[Updated note – Nov 2020: Please read the text. All of it. Especially the parts where I’m concerned about their ability to execute on the timeframes they’ve specified, and whether or not the unit I received for test is what regular backers would receive. At this juncture, there’s little reason to believe IQ2’s timelines. Just as there wasn’t back in May. That aside, my focus here was on the product from a technology standpoint. Update #2 – Oct 2021: Still no products shipped yet. As with before, still no reason to believe IQ2’s timelines.]
Two years ago (almost to the day), IQ2 announced their then crank arm spacer based power meter. It would fit in between any pedal type and any crank arm, and allow power on more or less any bike with any pedal. In theory, it’d be close to the holy grail.
In practice, a year later (almost exactly to the day again) that effort fizzled without any returns, and they announced a new goal – a pedal-based power meter. But not just one power meter, but a series of them – both road and mountain. For the road side they’d offer both single-sided and dual sided Look-Keo compatible pedals, while for the mountain side they’d offer the same single and dual options but in a Shimano SPD (MTB) compatible pedal.
Suffice to say, neither happened according to their timelines – but this weekend I got my second set (TLDR on the first set was three weeks ago I rode them and 20 mins into the first ride I found a hardware defect).
Given that y’all are incredibly eager to hear whether or not they’ve produced an accurate power meter, I figured I’d do a daily-double today and knock out both an indoor ERG workout and an outdoor varied-terrain workout and then look at the power meter accuracy data. Simple, right?
First, some ground rules:
1) This is *NOT* a full review. It’s two rides. Three if you count the broke-ass ride from three weeks ago. I typically test power meters for a month or more (many months often).
2) Second, this is DEFINITELY not sponsored. Whether or not they work I’ll tell you – just like I posted three weeks ago when it broke.
3) Third, I’ve only got a single-sided (left) road pedal. I don’t have dual-sided ones, and those sound like they’re sometime down the road. I don’t have a mountain pedal either.
4) I’m confident this is from their production line, but I’m not 100% confident this is what end users will receive. There were already some manufacturing tweaks related to assembly between the set three weeks ago and this set.
5) I’ve got no real clarity on when they’ll start shipping to real people.
Got all that? Good. Let’s try and break them. And for that you’ve got two options: You can watch the video, or read the text. Or be a cool kid and do both:
Onto the text bits for those that like textual things.
What’s in the box:
Here’s the box, again, of the left-pedal only variant. Of course, like all pedal-based power meters, you’ll get a ‘dummy’ right pedal as well. This lacks the electronic elements, but otherwise looks almost the same from the exterior.
Inside you’ll find the two pedals and next to them two CR2032 batteries. You’ll only use one battery.
Below that is the pedal wrench and two spacers for the pedals:
You’ll see the QR code to scan with your phone to install the app (technically it points to their site though, but close enough I guess):
To install the battery you’ll crack open the side of the pedal with an Allen key and then slip the battery in there. Oh, and as far as weights go, ask and you shall receive:
I don’t know why there’s such a big difference between the two. Obviously one has electronics and the other doesn’t, but I figured they’d make them the same. Perhaps it’s because the right pedal (non-electronics) is solid within the spindle. Here’s the two side by side:
And for fun, here’s the flip-side:
In any case, onwards to install!
For the most part, installation harkens back a bit to the older Look KEO/Polar/SRM EXAKT pedal installation process where you use a wrench to align things a certain way. It’s not as finicky as those units though, so that’s positive. But it’s definitely not as clean as Favero/Garmin/PowerTap or even the new SRM X pedal-based power meters. All of those you more or less just install as any other pedal.
To begin, you’ll notice the pedal has an inside component that rotates in and out of the spindle. I’d refer to this as the ‘swirly thing’. Basically, it’s what tightens into the crank arm and allows the positioning to be precise. Once you’ve got that snug against the pedal, then you’ll hand-tighten the pedal to the crank arm.
My pictures came out like crap for whatever reason, so instead, here’s a snippet from their install video. This is helpful for others, since they don’t have a written install guide. See, winning?
Then you’ll loosen the ‘inside’ of the pedal spindle area with a hex wrench one turn:
After that, you’ll use their pedal wrench to horizontally align against your crank arm, keeping the IQ2 logo facing upwards:
Finally, you’ll tighten that inside nut/swirly thing up:
Then, you’ll do a zero offset:
Realistically, as I’ve found out – you’ll want to do a few sprints first, then do a zero offset, and perhaps toss in a few minutes for temperature stabilization too.
Also, somewhat annoyingly, this entire process has to be done watching a YouTube video – rather than being in the app or on a clickable web page with step by step pieces. So you’re trying to pause each step, make sure you’re turning things the right way, etc… My attempts at install are as follows
Set #1: First attempt – easy success, accurate instantly Set #2: First attempt – thought it was good, then immediate accuracy dumpster fire Set #2: Second through fourth attempts: A mess still, eventually got myself back to square zero Set #2: Fifth attempt: Nailed it! A few sprints, a zero offset or five, and I’m good!
I suspect the issue with the middle ones was that it wasn’t quite tight enough. I had done it ‘normal pedal tight’, and I think it needed more, and developed a bit of play. The video says a torque wrench is optional – but I have a funny feeling you need to skew more towards gorilla tight than normal pedal tight. Just my guess.
In any case, good to go now.
For the indoor ride I loaded up TrainerRoad. In this configuration TrainerRoad only talked to the Wahoo KICKR (2018 Edition). And then I separately recorded the IQ2 power meter on a Garmin Edge 530:
I also concurrently recorded the Wahoo KICKR on an Edge 830, while recording a Quarq DZero on a Fenix 6. I also had a few other things recording HR and what not from Polar Grit X.
For the test, I selected TrainerRoad’s Apple Orchard. This wasn’t a super-challenging workout in terms of crazy power, but I figured it’d be a good starting point to show both stability of power in longer chunks, as well as responsiveness in short 15-20 second test intervals.
Note that what made it slightly more challenging is I did it 1.5x, since I spent the first attempt troubleshooting accuracy/installation issues. We’ll ignore that here and skip to when I got it nice and tight and happy.
For that, here’s that data set in the DCR Analyzer:
As you can see, it’s pretty darn similar. Each of my power meters (including the trainer) took their turn with what is likely some sort of WiFi or other wireless signal interference. All of them dropped for a second or two. I’m going to ignore that, since all of them did it. I’ll build a tin-foil fort tomorrow.
First, let’s look at the warm-up phase (first 12 mins):
While these are similar, there’s a bit more of a spikey-thing going on with the IQ2 power meter. You see it manifest itself as a slightly higher wattage than the others. I’m less concerned with it being consistently high (that’s actually to be expected), and more-so the fact that the purple line of the IQ2 spikes constantly above the others.
That said, the spikey-bits don’t appear in the outdoor ride later. So perhaps that’s just a bit of the unit settling in after install. It’s something I’ll look at more closely after longer-term testing.
Each of the interval sets are roughly the same, so I’ll just pick at the last one since I figure things would have settled the most by then (also, it has no drop-outs from any of the units).
These are all super similar. We see the Quarq going a bit higher than the others on all sets, a trend I’ve seen in recent tests of mine. I don’t tend to see it as much outdoors. Not sure why. But in the scope of this test, it’s negligible – all these units are super close here.
If we look at the mean-max chart, you’ll see it’s crays close. The Wahoo KICKR is exactly where it should be (lower than the rest) – since it’s further down the drivetrain:
And cadence is precisely identical to the Quarq, minus the two units’ varying signal dropouts:
Aside from the slight bit of spikiness on the IQ2, there’s nothing to be upset about here. This is pretty much a picture-perfect set. I could add a bunch more words, or I could go eat cookies. All you need to know is earlier in this same paragraph.
(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy sections were created using the DCR Analyzer tool. It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)
Next, I headed outside for a loop of varied terrain. Some smoother pavement, some grittier pavement, some cattle grates, some rougher brick, some gravel. Yes, gravel: Why not?
Now, you can watch a fun montage of that in the video at the top of the post, but for here we’ll get straight into the data. Here’s the overview – in this case, I swapped out the Wahoo KICKR for a PowerTap G3 hub in my rear wheel. Quarq is still there as well. Here’s the high-level view (and here’s the data set):
I know, that’s kinda messy and hard to see – outdoor rides usually look that way due to the constant shifts in intensity. So instead, let’s pick some pieces. First, this relatively steady section here:
It starts off with a bit of a sprint off the line, and then digs in for some nice steady 250-325w cruising, before eventually ending at another stop-light. Still, all three power meters are within a few watts in most places. There’s no major outlier data points here, nor anything of massive concern. Keep in mind again, that the IQ2 is a left-only power meter, and as such, is going to be slightly more variable due to my normal leg differences. The Quarq & PowerTap G3 Hub are both total power units.
Next, another stoplight to stoplight chunk. For the most part, things are very similar here. A bit more variability in the second to second data points however across all units. I’m honestly not sure why. It’s not huge, but it’s not quite as crispy as some of the other portions. This was relatively normal pavement. There’s one drop-out from the IQ2 at the 34-minute marker that corresponds with a slight surge in the others. Given the precise timing, this seems far less likely to be an interference dropout issue, and far more likely to be an algorithm issue. It’s something I’ll be keeping an eye on in the future.
Next, the gravel section. This was an out and back section, with the turn-around in the middle. As you can see, I was cruising at between 300 and 500w across this. Take no prisoners on my aero wheels!
That said, you see some slight variability from everyone – even with 5-second smoothing on here. It’s not as clean as other sections, but it’s also 100% totally usable data from all players. No player is any better than the other here.
After that point, the Karoo unit that the PowerTap G3 was recording on ran out of battery. I didn’t exactly think that one through when I left the cave with sub-10% battery while also screen recording.
No worries, nothing exciting happens after that point anyway. As for the mean-max chart – super clean – anyone would be happy with this:
On cadence, there’s a few blips in there – things that are hard to notice in the grand scheme of stuff – roughly 1-second blips, but easily seen on a chart like this.
My guess is this is an area where a bit more work can be done still. In this section, it was mostly regular pavement, but it’s possible these exact blips line-up with some specific pot-hole or what-not.
Overall though, I think this is a pretty darn good start. With some very minor tweaks they can get that last little bit that might be causing the occasional drop-out in the algorithm. And I think it’d be pretty hard to argue that the extent of these dropouts is anything but minor right now.
Does the entire outside ride match the stability of some of the other players? No. But is it 99.9% of the way there? Yes, absolutely.
When the first test unit they gave me three weeks ago failed, it did so in such a spectacular (and really unique) fashion that based on their response I could tell they were beyond perplexed. So much so that it actually gave me confidence in their abilities (as odd as that might sound). Sometimes power meter companies will try and hem and haw about how an issue isn’t an issue, or that it’s something I’m doing wrong, or blah-blah-blah.
Nope, IQ2 was pretty clear at the time that whatever went horribly wrong was something they’ve never seen before and that they really wanted to figure it out (it helped that I had video and data-driven evidence showing the issue). The result was many days of digging to find what they stated as a bad PCB due to it not being QA’d in assembly.
That process has since changed, and this second set seems just fine based on these two limited rides. Yes, their instructions need a re-write (actually, they just need to be written, it’s only in a silent video right now). And yes, they need to remember to tell you to put in the battery. And yes, I’d be curious to know why the pedals are that different in weight.
However, the thing you care about: Actual power accuracy out on the road – is very very impressive for this being this early in the product release cycle. Most power meters I see tend to take a number more months (even years) to reach this level after sales release. Albeit, this still hasn’t started shipping to regular consumers.
Still – I’m optimistic for where the company is going here. The next challenge (and it’s a challenge that has perplexed even the biggest power meter companies) is scaling up production from a handful of units per week to hundreds or thousands. But everyone likes a challenge, right?
With that – thanks for reading – and stay tuned for a full in-depth review sometime down the road after consumers start getting their units and I know for certain this is the same final hardware/software that you’re getting.
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