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As the power meter market explodes we take a look at your choices

Over the last few years measuring your power output has become a more and more popular part of cyclists’ training. Power meters have become cheaper as new manufacturers have entered the fray and there are more tools available to help you train with power. With meters now available for as little as £600, is it time to power up?

What is a power meter anyway?

When you ride a bike, you do work to overcome the forces of air resistance, gravity and tyre rolling resistance. Power is the rate at which you work, so the more power you can put out, the faster you’ll go. And after all, that's the objective of training.

The problem is, many things affect how fast you go, so it's hard to monitor your progress. Even if you test yourself on the same course every time, variables like the weather can make a difference.

This is less of a problem in other sports. Swimmers, for example, can use timed laps of the pool to measure their fitness, as the resistance of the water is more or less a given. Runners can similarly assess their training progress by measuring pace on a track.

Faster (CC BY-SA 2.0 Dennis van Zuijlekom).jpg

Faster (CC BY-SA 2.0 Dennis van Zuijlekom).jpg

Faster! (CC BY-SA 2.0 Dennis van Zuijlekom)

Measuring your power output gives you a way to directly measure your fitness. A power meter is a device that does just that.

A complete power meter system has two parts: the measurement device itself and a handlebar-mounted ‘head unit’ that reads your current power and stores ride data for later analysis. Power meter manufacturers make head units, or you can use a bike computer such as a Garmin GPS that has the capability to work with a power meter.

Why use a power meter?

Coach and training with power advocate Joe Friel calls a power meter “the most effective tool you can get to go faster on a bike”. Because a power meter measures how hard you’re working it enables you to train very precisely, and to measure your progress.

Before power meters became popular, cyclists relied on heart rate as a proxy for training effort. But heart rate can be affected by more than just how hard you’re working, and the objective of training isn’t just to develop your heart. Rather, you’re aiming to go faster, and that means, all else being equal, generating more power. It’s therefore more efficient to measure power.

It can also save you time. Friel points out that it can take time to get up to a target heart rate even though you’re working as hard as you need to in a training session. With a power meter you can tell instantly that you’re putting out your session’s target power and stay there. If you're strapped for time, a power meter lets you get the most out of your limited training hours.

Types of power meter

Power meters use tiny electronic devices called strain gauges to measure the force you’re exerting on part of the bike’s transmission. From those raw measurements, supporting electronics calculate your power, which is then transmitted to the head unit, usually by a low-energy small area wireless protocol such as Garmin’s ANT+ or Bluetooth.

Power meters have their strain gauges at different points in the path between your feet and the tyre that your effort travels along to propel you forward. The most common placements are in one or both pedals, one or both crank arms, in the chainring spider, or in the rear hub.

Crank meters

SRM crank (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Kevin G Saunders:Flickr).jpg

SRM crank (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Kevin G Saunders:Flickr).jpg

SRM crank (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Kevin G Saunders:Flickr

​The first widely-available power meter, from SRM, has its strain gauges in the crank spider, between the right hand crank and the chainrings. That means all the forces from both cranks go through the meter to be measured.

SRAM’s Quarq power meter and Pioneer’s system also have gauges in the crank spider, while PowerTap’s C1 chainrings move the measurement point one step along, but effectively do the same job.

An alternative that allows for a less-expensive power meter is to measure the forces in the left hand crank. In theory this might give incorrect data as it’s only measuring the power from one leg, but in our tests the Stages Cycling power meter, which uses this design, gave readings consistent with a PowerTap hub meter and Garmin Vector pedals. Pioneer also offers a left-hand-crank power meter.

A claimed advantage of power meters with the gauge in the crank arm is that they can be more accurate. The makers claim that the position of the gauge allows it to just measure the forces that propel you forward and not the twisting of the crank or other components. Verve Cycling takes this to its logical conclusion with its InfoCrank that has a measurement unit in each crank arm, and Rotor's dual-sided system works similarly.

In the US, 4iiii will install its Precision power meter in your existing left-hand crank arm.

Bottom bracket

The only bottom bracket power meter, from Ergomo, was available to fit square taper or Shimano Octalink cranks. It used wires to carry data to its own proprietary head unit, but at for a system, it was an inexpensive entry to power measurement if you had a set of older cranks to hand.

Rotor's INpower also tucks the strain gauges and electronics into the crank axle, but you have to use Rotor cranks with it.

Pedals

keo-power_2.jpg

keo-power_2.jpg

Look and Garmin are the two longest-established manufacturers of power-measuring pedals. This design allows for easy swapping of the meter between bikes. It’s not quite as trivial as just reaching for a pedal spanner, but it’s fairly straightforward.

Both Powertap and Favero also have pedal-based power meters. O-Synce has shown a system at trade shows but it has not yet become available.

Power-measuring pedals offer the ability to measure each leg’s power independently, and some are able to analyse your pedal stroke too.

On the same principal as left-crank meters, some pedal meter makers offer a single-pedal system that provides power data at lower cost.

Rear hub

PowerTap hub (CC BY 2.0 Glory Cycles).jpg

PowerTap hub (CC BY 2.0 Glory Cycles).jpg

PowerTap hub (CC BY 2.0 Glory Cycles)

Measuring power in the rear hub must be fairly tricky, as PowerTap remains the only manufacturer of a hub power meter, almost two decades years after introducing its first hub. Supported by relatively flexible frame ends, and hammered by road forces, the hub is a hostile place for delicate electronics, but PowerTap seems to have solved the problems. You can get a PowerTap hub either built into a wheel or a pair, or on its own so your favourite wheelbuilder can install your rim of choice.

A hub power meter is the easiest type to switch between bikes, though if you want power readings while racing then you have to train on your racing wheels. Power meter advocates would say that’s a sensible decision.

All your power meter options

What follows is an overview of all the currently available power meters, that's as comprehensive as we can make it. We kick off with the most recently announced models.

Garmin Vector 3 — £850

Garmin Vector 3 pedals 2.jpg

Garmin Vector 3 pedals 2.jpg

And the award for the most imaginatively-named new power meter goes to…

Joking apart, third time's the charm for these pedals. Garmin has completely redesigned its Vector pedals, and the Vector 3 system is excellent. You get accurate power readings, they're even easier to swap between bikes, they look much neater and they're even a bit lighter. Add to that the fact that the price has dropped to £849.99 and they're an enticing proposition.

The Vector 2 system's weak point was the transmitter pod. It was an extra thing to remove and swap, and the connection was a bit fiddly, but most of all they were a bit prone to failure: I've had to buy at least two new ones, at £60 a pop.

The Vector 3 is an entirely new design, and it does away with the pod completely. All the electronics are contained within the new pedal body. Everything has been redesigned: the electronics are new, of course, but so is the pedal body, and the axle, and the bearings. There's really nothing left of the Vector 2.

These pedals transmit on ANT+, so you'll be able to pair them up with your Garmin/Wahoo/[insert your GPS manufacturer here] head unit and get all your data. New for the Vector 3 is Bluetooth Smart connectivity. You don't get all the metrics that you get with ANT+, because the Bluetooth protocols don't support some of it. But it's easy to get power and cadence on Bluetooth devices, and that could be really useful.

Benchmarked against a PowerTap hub and a Kickr smart trainer, the Vector 3s are consistent and accurate, and provide a serious nerdfest of data.

The Vector has really come of age with this redesign. It's always been a good quality system with repeatable and accurate power measurement, but pretty much everything about the new pedals is an improvement. They're probably the best power-measuring pedals you can get.

Read our review of the Garmin Vector 3 pedals
Find a Garmin dealer

Favero Assioma Duo pedals — £729

Favero Assioma dula-sided power meter pedals.jpg

Favero Assioma dula-sided power meter pedals.jpg

This is Italian electronics manufacturer Favero's second go at power-measuring pedals after the BePro pedals. While they don't seem to be available just yet, they look very very promising. The spec is like a wishlist of power pedal features: no external pods, so swapping between bikes is easy; Bluetooth and ANT+ communications protocols; left and right power; torque efficiency and pedal smoothness; Look Keo cleat compatibility; rechargeable; apps for iOS and Android; and a claimed weight of 299g/pair.

There's also a single-sided version, the Assioma Uno, for £455.

They're supposed to be widely available late November, and we have a set on test at the moment. If Favero has delivered on the promise, the Assioma Duos will be the lightest power meter pedals on the market, as well as the cheapest.

Read our review of the Favero Assioma Duo pedals

VeloComp PowerPod — £299.99

VeloComp PowerPod 2.jpg

VeloComp PowerPod 2.jpg

The VeloComp PowerPod works out your power by measuring the forces working against you, notably air resistance. It sounds like one of those ideas that's great in theory but can't possibly work in practice, but it's had favourable reports from riders who tried it and compared its data with other power meters. It also has the advantages of being very keenly priced, and easy to swith between bikes, as it sits on a GoPro-style mount under your bars.

Find out more about the VeloComp PowerPod

FSA PowerBox — £439.12

FSA Powerbox Alloy Road Chainset - detail.jpg

FSA Powerbox Alloy Road Chainset - detail.jpg

FSA's Powerbox power meter crank borrows power2max technology and has an RRP of £599 for the aluminium version (including chainrings), though it can already be found for considerably less. That makes it the cheapest crank power meter we're aware of, and the cheapest meter that measures power from both sides, though FSA has not yet released the firmware upgrade that will allow you to see the left and right hand readings separately. It communicates using the ANT+ protocol and battery life is a claimed 300-400 hours from a CR2450 button cell. A firmware upgrade to allow Bluetooth communication has also been promised. Both it and left/right measurements will be paid-for upgrades.

Read our first look at the FSA Powerbox

Watteam Powerbeat — £375 + cranks

Watteam PowerBeat 9 – sensor and comp unit on crank, ready to use.JPG

Watteam PowerBeat 9 – sensor and comp unit on crank, ready to use.JPG

Fancy a bit of DIY? The Watteam Powerbeat is a pair of sensors that you mount on your cranks yourself. That's right, you quite literally turn your existing hollow aluminium cranks into a pair of power-sensing crank arms by gluing sensors to them. That gives you two-sided power measurement at a bargain price, as long as you already have compatible cranks. Even if you don't, they'll work with Shimano 105 cranks which can be had for as little as £66.

And it works. The Watteam PowerBeat kit turns your cranks into an accurate, consistent double-sided power meter for a very sensible price, and the process of fitting them isn't nearly as scary as it sounds.

If you're happy with measuring power from just one side, there's a left-hand-crank version of the PowerBeat for £255.

Read our review of the Watteam PowerBeat

Avio Powersense — £249

Avio PowerSense - 1.jpg

Avio PowerSense - 1.jpg

Now shipping, the Avio Powersense service turns your cranks into a left-hand-only power meter that communicates via ANT+. You send in your crank, and Avio sends it back with the power-measuring unit attached, or you can buy a complete chainset with the device fitted. We're hoping to get a set in for test soon, but it has to be said you can't argue with the price.

Read more about the Avio Powersense

​ Easton/RaceFace Cinch Power Meter — + cranks

Easton/RaceFace Cinch Power Meter

Easton/RaceFace Cinch Power Meter

RaceFace and Easton's Cinch and is an axle-based power meter that works with the Easton EC90 SL road crankset or RaceFace’s mountain bike Next R crankset. Because the sensors are in the bottom bracket axle, it only measures left hand power, and then doubles it. It communicates with both ANT+ and Bluetooth protocols and has a claimed battery life of 400 hours between charges.

Read more about the Easton/RaceFace Cinch Power Meter

​Arofly — £130

Arofly.jpg

Arofly.jpg

Arofly is a power, cadence and speed meter that attaches to the valve of your rear wheel and weighs only 10g, including its button battery. It sends your cycling data via a Bluetooth connection to be displayed in real time on a custom mobile app on your smartphone.

Dead cheap, dead simple, so what's the catch? It doesn't work very well. We found that it simply doesn't provide measurements that are consistent enough that it can be considered a useful training tool.

Read our review of the Arofly power meter

Luck Potentiometer​ — per side

Luck Potentiometer

Luck Potentiometer

Spanish shoemaker Luck has cooked up a power meter that fits inside its shoes, putting the power sensor as close as possible to the source of your effort. The advantage is that it's trivial to switch between bikes, though you'll nee a pair of Luck's shoes too.

Read more about the Luck Potentiometer

4iiii Precision Power Meter — £339-£549

4iiii Precision 20  - 7.jpg

4iiii Precision 20 - 7.jpg

The 4iiii Precision is a crank-based power meter that delivers sound, usable data, as long as you're happy with the limitations of a single-sided system.

The Precision system consists of a tiny pod that's bonded to a non-driveside crank arm. In that way it's similar to a Stages unit. I used the Shimano Dura-Ace version (they're all Shimano) and it weighed just 9g more than the crank I took off, and that includes the battery. A Shimano 105 version is £349, and a Shimano Ultegra version is £429.

Read our review of the 4iiii Precision
Find a 4iiii dealer

Shimano Dura-Ace FC-R9100-P cranks — £1,349.99-£1,499.99

Shimano Dura-Ace power meter.jpg

Shimano Dura-Ace power meter.jpg

Shimano's power meter is crank based with strain gauges in both crank arms, so it can measure left and right legs separately. It has a discreet ‘brain’ that sits within the spider. See it up there (above) between the top two arms? I told you it was discreet!

It can be paired to third party displays, such as Garmin Edge bike computers. The system checking and firmware upload can be operated by your smart phone or tablet PC through a Bluetooth connection.

Find a Shimano dealer

SRM cranks — from about £1,450

SRM Power meter PM_Rotor_3D_Standard.jpg

SRM Power meter PM_Rotor_3D_Standard.jpg

SRM — it stands for Schoberer Rad Meßtechnik, TLA fans — makes a wide range of power meter cranks, taking the original manufacturer’s right hand crank and installing its measurement unit in place of the crank spider. It’s a robust design with an excellent reputation for accuracy and reliability, backed by a three-year guarantee.

Find an SRM dealer

PowerTap G3 hub — £449.99

CycleOps PowerTap G3 alloy wheelset - hub detail.jpg

CycleOps PowerTap G3 alloy wheelset - hub detail.jpg

You can buy a PowerTap hub on its own or built into a pair of wheels for £849.50. The latest version seems to have ironed out the reliability niggles of previous PowerTaps, and is easier to get serviced if things do go wrong.

Find a PowerTap dealer
Read our review of the PowerTap G3 alloy wheels

PowerTap P1 pedals — £795

Powertap P1 pedals 3

Powertap P1 pedals 3

PowerTap says it has spent five years developing its pedals, a figure that’s believable considering how long others have taken to go from announcement to shipping product. Our first impressions are of a successful meter that’s consistent and easy to install and use.

There's also a single-pedal option, the £444 PowerTap P1S.

Find a PowerTap dealer
Read our review of the PowerTap P1 pedals
Read our review of the PowerTap P1S single-sided pedals

Verve Cycling InfoCrank — £1,150-£1,190

Verve Cycling Infocrank Classic.jpg

Verve Cycling Infocrank Classic.jpg

Verve Cycling’s InfoCrank comes backed by some big hitters — the company says it’s been commissioned by the Australian Institute of Sport to design versions for track, mountain biking and BMX. It’s claimed to be more accurate than other crank meters thanks to sensors in both crank arms, and to only need calibration after a crash.

Read our review of the Verve InfoCrank

PowerTap C1 chainrings — £499

Powertap C1 chainrings.jpg

Powertap C1 chainrings.jpg

With pedals and a rear hub too, PowerTap now has all the popular power-measuring points covered. It’s claimed to be the cheapest meter that measures power from both legs, which seems like a reasonable claim even if you have to buy a chainset to go with them. It comprises a sensor unit and a pair of 110mm chainrings, made for PowerTap by FSA. The whole shebang fits any 110mm five-arm crank; PowerTap is clearly going for the largest possible installed base for starters, but no doubt there will be four-bolt versions in the future.

Read more about the PowerTap C1 chainrings
Find a PowerTap dealer

Garmin Vector 2 pedals — £539.99

Garmin Vector 2S pedalspedal and pod 2.jpg

Garmin Vector 2S pedalspedal and pod 2.jpg

The second incarnation of Garmin’s power meter pedals, the Vector 2 is available in two versions with meters in either the left pedal or both of them. The one-pedal version can be found for £419.99. The price has come down substantially with the introduction of the Vector 3, so if you don't mind the extra faff of the Vector 2's external pods, they're now a bargain.

Improvements over the very first version make the pedals easier to set up and switch between bikes; it's a system that can give you a ton of information, and that will appeal to a lot of data-hungry riders out there.

Find a Garmin dealer
Read our review of the Garmin Vector 2 pedals

Stages Cycling crank — £359-£449

Stages Cycling power meter sensor side .jpg

Stages Cycling power meter sensor side .jpg

The Stages Power meter is lightweight, easy to fit and, according to our tests, it gives results that are comparable with those of systems costing twice as much. The meter is housed on a left (non-driveside) crank. You buy the crank with the power meter already installed and swap it for your existing left-hand crank. Stages offer various different models.

Stages has also recently introduced double-sided models built into Ultegra and Dura-Ace cranks.

Read our review of the Stages Cycling crank

SRAM/Quarq — from £660

Quarq PMQ026170.jpg

Quarq PMQ026170.jpg

The range of power meter chainsets from SRAM and technology company Quarq stretches from basic models without chainrings up to the SRAM Red Quarq PowerMeter with an RRP of £1599.99 (but available for about £1300).

Pioneer — from £553.52

Pioneer Power Meter (PM910SET_68)_300dpi.jpg

Pioneer Power Meter (PM910SET_68)_300dpi.jpg

Pioneer makes both single- and dual-sided crank meters that have been received favourably. They’ve not been easily available in the UK, but that’s set to change as they recently picked up a distributor here.

An unusual feature of the Pioneer system is force and direction of force measurement. It measures 12 times per revolution and can display force in real time, so you can use it to analyse your pedal stroke.

Read more about the Pioneer power meter
Read more about Pioneer’s single-sided power meter
Find a Pioneer dealer

Rotor — from £760

rotor_1971797357.jpg

rotor_1971797357.jpg

Rotor makes several models of power meter, both double- and single-sided as well as the stealthy Inpower meter whose electronics are tucked into the bottom bracket axle to protect them from damage. Rotor non-power cranks are among the lightest on the market, and the company has tried to keep the weight of its power meters down too.

Read more about the Rotor Inpower crank
Read more about the single-sided Power LT power meter
Find a Rotor dealer

Look Keo Power Dual Mode pedals —

Look Keo Power pedals dual mode.jpg

Look Keo Power pedals dual mode.jpg

Look was the first company to ship power meter pedals, in 2012, but sometimes being first to market just means you’re demonstrating to everyone else what not to do. While all other power meter makers were adopting ANT+ and Bluetooth, Look went with its own communication system that only worked with two head units from Polar. Nobody was very impressed with that.

The third-generation version is ANT+ and Bluetooth-compatible, opening up the full range of head units. There's also a single-sided version, dubbed Essential, for £670.55.

Aside from that the Keo Power has a good reputation for reliability and accuracy, but the £1,300 full RRP is still painful, especially now it’s no longer the only pedal power meter.

Ergomo

Ergomo cutaway.jpg

Ergomo cutaway.jpg

Included for historical interest as Ergomo Systems' website has vanished, this was the only retrofittable power meter bottom bracket we’re aware of. It had a wired connection to its head unit, and the price for both was very reasonable, but it's clearly been superseded by wireless power meters built into modern cranks, pedals, hubs and so on.

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Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

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The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

13 comments

Avatar
usedtobefaster [213 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

For completeness, your missing the PowerPod from Velocomp, which has a very good review from DC Rainmaker

Avatar
TheLonelyOne [374 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Spend hundreds, or rent a Stages meter for a month for £30, first month refunded if you subsequently buy. This link came up second result on Googling "Stages power meter rental". I reckon there'll be others.

[Disclaimer: No affiliation, nor any history with these folk. Caveat emptor.]

Avatar
reliablemeatloaf [108 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

For the Stages crank arm meter,it says "You buy the complete crank with the power meter already installed."

For clarity, you buy the complete crank ARM (left), and swap it out with your current one. Should take about ten minutes.

Sorry to be nitpicky.

Avatar
FatBoyW [262 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Love the Rotor inpower - bought the LH Crank only and it wasn't anywhere near the price shown here.

Dead easy to calibrate (not that it seems to need to be that often). Easy to switch (as long as you are BB30 everywhere!).

Of course as an amatuer I only scratch the surface on using the data - some would say lazy as well as fat...

I have no affiliation or such nonsense to Rotor just a pleased punter.

PS Somewaht amused by a clubmate who is struggling to pair his garmin with his vector pedals! Ironic.

Avatar
Spacer [24 posts] 8 months ago
1 like
reliablemeatloaf wrote:

For the Stages crank arm meter,it says "You buy the complete crank with the power meter already installed."

For clarity, you buy the complete crank ARM (left), and swap it out with your current one. Should take about ten minutes.

Sorry to be nitpicky.

Crank, singular, IS a crank arm http://www.dictionary.com/browse/crank

Avatar
peted76 [1105 posts] 4 months ago
1 like
Spacer wrote:
reliablemeatloaf wrote:

For the Stages crank arm meter,it says "You buy the complete crank with the power meter already installed."

For clarity, you buy the complete crank ARM (left), and swap it out with your current one. Should take about ten minutes.

Sorry to be nitpicky.

Crank, singular, IS a crank arm http://www.dictionary.com/browse/crank

You're a crank!

Avatar
Nixster [404 posts] 4 months ago
1 like
FatBoyW wrote:

Love the Rotor inpower - bought the LH Crank only and it wasn't anywhere near the price shown here.

Dead easy to calibrate (not that it seems to need to be that often). Easy to switch (as long as you are BB30 everywhere!).

+1 - I recently changed the (AA) battery on mine after a year - not because I needed to but just because I thought I should.  It's been completely reliable, it's only downside is weight when compared to some of the Stages or 4iiii versions.  And as well as BB30 it fits BB30a, PF30 and BBright bottom bracket standards.

Personally single sided power was fine; I struggle to see why double sided is useful to those without biomechanical issues or team performance coaches.

Avatar
Geraldaut [59 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

I am on a tight budget and the question was rather PM or nothing - as the Watteam was never in stock I jumped the wagon with a heavily discounted 4iiii left side only. It is a great tool, even with just one side.

Avatar
Velovite [4 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

Garmin Vector 3s have significant reliabity problems. Check out Garmin user forum before buying.

Avatar
jakker [5 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

This might be the most worthless article on the subject in some time.

Avatar
Crampy [117 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

I went for the Powerpod last year, the BLE version was on sale.

I'm very happy with it. The only time it crapped out on me was when I was caught in a biblically heavy downpour on an after work training ride. Apparently the air intake doesn't like / can't handle being partially blocked by flying water. Other than that I couldn't be happier.

I'm strictly a commuter / occasional weekend warrior who does two / three sportives a year and just wanted some simple metrics to base my training on, rather than a pin sharp super focused representation of my real power output. Although I am told that if you have all the gear and the know how, the Powerpod can be used to do all sorts of things relating to your bike position / aero etc...

Avatar
PRSboy [282 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

I've often wondered if Garmin etc could not use live weather data combined with elevation/grade, speed etc to calculate a real-time estimate of your power, much like the Strava est power, but with some attention paid to wind conditions.  From what I've read, the Strava power works out closer than might be expected.

Clearly no use to the '6 training zones' brigade, but it would be something (and free!)

Avatar
bike.owner [196 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes

There is only one power meter you can use that that is simple, reliable and provides consistently accurate data. Three letters.