The third time's the charm. 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.
- Pros: Accurate power, easy to swap between bikes, good looking
- Cons: Still expensive (though not as expensive as before), battery compartment is fiddly
I reviewed Garmin's Vector 2 pedals on road.cc back in 2015, and they did very well indeed indeed. I've been running those Vector 2 pedals for the couple of years since that review. I've swapped the original Garmin bodies out for Shimano Ultegra ones (there was a kit for that), and I've swapped them between bikes any number of times – that's one of the key benefits of pedal-based power measurement.
Parting with the pod
The Vector 2 system's weak point was the transmitter pod, which plugged into the pedal and dealt with transmitting the data. 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.
So the main bit of good news is that 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.
The new body is much smoother than the rather angular Exustar body from the Vector 2, and I'd say these Vectors look the most like normal pedals of any power pedals. The only real giveaway is the end of the spindle: a black cover hides the LED status light which used to be on the pod. It blinks, as before, to let you know what's going on with the system. Putting the LED there means no fitting the Vector 3s with an Allen key, it's a standard 15mm pedal spanner job like before. You don't need a torque wrench, it's just a case of doing them up nice and tight like a normal pedal.
The new pedal body is again designed around a Look Kéo cleat and Garmin has upgraded the internal bearings to needle rollers from bronze bushings. They do feel very nicely put together and the improvement in build quality means the rider weight limit goes up to 105kg, even though they're a little bit lighter overall.
The previous Vectors ran from a 2032 coin cell battery in the pod and that gave them a claimed run-time of 150 hours. If, like me, you get your button cells eight for a quid in Ikea then you won't have troubled that kind of service interval, but the batteries were easy enough to change and readily available. There's no room in the sleek new pedal for a battery that big so instead they use tiny LR44 button cells, two in each side. They don't give quite as much run-time, a claimed 120 hours, but they're easy to swap, residing behind an end cap that you can undo with a 4mm Allen key. LR44 batteries are easy enough to get hold of on the cheap as well.
Changing the batteries is a slightly fraught operation: there's a delicate silicone O-ring you need to be a bit careful of, and the thread is fine so you need to make sure you don't cross it when you're screwing back in. Having said that, I've successfully changed the batteries out on the road, and there's a couple of spare O-rings in the box if you do manage to destroy one.
Dual band distinction
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. The pedals give you a power and cadence reading, of course, but there's a lot more than that available. They'll also give you a left-right balance, they'll tell you whereabouts on the pedal you're standing, they'll show you where you're putting power down in the pedal stroke, and they'll tell you how much time you spent seated and standing. All that info is available on Garmin's Connect web portal, though not all of it makes it over to third-party platforms such as Strava.
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 in a couple of scenarios.
If you use your phone to log your rides then you can collect power data too, and if you're training indoors it could make your setup a lot simpler. If you're using Zwift or Trainerroad on an iPad, for example, it means you can feed the power directly into the app. Bluetooth connectivity also means you can update the firmware on the pedals through your smartphone, rather than having to use Garmin's dreadful desktop app and an ANT+ USB stick. So that's good.
Power to the people
Power-wise, we've found the previous two versions of the Vector to be on the money, and we weren't expecting any surprises with the Vector 3s. Here's what we found...
Power test 1: PowerTap G3 hub:
Our dependable PowerTap G3 hub is a unit we use for a lot of power meter comparisons. This is a 10-minute section from the middle of a loop around Berkshire. You can see that with the exception of a couple of anomalies the power traces are very close. Indeed, over the whole of the ride there was only a 2W difference between the two averages – 217W for the pedals and 215W for the hub – and you might expect the hub reading to be slightly lower due to losses in the transmission. The pickup of the pedals appears to be a bit quicker overall too.
Power test 2: Kickr V2, smart mode:
Benchmarked against the Kickr V2, recently calibrated, the pedals give a very similar output to the trainer. This graph is from an hour's group ride on Zwift, with some sprints and a mini-race at the end. The response is very similar, with the pedals reading slightly lower (about 1%) than the Kickr overall. On sprint efforts up to 1,000W there's very little difference between the peak readings, and there's very little discrepancy between the graph shapes throughout the ride.
Power test 3: Kickr V2, Erg mode:
This trace is from a road.cc group workout on Zwift, using the trainer in Erg mode (resistance adjusts to follow the intervals). It shows quite well that the power response of the Kickr in Erg mode isn't quite as stable as the line it generates might suggest, with the pedals showing the peaks that can occur as the power ramps up, and the troughs as the effort decreases. Here the pedals measured consistently over by around 3.5%, meaning that you might be working a bit harder than you think on those indoor workouts...
Garmin Connect: lots of data for the nerdy
If you want the full gamut of pedal data then the place to look at it is Garmin Connect, which does a great job of collating it. Here's a whole bunch of data from a 105km Bath CC chaingang ride.
Power first: you can see that it's pretty choppy. That's because this is a big group ride (groups of at least eight and sometimes more) and when you're sitting in you can coast quite a bit. You can see the main climb in the middle where it's more of a consistent effort, and I'm having to put out more constant power nearer the end because it's just me and Charlie heading home together.
Connect allows you to dig deeper into the power data too. Here you can see where I'm putting the power down in the pedal stroke, where my feet are sitting on the pedals, what my left/right balance is, and how much time I spend seated and standing. Garmin helpfully collates this information too:
So what can I learn from this? My maximum 20-minute power was 275W and I can put out 310W for 20 minutes if I'm really going for it, so it was a hard-but-not-too-hard kind of a day, which is how it felt. I slightly favoured my left leg (which I usually do), and my power phase was a bit longer on the left side too. My feet are slightly to the outside of the pedals – 2mm on the left and 3mm on the right – but I've got big feet and that seems to be about right for me. It doesn't feel natural if I move the cleats to compensate.
Anyway, there's lots of information. You can go into any of the individual graphs and look at what happens to your form as your fatigue increases, and you can take the headline stats and work on, say, concentrating on your right leg (in my case) to try to balance your pedal stroke more. If you're into crunching the numbers and making minor adjustments to try to maximise your performance, there's plenty to work with.
Worth the money?
The RRP of £849.99 is still a lot of money for a pair of pedals. It's worth bearing in mind, though, how much the price of power measurement has come down. The original Vectors were £1,349 a pair, so the third iteration has dropped a full £500 from the first retail price. It needed to as well, because the landscape has changed: Garmin doesn't have the place to itself any more.
So if you're after pedals that do power, the Garmins aren't the cheapest, but they're in the ball park. And of the three systems they're the ones that have been going the longest, and also the ones that produce the most data, with a very usable portal to mine it. And, in my opinion, they're the best looking, in that they just look like pedals.
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.
The best Vector yet, and probably the best pedal power meter yet
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Garmin Vector 3 double sided power meter
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for
Up your game
Ride stronger, smarter, connected with the Vector 3 pedal-based power meter. As you strive to beat your personal best on your next race or Gran Fondo, power is the most reliable way to gauge your performance on any given day, at any given time. Unlike other power meters, Vector 3 has the sensors housed right in the pedals, so it delivers reliable, accurate data on every training session.
Take it to the next level
With the Vector 3 dual-sensing system, you get the valuable ability to see right and left leg power independently. Vector 3 measures total power, cadence and left/right balance as well as advanced cycling dynamics, which help you tailor your training around your specific weaknesses and strengths to improve your form. It tracks seating/standing position to determine when and how long you were in each. So, you can gauge position effectiveness, power phase to show how you're currently producing power in a pedal stroke and platform centre offset to show where power is applied on the pedal so you can ensure proper cleat position. Each metric can be viewed on compatible Edge® cycling computers and Garmin Connect™ Mobile app.
Easy to install, transfer and use
With Vector 3, there are no complex drivetrain or wheel trade-offs and no external sensors to install. There are also no pods, so Vector 3 installs like any other pedal - and it's easy to transfer from one bike to another without bike shop assistance. Plus, its sleek design and improved stack height provide greater cornering clearance and smarter ergonomics, and its precision stainless-steel spindle and composite pedal body have been engineered and tested to withstand years of use. It offers battery life up to 120 hours.
Part of your connected bike
Get the most from your training by seamlessly pairing your Vector 3 with compatible Edge cycling computers, ANT+ or Bluetooth-enabled fitness devices1 - including compatible Forerunner ® and fenix ® devices - and Garmin Connect Mobile app. Plus, you can easily update software with any of these devices.
You can also integrate post-ride analysis, data sharing, mapping, route planning and more with Garmin Connect™, Strava and TrainingPeaks. And use ANT+ connectivity to get stronger by pairing Vector 3 with TrainerRoad. With the TrainerRoad app, you'll get personally scaled indoor workouts based on power from Vector 3. The indoor training system also has training plans that tell you exactly what to do to achieve your unique fitness and race goals. It's structured training in its most sophisticated and guided form.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Installs like any other pedal and quickly transfers between bikes
Measures total power, left/right balance, cadence and cycling dynamics
Sleek design provides greater cornering clearance and improved stack height
Fully integrates with Garmin cycling ecosystem for data analysis
Allows for easy updates via compatible Edge® cycling computers, ANT+® connectivity or Bluetooth®-enabled fitness devices1 and Garmin Connect™ Mobile app
Battery life: up to 120 hours2
Feel very nicely built, quality is an improvement on the V2.
Accurate, easy to fit, easy to use.
Pod was the weak point, and that's been addressed.
Not a noticeable increase over a standard pedal.
£850 isn't pocket money but you're getting a high quality system that's £500 less than it was a few years ago, and better to boot.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Pretty much flawlessly.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Well built, accurate power, easy to fit and swap.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Battery compartment a bit fiddly, battery life shorter than Vector 2.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The last pedals got 9/10. These are better, and they're cheaper, but the landscape has changed a bit with more competition and cheaper prices. Even so, they're hugely impressive.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Kinesis Aithein
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.