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THE BICI GUIDE TO POWER METERS

In a little over 10 years, power meters have gone from being an ultra-premium accessory only found on the bikes of pros to being commonplace on most bikes we see on a daily basis.

Although power meters are most useful to those of us who are looking to do focused interval training, they’re also a fun way to gauge effort, and look back on stats from your last ride. The power meter market has become very crowded in recent years both in terms of brands and models, but also in terms of types of power meters.

Pedal-Based Power Meters

Pedal-based power meters have been around for quite some time, but they seemingly took many years to really perfect. The first models to hit the market were plagued with reliability issues, and most brands weren’t able to integrate the battery, and strain guages into a pedal body, so they ended up having external pods that could be damaged.

The first generations of power pedals were also only available for Look Keo cleats, meaning that you didn’t have the option to use your preferred cleat system. 

Favero Assioma DUO Parts - Power Meters - Pedals - Road
 
Favero Assioma DUO Parts - Power Meters - Pedals - Road
Favero Assioma DUO Parts - Power Meters - Pedals - Road
Best Seller

Favero Assioma DUO

C$845.00
Garmin Rally XC100 Pedals Clipless MTB Pedals
 
Garmin Rally XC100 Pedals Clipless MTB Pedals
Garmin Rally XC100 Pedals Clipless MTB Pedals

Garmin Rally XC100 Pedals

C$939.99

Despite the initial issues, power meter pedals have grown to be one of the most popular forms of power meter. This is largely due to the simple installation and the flexibility to quickly move them from bike to bike. They’re also not specific to any crank arm model so their compatible with all cranks and therefore bikes.

What Daniel Thinks

The Favero Assioma's flexibility is a big draw for them. Being able to swap between bikes and knowing they'll be compatible with any future bikes is great. As the one-person warranty department at Bici, I also know that Fevero is our least wararantied Power meter brand.

Pros:

  • Easy Installation and Transferability: Power meter pedals offer straightforward installation and can be easily transferred between bikes, providing convenience and flexibility.
  • Improved Reliability and Integration: Latest models like the Favero Assioma and Garmin Rally Pedals have addressed reliability issues and integrated components within the pedal body, enhancing durability and aesthetics.
  • Compatibility with Different Cleat Systems:Pedal-based power meters come in versions compatible with various cleat systems, catering to different cyclist preferences without sacrificing functionality.

Cons:

  • Cost: Pedal-based power meters can be expensive compared to other types, potentially limiting accessibility for budget-conscious cyclists.

Spindle Based Power Meters

Spindle based power meters live inside your cranks spindle (the piece that joins the right and left arms together) and are therefore the most hidden and sleek option for a power meter. Because power through the spindle is only transmitted through your left arm, these power meters only measure the power produced by your left leg. They then use a formula to estimate what your total power would be.

SRAM Apex D1 Wide Power Meter Assembly 72.5mm, Black, Road Disc Power Meter Cranksets
SRAM Apex D1 Wide Power Meter Assembly 72.5mm, Black, Road Disc Power Meter Cranksets

SRAM Apex D1 Wide Power Meter Assembly

C$320.00
SRAM Rival D1 Quarq DUB WIDE 2x Power Meter Crankset 43/30t / 160mm Power Meter Cranksets
 
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SRAM Rival D1 Quarq DUB WIDE 2x Power Meter Crankset

C$525.00

SRAM makes two Quarq power meters for Rival and Apex that are spindle style. They’re very affordable and once setup, you don’t have to really thing about them ever. They are specific to the Rival and Apex crank models so can’t be easily switched between bikes, and do require fully removing the crankset.

The first generations of power pedals were also only available for Look Keo cleats, meaning that you didn’t have the option to use your preferred cleat system. 

Pros:

  • Sleek Integration: Spindle-based power meters offer a discreet design integrated within the crank spindle, enhancing aesthetics.

  • Low Maintenance: Once installed, these power meters require minimal maintenance, providing convenience to users.

  • Affordability: Models like SRAM's Quarq for Rival and Apex offer a cost-effective power measurement solution.

Cons:

  • Limited Measurement: They only measure power from the left leg, estimating total power, which may not be as accurate for cyclists with power imbalances.
  • Compatibility Challenges: Specific to certain crank models, they are less versatile and require full crankset removal for bike transfers..

Crank Arm Based Power Meters

Crank arm based power meters are probably our best selling option. They’re super value oriented with the most popular options normally costing betweena $400 and $600. Crank based options replace the left crank arm with one that has a power meter attached to it. Because one side of the crank is being replaced, they are specific to the crank model.4iiii and Stages are the two principal brands, and both offer a wide variety of crank models to work with most bikes on the market. 

4iiii PRECISION 3+ PRO Ride Ready DURA-ACE FC-R9200 Power Meter Dual Side 165mm / 52/36t Parts - Power Meters - Crank Arm
 
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4iiii PRECISION 3+ PRO Ride Ready DURA-ACE FC-R9200 Power Meter Dual Side

C$1,649.99
4iiii PRECISION 3 Ride Ready XTR M9100 Power Meter Left Arm 170mm Parts - Power Meters - Crank Arm
4iiii PRECISION 3 Ride Ready XTR M9100 Power Meter Left Arm 170mm Parts - Power Meters - Crank Arm
4iiii PRECISION 3 Ride Ready XTR M9100 Power Meter Left Arm 170mm Parts - Power Meters - Crank Arm
4iiii PRECISION 3 Ride Ready XTR M9100 Power Meter Left Arm 170mm Parts - Power Meters - Crank Arm
4iiii PRECISION 3 Ride Ready XTR M9100 Power Meter Left Arm Parts - Power Meters - Crank Arm

4iiii PRECISION 3 Ride Ready XTR M9100 Power Meter Left Arm

C$654.00

They also allow you to send in your existing crank arm to have a power meter installed on it. As a starting point, most crank-based power meters are left side only, however there are options available that are dual sided from both 4iiii and stages.

As with spindle-based power meters, crank arm based units are specific to the model of the crank arm and are not easily swapped between bikes.

The first generations of power pedals were also only available for Look Keo cleats, meaning that you didn’t have the option to use your preferred cleat system. 

What Jake Thinks

I've spent most of my time riding using a single sided power meter. I started with a Gen-1 Stages many years ago, and have had lots of other Stages and 4iiii's ever since. I've experimented with double sided units from some major brands but I always end up just defaulting to a single-sided unit since I don't end up using all the fancy metrics that more expensives units give me.

Pros:

  • Value-Oriented: Crank arm-based power meters are often priced between $400 and $600, offering good value for money compared to other options.

  • Wide Compatibility: Brands like 4iiii and Stages offer a variety of crank models, making them compatible with most bikes on the market.

  • Installation Flexibility: Users can opt to send in their existing crank arms for power meter installation, providing flexibility and convenience.

Cons:

  • Model Specificity: Crank arm-based power meters replace the left crank arm, meaning they are specific to the crank model and cannot be easily swapped between bikes.

Crank Spider Based Power Meters

Crank spider based power meters measures both left and right power from a single point on the spider. 

Since all power generated must go through the spider into the chainring this is an effective way to measure power through a single place on the bike. The best examples of these are the Quarq spider based power meters for Force and Red AXS, as well as the Power2Max lineup of power meters.

Power2Max Rotor Direct Mount NG 110-4S Power Meter Parts - Power Meters - Crank Arm
 
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Power2Max Rotor Direct Mount NG 110-4S Power Meter

C$1,250.00 C$1,840.00
Quarq DZero AXS XX1 Eagle DUB Spider Quarq, DZero AXS XX1 Eagle DUB, Power Meter Crankset, BCD: Direct Mount, Boost Power Meter Cranksets
Quarq DZero AXS XX1 Eagle DUB Spider Quarq, DZero AXS XX1 Eagle DUB, Power Meter Crankset, BCD: Direct Mount, Boost Power Meter Cranksets

Quarq DZero AXS XX1 Eagle DUB Spider

C$939.00

Similar to other crank-based power meters, the crank spider power meters also are specific to the model of crank it is designed for and they’re not easily swapped around.

Pros:

  • Comprehensive Measurement: Crank spider-based power meters measure power from both left and right legs, providing a more comprehensive assessment of overall power output.

  • Effective Power Transmission: Power generated by both legs passes through the crank spider into the chainring, ensuring accurate measurement from a single point on the bike.

  • High-Quality Examples: Brands like Quarq and Power2Max offer reliable and accurate crank spider-based power meters, such as those designed for Force and Red AXS cranksets.

Cons:

  • Model Specificity: Crank spider-based power meters are specific to the crank model they are designed for, limiting their interchangeability between bikes.

  • Limited Swapping Ability: Like other crank-based power meters, crank spider units cannot be easily swapped between bikes due to their design specificity.

Conclusion:

The modern power meter market is vastly improved to what it was even 10 yeasrs ago. There are now various options cater to the different preferences and needs of cyclists. While each type presents its own set of advantages and limitations, three main takeaways emerge:

  • Diverse Options for Different Requirements:  Whether it's the flexibility of pedal-based power meters, the value-oriented crank arm-based options, or the comprehensive measurement of crank spider-based units, cyclists have a range of choices to suit their specific requirements and budgets.

  • Consideration of Compatibility and Transferability:  Regardless of the type, power meters typically come with considerations of compatibility and transferability. Cyclists must weigh the convenience of installation and potential bike swaps against the limitations imposed by model-specific designs.

  • Pricepoint and Value:  With so many options now available, the barrier to starting training with power is now lower than ever. Simaltaneously, the feature sets of more expensive units continue to grow and be refined. This means that no matter how much you choose to spend, you're likely getting good value for your money.

Power Meter FAQ's

How do I choose the right power meter for my bike?

When selecting a power meter, consider factors such as compatibility with your bike's crank model, your budget, preferred data measurement method (e.g., single-sided vs. dual-sided), and whether you prioritize ease of installation or comprehensive power measurement.

Are pedal-based power meters suitable for all types of cycling shoes?

Most pedal-based power meters are compatible with popular cleat systems such as Look Keo, Shimano SPD-SL, and Speedplay Zero. However, it's essential to check compatibility with your specific cycling shoes before making a purchase.

Can I use a power meter on multiple bikes?

While some power meters, like pedal-based options, offer the flexibility to be easily transferred between bikes, others, such as crank arm-based and crank spider-based units, are specific to the crank model and may require additional installation steps or adjustments when switching between bikes.

How accurate are power meters in measuring cycling performance?

Power meters vary in accuracy depending on the type and brand. Generally, modern power meters provide reliable and precise data for performance analysis and training purposes. However, factors such as calibration, environmental conditions, and individual riding dynamics can influence accuracy. Regular maintenance and calibration can help ensure optimal performance.

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