One Power Meter To Rule Them All

Hello everyone,

wahoo-kickr-power-trainer-11-speed
This lovely device took me down the road of Power, and Power corrupts.

I’m a big fan of racing and training with power.  I bought my first power meter in March of 2013 and have not looked back since.  That purchase was a Wahoo KICKR and it has served me well over these last three years.  Training and racing with power has given me insight on my progress as a cyclist over those years too.  Right now, I am at a crossroads.  I would love to just have one power meter that could move across all four of my bicycles (Road, Gravel, Cyclocross).  That is not a choice on the market right now.  The only real similarity I have between my bicycles is the BB30/PF30 bottom bracket.  That’s where it ends though.  The introduction of the 11 speed has also thrown me for a loop.  What if we just had one Power Meter to rule them all?

What do I get out of a power meter?  For me, it is consistent tracking of power and work over my rides.  Last year I made a 10 watt improvement on my 20 minute power.  I would not have been able to tell that difference if I wasn’t using a power meter.  Even though 10 watts seems small, seeing that number keeps me motivated.  However, I made a 100 watt improvement on my 60 second power.  That was pretty evident and I didn’t need a power meter to feel that improvement.  What about Heart Rate?  Heart rate is too inconsistent for training.

r_favor
At one point, this was the cornerstone of training. 

I remember first using a Polar Heart Rate Monitor in 2000 when I was training for triathlons.  At the time, it was a fantastic training tool.  However, heart rate is influenced by so many other factors it does not provide reliable information on a consistent basis.  Using heart rate to estimate calorie expenditure is also very inaccurate, where estimating calorie expenditure with a power meter is very precise (important if you are tracking calories to lose weight).   With all of that said, here is my current setup and problem:

Road Bike: 1999 Specialized Allez, 10 Speed Convert, Shimano 105, BB30, Trainer Bike on Wahoo KICKR.

Road Bike: 2012 Specialized SL2 Pro, BB30, 10 speed, Shimano 105, Quark Riken AL.

Cross Bike/Trail Bike: 2011 Blue Norcross, BB30, 10 Speed, SRAM Apex parts/Shimano 105 Crank, Stages 105 Crank Arm.

Cross Bike: 2014 Santa Cruz Stigmata, PF30, 11 speed, SRAM Rival22, No Power Meter.

Here is my dilemma.  Putting the Stages or Quarq Riken on the 11 speed Santa Cruz isn’t really going to work.  Quarq’s website says that the Riken can work with an 11 speed SRAM setup, but my Riken AL was purchased when they first came out.  I don’t know if that statement holds true for the original Riken AL, nor do I want to do a full crank swap when I decide to ride the Stigmata.  Maybe I can put a Shimano 11 speed crank on the Stigmata and then just swap the stages crank arm.  That could be a solution, but I’d have another bike with a Shimano 105 crank with SRAM parts (I don’t want to Frankenstein that beautiful Stigmata).  That’s not the only problem.

If I wanted to choose a power meter to move seamlessly across all platforms it becomes impossible.  Not only is the diversity between bicycle bottom brackets problematic, but the complexity of the components are also just as troublesome.  There is nothing currently on the market that can seamlessly be swapped between a road bike, cross bike, or even a mountain bike.  There could be though!

garmin-vector-pedal-based-cycling-power-meter_6
This is a LOOK pedal by Garmin.  It tracks power by measuring force at the pedals.  Why couldn’t you do this with an SPD pedal?

The power meter market is getting more and more diversified as the years go by.  As the market share has increased within the realm of power meters, so has the competition.  This competition for market share has begun driving down the price of power meters.  That’s good news for those who are consumers or future consumers of power meters.  However, no one has cracked the one power meter that could move across all platforms, and I don’t now why.  SPD Pedal Power Meter anyone!

Garmin has the Vector power meter (LOOK), Power Tap has a LOOK power meter, aScreen Shot 2016-02-29 at 9.42.21 PMnd the company Look is even offering a pedal power meter; which is great if you ride and compete on road/TT/Triathlon bikes.  I can’t move a LOOK pedal across to the cyclocross bicycles.  Cyclocross people know why that is.  However, I could easily use an SPD pedal that is also a power meter across road, cyclocross, and mountain.  Sure, the road guys would say that the LOOK is far superior for stiffness, but I would sacrifice a little stiffness for the sake of my wallet.  This is so easy, I don’t know why it hasn’t been developed yet.  Swapping pedals is super duper easy, and the only thing you really need to worry about is stripping out the crank arm.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 9.08.55 PMThat leaves me with some choices to make on a very limited budget (Unless some power meter company wants to sponsor a Retired Marine, Stay at Home Dad, Spin Instructor, and all around awesome guy…).

Choice 1) Frankenstein the Stigmata by purchasing a 11 speed 105 crank (Ughh!  The bike is too sexy to do that).

Choice 2) Purchase another Quarq Riken AL (teach 70 more spin classes).

Choice 3) Purchase Stages’ new crank arm that comes with a spindle that works with the Force 22 crank (teach 60 more spin classes).

Choice 4) Power2Max power meter that replaces the crank spider (dress up as an unemployed veteran and panhandle for money).

Choice 5) Disavow power all together, start a 12 step poweraholics program, and raise money for my new foundation to help bicyclists relearn how to ride and enjoy their bikes without technology, all the while stashing the profits to secretly buy more power meters.

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 9.47.55 PM
SPD Pedal Power Meter?  This has to be the smartest choice that isn’t available.

I almost wish I never started down the road of tracking fitness by using power.  Someone once said that “Power Corrupts,” and that dude was right!  What I am doing is scratching my head and wondering why the SPD Pedals haven’t been integrated with power.  I you can do it for LOOK then how hard is it to do for SPD?  That’s seems like an easy solution.  I would buy that and not even worry about any other power option out there.  Matter of fact, it would get me out of my abusive relationship with the crank brothers’ eggbeaters (I stay with them even though they keep failing me).  For now, I will sit back and ponder how many spin classes I need to teach in order to buy one.  (I do like the Power2max option where you can just change out the crank spider)  Well, thanks for listening to the rant in my head.  I guess I’ll start first and admit that I have a power problem.  Whiskey, Three, Juliet, Out!

 

Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson

Aaron served in the military for 20 years. Multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired from the military after 20 years of service to take care of our three small children in 2013 as a Stay At Home Dad.

athletictechreview has 60 posts and counting.See all posts by athletictechreview

6 thoughts on “One Power Meter To Rule Them All

  • March 3, 2016 at 3:45 pm
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    Aaron, I am right there with you wanting a meter that goes across all platforms, except for the fact that I haven’t jumped on a meter yet. Unfortunately since I ride mainly mountain bike (or at least mtb pedals on cx bikes) I am a little more limited since the pedal option is immediately out. I think the reason you only see power meters on road bike pedals and not mtb is because of the (normally) single sided entry allowing for only one pressure/strain gauge. With dual sided entry (mtb) that becomes twice as complicated and probably twice as expensive. That said, I recently saw a Kickstarter campaign putting a power meter with speed play pedals. Since with speedplay the springs are mounted to the shoe, their pressure gauge was mounted between the cleat/spring and the shoe itself. This essentially meant that as long as you had speedplay pedals you just had to hop from bike to bike wearing the same shoes and you were set. This might one day open up the option to shoe based power meters. Definitely a concept I am more interested in since I have been wanting to train with power (and train more in general).

    Reply
    • March 3, 2016 at 5:01 pm
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      Thanks Ross. I figured I wasn’t the only one out there. I’m not as concerned with having power measured on both legs. I’ve been satisfied with a one sided measurement so far. If you go to some of the reviews DCrainmaker has done on power meters, I don’t think he found any inconsistencies between a power meter that measures power on one side or both sides. The additional measurement of both sides would give you a better understanding of your right to left power output and pedal stroke efficiency, but I believe single sided measurement is good enough to get into the power training game.

      I have also seen that kickstarter campaign that integrates power with your shoes. Very interesting stuff. I also saw another company that is looking to attach a power meter in between the crank arm and the actual pedal. All of this is good stuff though, because it will keep driving down the price of power meters.

      Right now I’m leaning towards the stages power meter since they have came out with the spindle that can adapt to the various SRAM cranks.

      Reply
  • June 9, 2016 at 9:34 am
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    Im beginning the power meter addiction also and i prefer spd also only because i want to walk like a human being and i too have multiple bikes.

    Reply
  • November 13, 2016 at 5:53 pm
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    There is an option you didn’t consider – Velocomp iBike Newton. Features 4 bike profiles using ANT+ keys to determine bike ID to automatically change bikes.

    I have used iBike power meters on and off for years. It has been a love / hate relationship. The last time I bought one, I also had Garmin Vector power meter. I used the Vectors and Newton together for about a year. Over that year, a few issues came to light along with some surprising results. Over the year, 2 major drawbacks of the Newton were exposed – inaccurate wattage which drifted lower over high frequency surfaces such as chip-seal; and rain. It hated heavy rain. I live in Vancouver and rain is a significant feature of the area.

    On the positive side, the Vector and Newton were surprising similar. Not exact, no two power meters ever will be, but repeatably similar results ver a wide range of rides.

    In the last few months Velocomp has introduced two significant updates. One is the introduction of the Newton 6 (and the new Power Pod) which uses a re-designed wind port design and a material that is hydrophobic resulting in rain NOT being an issue any longer. The second feature is a firmware update that has now eliminated the power drift over different road surfaces. It works! Over chip-seal, gravel, hard pack and concrete seams, the power reading does not change.

    Both these updates have put the Newton (and Power Pod) in a much better position in the power meter market place.

    Another advantage is the Isaac software – very comprehensive.

    Relatively inexpensive, repeatable (most important), and moveable to four different bikes. Take a look.

    Reply
    • November 13, 2016 at 7:17 pm
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      Hi Bruce, I have seen the Newton and it is very interesting. The one thing people don’t talk about much with the Newton is the head unit which I think has virtual power curves loaded up for trainers. I think it also transmits those curves to other training Apps as if it was a legit power meter. Now, it would be really interesting to see how many virtual power curves they have loaded up on the Newton + and talk about that utility when using all these different indoor training Apps on a multitude of indoor non-smart trainers. The only drawback I see with the Newton is the it’s application in a Mountain Bike or Cyclcross scenario. How accurate would it be in an off-road scenario?

      Reply
      • November 13, 2016 at 7:40 pm
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        The Virtual Trainer profiles list is similar to the list found in TrainerRoad, I’d say close to 200 listed, including various settings. I have a Tacx Neo, so this featuret is irrelevant for me, but I have used the Newton to record the wattage broadcast by the Neo.

        I haven’t used the Newton on a MTB or cyclocross bike, but the fundamentals are the same as on a road bike – gravity (a constant), mass, acceleration, inclination and speed (air pressure in the pitot tube). I can’t recall exactly the number of parameters measure by the Newton, but it is in the dozens.

        The one very big difference will be mud. The coating is hydrophobic, but the Newton doesn’t have a broom installed. The coating may be effective with mud as well.

        I have found several references to the successful use of the Newton 6 on MTB and cyclocross bikes. Might be a good question to put to Velocomp. You might have to decode their response, but that said, I have found their self-appraisal pretty realistic.

        Reply

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