Power Meters 2016, a Buyer’s Guide

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Ever since Team Sky went public at the 2014 Tour de France with their scientific method using data gathered from power meters, the popularity of these clever devices has grown massively. Power meters have been available ever since the 1980’s, but only in recent years have they become affordable to the masses of recreational and amateur cyclists. These days, there are several different methods of measuring power. The sensors can be built into the rear hub, the crank arm, or in the pedals. Each method has its own pro’s and con’s, so with this buyer’s guide we hope to thoroughly inform you on the various brands and methods out there.

Why Should I Use a Power Meter?

A power meter on the bike can improve the efficiency of your training sessions. You can train more effectively, and focus on finding your ultimate form. Power is displayed in watts, which is a unit expressing the amount of power required to, in this case, cover a certain distance. Using speed as a training tool can be overly taxing, and takes a long time to show results. Heart rate is considerably more accurate already, and takes your body’s response to exertion into consideration, but power allows you to train at exactly your level which will mean your results will improve much quicker. Power meters are also great for knowing when to stop, and are more effective in doing so than heart rate monitors. Your heart rate can be affected by a variety of external factors, and is far less responsive than your power output. This delay in feedback makes training based on heart rate less reliable than on power. The ideal training regime combines the data from both a heart rate sensor and a power meter, as this enables you to get a grip on what power output you can manage at a specific heart rate. You can judge your progress by seeing when your power output increases, but your heart rate stays the same.

sky powermeter

Single-sided or Full Power Measurements?

There are two different methods of measuring power output. The single-sided measurements quite simply measure your power on one side, and multiply this by 2. This will inherently be less accurate, as you’re never generating an equal amount of power on both sides, which makes the full power (or double-sided) measuring method considerably more reliable. This method is however proportionally more expensive, but it does give you accurate data on both legs, showing you any differences in power.

What do I need besides the Power Meter?

You’ll also require equipment which can relay and display the data from your power meter. Companies like Garmin, Polar or Mio all make cycling computers which can do just that. Make sure the signal from the power meter is compatible with your cycling computer! Many power meters transmit two signals, but a Bluetooth smart signal can’t be received by for instance the Garmin units, as these are ANT+ only.  

Computer powermeters blog

Power Meters in/on the Crank

Power meters placed in or on the crank come in various shapes and sizes, and it’s important to choose the right one for you. Make sure you choose the right crank arm length, and check the compatibility with your crankset. Power meters placed in the crank are also available in both single- and double-sided versions, and are often less sensitive to wear compared to for instance power meters placed in pedals. All units have one thing in common: they use batteries to power the sensors and transmit the signal.

Stages Power meters

  • Easy to transfer between bikes
  • Weighs just 20 grams
  • Bluetooth smart and ANT+ compatible
  • Single-sided power measurements
  • Battery has to be replaced relatively often

 

Rotor Inpower 3D+ MAS

2697_detail_2

  • Accurate power measurements
  • Virtually universal compatibility due to the special axle
  • Aerodynamic crank
  • Single-sided power measurements
  • ANT+ signal only

Rotor 2 InPower

 

  • Accurate double-sided power measurement
  • Sturdy, bombproof design due to the shielded electronics
  • Difference between left-right power
  • Battery life
  • Hard to transfer between bikes
  • BB30 axle isn’t compatible with every bike

 

Power Meters in the Pedals

Power meters built into the pedals are often less expensive than those placed in the cranks. The downside of pedal-based power meters is they’re more prone to wear than other platforms might be. You’re also bound to a specific brand of pedals, and many power meters which use this system don’t come in every type or brand, and might not be compatible with your cleats of choice.

Garmin Vector power meter

Garmin Vect blog

  • Easily transferred between bikes
  • Cleat set-up guide
  • Broad range of data analysis
  • Measurement on both sides showing any left-right differences
  • Information on the ideal position during sprinting, climbing or a time trial
  • More sensitive to wear
  • ANT+ signal only

 

Powertap P1

pedals_p1_grey

  • Easy to transfer between bikes
  • Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ signal
  • Left-right power measurement
  • More sensitive to wear
  • Only compatible with Look cleats

 

Power Meters in the Hub

Power meters in the hub are placed in the rear wheel and are available as both a full wheel, and a separate hub. This last option does require you to find a suitable wheel. Pay close attention to the spoke pattern, as not every type is compatible with the way power meters are laced into the wheel. Swapping between bikes is a breeze with this system, but swapping the power meter between wheelsets is extremely time consuming, and requires special tools, skills and knowledge.

Powertap G3powertap_g3_end

  • Very accurate power meter
  • Easily replaceable battery
  • Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ compatible
  • Easily transferred between bikes as the power meter is in the wheel
  • Limited to a single wheel

 

Translated by: Bart van Es

 

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Kenneth Busser

Kenneth Busser

I'm a recreational rider who's more into computers and gadgets than the fast times they're capable of recording. I've owned the same Trek road bike for the last 10 years, but I've gained an interest in single-speed bikes. I love to ride with friends, but don't feel the constant need to be the fastest of the bunch. At Mantel, I work as a productmanager for the Bike Accessories in our range.

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