ is involved.
Whereas the more weekend warrior road bike rider might not spend the same proportion of income in the sport, and thus is far more likely to buy cheaper power meters (à la Stages, 4iiii, Favero, etc…).
Next, remember that these are for units on the market as of the first few weeks of October. But in reality, I’d wager that 95% of athletes qualifying for Kona will have a fairly locked down mentality on gear – so likely any major bike changes, such as a power meter purchase, would have been done back in the spring (or at worst mid-summer), to be able to leverage that data for training all season. We haven’t seen any meaningful new power meter announcements this past summer (or this year), so we’re not looking at a scenario where you’ve got some brand new units on the market that might not be accounted for (such as two years ago in 2017 when both Favero and Garmin announced units over the summer, though we now see the impact of that in 2019).
Finally, note that the field at Kona is very dynamic in that while the age groupers on the podium at Kona will often return year over year, much of the age group field tends to view going to Kona as aspirational – and thus aren’t likely to be there 5 years running. Still, excluding the lottery winners, the overall athletic class of athlete tends to remain quite consistent year over year (and getting faster).
To begin, let’s start off with all the raw data from the past decade. I’ve ported it into a single table to make it easy to deal with. See the links at the bottom if you want to look at the individual yearly data straight from Triathlete Magazine. I’ve compiled it into some spreadsheets, and color-coded it for fun.
A crapton of quick technicalities to note here (seriously these are important):
– This year I have much higher confidence in the count compared to last year. Last year we saw a lot of oddities around pedal based power meters that were likely missed, especially Favero. This year the pedal counts matched the power meter counts (last year they didn’t).
– There’s no breakout of models, so we don’t know on PowerTap for example, how many are hubs vs chain-ring vs pedals. However, this year with the pedal counts we can deduce at least how many of those PowerTap units are pedals specifically – so that’s cool (130 pedals of 177 PowerTap products).
– Inversely, some brands like Ergomo have long died off, but I kept them for historical reasons.
– I suspect there are cases where other relative unknowns might have been missed. It appears they’ve caught most brands, but if something is mostly unheard of (such as an Avio power meter), it might not be seen. These folks have to work super-fast and are likely not expecting the unknowns. But I’d consider any of these negligible in the grand scheme of things
Here’s what I was referring to on the pedals of power meters front. The Garmin numbers match, which is great, and the PowerTap numbers don’t match – which makes total sense. Undoubtedly the majority of PowerTap people these days are using PowerTap P1/P2 pedals, with the remainder using PowerTap C1 or G3/etc hubs.
So what about power meter adoption? Simply put – it continues to climb, albeit slightly – but it climbed again as with every year prior:
One of the challenges that we always have at Kona is that disc wheels are not permitted, primarily due to safety concerns with strong crosswinds on certain sections of the course. As such, people that may have PowerTap hubs in disc wheels aren’t really accounted for here. That said, year after year I suspect that’s a dwindling number of people, especially among the Kona crowd.
Next, let’s look at the brands more carefully:
First off, sorry there are duplicate colors. There are only so many colors to work with, and I just let Excel do its thing. All you really need to know to decode it is that blue section on the bottom is Quarq, and the yellow section in the middle is Garmin.
Of course, most of the trends we see here aren’t surprising. Back in 2009, there were really only a few brands (Quarq, SRM, PowerTap, Polar, Ergomo). But it’s really PowerTap and SRM that dominated back then. Ironically, those two continue to see their numbers dwindle, albeit due to entirely different reasons. In the case of SRM it’s that the power meter world surpassed them in pricing and functionality. In the case of PowerTap it’s a bit harder to pinpoint, given they have the P1/P2 pedals, but those have struggled to compete with Garmin – likely due to form factor. Perhaps the SRAM acquisition this past winter will change that.
Quarq continues to go strong, though no longer holds #1 – these days it’s a very strong #2 which is actually really impressive for a lot of reasons, namely their price point, but also that Shimano groupsets dominate SRAM groupsets at Kona (1,927 to 430).
But ultimately, the core reason that Garmin is winning the overall power meter category is likely just distribution (with a side blend of practicality to switch bikes more easily). That one can buy Garmin pedals at virtually any bike shop on earth matters. Same goes for online stores too. While Quarq has similar reach via SRAM’s ownership, stocking Quarq cranksets is a far higher bar than stocking a single type of Garmin pedals.
Now, keep in mind that the numbers probably would be even higher if Garmin hadn’t been embroiled in the general $h!tshow that has been the Garmin Vector 3 battery cap fiasco. One only has to look at comments on reviews and posts to see how many customers Garmin lost to Favero. While Favero went from 0 to 70 here, that’s mostly because last year it wasn’t counted properly.
Let’s talk about some of the other stand-outs in this list though. In mostly order of volume shipped:
Quarq: The company did well this year, slightly growing total units this year from 345 to 367, which is solid in a market that doesn’t really favor more expensive crankset/spider based power meters.
PowerTap: Like Quarq, PowerTap also grew numbers (156 to 177), after retracting from 2017 to 2018 (as did Quarq). Again, I suspect in the case of PowerTap these growths were undoubtedly due to Garmin’s fumbles in this segment. It’s also impressive too given that there’s been virtually no PowerTap brand marketing since the company was sold to SRAM/Quarq earlier this year. Some of this might be due to the PowerTap P2, but since that was more or less just a minor internals change and new paint job, it’s unlikely that was a core driver.
Power2Max: Despite doing once again no marketing, the company remained roughly static (after a number of years of strong growth). They lost a few units from 181 to 177 (even though total bikes increased by about 50). Again, I’d consider this a solid performance for them given they display an almost SRM-like lack of interest in making gains in the market from a distribution/marketing standpoint.
Stages: The company shrunk slightly this year from 126 to 117. Like with Power2Max, this was roughly a wash, but it’s still 8% or so. I suspect the main driver here is just that pedals are just cheaper than ever before (remember, Favero dropped prices again last December). It’s really as simple as that.
Favero: This was the first year they showed up on the charts, though as noted I’m sure they had quantiles last year, but just were overlooked. Still, 70 is a respectable first date, and I suspect just being on this list will continue to see them grow next year. My bet? We’ll see them hit 150-200 next year. We’ll see how I do in 12 months.
SRM: No amount of finicky SRM EXAKT pedals was going to save their numbers this year, which continued to plummet to the lowest point ever – a mere 63 units. They used to be the majority of units. Now? A mere 4%.
Beyond those, almost everyone else stayed roughly the same.
Despite a relatively quiet year for new power meters (and by quiet, I mean basically non-existent), we continue to see power meters grow within the Kona ranks. Though admittedly slightly less than I’d expect these days. I’d have assumed power meter adoption would easily be 70-75% at Kona, if not higher – given the type-A gear mentality that is pervasive at the Ironman World Championships. I’d love to be able to ask people as they checked in their bikes that didn’t have a power meter: Why not?
Which isn’t a negative question, as it is a curiosity. There’s no more perfect scenario for a power meter than an Ironman race, and within that – no better race from a pacing standpoint than Kona. Between the winds and the adrenaline of the event, there’s frankly no better event to use a power meter on that I can think of.
Like in the past, we continue to have startups waiting in the wings with the promise of cheaper power meters, such as IQ2 and others. But as with every previous year, these startups have struggled to gain a foothold. Or, just to ship products. Remember last year we lost WatTeam shortly after Kona (despite managing to land a single unit in last year’s count).
And like last year, it’ll be interesting to see if anyone is riding with any aero sensors out on the course. For those that are excessively bored, rummaging through race day photos to find Notio Konect sensors or VeloComp’s AeroPod out on real-world bikes. Both have been shipping for a year now, though I’m not sure either company is making major progress in the market. I continue to think it’s got huge potential, but is slowed by the challenge of understanding how to use the data to make oneself faster without having experienced coaches and aero professionals giving you the exact tips on what to change.
With that – thanks for reading!
Note: This year, and many of years past data is from Lava Magazine and Triathlete Magazine by a collection of industry folks that survey the bikes upon check-in. Links to all past data sources are listed here: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.
Surely SRM must know that having essentially the most expensive power meters isn’t helping them in the market place. Doing nothing to appeal to consumers isn’t going to help that market position.
I would point you to Blackberry – from industry dominance to “Who?” in less than 5 years due to a refusal to adapt.
Although the exakt pedals are a mess, the set and forget dependability of the spider-based SRM trumps every single endless cycle of dropouts, power flukes, failed batteries, doors, and warranties of Quarq, Garmin, Pioneer, Stages, etc….. Ironman WC athletes are putting in 10-20+hrs of training per week….. when time efficiency is key, I’d think that dealing with the back and forth day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month problems of the market-competitive and affordable PMs wouldn’t be worth it…. no “send yours back, Mount an alternative While we evaluate the beta-level product we sold you,” no “your power data is terribly low/high? Just change the slope factor in our app (seriously, quarq recommends this frequently….lol)!” Ride 1,000hours per year, try an SRM spider versus anything else here, and lemme know how many times your PM fails and you’ve gotta send it back or delete the data Bc it’s 1000w for 20min…..
Kellen… Power2max? Have one since early 2014… Only had to swap batteries myself since i bought it. No software updates and no maintenance ever required. That pretty much what the review of dcrainmaker every tests since then. And for a third of the price of srm and without having to sens your unit across the globe for battery replacement…
@Kellen I’ve been a happy Quarq user and seen my teammates and friends changing to Quarq without issue. It’s solid. The converted were Stage.
I have the Favero pedals and ride them 10-12 hrs per week in all sorts of conditions and haven’t had a single blip. Garmin may have issues but there are a fair number of bullet proof power meters available. The SRM spiders aren’t the “gold standard” any longer so they shouldn’t be the default choice for most athletes.
In unrelated news, SRM just last month announced/introduced temp compensation to their new hardware crankset units going forward – joining the rest of the industry from nearly a decade ago.
All true but, for a Joe Blow nobody like me, I cant afford to purchase a power meter per bike… and by cant afford I mean the wife wont let me. I am happy enough to have a Madone and SpeedConcept at the house so I like being able to move my Vector 3s from one bike to another and keep the peace at home.
I’m not sure that SRM is the standard for accuracy and reliability any more. There are more brands producing reliable, precise, and accurate power meters now, power meters that cost much less than an SRM: PowerTap, Favero, Power2Max, Stages (dual), and literally many more. Seemingly everywhere you look–the pro peloton, triathletes, amateurs–the SRM market share doesn’t really support the idea that SRM is any way superior. Even if SRM power meters were demonstrably more accurate, precise, and reliable (this is certainly not a given), what does that matter if sales continue to drop? And how can a company lay claim to technical superiority if they only now are announcing that they’ll be incorporating temperature compensation in their power meters?
@ Raur Meilleur
Same here. Bought mine 6 months old on Craigslist for $300 and I’ve had the same experience as you.
Note: You should probably sort the raw data table by *2019* popularity: #1 at the top, then #2, etc. It would make it a little easier to read.
(It seems to be sorted by 2014 popularity at the moment. Easy fix; Much better table with 2019 sorting.)
Good call! Done!
After reading your reviews I went with the Favero pedals with my second IM coming up. Already have others in my tri club are buying them as well due to being cheaper then Garmin and charging the battery via USB. In saying that nobody over here in Aus has really heard of them and im only one man spreading the love.
It would be great to see them doubling their numbers but think most people still like sticking with the well known brands
Matt Fullgrabe – I’m in Melbourne and have the Favero’s so you’re not (completely) alone 😉 I do agree they don’t have the visibility of the Vector 3s, Stages or others yet. My suspicion is that people go with what their local shop recommends and since Favero doesn’t sell through as many LBS or as part of full bike builds, they don’t get considered. Interestingly, 99Bikes, Bikebug and Pushys all list them online now.
Australian checking in. I’m spreading the love so hard on the Assioma there are bikes getting pregnant with them everywhere. Or something. I should maybe rephrase that.
I like them. They work.
Glad to see SRM dominance being over. Ridiculously priced powerneter should be outlawed! hah.
“I’d love to be able to ask people as they checked in their bikes that didn’t have a power meter: Why not?”
My wife was there with no power meter on her bike. She’s owned one for 3 years but never really used it because,
1. She has a diesel engine, one output level…forever. So no need in a race (While I, for example, need to watch that I don’t go too hard at any point with my more sprinty power profile)
2. She trains on a smart trainer and uses the power off that.
The upside to this is that now I have a power meter on two bikes.
Interesting post, Ray, thanks! Does anyone do a similar count for running shoes? Curious to see what percent of people are wearing 4% or next%s. Seems like half the field these days in some of my local races.
A couple of years back I suggested the running shoe count for all major events (e.g UTMB), then we had a discussion with Ray, that organizers do not bother to get a full list of gears used by athletes. Then I posted some articles about some shoe manufacturer representatives standing on a trail and physically counting the shoe types and manufacturers… I am unable to find that post now…
But here is one very interesting on device split made by Shane:
link to dcrainmaker.com
“In the case of PowerTap it’s a bit harder to pinpoint, given they have the P1/P2 pedals, but those have struggled to compete with Garmin – likely due to form factor.”
If by that you mean the pedal body shape… not so much. If by that you mean the “almost a Keo” cleat fitting that meant your Keo cleat pulled out of the pedals when putting the power down then BINGO!
I sold my P2’s (acquired at a discount in Kona in 2016) and upgraded to the Garmins purely based on the advantage that I wouldn’t have to juggle multiple types of road cleat to cope with the fact that I had some P2s.
A year into Garmin V3 ownership I can say its been the right decision. No unexpected unclips, solid & reliabpe power data.
I just would like to draw your attention to the discussion on the same topic from the previous year… (the migration continues)…
link to dcrainmaker.com
Ask and you shall receive
link to triathlete.com
I think the count is basically wrong, Since I don’t see any Specialized PM (or even tagged as “rebranded” 4iiii) And I could see some of the new Shivs with them equipped (most of Zwift’s tri-academy for instance)
Adittionally, It vey strange the low nubers for 4iiii.
I don’t know, simply the data doesn’t seem to be right…
Interesting – very good catch!
What we don’t know is if someone just called this ‘4iii’ (since it would count under those numbers). Still, there are some nuanced differences there, so I certainly think it should be called a Specialized unit.
As with last year, it wouldn’t surprise me that errors like this exist.
Fwiw, here’s a link showing the Zwift academy cranksets are clearly Specialized PM’s: link to slowtwitch.com
There’s a video from a spanish blogger that shows how they make the count… and it looks anything but professional. there’s a couple of people (maybe volunteers) along the box entrance just analizing (and writing it down in a notebook!) the bikes as the participants are entering through the hallway.
So, chances for errors are more than posible. I’d give an error rate of no less than 15-20%.
Regarding 4iii/Specialized… 23 4iiii Power Meters?? really? I’ts hard to believe… maybe they just didn’t see or recognize the little logo in the left crank (in the mentioned video the “volunteers” are located at the right side of the hallway.
As far as I know all tri-academy riders equipped the Specialized Power cranks except for one that uses a rotor cranks with Powertap pedals because he uses 155mm cranks and Specialized does not carry this size.
Sorry for my english!
Is this the same issue with Giant’s Power Pro and Pioneer? As I understand it the Power Pro is essentially the Pioneer Power Meter. Did the 120 Giant and Liv bikes get counted as Pioneer Power Meters? My guess is that this is what happened and why we don’t see a “Giant” category.
Interesting data – do you know if anyone at Kona is using something like an Aeropod with a powermeter to be able to do real-time adjustments to CdA?
I have Aeropod for 2 seasons and after using and understanding how it works, I can tell you it is a total gimmick. You can’t measure true Cda outside 99% of the time due to wind, at the velodrome, it is not precise because of turns and how it reads the turns. I’m not going to say it is a waste of money, but it is a huge waste of time for a ballpark approximation that can be determined with the same precision by just having a good power meter. I thought I will attach aeropod to my bike ride and see real-time mt Cda, well that’s is not true, you will be looking at some number that changes quite a lot by quite a lot due to non linear airflow outside, and you will be constantly thinking: seems like I have tailwind why my Cda is higher than when I have headwind. If you are in Toronto I can borrow you my unit.
The data from other categories like Hydration is pretty suspect – a lot of items dumped in ‘Other’ so the scores for the usual leaders have fallen markedly. Kona count highly dependent on who is doing it and what they recognise. And sometimes a bit of politics when the scores are collated at the end.
@Robin “There are more brands producing reliable, precise, and accurate power meters now”
As someone who only coaches athletes with powermeters I don’t entirely agree. Unreliable powermeters are the bane of my existence. All of them spring up issues.
How do they differentiate, for example, a Stages or 4iiii pod from 2 meters away if the left crank arm is positioned parallel to the chainstay ? I am sure that over 2500 bikes many cases like this occur.
The people who are doing the counting are trained enough for difference from 2 meters away, for example, a power2max Type S, NG or NGeco and count it as a power2max ?
I personally believe that this data cannot be taken to draw conclusions.
Spanish vlogger video aside, historically the team doing the inspection is very hands-on. They get down next to the bike, etc… and go through all the items. So I’m surprised to hear otherwise, as you noted, it’d be virtually impossible to differentiate between a Stages Left-only and 4iiii Left-only if the crank arm was positioned backwards.
For right-sided units, you can do it all from a distance pretty easily. Historically speaking I’ve known some of the guys that have done it, and I’d trust them to get it right, with a reasonable margin of error (a few percent). I don’t know who did it this year, so I can’t say.
However, what I think we can say pretty clearly is the trends. I’m less fussed over whether it’s 56 units or 86 units. Once you get to 380 units, it’s a pretty clear indicator. But again, it’s only an indicator of Kona. We know from sale data that a few years ago Stages dominated sales, but didn’t do well in Kona – likely because at the time it was left-only.
As for 4iiii scoring low – I actually believe that. They don’t have great channel/retailer depth compared to the others here. And for many Kona athletes that are walking into an LBS to pickup a $5,000 bike – that’s what matters.
I’m surprised there are no more people on Favero! I have Garmins, P1, Stages, PowerTap. And Favero Assiomas are absolutely the best out of all of them. Build-in sealed battery is absolutely brilliant and lasts forever, they are super precise and consistent. Assiomas can be easily changed without any hassle and they are the least expensive out of all at 650$ for a dual system. Bulletproof and inexpensive with better precision than most of the others on the market due to IAV Power, I use them on the track bike as well and on my TT bike with asymmetric rings, non of the competition can do that. Assiomas ae brilliant, this is coming from long-time power meter user (10 years)
Distribution, distribution, distribution.
Favero makes a fantastic product. I’d argue probably the best power meter pedal out there from a technical standpoint (accuracy/reliability/functions).
However…they are not the best vendor for retailers to deal with. Their accounting/currency system is a nightmare (it calculates costs on the fly based on EUR, meaning retailers can’t really predict what their costs will be). And their inventory and stockage is always laggy. Those two issues are kinda big deals for retailers. Lastly, there’s a big language barrier between retailers and Favero. Favero tries hard (they do), but they just don’t have any native English speakers on staff, and it can be a big struggle for phone calls or in-person meetings.
Luckily, those are far easier things to fix than products. If Favero can tackle those (and marketing), they’ll continue to see sales rise.
Amen, Garmin, and others with their large variety of products and much higher prices have much more robust distribution channels.
I think even with dedicated North American distribution partner it would be hard to have ample supply of the product (they are hard to manufacture and calibrate, almost hand made operation) and keep the price at the current level. 650$ vs. 1000$ for Garmins
In Canada, some retailers increased the price by 225$ USD (1150CAD) (to make worth selling it\dealing with Assioma), and people are still buying it. Great product at insane price 650$, something\somone has to suffer 🙂 With current rates, they are very well positioned to make any move they want. I hope none will buy them and kill the product, and they will stay on the market for a very long time and make many customers as much happy as they made me.
How long till we see the Wahoo Speedplay entrance..
Guess first we have to wait for the PM ?
After a few years with Garmin Vector dual sided power pedals and later with 4iiii single sided crank I have a very strong opinion about these two products. The Garmins have been a constant pain in the cracker from the beginning, with a lot of issues (and I have read a zillion other people having the same issues) and a price that is not in any way justified for this product. The only thing I will give 10 points for regading the Vectors is the marketing from Garmin. . .
The 4iiii is cheap and works 100 percent. Absolutely 0 issues with this product, 10 out of 10.
So I would not never go again with pedal power. The reason was that I would be able to use it on multiple bikes. With the Garmins it didnt work at all, unable to calibrate after changing, wrong numbers, etc etc. Though in theory it should be a good option, I have decided not to try it again and just go with separate crank based power meters.
It has been YEARS since I did an ironman, but I’m REALLY looking forward to your thoughts on this year’s bike count data whenever it is released…