Garmin release Vector power meter + video

Long-awaited pedal-based power-measurement system now available

by Mat Brett   August 7, 2013  

Garmin Vector power pedals

Garmin have finally released their Vector pedal-based power meter, and we have the system in for review at road.cc.

We first told you about the Vector pedals when we saw them at Eurobike 2011, nearly two years ago. Put simply, you fit the pedals and their accompanying pedal pods to your cranks, and you get power measurements displayed and recorded on your Garmin computer (or another compatible computer that uses ANT+ wireless sensor network technology).

The measurements are taken by strain gauges in the pedal axle – they measure the slight deflection of the pedal axle through the stroke – and integrated accelerometers that measure your cadence. The Vector system uses this information to calculate your power. The data is transmitted to your bike computer via the pedal pods.

Garmin had a working version back at Eurobike 2011, but they encountered problems in the manufacturing process. They could make the pedals, but not on a production scale. After putting back the release date a couple of times, Garmin eventually started to just say that the Vectors would be ready when they were ready – in a polite way, of course. We half expected the project to be shelved, but here it is.

In fact, the Vectors that are now being released are very different from those that we saw a couple of years ago.

“We’ve revisited the designs over the past two years to get us to a factory production level,” says Andy Silver, Garmin’s European Fitness Product Manager. “We’ve doubled the number of strain gauges in the spindle [or axle] from four to eight, the algorithms have changed, the pedal pod material has changed, the pedal material has changed, and the calibration processes have been improved.”

It’s a complete redesign, really. We’ve had a set of Vectors only since Monday, but setting them up seems straightforward. As long as your cranks measure a maximum of 38mm x 15mm round (the vast majority) and there’s 5mm clearance between the chain in the biggest gear and the crank (again, that’s the vast majority), you should have no trouble. You just need a 15mm pedal spanner.

You fit the pedals like you would any others after first placing the pod on the pedal axle. You might have to sling a washer on there too if the threaded hole on the crank arm is recessed. Once tightened, you plug the pod’s cable into the end of the pedal axle… and that’s it as far as the pedals are concerned.

Then, all you need to do is pair up the pedals with your bike computer, input your crank length and set the installation angle. The installation angle?

“The device needs to know the precise angle at which the pedal is located in order to calculate the power accurately,” says Andy Silver. “It needs to be able to differentiate between tangential and radial force – standing force and moving force – and knowing the precise installation angle of the power helps define that information.

“You get a message on your computer telling you to pedal up to 80rpm and then, after a few seconds, a message saying that the installation angles are set.

“We also recommend that before each ride you hit the ‘calibrate’ button on your computer to take account of the ambient temperature. And you can pedal backwards five times at any point while you’re riding to remove any residual torque that’s in the system.”

It really is that simple. Initial setup takes a matter of minutes, subsequent setup takes a matter of seconds. You can also perform a static torque test by hanging a weight off the pedal to double-check the calibration, but Garmin say that’s largely for user reassurance. They reckon that the Vector system, calibrated at various temperatures in the factory, is accurate to within +/-2%.

“We’ve done thousands of hours of testing the Vector system alongside SRM cranks and PowerTap hubs,” says Andy Silver. “There are sometimes slight differences in the numbers given by the three different systems but they track one another consistently.”

Your computer can display your power measurements as you ride, of course, and also give you a left/right leg balance. The Vector system captures your power output throughout the pedal revolution so it will eventually be able to show how you’re applying your power during the stroke. That’ll be added as a simple software update in 2-3 months (see below).

Garmin are now offering software updates for using the Vector pedals with their Edge 500, 510, 800 and 810 bike computers, and also with their Forerunner 910XT multisports watch. All your power data will be stored for downloading later, just like your speed, distance, navigation information and so on.

Power metrics that the Vector records include:

• Left/right balance: average at various time intervals

• Power: average at various time intervals

• Training Stress Score 

• Normalized power

• Intensity Factor

• Total power in watts

• Overall kilojoules

• Power zones

“We have a website specifically for Vector owners with installation videos showing people how to calibrate the units,” says Andy Silver. “There will also be an Updater app which you can download onto your PC or Mac. You just bring the pedals within 3-4m of the computer and run the app to update them.”

All the parts that are likely to wear are user replaceable – the pedal bodies, the pedal pods, the cleats – and you get a two-year warranty. That's a stainless steel wear plate across the centre of the pedal, by the way. You can also change the battery in each of the pods yourself. It's just a standard 2032 coin cell in there.

In terms of weight, here’s how the Vector system shapes up, according to the road.cc Scales of Truth:

• Pedals – 306g per pair

• Pedal pods - 46g per pair

• Cleats – 50g per pair

• Cleat washers and screws – 26g (total)

So, you have a weight-penalty of around 100g over a pair of non-power measuring pedals. The cleats are Look Kéo-style. Garmin say that they are open to the possibility of offering pedals that work with Shimano, Time or Speedplay-style cleats in the future. The technology would allow expansion to other platforms, but they've not made decisions on subsequent pedal developments yet.  

Here's Garmin's own promo video to give you the basic info...

The Vector pedal system is priced at £1,349 and will retail through 61 handpicked dealers. You’ll find a list on the Garmin and Madison websites.

When Garmin announced the Vector pedals back in 2011, the price was going to be £1,149, but the changes to the manufacturing process have pushed that up. They’re keen to point out, though, that their system is easily transferable from bike to bike – so you only have to shell-out once if you want power measurement on both a road bike and a time trial bike, for example.

Of course, a hub-based power-meter is easily swapped from bike to bike as long as you’re happy using the same rims too, and a crank-based system is transferable to some extent – but we take the point that a pedal system is highly convenient for moving between bikes.

Anyway, the merits of the various systems are a discussion for another time. We’re going to get out there and put some miles into the Vectors, and we’ll be back with a review on road.cc soon.

31 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

Looks interesting and well thought out. Wish I could justify such a purchase.

Can't wait for power meters to become more affordable!

Mike_B's picture

posted by Mike_B [26 posts]
7th August 2013 - 12:11

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Do you guys have the specs on bearings in the pedals, whether they're actually bearings, bushings, or a mix of the two?

posted by Psi Squared [5 posts]
7th August 2013 - 12:15

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very, very interesting. I was wondering where Garmin were going to go especially with Pioneer now doing power meters.
wonder if garmin will incorporate GPS into the cranks soon????

Noelieboy's picture

posted by Noelieboy [67 posts]
7th August 2013 - 12:29

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If they ever come down to sub £300 I would find some way to justify it to myself. Too rich a toy for me at the moment.

posted by Mart [86 posts]
7th August 2013 - 12:30

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Of course, the price is an obstacle for most of us but – who knows? – maybe the tech will trickle down. If anyone eventually manages to make something similar for £500, say, they'll clean up. But we're a long way off that at the moment. Anything incorporating precision strain gauges and that's this tricky to manufacture might never be cheap.

Types of bearings? We're not sure on that one. We'll find out in time for our review.

posted by Mat Brett [1725 posts]
7th August 2013 - 12:34

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I was really hoping these might be cheaper when I started reading this article. Confused

Does it give two power readings? One for each leg would be cool!

Edit - Maybe someone wants to go splits with me? I'll take the right pedal and you can have the left!

Spare time project - cycling price comparison: http://www.leadoutbikes.com

posted by mckechan [160 posts]
7th August 2013 - 12:38

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Well this sucks. I was really looking forward to a competitive price from these... This isn't competitive and can hardly be called "easily swappable" when you have to remove the pods and the pedals. The stages power meter is £600 odd and installs via two crank bolts and you're done. Shame.

posted by dave2041 [19 posts]
7th August 2013 - 14:31

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Swapping a pair of pedals definitely falls into the 'easy' category. Takes about a minute.

posted by Mat Brett [1725 posts]
7th August 2013 - 14:35

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mckechan - I think it does measure both legs ie the whole checking your balancing your power output between both legs?

Looks great if you'd like me to test them for you road.cc I will gladly do so, might not get them back though!

posted by Cycle_Jim [281 posts]
7th August 2013 - 15:58

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Hope the pedals are more durable than my last pair of Keos, I've just had to replace a pair through to wear on one of the pedals...

posted by nappe [39 posts]
7th August 2013 - 16:08

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Hope its more reliable than my 500 edge on which the mounting tab has recently snapped. Being held on by an elastic band these days as refuse to pay Garmins extortionate £68 + P&P for a new casing which probably costs 50 pence! Any chance they had of getting my business went down the drain with the crap service i have received so far! £68, you can buy a 200 Edge for only £80 ish these days.

posted by Hopalongsteve [60 posts]
7th August 2013 - 17:28

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Can I be the first to say yea please in the event this artical turns in to a schwag grab

posted by mrchrispy [267 posts]
7th August 2013 - 18:22

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no doubt this would be (more) affordable if sold directly to customer a la Canyon.

There must be a nearly inverse exponential relationship between price and turnover on a product like this. The company that gets the manufacturing cost of a power meter like this down to Edge 810 price level will be laughing all the way to the bank.

posted by Metjas [244 posts]
7th August 2013 - 19:59

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$1699.99=£1095.99 retail in the USA so why are we being ripped off for another £253.01 in the UK?

The Stages system is less complex, consistent and only requires one crankarm to be moved (if you have two bikes!) at half that price.

posted by Ginsterdrz [17 posts]
7th August 2013 - 20:01

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This is very common fault with garmins. Compare this Blackburn. Life time guarantee. I bought a Blackburn computor second hand of e bay. It packed in 18 months later. Took to my LBS who sent it back to the importer and I got a full refund as the model was no longer available.

posted by DeanF316 [76 posts]
7th August 2013 - 20:06

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This looks good. I just hope for the day accurate stress meters are a dime a dozen.

In the meantime I'll just use guess work.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [978 posts]
7th August 2013 - 20:23

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At £1K how long will they last? Thinking

FATBEGGARONABIKE's picture

posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [489 posts]
7th August 2013 - 20:26

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Hopefully Look will price their own power meter pedals a bit more aggressively and we'll see the two companies competing.

posted by Nick T [621 posts]
7th August 2013 - 20:57

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Everyone always forgets US sales tax, don't they? £1194 in New York or £1267 in Ilinois. Yes, still more here - but it's not a direct comparison, unless you're shopping in Delaware or New Hampshire!

posted by xkylet [2 posts]
7th August 2013 - 21:05

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Ginsterdrz wrote:
$1699.99=£1095.99 retail in the USA so why are we being ripped off for another £253.01 in the UK?


US prices are always without sales tax as that varies state to state. 20% VAT on £1095.99 would bring the price to £1315.19. The difference may be other import charges, or just because they feel like it.

posted by Al__S [423 posts]
7th August 2013 - 21:05

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Ginsterdrz wrote:
$1699.99=£1095.99 retail in the USA so why are we being ripped off for another £253.01 in the UK?

Don't forget that US prices are advertised without sales tax. Add 20% VAT to that US price and there's not a great deal of difference. Send all complaints to George Osborne, HM Treasury, Westminster, London W1

andy_schweiz's picture

posted by andy_schweiz [9 posts]
7th August 2013 - 21:12

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Sad bummer......... the boss says NO! I wonder if I could sneak them into the shopping basket? I did with a new set of wheels Smile

Endorphines going up and adrenaline going down, who needs drugs?

posted by banzicyclist2 [149 posts]
7th August 2013 - 22:10

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Surely someone could clean up renting these out? You do not need to know your wattage on a day to day basis?

posted by SideBurn [732 posts]
8th August 2013 - 13:50

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Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7044 posts]
8th August 2013 - 14:02

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Dave Atkinson wrote:
someone like http://www.cyclepowermeters.com/ ?

I just had a look, "If you want to be added to the waiting list....." (for rental of a power unit) It would seem that someone could clean up renting more of these things out Thinking

posted by SideBurn [732 posts]
9th August 2013 - 11:39

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andy_schweiz wrote:
Ginsterdrz wrote:
$1699.99=£1095.99 retail in the USA so why are we being ripped off for another £253.01 in the UK?

Don't forget that US prices are advertised without sales tax. Add 20% VAT to that US price and there's not a great deal of difference. Send all complaints to George Osborne, HM Treasury, Westminster, London W1

Also worth remembering that in Wyoming they pay no income tax, just purchase tax. So it is not easy to compare UK v. USA prices

posted by SideBurn [732 posts]
9th August 2013 - 11:42

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SideBurn wrote:
Surely someone could clean up renting these out? You do not need to know your wattage on a day to day basis?

Perhaps ask around your club mates and see if anyone's interested in investing in a club power meter co-op. Be a doddle particularly with these pedal options, so long as everyone's on the same page regarding cleats.

posted by Nick T [621 posts]
9th August 2013 - 12:24

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Vector! Committing crimes with both direction AND magnitude! Oh yeah! Devil

posted by nivagh [53 posts]
9th August 2013 - 18:38

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Too expensive!
Although more competition will only help to drives prices down generally. Nevertheless, I may be an old man by the time $300 dollar accurate meters are available.

Wait ... I'm already an old man. Too late.

Charlie Horse

posted by ch [82 posts]
10th August 2013 - 4:55

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pedals and pods seem vulnerable to damage. I don't use that pedal type, nearly as expensive as crank based system. The pods look a bit silly? Not on my wish list.

posted by simonsays [8 posts]
10th August 2013 - 16:55

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